Bam! Pow! Zap! The All-Animated Edition ('Justice League'!)

Heath Corson: Finding Laughs in the Justice League

Screenwriter Heath Corson has stayed strongly in touch with his own inner child, which proved particularly helpful when he got the opportunity to adapt comic book writer Geoff Johns and superstar artist Jim Lee’s insta-classic relaunch of DC Comics’ Justice League for the animated film Justice League: War, recently out on Blu-ray from Warner Bros. Home Video. "I’ve been wanting to get my hands on these characters forever, since I was seven years old,” says Corson. “I mean, I literally tweeted a picture of myself as Superman when I was nine years old today, and so this is a huge dream come true.”

Mixing the kind of large-scale action that defined Johns and Lee’s storyline as DC’s most elite superheroes – Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Green Lantern, Shazam and Cyborg – team for the first time in the “New 52” continuity that will now drive DC and Warner Bros.’ animated output, Corson’s challenge was to capture the comic book spirit while also layering in his own signature sense of humor as the A-list characters sussed each other out.

“What I wanted to keep in the source material is the notion of all these heroes meeting for the very first time, and also all of them being very new to what they do – I thought that was really cool,” he says. “What I wanted to bring to it is ‘What is between those moments? What happens when Green Lantern and Batman meet each other for the first time? How do they rub up against each other? What I found really interesting was not the strengths of these characters, but their weaknesses. That was the most exciting dynamic for me to play with.”

A genuine fanboy whose comic book influences can be heard in his fast-and-funny dialogue – he cites the beloved, irreverent “Justice League International” run as a seminal influence – Corson, who it’s hinted has another DC animated project up his sleeve, freely admits to his most giddy moment penning the script: “No question, getting to write Batman was the scariest thing ever,” he says. “I've always wanted someone to call Batman a phenomenal d*****bag, and that happens in this movie.”

The Jungle Book’s Floyd Norman: More to Animation Than Black and White

Floyd Norman didn’t set out to break any barriers when at 21 years old he became the first African-American animator hired by Walt Disney back in 1956, but trail-blaze he did nonetheless. “People always anticipate a struggle or they anticipate a story that is fraught with turmoil,” says Norman – who at 78 remains very active in the animation business – with a chuckle. “People ask, 'How did you get your job at Disney?' I say, ‘Well, I applied for a job and later they gave me a phone call and said “Come to work!"’ Not much of a struggle there! I never saw myself as a trailblazer of any kind – I was simply another young artist trying to begin his career… I don't want to say it was easy because I had to prepare myself, but I don't think that my struggle was any different from any other man or woman starting their career back in the 1950s.”

Norman began by working in the animation department on future classics like Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone, Disney shorts and cartoon sequences within Mary Poppins, and played a key role as a story artist on 1967’s The Jungle Book, newly released on Blu-ray this month and celebrated as the final animated film fully overseen by Walt Disney himself before his death the prior year. Norman remains particularly proud of his contributions to the sequence in which Kaa the snake hypnotizes Mowgli during the musical “Trust in Me” sequence, a portion he calls “especially mine…That was probably one of my maybe-better contributions to the film.”

Norman remains both awed and inspired by his experience knowing and working for Disney the man as well. “There're so many things about Walt Disney to admire: the fact that he was an incredible man, a very simple man who grew up on a farm in Marceline, Missouri, and yet a man who came to be known as a pioneer and entrepreneur, much like Edison or Ford; a man who was a futurist and a visionary, and yet, in many ways a very simple man – a man who was unsophisticated; a man who was able to connect with the common man, which probably explains why his films resonate so with the public. He was able to know what average person could relate to.”

After Disney’s death, Norman ventured away from the studio, enjoying a decades-long career in television animation before eventually returning to fold at the Mouse House and its subsidiary Pixar as a story artist on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mulan, Toy Story 2 and Monsters, Inc. “As a creative person you can never stop working,” says Norman, who retired from full-time animation work in 2001 but “I never retired from working.” As a consultant he’s contributed to Free Birds, Curious George, Click and Clack, The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange and other recent projects. “As artists and storytellers we never lost that kind of like child's view of the world, and that enables us to continually see things in a fresh light,” he says. “It keeps us excited about life, and I think that's an integral part of creativity.”

 

 

 

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