Five fascinating tales from the iconic DC canon, including the first interactive film presentation in Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) history, come to animated life in DC Showcase – Batman: Death in the Family. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation and DC, the anthology of 2019-2020 animated shorts arrives from WBHE on Blu-ray on October 26th and Digital on October 13th, 2020.
Anchoring the compilation of shorts is Batman: Death in the Family, WBHE’s first-ever venture into interactive storytelling that allows fans to choose where the story goes through an innovative navigation guided by the viewer’s remote control. Central to the extended-length short is an adaptation of “Batman: A Death in the Family,” the 1988 landmark DC event where fans voted by telephone to determine the story’s ending.
Inspired by characters and stories from DC’s robust portfolio, the 2019-2020 series of shorts – which have been individually included on DC Universe Movies releases since Summer 2019 – include:
- Sgt. Rock
- Adam Strange
- The Phantom Stranger
Produced, directed and written by Brandon Vietti, Batman: Death in the Family offers an inventive take on the long-demanded story. In the new animated presentation, the infamous murder of Batman protégé Jason Todd will be undone, and the destinies of Batman, Robin and The Joker will play out in shocking new ways as viewers make multiple choices to control the story. And while Batman: Under the Red Hood provides a baseline, the story also branches in new directions and features several characters previously unseen in the original film.
Bruce Greenwood, Vincent Martella and John DiMaggio reprise their Batman: Under The Red Hood roles of Batman, young Jason Todd and The Joker, respectively. Other featured voices are Zehra Fazal as Talia al Ghul and Gary Cole as Two-Face and James Gordon.
“Batman: Death in the Family is essentially a comic book come to life,” says Vietti, whose DC Universe Movies directing credits include Batman: Under the Red Hood and Superman: Doomsday, and he is co-creator and co-executive producer of the popular Young Justice animated television series. “We’ve paid homage to the 1988 interactive experience of DC’s ‘A Death in the Family’ comics release by giving fans a unique opportunity to craft their own story through a branching tool that can lead in multiple directions. The viewer gets to choose these characters’ paths, and each choice paves an alternate future for all of the characters and, ultimately, the story.”
The interactive Blu-ray presentation offers many different ways for viewers to tell the Batman: Death in the Family story, with numerous twists and turns in the middle, and several possible endings. The choices along the way put greater weight on the viewers’ decisions and result in even stronger stories. Viewers can also choose to allow the story to tell itself, as there is an option to let the Blu-ray decide its own path.
Packed with Easter Eggs, the centerpiece short’s story – with its foundation grounded in the original “Batman: A Death in the Family” comic run, and the acclaimed Batman: Under the Red Hood animated film – balances a number of integral themes within its entertainment, including fatherhood, mental health, death, rebirth, revenge and redemption. Along the route, viewers encounter new, surprising looks at some classic DC characters.
“From the very first navigation card, we wanted to give the audience an impression of what they’re getting into, but then also give them something unexpected – maybe even something they’ll regret, so they have to think twice about every future choice they make,” Vietti explains. “Branched storytelling has to be stronger than just the gimmick of the choices – it has to be rewarding and offer new and worthwhile insights into the characters. It needs to involve you, and keep you searching for the next twist. So we sought to subvert expectations and do something very different.”
Details on the additional four shorts
Originally attached to Batman: Hush, Sgt. Rock is executive produced and directed by Bruce Timm from a script by award-winning comics writers Louise Simonson & Walter Simonson and Tim Sheridan. The original tale finds battle-weary Sgt. Rock thinking he has seen everything that World War II can dish out. But he is in for the surprise of his life when he is assigned to lead a company consisting of legendary monsters into battle against an unstoppable platoon of Nazi zombies. Karl Urban provides the voice of Sgt. Rock. Also voicing characters in Sgt. Rock are Keith Ferguson, William Salyers and Audrey Wasilewski.
Inspired by Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman,” Death is produced & directed by Sam Liu and written by J.M. DeMatteis.In the story, Vincent, an artist with unresolved inner demons, meets a mysterious girl who helps him come to terms with his creative legacy … and eventual death. Leonard Nam provides the voice of Vincent, and Jamie Chung is the voice of Death. The cast includes Darin De Paul, Keith Szarabajka and Kari Wahlgren. Death was originally included with Wonder Woman: Bloodlines.
Attached as a bonus feature on the release of Superman: Red Son, The Phantom Stranger has Bruce Timm at the helm as executive producer & director, and the short is written by Ernie Altbacker. Set in the 1970s, the short find the enigmatic DC mystery man simultaneously playing both omniscient narrator and active character in a story of supernatural comeuppance for evil doers. Peter Serafinowicz gives voice to The Phantom Stranger, and Michael Rosenbaum provides the voice of Seth. The Phantom Stranger also features the voices of Natalie Lander, Grey Griffin and Roger Craig Smith.
Adam Strange is produced and directed by Butch Lukic, who also conceived the original story – which is written by J.M. DeMatteis. The short was initially attached to Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. On a rugged asteroid mining colony, few of the toiling workers are aware that their town drunk was ever anything but an interplanetary derelict. But when the miners open a fissure into the home of a horde of deadly alien insects, his true identity is exposed. He is space adventurer Adam Strange, whose heroic backstory is played out in flashbacks as he struggles to save the very people who have scorned him for so long. Charlie Weber provides the voice of Adam Strange, alongside with Roger R. Cross, Kimberly Brooks, Ray Chase and Fred Tatasciore.
All five new DC Showcase shorts credits include Jim Krieg as co-producer and Amy McKenna as producer. Sam Register is executive producer.