This Week’s MPN Podcast: ‘Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,’ ‘Blue Hawaii’ Reviews; Reflections on the Death of Kevin ‘Batman’ Conroy

On this week’s episode of the Media Play News podcast, hosts Charles Parkman and Charlie Showley cover a review of Weird: The Al Yankovic Story by John Latchem. In much the same way that Weird Al writes parodies of famous songs, here he has co-written a movie that parodies famous tropes of biopics. Following this is a review for Blue Hawaii, the eighth film starring Elvis Presley — and the most lucrative one at the box office up to that point. 

At the box office, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever as expected took the top spot and pulled a greater value in ticket sales in its first three days of release than previous box office champ Black Adam garnered in its entire run up to now. Charlie leads the podcast with a short review of Black Panther, which despite his derision of Marvel movies in the past he liked a lot.

To wrap things up, Charles covers a sad story about the passing of Kevin Conroy, prolific and famed voice actor for the animated Batman episodes. He talks about his experiences growing up watching many of Conroy’s features of the Dark Knight, and how he sees Conroy as the definitive iteration of Batman. He will be sorely missed.

Kevin Conroy, Voice of Batman for a Generation, Dies at 66

Actor Kevin Conroy, best known as the voice of Batman in numerous projects for the past 30 years, died Nov. 10 from cancer at the age of 66.

Conroy began voicing the Caped Crusader with the debut of “Batman: The Animated Series” in 1992 and would go on to play the superhero in nearly 60 different productions spanning 15 animated series, 15 movies and two dozen video games, accounting for nearly 400 episodes and 100 hours of television.

Born Nov. 30, 1955 in Westbury, NY, and raised in Westport, Conn., Conroy began establishing himself in the acting community while under the tutelage of John Houseman at The Julliard School — where he studied alongside the likes of Christopher Reeve, Frances Conroy, and his roommate Robin Williams. 

Conroy began his career following his love of the theater, keeping him on stage in both New York and at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego.

“Batman: The Animated Series” would last for three seasons, but also spawned the acclaimed theatrical film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm in 1993, as well as direct-to-video spinoffs such as 1998’s Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero and 2003’s Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman.

“Kevin was far more than an actor whom I had the pleasure of casting and directing — he was a dear friend for 30+ years whose kindness and generous spirit knew no boundaries,” said Emmy Award winning casting/dialogue director Andrea Romano. “Kevin’s warm heart, delightfully deep laugh and pure love of life will be with me forever.”

The series also gave rise to a franchise of animated shows based on DC Comics heroes in which he continued to voice Batman, including “Superman: The Animated Series,” “Justice League,” “Justice League Unlimited,” “Static Shock” and “The Zeta Project.” He also voiced the older Bruce Wayne in “Batman Beyond,” yet another entry in the DC animated franchise, which also had a direct-to-video movie, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.

“Kevin brought a light with him everywhere,” said Paul Dini, producer of “Batman: The Animated Series.” “Whether in the recording booth giving it his all, or feeding first responders during 9/11, or making sure every fan who ever waited for him had a moment with their Batman. A hero in every sense of the word. Irreplaceable. Eternal.”

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Conroy later voiced Batman in several releases from the DC Universe line of animated movies, including 2008’s “Batman: Gotham Knight,” a tie-in to the theatrical release of The Dark Knight; the “Superman/Batman” movies Public Enemies in 2009 and Apocalypse in 2010; 2012’s Justice League: Doom; 2013’s Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox; 2014’s Batman: Assault on Arkham, a Suicide Squad movie; and 2016’s Batman: The Killing Joke. The DC Universe franchise also revisited the earlier DC animated series continuity with 2017’s Batman and Harley Quinn and 2019’s Justice League vs. The Fatal Five. He also voiced Batman in episodes of “Teen Titans Go!,” “Justice League Action” and “Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?.”

In 2019 he played a live-action version of Bruce Wayne in an alternate reality for the CW’s Arrowverse crossover event “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” during what was technically an episode of “Batwoman.”

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His video game work included 2001’s Batman: Vengeance, the “Arkham” and “Injustice” franchises, Lego DC Super-Villains, and 2022’s MultiVersus, his final performance as the character.

His role as Batman also made him a popular fixture on the convention circuit.

“Kevin was perfection,” said Mark Hamill, who played the Joker opposite Conroy’s Batman on “Batman: The Animated Series” and The Killing Joke. “He was one of my favorite people on the planet, and I loved him like a brother. He truly cared for the people around him — his decency shone through everything he did. Every time I saw him or spoke with him, my spirits were elevated.”

His non-Batman work included a two-episode stint on “Cheers,” guest appearances on shows such as “Murphy Brown” and “Dynasty,” and voice roles including “The New Adventures of Captain Planet,” “The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest,” “Ben 10: Alien Force,” “The Venture Bros.” and “Masters of the Universe: Revelation.”

“Kevin was a brilliant actor,” Hamill said. “For several generations, he has been the definitive Batman. It was one of those perfect scenarios where they got the exact right guy for the exact right part, and the world was better for it. His rhythms and subtleties, tones and delivery — that all also helped inform my performance. He was the ideal partner — it was such a complementary, creative experience. I couldn’t have done it without him. He will always be my Batman.”

‘Batman Beyond’ 20th Anniversary Celebration at Comic-Con Includes Blu-ray Announcement

The popular animated series “Batman Beyond” is being released on Blu-ray for its 20th anniversary.

The announcement came July 18 during San Diego Comic-Con International, as cast members and some of the show’s creative forces gathered to celebrate the anniversary.

The series, a spinoff of “Batman: The Animated Series,” debuted in January 1999 and ran for 52 episodes and a direct-to-video movie. The show, set in the future, dealt with an elderly Bruce Wayne (voiced by Kevin Conroy) recruiting teenager Terry McGinnis (Will Friedle) to take up the mantle of Batman.

Writer Bob Goodman said the series came about as a result of a mandate from the WB Network to focus on younger characters, and to portray Batman as a high schooler. Producer Bruce Timm suggested setting the show in the future timeline of “Batman: The Animated Series.” As a result, the show wasn’t based on any particular Batman storyline from the comic books.

“About 80% of it we made up out of whole cloth,” Goodman said. “We just developed it based upon what we knew of these characters.”

Friedle said he was asked to audition because Timm’s wife was a fan of his work on the ABC sitcom “Boy Meets World.”

Friedle said he didn’t expect to get the role because at the time he hadn’t done voiceover work before.

“It’s the equivalent of having never been in a movie before, and now you’re starring in a Steven Spielberg movie,” said Friedle, who has gone on to enjoy a lucrative voiceover career with roles such as Lion-O in the “Thundercats” reboot, and Bumblebee in “Transformers: Robots in Disguise.”

Casting director Andrea Romano said Friedle won the part after the finalists were tested alongside veteran voice actor Conroy, who had been playing Batman and Bruce Wayne on “Batman: The Animated Series” since the early 1990s.

“They had that dynamic,” Romano said.

Conroy said the show’s futuristic setting gave him a good perspective on how to play the older version of Bruce.

“He wasn’t a doddering old man,” Conroy said. “They had him become a powerful lion in winter.”

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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the show digitally Oct. 15, with the Blu-ray boxed set to follow on Oct. 29.

Warner has remastered 41 episodes from their original elements, with the remaining episodes upscaled to HD. The Blu-ray will also include a newly remastered copy of the direct-to-video movie Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.

The six-disc Batman Beyond: The Complete Animated Series — Limited Edition includes 15 bonus featurettes, including two new retrospectives: “Nostalgic Tomorrow,” a gathering of “Batman Beyond” production talent and cast; and “Knight Immortal,” an 80th anniversary celebration of the Batman character. Four episodes include audio commentary from producer Bruce Timm and select members of the production team.

The limited-edition Blu-ray, which will be individually numbered with a run of 50,000, will also include an exclusive chrome Funko Pop and lenticular art cards.

Batman: The Complete Animated Series — Deluxe Limited Edition

BLU-RAY REVIEW: 

Warner;
Animated;
$112.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Voices of Kevin Conroy, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Bob Hastings, Robert Costanzo, Loren Lester, Mark Hamill, Arleen Sorkin.

The classic “Batman: The Animated Series” has never looked better thanks to a remastering that makes the series shine in high-definition. Although designed to be dark, the show nonetheless presents a dazzling array of color that gives new life to these heroes and villains of comic book legend.

This is an essential addition for any Batman fan’s collection.

The show was developed in the early 1990s to take advantage of the popularity of the Tim Burton “Batman” movies. While it shares some music and a darker edge, the show really stands on its own, and is considered by many to be the definitive on-screen adaptation of the character. About the only limitation it faced was that the network sensibilities for shows aimed at younger viewers at the time precluded how the show depicted violence, and restricted the depiction of blood and gun use.

The distinctive style is reminiscent of the Fleischer “Superman” shorts from the early 1940s, and itself spawned an animation franchise that came to include new “Superman” and “Justice League” cartoons, not to mention the cult-classic “Batman Beyond” reinterpretation of the character. (Thus far, the “Justice League” has been the only other DC Animated Universe series released on Blu-ray.)

The set includes 109 episodes from the series spanning four seasons, including the final 24 that were produced under the “New Batman Adventures” label with a modified design aesthetic. As a bonus, the set includes the theatrically released Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and the direct-to-video spinoff Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (the discs are the previously released Blu-ray versions of each).

In addition to a bevy of legacy bonus content that includes audio commentaries and making-of featurettes from the previous DVD releases of the show, the new Blu-ray also comes with a bonus disc containing the new hour-and-a-half “Heart of Batman” retrospective documentary, in which the show’s creators and cast reflect on developing the series and the qualities that gave it such an enduring legacy.