Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Constantly Changing Designs

There are many reasons that lead for a design to be changed.

Having a new designer or a new director on a project that looks at the earlier designs thinking... "Man... those sucks... I will fix/improve those crappy designs".

There is also the temptation that with new designs... you can actually make and sell new toys based on them new designs.

And heck... there is even just the fact that when a show lasts for many years/seasons... it will have evolved so that by the end of the show... the look of the show is much much different then it was in the early years.

But sometimes... although I would be tempted to say wayyy too often.... the changes are done.... just because.

You can see it in movies.

Did anyone even notice that in Batman Returns... Michael Keaton is wearing a new Batman suit??

Somewhere between the first and second Batman movie... someone thought "Hey! Let's redesign Batman's costume".

I doubt that there are many people who thought when they saw Batman Returns... " Wow!! The Bat-suit is so much better". Odds are that most people did not even notice the change.

Sure someone like me cannot help but notice such things... but I work in animation. It is part of my job to see/spot such things. But to the untrained eye... there most likely is no difference between both Bat-suits.

The same with Spider-man.

They HAD to redesign Spider-man for Spider-man 2... and in the end... all they did was change the fabric somewhat and change slightly the shade of blue so that it would be just a little darker.

Again, I would be curious to hold a survey and see how many people have even spotted the differences. The changes are so minimal.... that it was a complete waste of resources if you ask me.

But sadly.... a lot of artists are obsessive compulsive.

They will give a HUGE importance to details that do not matter to ANYONE else in the multiverse.

Pretty much NO ONE noticed the different shade of blue of Spidey's suit in Spider-man 2. But someone... somewhere... thought it was important to redesign the suit. To waste a truckload of ressources just to get a barely perceptive change in the colors of the suit.

And that is done wayyyy too often.

What does it even matter??

Well the design process can be time consuming and can eat up a lot of your ressources on a project. So whatever ressources you spend on fixing what isn't broken is not used on something more importent.

For example, the money/time/manpower used to redesign the characters on Justice League; Crisis on 2 Earths could have been used on improving the storyboard that much more. Or to give the animators more time to do their job properly.

But because some ressources are wasted fixng what already works.... you end up with less ressources to do what is really needed.

You end up shooting yourself in the foot in my book.

Also... through years of trials and errors... the "Timm gang" had come up with a great style that worked beautifully in animation. They had found a way to streamline the designs in such a way, that it allowed the animators to do a fantastic job. It allowed for the animators to do the best job the could possibly do.

But by constantly going back to those more complex designs... to designs that aren't streamlined for animation... that is doubly true in the case of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies... they are making the animators' job that much harder.

Once again shooting themselves in the foot.

Although... there are some like Caine, who enjoy seeing the same old characters, but with a new look.

Caine: I LIKE the fact that each Warner animated movie can look different from the previous one. I like that Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, & The Flash can all be voiced by different actors each time, and have different looks. I look forward to the slightly different interpretations actually.

One of the reasons for going with a diferent interpretation is the hope that it might attract new fans.... without losing too many of the old fans.

Lets assume that there are 100,000 JLU fans out there who watched the show on TV (not the actual numbers... and I am pretty sure that there are a lot more JLU fans then that). I can tell you that the bean counters at the studio probably ran some figures and calculated that only a certain number of those JLU fan would actually buy a DVD movie done in the JLU style... lets say 25%... so in this case 25 000.

So one of the reasons for a new look... for new designs... is in the hope of increasing those numbers.

Some people in the studio might be thinking that a new look might attract potential new buyers. That if they use the JLU style.... they will be stuck with just 25 000 copies sold. But that with a NEW look... they might drastically increase that number without loosing too many of the old viewers.

So in essence... they try to keep it "somewhat" looking like the JLU cartoon in order to keep the JLU fans on board.... but give the designs a new look to try to attract new people.

Sometimes it works... sometimes it fails miserably.

Did it work with the Justice League; Crisis on 2 Earths DVD??

No idea.

I don't have a clue as to how many copies it may have sold. Although it did "seem" to sell fairly well.... but not as well as lets say Green Lantern; First Flight. First Flight was pretty much sold out in the stores in my area in the first few days of it's release... although it may just be that stores under-ordered it since it did not have Superman or Batman in it. Maybe they ordered a lot more Justice League; Crisis on 2 Earths because it has the big two in it?? I am curious about wether the Superman/Batman; Public Ennemies DVD sold well or not??

Another FBU reader mentions;

Sea-of-Green: I do like the different art styles -- it's no different from seeing different art styles in the comics. I DO take issue with changing the voices though -- unless it's because those actors aren't always available."

I would agree with you.... if it had been done by people other then the "Timm gang".

When they made "The Batman".... I did not mind the change since it was done by different people... by a different crew. But here we are talking about the same people who made what many call the "Timm-verse".

Imagine if one morning... Alex Ross (just an example... you can put instead the name of your favorite artist) decided... "I will no longer draw like Alex Ross... I will draw like... Rob Liefeld (again... you can put the name of any other artist instead)".

If you are a fan of Liefeld... you might welcome such change. But if not.... I am pretty sure that you would not be very happy.

So in short... would you ask Alex Ross to draw like someone else?? or Mignola?? or Art Adams?? or Alan Davis?? or Brian Hitch?? or any other artist that you might like.

That is how it feels to me with these constant redesigns by the "Timm gang".

When I see the "Timm gang" try to change their style from project to project... I can't help but be at least a little dissapointed.

For years.... we in the animation industry have been holding up what the "Timm gang" have done as an example of the right way to do things. We kept on thinking how "smart" they were to come up with a style that was steamlined in such a way, that it made perfect sense for animation.

But now... since them direct to DVD movies... people in animation are starting to think that maybe it was dumb just luck after all. That maybe it was not so much them being "smart", them making the right decisions, but just various circumstances that happened by accident that led to them streamlining their designs in such a way. That now... they are starting to make the wrong decisions when making them direct to DVD movies.

They used to be wayy ahead of the curve with their animated projects.... but now... they are close to being down on the same level with what Marvel is doing with their direct to DVD movies. Even some of Marvel's best efforts was not even close to what the "Timm gang" did with JLU.... but now??

I will let you be the judges of that.

We also got a comment from another FBU reader;

Flameape: I think the reason the characters get re-designed is simply to avoid having any continuity to adhere to. These films are pretty clearly designed as stand-alones- anyone who doesn't even know what the storylines of the characters can easily get into the films and put them aside. Reason 2 for the re-designs? Toy sales. Let's be honest, if DC makes ANY alteration to a character it always ends up being part of some new edition toy line. Just look at the toy section of your favorite comics shop. It's ridiculous, but clearly sells merchandise, folks! Gotta love it.

GREAT comment.

Let's split this comment into two parts, continuity, and toy sales;

A) Continuity

What they did in the Justice League; Crisis on 2 Earths DVD actually still works within the Justice League Unlimited continuity.

Heck they could have used John Stewart as Green Lantern. There is nothing that really required it to be Hal Jordan. And if they REALLY wanted to use Hal Jordan to fit within regular DC continuity.... or any other reasons... they still could do so without the need of a NEW continuity. There are 3400 Green lanterns in the Corps after all. So no need of a new continuity just to replace John Stewart by Hal Jordan.

The EVIL Lex Luthor still could have been in prison.

The JLU could have been fixing/renovating the satellite.

Batman could have still called other heroes/JLU members for help.

Nothing in this movie really REQUIRED a new contnuity.

The only reason behind that is....


Essentially... no reason at all.

B) Toy Sales

Animated TV series are essentially half hour advertisements for the toy line or the merchandising of the series itself.

Sad.. but that is essentially the REAL reason why an animated series is made.

That is usually where the REAL money for an animated series is.

Sure there are exceptions to that.

A show like the Simpsons does make some REAL money from the HUGE ratings they are having. But as I said... that IS the exception.

That is why a show like Batman Beyond was cancelled.

Although it had some good ratings and reviews... the toys/merchandinsing were not selling.

That is why I supect the first season of Justice League feels like watching old episodes of the SuperFriends sometimes.

I suspect that they were hoping to attract a yourger audience and were hoping that it would make them sell more toys.

But like many producers... they failed to realise who their audience was. That it was an older audience watching their shows. But they seem to have realised their mistake with the second season of Justice League and made their shows/stories with an older audience in mind.

And by season 3, they changed the formula of the show again by making it Justice League Unlimited and adding a truckload of new characters to the show... most likely to be able to make a truckload of new action figures... so essentially... trying to have more toys to sell.

I doubt that it really work since.... again... the show was cancelled.

So for a TV show.... toys/merchandising are important since it is an important source of revenues.

The toy sales... in addition to ratings... are what keeps a TV show being produced.

Not so true with movies

Although there are exceptions.... the revenues for these DVD movies are the DVD sales themselves.

And odds are... since DC seems to want to make stand alone movies.... odds are that unless the DVD sales are spectacular.... there will most likely not be any sequels per say.

No word on a possible sequel for First Flight or Public Ennemies or any other of their DVD movies. DC seems set on making ONE movie, then moving on to a new project.

Odds are that even if they make another Justice League DVD movie... it will have nothing to do with the Crisis on 2 Earths DVD. It will probably be once more new designs and a new continuity anyway.

So toy sales don't really matter in this case.

DVD sales is the real factor here.... and DC seems set into making stand alone movies anyway.

So even that does not really matter anyway.

The Crisis on 2 Earths DVD was most likely a one shot thing to simply use a JLU script that was already written and paid for.

Although I don't have all the answers, so I could be mistaken.

But from my experience from all them years I have been working in animation, it still makes no sense to me why they could not use their already existing JLU style & designs... and use their JLU cast.....

But maybe that is just me. ;)


Pierre Villeneuve said...

My fault... my fault.

I had not included any pictures with my Blog... and Jim ended up using the Christian Bale Batman.

So don't blame Jim... it's all my fault for not including any pictures. ;)

Jim Shelley said...

All fixed! :)

Pierre Villeneuve said...

You the MAN Jim. ;)

See guys how this is confusing?? We can barely tell one Bat-suit from the next.

So why always waste ressources redesigning the damn thing??

Caine said...

Well, I'll be posting an entirely Different Bat Suit this Friday...:)

Andrew Collas said...

I agree with your statements 100% from top to bottom.

The "because" factor also comes from producers, money men who have the creativity of a bed post, but still feel the need to put their "mark" on things as well.

Far too many times a good idea is killed because of "notes" from the producers. I would be willing to be the times those "notes" improve the project versus hurting it are heavily skewed in favour of the latter.

Golden rule always applies.

Pierre Villeneuve said...

Alan C;
Yes often... producers try to look like creative people by "improving" an already existing designs.

Something that happens a little too often sadly.

BTW; Love your "portrait". I am a HUGE Goldorak fan (sorry don't really know how he is called in english).

Where did you get it??

Andrew Collas said...

Google image search :)


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