Pop Culture | TV | 90s
13 Things You Didn't Know About 'Batman: The Animated Series'
We all remember our first Batman. For some, it was the campy, '60s Batman played by Adam West. For others, it was the darker Tim Burton version of the character played by Michael Keaton, and for some unfortunate souls it would have been the Joel Schumacher-era Batmans (Batmen?) played by Val Kilmer and George Clooney.
But for a lot of us, our first Batman wasn't even live-action, but rather animated. 25 years ago, we were introduced to not only one of the most iconic takes on the Caped Crusader, but one of the best cartoons ever made thanks to a little show called Batman: The Animated Series.
Here are a bunch of things you probably didn't know about the beloved series.
There's one obvious influence that made it all possible
The producers of the animated series have been very open about the fact that the show would never have happened if it weren't for Tim Burton's darker, more gothic take on the character.
The style of both Batman and Batman Returns set the tone for the cartoon, and they even used a variation of Danny Elfman's score from the movies as the theme song for the show.
But Tim Burton wasn't the show's only influence
While the Burton Batman movies inspired the gothic-meets-art-deco look of the cartoon, the animation style had an older, more classic influence: the 1960s cartoon Space Ghost.
Funnily enough, only two years after Batman: The Animated Series began airing, Cartoon Network rebooted Space Ghost as an animated talk show parody called Space Ghost Coast to Coast.
The show's cast could have been very different
While fans will always argue over who the best versions of various Batman characters and villains are, when it comes to The Joker there's one name that often ends up at the top of the list: Mark Hamill.
But he wasn't the original actor hired to bring Batman's greatest nemesis to life, no that honor goes to none other than Tim Curry.
It'll probably come as no surprise that the man who made us terrified of clowns thanks to his role as Pennywise in IT made an incredible Joker. While rumors have claimed that Curry was recast because his performance was "too scary," the reality is a lot more harsh. After recording four episodes, Curry was fired after coming down with bronchitis. Then, thanks to his creepy laugh, Mark Hamill was hired and the rest is history.
But Tim Curry isn't the only big name that got offered a part on the show. While the role of Harvey Dent (AKA Two-Face) was voiced by Richard Moll (Night Court, The Flintstones) the part was originally offered to Al Pacino.
As well, the role of Dr. Victor Fries (AKA Mr Freeze) was originally offered to Sir Anthony Hopkins. As amazing as that would have been, it's probably for the best that he turned it down, since it would only have made Arnold Schwarzenegger's version of the character seem 1000 times worse once Batman & Robin came out.
They used an unconventional method for recording the show
While it seems kind of weird, most productions involving voice acting have the actors record separately, often times they never even meet in person.
But the cast and crew of Batman: TaS weren't about that life. Instead, they recorded together as an ensemble. All the actors have said in interviews over the years that their recording style made their performances better, since they could react to one another in the moment. It does seem weird that more productions wouldn't work like this, but I'm not a voice actor so what do I know?
The show led to a lot of spin-offs. Like, a lot
In fact, Batman: TaS has the most spin-offs of any animated show ever made. This includes movies like Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Batman & Mr. Freeze: Subzero, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, and Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman.
There were also plenty of TV series that wouldn't have been possible without the original show, like Superman, The New Batman Adventures, Batman Beyond, Static Shock, Justice League, and more.
The show had a major impact on the Batman universe
There are actually two pretty major characters who were originally created specifically for Batman: The Animated Series. The first was Detective Renée Montoya.
While she was created for the show, she was also introduced in the comics to help set up the show's premiere. In the animated series, Montoya is a police officer in the Gotham Police Department and partnered with Harvey Bullock. While in the comics she was briefly the faceless vigilante The Question, she's one of the main faces of the Gotham police, along with Commissioner Gordan and Harvey Bullock. The character has also appeared in the television show Gotham, where she's played by Victoria Cartagena.
But that's not the only character that came to be thanks to Batman: The Animated Series, and the next one is probably a lot more familiar: Dr. Harleen Quinzel, though you know her better as Harley Quinn.
Showrunners Paul Dini and Bruce Timm created the Harley Quinn character because they wanted the Joker to have a female sidekick/love interest. She was supposed to be a one-off character, but she proved so popular that not only was she made a recurring character, but they added her to the comic universe as well. While she's still often shown alongside The Joker, she's also developed into her own character, being featured in team-ups with other villains in series like Gotham City Sirens (where she's been courting Poison Ivy) and Suicide Squad. And of course, Quinn recently appeared in the live-action Suicide Squad movie, where she was played by Margot Robbie.
But it wasn't just new characters that changed the Batman universe thanks to the show
One villain got a whole new backstory
The last major change that happened thanks to the show wasn't so much a character as it was how they portrayed a character. When they introduced him on the show, Mr. Freeze was given a whole new origin story, which has since become his official history.
Originally, Mr. Freeze gains his "powers" after he accidentally spills cryogenic chemicals on himself while building his ice gun. But for the animated series, they gave him a much more tragic backstory, where his obsession with ice stems from trying to cure his terminally ill wife. While working on a cure, a lab accident lowers his body temperature to the point where he needs a cryogenic suit to survive. The drive to cure his wife is what leads him to a life of crime, as he tries to gain funds to keep working on a cure. The new origin story makes Mr. Freeze a much more sympathetic character, though a lot of that sympathy was put to the test by Arnold Schwarzenegger's portrayal of the character.
The show's intro was actually recycled footage
Possibly one of the most iconic openings for a TV show, the intro to Batman: The Animated Series was actually a remake of the pilot that Bruce Timm and Paul Dini used to sell the show to Warner Brothers.
The pilot was basically a fleshed out version of the intro: some crooks rob a bank, Batman takes them out, and leaves them tied up as a nice gift for the police. Dini and Timm also chose not to include the show's title in the credits, because they felt Batman was so well known that people would know exactly what, and who, they were watching just from that short clip. Considered how this intro is forever burned in our brains, it's hard to argue with that logic.
FOX made it very hard to make the show they wanted
While Warner Brothers was willing to give the show a fair amount of creative freedom, the network, FOX, wasn't quite so accommodating. They had a number of strict rules that the show had to work around. Some of these rules were weirdly specific and forced major changes on the show. Like having to make Robin older because of FOX's rules about showing children in danger.
They also weren't allowed to use the villain Firefly (a pyromaniac with a flame-thrower), even though they wanted to. FOX shut them down because they didn't allow any character to be threatened or harmed by fire.
But that's not the only change FOX forced the show to make.
The show's name change was out of their control
Halfway through the four season run of the show, FOX forced them to change the name from Batman: The Animated Series to The Adventures of Batman and Robin. And the reason behind it was honestly kind of dumb.
Even though their rules forced Robin to be older, FOX felt that kids would only watch a kid's show if there was a kid in it, so they began insisting that Robin be featured prominently in every episode and nixing any storylines that didn't include him. The name change was the network's way of putting their foot down. The change in title also came with a new intro, that was not only considerably worse than the original, but thanks to FOX's Robin obsession comes across more like "The Adventures of Robin" seeing as Batman is barely in it.
Harley Quinn was based on a real woman
Well, kind of. The woman who would end up being the voice of Harley Quinn was also the woman who inspired both the character and her iconic look.
Arleen Sorkin, Harley's original voice actor and a friend of Paul Dini's, played the role of Calliope on Days of Our Lives. In one episode there's a fantasy sequence where Calliope is dressed as a jester and performs (badly) for a king. It was watching this episode that gave Paul Dini the main inspiration for Harley Quinn. And watching the scene, you can totally see why.
The show's co-creator almost quit after a violent mugging
While walking home one night in 1993 during the production of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, showrunner Paul Dini was attacked by two muggers. But it wasn't just valuables that he was robbed of that night.
He was brutally and violently attacked, to the point where parts of his skull were "powdered on impact." The trauma of the attack left him spiraling into depression and questioning everything he believed about the concepts of heroism, vigilantism, and good versus evil. In time both his body and his mind recovered, and in 2016 he released the autobiographical graphic novel Dark Night: A True Batman Story detailing the struggles he faced and how Batman helped him heal.
Batman went to school with some famous faces
Voice actor Kevin Conroy is not only the voice of Batman that most of us grew up with, he's also the actor who has portrayed him the longest. Between various DC universe cartoons, animated films, and video games, Conroy has consistently had roles as Batman/Bruce Wayne for the last 25 years.
But years before he was the voice of the World's Greatest Detective, he was a student at the prestigious performing arts school, Juilliard. He also had some pretty impressive classmates while he was there, including none other than Robin Williams, who was also his roommate. Superman himself Christopher Reeve was also at Juilliard at the time, and since he was good friends with Williams, chances are Superman and Batman would have also known each other then. Small world!