Batman: The Animated Series may be turning the ripe old age of 25 this September, but it remains the definitive animated incarnation of The Dark Knight, and one of the best cartoons of all time.
Co-created by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski, and backed by a talented team of writers and artists, it represented the first and only incarnation of the Caped Crusader to date to truly reflect the scope and scale of Gotham and the Batman universe.
In Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, the show also boasted arguably the most dynamic pairing of Batman and The Joker ever brought to the big or small screen. Interestingly, it was recently revealed that Hamill wasn’t actually the first actor to lend his voice to the Batman’s arch-nemesis. Best known for his iconic starring roles in the It miniseries and in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, actor Tim Curry was actually the original choice for the role. When things weren’t quite clicking, Hamill stepped in to provide the voice for the Clown Prince of Crime, and the rest was history.
Nothing is perfect, though, and while there is plenty to recommend about this one-of-a-kind series, repeat viewing does bring up a couple of minor things that are probably worth revisiting. Here are 18 mistakes you never noticed in Batman: The Animated Series.
18. Batman’s And The Very Blue Cape
Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski were responsible for the distinctive look of Batman: The Animated Series, which fused film noir imagery with an Art Deco infused Gotham. Dubbed “Dark Deco” by producers, it offered up a brooding twist on the familiar Superman cartoons of the 1940s, while injecting the same sensibilities found in Tim Burton’s first two Batman movies.
Everything was big, dark, and atmospheric, with animators tasked with drawing Gotham on black paper. Unfortunately, on occasion, it proved a little too dark. Batman’s familiar all-black cape must have been problematic, leaving the Caped Crusader resembling a hulking black mass. So the animators were forced to get inventive. The solution was to give Batman a cape with a light blue underside that made it easier to draw and animate. Unfortunately, it would have also made the Dark Knight a hell of a lot more easy to spot.
17. The Case Of The Vanishing Sweat
Batman: The Animated Series was the first show of its kind to be put together by different animation studios from around the world, often on an episode by episode basis. It meant the workload could be shared out more evenly, but unfortunately, it also meant that certain episodes boasted more in the way of artistic detail. Japanese animators Tokyo Movie Shinsha, for example, were known for putting together some of the show’s slickest and best-looking outings.
Others, like South Korean studio Akom Production, had a reputation for more inconsistent work. Like in the 17th episode of the first season, “Two Face”. In one particularly memorable scene, Harvey Dent wakes from a vivid nightmare, sweating profusely. Except that, a second later, his sweat has completely disappeared, as if by magic. Oops.
16. Batman Doesn’t Do Area Codes
The minor errors in Batman: The Animated Series were not simply limited to the animation work. Some of them simply defied logic, like the one witnessed in“Day of the Samurai.” In the episode, Bruce Wayne and Alfred travel to Japan to help Batman’s former sensei rescue his kidnapped daughter from the power-made Kyodai Ken.
Something of a pit stop for Batman away from the action in Gotham, it would appear that those working on the episode clearly had Gotham on the brain. That’s really the only logical explanation for the scene that sees Batman track down Kyodai Ken to a seven-digit 555 number. What’s the problem with that, you may ask? Well, they are supposed to be in Japan, where phone numbers have eight digits.
15. Mr. Freeze’s Immersive CCTV
The successful reintroduction of Mr. Freeze into the Caped Crusader’s Universe was arguably one of the biggest successes from Batman: The Animated Series. Once a rather campy presence in the pages of DC Comics and boasting a bright yellow outfit to boot, the animated series gave the character a more tragic backstory that saw Mr. Freeze searching for a cure to help his dying wife.
Chronicled in the episode “Heart of Ice”, Batman even gets a first-hand look at the accident that saw Victor Fries become a supervillain. It’s incredible footage too; taken from a nearby security camera, it features any number of cuts, often to close-ups of Fries’ face. All of which would be impossible if Batman were watching real security camera footage. The devil really is in the detail.
14. Two-Face Is All Over The Place
The episode featuring the first appearance of Two-Face proved problematic for animators, particularly when it came to adopting any form of consistency involving the iconic villain’s appearance. When Harvey Dent is first scarred by the explosion that creates the villainous Two-Face, the entire left half side of his face and neck are colored a light shade of blue.
However, when he is first shown in hospital, parts of the left side of his face not covered by bandages appear normal, as does his entire neck. At another point, his left eyebrow is shown to have turned white but then later in the two-part episode, it has turned back to black. Then, out of nowhere, his left hand is also shown to have been scarred and discolored, despite earlier appearing normal. It’s complete chaos.
13. That Two-Face Credit Card
Ask fans of The Dark Knight to pick out the lowest point in the franchise’s long-established cinematic low point, Batman & Robin, and if the litany of ice puns aren’t mentioned, chances are that one moment will come up – the Bat card. In one single, short, sequence, George Clooney tarnished his brief legacy as the Caped Crusader by taking out a special themed credit card. The name on the card even reads “Batman”. It’s nonsense – no one would grant a superhero with a secret identity a line of credit.
It’s an infinitely dumb idea and yet, it’s one they pretty much stole from Batman: The Animated Series. In the episode “Two-Face”, it’s revealed that Harvey Dent’s evil alter-ego carries plastic. The credit card isn’t made out to Dent, though – that might actually make sense. Instead, the name appears on the card as Two-Face. No one would issue that in a million years, and something tells us Two-Face isn’t going to be all that sharp when it comes to keeping up with his monthly payments.
12. Batman Defies Space And Time
Batman: The Animated Series is a cartoon, primarily made for comic book and superhero fans. So, it goes without saying that you might let the occasional illogical plot point or action set piece pass by without analytical criticism. The final confrontation between Batman and Two-Face near the conclusion of the latter’s epic two-part introduction isn’t one of those moments, though. To let this one slide would require a complete disregard for time and space as we know it.
The bone of contention comes from the moment where Two-Face prepares to destroy Batman, flipping his iconic coin into the air before the fateful moment. Quick as a flash, however, the Caped Crusader comes up with a plan to defeat his foe, by finding and throwing a box of silver dollars into the air, sending Two-Face flailing. That would be well and good, of course, were it not for the fact that Batman is able to do all of the above in the time it took Two-Face’s coin to flip over. Did Batman freeze time or something? Speaking of which…
11. Characters Frozen In Time
“Heart of Ice”, the episode that introduces Mr. Freeze to the series, suffered plenty in the way of inconsistencies. Roaming security camera footage aside, there are some basic animation errors and corner-cutting that has not aged all that well. One scene in particular proved problematic, with two Gotham city policemen appearing in the background of one scene, ready to assist the public.
Except they are completely motionless throughout the scene. It’s not a particularly short sequence either – anyone watching gets treated to 15 seconds of hastily drawn background characters serving as inanimate objects. Perhaps they fell victim to Mr. Freeze and his deadly freeze ray? Then again, maybe someone somewhere took their eye off the ball, or figured no one would notice all that much. This sort of thing has been known to happen in cartoons.
10. Batman’s Magic Utility Belt
Batman’s vast array of gadgets and accessories are well documented, from his familiar grappling hook to those Batarangs he loves to toss around. Most of these items fit perfectly into the Caped Crusader’s utility belt too. It’s a belt that has got to be crammed full of all sorts of cool tools and technology designed to help him do his work. It’s a tight squeeze, but it all just about makes sense.
Or most of the time, anyway. Batman: The Animated Series took things a little too far on occasion. In “Heart of Ice”, the troubled Mr. Freeze episode, Batman is able to pull an entire thermos full of a hot beverage from his belt. How? He’s obviously had the thermos with him for that particular mission, and hadn’t simply been carrying it around with him all these years. Where has he be keeping it up until then? Maybe it’s better not to know, especially as later he produces an entire video tape from the same magic belt. You hope it’s in that belt, at least.
9. Someone Can’t Spell
With all of the animation work on the series being farmed out to smaller studios across the globe, the producers behind Batman: The Animated Series encountered their fair share of inconsistencies. And while the occasional lapse in background detail or character animation was perhaps slightly more understandable, other errors were simply down to sloppy work all around. Like some of the spelling errors that popped up along the way on the show.
In the episode “Cat Scratch Fever”, Catwoman goes up against shady businessman Roland Daggett, the owner of Daggett Labs. Or at least he is supposed to be. When the labs are shown onscreen, they appear to be named “Dagett Labs“. AKOM were the animators behind the episode, and it’s not the only time they had an issue with spelling – in “Moon of the Wolf”, Gotham Zoo is shown to have a “Lepords” enclosure. Seriously guys, they may have been based in South Korea, but that’s a bit much.
8. Batman Forgets How To Escape A Straitjacket
In the episode “Dreams of Darkness”, Batman starts the outing trapped in a straitjacket in Arkham Asylum, where he’s been thrown in alongside some of his biggest foes. No one will listen to a word he says either – they all think he’s insane. He begins to recount the events that resulted in him being there and the involvement of the villainous Scarecrow.
It’s a tricky predicament, and one that should have left fans wondering ‘how is Batman going to get out of this one?’ But there’s just one problem – he’d kind of already got out of a similar situation. In the previous episode.
In “Be A Clown”, Batman finds himself stuck in a straitjacket too, except on that occasion, he’s also been chained upside down in a water torture tank. And yet, despite all of those obstacles, he frees himself with relative ease. Why is he not able to do the same here?
7. The Laughing Fish
The memorable Joker-led episode, “The Laughing Fish” saw Batman’s biggest foe hit Gotham where it hurts: through its fish supply. In a bizarre turn of events, the Clown Prince of Crime is able to pollute Gotham’s waters with his signature toxin to such an extent that every fish caught that day is completely white with green fins and a huge, noticeable, Joker smile.
Now, while pollution of any kind would probably cause some sort of discoloration similar to what was seen in the episode, the teeth are another matter. Few toothed fish have the larger, flat teeth required to recreate the Joker’s sinister smile. There’s one more problem too: at one point in the episode, the Joker remarks that smelt and tuna have mainly been affected by the pollutant – neither of these fish have large teeth, therefore the toxin should not have worked on them. Sorry, Mr. J.
6. Poison Ivy’s Miraculous Escape
The episode “Eternal Youth” is memorable for seeing the surprise return of Poison Ivy. She’d previously appeared in the episode “Pretty Poison” early on in the series, in which she seduces and even comes close to killing then-District Attorney Harvey Dent. By the end of the episode, Ivy has been successfully apprehended by Batman and is behind bars in Arkham Asylum. Case closed.
So how did she end up free as a bird in “Eternal Youth”? It’s an important question that is never addressed on the show. Breaking out of Arkham Asylum would have been difficult to pull off, particularly for a powerless and friendless Poison Ivy. She wasn’t getting released anytime soon either, and even if she had escaped, you’d think Batman would have heard about it. Instead, she is revealed to be the mastermind behind a sinister spa.
5. The Many Color Changes
The series suffered from several animation glitches, not least when it came to color continuity. At various, largely isolated points throughout the show’s run, colors and designs would change from one episode to the next. The outsourcing of animation was blamed for this, with AKOM in particular being criticized for their work on the show.
In the episode “Moon of the Wolf” alone, Dr. Milo’s lab coat goes from white to brown, while, worse still, Batman’s emblem turns from yellow to white. AKOM was ultimately let go for that particular episode, but plenty of similar mistakes appear on the show.
In “Appointment In Crime Alley” Batman rescues a Dr. Tomkins, who is being gagged with a white rope which changes to a lighter shade of yellow when he is released, while the eyes on Robin’s mask randomly turn blue in “Christmas With The Joker”. The less said about Two-Face’s appearance throughout the series, meanwhile, the better.
4. Alfred’s Attitude Towards Children
In the episode “The Underdwellers”, Batman tackles a criminal gang made up of silent children that reside in Gotham’s sewers under the stewardship of the Sewer King. It’s not a particularly popular episode of the series, and one that also suffers from a fatal flaw. While attempting to apprehend the Sewer King, Batman saves a young boy by the name of Frog, who he takes back to the Batcave.
He then enlists Alfred to help look after the child, despite his butler’s insistence that he knows nothing about looking after children. But hang on a minute, didn’t he essentially raise Bruce Wayne single handed? Well, why let important details like that get in the way of a throwaway plot that sees Alfred flailing to control the young boy in a storyline set up for cheap laughs, right?
3. Catwoman Is At One With Nature
Batman: The Animated Series did a lot of things very well, but Catwoman probably wasn’t one of them. Sure, Selina Kyle’s appearance and demeanor was pitch perfect, but there was something a little odd about the episodes she featured in. For some reason, the writers opted to make Catwoman less of an out-and-out thief and more of an eco-warrior and animal lover. When Selina Kyle first arrived on the series, for example, she was intent on setting up a wildlife preserve and even went up against the evil corporation Multigon.
Later in the series, she discovered her cat, Isis, had been infected with a virus that was being tested on stray felines and designed to bring them down. She even went on to encounter Dr. Emile Dorian, a geneticist developing a drug that turned people into human/animal hybrids. She was basically the show’s answer to Captain Planet.
2. Two Face’s Superhuman Strength
The gradual introduction of Two-Face to Batman: The Animated Series represents one of the show’s major masterstrokes. By having Harvey Dent feature prominently as Gotham’s District Attorney at the start, the series is able to ramp up the emotion of his horrific transformation in a way none of the cinematic interpretations have quite managed yet. Harvey is Batman’s friend, and his transformation is truly horrifying for all involved.
Not everything about Two-Face is perfect, of course. His two-part introduction, for example, features several already-mentioned errors (in one scene, a hoodlum is thrown into a muddy puddle, only for the stains incurred to later disappear). Yet the biggest crime involving Two-Face comes with the fact he appears to have been imbued with superhuman strength – at one point, he picks a man up and throws him across the room. He’s not Bane!
1. Kevin Conroy’s Young Bruce Wayne Voice
Kevin Conroy won widespread acclaim for being the first actor to understand that Batman and Bruce Wayne needed distinctively different speaking voices. Up until then, performers had mainly given the two characters the same vocal tones, despite the obvious fact that doing so would potentially give the game away to anyone with sharp enough hearing.
Conroy made Wayne more softly spoken than Batman in a technique later taken to the extreme by Christian Bale on the big screen. He didn’t always get it right when it came to Wayne, though. In “Night Of The Ninja”, Conroy plays a younger version of Bruce in a series of flashbacks that cover his time spent training in martial arts under a sensei. Keen to give Bruce a “younger” voice, Conroy adopts a strangely clipped, nasal tone that’s markedly different from Wayne’s standard voice. In fact, it’s so different that it almost undoes all the great work Conroy does on the show. Just kidding, that guy is Batman.
Did we leave any other mistakes or inconsistencies off the list? Have your say in the comments!
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