Home Channels Digital Media SDCC2015: “Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem” Roundtable Interview

SDCC2015: “Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem” Roundtable Interview

Batman Unlimited Monster Mayhem

Set to be released on August 18, 2015, Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem is the second in the line of Batman Unlimited movies. During San Diego Comic Con 2015, Toonzone News and other members of the press sat down with writer Heath Corson and actors Roger Craig Smith (Batman), Will Friedle (Nightwing), and Dave B. Mitchell (Clayface) for a roundtable interview.

BatmanUnlimitedMonsterMayhemBlu-rayBoxArtTOONZONE NEWS: How did you set the tone of Batman Unlimited to distinguish it from all the other Batman projects out there?

HEATH CORSON: When I was writing all these animated movies, my sister called me. My sister has two nephews, seven and nine, and she said that my nephews know Uncle Heath writes animation, but there’s nothing we can show them because they’re too young. I can’t show them Assault on Arkham with heads blowing off. She’s like, “We need you to write something that I can actually show my kids.” Then when I went to talk to Sam Register, he said, “We’re doing these Batman cartoons, but it’s going to be a Batman for younger audiences,” and I was like “Finally!” I think that every generation should have their own version of these heroes. I think that everybody should have their Batman, so I was very, very excited to get to do this. I wanted to boil these characters down because Batman is going to be Batman. You still want him to be Batman. You want the Batfamily to be the Batfamily. So I wanted to make sure that we still kept the core of these characters, but I wanted to make the tone to be more all ages, so it’s not talking down to kids. It’s all ages in the way that Pixar is all ages, that The Incredibles is all ages, and everyone is going to have a blast, and that is what was really important for me to capture.

QUESTION: What was the most difficult part about writing this?

HEATH CORSON: I really wanted to find a really big big plot for the Joker. We wanted to use Joker and we wanted to use these Halloween monster villains. I wanted to find something big enough, so I really had to sort of dig through a lot of stuff, and I read Detective Comics #475, “The Laughing Fish,” and I asked, “I wonder if we could do something now?” Then I started to think about our over-reliance on technology, so in this movie, the Joker creates a computer virus to make all technology laugh, thus disabling all technology in Gotham, including the Batmobile and Cyborg. That sort of became really fun and big and then they get ready to release it all over the world. That was a way to scale it up and make it big and also really touch the Silver Age roots that I really love and wanted to share with everybody.

Q: Did you find it more difficult to write for a younger audience?

HEATH CORSON: I’ve written a lot of animation. I came out of doing theatre and adapting stuff to the stage, and I’ve written a lot of animated movies, so it’s not as much of a challenge as you think because I grew up on this kind of stuff. It’s more putting yourself in the mindset of, “What would I love as a ten-year-old kid? What would blow my mind?” If ten-year-old me was in the audience, what could I put up there that I would go, “Ooooooh that’s so cool?” That’s really how I did it. I really enjoyed doing stuff like that.

Batman Unlimited Animal InstinctsQ: Adding to that, how do you find the balance between someone who grew up on Batman the Animated Series watching this with their kids?

HEATH CORSON: You still want to make Batman Batman. You still want to put high action in there. It’s a buy in. It’s not for everybody, it’s definitely for younger kids. I saw people going “I can’t believe Batman has a robot wolf that turns into a motorcycle.” It’s like what are you going to do? That’s cartoons. It’s not for you. I don’t know that it’s going to appeal to everybody that loves Batman the Animated Series. I don’t know that it’s going to appeal to everyone that loves The Dark Knight Returns, but it’s another flavor of Batman, and it is definitely for the younger set because they don’t have anything right now. There’s not a comic book, there’s not a TV show, so it’s nice to have this for a younger generation.

Q: Were there any characters you wanted to use but didn’t put in there?

HEATH CORSON: We talked a lot about the villains, who we were going to use, and we really wanted to find a real hodgepodge of Halloween scary villains that have never worked together. And when you take people that have never worked together, you really get a chance to play with that dynamic and it gets really fun. Like Joker trying to keep Solomon Grundy, Scarecrow, Silver Banshee, and Clayface reined in. It’s like juggling sand. You finally get to see Joker facepalm, and be like, “Uhh, you guys, just keep it together,” so it’s really fun. There wasn’t anybody they told me I couldn’t use. We just kept going around and around on who’s the best fit.

TOONZONE NEWS: Going back to Animal Instincts, why put someone like the Flash in there?

HEATH CORSON: Sort of the same thing. I got to sort of pick my crew. We knew we wanted the Batfamily, and then it was just who made sense for the story. We didn’t want to make things too overbalanced in the power scale, so we knew we really only wanted one power guy. So Flash made sense, and also to play him as hyperactive and fitting in and rubbing up against Nightwing and bumping heads. That’s a really fun relationship. We’ve all seen these characters a million times. Really what I can bring to it is different voices and different relationships. So with Cyborg, that’s a really interesting new thing. And now we get to see more Red Robin/Nightwing as sort of a big brother/little brother relationship. It’s always really fun to play with those sort of things.

Roger Craig Smith
Roger Craig Smith

TOONZONE NEWS: You’re both Batman and Captain America. Do you consider yourself a Marvel guy or a DC guy?

ROGER CRAIG SMITH: I totally understand that, but you know what’s funny? The reality of my industry is that I’m an independent contractor if you want make it technical, but what I don’t get is that notion. Marvel vs. DC or anything like that. You want to talk about a really exciting time in which to be living when it comes to all things geek and nerd and comics and everything, we should be celebrating the fact that we have unlimited (ha, pun) access to so many different forms of entertainment on all sides. The quality that is being cranked out by entertainment in general right now is getting better and better because we’ve got so many ways we’re getting our entertainment. There are so many different devices on the table right now recording this interview, and on all of these devices, you can pull up a picture, a video, a book, an audio book, all these different kinds of things. It’s neat that the power is to the people right now, where we get to determine what we are going to consume. And it better be good. Because if it’s not good, we’ll move on to the next thing. So it’s a really great time.

All studios are cranking out topnotch stuff, and I don’t even like the rhetoric of “I’m a Marvel Guy” or “I’m a DC Guy” or I’m this, I’m that. No. I’m a fan of good stuff, and boy oh boy do we live in a good time to be able to consume from both studios and all these up and coming independent artists that are out there creating what will, in 25 years, be the next big Batman vs. Superman or whatever it might be. There are a lot of independent guys and gals out there that are creating incredible stuff right now that will hopefully become the next big thing, so it’s a really exciting time.

Q: What was it like being Batman going from Origins to Unlimited?

ROGER CRAIG SMITH: Wow, I can’t believe the phone rang again. I remember thinking, if Arkham Origins is just one and done, it’s still pretty darn cool. It’s still incredible that I got to do that. It’s cool that I got a phone call and they said, “They want to have you submit on this and they’re leaning going towards you on this.” I’ve been a part of some really fun projects in life, and as I get older, the fun ones are when you get to tell your family and their kids or family’s friends and their kids go pick this up, “it’s appropriate for the whole family” kind of thing. So it was cool to be part of Origins as something darker in comparison to this Batman, but it’s also really cool to get to be in something that’s for the entire family. Obviously with Monster Mayhem and Animal Instincts, we got a family friendly Batman, it’s a kinder, gentler Batman, so I can say to family and friends, “Your kids can go watch that.” When people reach out to me on Twitter and go, “Hey, I watched this with my son and we loved it,” I think that’s awesome. That’s what we want. We want your son to know Batman because you, obviously, as an adult, love Batman or Superman, so if you have a kid that you want to introduce them to, Arkham Origins might be a little dark. Some of the live action stuff is a bit dark, but here’s an opportunity to go understand what Batman is as a character and why mommy and daddy like Batman so much.

Batman Unlimited Animal InstinctsQ: Do you have a favorite actor that has played Batman, either animated or not?

ROGER CRAIG SMITH: Obviously, if we’re talking animated, it’s Kevin Conroy. That’s who I grew up listening to and knowing as that character. If we want to go with overall, I’ve actually always liked the Christian Bale Batman. I know there’s this polarizing argument over his voice and what he chose and stuff, but I’ve always said if Bruce Wayne is Batman and Bruce Wayne is not a voice actor. Bruce Wayne went through a very traumatic incident early on in life, and Bruce Wayne is a billionaire playboy and maybe a bit of a brat because he has been raised by adults who aren’t his family, and he probably has some issues that he’s dealing with. So if Bruce Wayne, the normal human being, was to try to find a way of masking his voice, and he doesn’t do what some of us do all day long, which is try to work with your voice in different inflections (growling) “He’s going to do this.” That might just be what he would do. Anybody who does that instantly sounds like nothing distinctive or recognizable, and I thought that was brilliant. I know people don’t like it, but I thought it made perfect sense. I thought it was a brilliant choice. Also, Christian Bale is an unbelievable actor, and his portrayal, I thought, was the right mixture of heart. I got the sense that this guy really had altruistic desires with what he was doing with his vigilantism.

Q: After the positive response of Arkham Origins, did you find expectations to be higher?

ROGER CRAIG SMITH: For Unlimited? Not necessarily. I’ve always said when Troy and I both got those roles as Joker and Batman in Origins, it was a mixture of elation and trepidation. We were both like, “Hey, we got it!” and then, “Ooooh, we got it.” Th efact that it was a part of that series, people are going to be looking at it like, “Don’t mess with our characters.” Again, I grew up listening to Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy doing what they did for these characters, so I get the concern that anybody would mess with something that you love. I get why the fan response would be “Easy does it.” The fact that it was received well overall was a blast. I’m thankful that our voice director Amanda Wyatt has a lot to do with that. Eric Holmes, creative director of the game, all the people who were writing for it, everybody was passionate about what they wanted to do and to have it be something that would go to what Kevin and Mark had established.

Going in and doing something like Unlimited was knowing that this isn’t the Origins version of Batman, this isn’t an Arkham series Batman. This is a Batman for a much broader audience and can skew much more family friendly. We have a little bit more to play with, but even then, there are only so many places you can take the character of Batman before it doesn’t feel like Batman. So maybe there’s a little less pressure, but at the end of the day, you’re still voicing Batman, so you want to make sure you get it right. I get it because these are iconic characters that people have known and loved for 75 years, and to get a chance to be a part of that, you want to get it right. I have a very wonderful job in a lot of ways, but I’m a very very tiny part of a massive collaborative group that makes Batman what he is, so you want to make sure you do right by them as well. They’re all doing the same thing, they want to make sure they’re doing right by the fans. Because they’re fans. If you’re not a fan, why get involved in this industry?

Q: When you first got the role, did you try out a bunch of things?

ROGER CRAIG SMITH: You know what? I never do. It’s a question we get a lot. How do you prepare for a role? And I learned I don’t. I will have a general idea of what I could try, but so much of voice over is you walk in, and you throw it against the wall, and sometimes it sticks and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s up to the directors and the creative people that are involved there to help steer that. That’s why I said, literally, it’s a collaborative process, and they will pull you in. They will let you go, they will let you explore things, but collaboratively, everybody sits around and says no, no, its too this, too that. Our first pass on a lot of the Unlimited stuff was too quiet, and once it started getting animated, we realized this Batman’s too quiet. He was just a little too reserved, and so we had to go back in and once they animated it to do some ADR and push it a little bit further. Then it got to the point where Wes Gleason, our director, we would look at each other, and go, “I know what to do with the line. It’s too quiet, we’ve got to fix it,” that kind of thing. That’s everybody getting involved. It’s not just me saying, “No, you’ll take the quiet Batman because that’s the Batman I delivered.” It doesn’t work that way.

So I don’t overly prepare. I’ll have ideas. I know that every time you walk in with a particular idea, very likely there’s going to be somebody that’s going to go “No, it’s this, it’s that.” I work on Regular Show a lot, and it’s always that way with those guys. I can look at the script and I’ll read it, but I’ll just wait until I show up because J.G. Quintel the creator of the show is going to have his idea and tell us what he wants right then and there. If I walk in and go, “Hey I want to do this,” he’s going to go, “No man, it’s like this.” Just change it around.

Batman Unlimited Animal InstinctsQ: Are you a comic book collector?

ROGER CRAIG SMITH: I don’t have any comic books. It’s sort of a sad thing, as an adult. That wasn’t necessarily encouraged in my family when I was younger. It’s such a neat thing: we do these conventions, we go to some place, we see families together. Mom and Dad are cosplaying, and there’s a kid in a stroller, with like Thor’s helmet on or something. You see families getting involved in this stuff, and it’s so cool. I think it’s based in ignorance, I don’t think that maybe my parents were of a generation where they would’ve thought anything like, “Ooooh the cult that is comic books,” and I didn’t have older siblings that were into that sort of stuff, so it was never really introduced to me. Now, seeing the sheer massive amounts of content that have been created and manufactured just in comic books is incredible. And the writing is so top notch. It’s really, really complex and really excellent writing, and I hope to be able to someday introduce that to my kids. Also, right now, I’m not a reader. I should be, but I’m not. Any graphic novel is much easier reading than straight text,. Reading for recreation was never really something that sunk in for me. It’s just one of those things. I want to get outside.

Q: Now that you’re part of this world, is there a specific character you want to play?

ROGER CRAIG SMITH: I’ve already done it. That’s the reality of it. I’ve had these people ask me all the time, who would you ever want to be. But no, the notion of when somebody goes “What’s your dream role to play?”, it’s like, “Dude, I get to be Batman.” I was the voice of Pizza Hut for a while, and I would walk around going “I’m the voice of Pizza Hut.” This job is just a blast, and doing any voice project is a victory. Getting to be an iconic character of any size or type or anything like that, that’s it. What else would you want to do? I don’t know, what could you do? I’ve been going through a whole life evaluation thing, and I’ve realized I hate LA but I love my job, and the only moments of real joy I can think of when I’m working, which is in itself a huge blessing. To sit there and know that getting the work is the drudgery, but the work itself is such a blast. We laugh all the time. You do these sessions together, and you’re like, “How have I A) not been fired, and B) getting paid for this? I should not be getting paid for this.”

Q: So you played Nightwing.

WILL FRIEDLE: I was. I liked Nightwing a lot because I loved the idea that somebody said to Batman, “No you’re not right, I’m going to do it my way.” Which is pretty rare in the world of Batman, so I thought somebody standing up to him is pretty cool.

Batman Unlimited Animal InstinctsQ: Do you feel that you have more freedom in voice acting?

WILL FRIEDLE: I like that I don’t have to exercise to be a voice over actor, and I can eat a pizza. But going back on camera recently, it’s a whole different beast. I love the audience, it’s instant gratification. I never had a dog before…this is going to be a weird story, but it’s true. Stick with me, I promise I’ll get there. I never had a dog before, and my girlfriend and I moved in together, and she brought her dog with her. There’s something to this beautiful animal that’s always happy to see you. It’s just instant love and joy. You get that same thing when you’re in front of an audience when you’re doing an on-camera show. It’s that instant gratification that you know you’ve hit the perfect joke when the entire audience goes off. So there is something very wonderful about doing on-camera work. That being said, there’s something very pure from an acting standpoint of being a voice over actor. Because it’s just you and a microphone and that is it. They both have their ups, they both have their downs. We sit there most of the time, and we say, “This is our job, we’re getting paid for this, this is the greatest thing, we’re doing oofs and ughs all day long.” It’s what we do for a living, so yeah, it’s just blessed. I’d love to have a different word for it, but just blessed to be here. Very lucky.

TOONZONE NEWS: You’ve voiced goofy characters like Ron Stoppable to serious characters like Dick Grayson, do you have a preference?

WILL FRIEDLE: I don’t. They are both fun to play for different reasons. Being a superhero is the only chance in my entire life where I’m ever considered cool. So that’s kind of neat for me to be able to play the superhero. That being said, playing somebody like Ron Stoppable is really great, which is why the new project I’m doing, Guardians of the Galaxy, playing Starlord is the perfect combination of the two. Because there’s times when he’s wacky-goofy and there’s times when he’s the superhero guy so we’ve been having a blast. It’s awesome. Starlord is that combination. He’s Ron Stoppable and Terry McGinnis, so it’s pretty cool.

Q: What have you enjoyed doing most, video games, TV shows, or live action?

WILL FRIEDLE: Going back and doing Girl Meets World is certainly interesting because it’s like putting on an old pair of shoes. A good portion of the crew is the same, the writing staff is the same, Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel are still there. That was very special to me to go back and do that, but you know, we did some shorts not too long ago where I got to play Terry McGinnis again, and that was really cool. Playing Starlord is really cool. Bumblebee on Transformers…yeah, I’m just really lucky. There isn’t one that I like better than the other. I love working with the people I get to work with, and that’s the coolest part of it. So at the end of the day, you remember the projects and you love the projects, but you really remember the people you work with and the fun that you’re having.

Q: Jumping between video games, live action, voicing, do you find it challenging?

WILL FRIEDLE: I’m not one of those guys who does four pages by myself. I do, like, three voices, but I do them pretty well. I’m not the guy they come to and ask, “Can you play these nine characters?” I can, but they’re all going to sound like the same guy, so I don’t think you’re going to want it. One guy is going to sound slightly like he’s from Brooklyn, but other than that, it’s the same dude.

Batman Unlimited Monster Mayhem ClayfaceQ: Were you a fan of Clayface before this?

DAVE B. MITCHELL: Oh yeah. Just a fan of Batman in general and the comics. I used to be a hardcore collector. Just getting to step into this universe is a lot of fun.

Q: What comics do you like now?

DAVE B. MITCHELL: Now, a little bit of everything, but I haven’t really been actively collecting comics for about 20 years, but in the mid-90s, I was doing 50 titles a month. I was buying three copies of every title. I was getting my reader copy, my bag and board copy, and my trader copy. I still have six black bags Superman #75s, the newsstand editions bagged and boarded. I’ve got all that stuff.

TOONZONE NEWS: Do you have a favorite era?

DAVE B. MITCHELL: I grew up in the 80’s as a teenager, so I really loved all that stuff. I was a big X-Men fan back then. Chris Claremont. I really loved that. Was probably the early 90’s stuff I really liked too. Jim Lee was doing the art. I’m a huge Jim Lee fan. When they split off with Magneto and the Acolytes and that. When Marc Silvestri was doing Wolverine before they split off and did Image, so I really like that era. Right at the end of the pre-Image era when all those guys went off and formed Image. What they were doing at Marvel at the time I really loved. And the DC was doing a lot of really interesting stuff too.

Q: Any characters you’re dying to voice?

DAVE B. MITCHELL: All of them. Just about anybody. Every time the auditions come around for something like this and you have the list of characters you get to read for and its just like okay, I’ll take any one of these. I don’t even care. Just to get to be part of this whole universe and to know that for me as a kid seeing these characters knowing that people will now know some of these characters in my voice is cool. Getting to bring it to life for other fans because I think most of us who do this are fans as well, so everybody’s a fan of something. For us it’s a lot of fun to get to share this with all the fans of this universe. So everybody. Anybody they’ll let me play, I’ll do.

Q: This has a different feel from the LEGO and the darker movies. What’s special about Batman Unlimited?

DAVE B. MITCHELL: I think one of the big things is that it’s a lot more kid-friendly. It’s kid-friendly without being too dramatic, which is a big thing. It’s not that I don’t love the dark stuff, but so much of the stuff I work on, particularly the video games, is very dark, not really for kids. I have children in my life, my relatives, things like that. It’s nice to be able to do something that they can watch and introduce a whole new generation of fans to this wonderful universe and still have it appeal to the older audience as well. And I love what they have done with characters as far as redesign. Certainly honoring the tradition of the characters. I love what they did with the cowl and the emblem on Batman. I think it looks really cool. And I love what they did with Clayface. The first time I came in and they showed the art, I thought, “That looks amazing.”

Batman Unlimited Monster Mayhem Clayface RobinQ: Favorite voice actor for Batman and Joker?

DAVE B. MITCHELL: Not going to answer that. That’s a trick question. They’re all awesome, I love all of them, and you should too. The thing is, everybody brings something different to it, and that’s what’s exciting about these characters many facets and levels to the characters that you can really find the core things that are always going to be common in each interpretation, but you can find your own thing too, which is fun. I actually played the Joker in the driving game in the arcade, so that was very cool. I’m very much old school Batman ’66 Joker. The honest answer is I couldn’t pick a favorite because everybody brings something so great to the role and it’s just so good and it’s just personal taste.

Q: Do you find it hard to transition, like when one actor is voicing Batman and then another? What’s the process like?

DAVE B. MITCHELL: I haven’t really run into that. Just because pretty much all the Batman stuff I’ve done from the Arkham games and this, Roger has been playing Batman, and typically, I’m not actually interacting with him that much. I may be on-camera, but as far as the sessions, they kind of do all the monsters together, all the heroes together, so I really haven’t run into it. As a fan, I understand, and it’s really tough taking over a role that’s really well established because people have their expectations and they have their favorites, so you just try to do honor to the role and hope whatever you bring to it resonates with people and hope you’ve got the truth of the character so people recognize it.

Q: Would you say your favorite Catwoman is Julie Newmar?

DAVE B. MITCHELL: She was pretty good, although I have to say I got the chance to meet Lee Meriwether recently. She’s, I think, 80, and she’s still an absolutely gorgeous woman. She’s charming, she’s funny, she’s classy. Julie Newmar, I think, is the standard, but Lee Meriwether is up there too because she’s just so amazing and she’s still just an incredible human being.