Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Batman: The Animated Series

There was a time when my roommate and I would forgo a night at the bar to sit in the living room, eat pizza, have a few beers and watch Batman: The Animated Series. This was about thirteen years after the show aired and we would watch hours of episodes we saved on our DVR. My girlfriend at the time was amazed that two grown men would sit at home on a Friday night to watch cartoons. This was about three years ago and even though I’m almost thirty, I have to stop to watch when Batman is on.

The show might have been aimed for kids, but it never felt like it. It was a dark cartoon, mostly scenes taking place at night and indeed, animators drew on black paper rather than white. There was very little comedy and even the pilot was titled, “The Dark Knight’s First Night.” It was one of those fantastic, rare occasions when a product for children so seamlessly worked for adults. The series was deeply rooted in Burton’s films, from the look of Gotham City to the excellent use of Danny Elfman’s score. But, the show took itself seriously as a Batman vehicle. It presented practically the entire gamut of Batman’s villains, giving us the (now) second best representation of both Joker and Two-Face. Episodes took cues from films such as Rashomon and Last Temptation of Christ and in one Clayface episode, there are references to both A Streetcar Named Desire and Psycho inside of thirty seconds of each other. One need only look at these episode title cards to get a sense of the darker tone the series strived for.

The animated series (which never referred to itself as the animated series, simply, Batman.), even made smaller characters such as Renee Montoya and Harley Quinn part of the Batman canon. Mark Hamill played the Joker to perfection, better than Nicholson, but presumably not as amazing as Ledger. The fact that the show continues to air and that a major box set is being planned for it, speaks to the enduring legacy of the show. I love the films, but the animated series will always be close to my heart.


Ibetolis said...

Now you're taking me back.

I remember when this was first aired in the UK, it was unlike any cartoon I had seen before and I instantly loved it. They had it on a Saturday morning programme and I remember the presenter warning that the following cartoon was 'rather dark'. Classic tv.

I haven't watched it in years so I'm going to get me that box-set. God, I had forgotten how great that programme was.

Michael J. Mendez said...

I cannot wait for that box set, it's why I've put off buying them for so long.

Man, my brother and I loved this show more than candy. It was on everyday after school and we never missed an episode. It's just brilliant and something I can't wait to share with my kids someday.

Thanks for reading!

Paul Arrand Rodgers said...

I think Harley Quinn was an original creation. In fact, I'm about 100% certain. It's amazing that a cartoon show from the 1990's was that influential...most of them were mindnumbingly awful (in good ways and bad ways), but all of that Kids WB stuff, Animaniacs, Batman, Pinky and the Brain, etc., all stand today as classic animation.