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Encyclopedia > Batman: The Animated Series
The animated Batman shoots his grappling gun from a rooftop in a scene from the episode, "On Leather Wings."

Batman: The Animated Series is an acclaimed animated television series adaptation of the comic book series featuring the DC Comics superhero, Batman.

The original episodes, produced by Bruce Timm and Eric Rodomski, were first aired from 1992 to 1995, and are sometimes broadcast as The Adventures of Batman and Robin. The success of the series led to a new set of episodes being made, which aired from 1997 to 1999 under the title Batman: Gotham Knights (reflecting an expanded supporting cast that included Batgirl and Nightwing in addition to a new Robin). Some of these episodes were aired as part of The New Batman/Superman Adventures.

The series was partially inspired by Tim Burton's 1989 blockbuster Batman film, and initially took as its theme a variation of music written by Danny Elfman for the film. (Later episodes of the series used a new theme written in a similar style by Shirley Walker.) The series premiered in 1992, a few months after the successful release of the second Batman movie, Batman Returns. It eventually ran for 85 episodes, ending in Fall 1995.

Timm and Rodomski designed the series with an "otherworldy timelessness," incorporating "old-timey" features such as black-and-white title cards, police blimps, and a "vintage" color scheme, partially inspired by the Fleischer Studios Superman cartoons of the 1940s, as well as film noir. In their constant quest to make the show darker, the producers pushed the boundaries of action cartoons: it was the first such cartoon to depict firearms being fired, and many of the series' backgrounds were painted on black paper. First_time producers Timm and Rodomski reportedly encountered resistance from studio executives, but the success of Burton's first film allowed the embryonic series to survive long enough to produce a pilot episode, "On Leather Wings," which according to Timm "got a lot of people off our backs."

The Emmy Award-winning series quickly received wide acclaim for its distinctive animation and mature writing, and it instantly became a hit. Fans of a wide age range praised the show's sophisticated, cinematic tone and psychological stories. Voice-actor Kevin Conroy, for example, used two distinct voices to portray Bruce Wayne and Batman, transforming one character into two. This series also featured a supporting cast that included major actors performing the voices of the various classic villains, most notably Mark Hamill, who defined a whole new career for himself in animation with his cheerfully deranged portrayal of The Joker.

Key to the series' artistic success is that it managed to redefine classic characters, paying homage to their previous portrayals while giving them new dramatic force. The best example is Mr. Freeze; Batman: TAS turned him from a clichéd mad scientist with a gimmick for cold to a tragic figure whose frigid exterior hides a doomed love and a cold fury. However, the most famous of the series' innovations is the Joker's hapless assistant, Harley Quinn, who became so popular that DC added her to the Batman comics.

The Joker as he appeared in the series. His voice was provided by Mark Hamill.

This series became a cornerstone of Warner Brothers' animation department, which became one of the top producers of television animation and sparked a large franchise of similar TV adaptations of DC Comics characters.

Batman: The Animated Series premiered on the Fox Network and aired there for its first two seasons; however, it was then switched to Warner Bros.' new WB Network in the mid_1990s. Shortly before the transition, Fox aired episodes of the series in prime-time on Sunday evenings, marking one of the few times a show created initially for Saturday morning cartoons was scheduled for prime-time broadcast. However, the TV ratings were poor (the show aired opposite the perennial favorite 60 Minutes), and the series was removed from prime time.

After the series produced its 65th episode (the minimum number necessary for a TV series to be successfully syndicated), the show's popularity encouraged Warner Bros. to produce further episodes, furthering the animated adventures of the Caped Crusader. The Batman animated series was combined with the newer Superman: The Animated Series in the late 1990s in an hour-long Batman/Superman show. In the early 2000s, a new spin-off series, Batman Beyond, was released to further critical acclaim. In 2002, the Justice League animated series was released, building on the success of both the Batman and Superman animated series, and featured Batman as one of the founders of the League. Also of note is the fact that several of the animators from Japanese animation studio Sunrise worked on the series _ their work on Batman would become a great influence on one of their later series, Big O.

A feature-length animated Batman film was produced for theatrical release, based on the animated series: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. The film was well-received by fans of the series, but only generated mediocre box office revenue. There were also two direct-to-video movies based on the series: Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero, and Mystery of the Batwoman. A made-for-TV feature-length episode of the Batman/Superman series, "World's Finest," has been released on video as The Batman/Superman Movie. Collections of episodes from the series are also readily available on video.

The Gray Ghost from the episode of a similar name, "Beware the Gray Ghost." Adam West provided the voice for a washed-up superhero serial actor who finds himself needed once more.

A lost episode of the series was made from sixteen minutes of animated segements in the video game The Adventures of Batman and Robin for the Sega CD. It can be viewed here (http://www.toonamiarsenal.com/features/lostbatman/), courtesy of the Toonami Digital Arsenal (http://www.toonamiarsenal.com/).

This series had a profound influence on the superhero animated genre in that it set a higher standard of writing and animation quality. For instance, while the first X_Men series, which began less than an year after Batman had begun was popular, it was later remade as X-Men: Evolution which had more lavish animation with a similar simplified graphic style and sophisticated writing that was generally thought of as superior to its predecessor. In addition, the success of Batman encouraged Walt Disney Pictures management to proceed with their own series, Gargoyles, which strove for the same sophistication as the competition and became a cult favourite in its own right.

Home video release

Selected episodes were released on VHS throughout the 1990s, and on DVD in the early 2000s.

On July 6, 2004, Warner Brothers Home Video released Volume One of Batman: The Animated Series on DVD, consisting of 28 episodes on 4 discs. Volume Two was released on January 25, 2005.

Batman: The Animated Series in other media

The television series was accompanied by a tie-in comic book, The Batman Adventures, which followed the art style and continuity of the television series instead of other Batman comic books. The Batman Adventures, through several format changes to reflect the changing world of the series and its spin_offs, outlasted the series itself by nearly a decade, finally being cancelled in 2004 to make way for the tie_in comic of a new, unrelated Batman animated series, The Batman.

There was also a short-lived series of tie-in novels, adapted from episodes of the series by science fiction author Geary Gravel. To achieve novel-length, Gravel combined several related episodes into a single storyline in each novel. The novels included:

  • Shadows of the Past ("Appointment in Crime Alley", "Robin's Reckoning" two-parter)
  • Dual to the Death ("Two-Face" two-parter, "Shadow of the Bat" two-parter)
  • The Dragon and the Bat
  • Mask of the Phantasm (Batman: Mask of the Phantasm movie)

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