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Season Five: Titans Go Global!

“Season Five: Titans Go Global!”
David Slack, Rob Hoegee and Amy Wolfram Play Travel Guide As The Titans Tour The World

DAVID SLACK has written for numerous animated shows including “Jackie Chan Adventures”, “The Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot”, “Tarzan”, “Totally Spies”, and “Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi”. He is currently serving as a Story Editor and Producer on the hit series “Teen Titans.” ROB HOEGEE has written for “Martin Mystery” and Stuart Little” before being recruited for “Teen Titans”. AMY WOLFRAM has written for the MTV series “Undressed” and various animated series before joining the staff of “Teen Titans.” ROB and AMY were promoted to Story Editors with the third season of the show. All three head writers took some time out of their schedules to talk about the Titans’ World Tour in season five! This interview was conducted in December 2005 and May 2006 by

Bill Walko: Thanks for joining us again, guys. Season five was a bit of a departure from previous seasons. It featured a lot of new characters, and took on a broader scope of storytelling. What made you guys decide to use so many more new characters in season five?

RH: The original idea was to rebrand the show a little bit, and open up the world a little bit. I think we ended up sticking to conventions, to some degree, but we also thought it might be time to bring in some new, fresh faces.

DS: I would say the best way to describe season five was Amy’s way of defining it, which was, “Anything happening everywhere.”

AW: This season, more than any other, was about the young versus he old. In the beginning, the Brotherhood of Evil sets out to destroy every young hero. That’s their mission. So for us, it was about the Titans never able to go home. Their mission was to warn all these young super-heroes, so that gave us a wonderful opportunity to go to new places and meet new Titans, and see the whole world. So we were able to get out of this city that we spent four whole seasons in.

RH: Originally, season five was going to be twenty episodes, so we actually came up with a very far-reaching story arc involving the Brotherhood of Evil. We wanted to open up the world and see more characters, and we wanted to dig into the history of our existing characters. We wanted to top season four and branch out into something different, [to] really expand their universe.

I think we even originally talked about having each of the episodes completely stand on their own, and not having an arc at all, but ironically, it turned out to be our most cohesive season. It’s a bigger and broader season; a good number of the episodes interlink with the next. The stakes are high not only for the Titans, but for all young heroes across the globe. We definitely went global this season.

“We definitely went global this season.” – Rob

BW: You used a lot of new characters in season five. Was that something encouraged by the network, or was that purely a creative decision?

DS: [Producer] Sam [Register] always wants more characters, [laughs] and the network always wants more characters, but it works out very well in expanding the world, which helps make the show more exciting. It also gives the toy companies more characters to play with, and it also provides possible spin-off material, and things like that.  I think there was some concern with a couple of episodes that really didn’t feature the Titans at all, but there’s always a desire to create new Titans and have new characters.

BW: How did you guys go about bringing in those characters? Did you go through a list of possible Titans to use?

RH: We compiled a list of every possible Titans and Titans-related character we could find. Everyone on the crew was involved with it. We poured through old issues and DC Comics guide books, and we basically came up with this ultra-long laundry list of every possible person we might include. Then we sent that list to DC Comics, and they sent back a list of approved characters, and we went from there. I think we used just about every character that was approved.

BW: How did you go about breaking the stories for season five? That season is set up a bit differently from previous seasons.

RH: As far as breaking them, it works the same way. I think the biggest difference was that rather than splitting story editor duties three ways – between me, Amy and David – we just split it between me and Amy. And the one left-over one we gave to David. [laughs] But it’s a pretty big leftover one, and as far as I’m concerned, he was the only one that could do it.

DS: It worked out well because I was working on Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo at the time.

BW: What propelled you to use the Brotherhood of Evil for this story?

AW: That was Glen [Murakami]. He really liked the Doom Patrol and the Brotherhood of Evil.

BW: Is that why Beast Boy became the focal character of the season?

RH: Not necessarily. I think that Beast Boy stood out in the season the most, but I don’t think we went into it with the objective of making it centered around Beast Boy. The idea was to allow each character to have at least one episode to themselves. Each character was taken out of the team dynamic and given their own adventure.

BW: “Homecoming” deals with a flashback as the opening scene. I think this is the first time the series has done a flashback to events before the Titans formed. Were there some talks about that?

RH: Well, I think we decided as the series evolved, if there’s any time to get in origins and back stories, this would be the time. We know everyone now, and we do deal with Beast Boy’s past, his family, and where he came from, but as an extension of him and his evolution as a person. It became a way to show him growing up, and it doesn’t overshadow everything else that’s going on [in season five].

Both those episodes were conceived as one large episode, and we just split it in two parts, so I think it was a good opportunity to do [the flashback scene]. Unfortunately, because of time constraints, we lost a cool scene. It was actually an opening sequence for the Doom Patrol, rather than the typical Titans opening sequence. So after that flashback scene, it would have rolled into a Doom Patrol opener. It was even story boarded and ready to go, but we just ran out of time. [Director] Ben Jones did the storyboard for it, and it was absolutely fantastic, but I think it still worked out great with the flashback. I think it was important to see where Beast Boy was before he joined the Titans, and to see his relationship with his surrogate family, and to see his decision to leave the Doom Patrol.

BW: You guys initially wanted to use Doom Patrol in season one. In season five, you finally have gotten permission to use them. How did you develop them for the show?

RH: I think we wanted to keep the classic Silver Age DC comic team. We didn’t necessarily go retro with them, but they [had a different style to them]. Amy and I looked at the old archives to get a sense of who they are, but the Doom Patrol was only a small part of the overall season. They really came to life once we got the voice actors in the studio. That really put the polish on them. We’re really happy with the way they came out. They ended up being a lot of fun.

Some of the Silver Age characters [had a more simplistic approach]. I think we were able to give them some depth and some nuances in terms of how they relate to our characters, especially Beast Boy. I think we took one character at a time, and then figured out how they worked in the team dynamic. Mento was the overbearing, military dad. Elasti-Girl [was] the mother figure who’s trying to keep the peace. We wanted to find who these characters were at their core. Much like the Titans, the Doom Patrol is also a family of their own. They sort of mirrored the Titans in that way.

DS: I was telling Glen he should do a Doom Patrol series now. I’ve said that to him a few times.

“I think we wanted to keep the classic Silver Age DC comic team.” – Rob

BW: It seems like the Doom Patrol took their names to heart. They regard each mission as a potential ‘last’ mission. Was that something you derived from their name?

RH: Yeah. They take an all-or-nothing approach to saving the world. It also comes back to something Amy mentioned about the theme of the season, which was the young versus the old. The Doom Patrol are old school. They have a different way of doing things.

BW: Did you feel inspired by the Fantastic Four or The Incredibles?

RH: Not really. It’s funny, this was written long before The Incredibles came out. When we saw it, we thought, “This is oddly similar.” That wasn’t even on our radar when this was plotted.

DS: Yeah, I think they made some arrangement with DC Comics to use the name Elasti-Girl. Slightly different power, but same name.

BW: Some fans thought Mento was unduly harsh to Beast Boy in part one. He’s not entirely wrong about the “needs of the many versus the lives of the few”. How did you view the Beast Boy/Mento dynamic?

RH: Looking at the two episodes as one big story, we had to put Mento and Beast Boy through that. We had to show Mento at his most severe to get him to a point where he would have a change of heart, and have some redemption. Also, I think it’s important for Beast Boy to have a character like Mento to stand up to. It was really a nice evolution for his character.

DS: I think it shed an interesting light on who Beast Boy is. The class clown of the Titans actually comes from a strict military family, that his ‘dad’ demands a great amount of discipline. I thought that made Beast Boy’s levity all the more interesting.

BW: Right. That his true personality had been stifled or repressed.

RH: Yeah. That was something we had talked about as we were doing those stories. In a lot of ways, season five was a story that gave Beast Boy the opportunity to show his true potential, and the Doom Patrol two-parter kicked that off nicely.

BW: Was there any reason the Chief – their wheelchair-bound leader – didn’t make it into the show?

RH: We talked about it, and it would have been nice. I think Glen [Murakami] even did some designs for The Chief, but I think when it came down to it, it was an added element that complicated things too much.

BW: “Homecoming: Part Two” gave us a glimpse at The Brotherhood of Evil. How does the Brotherhood differ from Slade or Brother Blood?

RH: We collaborated a lot figuring them out – how they worked, what they did, how they related to each other. I think they’re pretty iconic. Once we figured out who they were in a broad sense, Amy and I refined that throughout the season.

DS: I think they became more defined in their individual episodes. I think Amy deserves a lot of credit for the really scary character that Madame Rouge turned into. [laughs] And Glen knew exactly what he wanted for The Brain and Mallah – right down to the voices.

I do remember us discussing The Brain, and figuring out what he wanted. At first, it seemed obvious that the brain in a jar would want a body, but then we thought, no, The Brain was in a jar because he got rid of the body, because it was in his way. I’m not sure how much that affected the way we wrote him.

AW: I think it affected it a lot. We showed him playing chess quite a bit. He was pure strategy. He’s got some muscle with Mallah if he needs it.

BW: For the first time, we see a Titan actually reveal his name when Elasti-Girl calls Beast Boy Garfield. Did you talk about that? Whether or not to reveal it?

DS: I think we never planned to actually get into names like that, but when we thought of that scene, it was just such a funny moment. Rob had done this thing where all the Doom Patrol guys called each other by their real names. That was something that was in the script, so I remember we did talk about whether or not it would be weird if they didn’t call Beast Boy “Garfield,” and then we started thinking about how that could be funny. [laughs]

RH: It was something we added in at the last moment. It just felt right. It was a perfect moment, and it became a very fun way to end that episode.

“We showed him playing chess quite a bit. He was pure strategy.
He’s got some muscle with Mallah if he needs it.” – Amy

BW: I think now you’ve subtly revealed all their names. In “Fractured,” we saw Larry reveal his name as “Dick Grayson” backwards. In “Bethrothed,” Starfire is called Koriand’r. In “Deception,” Cyborg goes undercover as “Stone.” Raven has always been just “Raven,” and Beast Boy was called Garfield in “Homecoming.”

A lot of fans have asked about the villain line-up at the end of the episode. Like, how could the Source have survived? Or, isn’t Malchior gone? Do you guys consider that sort of thing? Or is that something to let the fans guess about?

RH: When we came up that line-up, we thought it would be fun to use every villain we’ve ever used in the series. Not that we’d necessarily use them all individually, but we just wanted as many villains as we could get in there. Maybe that’s a disappointing answer, but that’s the way we did it.

DS: But remember… The Source can regenerate from even the smallest part.

BW: Well, that’s the fun of it. Let the fans think of reasons why they were there, or how they escaped their fate.

DS: Right. Malchior was just trapped in another dimension. Maybe Mother Mae-Eye got him out.

AW: Hey, if Slade could come back after falling into a pit of boiling lava, anything could happen.

BW: One familiar face is seen on a viewscreen of the heroes: a black-haired girl with a ponytail that looks suspiciously like Wonder Girl.

DS: But it’s not.

RH: Y’know, I didn’t even realize that until your website brought it up.

BW: Fans are aware that Wonder Girl has been off-limits to use, for licensing reasons. Was that something the storyboard artists snuck in?

DS: That is an unnamed female heroine. And will remain so.

BW: That’s what I thought. [all laugh]

TTC: “Trust” was a breakout episode for Hotspot. Was he a character you wanted to get back to?

AW: He was a character we wanted to use based on his powers and his personality. He seemed to fit with that story. Here’s a character who is a bit of a hothead – literally – and he’s also a bit of a loner. He can’t let anyone get close to him physically, so that became a great character to use for this story.

Hotspot’s powers are actually the opposite of Madame Rouge’s powers. I remember when I was developing the story, I sat down with Glen and the artists and asked how we could do a fight scene with those two characters. I mean, he could just melt her… and they could never get close to each other. So it became a good story to tell with two characters that couldn’t get close.

BW: “Trust” also was a spotlight for Madame Rouge. Was she an interesting character to develop?

AW: Yeah, she’s just mean. [laughs] We’ve never seen a female character that mean, and most of the male characters aren’t even that mean. She doesn’t give anyone the time of day, really. She really is one of those characters that will do anything by any means necessary to get what she wants.

“We’ve never seen a female character that mean,
and most of the male characters aren’t even that mean.” – Amy

BW: Titans East were given the spotlight in the episode, “For Real.” Did you feel they needed a solo spotlight episode?

AW: That came about in a couple of different ways. For season five, we knew the Titans were going to be away fighting, so we wanted to go back and see what was going on in their city. We also thought we did a couple of episodes with Titans East, but no one seemed to truly appreciate them. So it became a fun way to spotlight them more, without comparing them constantly… although we did compare them to the other Titans [in that episode]! But we did show them in action away from the other team.

BW: In “For Real,” you guys had some fun with message board posters. Whose idea was that?

AW: It was an homage. [laughs] We had fun with it. But it came out of the type of story we were telling. We wanted our audience to appreciate Titans East. In the beginning, maybe being like, “Oh, it’s just Titans East,” but by the end of the episode, you’d think, “Hey, these guys are kinda cool.” So we played with that a bit.

I think it’s harder for Titans East to shine when you have Robin, Raven, Starfire, Cyborg and Beast Boy around, so this gave us an opportunity to show them more, and also showcase each of their powers more than we had done.

DS: It’s tricky when you bring in a second team. You want them to be cool, but you don’t want them to be so cool that the audience goes, “Wait, I want to watch a show about them now!” [laughs] So you have to keep the five Titans the coolest.

AW: The other interesting thing is that we saw Titans East when they first formed. We never got to see them as a cohesive unit, so this gave them an opportunity to work as a team.

“It’s tricky when you bring in a second team.” – David

BW: “For Real” also features one of the most obscure Titans villains, Andre LeBlanc. How did you decide on using him?

AW[answering quickly]: Derrick [Wyatt, character designer]. [laughs] It was just supposed to be a thief, but Derrick said, “Can we use Andre LeBlanc?” and I said, “Sure!” And he turned out to be a lot of fun.

BW: Rob, you wrote “Snowblind,” which focused on the character Red Star. How did you adapt that character for his animated counterpart?

RH: I did read up a little about Red Star, but ultimately, we wanted to create our own take on that character. Other than his name and his costume and a bit of his backstory, he is very much a new take on that character. But he is still from Russia, like in the comics.

I was really interested in creating a sad, Russian fairy tale, in a sense, so I was intrigued by Red Star, who has a tragic story. I’m always fascinated by comic book origins. Many of them are experimented on, or are bombarded with gamma rays, or go through some cosmic storm, and one of two things happens: they either become a great hero, or a terrible villain, and that has to do with who they were as a person before being transformed. So here’s a young soldier, who may not have been exceptional in any way, but he was a good person, so when something tragic happens to him, he remained a good person. He chose a life of exile rather than hurt anyone. He really is a tragic, interesting character, and that made him interesting to explore. With our series, we never wanted to go and show specific origins for Robin and the rest, so with Red Star, we got to see the creation and evolution of a super-hero. As far as the comic book origins go, I think I tried to honor what they did when they created Red Star, but I did have my own take on it, as well.

BW: Was there a specific reason he was given an origin very similar to Captain America?

RH: Not consciously. I’m not even really aware of his origin, so that wasn’t a factor. But this type of story isn’t all that uncommon. It’s a typical storytelling convention.

“I was really interested in creating a sad, Russian fairy tale…” – Rob

BW: The next episode is “Kole,” which was written by Amy. How was Kole chosen as a character to adapt for the animated series?

AW: Both Kole and Gnarrk were two characters from our wish list of characters [we wanted to adapt for the series]. In developing this arc, and going around the world, we wanted to see some characters you wouldn’t normally see in the Titans’ world. Red Star was in exile; Kole and Gnarrk had taken themselves out of the world.

BW: Her powers differ from her comic book character. Was there any particular reason for that?

AW: I think Glen [Murakami] and the artist had a lot to do with that. He wanted to use Kole, but one thing we did develop was her symbiotic relationship with Gnarrk. He could wield her as a club, and they would help each other. I know in the comics it’s a bit different; that Kole could create crystals and fly on them and do different things.

BW: I think Glen Murakami mentioned that he had some affection for Gnarrk. Is that why he was used?

AW: [laughs] The guys went crazy over Gnarrk. They just loved him and the idea of this caveman Titan. We have so many different young super-heroes, and Gnarrk is just a different type of character. But a lot of the guys [who worked on the show] loved Gnarrk. I know he’s not one of the most popular characters and I know [comic book writer] Marv [Wolfman] didn’t like him at all [laughs]. I just spoke with him last week, and he mentioned, “I never liked that character.” But it was especially nice to see this really sweet relationship between these two characters. We don’t really have many super-hero characters that are a team like that, that really love each other and work together.

“The guys went crazy over Gnarrk.
They just loved him and the idea of this caveman Titan.” – Amy

BW: I have to ask this one: was there some debate over how to pronounce Gnarrk?

DS: Amy makes fun of me in that episode.

AW: [laughs]

DS: The word came down to us that it’s pronounced “Guh-nark.” But I spent so long learning how to pronounce gnocci, the potato dumplings. I kept calling him “Nark”. So it was exactly like it was in that episode. People yelling at me, “It’s Guh-nark!!”

BW: David, I’m in your camp. For all these years, I’d always assumed it was pronounced “Nark.”

AW: When I talked to Marv, he pronounced it both ways. I think he always thought of him as “Nark,” and then he heard how we were pronouncing it. It just seemed like it needed another syllable. And Derrick [Wyatt] and a few others insisted it was “Guh-nark.”

BW: Well, now it’s official. You guys have planted a flag in the ground.

”Hide & Seek” was a return to the more light-hearted/comedic tone of the series. Was that the idea behind this episode?

AW: Raven babysits. It was that simple. We had a situation where we had to think of some story ideas fairly quickly. We had lined up a few writers who suddenly became unavailable, so we had to get some stories together. We quickly brainstormed some ideas. I think it might have been David’s idea to have Raven be put in this situation where she had to babysit and be around kids, and it just clicked. Everyone liked that idea. One of our directors, Michael Chang, had a daughter who was just about the age of Teether, so we had a lot of little details that came from Michael watching his little girl.

“They were regular kids, but they were also super-hero kids, and if the Brotherhood of Evil
was taking out the young people, we thought it would also make sense that they would target
not only the teenagers, but the next generation, as well.” – Amy

BW: How were Melvin, Timmy, and Tether created?

AW: I have many nieces and nephews, ranging in age 1 to 17, so a lot of it is based on them. Melvin was originally a boy, but then we changed Melvin to a girl. I still liked the name Melvin so much that we just kept it. A lot of it just came from kids and their behavior.

They were regular kids, but they were also super-hero kids, and if the Brotherhood of Evil was taking out the young people, we thought it would also make sense that they would target not only the teenagers, but the next generation, as well. And it gave us an opportunity to explore what it’s like to be a kid super-hero, and then pair them with Raven, who’s not good with kids.

BW: Some fans debate whether Bobby was real, or generated by her powers. Was that something you wanted to leave open to interpretation?

AW: Yeah. Actually, I think we originally had it more vague, and we got a note back asking us to explain it a bit more, why Raven couldn’t see Bobby. We started out not really explaining it at all, why she can’t see him until the end.

BW: Michael Rosembaum was cast as Kid Flash in “Lightspeed.” That created some symmetry with the Wally West Flash from Justice League. Was that a very conscious casting decision?

RH: Interesting coincidence! [laughs] As we were thinking about the voice of Kid Flash, we thought, if we’re going to use Kid Flash, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could get Michael to do the voice?” As luck would have it, he was available and willing to do it.

BW: Why did you approach the Kid Flash episode from the perspective of the Hive students?

RH: Season five was an opportunity to try things that were different – explore different characters and different groups. I think that came about when we conceived an episode where the Titans weren’t even in it. We were at a point with the series where our world was well-constructed, it could still feel like a Teen Titans show even if the Teen Titans weren’t in it, so we constructed an episode which would be exactly the same as a regular Teen Titans episode, except we’d have the Hive team instead. Their mystery to solve isn’t stopping a bad guy, it’s catching a good guy.

“We knew that DC was going to let us use him once or twice, so if
we were going to use him, we wanted it to be all about him.” – Rob

BW: And whose idea was it to have the Hive take over the opening credits?

RH: We talked about doing a fully unique opening sequence with the Hive characters. It was an early idea that was fun. We had the same idea with the Doom Patrol back in “Homecoming,” but we ran out of time, so we thought it’d be cool to just have them interrupt it.

BW: You treated Kid Flash as a solo hero. Was there a reason you didn’t team him up with the Teen Titans for his first appearance?

RH: We knew that DC was going to let us use him once or twice, so if we were going to use him, we wanted it to be all about him. We wanted to showcase him in an episode that would be all about him, and he’s such a strong, likeable, fun character that stands well on his own. Plus, we hadn’t seen him before that, [so] it seemed to make sense that he’d exist in a vacuum. Show up, do his thing, and go away.

BW: Jinx also got a lot of character development. Is she a favorite of yours?

RH: Well, I like her. I think I jumped on the fan bandwagon in having a peculiar interest in this character. She’s sort of our “Boba Fett” character. She started off in “Final Exam” in a small part, but something about her captured people’s imagination, so we thought, “Hey, let’s roll with it.” I’ve had the opportunity to do something different with her character in “Deception,” and also in “Lightspeed.”

BW: Did you plan on bringing her back in “Titans Together” when you wrote “Lightspeed”?

RH: Oh, absolutely. One of my favorite things is to see bad guys turn good, so that was my opportunity to do something like that. “Lightspeed” was my chance to set that up, to give her a decision to make and reevaluate who she is and what she wants.

BW: Ding Dong Daddy appeared in “Revved Up.” He’s another obscure villain with only one appearance. What about that character appealed to you?

RH: We had always talked about doing a Wacky Races episode. I think long before we even decided to put Ding Dong Daddy in it, we wanted to do that type of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World meets Cannonball Run meets Wacky Races meets Teen Titans. So as we looked at that story, it seemed like the perfect excuse to use Ding Dong Daddy, who is quite an obscure villain in the comics. We thought it was fun to go back to the Silver Age books. We didn’t do that too often, with Mad Mod being the notable exception. We also knew it was going to be a lighter, sillier episode. And we actually got David Johansen – otherwise known as Buster Poindexter (also formerly the singer of the New York Dolls) – to do the voice for him. That was a great surprise.

DS: He was great. He recorded his part in an extraordinarily small amount of time, because he was so great.

“So as we looked at that story, it seemed like the perfect excuse to use
Ding Dong Daddy, who is quite an obscure villain in the comics.” – Rob

BW: Did you guys give any thought to what was actually inside of Robin’s suitcase? Or was that just a plot point to get the story moving?

RH: A little bit. There really is something inside that’s something of great importance to Robin. I think a lot of the viewers have theorized and postulated about what may be inside, and that’s part of the fun. I know that it was even aggravating to some people, but it’s not something we did to stick it to the fans. I just think it’s something best left to remain a secret among friends.

BW: Well, the point was more about Robin trusting his friends.

”Revved Up” also ended up being the last appearance of Red X. Did you give some thought as to how you wanted to handle what might be his last appearance?

RH: I’m pretty satisfied with how we left things with Red X. I mean, it would have been cool if season five had twenty episodes instead of thirteen, because we could have revisited him, but I think we gave him a great moment, and I was happy with it.

BW: The next episode is “Go,” which told the origin of the team. When the series first began, the animated staff steered away from an origin story. So what made them go back and do it now?

DS: After I finished writing the direct-to-video, there was one episode slot left in season five. Rob [Hoegee] and Amy [Wolfram] were kind enough to let me come in and write that episode. We originally thought the finale for season five was going to be in three parts, but it ended up being two, so we had this set-up episode, and then decided we didn’t need it. It was eventually Rob who sold us on the fact, “We should do this now.” We never wanted to do it just to do it, but as Rob mentioned, this really felt right within the arc. We expanded the group of Titans and the connections between them. This new generation of heroes is being threatened, so it seemed like the perfect time to look back on how it all started.

RH: Another thing was this: All season long we slowly were pulling our characters apart, so it made total sense to have an episode where it shows them all coming together for the first time.

BW: So is there pressure in delivering such a highly anticipated episode?

David Um… Ye-ah! [laughs] Always. You never want to write anything bad, but there’s always pressure. For this one, I guess tremendous pressure. It actually became a little complicated to write, but I couldn’t have picked a more fitting story for my final script on the series, because it was really fun to do, and truly challenging to write. Usually in a standard episode, you would have an ‘A’ plot with the villain, a ‘B’ plot that’s emotional, and a ‘C’ plot ‘runner,’ but for this one to work properly, I had to have five plots, one for each of the Titans. So however simplified, there had to be a little arc for each character, because that’s how the story had to work. So it was a lot to fit into a half hour, but I was really pleased with the way that one came out. I think there’s some cool stuff in there, and I hope people enjoyed it.

RH: I think it really turned out great.

“This new generation of heroes is being threatened, so it seemed like
the perfect time to look back on how it all started. ” – David

BW: Did you look back at the comic book story where they all came together? How much of that was useful in writing this episode?

DS: Well, we went back and looked at that a lot when I was working on “Go.” We looked at how Starfire came to Earth, and how she learned the language, and we took some liberties with that. We looked at how Marv Wolfman and George Pérez introduced Raven, Starfire and Cyborg in their original run of the 1980s Titans, but at a certain point, it became a fusion of taking that source’s material and reflecting it in our own universe. At that point, we were five seasons into the show, and all the things we had established informed the process, as well. So, for example, if it’s ‘our’ Cyborg, what’s he like when we first meet him? So it became a process of fusion, in that regard.

BW: Was there some thought as to where each of the Titans were in their lives at that point?

DS: Oh, sure. That was the whole fun of it. Beast Boy we set up earlier in season five. Robin has a well-planned out timeline already, so that was all there. Starfire, we were centering the story around. I remember Glen and I having to work Cyborg into the story. Raven and Cyborg both were a little bit tricky, where we would find them. Raven had a diminished role in regards to the formation of the team, compared to what Marv and George had done. At least in the scenes we see, which is to say, Raven may have been making things happen, much like she did in the original comic.

But Cyborg, in particular… I was pushing for the scene [from the comic] where he pushes the insanely high pole vault [and realizes he can no longer compete with regular humans]. We ultimately realized we wouldn’t have time for that. We ended up compromising and putting him in that hooded track suit, and that would be enough. That would show the transition of him initially covering up who he is, and then later shedding it.

BW: That episode allowed each of the characters to have a small character arc.

DS: Right. And that was tricky to fit that all in there. I read the message boards, and it always makes me happy to hear fans say things like, “Gosh, I wish this episode was an hour instead of thirty minutes.” It’s always good to leave people wanting a little more. I’d usually rather cram more in thirty minutes than make a not-quite-interesting hour, but in this case, I would have probably welcomed more time, because there was so much to do. Plus, it was the last thing I wrote on the series, and I was having a lot of fun with it.

BW: The Robin-Starfire kiss was lifted directly from the comics. Was that something you felt must be in there?

DS: Yeah. That seemed like you can’t do that story without doing it. It got a little tricky touching on the same ground we knew we were doing in the Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo movie, but I felt it was important to include the Tamaranean language kiss.

RH: Amy, you had originally written that in “Betrothed,” but it got cut. There was a sequence where you had the language-absorbing through a kiss. Wasn’t that even animated?

AW: Yeah, that ended up getting trimmed down. That was in the feast scene in “Betrothed.” The two girls kiss Beast Boy and Cyborg and learn the language that way, and we just ended up not using that little bit.

DS: You gotta wonder about the Tamaraneans. I mean, they all knew English so…

BW: It’s probably Blackfire. She gets around. [all laugh]

Marv Wolfman and George Pérez also make a little animated cameo appearance in “Go.” How did that come about?

DS: [Director] Michael Chang and his crew put that in. I was glad they included Marv and George.

BW: I also didn’t realize at first, that Marv and George appeared with Nick Cardy as monks in “Hide and Seek.”

DS: That’s the thing. Once somebody gets designed as a character for the series, you may show up later. It starts out as an homage, but then a few episodes later, you need to populate a crowd scene… [laughs] Our director Ciro Nieli ended being in a lot of episodes. So did Derrick Wyatt and Irineo Maramba.

AW: And a lot of them ended up roaming the hallways in “Things Change.”

RH: And yet, Amy and I never got drawn into the show.

AW: I asked to be in “For Real” as one of the cyber-chatters, but it didn’t end up happening.

“Yeah. That seemed like you can’t do that story without doing [the kiss]” – David

BW: So, David, were you happy that you waited until the fifth season to do the origin story?

DS: Yeah. I think it’s to Rob’s credit on making the sale for that one. Originally, our big battle finale was going to be a three-parter, and it just didn’t quite work in three parts, so it was really fun to do an origin episode. I think it also made sense to do it at that point; it shed light onto what was going on in the arc of season five. It went back and showed us a lot of things we were curious about.

Early on, we didn’t want Teen Titans to be a show that needed to be explained to people; we just wanted them to be able to watch and understand, so doing an origin episode in the first season would have been very explainy. But here, it felt like it was the right time to do it. It felt like the team was growing and expanding beyond the original five, so it was nice to go back to the original five and remind ourselves and the audience what started it all.

RH: Not to get too profound, but it’s also easier to look back when you’re at the end of the road.

DS: Very much. It was a very cathartic episode for me, personally, to write as well. I really loved working on the show and miss working on the show, so it was a really nice way to say goodbye.

BW: In “Calling All Titans” and “Titans Together,” there’s a lot of characters converging and battling. Is it challenging to write episodes like that and balance all the characters?

Amy [answering quickly]: Yes! [All laugh]

RH: When we were doing the season finale episodes, you should have seen us. We got the big conference room here at the studio, which has a table that’s like twenty-five feet long, and the table was full of note cards.

AW: Each note card had a character on it. We literally had note cards with every character that’s ever been on the show, and what they could do, and we figured out who we could mix and match together. I had a hard time structuring it, because it was just this huge fight.

RH: Right, we had the artists draw a little picture of the character on the note card, so we literally mapped out where each character was at what point, and what they were doing. It was really quite daunting.

AW: For part one, “Calling All Titans,” that was definitely a challenge to have fifty-four characters fighting each other, and to have it build in a way that’s satisfying, so we used a trick from that old shampoo commercial, “So she told two friends, and he told two friends, and so on…” So it’s constantly building exponentially, which I think was really cool. It also became a neat way for us to introduce a bunch of new characters, and some of them we’ve never really seen before, but if you know the Titans, you’d know who they are.

RH: More than any other season, we were really building to something big in season five. I think we really needed an ending that was worthy of that.

“For part one, “Calling All Titans,” that was definitely a challenge to have fifty-four characters
fighting each other, and to have it build in a way that’s satisfying…” – Amy

BW: Cool. I know some of the artists on the show are fans of the comics, so they probably also have some favorite things they’d like to see with the characters.

AW: [Director] Ben Jones and Glen helped out with that, and we brought in a few of the other guys, too. The mixing and matching from my scenes came a lot from the board artists. They’d say, “Wouldn’t it be cool if…?” So I would say, “Yeah. Let’s go for it.” I think Ben even added in some extra bits. I had something like sixty characters, and he added in more, because he was just enjoying it, and he wanted to see all these characters interact.

RH: It was a highly organized team effort in a lot of ways.

BW: Was there anything you had to cut for time that you were bummed about cutting?

AW: In mine, there really wasn’t too much.

RH: In mine, there was a lot. Someday, maybe I can slip you the script and you can see it all. It was mostly in the final battle royal.

DS: When you have that many characters, it almost becomes an exercise in set theory. “That person goes with this one, that one with that one…”

BW: These episodes also introduced some new Titans, like Argent, Herald, Pantha, Bushido and Jericho. What went into developing them for the series?

AW: Well, we definitely wanted to create a world where we had more and more Titans. We wanted to have as many as possible, but by the time we got to “Calling All Titans,” we had to introduce them quicker. We wanted each character to be unique and individual, ones that fans would like and want to see.

BW: Did you have any favorites in the new Titans?

RH: I really liked Pantha a lot. I had a lot of fun with her in my episode. It was funny, because Freddie (Rodriguez) did the voice of Pantha in the recording session – and he was awesome – but then later they looped someone else in. I’m not quite sure why they replaced him, because he had this great Ricardo Montalban meets Antonio Banderas thing going on, which is what I pictured her sounding like.

AW: I think Glen said when it was treated, it didn’t sound quite right. I liked Argent a lot. I thought she was pretty cool. And had we done a sixth season, we would have definitely expanded on all these characters. Argent would have had her own Titans Tower in London. We had great hopes for all these characters.

“Well, we definitely wanted to create a world where we had more and more Titans.” – Amy

BW: Aw, that’s a shame. We did get to see some of those characters get some spotlight time in “Titans Together,” with Beast Boy’s team of Jericho, Pantha, Herald and Mas. Was there a reason you chose to focus on them?

RH: Well, not necessarily. Some of it was just practical: who was already captured? And who’s left? We created a team that, by looking at them from the outside, looks like they would fail. So then Beast Boy could take a “useless” super-hero team and have them just about save the day.

BW: Jericho also makes an appearance in season five. Jericho seems to be problematic to adapt for the purposes of the show: he’s mute, uses sign language, his power is to possess people… and he’s Slade’s son. Many of those elements appear challenging to translate well. Was Jericho a challenge?

RH: We used Jericho as much as we could in the context of this large episode, but we found a way for him to play a key role, and he turned out really cool, because when you look at him initially… [laughs] he’s not all that impressive. So it was a bit of a challenge to take a flower-child looking character and make him a major force.

There was a great deal of discussion about Jericho and how we might be able to use him, and whether he was worthy of an episode. Everyone agrees he’s an interesting character, but it would be difficult to focus a whole episode on him. Since Jericho uses sign language, there were concerns that wouldn’t animate well. We wanted to do justice to the character, but it just didn’t work out to center a whole episode around him. But we do see Jericho, and he does play a big part in wrapping the season up.

BW: I think I was surprised that Jericho didn’t get modernized…

RH: Well, I think that was intentional. We figured, if we’re going to use Jericho, he’s gotta have the hair, he’s gotta have the hippie clothes, and the guitar, and all that.

“We used Jericho as much as we could in the context of this large episode,
but we found a way for him to play a key role, and he turned out really cool…” – Rob

BW: Then we have the last episode of the series, “Things Change.” How did you develop that as the last episode for season five?

AW: That was something that Glen [Murakami] really wanted.

DS: Yeah, Glen was talking about that episode back in season three. And ultimately, I think we couldn’t have found a better spot for it in the run of the series.

AW: It just seemed to fit, to do something a little different. A lot of people seem to think we should have ended with the two-parter, but the whole season was about traveling away from home, so for the last episode, we wanted to bring them home. It’s a nice way to remind us of who our characters are. I don’t know that’s it’s necessarily an end, a beginning or a middle, but it shows the characters, after having traveled a whole season, finally returning home. So it’s a nice way to go.

RH: You know, in a lot of ways, “Calling All Titans” and “Titans Together” was really the end of the season, wrapping up the arc for season five, and “Things Change” really was the finale for the series as a whole. Looking at it that way, I think it makes a lot of sense.

DS: Yes, it’s a nice little coda. Or, I should say, a nice big coda. It was an episode we were talking about for a long time, so when I heard that there weren’t going to be any more episodes, I was really glad we got a chance to do it as the last one.

RH: Actually, we were also told at the beginning of season five that the fifth season would be it, but it wasn’t until we were finishing up the season that they started to think about ordering some more. Originally season five was going to be twenty episodes, and after Amy and I arced out a pretty ambitious twenty-episode season, they cut it back to thirteen. So we had to go back and do some changes.

BW: You guys mentioned how this was a story you thought about doing for a while now. Did you talk about this story, in terms of going back and dealing with Terra?

DS: When we started talking about season three, Glen had that idea, that there would be this episode where Terra sort of comes back, and we aren’t quite sure it’s her. We all considered it, but we thought it would be too soon. It didn’t feel like the right time then, but Glen still would bring it up the next season, so it was really something he was interested in, and I can see why. I think it turned out really cool.

AW: I think we also wanted to revisit Terra as a character.

“I think we also wanted to revisit Terra as a character.” – Amy

BW: Were there some specific influences for “Things Change”? The episode had a different tone compared to the other episodes; it was very melancholy and somber. Was that intentional?

AW: That’s me. [laughs] I don’t know if it was influenced by anything, it just seemed to fit the story we were telling. It’s about growing up and things do change. Things are never going to be exactly the way you want them to be. It’s really Beast Boy’s story, about him accepting change.

BW: There was also a recurring theme of reflections in this episode, something that was a theme in season two. There’s also a lot of visual cues referring to time. Was that all in the script?

AW: There were hints in the script about some of those visuals things. I wanted Beast Boy to go back to the places he had been with Terra. We went back to the themes we had with Terra. The reflections were all about the fact that Terra never truly saw herself, so the mirrors were a big part of season two, but we also had some stylistic things – like the ice cubes clinking and the street lights changing – things that are classic anime style. Those things came from the director and storyboard artists, along with Glen’s influence.

BW: You purposely kept some things vague in the episode. There are some things that aren’t resolved. Did you want the viewers to draw some of their own conclusions?

AW: The character’s name is not Terra. Nowhere in that script is the name “Terra” written. The character is named “schoolgirl.” I have my own opinion about what’s going on, but I didn’t want to spell out if she came back, and why she came back, and how she came back, or why she didn’t want to be a super-hero.

BW: Knowing the fans were waiting for Terra’s return, and knowing you were going to handle it in a way that would be different from what they would expect… Did you consider that? Or was this very singular in that this was exactly how you knew you wanted to handle this story?

AW: It was the way I think the story was telling itself. I was a little surprised that so many of the fans didn’t agree. [laughs] I think people sort of came around to it. I spoke to Glen about it, and he sees it as, “Well, we kind of ‘broke up’ with the fans.” The show was ending, and it’s a sad thing. It’s sad for us, too, so knowing it’s the last episode ever, it’s hard to think anything would be able to please everyone, but we wanted to tell the story in a different way. I think, in life, people make different choices. It was cute; some fans said, “Well, why can’t Beast Boy still date her while she’s in school?” [laughs]

BW: Right. That defeats the exact point you were trying to make, about moving on.

DS: I remember we all got together to watch a screening of the last episode, and I thought about it. We always conceived the show as a metaphor for things that would happen to kids on a playground. We used that tool a lot, using things that would be relatable to kids growing up. I think the cool thing about “Things Change” is that [in it, that] metaphor [is] broken down, and it became, to a certain extent, kids actually in a playground. That was a great way to end it.

AW: I think people that are expecting us to answer how Terra came back, or what’s in Robin’s briefcase, or who Red X is, and all that… we were never going to sum it all up and put a nice bow on it. I think it’s fun for fans to fill in some of those blanks themselves, like who triggered Slade’s mask in “Haunted.” I think that’s a good thing.

DS: It’s funny; as you say that Amy, I can hear Glen’s voice in my head. I feel like Glen would say to the audience, “Well, that’s your job. Don’t ask me to do your job.” [laughs] “I put all the things in the episode that need to be there, and then there’s things left for the audience to figure out. That’s for them to figure out…” and it’s fun to wonder about those things. I certainly had fun myself wondering about plot points from Star Trek and things like that. I know some of that stuff is frustrating, but that’s the point.

AW: And we did try to bring up in the episode that there are many possibilities. How she came back, and the theories. So it is there, we just didn’t necessarily have the characters solve it.

“It was the way I think the story was telling itself. I was a little surprised
that so many of the fans didn’t agree. [laughs]” – Amy 

BW: “Titans Together” ends with that amazing shot where the legion of Titans are confronting Dr. Light. Were there plans to have all those characters stick around and be expanded upon if there was a sixth season?

AW: Yeah, definitely. They wouldn’t have all stayed at Titans Tower. We had this idea that there would be Titans Towers all over the world in each sector of the world. So we would keep our core five, but also expand and get to know these new characters, and have them mix and match-up. We felt that season five was like their graduation. They have sort of moved on and started to make new friends. When that happens in life, you may have a new best friend, or a new friend at work, and things like that, so it definitely would have opened up their world even more so than in the first five seasons.

BW: Well, that sounds like something the fans would have liked. I think you and Glen Murakami also did a short proposal of season six called “New Teen Titans”?

AW: Yep, it would be called New Teen Titans. I worked on it over the summer. It was really cool! [laughs] And it builds on what we established in season five. It was really going farther and farther with some things we were developing. Plus, now after this season, we had so many characters to explore and to work with. So that would have been a lot of fun. Glen and I did a mini-bible for it, and we had about twenty-four main characters in it. We had our Titans, plus Titans East, and the new ones we had brought in for the two-parter.

BW: So how did the word come down that they wouldn’t be wanting any more new episodes?

AW: Well, we were working on the proposal just when season five ended. That was through the summer. And then we were just waiting to hear. Then in mid-Fall, we heard that Cartoon Network decided not to renew their option to do any more, so that was it.

BW: Have you guys been paying attention to the fans’ reactions about the show ending? Some people have started writing letters. Has that made an impact?

RH: It’s made an impact to us, meaning the people at Warner Brothers Animation. For all the people who were making the show, I think it validates the show for us. To have such a committed fan base is really heartening, but I don’t think it will change anyone’s minds in Atlanta, unfortunately.

BW: What about direct-to-video features? Any future for the series there?

AW: Well, we have Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo. Other than that, who knows? There are always things being discussed.

RH: I think right now, it’s safe to say that the best chance for the Titans is Warner Bros. Home Video. So if people buy those DVDs…

DS: Instead of pirating them… [all laugh]

RH: [laughs] So go out to the store and buy Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo. If you buy them, they will probably make more. It’s that simple. The animation studio is a big part of Warner Bros. Home Video. They put out a new Scooby Doo movie almost every year, and they’ll keep doing that as long as people are buying them. So if a Titans movie DVD sells the same, they could very well make more. That’s just a practical business standpoint. Of course, anything could happen. And of course, this is all just my opinion, and does not reflect the opinions of Warner Bros. Home Video or Cartoon Network. [all laugh]

BW: I’ll be sure to add an asterix and big disclaimer.

RH: Well, that’s my solution. If you want to see more Titans, buy the video.

DS: Right. And the same goes for the DVD season sets. They pay attention to sales.

BW: So now that the series has officially come to a close, how would you sum up your experience working on the show?

DS: I remember right after the record for “Final Exam,” I was having lunch with [producer] Sam [Register] and Glen, and they were having an argument about what Cinderblock should look like, and I had this grin on my face I couldn’t get off. They were upset about how weird he should be, or should he be made of stone, and I just remember feeling creatively fulfilled. [laughs]

I remember after “How Long is Forever,” I was saying to some of these guys, “Brace yourselves, this may be the best job you’ll ever have.” I mean, you could have a job that’s more prestigious or pays more or you have more control, but everyone got along most of the time, and even if we didn’t, it was funny that we didn’t agree. We had an amazing, dedicated crew of really talented people. We had a terrific writing staff and really gifted people, and in Rob and Amy’s case, were able to take over when I had to leave. We had a fantastic voice director in Andrea Romano, who, for crying out loud, has so many Emmys, she could use them to dig her gardens. An incredible voice cast of terrific human beings: Scott Menville, Greg Cipes, Hynden Walch, Tara Strong, Khary Payton and Ron Perlman. Great guest voice actors. The music was amazing. Cartoon Network gave us great support. At every level, it was like magic. I don’t know if that will ever happen again.

AW: I agree. We had a wonderful cast and crew. Everyone contributed. But I’ll also add this: the fans gave it back. We had this wonderful experience, but then it was even better when we met the fans at Comic-Con and we saw the message boards, and we saw how so many people loved the show. And it’s meaningful to them, which means so much to us. Sometimes they get mad at the characters, and get upset when someone’s heart is broken, and feel bad when a character faces prejudice. It was just great to see people respond to our work in such a wonderful way.

RH: I think I’ve never worked on anything quite like this. When I write a script, these characters were very real to me. I think we created a world and a universe that just became very real to a lot of people, including the people that make it. Everyone working on it – from our staff, to the licensees, to the overseas studios – everyone just loved this show. It wasn’t just a job, and I think it shows. I think everyone wanted to contribute something, and when you have a group of people working together on a creative project like this with that kind of dedication – well, that’s just a singularly unique situation.

Visit the Teen Titans Animated Series Guide for more information. Titans Go!

End of transmission. About this author:  Bill Walko is an author and artist and the man behind He's been reading and drawing comics since he was 5 years old and hasn't stopped since. Read more from this author