11Mr. Freeze was originally written in as a gag
Initially, Mr. Freeze’s return was anything but triumphant. The plan was to have Terry fetch a drink for Bruce and open the Batcave refrigerator-- where he would find Freeze’s severed head. The two would exchange an awkward glance, and Terry would close the fridge. It was intended to be a wink at the audience, while also distancing the show from the original gallery of Batman villains. The issue, of course, was that it was also an unfitting--and embarrassing-- end to the character. Dini and Burnett ditched the idea and decided to make Freeze the antagonist of the fifth episode “Meltdown.”
Here, millionaire Derek Powers attempts to clone a healthy body from his damaged one (more on this later), and tests the procedure first on Mr. Freeze. It looks to be a success, and the former physician returns to a peaceful life. Unfortunately, the procedure backfires, and Freeze assumes his evil ways to seek revenge. Overall, we’d say it was a much better use of the character.
10Warner Bros Wanted a live-action "Batman Beyond"
In the wake of the Batman & Robin (1997) fiasco, Warner Bros. was desperate for new ideas. Among these ideas was a live-action Batman Beyond, which they felt could revive the franchise for younger audiences. At the very least, less corny audiences. In August 2000, the studio announced their plans to work with co-writer/director Boaz Yakin, who was riding high on the success of Remember The Titans (2000). Paul Dini (pictured above) and Alan Burnett were hired to pen the screenplay, while author Neal Stephenson served as story consultant.
In July 2001 a first draft was submitted to Yakin, with the anticipation of additional rewrites. A month later, Batman Beyond was placed on the shelf indefinitely. Warner Bros. opted to go with a gritty reboot angle that saw the involvement of director Darren Aronofsky and eventually Christopher Nolan, who went on to make Batman Begins (2005). Dini elaborated on the project in a 2013 interview with Kevin Smith.
9The creators initially wanted to focus on white collar crime
On the DVD commentary for the pilot, the creators discussed their original themes for Batman Beyond. The idea was to shift focus from the street crime of Batman: The Animated Series to the white collar crime of this new dystopia. Villains would no longer be bank robbers or bruisers, but businessmen and powerful players of Gotham. To further blur the lines, the lower class was to be portrayed as living in a safe environment, with the Jokerz gang being one of the last remaining threats.
The network didn’t like it. They wanted more colorful villains akin to the original series, so familiar faces like Bane and Mr. Freeze were brought in. The only remnants of this white collar approach is seen with businessman Derek Powers in season one. Powers merged with Wayne Enterprises years prior, and his ambivalence towards the greater good makes him a classic human enemy. Of course, this “human” angle doesn’t last long, and Powers quickly becomes the radioactive foe known as Blight.
8A Rejected Episode Pitch Was Inspired By Columbine
Batman Beyond: The Last Resort was written as a response to the Columbine Massacre in 1999. It was originally supposed to be prison story, rife with grittiness and mature content, but the network was hesitant to give the green light. They felt it was too sensitive a topic to touch, and suggested that Dini and Burnett make revisions to make it more palpable. Subsequent drafts did just that, but in stripping most of the grit, the story lost its thematic power. They decided to drop the episode altogether.
Columbine also affected the show’s direct-to-DVD film, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. Released in the aftermath of the shooting and the campaign against violence in the media, the film’s approach to death wasn’t appreciated by WB. In fact, the network forced a substantial re-edit of Joker before its premiere on December 12th, 2000. The “original uncut” version eventually aired on April 23rd, 2002.
7Return of the Joker was the first animated Batman film to be rated PG-13
Besides being one of the most revered animated films in comic history, Return of the Joker also broke censorship ground. In its uncut state, Joker was released with a PG-13 rating-- a first for both Batman cartoons and Warner Bros. Family Entertainment. The film was startlingly bleak for the network, with several references to death and outright torture. Commissioner Barbara Gordon openly talks about burying Joker beneath Arkham Asylum, while a brutal fight in the “Our Family Memories” flashback shows Batman taking a knife to the leg. This explains why older Bruce walks with a cane.
The film's standout moment of controversy was The Joker’s “death.” Aside from the brainwashing of Tim Drake--shown here in graphic detail-- it provided the most shocking bit of violence. In the edited version, Joker merely slips and electrocutes himself. But in the official PG-13 cut, Tim fires the Joker’s “BANG!” gun and shoots him through the heart with a spear. It’s no wonder Groucho Reviews dubbed it the show’s most “energetic and unsettling Batman adventure.”