Among the great pantheon of adaptations of Batman over the years, “Batman: The Animated Series” is considered by many fans to be among the best representations of the character and his world.
Among the show’s latest milestones since it debuted in 1992, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will release the complete series on Blu-ray and digitally Oct. 30. To promote the upcoming release, several members of the show’s creative team and voice cast came to the 2018 San Diego Comic-Con International to discuss the show in a special panel and press events July 21.
“I think the best legacy of the show is the show itself and the fact that it keeps coming back,” said producer Paul Dini. “Now it’s at a point where it’s almost like a classic Disney movie or the Looney Tunes, or something like that.”
“Since the show has become iconic over the past several years, more fans have come up who actually had seen the show, who grew up with the show, and it’s always been very humbling to have been part of it,” said producer Eric Radomski.
Thinking back to the development of the series in the early 1990s, Radomski recalled a crucial meeting with Warner executives who wanted to run the concepts of the show by Tim Burton, who had directed the 1989 Batman movie and was working on its 1992 sequel, Batman Returns.
“As much as we admired what he had done in the films, ours had really gone so specifically into an art deco influence design and it was a little more polished and we had to think about the longevity of 65 episodes and not just one film,” Radomski said. “And even the portrayals in the movie, as much as we liked the dark tone, a lot of it was a little bit more exaggerated than we were intending. So we had gone down that path and we were happy as clams until they brought that up. So it’s like with any meeting with the executives, you worry they’re going to want us to change something, and we didn’t want to change anything. Obviously it was a great thrill to meet Tim for the first time because it was the beginning of his huge success, and we couldn’t have been more delighted to have him look at everything and just say, ‘That’s pretty cool … it looks great.’ It stood on its own, and it was such a huge relief and I think for me personally I gained just a whole other level of respect for him because he believed in a portrayal that was unique to itself.”
“We thought we’d make something really good, and we wanted to make something we wanted to watch, that we thought would be fun for ourselves,” said voice director Andrea Romano. “But who could have known that 27 years later, because we started two years before we released it, that we’d be talking about this today? And it’s something that I’m so proud of, and what’s amazing is it’s still good. It evolved and got better — we got better, the animation got better, the voice acting got better, my casting got better. Everything improved,”
Romano said the production team had to be especially creative to make the show they wanted despite the restrictions imposed by studios and networks about what could be shown in a cartoon.
“As time goes on you’re kind of allowed a little bit more, because we almost never showed blood,” Romano said. “Bruce Timm had to get special dispensation to show like a drop of blood, because blood was not shown in cartoons. It just wasn’t done. So we pushed as much as we could to get this to be not like the cartoons that I watched when I was [growing up].”
Romano said the quality of the show inspired the creative team to put a bit more effort into it to make it really special.
“We all put our guts into it because we wanted it to be really good,” Romano said. “We all loved the Adam West series because that was so fun, but we knew we wanted to make something that was 180-degrees different. It was just a completely different series, but with the same characters. Animation gave us a lot of freedom because the characters could do something physically and the voice actors could do something that they may never get to do on camera.”
However, like the 1960s “Batman” show, the animated series also became a destination for celebrities looking to guest star.
“I loved working with and finding these actors, different wonderful people who wanted to come in and play,” Romano said. “I didn’t have to go to agents and ask if they had anybody who wanted to come work on ‘Batman.’ They were calling me and saying they had 10 clients who wanted to come in and play on ‘Batman’ because they had seen the first 15 episodes and had just thought it was wonderful.”
The Batman: The Complete Animated Series — Deluxe Limited Edition Blu-ray will include 109 remastered episodes from the various iterations of the series (the final 24 episodes featured an updated animation style and were released under the banner “The New Batman Adventures”), plus the movies Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (both recently released as standalone Blu-rays).
The Blu-ray boxed set will include a new hour-long retrospective documentary, “The Heart of Batman,” as part of a bonus section that includes 25 featurettes, including the original pilot promo, commentaries on several episodes, and introductions to five episodes by producer Bruce Timm.
The set is listed at $112.99 and will be individually numbered with a production run of 30,000 copies (update: Warner Oct. 25 raised the run to 70,000). More than 2,000 copies were pre-ordered within the first 24 hours of availability on Amazon. The box will include the episodes spread over 10 discs, plus two bonus discs, as well as three Funko mini-figurines of Batman, the Joker and Harley Quinn, seven lenticular art cards and a slipcase. The set will also include a digital copy.
“’Batman’ was a success because a lot of different creative people brought different things to the table,” Dini said. “They brought their enthusiasm for the characters, they brought their artistic talent, they brought their sense of wanting to experiment, and just the love of the character, and it all worked.”
Update (8-28-18): This story has been adjusted to reflect a change in street date and the addition of a digital copy to the boxed set.