A Lighter Shade of Dark Knight16 Apr, 2015 By: John Latchem
ANAHEIM, Calif. — If there’s one point the cast and filmmakers responsible for Batman Unlimited: Animal Instincts want to get across, it’s that the new animated movie is family friendly — a counterpoint to recent portrayals of the character as a dark and brooding vigilante.
Loosely based on the “Batman Unlimited” toy line, the genesis for Animal Instincts stemmed from the studio’s desire to do a more kid-friendly version of Batman.
“I thought that was a great idea because a lot of the stuff I was doing was really dark, really gritty, for much older people,” said screenwriter Heath Corson. “I think they saw people were really excited about being able to show kids superheroes again.”
In the film, Batman (voiced by Roger Craig Smith), joins with Nightwing (Will Friedle) and Red Robin (Yuri Lowenthal) to battle the Penguin, who has assembled a squad of animal-themed villains in a scheme to destroy Gotham City in exchange for untold fortune.
“Obviously the style’s much more cartoony and much more like anime/manga inspired and it jumps off the page,” Corson said. “The animation’s really cool and really good.”
Corson, Smith, Friedle and Lowenthal were on hand April 5 at WonderCon 2015 at the Anaheim Convention Center for a screening of the film and a Q&A. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment releases the film on Digital HD April 28, Followed by DVD and Blu-ray May 12.
“I think in terms of the way we’re presenting this universe, it’s just making it a lot more accessible to families in their entirety, so it’s not just for the adults, not just for maybe the teenagers,” Smith said. “We’re getting an opportunity to play around with the universe and introduce a younger audience to Batman. Everybody can watch it, which is awesome. These characters have to become new and fresh for a newer audience.”
Joining Batman, Nightwing and Red Robin in the fight are guest heroes Green Arrow and Flash, who perhaps not coincidentally also happen to be the subjects of their own popular CW shows at the moment.
“Those characters are popular now, so I think for kids to be able to see them in another area and know who they are is exciting,” Corson said.
However, Corson said the ability to use heroes and villains from various comic books only added to the fun.
“I wanted this to feel like those classic Silver Age team-up books that I read, where you’d just throw these guys together,” Corson said. “I really wanted to give it that sense because those always felt fun and bouncy and not so dark that they were emotionally painful.”
Friedle, who voiced a future version of Batman in the iconic “Batman Beyond” television series, said one of the reasons Batman has such an enduring legacy is that he can be adapted for almost any tone.
“One of the most wonderful things ever about the character of Batman is that there always seems to be a Batman for everybody,” Friedle said, recalling some advice once given to him by “Batman Beyond” producer Bruce Timm. “I think with a lot of the direct-to-video movies coming out are taking a darker turn, with some violence as opposed to just action. Now you have a version that really is for everybody.”
“That’s the beauty of Batman,” Friedle said. “You can never look at it from the wrong angle. It can get really dark or really light.”