James Gunn and Peter Safran were unveiled as co-heads of Warner Bros. Discovery’s DC properties back in October of last year, and the world has been wanting to know what that means ever since.
In the meantime, a few hints have been dropped and the new bosses did let on that animation and gaming will play larger roles in the larger DCU going forward. But on Monday of this week, the new bosses met with the press at the Warner Bros. studio lot to explain their long-term plans for DC Studios, including the roles that mediums beyond live action will play.
“Animation will lead into live action and back into animation,” said Gunn, explaining, “It’s a way to tell stories that are gigantic and huge, but without spending, you now, $50 million an episode.”
That’s a departure from the way DC has typically handled the two mediums in the past when the company usually separated its animated and live-action universes completely. It’s also different from how things are done over at Disney, where Marvel animated productions have often referenced their live-action counterparts, but where live-action films and series were mostly unaffected by what happened in animation.
Gunn did indicate, in a video shared on Twitter on Tuesday, that some non-DCU continent will continue to be produced – he name-dropped Teen Titans Go! – but that it will be clearly labeled as DC Elsewhere, to keep audiences from getting confused.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) January 31, 2023
In another departure from the current superhero production status quo, Gunn indicated that a renewed emphasis would be placed on writing and that the days of films being rushed out to hit manufactured deadlines are over at DC.
“People have become beholden to dates, to getting movies made no matter what,” he criticized. “I’m a writer at my heart, and we’re not going to be making movies before the screenplay is finished.”
“The degradation of the writer in Hollywood has been a terrible story,” he elaborated. “It’s gotten much worse since I first moved here 23 years ago. Writers have been completely left out of the loop in favor of actors and directors and making the writer more prominent and more important in this process is really important to us.”
Gunn’s philosophy on deadlines and release dates, if similarly applied to animation and vfx, would certainly be a welcome change to the current industry status quo, which many professionals have said is unsustainable.
Along with the broader announcements about long-term plans, specific upcoming titles were also unveiled, including the new animated series Creature Commandos. The seven-episode series was the first greenlit under the new co-heads, has already been written in its entirety – by Gunn, and is currently in production.
The Creature Commando characters were first published in 1980. In the original comics, Frankenstein’s monster teamed up with a werewolf, a vampire, and a gorgon to fight Nazis during World War II. From the few details currently available, the new series looks quite a bit different from its namesake and will feature at least one familiar DCU character, Weasel from Gunn’s 2021 film The Suicide Squad.
Other characters set to feature in the series include Rick Flag Sr., Nina Mazursky, Dr. Phosphorus, Eric Frankenstein, and G.I. Robot, with the Bride of Frankenstein starring as the show’s protagonist. The cast of characters can be seen above in the first artwork shared from the new series.
Emphasizing DC’s commitment to an animation-live-action continuum, Gunn explained that the actors cast to voice the characters on the show will also, usually, play the same roles in live-action appearances of those characters in the future.
Where, exactly, audiences will be able to see the new DC content is still up in the air and looks likely to change from project to project.
“We have the ability to sell outside of HBO Max if that makes sense,” Safran said during the presentation. “So we’ll figure out if there are certain shows coming up that would be better served elsewhere, or [if] there’s not real estate on HBO Max for us. But we like the idea of having shows on Amazon and Hulu and Netflix. It just broadens the DC audience.”
That statement echoed a sentiment shared in December of last year when WBD Television Group chairman Channing Dungey revealed that the company was close to finalizing a deal with Amazon for DC animated content, meaning it looks like Creature Commandos will likely end up on Prime Video.
“With animation, we used to be about staying in-house but now we are doing it on different platforms,” Dungey explained while speaking at Content London at the time. “HBO Max is the first stop but we are in the process of closing a big deal with Amazon featuring DC-branded content in animation.”
Pictured at top: Creature Commandos