Rick Morales Interview: DC Showcase Shorts | Screen Rant

The DC Showcase collection of animated shorts is back with a group of exciting new stories for fan-favorite and underexplored characters. Constantine — The House of Mystery acts as an epilogue to Justice League Dark: Apokolips War, while The Losers sees the military team trapped on an island overrun with dinosaurs, Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth sees its titular protagonist engage in a deadly series of tests in post-apocalyptic earth, and Blue Beetle sends up classic '60s cartoons.

Related: The Best DC Comics Animated Shows, According To Ranker

Ahead of the collection's release, Screen Rant spoke exclusively with producer Rick Morales to discuss the new DC Showcase collection, determining which characters to explore, reuniting with his animation teams and more.

Screen Rant: I'm excited to get to chat with one of the the minds behind this whole showcase. Your name has come up with pretty much everybody I've talked to so far in a good way. Can you tell me a little bit about how these shorts really started to develop?

Rick Morales: There was talk about doing more shorts; they'd been done in the past, and Warner Bros. wanted to do another slate of them. They came to me and asked if I might be interested, and then that led to conversations with Jim Krieg. He already had some thoughts about wrapping up Apokolips War with the Constantine story idea that he had, so that became basically, "Okay, so that's our anchor for this slate of shorts here. What are we going to fill it with?"

Jim had a master plan about things that he was doing, but in talking about it, we narrowed it down to characters that we love and that we want other people to see and hopefully love as well. Kamandi, I think, was one of the earliest decisions to pursue. We'd talked about Ted Kord's Blue Beetle, because I think both of us were fans of the Justice League stuff by [Keith] Giffen. I've always been a fan of the relationship of Blue Beetle and Booster Gold, I always thought was really fun and I just love that character.

We started talking about the Ted Kord Blue Beetle and the type of story that we were discussing felt like it lent itself to being almost an homage to the '60s animation. I blurted it out and Jim is a huge fan of, in particular, that '60s Spider-Man show. I saw his eyes light up immediately and we were in, it was like, "Okay, yeah, that's what we're doing," and so we were just off. That's how this stuff comes together. It was really very informal, I think, as far as the decision of what to pursue.

You mentioned the interest in Ted Kord, but one thing I'm curious about is The Losers. There was the Vertigo run, which I feel people are more familiar with in comparison to the older ones. How did the decision for The Losers and going for the older team come about?

Rick Morales: I think Jim wanted to do dinosaurs. [Laughs] When he said dinosaurs, I said, "Yes, let's do dinosaurs." [Chuckles] No, The Losers, I knew who they were, but my first real exposure to them was what Darwyn Cooke did with them in the New Frontier. He had that really poignant story about them on Dinosaur Island and I just always thought that was so great. So when Jim brought up The Losers as a possibility and said dinosaurs, it just seemed like, "Well, that's something that we could have fun with."

That just pinged in my head like, "Oh, yeah, it's New Frontier. It's this thing that I love, so let's try to approach it in that way." But then I was looking at the Kirby stuff, because those are the characters that Darwyn used, so we went and looked at the early comics for this particular short and I just felt like a modern version of them had been done in live-action, maybe it was worthwhile to see where it started.

So almost all of these shorts really kind of end on cliffhanger notes, so I'm curious, are there any thoughts percolating in either yours or Jim's mind of whether or not to continue these storylines?

Rick Morales: Yes, there are thoughts percolating, more specifically in Jim's mind. [Laughs] I think that's about all I can really say about that right now. Obviously, there is a through line; there's some sort of thread that seems to connect these in a way.

I was picking it up as it was being put down. Most of this team had worked with you or the studio at various points before, but what was it you were really looking for, from a producer's standpoint, in the people to help bring these shorts to life?

Rick Morales: Well, I have together a really, really great crew of very talented artists that worked with me on the Mortal Kombat stuff and the Injustice stuff. In particular, the designers that I had are so versatile, it's why I like working with them, because I know that if I change up the style or if I want to change up the style and approach something new that they're going to be able to come with me, that they're going to be able to help me get there.

First of all, I wanted to keep my crew together, because we were coming off some other projects at the time and I just wanted to continue to work with these guys and they know that I'm usually going to want to change up styles to some degree as we go from project to project. This became a really interesting challenge, because we're doing four totally different looks, so there's no economy of being able to reuse designs from between shows or anything like that. It has its own look, so I think everybody kind of took that as a challenge.

It's fun to be able to switch things up and for these being shorts, it gives you the ability to do that without a huge amount of pressure. When you work on a feature animated film and you're working on, let's just say a Pixar thing, you're going to be working on that thing for years, right? You're going to be working in that same sort of style for an extended period of time. We got to switch things up on a month to month, week to week basis at times. There's something that's kind of, to me, invigorating about that, you get to [change it up] not just stylistically in design, but also stylistically storytelling as well.

I just find that piques my interest more to kind of bounce around like that and I think for the artists, we just like to do different things, too, sometimes. So this was nice to be able to do all these different types of styles, some simpler than others. But for me, the team that I had around me I knew were eminently capable of being able to switch gears that's why I choose to work with the people that I do.

Since you do mention production timeline, a few of the people I've talked to have told me this was made before the pandemic stuff, so I'm curious, were you able to be in the studio with any of the actors and the animators as the work was being put together?

Rick Morales: It's so funny, it all kind of becomes a blur in that time period, early 2020. Yes, I think we had just wrapped up our part of it, the pre-production side, all the design work and all that stuff. I think we were well done with that by the time everybody went to work at home, we did the initial recording in-person, because that was before the pandemic. I'm trying to think if we had to do some ADR remotely, I believe we did.

I think by that point, some of the post stuff that we were doing, putting the final films together, getting the sound effects in there, all the music and all that stuff that was still being done while we were at home for the pandemic. But by that point, that's the stuff that falls more on my plate, so it wasn't a tough transition, because we finished the bulk of the work before. But you know, of course, then we started other projects right away while we were at home. [Laughs]

If it keeps the mind busy while you're at home, then it's something, right?

Rick Morales: Oh, you know what, I have nothing but praise — and this is not just me being a shill — but I have nothing but praise in the way that Warner Bros. handled that transition. Literally, we were in the office one day and then the next day it was like, "Grab your s--t and go home." [Laughs]

It was literally like that, but it's such a huge company, there's so many different pieces that have to move to make that stuff happen and it was like we didn't even miss a beat. We went home, we set up and within a day or two's time, and we were back at it. Tons of credit to the team, to the artists and to the production staff that we work with for being able to mentally make that adjustment and just keep rolling. I thought that was amazing.

Check out more of our interviews with the creative team behind Blue Beetle, Kamandi, The Losers and Constantine.

More: Blue Beetle: 10 Best Comics For Newcomers

The new DC Showcase collection is available to purchase via Constantine — The House of Mystery on Blu-ray and digital platforms now.

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