January 19, 2019

TEEN TITANS


TEEN TITANS
 (Cartoon Network, WB, July 19, 2003-September 15, 2006)

DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation

           
When Sam Register became Senior Vice President, Original Animation for Cartoon Network, he had one dream goal in mind: bring the Titans back to television (they were previously done by Filmation as part of an alternating segment of their Aquaman cartoon). A fan of the Marv Wolfman/George Pérez era of the comics, Register approached then-DC Comics President Paul Levitz about the rights to the franchise and was able to secure them; minus a few members tied into other DC properties. Unlike the then-ongoing Justice League, Register wanted to do a series that skewed younger and looked different from the established Bruce Timm style to stand out as much as possible. That meant there was a moratorium on anything involving the characters’ respective secret identities and backstories, allowing the kids watching to project themselves onto their favorites. Producer Glen Murakami was brought on board from Justice League and proposed rendering the animation in a blend of Western and Anime-style, which had never been done on a DC-based show before.

The Titans: Beast Boy, Starfire, Robin, Cyborg and Raven.

The producers toyed with the Titans line-up for a while before settling on the established Wolfman/Pérez team of former Batman sidekick Robin (Scott Menville), athlete-turned-cyborg Cyborg (Khary Paton), fun-loving anamorph Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), literal demon’s daughter and empath Raven (Tara Strong), and Tamaranian refugee princess Starfire (Hynden Walch). Robin was initially on the chopping block, but it was felt that since he was most recognized through his association with the Batman franchise that he could serve as a familiar gateway into the show for audiences. In designing Cyborg, Murakami took some inspiration from both The Micronauts and the Japanese show Kikaida in order to find a way to simplify his appearance for animation while also making it look like he just had robotic limbs. Beast Boy was made to look a bit more beastly in his standard form, rather than just the green-skinned boy as he appeared in the comics, in order to better fit his name beyond his ability to transform into different animals. Raven was treated as a goth character to lighten up on the inherent darkness in the character’s background. Her costume was left pretty much intact, except simplified into a leotard rather than a slit dress. Starfire was given pupils in her eyes (except when she was charged up) and lost her flaming hair; deemed a bad idea for a children’s show. Largely, Murakami tried to keep each member of the team with a distinctive color palette in order to allow them to stand out with each other.

Of course you gotta make some time to listen to some tunes.

Teen Titans debuted on July 19, 2003 on Cartoon Network, with reruns airing on the Kids’ WB! programming block starting that November. Although it garnered a lot of mixed and negative reviews, the series had strong ratings and was one of Cartoon Network’s highest-rated programs at the time. The main theme was composed by Puffy AmiYumi, (for whom Register also made a cartoon about) while the series music was composed by Kristopher Carter, Michael McCuistion and Lolita Ritmanis. The show ended up running for a total of five seasons, before it was cancelled for a variety of unconfirmed reasons (Mattel not having the toy license, ratings drop after a dark 4th season, no plans for a 6th by the network, etc.). Following the movie Trouble in Tokyo to officially end the series, it was revisited in 2012 as a series of shorts for the DC Nation programming block, however those eliminated all dramatic storytelling in favor of pure comedy and reimagined the characters in chibi form. These shorts eventually led to the spin-off series Teen Titans Go!

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