When Paul Dini joined Warner Bros. in 1989 to work on Tiny Toons, he probably had no idea that he'd end up penning the adventures of his boyhood hero, Batman.
But when the Batman
live-action movie opened up the Bat-franchise, Warner execs greenlighted an animated series. The rest, as they say, is history. Under the auspices of Jean MacCurdy, Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski created Batman: The Animated Series
, which would come to spawn a theatrical feature (Mask of the Phantasm
), a Superman
animated series, a direct-to-video feature (Batman: SubZero
), and the recent Batman Beyond
TV series. Along the way, Batman
won a handful of Emmy awards; hardly a surprising feat, considering it distinguished itself early on as a cartoon that took its characters and its audience seriously, with superb vocal performances, impressive visuals, and--oh, yes--razor-sharp writing.
As a writer and, later, writer-producer, Paul Dini has had a hand in shaping every one of the previously-mentioned series, and continues to expand on the caped crusader's mythos with the futuristic Batman Beyond
. In a recent interview, he told me what it was like to have the job every Batfan dreams of.
Emru Townsend: How did you get to where you are? I know you worked on
Tiny Toons before
Batman, but what were you doing before that?
Before that I was working for George Lucas. I had spent four years at Skywalker Ranch, working on a couple of animated shows that he did, called Droids
, which ran in the mid-'80s. That was one of the first jobs I ever had. Prior to that, I had freelanced a couple of jobs in L.A. for various studios, and I submitted some work to Lucas and they liked it a lot, so I was chosen to go up and work with a number of people including George and the animators on developing the series concept for Ewoks
. Then I went on to write the two seasons of the Ewoks
cartoon, then I worked up at Skywalker for another couple of years on development projects.
During that time, a friend I had made in L.A., Tom Ruegger, was working at Hanna-Barbera, and he was hired by Jean MacCurdy, who had also been running the show over at H-B, to come with her and restart Warner Bros. animation. This was around 1989. So Tom was telling me about the project, and he said that Tiny Toons
looked like a lot of fun, and I was looking for an excuse to relocate from the Bay area, and I thought, that would be great.
So I came to work on Tiny Toons
as a writer and story editor, and did that for a year. Actually, I did that for more than a year, because the show premiered a year after that and was very popular. I stayed on for a couple of seasons, and during that time Jean put Batman
into development. Originally I was working on the development with Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski, and I was sort of back and forth between Batman
and Tiny Toons
. When Alan Burnett came on as a writer/producer, he convinced me to come onto Batman
full-time, and I've been with it ever since.
Was writing what you wanted to do when you were a kid?
Well, I loved cartoons, I loved writing, I loved acting, I loved any sort of bizarre, goofy entertainment like that. I loved comic books... so basically I was devoting a lot of time towards things that would guarantee me a life of abject poverty. By luck, I was able to combine those things into a career choice, and use that to work in animation, first as a writer, then as a producer.