Batman: The Animated Series

25 years ago this month, FOX Kids unleashed one of the most innovative and influential cartoons of all time, ‘Batman: The Animated Series’, a retro noir tribute that tapped into both sophisticated modern comic book sensibilities with the Caped Crusader’s pulpy 1930s-40s roots.  Though not as bleak or gritty as Frank Miller’s ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ or the resulting ‘Year One’, Warner Brothers utilized sleek, exquisite animation with mature, sophisticated writing and amazing voice acting, the likes of which Saturday morning had never seen.  Because of this, the show drew viewers both young and old.

And for many, not only does that make ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ the definitive Batman cartoon, it marks the definitive Batman and company period.  Unfortunately for those that have to follow them, for many Kevin Conroy IS Batman, while Mark Hamill is THE Joker.  Anyone else is a nice try.

To celebrate the anniversary of ‘Batman:TAS’, these two vocal icons looked back on the 109 episodes to select their favorites.

According to Conroy, ‘Perchance to Dream’, which involved Batman/Bruce Wayne being trapped in a dreamscape created by The Mad Hatter, represented the series at its finest:

“I got to create Thomas Wayne’s voice, which was a really fun challenge in addition to bringing the episode’s incredible story to life.  The wonderful thing about playing a character like Bruce Wayne is that you get to explore his damaged psychology. I love the scripts that examine his internal makeup. ‘Perchance to Dream,’ the movie Mask of the Phantasm, they really dig into this man and what led him to become Batman.”

Here is a clip of an interview in which Conroy discusses this episode:


And here is a short clip from the episode:


Hamill was not able to narrow his choice down to one episode and cited:

“The Joker never gets tiresome because he’s insane, and that makes him unpredictable, which is never boring. I love that he has the emotional maturity of a 9-year-old and he can turn on a dime. I loved ‘The Laughing Fish,’ which was a story taken out of the comics, ‘Joker’s Favor,’ and ‘The Man Who Killed Batman,’ which has the best Joker monologue of all time.”

‘The Joker’s Favor’ revolved around The Joker terrorizing a poor schlub who made the mistake of cursing at him while stuck in traffic.  This episode also marked the debut of The Joker’s moll Harley Quinn, voiced by Arleen Sorkin– a character that was intended to only appear once, but who proved so so popular that she returned for many more appearances and was eventually adapted into the comics and in live action on TV and in film.

Meanwhile, ‘The Man Who Killed Batman’ revolved around a low-level thug who reportedly offs the Dark Knight, which draws the ire of The Joker who obviously felt he was entitled to that honor.

Here’s a clip from ‘The Joker’s Favor’:


And here is the eulogy that The Joker delivers in ‘The Man Who Killed Batman’:


As incredible and iconic as Conroy and Hamill’s depictions were, they might not have been so dynamic without the deft guidance of voice director Andrea Romano.

John Glover, who voiced The Riddler, described the process of working with her, saying:

“She staged every recording like it was a play. You weren’t there to just do your lines.  She’d play your previous episode so you could see how you attacked the character. Then we’d do a read-through and Andrea would give us notes. Then we’d record the episode. It was an incredibly joyous experience.”

Conroy added, “She always goes to bat for the actors, even though she’s working for the studios. She had an enormous loyalty to her actor. She could coax performances out of people.”  He did, however, recall an instance when Romano’s encouragement wasn’t enough.

“I remember one day we had an actor who kept giving the same line reading no matter what direction Andrea gave him. She tried several different prompts and he just couldn’t do it. Finally she said, ‘Perfect, let’s keep going.  At the end of the session, Andrea said, ‘OK, great work, thanks everyone. Kevin, could you stay after a minute?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ So, I stay after and Andrea asks, ‘Is your afternoon free?’ I told her that it was and she said, ‘Ok good, there’s another actor coming in to re-record the guy’s part.’ Andrea didn’t want to embarrass him in front of everyone in the recording session. It was really professional.”

There have been many animated series starring Batman and some other high-quality superhero shows, but ‘Batman:TAS’ remains a high point against which all others are measured.

Do you have any favorite memories of this series?

Source: The Hollywood Reporter