TEEN TITANS GO! & DC SUPER HERO GIRLS Interview With Screenwriter Jase Ricci (Exclusive)
Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse screenwriter Jase Ricci talks to us about taking shots at Titans, exploring the Batgirl/Harley Quinn dynamic, and writing Teen Titans Go!
In Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse, Lex Luthor wields an ancient Kryptonian power and unites the world's supervillains to capture the DC Universe's heroes. With only the fan-favourite DC Super Hero Girls left to stop the Legion of Doom, the team must cross dimensions to rescue their fellow superheroes from the Phantom Zone, but a fortuitous wrong turn leads them to Titans Tower...where they find much-needed allies in the iconic Teen Titans!
That's the premise of this awesome blockbuster event, and we can promise you'll have an absolute riot with this hilarious, action-packed crossover. Ahead of its Digital, Blu-ray, and DVD release on May 24, we sat down for a conversation with screenwriter Jase Ricci. Best known for DC Super Hero Girls, Rapunzel's Tangled Adventure, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the prolific writer gets to revisit those DC Comics heroes here and expand on character arcs that began in the popular series.
In this interview, Jase talks to us about getting to continue the respective stories of the DC Super Hero Girls, his first foray into the world of Teen Titans Go!, and the fun of taking aim at HBO Max's Titans (and the Justice League) thanks to that franchise's trademark humour and meta in-jokes.
He also talks in detail about expanding on Batgirl's unexpected friendship with Harley Quinn and why he's not worried about upsetting comic book fans by writing gags at the DC Universe's expense.
What was the biggest challenge for you in taking the DC Super Hero Girls characters you’ve written on TV into this feature film setting?
Well, there were a number of challenges. I had more fun than I possibly could have imagined writing the movie, but there were a couple of things we faced. The DC Super Hero Girls show, and its creator Lauren Faust, set us up with these characters in an amazing way and they were primed for this moving arc. I carried those stories on and had that arc planned out, but with six characters, I wanted to make sure all of those stories were being serviced properly in the way I felt they should be going. I also spoke to Lauren about where she was going, so it was important to do justice to these great characters and bring them to a place that would be a great spot for the scope of a movie.
So, yeah, we had to find a worthy movie arc for them, but the other challenge…when we first started this, we weren’t aware a crossover with the Teen Titans Go! characters was already in the works. There had been talks about it, but the biggest hurdle was that in their universe, they play hard and fast with the rules. We joke about this in the movie, but they play around with the continuity whereas in DC Super Hero Girls, not for better or worse, continuity is a little more important. That world already has the ‘Tween Titans’ with a version of Robin and Cyborg and Raven. It was a case of asking, ‘How do we get this person from Teen Titans Go! to meet with our DC Super Hero Girls but also have it be consistent with the world the latter calls home?’ That problem became a solution when the Multiverse came into the zeitgeist. They had just announced Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was proof of concept that it can be done. A lot of our audience who watch this will be children who go along with it or genre fans familiar with the Multiverse who you don’t have to over-explain it to. I’m a genre fan, so I get it. Those were the biggest challenges.
In terms of working on the Teen Titans Go! characters for the first time, what did that process involve in terms of preparation and what did you enjoy most about getting to write that quirky team of heroes?
I enjoy the show. I think it’s hilarious and my kids love it. It gave me the chance to watch a whole bunch of episodes, and we were working with the Teen Titans Go! guys and didn’t put anything forward without running it past them to make sure it passed muster. They afforded us the same courtesy when they did their crossovers. Those characters are so well drawn out even though they’re such different types of characters to the DC Super Hero Girls. It was a case of riffing on and extrapolating what has come before. My writing style worked with them because I love Teen Titans Go! I would love to write more of them [Laughs] because they’re hilarious. Having worked on a bunch of animated shows, especially the ones that are funny, the voice talent really makes the writing shine. You write things that, on paper, make you go, ‘That’s not funny.’ I know that Nicole Sullivan or Tara Strong will sell it, though, because they just get it. Having seen so many of the Teen Titans Go! episodes, I was confident that the cast could do the same here because they’re so hilarious.
Of course, with those characters comes a lot of in-jokes and meta-humour, so how much fun was it to get to take a fun shot at something like the live-action Titans series and were there any jokes that ended up being cut for whatever reason?
My jokes are too good. None of them got cut. I’m just kidding! [Laughs] There’s a lot of stuff that winds up on the cutting room floor. Most of it deserves to be there and it’s not like I’m saying to myself, ‘Oh man, there’s this great joke that deserves to be there but wasn’t.’ It was a blast. I was surprised we got away with making that Titans crack or intimating that the DC Super Hero Girls were riding on the Teen Titans’ coattails. It was great that they gave us the freedom to make those jokes and they’re the kind of jokes you can’t make on every show. That was the benefit of having this crossover because when you head into that Teen Titans Go! world, you can make those meta-references and have a stinger with the Super Friends. If the budget was unlimited, we probably would have done a lot more of that. Actually, it was more a time issue. We’d have had a lot more crossing over and I think my initial idea may have been that, but at the end of the day, I was very happy with how much of it there was and it was all in service of the story rather than being a distraction.
The unlikely friendship between Harley Quinn and Batgirl is also a big part of the film, and when you’ve got a legend like Tara Strong lending her voice to both characters, what do you find most interesting about getting to explore that dynamic?
I think that the Harley and Barbara dynamic…I’m not tooting my own horn because these characters were already set up for me and I just wanted to bring them home in the right way. We’ve been inching their relationship along over the course of the series so it wasn’t just out of nowhere here, but part of the fun was unwrapping that and getting them to see they’re both two sides of the same coin. Their love for each other trumps their admiration for their respective heroes. For me, with Batgirl, I looked at what she went through in season 2 and realised she had to step out of Batman’s shadow and start making some shadows of her own. Harley was doing the same thing, so what gets them both out of those is their love for each other and their friendship. That was fun. Once I’d mapped out how it was going to play out, the movie just puts the cap on it and hopefully delivers what fans have been waiting for with that closure as they realise, ‘We don’t need to live under the shadows of these iconic. We’ll be icons ourselves.’ That’s why we hint that they’re going to be a team and work together. They don’t need each other, but it was fun to bring it to the movie and explore.
Batman being incomprehensible is such a hysterical part of this movie, as was that Matthew McConaughey-esque Aquaman. What sort of freedom does that sort of silliness give you as a writer to really do some different things with these characters and poke fun at elements of them, especially for a movie not necessarily aimed at the hardcore fans?
We had just established Aquaman before the movie so he was a pre-existing character, but the Batman who was in season 1 with his gravelly voice was hilarious. Some of my favourite lines to write were with Aquaman and Wonder Woman and he has nicknames for everyone. It’s a lot of fun and done out of love. I grew up with these characters and love them. There’s no one version of these heroes. You can have fun and make fun of characters, but you’re not necessarily upsetting the fans because they know that’s just one version of them. This Batman is goofy, but look how many serious Batman movies there are. I think that’s what is so great about the DC Universe. You have all these different characters working on them and all these different interpretations. It’s like cafeteria-style: you can choose which ones you like and see how they land.
Teen Titans Go! & DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem in the Multiverse is available on Digital, Blu-ray & DVD on May 24. The movie event also premieres on Cartoon Network on May 28 and starts streaming on HBO Max beginning June 28!