Totally different from everything else on television at the time, Batman: The Animated Series wasn’t just a cartoon, it was an animated drama. A team of writers and directors including co-creator Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski finally produced a Batman narrative that accurately represented the grand sense of scale from the comics.
The series brought back all of the Caped Crusader’s dreaded adversaries and innovative gadgets, including some new ones, in a series of riveting adventures. The writing was surprisingly mature and groundbreaking, as was the innovative artwork which was uniquely created by starting on black paper as opposed to white. A term was even coined by the producers of the show, “Dark Deco,” for the combination of the influential Art Deco design, and dark noir undertones.
While it certainly holds a special place in most fans’ hearts, there’s still plenty about The Animated Series that you might not know. For fans of this revolutionary program, and comic book fans in general, here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Batman: The Animated Series.
15. Tim Burton Influenced
Most younger movie-goers who grow up today will probably tell you that Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is the definitive Batman experience. Some have taken it even one step further, quickly anointing Batfleck as the best rendition of the Caped Crusader, despite the fact that we haven’t even seen a full length solo film from him yet.
For the older Batfan, however, Tim Burton’s Batman was likely their favorite take on the vigilante. After the camp that dominated the Adam West series, Burton’s two movies were acclaimed by fans for being the darkest and most accurate interpretation up to that point.
The bleak, gothic tones that dominated Burton’s two movies were so popular that they even went on to influence The Animated Series. The dark noir feel from the movies was carried over to the show for their “otherworldly timelessness,” as described by Timm and Eric Radomski. Even the score of the show was a variation of the movies’ theme by Danny Elfman. A major part of the reason that the show made it onto the air was because of the popularity of Burton’s Batman, so next time you find yourself thinking that those movies have become dated, take a moment to reconsider their influence over everything that came after.
14. U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy Voice Over Work
You’d be surprised just how many people are fans of Batman. The reach of the Dark Knight appeals to everyone from basketball players, businessmen, filmmakers, and even U.S. Senators. More specifically, United States Senator of Vermont, Patrick Leahy. Senator Leahy is a big fan of comic books, especially Batman, so much so that he’s written the forward in The Dark Knight Archives, Volume 1, and has had a string of cameos in various forms of Batman entertainment.
The Senator has appeared in five live-action Batman films, including Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, and the recently released Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. This politically-minded Batfan has also lent his voice to The Animated Series, playing a territorial governor in the episode “Showdown,” in which Ra’s al Ghul’s plans to destroy the transcontinental railroad are thwarted by Jonah Hex. This ultimate fan of the Dark Knight has certainly showed his love of the Caped Crusader, and we can’t wait to see if he gets another quick spot in Ben Affleck’s upcoming Batman movie.
13. Revival of Mr. Freeze
Mr. Freeze has had a rocky history as one of the preeminent villains in the Batman universe. His original introduction in the comics was rather campy, dressed in a yellow jumpsuit with a purple backpack, turning evil after several botched attempts to make an ice ray.
The show, however, attempted to flesh out the character like never before, rebooting him with a more tragic past to make him more relatable. He was given anentirely new backstory — that of a scientist who was trying to cure his dying wife — making his transition to villainy a bit more tragic. This resulted in an antagonist with a fantastically compelling narrative, not just a guy blasting at things with ice, and it even inspired DC Comics to resurrect the character after being killed off in the comics.
Unfortunately, all this fantastic character development was thrown out the window in Joel Schumacher’s 1997 Batman & Robin, in which Mr. Freeze was a bumbling villain played by Arnold Schwarzenegger who spouted off ice puns faster than his ice canon. Let’s pretend that version doesn’t exist, so we can remember the fantastic character as he was from The Animated Series, and his spin-off animated movie, Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero.
12. Bruce Timm Duping the Censors
If you listen to any of the various commentaries on The Animated Series, you would probably know that Bruce Timm and the writers had one uphill battle after another to overcome various network censoring. At the end of the day, as much as it is mature and exquisite to look at, FOX marketed The Animated Series as a show aimed at children, so there were always issues when considering, “Is this appropriate for kids?”
What really helped Timm and the other writers was the fact that Tim Burton’s dark, gothic movie was the top grossing film of 1989, so it helped them get away with more than your average kid’s show. The envelope was constantly being pushed, and the show touched upon a lot of mature subject matter. There were implications of parental abuse, explicit drug references, gritty depictions of violence, and more sexual innuendos than an Austin Powers movie. Timm and his crew knew just what to cut out to get it on the air, so even while a lot of references aren’t explicitly stated, they are heavily implied, like one episode at a bakery where Harley Quinn asks Mr. J is he wanted to “try her pie.”
11. Paul Dini’s Personal Life Connection
Writer Paul Dini has spent the better portion of his life writing content for comic book television series, including Batman: The Animated Series and most of its subsequent spinoffs. But in 1993, he formed a personal connection to Gotham’s Dark Knight when he suffered from a tragic assault on his life. Just as Bruce Wayne was a victim of a violent mugging, so was Dini.
On this night in 1993, Dini was walking down La Peer Drive in Los Angeles when two men approached and attempted to mug him. The ambush quickly turned violent, and it resulted in a partially shattered skull, for which the writer needed surgery afterwards. While his life was changed forever, Dini recently revisited the traumatic event by producing an incredibly personal graphic novel titled Dark Night: A True Batman Story. The writer has said that after the attack, he almost gave up on writing Batman, but then “came to the realization that you have to be your own hero.” Powerful words from a man who’s just as strong as the hero he writes about.
10. Title Changed for Younger Audience
As The Animated Series progressed, the FOX networked insisted that the show should be marketed more towards children. After the first season of the cartoon, it was treated to a title change (to The Adventures of Batman and Robin) and began featuring much more of the Caped Crusader’s famed sidekick. FOX figured that the best way to gear the cartoon to children was to put the Boy Wonder front and center, so much so that it was even mandated that Robin would appear in every episode of the show.
The series eventually spawned more spinoffs than All in the Family, one of the more popular being The New Batman Adventures, which was really a continuation of the series that aired on the WB Television Network. At the time, WB wanted to push the marketing to kids even further, and pushed for a younger Robin, moving Dick Grayson out of the picture and allowing the younger Tim Drake to step in.
9. Extensive DC Careers
Actor John Glover is no stranger when it comes to DC Entertainment. Along with providing the voice of The Riddler for The Animated Series, he also played Dr. Jason Woodrue in the live-action Batman & Robin movie. You remember, the guy who gets killed by Poison Ivy after he inexplicably gives her superpowers by pushing her into a vat of chemicals. You might also remember Glover from Smallville as Lex Luthor’s father, Lionel Luthor, who initially started off as an antagonist of Clark Kent and eventually evolved into an ally.
An even bigger name in the acting world, Ron Perlman has also landed a string of voice acting roles in the DC Universe. He played various villains like Killer Croc and Bane in The Animated Series, and then went on to play Doctor Double X in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, as well as regular nemesis Deathstroke in Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans. He went on to voice Batman himself in the Justice League Heroes video game. Needless to say, DC definitely likes to keep their talent around.
8. Kevin Conroy’s Bruce/Batman Distinction
Voice director Andrea Romano actually wanted an “intently sexy” voice for Batman, highlighting his dangerousness in an effort to appeal to women. Apparently this sexiness was something Kevin Conroy exuded, and he landed the role of the Caped Crusader after nailing his audition. There was no shortage of competition for the role either — over 150 actors auditioned to voice the Dark Knight. That’s a lot of would-be Batmans.
Although fans may be used to their Bat actors providing different voices for Bruce Wayne and his vigilante alter-ego, Conroy was actually the first actor to do this. Two distinct voices between Wayne and Batman was apparently an original idea that the actor had come up with. Conroy believed that the variations had to be distinct, with Batman coming off more gravely, mysterious, and of course, darker.
While the character of Batman has gone on to be voiced by other actors like Jason O’Mara and Will Arnett, Conroy is still the definitive Dark Knight voice for most fans. He even returned to the role in the recent theatrical adaptation of The Killing Joke alongside his longtime Animated Series’ co-star, Mark Hamill.
7. Outsourcing Episodes
From The Walt Disney Company to IMAX, outsourcing animation in the entertainment industry has become a widespread tactic. An increasing amount of animation by popular shows have been produced by different Asian countries (mainly India, for the various cost advantages) and Batman: The Animated Series was no different. The first 65 episodes of the series were outsourced to various overseas animation productions, including Dong Yang Animation, Sunrise, AKOM, Blue Pencil, Spectrum Animation, TMS Entertainment and Studio Junio.
Among the most notable animation houses responsible for the series was TMS Entertainment, which produced the show’s opening theme sequence for the first season. The bulk of the first two seasons was completed by Dong Yang Animation after AKOM was fired. Known for its animated work on The Simpsons, AKOM was let go from the production team because of the inconsistent animation in a Batman: The Animated Series episode “Moon of the Wolf,” in which Batman’s emblem turns from yellow to white, Dr. Milo’s coat changes from white to brown, and the display at Gotham Zoo even misspells “Leopards” as “Lepords.”
6. Group Recording Sessions
If you’ve ever seen behind-the-scenes footage of actors dubbing their voices for cartoons, you would know that the standard practice in the industry is to have each actor record their lines separately. This is usually due to complications that arise from scheduling conflicts.
However, Batman: The Animated Series said “forget that,” and usually had all of the voice actors record their parts at the same time in one room. This was done to provide spot on connotation between the dialog of the characters. It paid off, as the voice acting from the series is frequently cited as consistently emotional and powerful.
During the sessions, all of the actors (including star Kevin Conroy) would be seated, except for Mark Hamill who was playing the Joker. Hamill stood during the recording sessions in order to better capture the manic and frenetic energy of the Clown Prince of Crime. And that’s just one of the reasons he ranks as one of our favorite interpretations of the Joker.
5. Emmy Wins
With seven two-part episodes, the narratives in Batman: The Animated Series weren’t just simple one-offs with zero continuity. The writing in the show was incredibly complex, mature, and oftentimes, dark as hell. The animation that was being produced was likewise one of a kind, capturing the dark shadows of Gotham City like never before. Unlike any other cartoon airing at that time, the amount of work and devotion that went into the production forced it into the mainstream, and that hard work was eventually recognized by the industry.
The Animated Series went on to win the 1993 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program for the episode “Robin’s Reckoning,” part one. It was a huge achievement for the series to win the award, which had mostly gone out to The Simpsons and various Peanut specials in years prior. In addition, the series has also won a string of Daytime Emmy awards, including one for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program, one for Outstanding Music Direction and Composition, and another for Outstanding Sound Editing.
4. The “Pilot” became the Intro
In order to pitch the series to networks, creators Timm and Radomski created a short animation pilot and actually voiced it themselves, with Timm providing not so subtle Batman grunts, and Radomski doing everything else. The two-minute short showed Batman swinging across buildings before ambushing a gang of thugs attempting to perform a jewelry heist on a rooftop. Afterwards, he leaves behind the group of robbers for the police while he disappears back into the night. While it wasn’t long, it did showcase the stunning animation and the unique style that the showrunners had worked so desperately to achieve.
Besides the voices being amateurish, the stunning animation work was enough to capture the attention of the guys at Warner Bros. and FOX. A full season was ordered, and when it came time to create an opening title sequence, the creators basically re-produced a restructured take on the pilot used to sell the show to the network execs, a sequence that has since become synonymous with the series.
3. Failed Catwoman and Black Canary Team-Up
Catwoman is undoubtedly one of Batman’s most popular foes/allies, leaping her way across the comic book pages into The Animated Series, TV show spinoffs, video games, and several live-action movies. Black Canary might not have Selina Kyle’s popularity, but she’s just as cool a character, with her unrivaled hand to hand combat abilities and Canary Cry. She too has seen her fair share of direct-to-video animated films, video games and live-action television series.
The two characters are so unique and popular among fans that the writers Batman: The Animated Series eventually pitched a storyline where the superheroine and anti-hero would team up. What that storyline might have entailed, we’ll never know, as FOX interrupted the process demanding to know why Robin was left out of the plot. When the writers asked the network if they could exclude Robin for just this one episode, FOX refused to budge, and the entire idea was scrapped as a result. It’s a real bummer for fans, as this concept could have made for an awesome episode.
2. Popularization of Harley Quinn
Batman: The Animated Series proved to be so popular with fans that a few characters from the show, including detective Renee Montoya and the supervillain Lock-Up, were added as regulars to the comic books. The most famous show-to-comic character, however, would have to be the psychotic anti-hero who becomes obsessed with the Joker, Harley Quinn. You may have heard of her.
Writer Paul Dini was actually inspired to create Harley Quinn after watching a performance by Arlene Sorkin in a fantasy sequence on Days of Our Lives. The actress later went on to voice the character she inspired, as she and Paul were actually old friends from college.
Starting as psychiatrist Dr. Harley Quinzel, the character turns to a life of crime after she meets a special sort of inmate at Arkham Asyum: The Joker. Afterwards, she becomes the sidekick and frequent lover of the Clown Prince of Crime, adopting the alias Harley Quinn (a play on the word “Harlequin”). Originally designed to be a throwaway character, she became immensely popular with fans of the show and became one of Batman’s most beloved villains. Her ever-increasing popularity has led to her landing a lead role in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie, where she’ll be played by Margot Robbie.
1. Voice Actors That Could’ve Been
The voice acting for Batman: The Animated Series seems to be so perfect and spot on that it’s hard to picture anyone else in the iconic roles. But that’s exactly what almost happened a few times over, as FOX tried to pull some bigger names in for the headlining roles.
For starters, Tim Curry’s name was dropped for a nomination to play the Joker, but was ultimately passed on because the producers’ felt he didn’t have the right voice to play the character. It’s hard to picture anyone else but Mark Hamill’s theatrical and manic voice coursing through the Clown Prince of Crime, but given Curry’s outlandish and eccentric performances in outings like It and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, we’d be liars if we said he wouldn’t at least be an interesting prospect.
And then we have an even bigger name than Curry: Mr. Al Pacino, who was offered the role of Harvey Dent/Two Face. The creators of the show put in a lot of time to flesh out Harvey’s character before his turn to a life of crime, making him one of the series’ best villains, and having Pacino’s authoritative voice would have been the cherry on top. Unfortunately, Pacino passed, but that amount of talent mixed with the already great storytelling and animation could have been another game-changer for the show. Considering how incredible the show turned out though, we really can’t complain.
Will another animated superhero series ever eclipse Batman: The Animated Series? Did we miss any of your favorite fun facts surrounding the show? Let us know in the comments.