Most '90s cartoons will inspire nostalgia in anyone who grew up watching them after school and on Saturday mornings. But one of the greatest animated shows of all time was Batman: The Animated Series, an amazing cartoon that combined the neo-noir of Tim Burton’s two forays into the bat-chise with the pulpy detective work of the comics. This series was without a doubt the best Batman on television, and likely the greatest Batman of all time. When you think back on all the revivals of Batman, and how many different Bruce Waynes audiences have had to deal with, it’s not hyperbole to state that the animated Batman series was the closest representation to the Batman of the comic books. The Batman of The Animated Series was sleek and stylized without being silly.
Was Batman: The Animated Series the best cartoon ever? It’s certainly up there in terms of production design and story. There was obvious care placed on this program that audiences hadn’t seen in an animated series before, and likely won’t see for a long time. Remember, in the early '90s cartoons were still specifically being made to sell toys. While Batman was no different, it strived to be something more than a 25 minute commercial. That’s only one of the reasons that Batman: The Animated Series was one of the greatest cartoons ever made.
Vote up the points you agree with and vote down the points you disagree with. Although if you vote anything down don’t be surprised if you find a bat-shaped hole in your windshield in the morning.
For ages people have argued about who was the better Batman: Michael Keaton, Christian Bale, etc. But the only true Batman is Kevin Conroy, who gave voice to the character throughout The Animated Series' run of 88 episodes and two feature films. The most important aspect of his portrayal of Batman is the slight variation on his voice when he actually plays the Bat.
It completely lacks the tough guy gravel of Bale's Bat, but it offers something different from when he's in the guise of Bruce Wayne; something that actors like Val Kilmer and George Clooney never even attempted.
Thanks to Tim Burton's design boner for art deco and Gothic architecture in his first two films in the Batman film series, the animators were given a blueprint for how Gotham looked. Rather than slap up some simple matte paintings and call it day they went deeper than most animators at the time dreamt of going. The final product of Batman: The Animated Series shows a city drenched in permanent midnight, and drawn with proportions that make the city look like it was filmed by a German Expressionest who'd just fallen out of a time machine on the Warner Brothers lot.
Until the Animated Series, stark black and whites hadn't been used in animation, and the back drop of Gotham provided a grim tone that was omnipresent even in the show's lighter moments.
It may seem easy to have spectacular music when you have Danny Elfman compose the main theme for the series and movies, but it was not necessarily the recipe for a slam dunk that it sounds like. Elfman is known for composing lush soundscapes without being encumbered by a budget, and that kind of freedom never happens when it comes to animation.The composer for the animated series, Shirley Walker, didn't miss a beat with her compositions that parallel the dark, yet playful nature of Elfman's music, while taking the show in its own direction. The momentous undertaking of using an orchestra to score an animated series had never been accomplished in such a brazen manner, and it's telling that there are only a few shows that have tried to reproduce the outcome.
The one thing you don't expect to see on an animated program running at four in the afternoon is death. Unless of course you're watching Batman: The Animated Series; in that case, you're going to see a few people die. Joker kills at least one person by poisoning them to death, and The Phantasm from the excellent Mask of The Phantasm straight up murdered people with statues. The Animated Series is a show that never shies away from the darkness that surrounds the Batman mythos, and the reason that it's so popular is because it leans into serious storytelling in a way that so many "serious" cartoons fail to do.
The series' followup movie, Return of the Joker, was created as a means to bridge the gap between the original series and Batman Beyond. In the released version, Joker dies when he is pushed into an electrified puddle. In the uncut version, however, his death is much more horrifying.
Tim Drake, AKA a child version of Robin, is psychologically and physically tortured by the Joker. As the Joker tells Batman how he abused Robin, the audience sees Tim dressed as a mini-Joker, clearly psychologically cracked, approach the two as they fight. Joker tells Tim to finish the punchline, but instead of shooting Batman, he shoots the Joker and breaks down in hysterical sobs after the fact.
The ending never made it on the show, though. Just before its release, the Columbine massacre happened. Writer Paul Dini explained on Kevin Smith's podcast Fatman on Batman how that – combined with the graphic nature of the ending – left it on the cutting room floor:
We were given carte blanche to write and make the movie we wanted and then the death scene of the Joker...was a very strong scene, implying Joker tortured Robin, who was a minor, to the breaking point, it's real strong stuff. What happened was, as we got close to the release, people were wondering if this... would traumatize kids. It ultimately came down to, even though this wasn’t going to air on Kids WB, for whatever reason we had to show it to one of the executives at Kids WB, and she said “I’m not going to run that, I’m not going to promote it…you’ve got a kid picking up a gun and killing somebody, I can’t promote that on my network.” At that time they needed it for promotion…they needed to get Kids WB on board to advertise it, to promote it.