Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I Hate Self-Promotion

But in hopes of raising some small amount of awareness or interest in the upcoming Wonder Woman DVD to be released early March of 2009, I'm afraid I'm going to have to just bite the bullet and do it. So here is a copy of the interview I did that was released on the internet yesterday. Please buy this DVD so DC and Warner Home Video will keep making them.... and I can keep my job.

Director Lauren Montgomery Discusses Animated Wonder Woman

November 24, 2008

After her successful co-directorial debut on SUPERMAN DOOMSDAY, Lauren Montgomery takes full command of the helm for WONDER WOMAN, the next entry in the popular series of DC Universe animated original PG-13 films. Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation are set to release the all-new film on March 3, 2009, distributed by Warner Home Video. The animated original movie will also be available OnDemand and Pay-Per-View as well as available for download day and date.

Montgomery has directed an origin story for WONDER WOMAN that remains true to the title character's various incarnations, while setting the tale in more modern times to allow greater accessibility for a wider audience. Working alongside producer Bruce Timm, Montgomery has brought to life Michael Jelenic's script with a balance of action and humor. A talented artist with a lifetime of experience devoted to drawing and animation, Montgomery is proud to give Wonder Woman her first feature film treatment.

Montgomery, who is already involved in other superhero films, discusses the upcoming WONDER WOMAN movie, her love of drawing, artistic influences on her style, lessons from Bruce Timm, and Cheetara's lonely place among female heroes.

Question: You've gone from directing one-third of SUPERMAN DOOMSDAY to helming the entirety of WONDER WOMAN. What's that progression been like for you?

Lauren Montgomery: It's mostly in scale of responsibility. On DOOMSDAY, it was all about my one section of the film. Now, it's everything from background design and color to character design and camera angles, helping select the voices for the cast and approving every storyboard for the entire film. So it was all a lot harder. It's been an incredible learning experience, it's probably the most hands-on I've ever been on anything, and it's really prepared me for more of those responsibilities in the future.

Q: What were the driving factors behind the final design of Wonder Woman?

A: We kept the designs simple enough for animation, but we wanted to give them a slightly more detailed, less cartoony look for the PG-13 content. Wonder Woman went through a lot of different versions. Gradually, and for the betterment of the film, we determined that she should look strong and athletic without being manly. She's an Amazon, so I wanted her to be able to be taken seriously. We wanted her to look like she worked out, and not just make her a curvy, busty pinup. So I tried to give her slightly slimmer hips versus the hourglass figure, and I think it makes her more believable and engaging in a lot of action.

Q: Did you utilize a different color palette from previous DC Universe films?

A: We wanted the film to be vibrant, but we also needed our characters to fit into their settings. Our color stylist, Craig Cuqro, used colored filters to set the characters into their backgrounds, and our overseas studio Moi added a lot of diffusion, which gives the characters a really nice kind of glowing look -- especially during the scenes in Themyscira. The soft diffusion throughout the scenes in Themyscira makes everything seem much nicer, like a paradise. The style adds a lot of quality to the overall look of the film.

Q: Are you a mythology aficionado?

A: I always liked epic stories, and Greek mythology was a subject that kept my attention in school. The characters were larger than life -- they were gods and each had their own nuances and specialties. Being an artist, I could really visualize those characters and that made their stories that much more interesting. WONDER WOMAN is based in mythology, but it doesn't follow it to a 'T' by any means. I really just had to bone up on my WONDER WOMAN version of mythology, so I could make sure that we pleased the fans. We wanted to stay true to the legend but we did eliminate or underplay some of the sillier aspects of that mythology.

Q: Like the fact that the Amazons have an invisible jet, but they with fight swords and don't appear to have indoor plumbing?

A: There are a few things in the movie that we opted against really explaining because, honestly, the explanations were more convoluted than not explaining it at all. You don't need to break down the minor details. If we tell you exactly where the invisible jet came from, then that's time and energy that would've taken away from our core story.

Q: How did Michael Jelenic's script complement your approach to direction?

A: Michael Jelenic has really strong, entertaining ideas in his scripts. Seeing his first drafts really inspired me because there was a lot of action that showed her true strength. He told a story that captivated me the entire way. Beyond the action, Michael is good at interjecting a lot of humor -- Steve Trevor's sense of humor echoes Michael's in many ways. He also likes to write a lot of director-embellished action scenes, which didn't always make it easier on me. That's the one thing I'd like to punch him for. But otherwise, he did a great job.

Q: What's your depth of love for comics and/or superheroes?

A: I was always more a fan of animation than comics. I just didn't realize until I was a little older that you could actually make a living making cartoons. And once I discovered that career path, I knew exactly what I was going to do when I grew up.

My love of superheroes didn't really start until BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES -- that series just took everything to a higher level. It didn't speak down to people, it made you think more, it had really serious stories, and it went about telling those stories in a way that didn't put the violence right out there for you to see. It kind of undertoned it. It was more sophisticated storytelling and that drew me to the SUPERMAN and JUSTICE LEAGUE series, and then I ended up working on JUSTICE LEAGUE. So most of my experience with superheroes are through animation, not actually through the comic books themselves.

Q: You said BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES was your awakening to superheroes and a career in action animation, and now you're directing the next generation of that genre of entertainment. What's it like to live your dreams?

A: It was surreal at first, but now it's just another day of work. I've kind of adapted to it. But every once in a while when I sit back and think about it, it's like, 'Here I am doing what I've been waiting my whole life to do.' And that's cool. Even on the days where it's hectic and there's intense schedules and the deadlines are looming, and I might be pulling my hair out, I know there's no other job that I would be happier doing.

Q: Along those same lines, you now work side-by-side with Bruce Timm on DC Universe films. What's it like to go from fan to colleague?

A: Working with Bruce is extremely interesting, and not in a bad way. This is going to greatly understate it, but he knows what he's doing. It's always a really good learning experience just to sit back and watch him, to see how he works, because Bruce definitely has his own way of doing things. Pretty much all the calls he makes are the right calls -- it's obvious in the body of work that he's produced. When he makes a call, even if I don't 100 percent agree with it, I usually just let it go because I know the film is going to be better for it.

A lot of filmmaking is finessing, and I've learned a lot of that art from Bruce. He knows the little tricks to make things a lot better. Certain things to avoid, simple camera moves, and ways to not draw attention to the camera. And he's an amazing editor -- he has a way of looking at a film and being able to identify the important parts and really hammer them home. I'm still kind of focused on the storyboards, planning everything out so it plays the way I want it. I don't really think about cutting around or rearranging scenes because I already did that in the storyboards. But Bruce can look at that footage and know immediately how to rearrange the scenes to make things that much better and that much smoother. That's what I'm trying to learn from him now.

Q: Has drawing always been a passion?

A: In my younger years I drew a lot and I wasn't quite as social. When I came home after school, I would finish my homework, and then sit in my room and draw. And that's all I did, because I knew that's what I wanted to do. I would save my money and buy... whatever Disney art book was out that year. I would take it home and look at it, and I would think, 'Okay, now my drawings aren't anywhere near as good as these drawings, so I'd better get to work to make them as good.' I figured the more I practiced, the sooner I would get that good, so I drew as much as I possibly could.

Q: Who are your influences artistically today?

A: I don't have specific artists exactly, but I was definitely influenced by the Disney films. Those were the drawings I was tracing and sketching during my early years. I would study each and every one of the princesses and draw them until I had them all down by heart. My facial features are still influenced somewhat by Disney characters. As I got older, I was definitely influenced by Bruce's style in BATMAN, and I started getting into anime, and some of the more subtle styles in anime drawing. The clothing is a little more detailed than the typical American animation -- it's more believable, yet still simplified. It's the way they draw bodies and cloth that I kind of incorporate into my drawings, as well as certain aspects of how they would draw hair. So I'd say I have a few different influences in my art style.

Q: You're one of the very few women directing action animation today. Does that factor have any resonance within your career?

A: I never focus on the 'one of the only women' aspect of my job -- I just always liked action and wanted to work in this genre. I never realized how few women there were in superhero animation. I just thought, 'I like to draw, surely all the other girls like to draw, too.' I guess I just didn't realize how different I was. So I don't think I've got any special trick that makes me a successful woman in action animation. I worked hard and it has paid off.

Q: Do you have a preference between male and female superheroes?

A: I definitely prefer female leads because I feel they're just easier to direct their acting. They're allowed to show a much wider range of emotions. A woman can be feminine and tomboyish, and she can hit all the same poses that a man can hit. But if you start putting a man in a feminine pose, especially a superhero man, it doesn't fly. So when you're dealing with the male superheroes, you have a much, much more restricted range of acting. It's not just a challenge, it's more of a limitation in general. You can do more with a woman character and it's still acceptable. So it's a lot more enjoyable for me. Plus, on a personal level, I think it's good to give girl fans more options. When I was a girl, I would watch THUNDERCATS and all I really had to choose from was Cheetara. I always wanted more female heroes to choose from and I never really got them. Hopefully we'll be able to explore more of them in these DVDs.

Visit the film's official website at www.wonderwomanmovie.com.

Luckily, our pubicity guy, Gary Miereanu, has been kind enough to send me the images as they release them to the internet so I can out them up here too! Thanks Gary!

So here are some of the images that have been released from the movie. Hope you like!

An Adam Van Wyk Storyboard panel of Wonder Woman running.

A slightly unflattering image of Wonder Woman pulling her lasso.

Hippolyta (Wonder Woman's mother) fending off some enemy warriors.

Baby Diana's birth.

Wonder Woman!

Persephone helping her fellow Amazon, Alexa.

An Amazon defending herself.

An Ethan Spaulding Storyboard Panel of Amazons with swords running at camera.


Juggling Jason said...

"We kept the designs simple enough for animation, but we wanted to give them a slightly more detailed, less cartoony look for the PG-13 content. Wonder Woman went through a lot of different versions. Gradually, and for the betterment of the film, we determined that she should look strong and athletic without being manly. She's an Amazon, so I wanted her to be able to be taken seriously. We wanted her to look like she worked out, and not just make her a curvy, busty pinup. So I tried to give her slightly slimmer hips versus the hourglass figure, and I think it makes her more believable and engaging in a lot of action."


Andy Cung said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ayenlou said...

You got my 20 bucks! Looking forward to the 2-Disc package with extra goodies.

I'm loving the shots from the animation. Colors look vibrant.

Anonymous said...

I've been a WW fan for thirty plus years,so I'm greatly looking forward to this dvd:^)!! I have a question though.Gail Simone(the current writer of the WW comic)stated early on that she had some involvement in crafting the story for this animated movie.

If thats true,why has there been no mention of her anywhere in these interviews? Just curious. Thanks a lot for your time.

Lauren said...


Gail has been mentioned a couple times by Bruce and others, but the truth is that Gail's involvement with the script was very early on. And by the time I was involved, Gail was no longer involved. So it's hard for me to sing her praises when I had little to no interaction with her script. So personally, I tend to compliment the people whose work I bore witness to.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. I really appreciate it. Not trying to wish my life away,but can't wait for March 3:^).

Brian Lue Sang said...

Self Promotion FTW!! Great interview, Lauren. Can't wait for this movie!

Chris Battle said...

The WW movie was AWESOME. Great job to you and the whole crew, Lauren. All you bloggers better do yourself a favor and check it out!!

Salem Winterspring said...

Lauren... the art is amazing. WW is a staple of the DCU, and for what i've seen here, you guys did her tremendous justice. Amazing!

I liked your interview too. As an budding animator in a third world country, i would like to get to work with legends such as the BT himself, Jeff Matsuda and the Cheeks.

Sadly there are not many animations projects down here... and we are taking our first steps as a studio. So much of the things we get are lame story boarding for lame national TV commercials and simple flash based animations.

And to think i would love to make a living outta this... *sigh*

Anyhow, keep it up... you have amazing art. :)

Skylark- said...
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Skylark- said...
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Steelsheen said...

hi Lauren!

this is a great interview, so glad that you posted it. i've been a WW fan all of my 30+ years, so you have no idea on the anticipation level i have for this first ever WW _movie_. us fans have been pretty impressed with what we've seen and heard so far from this project, and couldnt wait for March 3rd to come!

Bren Kirk said...

I have a question! Will you be self-promoting at the New York City Comic Con in February?

Lauren said...

I think so. They are talking about premiering Wonder Woman possibly at the New York Comic Con and at the San Francisco convention. Nothing is set in tone quite yet.

Mokuu said...

Big props lauren.
I was wondering when someone was gonna do a wonder woman animated movie.
Im definitely picking it up.

roque said...

Great interview! Can't wait to see it.

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