‘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 Ninja

BLU-RAY REVIEW

Street 5/8/18;
Warner;
Anime;
$19.98 DVD, $24.98 Blu-ray, $29.98 Steelbook Blu-ray;
Rated ‘PG-13’ for sequences of violence and action, and for some suggestive material.
Voices of Roger Craig Smith, Tony Hale, Grey Griffin, Tara Strong, Fred Tatasciore, Yuri Lowenthal, Adam Croasdell, Will Friedle, Tom Kenny, Eric Bauza.

Batman Ninja isn’t just another high-concept direct-to-video animated movie with a fun premise to guide the characters’ latest adventure. This is a full-on anime experience that blends traditional notions of Batman with many of the genre’s tropes. When the movie’s plot involves Batman has to call upon an army of monkeys to fight a giant robot, you know you’re in for a wild ride.

The concept is best summed up by one of the filmmakers in the Blu-ray’s bonus materials: it’s not Japan through the eyes of Batman, but Batman through the eyes of Japan.

This isn’t just an Elseworlds concept that re-imagines the Batman characters into similar roles in a historical setting. Rather, the story finds Batman, along with his allies and enemies, transported from present-day Gotham City to Feudal Japan, where the villains begin to take over different territories.

Though Batman has friends to fight alongside him, he finds his many gadgets are useless in the past, forcing him to adapt to the fighting styles of the day if he is to round up the bad guys and return to modern times.

The animation is complex but beautiful, shifting styles at times to reflect the tone of the scene. The colors are vivid, and the look, feel and plotting of the piece is distinctly Japanese in its craftsmanship. The Blu-ray includes both the original Japanese audio with subtitles, and an English audio track with an American cast, highlighted by a manic Joker performance from Tony Hale (“Veep,” “Arrested Development”).

Fans of the project will also find many interesting behind-the-scenes details revealed on the Blu-ray, especially in a 49-minute video of the film’s 2017 New York Comic Con panel discussion with the filmmakers (before any of the cast was announced).

There are also a couple of more traditional making-of featurettes, with “Batman: Made in Japan” clocking in at 14 minutes, as well as the 17-and-a-half minute “East/West Batman,” which delves into the cultural impacts of Batman and anime and why they were a natural fit for each other.