8:00am PT by Aaron Couch
Superhero Voice Actors Developing All-Star Animated Series (Exclusive)
It's not The Avengers or The Justice League, but this super-team does have Batman, Wolverine and a Ninja Turtle on its roster.
Rob Paulsen, the prolific voice actor known for Animaniacs and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, has assembled a team to develop an animated series called The Gang's All Here. On the call sheet are longtime Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy, as well as Cal Dodd, known for playing Wolverine in the 1990s X-Men: The Animated Series. Also on board is helmer Andrea Romano, whose work on Batman: The Animated Series helped establish her as one of the most respected animation directors in the field.
The Gang's All Here centers on an animal cast of actors as they star in their own films and navigate the pitfalls of the entertainment industry. The team is conceiving of the comedic series to target adults and adolescents.
Paulsen is developing the project with up-and-coming screenwriter Byron Burton, who is also a contributor to The Hollywood Reporter, where he has written about the '90s Batman and X-Men animated TV shows. Burton approached Paulsen earlier this year at a fan convention and soon pitched him the idea for the series. Paulsen liked the pitch, but admits he didn't actually expect Burton to do the legwork necessary to get the project going.
"Byron was very persistent and said, 'I'm going to get ahold of Kevin and I'm going to get ahold of Andrea,' and he did," recalls Paulsen.
In an unusual move for animation, the Gang's All Here team is developing the series as a package with actors and a director attached before selling it.
"It's certainly unique for me, because it's getting involved with the creative people earlier as the package is being put together," says Conroy, who will voice two animals on the show: a bookworm bear named Frances, who is described as a sophisticated Frasier Crane-esque character, and a superhero dog named Barkley.
To sell the project, the team is banking on its most improbable asset: its own celebrity. Becoming well-known for voicing a superhero seemed unthinkable back when people like Conroy, Paulsen and Dodd started decades ago, but today the stars can pack convention halls. (Even Romano has a dedicated following for her directing work.) Now, some of the kids who rushed home after school to watch Ninja Turtles, Batman and X-Men are decision makers in Hollywood who could potentially buy their pitch.
"When you meet people to whom you are pitching these things, they get the Comic-Con culture," says Paulsen, who will voice Patches, a warthog with a Christopher Walken-esque voice.
Romano, who recently retired from the business, is coming back to work for the project.
"This is so different than what we've been doing in terms of creating things with actors," says Romano, who will voice Meryl, a feline sidekick to Conroy's super-dog Barkley. "I think it speaks volumes that I'm willing to look at it when I'd just retired."
For X-Men alum Dodd, he will be changing gears a bit to voice a gruff pig commando called Sargent Snout, an action star who is reminiscent of an '80s Sylvester Stallone.
"I loved his attitude immediately," Dodd says of Sargent Snout, who likes to use words like "maggot."
He will also voice a character who is literally a wolverine, a nod to another clawed character Dodd once inhabited.
Burton, who is writing the scripts with Paulsen, has also worked as an assistant to composer John Ottman, known for his work on Fox's live-action X-Men films. Ottman helped Burton earn his first credit when the budding screenwriter penned lyrics to a lullaby Michael Fassbender's Magneto sings in 2016's X-Men: Apocalypse, and the composer has agreed to score the new animated project.
"Byron’s a vivacious and creative nut," Ottman says of Burton.
Burton earned a biology degree in college and briefly attended pharmacy school at the University of Kentucky before quitting after one week of classes in 2011 to pursue writing. So far, the connections he has made have largely been thanks to hitting the phones hard and mingling at events. He has gotten over fears of pitching himself after veterans such as Paulsen gave him positive feedback on his work.
"Early on, when I was calling people and trying to get credits in the industry, I felt like they would be doing me my favor, and now I feel like it's more of a mutually beneficial situation," says Burton.
The Gang's All Here is repped by Zero Gravity, where Burton is also repped.