Celebrating 25 Years Of Batman: The Animated Series At NYCC 2017

Posted by October 11, 2017 Comment

Bleeding Cool contributor Rich Epstein wrote from New York Comic Con 2017:

Batman: The Animated Series Anniversary Panel

In many ways, Batman: The Animated Series changed animation in America. It was a show geared towards teens rather than children; one that didn’t shy away from showing real emotions, conflict, and consequences. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of this landmark show, Warner Bros. head of publicity Gary Miereanu hosted a panel of some of the key people in bringing the show to life, including creator Bruce Timm, producer/writer Alan Burnett (who just retired), Batgirl portrayer Tara Strong, and the Bat himself, Kevin Conroy.

First, Timm talked a little about how the show came about. It want a particularly hard sell to Warner, but it took a little more to get Fox involved. The network really wanted to pick up Tiny Toon Adventures, so a Warner put together a package of shows for Fox, including Batman. If Fox wanted Tiny Toons, they had to take Batman. Something tells me Fox ended up not regretting that one bit.

Timm talked a bit about the transition from doing mostly design work to running his own show. In a word, it was “terrifying.” It took him a little while to put a team together, but once Burnett was on board he in turn approached Paul Dini. Burnett described the show to Dini, who drafted a two and a half page treatment of the story that would become ‘Heart of Ice’. After reading that treatment, Burnett knew they had a show.

Next came the music. Timm loved what Danny Elfman had done for Tim Burton‘s Batman, but knew there was no way he was getting Elfman. One day, Timm was watching the live-action Flash, and the music reminded, created by Shirley Walker, reminded him of Elfman’s score. He had his people reach out to Walker, who happened to be available.

Burnett and Timm both agreed that the key for the show was to just forget the rules. There was some extra flexibility with a weekday afternoon show as opposed to a Saturday morning cartoon, but beyond that, Burnett and Timm pushed the boundaries whenever they could. Early on, they were told they could not show people being thrown through a glass window or put into head locks or too many guns. They, of course, did all those things.

But it wasn’t just breaking the Standards and Practices rules. Burnett and Timm also had to deal with animators who came from Hanna Barbera, who had been doing things the same way for years and years. By ignoring the people telling them animation had to be done a certain way, Burnett and Timm were able to create something that looked fresh.

As Burnett said, there had never been another show like this, and it was long overdo. Strong added in that there still hasn’t been another show like it.

Although Kevin Conroy had done some voiceover work for commercials, he had never even auditioned for an animated role before Batman. He credits Timm with willing to look beyond the usual players to find people that were right for the show Timm was trying to make.

When Conroy spoke to Timm before the audition, Timm asked what Conroy knew about Batman. When Conroy started to mention Adam West, Timm stopped him in his place. That was definitely not the show Timm wanted to make. Instead, Timm told Conroy about his vision for the show and Conroy saw it as a noir, dark world with a tragic Shakespearian character. He did the audition, and the rest is history.

Conroy was surprised at the complexity of the scripts. Batman was (and still is) a character with serious issues, and Burnett, Timm and the rest of the writers never shied away from showing this. He singled out the scene in Mask of the Phantasm where Bruce Wayne breaks down on his parents’ grave, torn between his chance at love and the vow he made. Conroy, who had a difficult relationship with his own father, was able to relate to the raw emotion in the scene.

After Melissa Gilbert voiced batgirl during the initial run, the producers decided to go in a different direction when the show came back as The New Batman Adventures. Tara Strong was intimidated during her audition for one of the few times in her career. After all, she was trying out for Batgirl, an iconic character of which Strong was a big fan and collector.

There was plenty of praise for the recently retired casting director Andrea Romano. Timm and Burnett talked about how Romano was always able to find exactly what they described. Conroy and Strong talked about how Romano, a former actor herself, was always able to read the situation and get the most out of her actors.

The audience was also treated to a lovely rendition of ‘Am I Blue’ by Kevin Conroy, reprising Batman’s famous turn from Justice League Unlimited.

At least it was finally announced was that the show will be available on Blu-ray sometime in 2018.

(Last Updated October 11, 2017 1:25 pm )

About Bill Watters

Games programmer by day, geek culture and fandom writer by night. You’ll find me writing most often about tv and movies with a healthy side dose of the goings-on around the convention and fandom scene.

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