WB Home Entertainment has been releasing a line of movies geared towards the younger demographic of Batfans out there, promoting a line of toys by Mattel. The series, titled Batman Unlimited, has already seen the release of two movies in 2015, subtitled Animal Instincts and Monster Mayhem. This fall will find the release of a third entry into the series, entitled Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants. At San Diego Comic-Con last week, I was provided with a fantastic opportunity to speak with a few members of the cast, courtesy of WB Home Entertainment.
Similar to the cast and crew of The Killing Joke, this was a round table interview, where I was in the presence of other journalists and talent would be escorted to our table, where we would be given 6-8 minutes to spitfire as many question as we could muster. Unlike our interviews with the cast and crew of The Killing Joke, however, these will be text-based interviews, so they will be released in parts over the course of the week. Check out our interview with Will Friedle, voice of Nightwing.
Today, we have legendary voice actor, John DiMaggio, known all over the world as Bender from Futurama. DC fans should know him for a multitude of voices spanning several different animated movies and TV shows, but none more remembered than his turn as the Joker in one of the best Batman animated movies around, Batman: Under the Red Hood.
In it, we discuss his documentary, I Know That Voice, his feelings on G-rated vs R-rated Batman movies, and his portrayal of the Joker. Additional questions provided by Laura Sirikulvadhana of Nerdreactor, who will be differentiated by italicized text.
So this is the third movie of Batman Unlimited and you’re Killer Croc. So what can we expect from Killer Croc now that he’s going to grow into this giant monster?
John DiMaggio: He’s kind of like an American version of Godzilla, really, because he’s tearing through the city. It’s pretty funny. Getting to see him blown up is pretty awesome. It’s a different take on Killer Croc. I’ve played him before. It was a lot of fun. It’s a romp, this one. There’s a lot of action, a lot of great fight scenes. It changes everything. Mechs vs. Mutants is on a much more bigger scale. And I get to wreck stuff. You know, boys like wrecking things. That’s really the fun part about it. And of course, it’s the Batman world, so it’s great.
There seems to be a pattern with the characters you’ve been playing recently, like they’re big hulking behemoths like Killer Croc and Tusk.
JD: So what are you trying to say? *chuckles*
And King Shark. They’re kind of similar. How do you approach each one to differentiate the three?
JD: It’s all in the record. It’s up to all of us. It’s up to everybody in the room to make each one its own thing and let there be specific things about the voice of the character. It’s fine-tuning. And you can make different changes that’ll change up the voice completely; the way speech is spoken. There’s a lot of different ways you can mix it up and make it so that you can differentiate between the voices. There’s room for that.
You have been in the industry for a long time. You’re iconic, your voice is iconic. All the characters you play have been iconic. Do you have a lot of say when you go into a meeting and say, “You know, I really want to get this character to have his own show”? You know, if you want Adventure Time to have its own movie or if you want Bender to have his own movie.
JD: That’s not up to me. If I were to say I would love to write and create something within the vein of this character and get permission for it, sure, but I’m not a scribe. That’s not my forte. I’ll read what somebody’s written and bring it to life, but I’m not that guy. I think as an actor, that’s more of a personal choice and personal commitment as well as having the right voice for the character, which is usually from a writer, from somebody that’s like, “Okay, create this.” I mean, I can help somebody write, but I can’t spearhead that job. It’s mostly up to the content and who’s created it that decides who does what. I wish I could go, “I want to do this thing about this thing.” It’s not that easy.
Everyone would root for you though.
JD: That’d be nice. I never really thought of it like that because I don’t need that kind of drama in my life. *laughs* I mean, I executive produced my own film and it’s just like, “Alright, that’s it. I don’t need to do this again.” That’s heavy. It’s a lot of work. A lot of work.
Well, that answered one of my questions because I love I Know That Voice. It’s one of my favorite documentaries. I was about to ask if there’s anything else down the pipeline.
JD: I Know That Voice Too? No. As in T-O-O? No, we’re not doing anything else. We had a lot of footage. We had a lot of stuff we could have done and we didn’t do and that’s okay, because it’s just the way it is. That film is still in the red. A lot of people have seen it because of Netflix, which is great, but it’s tough; the buyouts, you get this and that.
It was a labor of love. I loved doing it and I wanted to showcase everybody and I got to do that. The job was accomplished and a lot of people have seen the film, which is great too, but I took a hit on that and I’ll never do that again. It’s like getting high on your own supply, really. Let somebody else make it. There’s a lot of people I wish were in it that I didn’t get in it.
So, with Batman Unlimited, it’s a G-rated show. It’s a great cartoon. Kids love it. It’s great to cater to the kids for Batman, but recently there’s been controversy for the R-rated version of it. What is your take on the R-rated version of cartoons?
JD: I think parents should shut up. Honestly, I think they should shut up and they should take their kids to the age-friendly movie that they should take their kids to. We’re talking about an iconic character, Batman; across the board from camp to cutthroat, the whole thing.
Cartoons are for everybody, from 1-92. There’s adult stuff and as long as you know that there’s adult stuff, don’t take your kids to see that. This is for you; this isn’t for your kids, unless your kids are sophisticated and smart enough to understand what’s going on. Then, by all means, take your kid. The whole idea of anybody saying that you can’t do that… that’s ridiculous and it actually pissed me off, because who are you to decide what we do. You’re the consumer. If you don’t want it, don’t buy it and don’t try to pigeonhole what we’re doing.
Let the Killing Joke lie. It needed to be made. The Joker’s a psychopath. He’s not messing around. I always say, for Under the Red Hood, I played Joker, that’s the kind of Joker that’s going to prison-rape you. And nobody wants to hear that. There’s a G-rated film, but then, they start talking about the Joker in this and the Joker in that. It’s completely different and that’s the way it is.
So when people start going, “Oh, these R-rated films…” Shut up and leave it alone. It’s not for you then, don’t talk about it. Get out of here. You’re not allowed anymore. You’re written off because you don’t get it. Anybody that’s dumb enough to be like, “Well, this isn’t for kids,” while bringing their kids to it, you’re an asshole. You’re an asshole! That’s it.
Speaking of Under the Red Hood, I absolutely love your take on the Joker. How did you get to that voice?
JD: Being in the studio with Andrea Romano really helped, one of the best voice directors around, and really playing that character and being that twisted. In the opening scene, there’s a crowbar to the skull of Robin. I mean, ridiculous. I don’t know, I just got in it. We lowered the lights in the studio too. Little lowered-lights always helps and everybody in the room was like, “Okay, alright. DiMaggio’s hitting the ball out of the park right now. This is very good.” And also, for the record, Mark Hamill loves my performance in Under the Red Hood. [John does an impression of Mark Hamill] “John, I love your performance in Under the Red Hood. So good.”
Batman Unlimited: Mechs vs. Mutants will available for digital download on August 30th and will arrive on DVD on September 13th.