Warner Bros., DC Entertainment, OTOY Recreate Batcave For “Batman: The Animated Series” Project

Otoy has released the following press release announcing a joint ventures with Warner Digital Series and DC Entertainment to bring the Batcave from Batman: The Animated Series to life via virtual reality. Bruce Timm, producer on Batman: The Animated Series, is involved with the project. Using Otoy’s OctaneRender and light field technology, the look and feel of the animated series will be reproduced in 3D with unprecedented detail and immersive technology. The complete press release, along with promotional images, are available below.

Click on the included images for a closer look.

Warner Bros., DC Entertainment and OTOY take fans inside the acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series in industry’s first commercial holographic video deployment for virtual reality and light field displays

Fans can explore the Batcave from the Emmy Award–winning television series
in a fully immersive DC Comics animated universe; OTOY’s ORBX holographic
video powers groundbreaking cinematic experience on consumer VR devices

Warner Digital Series, DC Entertainment and visual effects pioneer, OTOY Inc., today announced work on a groundbreaking immersive entertainment experience that will see the Batcave from the acclaimed Emmy® Award–winning Batman: The Animated Series brought to life via interactive holographic video for virtual reality displays. The interactive narrative experience will give fans the opportunity to explore Batman’s world like never before, allowing them to feel what it is like to be inside the show’s stylized universe on devices such as the Samsung GALAXY Gear VR, the Oculus Rift, and on forthcoming ‘glasses-free’ light field displays that will power future TV and mobile devices.

First aired on network television in 1992, Batman: The Animated Series defined the classic DC Comics character for a generation of fans. The success of the highly influential show led to a multi-decade run of critically acclaimed television series and animated original movies set in the DC Comics animated universe it helped establish.

Using OTOY’s OctaneRender™ and light field technology, Warner Digital Series and OTOY are faithfully recreating the look and feel of the animated series in unprecedented detail, collaborating with Batman: The Animated Series producer Bruce Timm. Timm is guiding the meticulous adaptation of the original 1992 designs into a fully realized universe with volume and depth. OTOY is also developing tools that perfectly preserve the show’s distinct visual drawing style in 3D space, without requiring any post-production work or manual artist intervention. OTOY’s OctaneRender™ scales this process through light field rendering on the cloud, translating the show’s unique aesthetic, immediately recognized by millions of fans, into cinematic virtual reality.

The project represents the first of many commercial endeavors leveraging OTOY’s rendering and holographic streaming technology which aim to deliver next-generation media and entertainment experiences to emerging content platforms in the coming years.

“We are continuously exploring new and exciting ways to tell stories and share experiences with audiences around the globe, and we’re excited to be working with OTOY on this cutting-edge adaptation from Batman: The Animated Series,” said Sam Register, President, Warner Bros. Animation and Warner Digital Series. “More to the point: It’s super-cool, eye-popping stuff, and fans are going to love it. We can’t wait for them to have the chance to see the Batcave from the show again — for the very first time.”

“Warner Bros. has always been at the forefront of technology and entertainment, exemplified again today in its partnership with OTOY in bringing this Batman: The Animated Series experience to new audiences through holographic video,” said Jules Urbach, Founder and CEO, OTOY. “We’re thrilled to be part of this project. Our work with Warner Bros. validates the tremendous potential of VR as a new cinematic medium.

Work on the Batman: The Animated Series project is already underway with a first release targeting this winter through the ORBX viewer app.

About OTOY Inc.
OTOY Inc. is the definitive cloud graphics company, pioneering technology that is redefining content creation and delivery for media and entertainment organizations around the world. OTOY’s Academy Award®-winning technology is used by leading visual effects studios, artists, animators, designers, architects, and engineers, providing unprecedented creative freedom, new levels of realism, and new economics in content creation and distribution powered by the cloud. For more information, visit www.otoy.com.

About DC Entertainment
DC Entertainment, home to iconic brands DC Comics (Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, The Flash), Vertigo (Sandman, Fables) and MAD, is the creative division charged with strategically integrating its content across Warner Bros. Entertainment and Time Warner. DC Entertainment works in concert with many key Warner Bros. divisions to unleash its stories and characters across all media, including but not limited to film, television, consumer products, home entertainment and interactive games. Publishing thousands of comic books, graphic novels and magazines each year, DC Entertainment is the largest English-language publisher of comics in the world.

Check out the The World’s Finest Batman: The Animated Series subsite for more details on this classic animated series.

Addtional details on this project are expected toward the end of the year and into early 2015. Stay tuned for further updates here very soon at The World’s Finest.

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Dynamic Music Partners To Attend Cinematic Symphony Concert Featuring Music From “Justice League”

Lolita Ritmanis, Michael McCuistion & Kristopher Carter – also known as Dynamic Music Partners – are scheduled to appear in Austin, Texas to attend the premiere of a suite of music from the classic animated series Justice League performed by the Cinematic Symphony. The performance will be in the Rotunda of the Texas Capitol building on Saturday, March 15th, 2014 at 12:00pm local time. Additionally, Dynamic Music Partners will also be giving seminars on the art and business of film composition. Details on those seminars will be available shortly, with Dynamic Music Partners providing further updates of the event on their official website.

Cinematic Symphony is a non-profit community ensemble dedicated to performing the memorable scores of film, television, and video games. Cinematic Symphony was organized to provide education, entertainment, and cultural enrichment, as well as to promote and renew interest in the great music of motion pictures. In addition to performing professional-caliber music, Cinematic Symphony concerts include large-screen visuals, costumed characters and unique demonstrations.

Lolita Ritmanis, Michael McCuistion & Kristopher Carter – also known as Dynamic Music Partners – have created hundreds of hours of music for a variety of different genres, including TV series, independent films, video games and live performance events. They have collectively earned twenty-eight Emmy Award nominations and six Annie Award nominations as composers for Batman: The Brave And The Bold, Justice League, Teen Titans, Batman Beyond, The Zeta Project and The New Batman Superman Adventures.

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Author Greg Weisman Discusses “Rain Of The Ghosts” Novel, Upcoming Signing Events

The World’s Finest caught up with Greg Weisman, co-producer of the recent fan-favorite Young Justice animated series, to discuss his new novel Rain of the Ghosts. Rain of the Ghosts is the first in Weisman’s new book series about an adventurous young girl, Rain Cacique, who discovers she has a mystery to solve, a mission to complete, and the ability to see ghosts. In the following interview, Weisman discusses the origin of his new book series, why fans of his animated work should check it out, and where readers can have the opportunity to meet him and receive a signed copy of Rain of the Ghosts. Continue below for more from Weisman…

The World’s Finest: To start things off, can you give us a spoiler-free rundown of your new book Rain of the Ghosts, and maybe toss in some back-story on what inspired you to write this tale?

Greg Weisman: Rain Cacique is a thirteen-year-old girl, who lives on San Próspero, the largest island of the Prospero Keys – known to locals as the Ghost Keys, or more simply, The Ghosts. Rain’s mother runs the Nitaino Inn, a bed & breakfast; her father, a charter boat service. And Rain, who works for them both, believes her life is destined to remain an endless cycle of making beds and cutting bait for tourists. She feels trapped. The one person who gives her hope is her maternal grandfather Sebastian Bohique, who gives her a precious family heirloom: a golden armband comprised of two intertwined serpents. Unfortunately, ’Bastian passes away shortly after giving Rain the armband, and Rain’s grief is overwhelming… which may explain why she’s starting to see dead people. But soon enough Rain learns (with the help of her best friend Charlie Dauphin) that the armband has granted her the power to communicate with ghosts. She has a destiny and a larger purpose. Not to mention two mysterious new enemies: the Australian mercenary Callahan and the Hurricane-Goddess Hura-Hupia. The former wants Rain’s armband at any cost. The latter wants to put an end to Rain’s quest, specifically at the cost of Rain’s life.

Rain of the Ghosts is a project I originally developed at DreamWorks, right after doing Gargoyles for Disney. It was chockfull of all the ingredients that I love about a concept: a rich, largely unknown mythology; engaging protagonists; dangerous, smart villains; a unique semi-exotic setting, and a driving story. We never got to do it as an animated series, but I couldn’t get the story and characters out of my head. Jeffrey Katzenberg at DreamWorks kindly sold the rights back to me, and over a decade ago I wrote a novel, which failed to sell. But after finishing Young Justice, I revisited the story, did a rewrite and sent it off to St. Martin’s Press. The result is the novel that just came out.

WF: This is the first installment of a planned multiple book series. How far along are you in the development of the ongoing story? Do you know how it’s going to end? And how does that present a challenge in approaching each book, especially when any installment could conceivably be someone’s first?

GW: I know the entire story in rough form for all nine books, and even for the start of a second series of nine books set in the same universe. Having said that, I don’t pretend to have every single detail worked out for books three through nine, and I like to leave myself open to discovering things along the way. I’ve completed the second book, Spirits of Ash and Foam, which comes out in July of 2014, and as I was writing it, two very minor characters began to take on much more important roles. In essence, they were telling me they weren’t going to be minor players anymore. And those kinds of voices – manifesting from the writing process or from my gut instinct or from some kind of parallel-world-telepathy or from wherever and whatever – are voices I always listen to.

It can be a challenge to have to set things up all over again. It’s much easier in a visual medium, where I don’t have to physically re-describe things like characters and settings: they’re just there on screen or on the comic book page for the audience to see. It never feels repetitive, for example, to see Superboy or Spider-Man or Goliath again. But in a prose novel, I have to make sure that someone who hasn’t read the previous book or hasn’t read it recently can get up to speed quickly. And yet I don’t want it to feel repetitive or boring for someone who has just put down Rain and picked up Spirits and doesn’t necessarily want to hear me describe Rain or Charlie using the exact same language from the previous book. But I like to think I found a path to walk that should satisfy all readers.

WF: Can you run us through how you came up with Rain of the Ghosts‘s main character – Rain – and why you thought a young protagonist was key to the story. Do you find it easy to write these young teen characters? Why?

GW: Well, I’ve been writing teen characters for quite a few years now. But Rain’s younger than most of the sixteen and seventeen-year-olds that I’ve been writing in The Spectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice. For Rain, I wanted a character who had all the drama of a teenager, but less of the cynicism. Someone who wouldn’t always feel the need to pretend that the amazing stuff she was seeing wasn’t amazing. In addition, I truly like writing female characters, and I’m a fan of diversity. You don’t see a lot of thirteen-year-old female Native Americans as leads in stories set in the present. This was a chance to try something that felt new to me.

WF: Rain finds herself in very specific, very intriguing surroundings. Care to walk us through why you chose this setting? It definitely falls along the works you’ve done before, a mix of realism and mysticism.

GW: One reviewer referred to the book as magical realism, which I take as a high compliment. The Caribbean is a melting pot in microcosm. So many cultures – dating back to before the Taíno people that were there when Columbus “discovered” America – make up its modern landscape. And much of the mythology of the region hasn’t really been explored in popular culture. Add in the fact that a kid who grows up in an inn, with strangers (i.e. tourists) constantly coming to stay at her home, also felt fresh to me, and the Ghost Keys seemed like a no-brainer.

WF: Whether it’s with Rain of the Ghosts or your assorted projects, how much planning goes into creating the world and its rules. Is it something you’re always conscious of when writing (so and so can’t do this because of this rule, etc.)? Does it help keep you in check and perhaps keep the story as grounded as possible, even with some of the otherworldly elements?

GW: As most folks familiar with my writing know, I’m big on both planning and rules. I have timelines for almost every television series I’ve ever developed (for example, the timeline for Young Justice is nearly three hundred pages long). The world of Rain of the Ghosts is no different. A document that I created for Rain and originally labeled “Cheat Sheet” because it was a single page of “reminders,” is now – after writing Spirits a whopping 169 pages long. It’s loaded with facts about the eight islands that make up the Ghost Keys, details about all the characters (major and minor, living and dead), and rules for how the universe works. Not all of this stuff is revealed in Rain or even Spirits, but, in success, the onion will be peeled away in layers across all nine volumes of Rain’s story.

As for writing each individual book, I plot everything out meticulously on many, many colored index cards. (Spirits of Ash and Foam required 693 cards.) But, again, I leave myself open to serendipity and discovery once I actually sit down to write. You never know…

WF: You stated plenty of times that kids aren’t given enough credit when it comes to understanding and accepting ideas some might see as complex. How does that drive your writing? And does that allow you the opportunity to explore more weighty issues – such as loss here in Rain, for example?

GW: Well, the main thing this belief does is free me up to write about what I want to write about and not worry whether or not my potential readership is going to “get” it. I do write on layers, so I believe that kids get as much as they need to get. And basically, I just don’t censor myself or my characters’ emotions. Death is a biggie, of course, and so are age-appropriate romantic entanglements – both of which can sometimes be difficult to explore in network cartoons. So it’s great to have the freedom to do that here. And even said age-appropriateness is set by the age of my characters, not by any arbitrary Standards and Practices idea of what’s appropriate for my readers.

WF: Rain of the Ghosts‘s narrator provides a genuine mystery to the reader, and is definitely an interesting take on how to tell Rain’s story. Without giving anything away, why did you choose this approach to the narration?

GW: The book is narrated using a First Person Omniscient (or nearly Omniscient) Narrator. That’s fairly atypical, but it seemed like the best way to tell the story. The narrator, whom the other characters know as Opie, has his own point of view, agenda, attitude and interests, all of which gain in clarity with each succeeding book in the series. Yet even here in this first book, the reader gets a few major revelations about him, including the fact that he’s omniscient about the present – the now – with that omniscience extending even to being able to read the thoughts of others. (In contrast, Opie cannot foretell the future, and his knowledge of the past, while extensive, is not encyclopedic.)

As for the why… part of the reason, admittedly, was the novelty of it. But Opie-as-Narrator plays into the mythology of the region and of the series. And he seemed like a perfect vehicle for exploring this new world I was trying to create in all its various facets.

WF: Can you drop any last teases for Rain, and where we could possibly see this story going to with the release of the second installment?

GW: As Spirits of Ash and Foam begins, Rain is on a quest in nine parts. She knows she’s completed the first step, but she has eight more steps to take. The second book begins to explain the rules of the world in more detail, introduces and/or develops more characters, and has a couple of new and dangerous opponents: a child-stealing Taíno mermaid and a murderous Taíno vampire that isn’t like any vampire you’ve seen before.

WF: For fans of your work on Young Justice, The Spectacular Spider-Man, Gargoyles, and even your upcoming Star Wars Rebels show, why do you think they’ll enjoy Rain of the Ghosts?

GW: I think for my fans, the things they’ve enjoyed about my past work includes the world-building of a cohesive and dynamic universe with its own mythology, populated by well-drawn characters that come in all shapes, sizes, races, ethnicities, genders, orientations, etc. Rain of the Ghosts – the book and the series it launches – has all of that and more.

WF: To wrap things up, can you fill us in on all the details for the signings/appearances you’ll be doing for Rain of the Ghosts? When, where – the whole nine yards!

GW: I have two signings coming up in the next few days:

On Saturday, February 15, 2014, I’ll be selling and signing copies of Rain of the Ghosts at Gallifrey One. For $10 you get a signed copy of the book and (while supplies last) signed copies of the original inspirational character designs (drawn by artist Kuni Tomita) for the animated series version of Rain that we developed but never made back at DreamWorks in 1997-98. Gallifrey One is at the Marriott Los Angeles Airport Hotel, 
5855 West Century Blvd., 
Los Angeles, CA 90045. And I’ll be signing at Christopher Jones’ table from 2pm-3pm, then again after our Young Justice panel from 6pm-6:30pm in Program Room B. And finally in the Lobby of the hotel from 6:30pm until I’m out of books or folks stop showing up. The 6:30pm signing is open to everyone, even folks who have not paid to attend the convention. For more information, go to http://www.s8.org/gargoyles/askgreg/search.php?rid=1132 or http://www.gallifreyone.com/.

Then on Tuesday, February 18, 2014, I’ll be doing a reading, discussion and signing of Rain at 7:00pm at Vroman’s Bookstore: 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, California 91101. For more information, check out: http://www.vromansbookstore.com/greg-weisman2014.

Thanks!

Rain of the Ghosts, the first installment of Weisman’s new book series, is now available at retail and digital outlets everywhere. Check out Ask Greg! for more details on Rain of the Ghosts.

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Warner Bros. Animation Offers Animation Scholarship, Details Available

Warner Bros. Animation has provided the following scholarship details for those interested in pursuing a career in animation. Continue below to view the press details and how to get more information.

2013 Warner Bros. Animation/Hanna-Barbera Honorship

Who: Any graduating high school senior enrolling in a college, university, or trade school to study animation.

What: Through the Warner Bros. Reach program, one outstanding student is awarded the Hanna-Barbera/Animation Honorship each year that includes a scholarship and four full-time paid internships at the company during four consecutive summers while enrolled in college. Successful Reach program graduates will be eligible for full-time positions at Warner Bros.

How: Application (with instructions) can be downloaded by clicking here.

When: Application deadline is by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, March 4, 2013

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Producer Eric Radomski Discusses Twenty Years Of “Batman: The Animated Series”

Having just celebrated its 20th anniversary last month, Batman: The Animated Series‘ pivotal role in the world of animation remains uncontested to this day. Based on the characters from DC Comics, Batman: The Animated Series brought in a wealth of talented professionals and creators, resulting in an unforgettable experience that revolutionized television animation and brought a stunning new look to the legendary Caped Crusader. Among its eclectic cast of talent, to vast here to list, the series was developed by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski. Both with a unique set of visual talents, Timm and Radomski ended up creating a landmark visual style for the series that, in effect, would still remain a heavy influence in animation to this very day. Timm and Radomski laid the groundwork for what would become the most revered superhero animated series of all-time.

The World’s Finest has the opportunity to talk to Producer Eric Radomski about his time on Batman: The Animated Series and much more…

The World’s Finest: I guess we’ll start with the basics. You’ve stated before that, before Batman: The Animated Series, you weren’t really a Batman fan. What drew you to this series and how did you prepare for it? Was it just another animation gig, or did you know something special was being created?

Eric Radomiski: Tim Burton’s Batman movie was my first exposure to the dark side of the character and his world, like most of us comic book illiterates, I’d only known the campy 1960′s TV interpretation which I watched mostly because my viewing options were limited at that time… As an adult, I came to appreciate that series for what it was. As a kid, I recall it being rather annoying and unfortunately the likely reason I avoided comics all together thinking that all comics would be as lame as that series… I was wrong.

Ironically I’d been ‘preparing for it’ all along, I just didn’t know it…

I began my art career with illusions of becoming a fine-art painter, which exposed me to countless concepts, techniques, and styles, I studied and practiced continuously until reality stepped in and finances forced me to pursue illustration, the kind of painting that actually pays the bills. All along, I maintained my fascination and experimentation with animation and at a certain point my interests converged.

Specific to Batman: The Animated Series; I had been working on Tiny Toon Adventures as a background painter two years prior to the birth of Batman: The Animated Series. Toward the end of Tiny Toon‘s run, WB opened up animation development on several WB-owned properties. I contributed development art on all of the titles they offered purely to participate, with hopes of sustaining my employment. That said, the Batman movie struck a personal and artistic cord in me… A blend of Impressionism, Catholicism and 70′s Illustrators – Fuchs, Peak, English to name a few – along with the [Max] Fleischer’s Superman series seemed to be the special sauce I thought Batman: The Animated Series needed to distinguish itself from most of the previous action adventure shows I’d experienced.

WF: Starting off, you stated that you and Bruce Timm were somewhat inexperienced as producers. Did that cause any problems early on, perhaps with other writers or editors working on the series? How did you overcome that to make the show as consistent in tone as it eventually became?

ER: In hind site, the 90-second test Bruce Timm and I created truly ‘sealed the deal’ as far as he and I working on the series… simply because we got it done and it looked so different. Even upon completion he and I thought we’d be art directors at best and we were fine with that. It was a bit of a shock when Jean MacCurdy, President of WB Animation at that time asked us to be the series producers and that WB wanted to produce 65 episodes right out of the gate. I swear, we must have looked like classic WB characters, stunned ‘jaw to the floor’ expressions. We thought “what the hell, the worst that can happen is they’ll fire us” and off we went.

The first few months were a bit clumsy as Timm and I were asked to work with two writer producers that were talented enough but didn’t really share our vision. Nor did they seem comfortable to collaborate with two newbies like us. I believe Jean recognized our passion and vision for the series and realized that was too important to sacrifice. Fortunately, she had the brilliant idea to introduce us to the shows narrative hero – Alan Burnett. Alan brought maturity, experience and collaboration to the team and that seemed to calm down any hesitation that remained. 85 episodes and a 70-minute film later we all stepped back in awe of the unique opportunity we’d all just experienced. Great memories and the start of several outstanding careers for many of the artists that were part of this series.

WF: As a follow-up to the previous question, while the show hit a consistent tone with story, there were obvious fluctuations with the animation and the different studios used. Did you ever see that as an issue, and did this cause any problems with what you wanted the show to achieve visually?

ER: The production design met resistance with all of our oversea’s studios, simply because our series was like nothing else they’d worked on. Some studios had more difficulty adapting to the style then others. We made every effort to help each studio understand the style. i believed from the beginning that if embraced, this style would prove to be simpler, more efficient, and serve to deliver a better looking product overall. Considering we had up to seven studios in four different countries working simultaneously for two years, our ratio of good versus average looking episodes was very high all things considered.

The series would look amazing using today’s technology. Reminder – BTAS was a traditional 2D production. Hand-made, shot on film with no digital assistance outside of the final music and sound effects mix. The days of hand-painted animation cels is quickly becoming a style of the past. Hang on to those series cels … the market will return sometime soon.

WF: Visually, your impact on Batman: The Animated Seriesis readily apparent. The black backgrounds and the title cards are two highly important visuals from the first 85 episodes that are basically owed to you. Can you run us through why you opted to use the black backgrounds, and how you came up with the idea for the title cards?

ER: Claude Monet, Bernie Fuchs, Coppola, Fleischer’s Superman – All had a technical impact on the concept of starting in the dark and coaxing the imagery out with light and color. It’s a visual storytelling technique that allows the viewers imagination to fill in the blanks.

From a production standpoint, I felt the technique allowed us to suggest more detail and atmosphere then actually existed (or we could afford), and it was easily transferable so that we could maintain consistency amongst all the hands involved.

WF: How did your experience in animation help you as executive producer for this series? Did that help you become so hands-on for this show? Why? Would you say your background allowed for some of the unique offerings of the show, such as the darker palette and more dramatic emphasis?

ER: We all learn by trial and error. My animation experience previous to Batman: The Animated Series was very hands on and from the bottom up. I started as coffee boy, Xerox-clean up, a background artist on commercials in the mid west. I even worked a 16mm Oxberry camera for a while. I earned my way up to assistant animator, board artist and eventually assistant director. I was fairly experienced and prepared for the production of Batman: The Animated Series, I just hadn’t been responsible for the whole process before.

Specific to the ‘darker palette and more dramatic emphasis’ question; that was more personal expression inspired by my maturing tastes for stronger animated content.

WF: This question is likely impossible to answer but, at the time, did you know you and the Batman: The Animated Series creative team was creating something that, even twenty years later, is still an obvious influence when it comes to animation? What are you most proud of about your work on the show?

ER: Agreed, no one could have predicted the lasting success and interest in the series. But I will say after we received the first episode “On Leather Wings,” Timm and I knew we had achieved what we set out to – creating a sophisticated animated series no one had seen since Fleischer’s Superman.

I’m most proud of being part of a team that truly cared about their work, and proved it by committing it to film for the next generation of creators to be inspired, to carry on the art form as we were inspired by the brilliant artists before us.

WF: That being said, is there anything you’d change? Perhaps find ways to push the envelope a little more? Do you think that would even be possible today, especially given the all-ages fanbase?

ER: The digital generation has changed the game completely, good and bad. Batman: The Animated Series would be an even prettier series today, but it’s likely the budgets and patience for a big and bold show like Batman: The Animated Series would be difficult to sell since most studio’s are interested in small investments, quick turnarounds and certain guaranteed high profits. Audience tastes have also shifted to the immediate gratification the internet offers.

That said, I believe in the theory of “quality content is king” and “if we build it they will come.” The past few summer superhero blockbusters give me hope. Digital effects have caught up to the superhero genre, the movies are looking better then ever and more diverse audiences are finding interest in the comic world. I believe its a bit of a rebirth, but time will tell.

WF: Just as an extension of the previous question, and somewhat off-topic, do you think there will be a place for dramatic adult animation here in North America? You worked on HBO’s Spawn and champion the drive for serious adult animation. There are countless animated comedies that air in prime-time, but do you ever think we’ll see an animated drama?

ER: Animation became difficult when it became profitable. The animation industry suffers and struggles equal to live-action television and feature films. As long as you can prove profit will exist, you have a very good chance of making content in any form. South Park is the perfect example. They’ve broken every rule most animators only dream about, considering the restrictions from Broadcast Standards and Practices. But South Park generates huge profits at a very low production cost. An easy sell, all things considered.

Animated drama is a harder sell since the merchandizing needed to accompany it would interest a very narrow audience, which makes financing these types of projects difficult.

WF: Getting back to Batman: The Animated Series, it’s well-know that show has frequent run-in with the network censors. Are there any particularly interesting instances of censorship for the series? Also, did you ever find said restrictions a problem that perhaps held the series back in your view?

ER: Actually the restrictions inspired many clever solutions for us to vent our action-adventure spleens. Watch closely, I promise in one episode you’ll see Robin punch a thug in the crotch … or did he?

One instance that always comes to mind when asked this question, this FOX Broadcast Standards and Practices note and solution: “Characters can not punch each other in the head but they can kick each other in the chest”

To be fair, the networks and studio’s have been badgered into these stupid rules by members of the audience that ignore “against fare warning” and “do not try this at home.” The results have been annoying and expensive, but eventually inspiring to the animators. We always seem to find a work around [laughs]!

WF: I realize this is likely a hard question but…how would you categorize your time and role on Batman: The Animated Series. Many consider you one of the unsung heroes of the series. Would you consider that true? How has your work on Batman: The Animated Series affected your career following it?

ER: Batman: The Animated Series was the pivotal point in my career. It made every other animation opportunity since then possible. I’ve enjoyed and learned from every series I’ve produced. I have nothing but gratitude and appreciation for the opportunity to work on such an amazing property with so many incredibly talented artists.

Heroes sacrifice with no intention for reward, but this was no sacrifice. I was vfortunately part of great team that depended on each other working together toward the same goal. We all contributed what we could and all deserve equal credit for what we achieved as a team. Animation is without a doubt a team effort.

WF: Just in general, how do you find the animation landscape has changed since Batman: The Animated Series’s time. Based on your own experiences, do you find it more restricting, more freeing, or does that depend on where you work? And can you see the impact of Batman: The Animated Series even to this day?

ER: These days I often say “production is the easy part.” All the nonsense that has to be dealt with just to get a show started – let alone made – is where a lot of my time is spent. I do it because I love it and I refuse to allow the art form to die, so I make my best effort to work with the restrictions given and make the best show I can. All things considered, there’s no greater satisfaction then making something from nothing and finding an audience that appreciates the effort.

WF: So, the wrap this up with a couple ‘20th anniversary’ questions! First, do you have an absolute favorite episode of Batman: The Animated Series? Care to tell us what it is and why?

ER: “On Leather Wings” was our first born and closest to the vision we were searching for from the start, it defined Batman: The Animated Series.

WF: How do you perceive the legacy of Batman: The Animated Series and its fond remembrance twenty years later?

ER: I was inspired by a few of my favorite animated series when I was a kid. Knowing that so many artists, fans, and followers continue to enjoy and share our Batman: The Animated Series feels like I’ve given back the inspiration and opportunity to the next generation of artists with hopes and dreams of their own to pursue.

WF: Lastly, where can we expect to see your name next. You’re currently working at Marvel Animation, so how has that been going for you and what can we expect to see in the near future from you and Marvel Animation?

ER: Currently I have a rather long title – Senior Vice President of Animation and Development for Marvel Television. I’m responsible for all things Animated from Marvel:

-Season One and Two of Ultimate Spider-Man (season 2 starts in January 2012)
-Season One of Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.
-Season One of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble (which I’m the Supervising Producer of in addition to my overall Studio duties)

We have a few other surprises brewing as well, to say the least. I’m very busy these days and loving every frame of it.

The World’s Finest would like to thank Eric Radomski for participating in this Q & A!

Batman: The Animated Series is currently available on home video, OnDemand, and for legal download, among other outlets. Batman: The Animated Series also currently airs on The Hub, with listing details available through your local television provider. This interview can also be found on The World’s Finest Batman: The Animated Series subsite.

Ultimate Spider-Man currently airs Sundays at 11:30am (ET/PT) as part of the Marvel Universe programming block on Disney XD, with Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. and Marvel’s Avenger’s Assemble joining the block come Summer 2013.

Stay tuned for details for further details here soon at The World’s Finest.

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“Justice League,” “All-Star Superman” Writer Dwayne McDuffie Posthumously Honored

Announced last week, Dwayne McDuffie and Earl Kress are set to receive the Writers Guild of America, West Animation Writers Caucus 14th annual Animation Writing Award posthumously. The honor recognizes their animation writing work and their efforts to organize animation for the guild. McDuffie worked on plenty of high-profile animation projects, including Justice League Unlimited, Static Shock, and the All-Star Superman animated feature. He passed away earlier this year. Continue below for the official press release.

Earl Kress and Dwayne McDuffie Receive 14th Annual WGAW Animation Writers Caucus Writing Award

Animation writers Dwayne McDuffie and Earl Kress have been posthumously named co-recipients of the Writers Guild of America, West Animation Writers Caucus (AWC) 14th Annual Animation Writing Award, recognizing their outstanding contributions to the craft of animation writing, as well as their work with the Writers Guild in organizing animation.

The AWCs lifetime achievement award will be presented to McDuffies and Kress widows, Charlotte (Fullerton) McDuffie and Denise Kress, at the AWCs 2011 meeting, reception, and awards ceremony held tonight at WGAW headquarters in Los Angeles. 2003 honoree Mark Evanier will present this years award to Kress, and AWC member Matt Wayne will make the presentation to (Fullerton) McDuffie. WGAW Vice President Howard A. Rodman is set to introduce the evening.

This year, animation lost two talented, hard-working people who have given much of themselves and their talent to our field. Dwayne McDuffie was a talented writer and creator of comics and animation who worked hard for others, particularly for minority writers. Earl Kress was a writer whose career included both feature and TV animation and hard work on behalf of all animation writers as a member of the WGA Animation Writers Caucus and the Animation Guild Board of Directors. Both were people I was glad to call friend and colleague, and whose efforts, it can truthfully be said, made all of us the better for them. They left us much too soon and too young, and I’m pleased we can commemorate their work and their memory with this year’s award, said AWC Chair Craig Miller.

Earl Kress spent 30-plus years working tirelessly to improve the lot of animation writers. He leaves behind a legacy of iconic cartoons and well-deserved awards, along with scores of fellow animation writers who have health and pension benefits because of Earl, and Earl alone, commented AWC member and 2009 AWC Animation Writing Award honoree Stan Berkowitz.

Dwayne McDuffie came to L.A. to work on Static Shock, the animated adaptation of an African-American comic book hero he co-created, and it wasnt long before he was one of the leading lights of superhero animation. Though his stories were often set at the edges of the universe and in other dimensions, they invariably reflected Dwaynes all-encompassing humanity, added Berkowitz.

Born on August 22, 1951, and a WGAW member since 1994, Kress recently died on September 19, shortly after turning 60, of complications due to liver cancer.

Launching his career in 1975 with The Oddball Couple, his cartoon adaptation of The Odd Couple, Kress animation writing credits over four decades include Transformers, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain, Tom & Jerry Tales, The Smurfs, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, The Little Rascals, The Berenstain Bears, Ghostbusters, DuckTales, Pound Puppies, Tiny Toon Adventures, Kim Possible, Krypto the Superdog, and the memorable, final Road Runner Looney Tunes short Little Go Beep (co-written with Kathleen Helppie-Shipley), among many other animated programs. Kress animated feature co-writing credits include story work on Disneys The Fox and the Hound (1981), as well as several direct-to-video animated features such as the recent Tom and Jerry Meet Sherlock Holmes (2010) and Wakkos Wish (1999). His live-action TV writing credits include Down to Earth and Wally and the Beaver.

In 1998, Kress earned an Annie Award for his work on the Pinky and the Brain episode The Family That Poits Together Narfs Together (shared with co-writers Charles M. Howell IV and John Ludin). A five-time Emmy nominee, Kress shared two Daytime Emmys over the course of his career, one for Pinky and the Brain in 1999 (Outstanding Special Class Animated Program, the other for Pinky, Elmyra, and the Brain in 2000 (Outstanding Childrens Animated Program).

Over the course of his career, Kress worked at studios such as Warner Bros., Universal, and Disney, and animation production companies including Hanna-Barbera, Marvel, DePatie-Freleng, and Filmation.

In 1995, Kress joined the Animation Guilds executive board and was elected vice president of the Animation Guild (Local 839) in 2004, a position he held until his death earlier this year.

In addition to writing comic books for The Simpsons and Looney Toons, Kress most recently ghostwrote Life is a Pic-a-Nic: Tips and Tricks for the Smarter Than Av-er-age Bear with Yogi Bear, published in 2010 as a tie-in for the recent big-screen animated feature Yogi Bear. He also co-authored the 2009 autobiography of voiceover legend June Foray, Did You Grow Up with Me, Too? with co-writer and close friend Mark Evanier.

A man of diverse talents, Kress worked as a voice actor and a puppeteer for The Muppets, in addition to serving as a sought-after animated programming historian, playing a key role in producing several DVD box sets of classic Warner Bros. cartoons and contributing special feature supplemental materials to many animated TV series DVD collections, as well as working with Rhino Entertainment to release several CDs of vintage Hanna-Barbera cartoon soundtracks, among other animation-centric industry projects.

Well-respected comic book and animation writer McDuffie, who died at age 49 this past February 21 of complications after undergoing unsuccessful emergency open heart surgery to repair a ruptured aortic aneurysm, was co-founder of Milestone Media, a ground-breaking company that created multi-cultural comic lines which introduced black superheroes such as Hardware and Static.

As a comic book author, McDuffie contributed to Marvels Fantastic Four and DCs Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight and Justice League of America, among other popular comic book titles. As a television animation writer, story editor, or producer, his animated series writing credits include Static Shock (which he co-created with Christopher James Priest), Justice League, Ben 10: Alien Force, and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Whats New, Scooby Doo?, Teen Titans, and Friends & Heroes, among other animated programs. McDuffie also penned the 2011 animated feature All-Star Superman, based on the comic book series by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely, as well as several animated features in the DC Animated Universe Original Movies franchise series, including the upcoming Justice League: Doom, McDuffies adaptation of Mark Waids Tower of Babel JL story slated for release in 2012, and the videogame Justice League Heroes. McDuffies final work was developing the latest version of his global hit Ben 10 franchise for Cartoon Network, set to premiere in 2012.

Born on Feb. 20, 1962, and a WGAW member since 2003, McDuffie attended the Roeper School for gifted children in the Detroit suburbs of Bloomfield Hills. Later, he earned a bachelors degrees in both Physics and English, as well as a Masters degree in Physics, at the University of Michigan and attended film school at New York Universitys Tisch School of the Arts.

Launching his career in 1987 as a special comics editor at Marvel Comics, McDuffie wrote for Spider-Man and other major Marvel characters, and co-created the limited series Damage Control, centering on the novel idea of a firm that repairs property damages caused by epic battles between super-heroes and super-villains.

In 2003, McDuffie shared a Humanitas Prize for penning the Jimmy episode of Static Shock (teleplay by Dwayne McDuffie, Story by Alan Burnett, Dwayne McDuffie), which explored the topical issue of gun violence in schools. Over the course of his TV animation writing career, McDuffie earned two Emmy nominations, including a Daytime Emmy Award nom for Static Shock in the Outstanding Special Class Animated Program category (shared with Sander Schwartz, Alan Burnett, Denys Cowan, Swinton O. Scott III, John Semper, Len Uhley, and Andrea Romano), and in 2005 McDuffie shared a Writers Guild Award nomination for co-writing the Justice League episode Starcrossed (Written by Rich Fogel, John Ridley, Dwayne McDuffie, Story by Rich Fogel).

After several years spent freelancing as a comic book writer, in 1992 McDuffie co-founded Milestone Media, whose comics were distributed by DC Comics. The company, like McDuffie himself, championed a more multicultural and inclusive approach to comics.

The WGAWs AWC Animation Writing Award is given to members of the Animation Writers Caucus or Writers Guild who have advanced the literature of animation in film and/or television throughout the years and made outstanding contributions to the profession of the animation writer. Founded in 1994, the WGAWs Animation Writers Caucus represents over 600 animation writers and works to advance economic and creative conditions in the field. Through organizing efforts, educational events, and networking opportunities, the Guilds AWC is a leading proponent for animation writers. Recent AWC Animation Writing Award honorees include Mike Scully, Al Jean, Michael Reiss, Brad Bird, Linda Woolverton, and Stan Berkowitz

The posthumous award was announced late last week. Click here for further coverage.

McDuffie wrote the recent direct-to-video All-Star Superman animated feature for the Warner Home Video “DC Universe Animated Original Movie” line, released in February 2011, which has moved more than 400,000 copies on DVD and Blu-ray since its release.

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“Justice League Unlimited,” “All-Star Superman” Writer Dwayne McDuffie Passes Away

The World’s Finest has learned that animation producer, writer, editor, and comic industry vet Dwayne McDuffie has passed away. He was 49 years old. McDuffie died Monday, February 21st, 2011, a day after his birthday, due to complications after undergoing emergency heart surgery at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California, said Gary Miereanu, a publicist for Warner Home Video.

McDuffie is remembered for his work with Milestone Media, classic animated television programs including Justice League Unlimited, Static Shock, among many, many others. His most recent projects included the animated series Ben 10 and the just-released All-Star Superman direct-to-video animated feature. A highly influential creator in his field, his work was noted by many others as the high mark to which they aspire to.

McDuffie recently attended the Paley Center Los Angeles premiere of All-Star Superman, which was held last week, and was active across his website and social media accounts as of this past weekend. All-Star Superman, which was officially released today, was his latest long-form animation project, though he had at least two others in various stages of development.

This news has hit both his colleagues and the fan community tremendously hard. Other media outlets have also picked up this tragic story. Dwayne McDuffie is survived by his wife.

The World’s Finest would like to express our deepest condolences to his friends and family.

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