Hans Zimmer may always be remembered as the man behind the music of Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight, but it turns out Zimmer’s connection to Batman goes back even farther – to Batman: The Animated Series. The diehard fans will be quick to point out that the musical score of the acclaimed cartoon was inspired and based on Danny Elfman’s score from Tim Burton’s Batman (1989). But the credit for the TV show’s outstanding orchestral music has always been rightly placed with composer Shirley Walker. Now, we’ve learned that she may have a bit of help from her old friend Hans.
It isn’t a rumor or speculation, or a gross misunderstanding of the many YouTube remixes layering Zimmer’s Batman scores over the opening of the WB series. No, this comes straight from the co-creator of The Animated Series, Bruce Timm, who decided to let one secret detail slip after years keeping it under wraps.
The admission came during a San Diego Comic-Con panel focused on the HD remastering of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. Needless to say, as Phantasm co-director and producer Alan Burnett recounted tales of the early days of the now-acclaimed Batman: The Animated Series, the topic of the late Shirley Walker’s score was raised. Specifically, if Timm could recall his response upon hearing the now-legendary score:
“I have a vivid memory of it, we were actually over in the Eastwood Scoring Stage over on the Warner Bros. lot. The first time I heard Shirley play a piece of music that was in sync with our visuals, the first episode… the opening of “On Leather Wings.” Eric and I were in there and we heard this amazing score coming through the sepakers in the control room. And we both just got chills. It was everything we wanted it to be and more. We knew instantly that we had hired the right person to direct our music for us. It was one of my favorite Batman memories of all time.”
Walker composed the music for both the cartoon and the animated film – apparently one of the few members of the show’s crew that Timm and Burnett were able to keep in place, after WB demanded a change of other departments once Phantasm went from a standard straight-to-video release to a theatrical one. It’s easy to understand, since Walker had not only conducted for Danny Elfman on Batman, but collaborated as composer/conductor/orchestrator with Hans Zimmer for films like White Fang (1991), Bird on a Wire (1990), Days of Thunder (1990), Backdraft (1991), Radio Flyer (1992), A League of Their Own (1992) and more.
When the first eight minutes of the restored Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was played in its remastered form for those in attendance, Walker’s score was as potent as ever (those who may not recall the opening can watch and listen to it above). When the presentation came to an end, the score was the first thing mentioned… leading Bruce Timm to reveal a little-known fact:
“I don’t know if you know this, probably not… Hans Zimmer helped her out on it. He didn’t actually write anything for her, but she was friends with Hans for a long time. He did all the synthesizer ‘sweetening’ for her. All the organ stuff? Hans. There ya go.”
So there you have it. The beloved Batman: The Animated Series made its first leap from TV screens to movie screens, and Hans Zimmer was there to lend a hand for its staggering opening (at the very least) – over a decade before he created his score for Christopher Nolan. Who knows, maybe Shirley helped get the creative spark burning…?
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