Justice League Kids: The DCAU Show That Could Have Replaced Justice League

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Karkull

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Aug 19, 2001
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R'lyeh
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#1
I made an astounding discovery today related to the Justice League series' birthing process. I'll get to it in a moment, but first a brief history lesson.

As we all know, initially Bruce Timm was hesitant to go ahead with a Justice League series. He went as far in interviews to say that it would never happen. However, when Batman Beyond was winding down and he was suddenly faced with the prospect of losing his creative team, Timm started thinking about potential shows to work on next. Now, the spectre of a "young Justice League show" has been brought up several times by Kids' WB execs, who wanted to skew younger but keep their cash cow Batman handy. Here is the first known permutation of the idea -- pre-Beyond -- courtesy of Bruce Timm and Comicology Magazine:

"That was something that was pitched to us; we didn't come up with that concept. We had a meeting, like, two years ago now, with Jamie Kellner, who's head of the WB network, and there was some concern that Batman had just been around a little bit too long in its current incarnation, even with the revamped look and everything. The shows did really, reall well ratings-wise, but [the WB execs] kinda felt that we'd been riding that train for a long time, and there was also a concern that the show was skewing a little bit older than they would've liked, because the advertising is aimed at children. So they were just talking about ways of freshening the show and [...one of the potential ideas] was [a] Batman and the junior Justice League, which we didn't like.

"He'd be training Aquaman Jr. and Wonder Woman Jr. and...by the time we got to that one, our heads were spinning, and we were thinking, 'We don't want to do any of those. What do we do? We gotta come up with something quick.' And, kind of on the spur of the moment, I said, 'What if we set [a Batman series] in the future?"

Then, after Batman Beyond, it was brought up again, as recorded by Timm for the website Zap2It:

"What [the WB network] was really interested in doing was Batman training a bunch of junior superheroes."

This desire for a "Justice League Kids" show was largely due to corporate thinking, as mentioned by Paul Dini in an interview with [website name removed]:

"Everybody wants to see [a straight Justice League adaptation] and we would like to do it, but the suits at the network keep pounding it in that it's the Kids' WB! If we were to do Justice League, all they see is a bunch of adults in suits."

Fortunately Cartoon Network stepped in, bought the show that we would come to know and love, and the rest is history. Case closed? No way.

Today I recieved Retro-Vision CD Rom Magazine #1 in the mail, which features an excellent Justice League series guide, complete with details on production that I'm still poring over (buy it!!!). Anyway, in the article preceeding the guide, co-producer James Tucker once again went over the show's creation. However, this time, he dropped this telling nugget of information of what might have been rather than our beloved League series. As it turns out, not only did the junior League idea come up again, but we could have also had an anime-inspired Batman series:

"Development was done on a Batman Anime show that kind of reflects on what Teen Titans is now. And we developed a more youth-oriented version of Justice League. Thank God both of those projects never happened, although there's a tape out there of a very kiddified Justice League that included Robin and a teenage female version of Cyborg. It was our attempt to try and do something that wasn't as edgy or as dark as we would normally want to go. At the time, Kids' WB totally passed on the Batman Anime idea and we actually did test animation for the Justice League idea."

Think of the ramifications of this: not only is this an amazing bit of trivia, but there is a second, earlier piece of test animation for the Justice League show! Remember that minute of footage that was an Easter Egg on the Justice League: Paradise Lost DVD? That was the pilot for what the series would become. Imagine the notion of an earlier pilot that features a bizarro mash of Justice League and Teen Titans and features Batman, Robin, and a female Cyborg! The mind boggles.

I can only hope that this tape surfaces sometime in the future, either for a future DVD release or simply as a bootleg that we can watch, digest, and endlessly speculate over on these message boards. Wow.
 

Style

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St. Charles
#2
My...God. That's the worst-or greatest-idea ever. I'm almost afraid for that test footage to surface, yet morbidly curious all the same.

Actually, careful reading of the article makes me believe that the Batman anime and Justice League/Teen Titans hybrid were two separate projects, so Batman may not have been in that JL show after all.
 

Karkull

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R'lyeh
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#3
The "Batman Anime" and the "Justice League Kids" pitches were two separate shows, but Batman would have been involved in either show. The WB suits were interested in Batman training a junior League, so Batman probably would have been involved in the "League" show.
 

b.t.

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Nov 11, 2003
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#4
god, i'd forgotten all about this...

when we first started talking about JL, the powers that be felt that it should be pitched to kids wb first...knowing their preference for younger heroes, i was hesitant to go there, but we prepared test animation of the "female cyborg" character (glen's idea, if i remember right), and impulse too, i believe, just in case...the robin footage was just just clips from TNBA, i think....

anyhow, kids wb (thankfully, in retrospect!) passed on the BATMAN ANIME pitch...it was a VERY kiddified batman concept, but still not "pokemonized" enough for them....after the pitch meeting, the powers that be realized kids wb wasn't likely to go for JL, even with a couple of young ringers in the line-up, and we were given the go-ahead to pitch it to cartoon network...we cut the "jr. jl" clips from the presentation reel, and subsequently forgot all about 'em.... i have no idea where that footage is now, and it's probably no great loss....

as it turned out, cn never even saw the JL presentation reel, but bought the series just based on a single phone call....
 

Karkull

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R'lyeh
jl.toonzone.net
#5
So this "early test animation" was originally part of the presentation reel that appeared on the DVD? Interesting...so it really was going to be a League/Titans hybrid team. It would also explain why you guys recycled the Flash footage from the STAS episode -- the original pitch called for Impulse, but he was replaced with the Flash for the Cartoon Network pitch!

So, the League could have been Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, J'onn J'onzz, Hawkgirl, Robin, Impulse, and Cyborg? Wild...
 

b.t.

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#6
Karkull said:
The "Batman Anime" and the "Justice League Kids" pitches were two separate shows, but Batman would have been involved in either show. The WB suits were interested in Batman training a junior League, so Batman probably would have been involved in the "League" show.
it does get a bit confusing:

the "batman training the jr. jl" thing was just something that was verbally batted around five minutes before we came up with the BATMAN BEYOND concept in jaimie kellner's office..."batman anime" was a completely seperate concept developed by glen, alan, adam warren and me several years later...the "jl/titans hybrid" was a gimmick that we thought might make the jl concept more palatable to kids wb...the idea being that it would be a pretty straight "jl" show, but with a group of younger heroes also on the team, learning the ropes...sounds VERY "superfriends", don't it? and yes, batman would have been on the show...
 

Style

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#7
b.t. said:
it does get a bit confusing:

the "batman training the jr. jl" thing was just something that was verbally batted around five minutes before we came up with the BATMAN BEYOND concept in jaimie kellner's office..."batman anime" was a completely seperate concept developed by glen, alan, adam warren and me several years later...the "jl/titans hybrid" was a gimmick that we thought might make the jl concept more palatable to kids wb...the idea being that it would be a pretty straight "jl" show, but with a group of younger heroes also on the team, learning the ropes...sounds VERY "superfriends", don't it? and yes, batman would have been on the show...
So... what was the impetus for Batman anime? The sense that Batman Beyond was coming to an end, and it was just a desparate effort to get Kids WB to by something from you guys?

Oops, that sounded insulting. I didn't mean it that way.
 

FALLEN ELDOR

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#8
b.t. said:
The "jl/titans hybrid" was a gimmick that we thought might make the jl concept more palatable to kids wb...the idea being that it would be a pretty straight "jl" show, but with a group of younger heroes also on the team, learning the ropes...sounds VERY "superfriends", don't it? and yes, batman would have been on the show...
I like the sound of that. It certainly would have been an interesting show, and I'm sure a lot more "fun and light" then what we did get. It might still make a cool idea for a spin off of JLU :)


did the batman anime lead to The batman ?
 

Style

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#9
FALLEN ELDOR said:
did the batman anime lead to The batman ?
Actually, if I read it right, and Murakami was the leading force behind it, Then Batman Anime actually lead to Teen Titans. The anime-isms probably suit them a lot better than they would have Batman.

As for The Batman, it's quality issues are actually of a whole different set than wanting to be "pokemon-ized..."
 

FALLEN ELDOR

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#11
stly92 said:
Actually, if I read it right, and Murakami was the leading force behind it, Then Batman Anime actually lead to Teen Titans. The anime-isms probably suit them a lot better than they would have Batman.

As for The Batman, it's quality issues are actually of a whole different set than wanting to be "pokemon-ized..."
I was talking about purely on the basis of artisitic style over story telling. but yeah TT is waaaaaay more crapanime then The Batman :sad:

Hordesman said:
It's awesome hearing abotu unused concepts. You guys ever hear of this one? http://members.aol.com/sarahdyer/starriders/wwstar.htm
yes i have mt fellow member of The Evil Horde ;)
 

Style

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#12
FALLEN ELDOR said:
I was talking about purely on the basis of artisitic style over story telling.
I'm still not sure what your getting at. It might be fair to say that Batman Anime might have been similar to The Batman as style over story telling, but there's still no direct link or reason to say that the Batman Anime pitch lead to devolopment of The Batman. They are different projects undertaken by different people.


but yeah TT is waaaaaay more crapanime then The Batman :sad:
Now, that's not what I said. Or at least, not the terms I used. But still, it's probably healthier for my Toonzone membership if I just let this slide with the disclaimer that that was not my opinion.
 
Feb 5, 2005
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#15
stly92 said:
Have you watched Teen Titans? Because statements like "Teen Titans is a kiddie version of Justice League" tend to stop when you do.
Yes I love Teen Titans but I would rather have JLU and TT than JLUkids and TT.
I dont think I could handle all the teenagers if that was the case.
 

FALLEN ELDOR

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#16
stly92, I never said it did. I asked b.t. if it did because WB wanted something new and different and that's what they got with The Batman. lets not put words into each other's mouth, but we both know that TT is anime weather either of us like it or not. With that said, i'm saying it now, I don't like that anime influence one bit!
 

b.t.

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#17
stly92 said:
So... what was the impetus for Batman anime? The sense that Batman Beyond was coming to an end, and it was just a desparate effort to get Kids WB to by something from you guys?
basically, yeah...

when BB was originally coming to a close, kids wb asked us if we had any ideas on how to do a more "kid-friendly" batman show...alan burnett and hilary bader worked up a (i kid you not) "batman on mars" pitch, which was basically just a continuation of BB...terry moves to a colony on a terraformed mars and has kid-friendly adventures there...i was really relieved when kwb showed no interest in it, as i just HATED the concept....

so glen and i were mulling it over and took it as a challenge: was there a way to give kwb EXACTLY the kind of show they wanted, but still make it something that was freaky enough to be fun in its own right? we thought, "okay, rather than doing something that's just a 'baby-step' away from our previous shows, still tied to our direct continuity, etc, what if we do something that's REALLY whacked, that takes place SO far in the future, it's barely related to what we've done before"....("plausible deniability" played a factor here too)...

"pokemon" was still super-hot at kwb, so we tried to combine elements of it and other "collect 'em all" anime shows ("cardcaptors", "digimon", etc) with traditional batman elements....we brought adam warren in to help develop it with us (he ended up doing most of the art for the pitch, too)...it took place hundreds of years from now, and revolved around the adventures of an all-new batman, robin and batgirl, all in their early teens....there was some kind of nano-disaster that re-wrote reality, re-creating the old bat-villain archetypes as nano-based monsters....the kids had a butler a.i. named "alpha-red" (that one was just so tacky, we HAD to do it) who also powered all their vehicles...kenner had been urging us for years to put a talking vehicle a la "knight rider" in one of our shows (they originally wanted us to put a "jor-el" voice chip in clark kent's sportscar in STAS, so he could converse with clark, brando-style), so the talking "alpha-red/batmobile" was a no-brainer....do i have to go on?

anyhow, kenner LOVED the whole pitch, wanted to get started on the toy-line "yesterday!", but kwb thought it was still too "traditional", it wasn't "out of the box" enough..."batman's still too re-active...does he have to fight crime?" i pointed out that he would be fighting MONSTERS, not criminals.... "what if, instead of three kids who fight monsters, what if the three kids COMPETE about who gets to BE batman?" after a long moment of stunned silence i pointed out that if batman's not protecting the weak from the bad guys, be they monsters or criminals or aliens or what-have-you, then fundamentally, it just isn't "batman" AT ALL.....they allowed that there was probably some truth to that, asked us to give the whole thing some more thought, and invited us to come back and re-pitch it then.....the next day, i called mike lazzo at cn, pitched jl, he said "hell yeah!" and that was the end of BATMANIME...
 
Feb 5, 2005
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#18
Bruce what were you guys smoking lol,,Sounds weird but cool at the same time. Whats your thoughts on the new The Batman cartoon,, I sat through a few Ep's but they are so bad I stopped watching so sad couse I love Bats so.
 

Aberration

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Sep 19, 2002
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Crazy as it sounds, I'd actually buy a "Batman Anime" one-shot if you guys would do it (a la "Marvel Mangaverse") :D

So what happened to the artwork that Adam Warren did for the pitch?
 

All-Star 1.5

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#20
I think the best pitch was the JL/TT one. I mean it sounds alot like a JLU before there was a JLU except more character based,with more teenagers, and less characters. But other then that it sounds like a cool concept very similar to X-Men Evolution and Johns' run on Teen Titans in that older heros are training younger ones. In fact the only thing I don't like is the female Cyborg I mean nothing beats the orginial.

But again i'm glad you and co. are doing JLU.

So, b.t exactly how many concepts and pitches did you guys throw at the network befor they decided on JL and TT respectivly? And where does Batman:Wired fit into all of this?