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WB Should Turn Its Famous Failed DC Projects Into Animated Films

Warner Bros. has a long history of ambitious but abandoned DC projects. While they never made it to live-action, they could live on in animation.

Warner Bros. has so many many canceled DC projects fans are dying to see, so why not give them the animated treatment? Whether the DCEU is completely out of the woods yet after a tough couple of years remains to be seen. However, after the mega success of Aquaman and optimistic fan and critical expectations for upcoming projects like Shazam!, Birds of Prey and Joker, the mood is certainly brighter for the studio and its oft-maligned franchise.

However, so much of what fascinates us about DC and its place in cinema comes from those projects we never got to see come to fruition. Arguably no other franchise of our current era of cinema has had so many intriguing unmade films as DC. They've had films be abandoned mere days before shooting, some never made it out of the planning stage, and then, of course, there is the ever-present mystery of Justice League and the near-mythic Snyder Cut.

Related: Zack Snyder's Cut Of Justice League Was More Complete Than You Realize

So much of what we talk about with the DCEU today is defined by the various "What if?" alternate histories available to fans. It's no wonder so many are clamoring for closure on some of these projects, and there’s so much that can be done with them. At this point in time, it seems that the DCEU is more defined by the films that haven’t been made than the ones that have. That in and of itself presents a fascinating opportunity for the studio, and one of their rivals may have given them a new route forward. Live-action has been so hit or miss for the DCEU, so why not turn to animation to bring those unrealized projects to life?

DC Has Canceled a Lot of Projects After Significant Development

Hollywood cancels and abandons movies all the time. Some of the most iconic directors in history have seen their passion projects be dumped or left to the annals of film history. Most of these titles were merely the stuff of industry gossip and academic study for many years, and they’ve only become public interest over the past couple of decades as access to trades coverage and entertainment business news became more mainstream. For DC, this means a near endless stream of articles, interviews, production details, and much more, almost all of which can be accessed by fans to create a full timeline of their failed projects.

Some of these projects are well-known. Tim Burton's unmade Superman movie with Nicolas Cage, Superman Lives, was the subject of geek lore for so long that it became a documentary (and one of Kevin Smith’s funniest skits). JJ Abrams wrote a script in 2002 for a project titled Superman: Flyby, designed to be an origin story set on Krypton during a civil war, but that was canceled when Warner Bros. decided to go forward with Superman Returns instead. David S. Goyer and Justin Marks penned a script for a Green Arrow film called Super Max in 2008, which was intended to launch the character into the movie mainstream through a story-line involving him being jailed for a crime he didn't commit and having to escape a high-security prison populated with DC's finest villains.

Related: Every Confirmed Change to Zack Snyder's Justice League

Of the various tentatively planned Batman movies that never got off the ground, perhaps the most intriguing is Darren Aronofsky's planned adaptation of Frank Miller's comic Batman: Year One. That was shelved in 2001 in part because of a negative review of the script published on Ain't It Cool News, but fans remain fascinated by what Miller has described as a "vision of Batman [was] darker than mine. My Batman was too nice for him." Aronofsky's choice for the lead role was Joaquin Phoenix, a choice that feels ironic now due to his status as the new Joker. Before the first era of Batman was quietly retired following the chaos of Batman & Robin, Joel Schumacher had planned to direct another sequel called Batman Unchained, with George Clooney and Chris O'Donnell set to reprise their roles. The rumored casting for this film was almost as strange as the films themselves, with Nicolas Cage allegedly being offered the role of The Scarecrow and Courtney Love a favorite to play Harley Quinn.

Before Justice League came to fruition as a big-budget blockbuster, it was intended to be the launching pad for a new era of DC on-screen, way back in 2007 when Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller signed on to direct the $220 million epic. Set to be titled Justice League: Mortal, Armie Hammer was set to be Batman, D.J. Cotrona would be Superman, Adam Brody was The Flash, Common was Green Lantern, and Megan Gale would play Wonder Woman in her movie debut. The story of this torrid production deserves its own documentary, from the struggles of the 2007-08 writers’ strike to fights with the Australian government over tax rebates. The project was eventually canceled and, after the Ryan Reynolds Green Lantern film failed to ignite its own franchise, the studio went back to square one with Man of Steel.

And then, of course, there is Zack Snyder’s unrealized plans for Justice League and its sequels. Avid fans are eager to see the director’s cut of the film, one that Warner Bros. is said to have no current plans to release, but it’s worth noting just how much work had been completed before the troubles with that film unfolded. Snyder had an immense level of creative control over the DCEU from its inception and the studio were committed to a full 5-part story with these characters. His sequel plans included killing Batman off, something no DC blockbuster has ever done before. If the current iteration of Justice League ever gets a sequel, the chances are it won’t have anything to do with the Snyder material, which has left some fans disappointed. This array of unmade storytelling presents a plethora of creative opportunities for Warner Bros. They may have never made it to live-action, but animation offers its own fascinating possibilities.

Page 2: Old Canceled DC Projects Could Have New Life in Animation

Key Release Dates
  • Shazam! (2019) release date: Apr 05, 2019
  • Joker (2019) release date: Oct 04, 2019
  • Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020) release date: Feb 07, 2020
  • DC Super Pets (2022) release date: May 20, 2022
  • Wonder Woman 1984 (2020) release date: Jun 05, 2020
  • The Batman (2021) release date: Jun 25, 2021
  • The Suicide Squad (2021) release date: Aug 06, 2021
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