Alan Burnett On Ten Years Of DC Animated Movies

If you’re a fan of DC’s animated projects, you’re familiar with Alan Burnett’s work. From ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ to the upcoming ‘Gotham by Gaslight’, Burnett has worked as a writer and producer on more adaptations of DC properties than I have time to count. Suffice it to say that calling it an impressive body of work would be an understatement.

Though Burnett retired earlier this year, he was nonetheless on hand at New York Comic Con to celebrate a pair of notable anniversaries, both of which afforded us the opportunity to speak with the legendary producer. Arguably the most meaningful of those was the twentieth anniversary of ‘Batman: The Animated Series’, of which you may have already seen our coverage (And if you haven’t, why not?). But no less important is the tenth anniversary of the launch Warner’s DC Universe Animated Original Movies, which kicked off with the release of ‘Superman: Doomsday’ back in 2007. With regard to the latter anniversary, Burnett clued us in on the stories he wishes they’d been able to adapt, his two favorite DC animated features, and offers some hints of where the line may go from here.

Of the DC animated features you’ve worked on, are there any, in particular, that stand out?

There’s two that stand out for me. And both for different reasons. One is ‘Flashpoint Paradox‘ because it’s such a big story, and we were taking a chance, using characters that nobody’s ever seen before and there’s a big body count, you know? Everything about it was big, just huge. It took place in different timelines. And I thought it worked out really well. The personal story was very strong in that. It was beautiful. James Tucker came up with the ending, of Flash jumping on buildings and running like crazy, which just was so uplifting. The other one I really liked was for different reasons. It’s a small movie, small personal story. It was ‘Under the Hood’, and it was just beautifully told. And when I saw it at Comic Con on the larger screens, I was… You know, you’re working on a television screen and you just don’t… You’re making it, you know? And when I saw it on the big screen, I actually – they had a second showing – and I actually just stayed in my seat and watched it again. I just wanted to see it again because it was so beautifully directed. And that’s one of my favorites. But I like them all to various degrees. I think it’s an amazing set. I can’t believe we’ve done thirty. And there’s more in the pipeline. At least another half dozen. But I’m retired, so it’s in other people’s hands now. It’s great. And for me, it was doubly great because I’ve worked on a lot of series, about fifteen series. Some of them were eighty-five episodes, some of them were miniseries. But I did not need that grind anymore, so when this came along – and dealing with different stories every couple of months, it’s great – it was a godsend for me. It’s hard to believe I was on it for nearly ten years.

Is there any one character who hasn’t been featured in one of the films that you’d like to see featured? One that maybe doesn’t get enough attention or respect?

There’s a lot that don’t get enough attention or respect. I’m thinking Deadman, Swamp Thing… But the one that we haven’t featured in any of them that I would like to see done is the Doom Patrol. So maybe someday. I mean, maybe if we start an online petition. Say you don’t mind if Batman’s in it, but you want a Doom Patrol story! [laughs] But there’s a lot of second or third tier characters who are great. And when we did the Showcase specials, we purposely chose characters that would never get a seventy-two minute movie on their own. So we had Specter, we had Jonah Hex, it was great. And we would have maybe gotten to Doom Patrol if they didn’t decide that they didn’t want to keep doing those shorts. But all of us behind the scenes are fans, and we know what we’re not getting, that we want to get in there. But the fans help too. I don’t think we would have had a Teen Titans movie as quickly as we did – it didn’t seem quick, but as quickly as it came – if it wasn’t for the fans. I mean that got attention and it worked out. So we’ve done two Teen Titans movies and I hope they do more.

So if you were to do a Doom Patrol movie, do you think you’d focus more on their gimmicky powers or would you try to go more of a grimdark route?

I think we would probably go grimdark. I always sort of side with how it started and what you have at the core of the thing. So that’s where we would probably start. But I can’t talk about it because I’m not in control anymore! [laughs] I wish I were, but I’m just not.

Are there any particular stories that you talked about adapting but for one reason or another never came to be?

Yes. Almost all the reasons why we didn’t do stories was because there were too many issues of the comic. And we couldn’t do justice to it in seventy-two minutes. But with something like  ‘Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part One & Two’ we got more room so we were able to finally do that. We’d been talking about doing that for years. And I think you’re going to see more part ones and part twos in the future, because people are used to these, they want to see these stories animated, and so I think you’ll see more of that. But the reason is because about six issues is the perfect amount of miniseries for us to adapt into a seventy-two minute movie.

So that opens the door for ‘Knightfall’ or something like that?

Yeah. That would be around that range. How many issues was ‘Knightfall’?

It really depends on how you count. Maybe a dozen or so in ‘Knightfall’ proper.

Yeah. And there are some Loeb stories we talked about that just went on for a year. It’s hard.

Did you ever have a preference with regard to the recent division between the continuity stories and the non-continuity stories?

I like jumping around like that. And what I’ve seen of ‘Gotham by Gaslight’ is great. But that’s an example of a story we’ve had to stretch out. Sort of took the center of that story and built another story on top of it.

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