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Building The New Frontier
An Interview with Bruce Timm at WonderCon

Everybody run to get it!
In an hour, The New Frontier would get its world premiere in front of thousands of fans sitting anxiously in Hall A at WonderCon. Right now, Executive Producer Bruce Timm sits at ease in what someone called DC's "Green Room" -- a huge space with a few circular tables. Earlier, Bruce had snagged a water bottle from my table but promised to come back and talk.

So here we are. Clearly more at ease than he was before the Comic-Con premiere of Superman: Doomsday, Timm also gave us a little bit of news about an upcoming project...

Derek McCaw: What would be the difference between your work on Superman: Doomsday and Justice League: The New Frontier?

Bruce Timm: Doomsday I was much more heavily involved in every aspect of the production because I co-wrote it, I produced it, I designed most of the characters and I co-directed it. New Frontier came right on the heels of Doomsday, and I was, frankly, wiped.

I just knew that New Frontier was going to be a monstrously huge show and I was running on fumes. Fortunately, I knew that Mike Goguen was just coming off of a season of The Batman, and he had a bit of window of opportunity, so I asked him if he would be interested in producing the show. He was very excited to do it. At that point, it was easy to let him do most of the heavy lifting.

I was mostly involved in the beginning. I worked very closely with Stan Berkowitz in breaking down the script, working with Andrea (Romano) in doing the casting and doing the vocal recordings. Then at that point, I kind of stood back and let Dave Bullock and Mike Goguen run with it. When the film came back from overseas, I worked very closely with Mike in the editing room and supervising the post-production with Mike.

I was heavily involved upfront, but wanted to let Dave and Mike do their wonderful thing.

Derek McCaw: You were involved in the voice casting, but is that something you normally do?

Bruce Timm: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I'm kind of a control freak (laughs). It's actually very difficult to stand back and delegate and let other people do things. On New Frontier it was easy, because both Mike and Dave were really really talented.

"It's actually very difficult to stand back..."
Derek McCaw: What kinds of things were you looking for in the voices?

Bruce Timm: The tricky thing was that we wanted to find actors that were terrific actors, and because the movie is set in the past, we wanted to find actors that didn't feel too contemporary, too twenty-first century. It was a really tricky thing to do, not just in casting but in the music and what kind of optical effects we used and everything. We didn't want it to feel current; we wanted it to feel period, but not old-fashioned. We didn't want it to feel hokey.

The same thing, especially with the actors. It's an indefinable thing, trying to find somebody who feels appropriate for the 1950's, but doesn't sound goofy. It can't sound like you're doing a parody of old movies or something.

I think we were really successful with that. The cast we got, with Kyle MacLachlan, David Boreanaz and Brooke Shields and all of them, I thought they were just spot on.

Derek McCaw: Brooke Shields didn't sound like Brooke Shields. She was Carol Ferris.

Bruce Timm: That's the idea.

Derek McCaw: What are you proudest about accomplishing on New Frontier?

Bruce Timm: I'm most proud that, amazingly, it retains the feel of the comic. It was not easy to get there. When Stan and I first worked on the script, we made some really mad, major cuts to the storyline, which we knew we would have to do. At one point we had gone too far, and actually taken Wonder Woman out of the movie, and Darwyn (Cooke, the graphic novel's creator) was the one who came back and said come on, man, you have to have Wonder Woman in there. We went back and forth on it, and of course he was right.

Great job casting, Bruce!
There were times during the production where Darwyn would say this is fine, this is going to make a wonderful animated film, but it's not The New Frontier. And when he would say that I would just go, ah, dammit.

Obviously, Darwyn is really close to it, so it's really hard for him to be objective, but at the same time he knows the material better than anybody else. So when he says that, on the one hand I want to make him happy because he's my friend, but really, he knows the material.

Ultimately, I'm proudest that it's a really really good adaptation of the comics. Certainly there are things missing where people are going to go, "oh, why isn't that there? Why isn't that scene there?" There are things like that I regret aren't in the movie.

But at the same time, knowing that we had less than a six-hour mini-series to make the movie, that we only had seventy minutes to cram that whole thing in there, it feels like the comic book come to life in a real dynamic way. It's not cheapened or dumbed down. I think it's a pretty excellent animated superhero film.

In Part 2, Timm gives us a glimpse into the process of Batman: Gotham Knight...

Derek McCaw

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