Joshua Lapin-Bertone

Joshua Lapin-Bertone

April 19, 2019


Have you guys checked out Justice League vs. The Fatal Five on DC Universe yet? The latest DC animated movie has just arrived, and not only does it reunite the Trinity from Justice League Unlimited, it tells a thrilling self-contained story with new heroes and villains! We recently had a chance to chat with executive producer Bruce Timm, director Sam Liu, and screenwriters Jim Krieg and Eric Carrasco about how this epic came to life. Here’s what they had to say...


On putting the movie in the DC Animated Universe continuity...

Timm: "It didn't start out to be a Justice League Unlimited continuation. It was originally going to be a standalone. The dirty secret of these movies is that they're done on a very tight budget and very tight schedule. So we really rely on having to use our old stock characters and stock vehicles and backgrounds and things from previous productions. It kind of limits what we can do design-wise for a movie. So we couldn't afford to come up with an all-new style for the movie. So, it meant either DCU style or the Phil Bourassa style from the New 52. I didn't want to do that because then it would confuse people with the New 52 movies. Then I thought 'I could use Phil's designs from Crisis on Two Earths and Doom because they look different enough. We started designing the movie that way. And then in the meantime we recorded the script and we were fortunate enough to have George [Newbern] and Kevin [Conroy] and Susan [Eisenberg] come back as Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman. And then James Tucker came to me and said, 'Don't you think people are going to be confused when they see these Phil Bourassa designs and they're going to think that it's part of the New 52 universe and I kind of went, 'Yes, they will be.' At that point we were already like two weeks into designing the movie. So just to make up for lost time, their only solution at that point was to go back to the Justice League Unlimited designs. So, at that point, since we already had Kevin and George and Susan, we said, 'Okay, now we're going to shift gears and make this in the Justice League Unlimited universe.' So, we had to do a couple of tweaks in the script which we fixed in ADR and that was it. I mean it actually fit very easily in the continuity of what we had done before. It wasn't planned [but] I was happy to do it. The more we did that, the more we leaned into it, the more fun it became for me."




On the film's story...

Timm: "This one was an original idea. It started from nothing. It started from 'We have to do a Justice League story. What do we do? What haven't we done.' At that point, we were sitting in a room kind of flipping through the DC Who's Who, going 'Which villains haven't we used?' I hit the Fatal Five and went, 'Oh!' It's always good to have a group of villains instead of just one major villain and a bunch of  stormtroopers. I like the Fatal Five. They time travel because they’re from the future..."


Carrasco: "There was a bit of a template for the Fatal Five because they're in one episode of Justice League Unlimited (“Far From Home”). So they had a tone established. You can have a certain amount of Emerald Empress's voice in your head, but that's a couple of scenes in a 22-minute episode and this was wildly expanded. They have new and different motivations and goals. There was a process of going back to the comics and pulling from Jim Shooter comics and pulling from Paul Levitz stuff and trying to make the uber version of the Fatal Five."


Krieg: "It's kind of interesting, because the story that Eric conceived with Jessica Cruz and Star Boy is a fairly sensitive, intricate, and thoughtful story. Then it's kind of juxtaposed against the Fatal Five, which were created by a 14-year-old boy. Because Jim Shooter was a kid. I say that with love, because I love those stories in particular. Because they come from the heart. It's like the fan making the thing that the fan likes. It's super-simple Silver Age stuff, next to something that is a little more modern."




On fitting the story into the DC Animated Universe...

Carrasco: "It really didn't take a lot. It was liberating to not know right away that it was going to be this style of animation or these voice actors. Because otherwise we would have all been sitting there trying to do backbends to get in every single nostalgic cameo that you might want to see."


Krieg: "Which, by the way, we couldn't afford anyway, so they would all be like, ‘Oh look, there's the Question... Oh no, he's gone! No, no!' Then you'd all be mad." [Laughs.]


Carrasco: "The question is ‘Where did he go?’ [Laughs.] So rather than do that, we got the chance to just tell a Justice League story that we really wanted to tell, and not be wondering about how we're going to get everybody in and how we're going to please everybody and how we're going to do nostalgia."


Krieg: "You know, the fact that this is the design, and these are the voices, and that it's JLU adjacent is the frosting on a cake of a story that makes sense with a beginning, middle, and end. But if we'd started with the Trinity's voices, we would have had a cake made of frosting."


Carrasco: "This also now works as a story about people joining the Justice League and looking up to the Justice League and in Star Boy’s case idolizing them way in the future and what they mean to him. It's so additive to have George Newbern and Susan Eisenberg and Kevin Conroy as these voices, because they're iconic in their own right. So you're kind of in the same shoes as Star Boy looking up to these people that you've heard voice these characters a million times. It's so cool that it adds to it. But we didn't really have to change a ton in the script."


Krieg: "These are the voices he [Eric] hears in his head when he thinks of these characters anyway, because he's a tiny child who grew up watching the show." [Laughs]


Carrasco: "I was always writing it with Kevin Connroy's voice in my head. I was always writing it with Susan's voice in my head. So there was something magical about that actually being what it turned into. But we were always writing it to be like the Justice League cartoon."


On its place in the DCAU timeline...

Timm: "Everybody will have their own time and whatnot. I would say this takes place from a year to three years after the end of Justice League Unlimited. It doesn't take place immediately afterwards because there is going to be some weird stuff in there that will make people go, 'How could this be in continuity?' But my answer is, a lot can happen in a year."




On finding a tone for the movie...

Liu: "A lot of times, when people watch movies, they'll usually gravitate towards the ones that are a lot more heartfelt, probably a little more tragic, with dire, soul-wrenching things happening. We can't do those all the time, because we have to mix the flavors up. Because if we just do soul-crushing to soul-crushing, everybody’s going to be bored and say, 'They just keep doing this soul-crushing stuff'. It's difficult, because sometimes there's got to be something light and somebody that's beyond us, as far as creators, are making decisions. Like, 'This is popular or this is what we want to fast track...' Sometimes you've got to come up with an idea within a couple of weeks and then you bring it to script and then you've got to produce it. Sometimes we don't have a lot of time. But this one, I really like it. I like exploring characters and I like the psychology of characters, and I think, in this one in particular, we touched upon characters that are not just your common 'I'm a hero and how do I not mess up my friends or how do I get stronger.' Some of these are real mental health things. It's been a lot of fun to be honest, and I think a lot of credit has to go to the writers for pairing these people."


Timm: "I like doing the stories from scratch. It's both easier and harder to do something based on an existing property. Because on the one hand you're not starting from a blank piece of paper, you're starting from something that's hopefully really solid. But then how true do you stay to it? If you change something really important, are the fans going to hate it? Or, if you fix it, will the fans like it or will they not like it? There's always pluses and minuses both ways. Probably I'd prefer to just do originals."


On the score...

Timm: "When it came to hiring the composer for the movie, it made sense to go back to Dynamic Music Partners. And go back to that Justice League Unlimited sound. So it was kind of like a high school reunion or something, but a little more fun." [Laughs.]


What were your favorite moments in Justice League vs. The Fatal Five? Let us know in our Community!