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Tucker Hopes to Expand Boundaries of DC Universe Movies

15 Apr, 2015 By: John Latchem

James Tucker

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The DC Universe brand of original, ‘PG-13’-rated animated movies has been around since 2007. But it wasn’t until recently that the filmmakers began to connect the movies with continuing storylines.

Building a shared continuity was one of the goals of supervising producer James Tucker, who took over the role in 2013.

Following the release of Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox in 2013, the shared continuity kicked off in 2014 with Justice League: War and Son of Batman, and continued in 2015 with Justice League: Throne of Atlantis and Batman vs. Robin, the latter being the 23rd entry in the DC Universe movie line.

“I’m three movies past this one in production, and I think they’re strong,” Tucker said during WonderCon 2015. “I think no one knew what we were doing at first, even though I told everyone what we were doing. It wasn’t really until Throne of Atlantis when people went, ‘Oh, that’s connected to War. They’re keeping plot threads going. Since we’re not that far into them, I can say Batman vs. Robin is the strongest one so far.”

Tucker said the films are a mix of adaptations from the comic books as well as original stories, though really his hope is to give minor characters a chance to shine.

“We’re not really doing strict adaptations. There are some heavily inspired by storylines coming up that I can’t talk about, although one of them the fans have been wanting forever,” Tucker said. “But I’m all about the characters. The basic idea for me is, what character do I want to work with, not so much what storyline do I want to adapt.”

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment releases three new DC Universe movies each year, with Tucker’s plan calling for two of them to be part of the new continuity. Last year, the standalone film was Batman: Assault on Arkham, a tie-in to the “Arkham” video game franchise. Later this year sees the release of Justice League: Gods and Monsters, a reimagining of the origins of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.

Tucker, being a comic book fan, said he sympathizes with fans who would like to see the line expand beyond just Batman and Justice League stories.

Tucker pointed to the 2009 Wonder Woman animated movie that didn’t perform as well as expected, citing it as an example of how the realities of the industry forced him to be strategic in going about his goal of spotlighting as many characters as he could.

“When I took over, I realized that because of things like the Wonder Woman movie and the Green Lantern feature film that caused other movies to do less well, that I didn’t want to lead out with trying to put characters out there and then getting them knocked down,” Tucker said. “If we had another movie that failed, that would set back the whole line. So my strategy, and what I told people when I took over, was that I want to make sure that each movie I do features some character who hasn’t gotten a lot of attention.”

The best way to do that, from a marketing perspective, was to produce the movies under the banner of the Justice League or Batman.

Assault on Arkham had the whole Suicide Squad,” Tucker said. “We didn’t have to do it that way. If we had delivered a Batman movie that happened to have a few cameos from the Suicide Squad, the people who wanted it would have been happy, meaning home video and the video game maker. But I figured, let’s make it a story about the Suicide Squad and have Batman in it enough to make it count as a Batman movie, but just barely. Because everyone’s seen Batman. There’s not much I have to give people for Batman.”

Tucker said the approach was a great way to present a well known character in a different way while putting minor characters in the spotlight.

“If you’ve seen 10 Batman things, you seen almost all of them, it’s almost always going to be variations on that,” Tucker said. “He’s a great character, but for him to work he’s got this window. And I thought, it’s much better if Batman’s the villain in the movie and the villains are the heroes, and so that’s how that came about.”

The Suicide Squad, a team of villains assembled by the government to perform dangerous missions, is now under development as a live-action film with an all-star cast for a major theatrical release slated for 2016.

As for the animated movies, Tucker said his strategy seems to be paying off, and he has high hopes for future projects.

“Now, I can’t announce anything yet, but we will have movies coming up that will be having above the title characters who haven’t been in this line of DVDs,” Tucker said. “I think now the fruits of our strategy of slowly making sure each story is about these secondary characters is starting to come to fruition. So there will be titles coming out that don’t include Justice League or Batman in the name.”

However, Tucker realizes that not every movie is going to be as well received as others.

“We have to do three movies every year,” Tucker said. “I don’t think Spielberg manages to do three movies in a year, ever, and do three of them that everyone will like. Given what we have to do I think our track record is pretty good.”

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