Dr. Horrible Goes Live, and More on Joss Whedon’s Evil Plans

Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog goes live today (go here to buy it on iTunes) with the first of three all-singing, some-dancing installments, the way it was meant to be seen: on your computer monitors. But how was it on the big screen? I had a chance to see it (and review it) at last Thursday’s cast-and-crew screening, where it played beautifully — Nathan Fillion’s manly attributes and big musical numbers getting almost equal amounts of applause.

From left, writer Maurissa Tancharoen, Joss Whedon, Jed Whedon, Felicia Day and Nathan Fillion; and Neil Patrick Harris, back, in a hat. Photo by David Sarno, used with permission.

And afterwards, Whedon, stars Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day, and co-writers Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen hung around to answer a few questions, mostly revolving around the difficulties of production when not working with a studio. With an estimated budget in the low six figures that came directly out of Whedon’s pocket (“I sold a lot of Girl Scout cookies,” said the man with two different TV series in syndication), the project’s pedigree makes claims to guerrilla filmmaking a bit hard to swallow. But everyone involved clearly relished the chance to participate in a project made under conditions Whedon defined as “street legal” — even if, in Whedon’s words, the hectic seven days of shooting “broke a few people.”

While DVD planning is still in the works — no official distributor has been lined up — one of Whedon’s evil plans include two commentary tracks: a traditional discussion track, and something Jed Whedon referred to as Commentary! (exclamation point ours), a full-length musical analysis that will be performed by the cast and crew. How many DVDs will need to be sold in order for Dr. Horrible to break even? Whedon wasn’t able to say for sure, but did reveal that there is a profit participation plan in place for all the actors, should the series make it big. “One of the mandates of the thing was ‘make a better deal than the WGA did, or SAG probably will.’ You know, show that you can make a profit without taking the whole thing.”

“This is something that definitely came out of the strike,” Whedon stressed. “Everyone on the strike lines was saying ‘Let’s do something for the Internet’ — and ‘My feet hurt’ — but the musical part was purely us.” He was quick to separate Dr. Horrible from his other, less-Internet-y projects, confirming that while web-only content may be created for the upcoming Dollhouse, it’ll be the doing of the Fox promotional team, not him. “This is its own thing.”

At this time, it’s unclear where the future of the series lies following its removal from the Internet on July 20th (there will be a screening at the San Diego Comic-Con Friday, July 25th). By holding out on these plans until after the series’ initial release online (which will undoubtedly rack up huge numbers), they stand an excellent chance of negotiating an excellent deal — not a strategy that would work for every project, but in this case definitely a smart move.

Meanwhile, fans who aren’t able to tune in for the final installment — which will only be available online Saturday and Sunday — will be SOL until the DVD’s release. It’s a risky move, trying to make people sit down and watch online video on the weekend. But for the devoted Joss Whedon fans, it’s hardly a stretch.