TITANS TOGETHER: Cartoon Network V.P. Sam Register talks about the new 'toon.

Thu, May 8th, 2003 at 12:00am PDT

TV Film
Rob Worley, Columnist

They're lean, they're teen, one of them is green and they're making the scene

this July on Cartoon Network. They're "Teen Titans!"

Comics2Film/CBR News spoke with Sam Register, Cartoon Network senior vice

president of original animation who helped shepherd DC's pre-adult heroes to

animated life.


Register landed the development job at the network about a year and a half

ago. "The first project that I wanted to do was the 'Teen Titans.' I picked

up the phone the day I got the job and I called Paul Levitz and said, 'I want to

do Teen Titans,'" Register told C2F.

Soon work on the show was underway. The series would feature five heroes

pulled from the comic title's hey day: Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy (more

commonly known in the comics as Changeling) and, of course, Robin.



The net had already seen great success with "Justice League," but

Register found that show wasn't reaching an important segment of the network's


"'Justice League' is awesome and 'Samurai Jack' is awesome and we buy a

lot of anime shows that're great," Register said, "but those shows

really are directed more towards the nine to fourteen age group

and the six and seven and eight year olds, were not gelling with the 'Justice

League' and some of the more of the fanboy shows.

"The main mission was making a good superhero show for kids,"

he continued. "Now if the fanboys happen to like the 'Teen Titans' also,

that's great, but that was not our mission."

So what does it mean to design a show for younger viewers?

"That means everything needed to be iconic. Everything really needs to

make sense in the story and in the characters and how they're represented,"

Register said.

For example the characters chosen were all heroes who could be easily

described and understood. "One guy is a robot. Kids get that. One girl's

from space. Kids get that. One girl's basically a witch. Beast Boy is a shape

changer, can turn into all the different animals. That's cool and, again, a very

understandable power. Robin, just being the guy who used to work for


"We made up a fictional west coast city, it's San Francisco meets San Diego

meets Los Angeles," Register said, adding that the show may have influenced

the setting for Geoff Johns' upcoming relaunch of the comic. As with the classic

comics, the team inhabits their T-shaped headquarters. "That's something

kids can totally understand. It's very iconic again."


Similarly the villains all had to be very clear. No intergalactic Darkseid or

netherworld Trigon. "The villains stay local. The world is never in

peril," Register said. Indeed such topics may seem scary in the modern

world anyway. "You can see that for real on CNN. So, on Cartoon Network we

wanted to make the conflict more like your friendly neighborhood Teen Titans."

The primary villain, who is present in the first 26 episodes of the

show, is Slade (known in the comics as Deathstroke, The Terminator). "We stayed away from Deathstroke, The Terminator because it's bad for

kids," Register said, laughing. "What's cool about him is, he's sort of the bad Batman."

Slade will confront the Titans directly in some episodes, where in other

he'll dispatch a villain to fight them. Register named some of the other


"Dr. Light will show up to be defeated often, just like in the comics, Thunder and

Lightning. We brought Gizmo, Mammoth and Jinx [from the fearsome five] as

teenage superheroes. We have them working for H.I.V.E."

The show will also feature new villains as well, like a rock monster named Cinder

Block and a goofy magician named Mumbo.


Robin remains the team-leader and guide through the show. While fans know him

as Batman's sidekick, plans are to keep the Caped Crusader out of Titan Tower.

"There was a question, when we were developing, 'What about Batman,' and

'should the island be off Gotham City,'" Register told C2F. "The feeling was Robin needs to be his

own guy and the minute Batman shows up Robin becomes a sidekick all of a sudden,

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instead of a leader of the team."

Do does Robin live up to being a team leader?

"I think Robin is so bad-ass. This is definitely the coolest, animated Robin

that anyone's every seen. He's the one guy on the

team without any powers. He's just a guy who's smart and extremely

well-trained," Register said. "I think he's the most interesting character of the five."

And just who is under the mask? Is it Tim Drake? Dick Grayson? Jason Todd?

"He's just Robin. We never say which Robin he is. To be honest we've never

even discussed it," Register said. "Again, that's

for clarity for the kids. We're not doing alter egos. They walk around town in

their suits. They go to movies dressed as super heroes. Everyone sees them

as super heroes. The go to a party as super heroes. They're super heroes

full time."


Although Batman is out, as is the rest of the Justice League, Register tells

us that Nightwing is a possibility and that other Titans from the comics may

make their way into the show.

"We have an Aqualad episode. Wil Wheaton did the voice of Aqualad. We are looking, towards the second season, of introducing some other teenage

superheroes from the DC Universe."

"Teen Titans" will not mimic "Justice League," with its

continuing stories and event movies. All the episodes are stand-alone, half-hour

stories. However, there is an over-reaching arc.

"The overall story arc is

slowly introducing Slade," Register said. "We're revealing Slade

and Robin's trying to figure out what Slade's problem is and why he's after the Teen Titans

which we reveal in the last two episodes [of season one]."

The adventure will continue in season two. "We have a really cool

story arc...a really great story that we're pulling from the old

Perez/Wolfman Titans for the second [thirteen episode block]. "



Another way that the show will be different is in the style of animation.

Although Bruce Timm is a producer, the characters won't look or move like many

of the recent animated DC characters.

"When we decided to do Teen Titans the first thing I

said is, 'Listen. I want a different looking show. We have a lot of the Warner

Bros. house style. I want something that we haven't seen before,'" Register


Producer Glen Murakami has worked with Timm on many of those shows, but he's

also strongly influenced by anime.

"You'll see that the characters have been really pushed in different

directions when they're animated. You'll see a very heavy anime influence, but

it's not anime. It's sort of where east meets west. I call the new look 'Murakanime.'

"I think the backgrounds have a totally different look that you've never seen

before, they're more edgy and scratchy and gritty. The characters definitely have

the influence of being under Bruce Timm, but when you see them animating and see

them reacting it's definitely a whole new show."

DC Comics has also influenced the direction of the show. Register reports

that special care had to be taken to preserve the integrity of Robin, an

important DC Universe character.

Comic scribe Marv Wolfman, who made "Teen

Titans" a must-read in the 1980s, penned an episode of the show.

"There was the 'Too Many Tridents' issue that Wolfman wrote,"

Register said, recalling one of his favorite issues of the comics. "He kind of went back

and did a new version of that same episode."

Register tells us he has read many supportive comments from Wolfman, and also got

a good reaction from Geoff Johns when he recently viewed the completed episodes.

"Teen Titans" debuts July 19th at 9 p.m. on Cartoon Network.


you're a Titans fan, don't miss CBR's exclusive interviews with writer Geoff


and artist Mike


as they discuss their plans for the all-new comic book.


Another new show on the Cartoon Network schedule is

"Duck Dodgers." The show is a sci-fi adventure, spinning out of some

classic Looney Tunes shorts. Daffy Duck stars as the titular hero.

"He's not Daffy Duck in the show. He's Duck Dodgers and in the credits we have

it saying Daffy Duck as Duck Dodgers." Other actors include Porky Pig as

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Cadet and Marvin the Martian as Commander X2.

The show is a passion project

for animators Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone, both of whom have experience

animating Looney Tunes characters. The pair developed an animatic, on their own, for the

concept as a feature pitch. "We saw it and it blew us away. We went and green lit 13

episodes immediately which has now been extended to 26," Register told us.

"It's awesome. It's classic Looney Tunes, Daffy Duck vs. Marvin the Martian.

Your hero is an egotistical, maniac jerk and your villain is a diligent, hard-working good guy."


show has also attracted some interesting voice talent. Tia Carrera ("Relic

Hunter") is playing the Martian queen. Michael Dorn ("Star Trek: The

Next Generation") plays the Martian


John O'Hurley (best known as J. Peterman on

"Seinfeld") plays Star Johnson the guy that

should be the hero of the cartoon. "The true hero of Earth is completely

ignored because they all think Daffy's great even though Daffy is kind of a


The show will also feature some high-tech effects, including CGI space ships

and gadgets, all part of the plan to make a comedic show that is also truly an

adventure show.

"We said, let's make a Looney Tunes show that is funny, but lets make the ships and the

action as cool as possible. So we kind of put those two things together and we

think it works really well," Register said.

"Duck Dodgers" also features a rockin' opening theme composed by

the Flaming Lips and performed by Tom Jones.


One episode of "Duck Dodgers" is certain to be a can't-miss for

comic fans.

"We are doing one DC crossover episode," Register exclusively

revealed to C2F. At some point in the first season Daffy Duck will find Hal

Jordan's Green Lantern costume.

Duck Dodgers hits the airwaves August 23rd.


(c) & TM 2003 Lucasfilm Ltd. All

Rights Reserved.

Debuting later this year on Cartoon Network is a project that can only be

described as an animation event.

Genndy Tartakovsky of "Dexter's Laboratory" and "Samurai

Jack" fame, who Register describes as a "star director here at Cartoon

Network," is working on twenty three-minute animated shorts under the title

of "Star Wars: Clone Wars."

These short segments will bridge the "Episode II" and "Episode

III" feature films.

"It just looks awesome. We saw the

first animation tests and it blew us away," Register enthused. "It's all the Jedis you saw for that one minute inside Episode

II. A lot of those guys get their individual missions."

The shorts will air as between-show interstitials but Register said that fans

should not worry about having difficulty finding them.

"We're going to have a system for that. The first 10 are premiering in the

fall. The second 10 are premiering in the spring. We will make it extremely easy

for people to find when they're on. We're not going to willy-nilly them."

Comic fans can also look forward to a certain Kryptonian hero getting his own

show on the Network. No, not Superman. Not Supergirl. Not even Superboy.

It's none

other than Superboy's dog Krypto who is poised to take the spotlight. Alan

Burnett of "Batman: The Animated Series" fame is currently scripting

the venture.

One final project of note: while it's not based on a comic book, fans may also get to see a new show

from comic pros Joe Kelly, Duncan Rouleau, Joe Casey and Steven T. Seagle, known

collectively as Man Of


"They have pitched an original show that we are doing an animatic on

called 'Ben 10,'" Register tells us. "It's basically 'Shazam' meets 'Dial H for Hero.' It's

about a kid who can turn into one of 10 superheroes and he never knows who he's

gonna get. It's kick ass."

Also, Register said he is in talks with Paul Dini, Mark Waid and Andrew Cosby for new

shows in the coming years.

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