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SDCC2015: “LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom” Attack of the Roundtable Interview

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LEGO® DC Comics Super Heroes – Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom!

Set to be released on August 25, 2015, LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom will be the fourth LEGO movie starring DC heroes. During San Diego Comic Con 2015, Toonzone News and other members of the press sat down with writer Jim Krieg, producer Brandon Vietti, and voice actor Troy Baker (Batman) for a roundtable interview.


LEGO® DC Comics Super Heroes – Justice League: Attack of the Legion of Doom!QUESTION: How awesome was it to be in the LEGO Universe?

BRANDON VIETTI: The old cliché is hey, it’s a childhood dream come true because we all played with LEGO when we were kids and now we get to make cartoons out of bricks. Which is amazing.

JIM KRIEG: I feel like I’m paying LEGO back for all the tiny wounds it inflicted in the bottom of my feet when I stupidly walked across the playroom floor barefoot, so now turnabout is fair play, and they dance to our tune.

TOONZONE NEWS: Do you remember any favorite childhood playsets?

BRANDON VIETTI: I remember the space sets, and I’ve gone back and tried to find them since I started making these, and I cannot find them, and it makes me crazy. I’m like going on eBay now trying to relive my childhood and buying these old space sets. Those were my favorites.

JIM KRIEG: I shouldn’t out myself as being this old, but everything we made was just square. I think they premiered Window and Door, and I was, “Oh my gosh, I can have a door. This is insane.” By the time I had kids, my kids get to have the exact childhood that I wanted to have. Only without jetpacks.

Q: When taking on a project like this, is it easy or difficult to bring out the comedy in characters like Batman and Superman?

JIM KRIEG: That’s an interesting question because we had more discussions about the comedic level of Batman and Superman than most adult men have in their lives, and it was difficult to find the right balance. Hopefully when you see the movie, you’ll think that we did find the right balance. It has to be funny, but you can’t totally ridicule these characters 1) because they are very iconic and important characters and 2) because we love them. We love Batman and Superman, so all we did was push some of the more extreme aspects of them. So Batman became a little bit more paranoid than usual, and Superman became a little bit more innocent and trusting and maybe even gullible than we’re used to seeing him in the comic books or other media.

BRANDON VIETTI: It’s challenging because we’ve been fortunate to work on other DC projects in the past, so at least we have experience with the characters. We know the characters. Our number one thing was that you have to be true to the characters. The other number one thing was never laugh at the characters, laugh with the characters. Because as you said, you don’t want to ridicule the characters, we want to have fun with them in a way that’s very true to who they are as characters that we all know and love as fans of the DC Universe.

JIM KRIEG: I don’t think they do anything out of character, just maybe pushed more in the direction of the character.

LEGO DC Super Heroes: Justice League vs. Bizarro LeagueQ: How hard was it not to have too much fun mixing and matching LEGO pieces while making the movie?

BRANDON VIETTI: I’ll have to say it’s a credit to our designers. They had the most fun with that, and I think it shows in a lot of the designs they came up with. We work really closely with LEGO, so you’ll see sets in there that kind of look like things you’ve seen in stores, and then there’s other stuff in there that we created, we constructed. We have these CG brick building programs that you can get, and it’s got the entire LEGO brick library in it, and our set designers and our prop designers will work with those programs and construct them brick by brick for every scene in the movie. It’s a really amazing process to watch them play with it. While Jim and I were really focused on the story and filmmaking, our designers got to have all the fun with the bricks.

JIM KRIEG: It opens up the world because there are all these things you can’t do in conventional animation with bricks in a three dimensional setting, but then there are limitations because of what they can do in terms of even putting on disguises. He has one solid piece for his head, how does he put on a mask? He can’t put food in his mouth. You have to cut away and then the food is in his mouth because his mouth is a sticker. So there are a lot of strange limitations that you really have to think out. I would write a scene and Brandon would say but a LEGO figure can’t do that, and I would say, but it’s a really good joke.

BRANDON VIETTI: That was really important to LEGO and to us to keep the charm of the mini-figure is to really embrace the limitation of the mini-figure’s movement. That would actually help us in a way find new comedy that you can’t do with a normal human.

JIM KRIEG: That’s a great point. You couldn’t take this LEGO script and just throw away the LEGO and it’s just a funny Justice League Legion of Doom script. It’s very specifically LEGO. All the jokes would be very strange.

LEGO DC Super Heroes: Justice League vs. Bizarro LeagueQ: While you were working on the script, was there anything LEGO wasn’t okay with? What was their feedback?

BRANDON VIETTI: Feedback was mostly positive. There was never any negative. We got a few partners that work with us. There’s Warner Home Video, and there’s DC Comics, and there’s LEGO. We all kind of come together for this project and kick ideas around, and kick characters around we want to see in the lineup. We kind of slowly, just like a LEGO toy, build it brick by brick. Everybody contributes elements to the story, and then Jim and I take all of that information and go flesh it out and add jokes.

JIM KRIEG: And assemble it.

BRANDON VIETTI: Exactly.

JIM KRIEG: Brick by brick. They were not meddlesome in any way. We were always on the same page with the story and everything. Sometimes they would ask to see things, but adding a vehicle or a space ship or some kind of weapon to a Justice League story…it’s not like it was Romeo and Juliet and why is there a space ship in here? It all made sense. I don’t think we ever felt like we were forced to do something that compromised the integrity of our piece.

BRANDON VIETTI: They were great partners because LEGO has been making animation for quite a long time, and we’re kind of new to the party, so it was great to meet with them in the beginning and get the down low from them about maybe things in CG and LEGO that don’t work so well together or do work well together, tips and stuff. And we did talk a lot about how minifigs move. There are limitations, and that was very important to them. Like I said, and once we got into it and we started finding we could get comedy out of those limitations, we really started embracing those limitations, as well.

JIM KRIEG: So how does a Lego figure give a thumbs up? He cannot stick his thumb up. It’s a small thing, but you have to think about that. How do they high five? How do they shake hands? All these little tiny details.

Q: Were there any characters you wanted in the film that didn’t make it?

BRANDON VIETTI: Yes. The DC Universe is so big. Yes. There were many.

JIM KRIEG: If there was perhaps the chance that we do more of these, those characters might perhaps show up in those movies, so no, not really. I think we get to mine a lot of things. Obviously, there are many many characters that do not appear in this movie that we love, but hopefully in the future, we will be playing with their tiny minfigs. Or their bigfigs, if they are larger characters.

LEGO DC Comics Superheroes: Justice League vs. Bizarro LeagueQ: Which character do you have the most fun with in LEGO form in this movie?

JIM KRIEG: Cyborg. Khary Payton is a hilarious voice actor, and I want to say he lights up the screen, but I suppose his voice lights up the audio of the screen. His minifig is so adorable, and he interacts with…I don’t think this is a spoiler to say…there’s a tiny robot version of him named Cybot that Brandon dreamed up that cracked me up. He’s so funny, and he does so much and he also has a character arc. You will see him…I was going to say you see him grow…but because he’s a minifg, he actually, physically cannot grow, but he does change.

BRANDON VIETTI: And that’s where we actually had fun with LEGO, with that character specifically, because we can build things onto him, and you see that in the movie. We treat the other characters really as human. We don’t let their limbs fly off or their heads fly off, but with Cyborg because he’s a robot, you can do that with him. He’s part robot, so you can have his head pop off and fly around. You can build more LEGO stuff onto him. It makes sense. There were other characters that were fun too. Cheetah has a tail. Gorilla Grodd is a bigfig, and that’s an entirely new set of minifig rules. Although he’s a bigfig, so it’s bigfig rules, I guess, so those came with their own new batch of challenges, but they were fun. A new thing to work with.

TOONZONE NEWS: Did you expect there to be so many more LEGO movies following the first one?

BRANDON VIETTI: I think we kind of knew up front that yeah, it might lead to a couple, so it wasn’t a big surprise.

Q: Did you hold anything back?

JIM KRIEG: No, never hold anything back. Some people say, “This is such a great idea I better not use it, I better save it.” No, you just use the idea, and there will be another idea later. There are more ideas coming. Don’t panic about that.

BRANDON VIETTI: I think you’ll see there is very light progress to the story arc, if you will, among the three projects. Batman Be-Leaguered shows Batman joining the Justice League and the 44 minute project we did, Justice League vs. Bizarro League progresses the relationship with Batman and Superman a bit. This one is the formation of the Legion of Doom as a response to the formation of the Justice League, so there’s a little bit of a story that threads through these three projects, and I think that was something we had in mind earlier on.

JIM KRIEG: I can’t wait for you to see it. I can’t wait to get feedback on some of the jokes.

BRANDON VIETTI: Yeah. This is a bit like Christmas Day for us, I think. We’ve been huddled together making this project for so long and now we get to share it with an audience and see the reactions. It’s like a mixture of Yay but also Boo, I hope everybody likes it. I’m a little bit nervous.

JIM KRIEG: I can say because I didn’t contribute to the look of this at all that Brandon and his team made the most beautiful movie. It is so gorgeous to look at. And even, and I’m not saying that it will, if the story ever falters, if you’re like, I lost my attention for a second, there’s so much to look at. You can say I want that. I wish I could touch that or own that set. It may not exist. It may just have come out of their imaginations.

BRANDON VIETTI: It’s a credit to our CG Studio. CGCG. They did a beautiful job, and our team here working together. They made a very beautiful movie. The lighting on it is so nice. Pay attention to the lighting when you’re watching it, it’s very pretty.


Troy Baker LEGO Batman 3
Troy Baker at the LEGO Batman 3 panel at New York Comic Con 2014

Q: How does it feel to be both Batman and the Joker?

TROY BAKER: I could sit here and give you the pretentious answer of “As an actor, you want your process to reflect that of…” but I’m losing my mind every day. Literally. I don’t know what I did. I work hard, and I’m a super nerd, and I really do love these franchises, I love these characters. Not to say anybody else doesn’t, but that’s what I try to focus on. I want to make something that is going to make me laugh or that I’m going to be proud of, and you put your head down and you trust your team. It’s that kind of thing. Whenever you got the chance to play, some kids may have grown up saying I want to be a fireman or an astronaut. That’s awesome. Let me tell you who I want to be. I am going to be Batman. You say this as a nine year old, I’ve got this outfit that’s way too baggy and parents are all, “Don’t do that for Halloween, trust us, you’re going to get beat up.” I don’t care, I’m Batman!

Then you flash forward 30 years, and you get to do that. Not only that, but to be one of the characters defined by one of the actors that literally made you want to do this. Mark Hamill will always be my Joker, and he was such a strong influence on me, obviously, but when Roger and I got to do it in Origins, I fortunately got to what was already established in the Arkham Universe. If I had to do what DiMaggio did in Under the Red Hood, which was like give us a new Joker, I would’ve collapsed under the pressure. He’s just a far more creative person than me. I feel very fortunate and very honored that I got to do that. Go to this person that you absolutely love and to you is the definitive Joker. For most of us, that’s Joker. What Heath Ledger did, yeah, that was that Joker. This is the Joker. The greatest compliment I can get is when people don’t know. They’re like, “Is that Troy or is that Mark?” What’s so funny is if you just hear me, it’s like “Is that Mark?” and then you hear Mark and go “Oh, that’s Mark”. There’s this richness to him, and again I think, it’s the same thing. He obviously has a really cool voice when he does it, but it’s not so much that. The reason why you buy into that voice is because he loves that character and can teach you so much about that character. Both in his performance and also just his knowledge. He’s a walking Wikipedia.

TOONZONE NEWS: Do you have a preference playing Batman or Joker?

TROY BAKER: No. Again, it sounds kind of pretentious, but you need the dark and you need the light. In photography, one of the most dramatic things you can have are shadows, and you can’t have those without those two things being in contention with each other. The light and the dark meeting in this one place and casting a shadow. Otherwise, you’re flat. You don’t always want to be in the light, you don’t always want to be in the dark. Sometimes you want to be right in the middle. The best part about being an actor is you literally get to become somebody else and I don’t take this too seriously, especially when it comes to LEGO. I have a very easy job. Brood. Be grumpy and brood. That’s the gig, and then every once in a while you try to join in and be in on the joke. But I’m Dean Martin and I’m surrounded by a lot of Jerry Lewises. That’s my gig. Then you cut over to Joker and it’s “Let it out.” Let it go. And a lot of times we can go too far either way, and that’s when you really have to trust the people on the other side of the glass to go, “Come on, this is what we want” and remind you of what you’re trying to create, because sometimes you can get so wrapped up in the things that you enjoy about doing it. My preference is that I would never have to choose between the two of them.

LEGO DC Super Heroes: Justice League vs. Bizarro LeagueQ: When you first came out for Arkham Origins in New York and did the Joker voice, the crowd reaction was explosive and it set the bar very high.

TROY BAKER: It set the bar high for stress level that actually makes you poop yourself. I was so so nervous, and I don’t get nervous. You could put me in front of 5,000 people, and I’ll hold court. I love it. It’s where I live, it’s where I thrive, but in that setting, I was so genuinely, earnestly terrified. I didn’t know what the reaction was going to be. Maybe this is the thing where people go, “You’ve gone too far, how dare you, sir” and again, it wasn’t so much about a great performance from me, it was more about this is why I love this culture. Because if people, specifically within this environment…this nerdom, this geekdom…if they see that you care about something, even if it scares you, then we accept you. That’s almost the reason why we do everything that we do, because these things scare us, but in this way, I can cop to that. Comic books, video games, and movies and everything else become so cathartic for us. That’s why I love this community. I don’t ever want to be outside this community, and that was wholly prevalent in New York when people were like, “Way to go, you got through that, kid”. It was hard, I felt like everyone was patting me on the back. Not because I did such an amazing job but just because they saw that I was in love with every word that I was saying. I was in love with this character, I didn’t want to screw it up, I just wanted to make sure that people like it. And they were so warm and inviting, and they have been. Still. You can’t just do that one panel in New York and expect it’s going to cover me. Every time they’re like, “I love you…Origins better be good, though”. If it’s a crappy game, they’re going to be mad at you. The same thing goes with the Suicide Squad movie, Assault on Arkham. Every time you have to keep proving I can do this, I can do this, I can do this. Sometimes to yourself. That’s all I’m trying to do. I want to do something that is at least worthy of that and that I make something that at the end of the day I’m proud of.

Batman Assault on Arkham Troy Baker Joker
Troy Baker as the Joker in “Batman: Assault on Arkham”

Q: If someone were to ask you to do the Joker voice and then immediately do the Batman voice, would that be easy for you or do you have to get in a certain mindset first?

TROY BAKER: Honestly, tell you a trick, it’s easy. Because we wouldn’t do the character if we couldn’t do the voice, so we always play to our strengths because we want to look like amazingly talented people. We’re always playing to our strengths. John DiMaggio has his go-to voices, Roger has his go-to voices, I have my go-to voices, and we flip-flop back and forth, but what’s cool is, when it comes down to the work, there’s no interpretation. There’s no me thinking about making a choice here. It’s me pulling from something that I’ve already got locked in the chamber ready to fire out. Whenever I do that, I pull my strength.

But if it was a work situation, I’ve had that before. When we were starting Beyond Gotham, and then I was also doing Arkham Origins at the same time, and that’s literally within the same building. It was like okay, you have to be able to move your brain around a little bit more and make decisions. So it’s more of the work, but when it comes to something like this, those are parlor tricks. I can do parlor tricks all day long. Saw a woman in half.

Q: How is it being Nolan North’s older brother?

TROY BAKER: Dude, there’s so many layers to that experience for me that hit on literally every level as an actor, as a fan, as a nerd, as a friend. Uncharted was such a watershed moment for me. As a gamer, as an actor, I was like this is really viable now. I’ve been with games for a long time, and there have been performances and stories and characters that have moved me before. It’s not like I crossed over the River Jordan. When I played Uncharted, there was just something unique to it. Uncharted 2, I think it was, the commercials that they ran for it, the guy’s on the couch playing it, got a controller in his hand, and his girlfriend comes over and she sits down with a bowl of popcorn and she goes “Okay, I’m ready to watch the movie now,” and he just looks at her, and they’re playing Uncharted. We were all on that level and it grows and grows and grows. And you look at something like The Last of Us that broke all the molds and garnered a lot of attention just from a narrative standpoint. A character standpoint. Overall experience standpoint, and I look at something being able to come into a franchise that kicked that whole thing off for you, that’s, again, like playing the Joker, it’s like playing Batman. It feels more like a reward for really really hard work, and that just makes me want to work harder so that I can have more rewards like that. Just the chance to be in something like that. And again, it all goes back to making something that at the end of the day, you’re going to geek out over. That’s my goal.