Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery, co-directors of the BATMAN: YEAR ONE animated feature, appeared at Comic-Con International to promote the new DC Direct-to-video version of the story adapted from the 2008 graphic novel written by Frank Miller and illustrated by David Mazzucchelli with Richmond Lewis and originally published in magazine form in 1986-1987. “We try to do the best we can and make it as true to the graphic novel as we can, and we can only hope the result satisfies the fans, which can sometimes be difficult to do,” Liu said.
“Lauren and I had both just come off of difficult projects, so we helped each other out with this one, sharing notes and filling in for the other when one of us was unavailable. Then we put everything together in Animatics” [arranging the sequence of storyboards into a timeline and adding the rough sound track to test whether the sound and images are working together effectively]. “Watching the video of this crude animation allowed us to see where scenes needed to be faster or what wasn’t really playing and what action needed to more extreme. Working like this was really efficient and we could help each other out more.”
“Because the YEAR ONE story is more low-tech you have to tell more of the human story and solve things more believably using more real-world ways. Style becomes very important, we’ve tried to create a real feel to this movie, a police-type story,” Lui says. “Direct-to-video is very different, a different sort of discipline. With DTV you have one shot to tell the story in an hour and 10 minutes. You create a universe and when it’s done put it on the shelf and then can go create another.”
Lui has directed animated superhero films at both Marvel Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation, including All-Star Superman, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies, Planet Hulk, and Thor: Son of Asgard. Lui is currently directing the upcoming Green Lantern animated series with Producer Bruce Timm.
Co-director of BATMAN: YEAR ONE Lauren Montgomery added that they wanted to keep this film as close to the original comic as possible and be as realistic as they could make it. “There’s a lot of pressure in adapting anything that is a fan favorite and so well-loved like Batman, and since the comic was so well done, we didn’t really have to cut or make any changes,” she said. “We just wanted to follow the story as closely as we could and make it as good as we possibly could. We wanted to keep the same feeling, make Gotham as dirty and gritty as we could, make the city more realistic and sad and look in real need of help. We basically made the city a character in itself in this movie.”
Montgomery has also directed such animated movies as Wonder Woman, Green Lantern: First Flight, Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, and is the director of the DC Showcase: Catwoman short included with BATMAN: YEAR ONE.
And my special thanks go out to the well-informed and very gracious Batman fan whom I met at Comic-Con, Robert Dagnall, whose knowledge and insights helped me enormously!