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A LEGO “Gotham City Breakout” in Gotham with John DiMaggio, Brandon Vietti, Matt Peters, and Jason Spisak

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Lego DC Comics Super Heroes - Justice League: Gotham City Breakout

At the end of June, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment hosted a special screening of LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes – Justice League: Gotham City Breakout at the Directors Guild of America Theater in New York City. In attendance were actors John DiMaggio (Deathstroke) and Jason Spisak (The Joker and Spoony); co-director Matt Peters; producer Brandon Vietti; and screenwriter Jim Krieg. Toonzone News was able to chat with all of them (except Jim Krieg — next time!) before the screening.


JOHN DIMAGGIO

John DiMaggio
John DiMaggio

TOONZONE NEWS: I’ve asked other people in the LEGO DC movies this question: when John DiMaggio was a kid, did you prefer LEGO or comic book superheroes?

JOHN DIMAGGIO: A little bit of both. Mostly Dungeons and Dragons, AD&D. I’m still trying to get into Critical Role, and we haven’t had the time. But, you know, I played with LEGOs and I had the Spider-Man Marvel Team-Up comics growing up. They were sent to my house. My favorite was the one with Spider-Man and the Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Players. You remember that one? With a ring going to a guy named “J. B. Lu-Shi” in Rockefeller Center, and they were like, “Oh, that must mean John Belushi,” but no, it was the Silver Samurai in the same building. Who’d have thought the Silver Samurai had an office at Rockefeller Center? Crazy. I loved that. But with that, I wasn’t only, “Oh, this is IT!” I played with everything.

TOONZONE NEWS: You were Lex Luthor in the earlier LEGO Justice League movies, and I think you did one or two pickup lines as Deathstroke. Did you re-audition to do Deathstroke in this one, or did they just say, “Hey, let’s do it?”

JOHN DIMAGGIO: I think they brought me back, they said, “Yeah, do it again.” It’s always great to get to play a part in these movies because they’re so campy and so much fun. They’re just great. I’m happy to be here. It’s awesome, it’s totally cool. I love the character layout. It’s just the way they do these characters, it’s so beautifully campy, it just makes me happy. And it’s something that everybody can watch. So that’s cool. I like that.

TOONZONE NEWS: Deathstroke in the comics is a much more serious character.

JOHN DIMAGGIO: Yeah, you can’t have the Deathstroke that’s in the comics in LEGO, so that’s the fun thing. It’s just like, “OK, so how do you play it?” But the best part about it is that the character layout really sets the tone, and let’s everybody know that it’s campy and beautiful and really well drawn and just fantastic. It’s great because these LEGO films have had such legs. They can do so much stuff with LEGO. That’s really great for us in the industry, as far as the work is concerned. So you’ve just got this fantastic franchise that has a great reputation, and it’s so wonderful to be a part of it.

LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League Gotham City BreakoutTOONZONE NEWS: Did you do these radio style or did you have to record solo?

JOHN DIMAGGIO: We did do it ensemble, together in the booth. That’s always fun. That’s like getting together with your pals and goofing around, with some structure involved, of course. Sometimes the scheduling will cause you to have to record by yourself, but it’s OK as long as you know what’s going on, and if you are recording by yourself, you usually can ask, “Can you play the line that was just before mine so I have something to react to?” It’s just as organic either way. It’s more fun with a bunch of people in the room, but it’s less time consuming if you go alone (laughs).

TOONZONE NEWS: Not quite as much messing around in the booth when you’re by yourself.

JOHN DIMAGGIO: Yeah, not quite as much goofing around. To quote a gym teacher, “Quit playing grab-ass! Dammit, get to work!”

TOONZONE NEWS: What else is coming up for you that you can talk about? Where else can we see or hear you?

JOHN DIMAGGIO: More Adventure Time. Gears of War 4 is coming out in October, and I’m in that game. That was a big reveal at E3, and so I’m really excited to be able to be talking about that and how much fun that was. Right now, a lot of perennials that I’ve planted early on are still coming back and flowering, and that’s really great. And there are a couple of things going on I can’t talk about, which is always nice. NDAs are a pain in the ass, but it’s great to be like, “I can’t talk about it!” That’s fantastic. Work gets work, so I’m very happy and very excited about stuff that’s coming up.


BRANDON VIETTI

Brandon Vietti
Brandon Vietti

TOONZONE NEWS: When Brandon Vietti was a kid, did you prefer LEGOs or did you prefer superhero comic books?

BRANDON VIETTI: Hmm. LEGO. I played with LEGOs a lot. I think my parents bought me a space set, and I also had this large box of just random bricks. I even remember a motorized part so I could make a moving car. So I was very much into the bricks as a kid. I had comics, but when I was younger — the right age for LEGO, I think — I wasn’t reading a lot of comics yet. I was watching more cartoons. Funnily enough, it’s animation that got me into comics. I started collecting comics because they were making comics for my favorite cartoon shows. Transformers and G.I. Joe were the first comics I ever collected, and Batman. And then that kind of got me to spread out and see even more. Once I was going to the comic book shops for G.I. Joe and Transformers, I was like, “Hmmm…what’s this X-Men thing? What’s this Justice League thing?” So I would just expand out from there.

TOONZONE NEWS: You’ve been producer for a bunch of these movies, and they’ve been coming pretty fast and furious. How far in advance had you guys been planning these things? Do you have 3 or 4 of them in the pipeline at once?

BRANDON VIETTI: There’s usually a couple in the pipe at once. We’ll have a break after this one, and then hopefully we’ll get to do more. Hopefully people will love this movie and buy this movie and support this movie, because then we get to make more. That’s how it works. But yeah, we’ve done five individual titles in the LEGO DC Universe at this point — this is the fifth. There was some overlap there where we had at least, maybe 2 or 3 running at the same time. But that’s how that works to get them out so fast.

TOONZONE NEWS: How long does it take to make one of these?

BRANDON VIETTI: About a year. From initial conception, to what the story and characters might be, to fleshing out the script, all the pre-production, all the animation, all the post-production…it’s quite an undertaking.

TOONZONE NEWS: Since you do have a few of these things in the pipe at once, do you ever end up cutting things and then using them in later movies? How tight do you end up plotting these things?

BRANDON VIETTI: They’re pretty tight. We storyboard the entire movie first, and we get that exactly to the time that we need before it goes into animation, so there is no extra material, really ever. If there is any extra, it’s a few frames here and a few frames there that we might be cutting in one scene, but something that just would not work out of context.

LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League Gotham City BreakoutTOONZONE NEWS: Compared to the last two movies, this one looks like it’s not quite as big and cosmic. Did that affect the way you conceived or produced this movie?

BRANDON VIETTI: A little bit. We get to explore Gotham City for the first time in this movie. It’s our first time really going down into the city and actually building the entire city of Gotham in LEGO bricks, and then figuring out how to light it and give it that signature Gotham City mood and making the streets wet and reflective, and the fog. Oh, man, we had so much fun getting into Gotham City and designing it, bringing it to life in LEGO, and then getting to put so many great characters from Batman’s rogues gallery in there, and have them collide with the Justice League! In this story, Batman goes on vacation and leaves Gotham unprotected, and the Justice League comes in to help babysit Gotham. So that was the big fun for us in this one. It’s not a big cosmic adventure, but I think it’s still really fun to see familiar characters in a familiar setting, but not the setting that we’re used to. Seeing Superman having to take on characters like the Joker, because he’s used to super-powered characters with laser vision and super-strength, but this guy is just crazy! How does Superman fight crazy?

Then for Batman…the Bat Kids are in this. Nightwing and Batgirl and Robin kind of decide to give Batman a vacation, and they take him on a vacation to explore his roots, and we get to meet Batman’s sensei from when he was young and training in martial arts. This all leads to a fantastic underground adventure with a lost civilization. Bane’s there and Deathstroke’s there, hijinks ensue, and a lost world like nothing you’ve ever seen before. And it’s all rendered in LEGO. We got to have so much fun telling maybe a little more of a personal story. We’re getting to see some personal growth from our characters that we know and love.

TOONZONE NEWS: What else are you working on that you can talk about?

BRANDON VIETTI: Well, let’s see, my next project that I have coming out that’s been announced is a Scooby-Doo movie. It’s a Scooby-Doo crossover with WWE called Curse of the Speed Demon. This is the second one. The first one did great, so it got a sequel. There’s details coming soon, so I can’t say who’s in it yet, but if you loved the first movie, you’re going to love this one even more because it’s something so completely different from what you would expect. You’re going to love it.


MATT PETERS

Matt Peters
Matt Peters

TOONZONE NEWS: Did young Matt prefer LEGOs or superhero comic books?

MATT PETERS: Oh my God! I think young Matt would probably ignite if he had to choose between one or the other (laughs). I’ll be honest with you, I think when I was playing with LEGO, they didn’t have as interesting construction as they do now. As I’ve gotten older, I think I’ve actually come to appreciate LEGO more, because it’s a really well-engineered and well-designed toy. So I would say since I was younger and smaller and probably simpler, I would have definitely gone to comics.

TOONZONE NEWS: This is your first time in the director’s chair, is that correct?

MATT PETERS: Yeah, that is. This is the first time. I’m co-directing this with Mel Zwyer but yeah, this was the first time. I’ve worked before on the other LEGO films as a board artist, which was a lot of fun and great, but it was really an interesting challenge and kind of fascinating thing to see the nuts and bolts of how a film is put together.

TOONZONE NEWS: What was the biggest leap for you, or the biggest speed bump you hit directing a movie for the first time?

MATT PETERS: I think the biggest thing directing the first time would probably be just the scope involved. When you’re dealing with story boarding, you focus on the story and you pretty much don’t think about the other things, like the design or how the animation is going to look. So that was eye-opening to me, just seeing how many different elements are involved to put together a film, and how much talent it takes. It’s been unbelievably humbling and just unbelievably inspiring, too, just to see how many people working on a film to put it together.

LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League Gotham City BreakoutTOONZONE NEWS: You’ve done a whole lot of other superhero properties in animation, many much more serious than LEGO. What unique challenges did you have to deal with in working on the LEGO properties?

MATT PETERS: I think with LEGO properties, what a lot of people assume is that we’re just going to be doing a parody of these characters, because it is humor, it’s very simple. I think the audience — and sometimes for people working on it — can think we’re just going to poke fun at the characters and just be interested in punch lines only. But one thing we really wanted to do, and one thing that Brandon really impressed on us, is the idea that these are actually the characters. They just happen to be LEGO. So we really wanted to make it Superman. We really wanted to make it Batman. We really wanted to make these characters feel like the characters they actually are, but they just happen to be LEGO, and that’s where the element of the humor comes in, just seeing them in that form. It’s kind of fun and charming. But at the same time, we wanted to keep these characters as accurate as they could to the characters they represent.

TOONZONE NEWS: I asked Brandon this question that this movie seems like it’s a lot more grounded and down to earth. What challenges did that present to you when you were trying to make the movie?

MATT PETERS: I think it’s funny, even though this movie is grounded on Earth as opposed to our more cosmic adventures, it still has an element of fantasy involved. At least for myself, because the LEGO that we’re using actually has a lot of fun elements that we can play around with. So it’s almost like in place of the cosmic, we’ve got the technical end of all the different LEGO bricks. I actually didn’t think of it as a challenge to make it compete with those other films in terms of excitement. I think we’ve got a really exciting story and I think that it’s fun to see these characters a little out of water. Batman in this case is being told to relax, and Superman’s taking care of a city that’s not his, so it’s a fun thing to see each of them have to deal with something that they’re really not comfortable with or suited for.

Matt Peters and Jason Spisak
Matt Peters and Jason Spisak

TOONZONE NEWS: Last question I want to make sure I ask is what are you working on next that you can talk about?

MATT PETERS: I am actually working on the next LEGO project. We’re with DC LEGO again.

TOONZONE NEWS: As a director?

MATT PETERS: This time, I’m going to be boarding. Directing is really a challenge that Is something that I enjoy being able to step into, but I think it’s also fun to step out and return to boards a little bit, because I think I can better force myself or push myself when I get back into the chair again.


JASON SPISAK

Jason Spisak
Jason Spisak

TOONZONE NEWS: Did young Jason prefer LEGOs or did he prefer superhero comic books?

JASON SPISAK: LEGOs. I was a LEGO nut. I owned every space LEGO I could get my hands on when I was a kid. Are you kidding me? I loved LEGOs so much. I built huge towns and space bases, I love LEGO. And so to be in a movie with LEGO in it, along with one of my favorite characters that’s ever been created by humans, the Joker…it’s a dream come true.

TOONZONE NEWS: I have to mention that when I was doing the research before this interview, I found another Jason Spisak in the Linux software community.

JASON SPISAK: Oh, no no no. That’s me. A looong time ago. I used to throw my hat into that ring and do that sort of thing. I enjoyed computer hacking, I’ve played with LEGO since I was a kid, I’ve played with computers since I was a kid. I don’t really much have time for that any more. It’s been a little while. I did create a recycled computer at one point that was meant for emerging markets and people who don’t have a computer. It was an $89 PC. I did make that, trying to get technology into the hands of the less fortunate, because I think that’s important. The digital divide is a real thing, and without doing something about it, our society is headed for more inequality than it already has, and that’s not good. (laughs) I have a bit of hero in me, I guess.

TOONZONE NEWS: Normally I find these name coincidences, and it makes a great joke, but…

JASON SPISAK: (laughter) No, in this case, it’s not a joke. It’s for real! I don’t have much time for that now, unfortunately.

TOONZONE NEWS: Has that side of your life ever cropped up in an interesting way in your career as an actor?

JASON SPISAK: Not really. I’ve been waiting for the chance to play a computer hacker on camera. because every time I see people do computer hacking on camera, they just don’t know what they’re typing on the keyboard. You see them plunking at the keyboard, and you’re like, “Dude, you’re not even typing! You’re KILLING me, you’re not even typing!” They’re supposed to be doing code, and you’re like, “Just one time! Just ONE time, let me sit at the keyboard and type REAL code!”

TOONZONE NEWS: Yeah, I know. “You are doing far too few parentheses and brackets in your code right now. And not enough semi-colons.”

JASON SPISAK: Right! Exactly! What software did you write to make that syntactically correct for you on the fly, so that all you had to do was type letters? Tell me. TELL ME YOUR SECRET!

LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League Gotham City BreakoutTOONZONE NEWS: That’s awesome! I should really ask you about LEGO stuff, though. How do you audition for a character like the Joker?

JASON SPISAK: How do you do that…you have to have it inside you. There’s so many ways to play the Joker. I’ve talked to people about this a lot, and I have always wanted to play the Joker. Ever since I’d seen that character for the first time, I’ve always felt that there’s a Spisak Joker that’s just right there at the surface, ready to go. For the LEGO movie, it’s not as dark as I would do it in a game, of course. It’s not as sinister or evil. It’s more lighthearted and a bit more energetic, and that’s just a dial you have to turn. But you have to have that Joker-ness kind of in you to begin with. The good part is that I think we all do. (click to listen) We all have a Joker in us. At some point, we all get a little crazy and get a little….(in Joker voice) kind of OFF our rockers!! You know? We just do. As an actor, you glom onto that which makes you unique as a person in every role, because you’re going to do your own take on it. With the Joker…I don’t know, it was just easier for me to just turn that dial and have this come out. When I sent my stuff to Brandon, he was like, “Man, let’s do that! Let’s do that for LEGO Joker!” I actually sent it to him for something else, but he was like, “That would be good for LEGO Joker. Do you think you could do that? Not quite so sinister. We’ll get him a little bit more on the funny side.” So yeah. I mean, I talk to a spoon in this movie…

TOONZONE NEWS: Yeah, your side kick is a spoon with a face on it…

JASON SPISAK: Yeah. My sidekick is Spoony. I just talk to myself because he digs me out of Arkham, and he’s my one and only after that. Harley will get jealous of the silverware. She does that. So I’ll have to be careful. She might knife me in the back…

TOONZONE NEWS: Probably do some serious damage to Spoony, too.

JASON SPISAK: There’s nothing worse than a bent spoon. No man likes that.

LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League Gotham City BreakoutTOONZONE NEWS: The Joker seems like the kind of character who would give you golden opportunities for improv. Did you do much of that?

JASON SPISAK: Yes, though the writer on this, Jim Krieg, is an amazing writer. He wrote on Green Lantern: The Animated Series, where I played Razer. I’ve known him for a while, and he’s fantastic at telling stories. So thankfully, you have that safety net, so you don’t really have to do a lot of improv. He’s really funny. He’s a really gifted writer. I did get opportunities to make some stuff up. There’s one point where actually, it’s really just a laugh. There’s a point when Spoony laughs and Joker laughs at Spoony, and they go back and forth a few times, like (OK, you’re going to have to click to listen to this one). That was just a moment when I did it in the booth because I did both Joker and Spoony together, like a radio play. It was a good time. You’ll just have to watch the movie and see what you can guess is improv.

TOONZONE NEWS: What else is coming up soon that you can talk about?

JASON SPISAK: I’m on the Powerpuff Girls reboot. Unfortunately all the things I’m in right now, I can’t talk about. They won’t let me. I’m under non-disclosure agreement for things for Sony and Telltale and those are just company names, so I can get away with that. They’ve got so many projects that are in production that nobody would ever guess. But yeah, it’ll be a few months and then I’m sure I can say something about it.


After the screening, there was a Q&A session with the cast and crew, with a variety of questions asked by the kids in attendance (and which are a little hard to report on without spoilers or that weren’t already answered in the interviews above). Suffice it to say that the audience had as much fun after the screening as they did before it, with the following photo gallery providing some evidence.

The Many Faces of John DiMaggio

John DiMaggio John DiMaggio John DiMaggio

The Many Faces of Jason Spisak

Jason Spisak Jason Spisak Jason Spisak

The Not-as-Many-Faces of Brandon Vietti and/or Matt Peters

Brandon Vietti Brandon Vietti
Matt Peters
Brandon Vietti and Matt Peters Brandon Vietti and Matt Peters

The One Face of Jim Krieg Because All My Other Shots of Him Sucked

Jim Krieg

By That, I Mean All My Shots of Jim Krieg By Himself

John DiMaggio, Jason Spisak, and Jim Krieg Jason Spisak and Jim Krieg

During the Q&A, a girl named Bridget (maybe 9 years old) asked the best “stump the writer” question involving an inconsistency over exactly what kind of spoon Spoony was, because where the Joker said he was a soup spoon but a later line referenced eating oatmeal. And the more I try to edit that into something comprehensible, the more I’m thinking you really had to be there. But the shots of Jim Krieg reacting to the question with a little (a lot of) mock horror still work even without much context, and everyone there thought it was highly entertaining. Bridget was also one of several kids who also got a signed movie poster for asking a really good question.

The “Voice Actors Making Funny Faces” Portion of Our Show

John DiMaggio and Jason Spisak John DiMaggio and Jason Spisak John DiMaggio and Jason Spisak

Because they’re voice actors on a stage talking about their roles, so funny faces just end up happening.

And a Spendid Time Was Had By All

John DiMaggio, Jason Spisak, Jim Krieg, Brandon Vietti, and Matt Peters

John DiMaggio, Jason Spisak, Jim Krieg, Brandon Vietti, and Matt Peters. Not pictured: SuperPRGuy Gary Miereanu, because 70mm only stretches so far.


Toonzone News would like to thank the cast and crew of LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes – Justice League: Gotham City Breakout for taking the time to talk with us, and Super PR Guy Gary Miereanu for arranging it. LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes – Justice League: Gotham City Breakout is available now on Digital HD and will be on Blu-ray and DVD on July 12, 2016.