Twenty-five years ago today, Batman: The Animated Series premiered on Fox Kids. That’s right, twenty-five years since a mere cartoon took the best elements of every era of the Caped Crusader, making anyone who saw it a fan.
Batman: The Animated Series was meant to capitalize on the success of the Tim Burton film and extend the ongoing renaissance of WB Animation that began with Tiny Toon Adventures, and it ushered in a sophisticated yet grounded style of action adventure animation. Ironic, considering it aired at a time when the movies were becoming more outlandish and cartoony.
Batman: The Animated Series changed Batman forever by embracing everything about him: the colorful camp of the 50s and 60s, the swashbuckling style of the 70s and the gritty maturity of the 80s. It cherry-picked the very best to set the template and the foundation for succeeding comics and feature films.
The famed intro sequence was actually the pitch.
In developing the pitch, creators Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski produced a short animated ‘pilot.’ A simple segment in which Batman ambushes a gang of thugs then disappears into the night, it demonstrated stunning animation quality and the unique style they wanted. After they received the full season order, the sequence was recreated and became visually synonymous with the show itself.
It doubled down on the dichotomy of Batman and Bruce Wayne.
As a series, the show’s story editors and producers could move the spotlight from one part of the Caped Crusader’s world to another. As a result, the dichotomy between Bruce Wayne and Batman was drawn into sharp relief. Batman was mysterious and commanding while Bruce Wayne was sarcastic and flippant. Kevin Conroy, who played both sides of the Dark Knight, emphasized this duality with distinct voices for each.
The cast recorded not separately, but as a group.
If you’ve ever seen ‘behind the scenes’ footage of recording sessions, you’d know it’s standard practice to have actors record their parts separately. With different schedules, it’s difficult to get all the actors together in the same room. Under the supervision of voice director Andrea Romano, Batman: The Animated Series took the high road. Group recordings resulted in top-notch performance energies.
Black paper gave it a noir-inspired ‘dark deco’ look.
The signature look of Batman: The Animated Series was driven by several conscious artistic decisions. Character designs were inspired by the animated works of Max Fleischer and title cards were inspired by 1940s film noir. But the most novel choice was the standing order from producer Eric Radomski to paint backgrounds on black paper. The lights and colors of Gotham literally emerged from the shadows.