Batman: The Animated Series is an American animated series adaptation of the comic book series starring the DC Comics superhero, Batman. The series is noted for being the first to take place in the DC Animated Universe. It was produced by Warner Bros. Animation.
The visual style of the series is based on the artwork of producer Bruce Timm. The original series aired on Fox from September 5, 1992 to September 15, 1995. When the first season of the series aired on weekday afternoons, it lacked an on-screen title but was officially titled Batman: The Animated Series, as evidenced in promotional advertisements for the series. When its timeslot was moved to weekends (on some Fox channels) for the second season, it was re-named The Adventures of Batman & Robin.
The original series was partially inspired by the Frank Miller comic Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, the Tim Burton films Batman and Batman Returns and the acclaimed Superman cartoons produced by Fleischer Studios in the 1940s. Timm and Radomski designed the series by closely emulating the Tim Burton films' "otherworldly timelessness," incorporating period features such as black-and-white title cards, police blimps (even though no such thing has existed, Bruce Timm has stated he found it to fit the period they were going for), 40s influenced fashion, 40s influenced car styling and a "vintage" color scheme in a largely film noir-influenced style. The series initially took a variation of music written by Danny Elfman for the Burton films Batman and Batman Returns as its theme; later episodes of the series used a new theme with a similar style by Shirley Walker (who was occasionally Elfman's conductor on the films they worked on). The score of the series was influenced by Elfman and Walker's work on Batman and Batman Returns and the music of 40s film noir. The other major element inspired by the 1989 film is the series interpretation of the Joker character as half way between psychotic killer and prankster clown versions of the comicbook character. His real name in the series, like the film, is given several times as Jack Napier, although it is later suggested that it is simply his primary alias.The program was much more adult-oriented than previous typical superhero cartoon series. It was the first such cartoon in years to depict firearms being fired instead of laser guns (only one person has ever been actually depicted as shot; Commissioner Gordon in the episode "I Am the Night" was seen to have a gunshot wound after the firefight was finished), Batman actually punching and kicking the antagonists, as well as the existence of blood; in addition, many of the series' backgrounds were painted on black paper. The distinctive visual combination of film noir imagery and Art Deco designs with a very dark color scheme was called "Dark Deco" by the producers. First-time producers Timm and Radomski reportedly encountered resistance from studio executives, but the success of Burton's first film allowed the embryonic series to survive long enough to produce a pilot episode, "On Leather Wings", which according to Timm "got a lot of people off our backs."
The series received acclaim for its distinctive animation and mature writing. Fans of a wide age range praised the show's sophisticated, cinematic tone and psychological stories. Voice-actor Kevin Conroy used two distinct voices to portray Bruce Wayne and Batman, as Michael Keaton had done in the films. The series was also notable for its supporting cast that included major actors performing the voices of the various classic villains, most notably Mark Hamill, who defined a whole new career for himself in animation with his cheerfully deranged portrayal of the Joker. The voice recording sessions were recorded with the actors together in a studio, like a radio play, unlike most animated films, in which the principal voice actors record separately and never meet (various interviews have noted that such an arrangement (having the cast record together) was a benefit to the show as a whole, as the actors were able to 'react' to one another, rather than simply 'reading the words'). This method would later be employed for all subsequent animated series in the DC Animated Universe.Key to the series' artistic success is that it managed to redefine classic characters, paying homage to their previous portrayals while giving them new dramatic force. The characterization of villains such as Two-Face and the Riddler and heroes like Robin — who had all appeared in the Joel Schumacher film Batman Forever — demonstrate this. The Penguin is based upon his appearance in Batman Returns, which was being released at the same time as the series. The series also gave new life to nearly forgotten characters like the Clock King. Often noted examples of these dramatic changes are the villains Clayface and Mr. Freeze (whose character in the episode "Heart of Ice" won the show an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program); Batman: TAS turned Mr. Freeze from a clichéd mad scientist with a gimmick for cold, to a tragic figure whose frigid exterior hides a doomed love and a vindictive fury. Part of the tragedy is mimicked later in the plot of Joel Schumacher's infamous movie Batman & Robin, although much of the drama was lost with the resurrection of the pun-quipping mad scientist image. One of the series' most famous innovations is the Joker's helper assistant, Harley Quinn; DC Comics later added her to the mainstream Batman comics continuity.
New villains like Red Claw, the ninja Kyodai Ken, Tygrus, and the Sewer King were invented for the series, but to little acclaim. The Officer / Detective Renee Montoya and the sociopathic vigilante Lock-Up became characters in the comics.
Aside from creating characters that crossed over into the mainline DC Comics, several of the series' reinterpretations were carried over as well. Mr. Freeze was revised to emulate the series' tragic story, the success of which actually compelled DC to bring the character back after "killing" him off some years earlier; Clayface was revised to be much more similar in appearance to his animated counterpart; Poison Ivy took on the slightly inhuman skin color she received in later episodes of the series; and Two-Face's black and white suit has become a common appearance for the character.
The Phantasm and the general storyline for the movie Batman: Mask of the Phantasm were modified from the Mike Barr-penned story "Batman: Year Two", which ran in Detective Comics #575-578 in the late 1980s; the villain in the comics was named The Reaper. While some characters like Count Vertigo, the Mirror Man, and the Clock King were adapted from the comics, they were modified in costume and personality.
All characters received an update in The New Batman Adventures, having costumes, voices, mannerisms, and overall looks modified. The artwork and colors became sharper and somewhat more cartoonish.
One of the most noteworthy changes made is the treatment of Batman's alter ego, Bruce Wayne.
In nearly all other media, including the comics, television shows, and films, Bruce deliberately plays up his image as a vacuous, self-absorbed, and not-too-bright billionaire playboy. In Batman: TAS, his character is treated more seriously, shown as assertive, intelligent, and actively involved in the management of Wayne Enterprises, without jeopardizing his secret identity. In the episode "Eternal Youth", for example, he is shown angrily ordering one of his directors to cancel a secret deal with a timber company in the Amazon rainforest ("Shut it down, or you're gone!"). In the episode "Night of the Ninja", he revealed to reporter Summer Gleeson that he has some martial arts training, as the reporter previously researched that he once lived in Japan, though he later throws a fight with the ninja Kyodai Ken in front of Gleeson to disguise his prowess.
- Main article: List of Batman: The Animated Series Episodes
The show also featured numerous adaptations of various Batman comics stories over the years to when the show was produced. The following episodes that were adaptations were:
- "The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy" was an adaptation of "The Cape and Cowl Death Trap!" from Detective Comics #450 of August 1975, written by Elliot S. Maggin.
- "The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne" was based on the comic stories "The Dead Yet Live" and "I Am the Batman!" from Detective Comics #471 and #472, of August/September 1977 by Steve Englehart.
- "Dreams in Darkness" takes its cues of a graphic novel titled The Last Arkham.
- "Moon of the Wolf" is based on the comic story of the same name by writer Len Wein from Batman #255, April 1974.
- "If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich?" is a loose adaptation of "The Riddler!" from Detective Comics #140, October 1948.
- "Off Balance" is a direct adaptation of "Batman: Into the Den of the Death-Dealers" of Detective Comics #411, May 1971 by Dennis O'Neil, famous for the first appearance of character Talia Al Ghul.
- Also a direct adaptation is the two-part episode "The Demon's Quest", based on "Daughter of the Demon" from Batman #232, June 1971, and "The Demon Lives Again" Batman #244, September 1972, also by Dennis O'Neil. Famous for introducing one of Batman's deadlier foes; Ra's Al Ghul, father of Talia.
- The episode "The Laughing Fish" was based on three Batman comics, blended together; "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge" from Batman #251, September 1973 by Dennis O'Neil, followed by "The Laughing Fish" and "Sign of the Joker!" from Detective Comics #475 and #476, of February/March 1978, both by writer Steve Englehart. In a spotlight podcast from Comic Con 2007, Paul Dini explained that the reason why the episode combined those stories was because the show's creators could not adapt them separately, because their content and thematic elements would not have been cleared by the censors.
- Part 1 of " Robin's Reckoning" takes its cues from Detective Comics #38 of June 1940.
- "A Bullet for Bullock" is based on the comic of the same name from Detective Comics #651, October 1992, by Chuck Dixon.
- "Joker's Millions" from The New Batman Adventures based on Detective Comics #180 in February 1952.
- The feature film, Mask of the Phantasm is also an adaptation. The film's flashbacks were inspired by Batman: Year One, whereas the character of the Andrea Beaumont and the Phantasm were inspired by Batman: Year Two.
- The episode "Almost Got 'Im" where Two-Face's strategy (strapping down Batman to a giant coin and flipping the coin in the air) was taken from Batman #81, where both Batman and Robin were tied to a giant penny that was catapulted onto spikes. However, they were able to create a "negative magnetic field" to repel the spikes and cause them to land "heads up", and then snapped the ropes and defeating Two-Face.
- Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) - based on the animated series, the film started production as a direct-to-video release, but was changed to be a theatrical release near the end of production.
- Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (1998) - a direct-to-video release, also based on the series, which was initially completed as a tie-in to 1997's Batman & Robin, but due to the poor reception of that movie, its release was delayed a year.