CCI: Producers Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic On Teen Titans Go!
The entire Teen Titans cast — Robin, Starfire, Raven, Cyborg and Beast Boy — returns next year in an 11-minute format as part of Cartoon Network’s DC Nation programming block. Called Teen Titans Go!, the new series is executive produced by Michael Jelenic and Aaron Horvath, who met with reporters at Comic-Con International to discuss what they kept from the old series, what they’re changing, and the introduction of cannibalism into the new show.
“This series takes those five characters — we’re going to have the same voice actors and same sort of characterization as the original Teen Titans — and we’re putting them in entirely new situations,” Jelenic explained. “Primarily, comedic situations.”
These comedic situations find the Titans treating the tower as their home, though, with Horvath describing the setting as “a super high-tech expensive apartment that they just litter with all their stuff.” Unlike the previous series’ mixture of laughs and serious conflicts with characters like Slade, Trigon and the Brotherhood of Evil, the only fights the producers have planned are between the Titans and who gets first dibs on the kitchen.
“Also, Robin is made the fool in this series,” Jelenic said. “In the last series, Robin was perfect and infallible. Now, we’ve taken him in the other direction. He never thinks he’s wrong, but he’s often wrong.” Part of the comedy will come from Robin’s growing insecurity over being the only Titan without some sort of superpower.
As part of the move away from the original series, the show will make few, if any, references to the previous incarnation. “We’re terrified of what the hardcore fanbase is going to think,” Horvath admitted with a laugh. “There’s no continuity. Those were the marching orders. This is not that series. We’re not linking up.”
Since the tone is so different, Jelenic was unsure if any sort of link-up would actually gel together. Pointing to the Teen Titans shorts that aired on DC Nation, he said, “As funny as they are, they’re way too inside. So, you [now] have Aaron, who has never read a comic in his life.”
“I can’t even read,” Horvath joked.
“I think the appeal of the old show was those five characters and how they interacted and that is definitely carrying over,” Jelenic explained. The producer said he found the characters work well in comedy, so much so that it almost seems as if they were made for the sitcom format. “That’s what we’re trying to go for — a bunch of people in their first year of college,” he said. “It’s the tone and the sort of hijinks you get into when you’re all living together and you’re away from adult supervision [for the first time].”
To that end, Horvath noted the show will have no continuing themes or overarching stories. “It’s hardcore comedy,” he said. “Underline that.” Of course, hardcore doesn’t mean gross-out. Despite one episode that features characters eating other characters, Horvath said they’ve been told to stay away from farting.
Staving off theories about how a Titans episode gets to cannibalism, Jelenic teased, “Trust me, the truth is more ridiculous.”
Horvath, who previously directed episodes of Cartoon Network’s MAD series, comes to the DC Universe for the first time. It was a calculated decision within Warner Bros. Animation to pair him with Jelenic, a die-hard DC man who made the obscure B’wana Beast a fan-favorite character on Batman: The Brave and the Bold.
“They want us to stay away from being too loyal to those old shows,” Jelenic said. “Aaron has no loyalty.”
In addition to welcoming Horvath, Jelenic embraced the 11-minute format, as it offered him a new way to tell stories with DC Comics characters. “I’ve done pretty serious [stuff] with the Wonder Woman animated movie, and I got to flex some of the comedy stuff I want to do with Brave and the Bold,” he explained. “This is like pushing it even farther. One of my favorite things about [Brave and the Bold] was taking some weird character, like B’wana Beast, and putting a weird spin on it and having that freedom. People cried when B’wana Beast died. Nobody ever thought we’d say that.”
Turning to his producing partner, Jelenic began, “See, B’wanna Beast is able to …”
“Don’t care,” Horvath wryly replied.
One freedom the pair has on Teen Titans Go! is the option to bring on any character that appeared on the original show. “Teen Titans had a huge cast — the rogues gallery, the side Titans — there’s a big library to pull from, so we’ll dig into that well,” Horvath said.
Raven’s father, Trigon, is one of the characters already slated to return, though Jelenic was quick to point out he will not be what viewers expect. “We had Kevin Michael Richardson, who was the voice of Trigon on the original show, and he was reading his appearance in this one and he was like, ‘This is very different from what I was used to,’” the producer recalled.
Some of the writers from the original show, like Amy Wolfram and Rob Hoegee, will also return. Jelenic hopes to entice writer/developer David Slack to contribute, although it will depend on the writer’s schedule. “He works on Person of Interest, so his time is limited,” the producer explained.
Horvath noted the voice actors were happy to return to their familiar characters, although he joked that their initial meetings were awkward for him. “It was like being at someone else’s family reunion for me,” he said. “It was kind of strange.” He also noted they adjusted to the broader comedic tone of the show, but often point out the odd line that may be “out of character.”
“It’s a little hard to argue with them, because they are the character,” Jelenic joked.
Considering the amount of Teen Titans cosplay one sees around Comic-Con, Jeleinc noted that it’s indicative of the love the audience has for the characters. “It was a huge hit,” he explained. “That’s the only reason it’s coming back. It doesn’t surprise me to see that the fanbase is so big. That’s what they’re counting on.”
Teen Titans Go! comes to Cartoon Network’s DC Nation block in 2013.