Why doesn’t DC make a theatrical animated movie?
Aside from a couple of their big movies like the original Superman, and some of the Batman movies, DC has yet to really capitalize on their cast of characters in the theaters. While Marvel has had a handful of bad movies, they haven’t had many unsuccessful movies. DC however has had many flops. From Steel to Catwoman to Supergirl to Superman 3 & 4 to recent disappointments like Green Lantern and the Spirit, DC hasn’t had the best of luck with their secondary characters. But one thing that DC has going for it that fewer people know about is their amazing animation department. For the past several years, DC Animation has been cranking out some fantastic direct-to-DVD animated movies led by the talented Bruce Timm who was famously behind Batman: The Animated Series. The quality of these movies is generally very high, with great animation, great stories, and great voice acting. But the question is, why don’t they make one into a theatrical feature film?
There have already been a couple dozen of these movies and I’ve only seen around half of them or so. I’ve missed out on many of the more recent ones mainly because they’ve been coming out with them faster than I’ve been keeping up with them at the rate of about 3-4 a year I think. But the occasional review I see of the recent ones like Doom have been very positive. I imagine that part of the reason is that there’s less restriction on what they can do when they’re working on a smaller budget. While I’m sure none of them have crossed into R rated territory, they are able to get into more adult oriented PG-13 storylines that they wouldn’t be able to do for children’s television series. The movies are able to have some actual blood in it, of course without being full on gory, and there can be some more adult language in it, without being gratuitous.
I think the perfect example looking at the animated movie vs. the live action movie is Green Hornet. Only a couple years apart they were able to tell essentially the same origin story. In 2009 they released Green Lantern: First Flight on DVD. It was the origin story of Hal Jordan as well as the story of how Sinestro betrayed the Green Lanterns to become a Yellow Lantern. It’s a great movie which I’ll be re-watching tonight, but it was released quietly on DVD and had reasonable success compared to their other animated releases. Then in 2011 they released the live action Green Lantern movie which also focused on the origin story of Hal Jordan and laid the groundwork for Sinestro to betray the Green Lanterns in a possible sequel. But instead of using Sinestro as the ultimate villain, he only turns in the post credits sequence and the villain is a guy with a big head and a giant space cloud. It was poorly received by critics and only barely made back its 200 million budget in theaters. It wasn’t exactly a flop, but it was a disappointing box office.
What I think would be a much better move would be to give the animation department a big story, even if they gave them 10 times their budget, that’s still less than 50 million which is a quarter of what the live action Green Lantern cost to make. They wouldn’t need big stars, because it’s animation. They’ve got the talent behind the scenes to make great movies, but they really just need to take the leap on a specific storyline and actually set it up for the theaters. It may not be a blockbuster, but I think it would do a lot better than the quietly released DVDs they’ve been producing to date and would likely be critically praised and easily be a box office success. Hopefully they’ll get it together soon. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.