Ricky Church chats with Butch Lukic about Batman: The Long Halloween…
After many years of fans clamouring for its adaptation, Batman: The Long Halloween Part One has been released on Blu-ray and digital as the next in DC and Warner Bros.’ animated film line. Based on the maxi-series from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, the story follows Batman in his earliest years of crime fighting as he, Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent investigate a serial killer named Holiday who is targeting members of the Falcone crime family on one holiday each month. While they are trying to solve the case and bring down the Falcone mob, they also have to contend with the rise of Gotham City’s supervillains.
To celebrate the release of the first part to this highly anticipated film, we sat down with supervising producer Butch Lukic who spoke about the long road into making Batman: The Long Halloween, the story’s legacy, the late Naya Rivera’s portrayal of Catwoman and more. Check out our interview below…
Batman: The Long Halloween has been a story fans have wanted to see adapted for a long time. Why was now the time to finally make it?
Well, now wasn’t the time. I made this three years ago almost and we got delayed because last year or two years ago when Matt Reeves came into Warner Bros. and he was going to do The Batman movie, something happened where we already had the first movie, Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One, in the can and we were ready to go to release it last year, but then they came to us and told us we can’t release the movie because now they were going to adapt Long Halloween supposedly. So we thought we were shelved indefinitely. Then finally about a year ago they said, no, it’s okay, they’re not adapting Long Halloween so we could finish off Part One, which was almost complete, but I had to finish off music and sound effects. I did all that stuff with the composer, Michael Gat, Rob Hargreaves, the sound effects guy, and we did all that four months ago and finished the movie and the same with Part Two. We weren’t even in the finished animation stage of anything in Part Two when we got stopped with Part One. So that was delayed and then finally we got the go ahead. We were able to complete both movies.
Wow! So I guess with that and with the fact The Long Halloween is also such a beloved Batman story, was it intimidating to adapt such a classic story? And how do you feel now that it’s finally coming out after all of those delays?
No, it wasn’t intimidating because I’ve been doing Batman for almost 30 years! As far as it being what the fans want and things like that? Yeah, it’s hard to say because I was a fan of the books too so I was going by what I thought of the books and the designs and the characters and the way those guys did it. So I was putting it towards, okay, how can I adapt what they did with Tim [Sheridan, screenwriter] and Jim [Krieg, producer]? You know, how we can adapt the storyline to work visually and cinematically? There was a few things in the books that I just couldn’t do for cinematic reasons. It just wasn’t going to work. So those are the general things that we pulled out, which were minor, and then it was trying to just see how many of these characters can stay fully in the movie or are we going to have to drop a couple or just slightly put their story into someone else’s arc. It’s a little bit of that, but not much. It’s pretty close to what we could do for the final version in film.
Cool. Unlike a lot of films in the DC animated line with a couple of exceptions, Long Halloween is a two-parter. Back when you were originally working on the movie, what made you and the team decide to split it up into two parts and how much more difficult was that to produce?
Yeah, I mean, for me it was generally, I thought okay, I got a chance to do all these one movie. That’s what I’m going to do. I didn’t realize once we started getting into working out what we could keep and what we couldn’t, that’s when Jim and Tim said “look, we’re going to have to do two movies.” It turned out to be right because it was too much story. There was 13 books involved so it’s a long stretch of story that you’d have to get rid of to adapt it to one movie.
For sure. One aspect that really appeals to fans of Long Halloween is how it’s set in Batman’s early career. Rookie Batman is such a popular era to mine from and you’ve said that you’ve worked on Batman for over 30 years. What’s interesting about it for you to explore those early years of Batman in the story?
Well, I mean, I haven’t gotten to do that since way back in Batman: The Animated Series when we were working on that. So really this is the first time in 20 years at least that I was able to go back and do kind of like a new version of Batman: The Animated Series. Batman is still just learning his trade and figuring things out. He isn’t exactly perfect which I think in the last 10 years a lot of people tend to think Batman can do everything. It was kind of getting to that point of us saying that’s not Batman, that’s not the way he was. Originally, that’s not the reason why we liked him. Initially for him to have everything figured out and all the gadgets worked out and he can fight in every different form of our martial arts. That’s all well and good, but that’s not the Batman that was the original version. Luckily this is Batman in his second year so he’s still learning stuff and he’s going to screw up.
As you mentioned a minute ago, The Long Halloween was a 13 issue maxi-series which obviously lasts for a whole year of different holidays and seasons. You had to animate multiple types of weather, times of day and even clothes. Was that a difficult process for the animation team since it hasn’t been done on this type of scale before?
Yeah, I mean, basically because Gotham’s on the east coast I was able to say, well from October till at least January or February, you’re going to probably have rain to snow. So that wasn’t that hard to work out, but doing snow effects used to be a problem when we used to have to edit things out because the snow effect was way inside the animation, but today it’s all in layers. I can change someone’s movement in a shot where there’s snow, but I can also then take the snow out and just keep it cycling correctly when we put the animation back together. So it isn’t as hard as it used to be to change as far as snow effects.
Cool. Now a bit more of a somber question. Naya Rivera plays Catwoman and I thought she was absolutely great in Part One. She really nailed the character. What did you feel she had brought to the table that could bring Catwoman to life?
I think she brought that feel of the femme fatale from a lot of the crime films and war films and she has a lot of strength. As far as Catwoman, she’s like “screw you guys, I’m wanting this” and she’s kind of manipulating quite a few people. She has her own story as far as trying to find out things for herself in the movie, as far as her past life. I think Naya really hit that with every stroke. I’m just sorry that she’s not around to be able to see it.
Yeah, for sure. Of course, Catwoman is a member of Batman’s rogues gallery and what’s interesting is Long Halloween doesn’t just feature one or two of them, but pretty much all of them. How did you balance the time for each villain?
Yeah, I think Part One it’s a balance really towards just one and then we go into Part Two that’s where the rest of the characters get into the story. It’s pretty much going along the same lines as the book. We did have an intention of doing a couple of shorts, to add supplements of some of the characters that we weren’t able to put into this two-parter, but that didn’t happen because of money reasons.
Thank you very much to Butch Lukic for chatting with us!
Batman: The Long Halloween, Part One is available on Blu-ray and digital now. Batman: The Long Halloween, Part Two will be released on July 27th, 2021.
Ricky Church – Follow me on Twitter for more movie news and nerd talk.