Ben Jones, Brandon Vietti, and Michael Chang Interview – BATMAN: Brave and the Bold Animation Directors

     August 2, 2008

Written by Jonah

At Comic Con this past week, I had the chance to talk with upcoming animated series BATMAN : THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD Animation Directors: Ben Jones, Brandon Vietti, and Michael Chang. The buzz word for the show is fun. Even if, according to Michael Chang, some internet fanboys have already dismissed the show as being “for babies!”

I got confirmation on several characters appearing this season, including GREEN LANTERNS TOMAR-RE and KILOWOG, RED TORNADO, and DR. FATE. Brandon, Ben, Michael, and Collider’s own Nico – who seems intent on interrupting ALL of my interviews—also had plenty to say about their favorite BATMAN stories, fighting over who gets to handle which characters, and how no one get’s to play with the Demon’s head.

Enjoy the interview…

Jonah: First, I’m a huge fan of the original animated series, I’m working on liking the new series. Sell me on THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD.

Ben Jones: It’s different from the original.

Jonah: Obviously.

Ben Jones: But, I think if you look at the history of the BATMAN in comic books, we’re just taking a sort of different decade than the Animated (BATMAN TAS) did. We’re just sort of stopping at the new look from the seventies and focusing on all the untouched stuff as well like the Dick Sprang stuff.

Brandon Vietti: That’s a tricky question you ask too because some fans are going to have to want to be open to a new BATMAN. Cause I’m right there with you, I think. I’m in animation because of BTAS (BATMAN TAS), and I was lucky enough to get to work with Bruce (Timm) on THE BATMAN/SUPERMAN ADVENTURES, then went on to THE BATMAN, and now this one. And I think, myself, when I heard we were doing a third round on the BATMAN I was like, “How?

Jonah: How do you reinvent him AGAIN?

Brandon Vietti: Exactly. But I think, even as a fan myself, and just being lucky enough to work on it — I think I was able see what Michael and Sam had been cooking up, and like what Ben said about pulling from a different decade of influence for the BATMAN, it just clicked right away. There’re the fun aspects of it. It still has drama. I know we’ve been throwing the word “fun” around a lot.

Jonah: Terrible word! Don’t use it ever again. We fans don’t want BATMAN to be fun!

Brandon Vietti: No, that’s true. From what I’ve been reading online, some fans are like, “Fun?!? It’s gonna be for babies!” But you know, no. It’s fun but not too funny, or real silly. It’s definitely got a lot of dramatic punch to it still despite the fun aspects of it. It’s gonna be good for a really broad range from new kids that really don’t know about BATMAN to the older fans who grew up with BTAS, this is kind of a refreshing new take on it. Should be good for everybody.

Jonah: Did any of you come to this as comic book fans originally? Were any of you thinking, “Oh my god, BATMAN and PLASTICMAN have to hang out”?

Ben Jones: I think we all grew up reading comics, and I think all of us thought that working on something called “THE BATMAN” sounded really awesome.

Jonah: Did you all play nice with each other?

Michael Chang: Well, the thing is, we all sort of alternate episodes. So really all we have to do as far as working with each other is, if Gentleman Ghost is in an episode I’ll have to find out how his powers work so that it’ll be consistent throughout.

Ben Jones: there’s only one episode that’s a two parter that Michael has the first part of. There’s not a lot of heavy continuity.

Michael Chang: For the most part, they’re very stand alone episodes.

Ben Jones: At the same time, we’re trying to establish the whole show as this “world.” So, we’ll often see each other’s storyboards to see what the other director’s up to stylistically or see what he’s doing with a particular character so that we don’t do anything redundant and so that it will all be consistent.

Jonah: So you are or you aren’t stealing from each other?

Ben Jones: We all steal from all sorts of places. Not just each other, that would get old. So we steal from all sorts of places.

Jonah: Are you finished with all 26 episodes?

Michael Chang: Not yet. We’re about halfway through.

Jonah: So about 13 episodes in? So, what’s you favorite episode so far, then?

Michael Chang: They’re all great!

Jonah: C’mon. That’s SUCH a PC answer.

Michael Chang: It so is.

Ben Jones: Well, one thing is, I like show 10, but I can’t talk about it.

Michael Chang: Well, actually (Michael) Jelenic dropped that one. It’s the Green Lantern Corps episode. So for ME that was pretty… pretty awesome!

Jonah: And it’s 60s-70s Green Lantern Corps? So you’ve got…?

Ben Jones: It’s like how with the guest stars we’ve got the new BLUE BEETLE, but the silver age GREEN ARROW. It’s a pretty wide swath of Green Lantern Corps. There’s some of the new ones… some of the old ones

Jonah: Do we get Kyle (Rayner) or do we get Hal (Jordan)?

Ben Jones: I don’t think I can answer that. I can’t talk about any of the Earth Green Lanterns, but I can maybe spill

Jonah: Do we get Kilowog and Tomar-Re?

Ben Jones: Yes and yes.

Jonah: Yes and Yes?

Ben Jones: Yeah. How about that?

Jonah: I’ll take it.

At this point publicist James Finch worries that we might be learning all the secrets of the BATCAVE, and so he interrupts.

James Finch: What are we spilling?

Jonah: He’s telling me about aliens.

Ben Jones: It’s all about Green Lanterns.

James Finch: Okay.

Michael Chang: Actually, he’s telling the plot of every episode. I’m getting animatics and storyboards. I’m not even gonna watch the show.

Ben Jones: I gave him the FTP site and the password

James Finch: No animatics.

Ben Jones: … keys to the ranch

Jonah: Anything else I need to know other than it’s about BATMAN, so as a fan I’m obviously gonna watch the show?

Ben Jones: Well, tell your friends!

Jonah: I’ll give you a very favorable write up. So when does the show air?

Michael Chang: I think November 14th?

James Finch: It’s the first week of November. We don’t have an exact date or time. And it’s CARTOON NETWORK in the fall.

Jonah: It IS CARTOON NETWORK? I thought it was supposed to be CW?

James Finch: It is CARTOON NETWORK both domestic and international.

Jonah: It IS CARTOON NETWORK? I thought it was supposed to be CW?

Brandon Vietti: It is CARTOON NETWORK both domestic and international.

Nico: Is there anyone you didn’t get to team him up with in the first twenty-six episodes that you want to in the future?

Ben Jones: Well, me personally, probably, like…..

Michael Chang: DR. FATE?

Ben Jones: We did DR. FATE.

Jonah: Ah, so you (Ben) wanted DR. FATE?

Michael Chang: Well, yeah.

Ben Jones: You should’ve told me.

Jonah: So did you guys arm wrestle for who got to do which episode? Or did you try to just “out geek” each other? Well this element is from this issue from this date?

Ben Jones: No, it just got assigned to us. And he got the RED TORNADO episode that I wanted. It was just based on scheduling. And there’s nothing you can do about it. But RED TORNADO shows up later, so I got him.

Michael Chang: Dr. Fate doesn’t

Jonah: How pleased were you with Andrea’s casting? Any people in particular that you really enjoyed? Anyone, that made you think, “That is so dead on! That is exactly what that character should sound like.”?

Ben Jones: Not really I mean we had

Brandon Vietti: R. Lee Ermey.

Ben Jones: R. Lee Ermey, and that was amazing. We got to hear his voice and then we got to hear him talk about FULL METAL JACKET in his downtime.

Michael Chang: It’s just weird that he’s real.

Ben Jones: I know!

Jonah: He’s not real. He’s a puppet, right?


Jonah: Are there any other animated shows you guys watch?

Ben Jones: I think VENTURE BROTHERS is the best show on TV, animated or not.

Jonah: Wow, strong words. You?

Michael Chang: GOSSIP GIRL? No. I worked on AVATAR, so I enjoy that show.

Brandon Vietti: Animated? Spiderman.

Jonah: Yeah, I was NOT sold on the first few episodes, but by the end I really dug it. Anything on the horizon?

Ben Jones: No.

Jonah: Nothing else you do, this show is just your entire lives?

Ben Jones: Pretty much. Any time you would spend looking for another job, you send working on this one.

Nico: What was your favorite comic book arc in Batman?

Ben Jones: Can I go a little modern? There’s a miniseries about Arkham Asylum by Dan Slott and Ryan Sook. That was awesome.

Nico: That WAS cool.

Ben Jones: And the guy came up with something like a half dozen new BATMAN villains which is practically impossible. And they were pretty good. I didn’t believe it was possible and he did it. That’s my choice.

Brandon Vietti: DARK KNIGHT got me into it.

Jonah: I think that book got most of us into BATMAN.

Brandon Vietti: Me too. And right around that time Jim Parr’s run on DETECTIVE COMICS. I was following that.

Jonah: Is there a character you didn’t get that you wanted? Ben clearly wanted RED TORNADO and Michael clearly wanted DR. FATE. Were you upset you didn’t get GORILLA GRODD?

Brandon Vietti: One of us that I don’t think any of us gets to work with, ‘cause I don’t think we’ve got the rights to it is RA’S AL GHUL. I’d love to get a story with that.

Ben Jones: I actually think that we could, it just all depends on what James (Tucker) wants to do really.

Michael Chang: It’s all up to James (Tucker).

Ben Jones: You didn’t get to use him in THE BATMAN either, did you?

Michael Chang: No. Cause of the movie. A lot of times if there’s a character that’s already going on in the movie. Then we cannot touch it.

Jonah: Is THE BATMAN completely over now?

Brandon Vietti: Yeah. It did well though, five seasons.

Jonah: And just when it started to be fun.

Brandon Vietti: Glad you liked it.

Jonah: I did. I did NOT like the first season at all. I did not like it. I’m not gonna lie. I’m not gonna pretend otherwise.

Brandon Vietti: Sure.

Jonah: But the last few seasons were good.

Michael Chang: It did get progressively better.

Jonah: I’m sure a lot of that was just me though. It was a shock to my idea of BATMAN. Who is this guy? He’s not Kevin Conroy!?! And WHY does the Joker have dreadlocks??? And that was the problem at first, but I still have the last few seasons on my Tivo.

Brandon Vietti: Cool.

Jonah: Well, thanks a lot you guys. Looking forward to the show.

Ben Jones: Best of luck to you.

Sounds, dare I say it? FUN! Once again we have a new BATMAN to look forward to, even if he comes without the Demon’s Head…

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