Yes, Shazam takes the place of Aquaman as a founding member in Justice League: War, the first animated movie based on a New 52 comic book story from DC Comics. But aside from Aquaman being the central character in a future movie, there are reasons the team at Warner Bros. Animation pulled in Billy Batson, Shazam.
"He's such a fun character, inherently, because he's every kid's dream. You're a kid, you say a magic word, and you turn into 'Superman,' basically!" Phil Bourassa, character designer on the project told Newsarama. "He represents the joy of being a superhero. He hearkens back to a classic era, and he's not grim and dark. I just latch onto that. He's fun to draw because you can feel his fun going through you as you work on the character."
In this Newsarama-exclusive video clip from the film, we see the first time that Billy Batson says that magic word, becoming the hero Shazam, who is powered by ancient gods with super strength, speed, flight, and, new to the New 52, magic lightning he can summon without the word itself. The clip shows that sense of fun that Billy Batson has, and why he's important to this line-up.
"He is a good connection to Cyborg, who gets powers suddenly thrust on him [in the film]" explains director Jay Oliva. "We used him pretty smartly as a way to relate to Cyborg, and being the one that can say, 'Hey, I'm a kid, but also a hero, and I've been doing this for a little while.' Shazam helps Cyborg through it."
Producer James Tucker echoed that Shazam's "unique viewpoint" was important to the story. "He's a kid that becomes a man, and he doesn't take his powers for granted. He thinks it's really cool to be a superhero. He's comic relief, but he's also badass! Badass comic relief, that's a two-fer!"
Shazam is voiced by actor Sean Astin, who the production team praised for his "youthful exuberance" in his performance. Justice League: War is available now on most digital platforms, and hits DVD/Blu-ray combo pack on February 4, 2014.