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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.

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About Bubbawheat

I'm a comic book movie enthusiast who has watched and reviewed over 300 superhero and comic book movies in the past four years, my goal is to continue to find and watch and review every superhero movie ever made.

Posted on June 13, 2012, in Blogs and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. I couldn’t agree more. Their animated movies have been fantastic. Even the ones that aren’t the best are far and above some of their live action efforts. I would love to see more animation – hand drawn animation- in theaters. Excellent post dude!

    • I’m really looking forward to seeing Doom and Flashpoint. I don’t know much at all about the comments, but they sound like they’re pretty amazing stories.

  2. I agree, though personally, I saw Doom and while it isn’t horrible, it’s a step down from Under The Red Hood and Year One.

  3. DC def knows what they are doing when it comes to their animation. I mean, Mask of the Phantasm, Under the Red Hood, Crisis on Two Earths, Return of the Joker…some great animated feature films. it’s a good question as to why they don’t do one in theaters…but, perhaps there isn’t that much of a following to do so.

    Think about it for a second. If they do one worthy of theatrical release it will either (1) be too violent and not as many parents will take their kids to that when Brave, or Tangled, or Alvin and the Chipmunks 435 is playing. or (2) they will water it down so much to appease audiences of all ages that real fans will be ticked off. Anytime anything animated is in theaters, the general public automatically assume “Ah, this is for kids!”

    Multiply that even more when you throw superheroes into the mix (Watchmen, anyone?).

    If I am going to spend money to see an animated feature in the theaters, it had better be done like Under the Red Hood…violent, good story, related to past stories, good voice acting, and rated higher than PG. I just don’t see DC willing to do that. They’d much rather make flops like Jonah Hex, Green Lantern, and The Spirit.

    I wish they would do what you suggest…I just don’t see it happening from a money-making standpoint. But, I’m down for sure!!! Good article

    • Well Watchmen isn’t a great example since it did pretty well in the box office, but I can see where you’re going with it. But as cheaply as they make these movies (3.5 million based on IMDB’s estimates), even a small box office of 20-30 million could easily turn a profit.

      One thing I had forgotten about is that they did release Mask of the Phantasm theatrically, even though it was a limited release. If that wasn’t as successful as they had hoped, I could see how it might have scared them into not trying it again. I still think that right now especially would be a great time to try it again.

  4. I’ve enjoyed just about every DC animation I’ve seen since good ol’ Batman: the Animated Series. They aren’t always superb, but they are always good fun. Some of the best of them would have been great to see in theaters, so I’m all for it, especially since I love me some good hand drawn animation.

    It should be a good time to try, too. Superhero movies are all the rage now, and all the kids (like me) that grew up with Batman: the Animated Series would get a good nostalgia kick out of it. I think they could pull together a more mature audience if they market it right.

    Anime sometimes get limited theatrical releases. Almost all the Studio Ghibli films for instance. I remember seeing Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust in theaters, and that thing was rated R. I know other anime have MPAA ratings, so I assume they had theatrical releases as well. I have no idea how successful those have been in general, but it would be a good thing for DC to look at and consider for their own stuff.

    And you should definitely watch Under the Red Hood. It’s the best one I’ve seen so far.

    • Ok ok ok, I give. Under the Red Hood is going on my shortlist of movies to watch, probably after Thor: Tales of Asgard. And I would have loved to watch Bloodlust in theaters, that is such a beautifully animated movie.

  5. DC need to make Batman Hush and heart of hush storylines for animiated movie. Love the catwoman and batman dynamite in it. Great storyline as well.

  1. Pingback: Your Questions About Green Lantern Film

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