Batman: The Animated Series is an animated television series produced by Warner Bros. Animation, based on the DC Comics superhero Batman. The first of WB Animation's many shows based on DC Comics, and the first to be set in what would be named the DC Animated Universe, it originally aired on Fox Kids from September 5, 1992 to September 15, 1995. The visual style of the series, dubbed "Dark Deco," was based on the film noir artwork of producer and artist Bruce Timm. It was widely praised for its thematic complexity, dark tone, artistic quality, and faithfulness to its title character's crime-fighting origins. The series also won four Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Animated Program.
When the first season of the series aired on weekday afternoons, it lacked an on-screen title in the opening theme sequence. When the series' timeslot was moved to weekends during its second season, it was given the on-screen title The Adventures of Batman & Robin. In 2013, TV Guide ranked Batman the Animated Series the seventh Greatest TV Cartoon of All Time.
The series took influence from Tim Burton's live-action films Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992), and the acclaimed Superman theatrical cartoons produced by Fleischer Studios in the early 1940s. In designing the series, Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski emulated Burton's films' "otherworldly timelessness", incorporating period features such as black-and-white title cards, police blimps (though no such thing existed, Timm has stated that he found it to fit the show's style) and a "vintage" color scheme with film noir flourishes. In addition, Radomski issued a standing order to the animation department that all backgrounds be painted using light colors on black paper (as opposed to the industry standard of dark colors on white paper). The distinctive visual combination of "noir" imagery and Art Deco design was dubbed "Dark Deco" by the producers.
The series initially took a variation of music written by Danny Elfman for the Burton films as its theme; later episodes of the series used a new theme with a similar style by Shirley Walker (Walker was occasionally Elfman's conductor for films on which they collaborated). The score of the series was influenced by Elfman and Walker's work on the Burton films, as well as music of 1940s film noir.
The series was more adult-oriented than previous superhero cartoons. It was the first such cartoon in years to depict outright physical violence against antagonists (though only one character was depicted as having been shot — Commissioner Gordon, in the episode "I Am the Night", is shown lying unconscious due to a gunshot wound he received offscreen) and one of the first animated shows in years to depict realistic firearms. First-time producers Timm and Radomski 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 series was also notable for its supporting cast — a number of well-known actors provided voices for various classic villains, most notably Mark Hamill (previously famous for his role as Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy), who later found success in voice acting thanks to his "cheerfully deranged" portrayal of the Joker. The recording sessions (under the supervision of voice director Andrea Romano) were recorded with the actors together in one studio (as opposed to industry standard of voice actors recording dialogue separately). This method would later be employed for all subsequent series in the DC animated universe.
One of the series' best-known innovations was the Joker's assistant, Harley Quinn, who became so popular that DC Comics later added her to mainstream Batman comic book continuity. The Penguin underwent change for the series; his appearance was remodeled after the version seen in Batman Returns (though still incorporating classic elements of the character), which was in production simultaneously with the series' first season. New life was also given to lesser-known characters for the series such as the Clock King. In addition, dramatic changes were made to villains such as Clayface and Mr. Freeze — the latter character, for example, was changed from a gimmicky mad scientist to a tragic figure whose "frigid exterior [hid] a doomed love and vindictive fury".
The Adventures of Batman & Robin, the on-screen title slide for season two. Batman: The Animated Series premiered on the Fox Network's children's block Fox Kids on September 5, 1992 and aired in that block during weekday afternoons at 4:30pm. In December, just three months after its debut, Fox also began airing episodes of the series on prime-time Sunday evenings, marking one of the few times a show created for Saturday Morning Television was scheduled for prime-time broadcast. However, the TV ratings fell short (as the show aired opposite the perennial favorite 60 Minutes), and the series was removed from this time slot in March 1993.
After the series produced its 65th episode (the minimum number necessary for a TV series to be successfully syndicated), Fox Network executives ordered a second season of 20 more episodes that was later reduced to airing weekly on Saturday mornings. The second season featured Robin more prominently and, as a result, was retitled The Adventures of Batman & Robin in the title credits; this run of episodes had two new opening sequences and ending credits. In total, Batman: The Animated Series reached 85 episodes before finishing its original run of episodes on September 15, 1995.
In 1997, following the end of Fox Kids' five-year exclusive broadcast contract, the series began airing in re-runs on The WB Network's children's block Kids' WB, alongside Superman: The Animated Series, soon making a block-type show combining the two shows called The New Batman Superman Adventures.
Cartoon Network began airing re-runs of the series on March 2, 1998. From 1998 to 1999, the show was aired after Cartoon Network's action block Toonami, and then in 2000 it was aired on Toonami itself.
The show later began re-airing on September 30, 2007 on Toon Disney's Jetix lineup, again alongside Superman: The Animated Series (despite Warner Bros. being one of Disney's biggest competitors).
The show airs on Teletoon Retro (a Canadian broadcasting channel), debuting on January 8, 2010. The first 65 episodes were confirmed, with the first being "The Cat and Claw, Part 1". The show was scheduled to air on a weekly basis, airing at 7:00 AM, 6:00 PM, and midnight. All times are Eastern.
The Hub started broadcasting the series on September 6, 2011. The network aired a 10-episode marathon of the series on July 20, 2012 to coincide with the theatrical release of The Dark Knight Rises and even created an animated version of one of the film's trailers, featuring Kevin Conroy and Adrienne Barbeau re-dubbing Batman and Catwoman's dialogue from the trailer.
Batman: The Animated Series has been consistently ranked as one of the greatest animated television series ever made. It has been highly praised for its sophistication, mature writing, voice acting, orchestrated soundtrack, artistic ambition, and faithfulness to its source material. In the 1992 year end issue, Entertainment Weekly ranked the series as one of the top television series of the year.
In his reference book, Batman: The Complete History, Les Daniels described The Animated Series as coming "as close as any artistic statement has to defining the look of Batman for the 1990s." Animation historian Charles Solomon gave the series a somewhat mixed assessment, commenting that "the dark, Art Deco-influenced backgrounds tended to eclipse the stiff animation and pedestrian storytelling" and concluding that the series "looked better in stills than it did on the screen."
IGN listed The Animated Series as the best adaptation of Batman anywhere outside of comics, the best comic book cartoon of all time, and the second best animated series of all time (after The Simpsons). Wizard magazine also ranked it #2 of the greatest animated television shows of all time (again after The Simpsons). TV Guide ranked Batman: The Animated Series the seventh Greatest TV Cartoon of All Time.
Due to the success of the series, many crew members went on to design and produce Superman: The Animated Series for The WB Network. During this time they created The New Batman Adventures, which featured the same streamlined animation style as Superman: The Animated Series, as well as numerous character re-designs from the original series despite taking place in the same continuity. The New Batman Adventures premiered in the fall of 1997 on The WB, airing alongside Superman: The Animated Series as part of an hour-long program titled The New Batman/Superman Adventures.
In 1999, a futuristic spin-off series titled Batman Beyond premiered on The WB, featuring a teenager named Terry McGinnis taking on the duties of Batman under the guidance of an elderly Bruce Wayne. Then in 2001, the Justice League animated series premiered on Cartoon Network, featuring Batman as one of the founding members of the League. This was continued in 2004 by Justice League Unlimited, featuring a greatly expanded League.
The dramatic writing and stylized art of Batman: The Animated Series sets it apart from traditional comic book-based cartoons. It can be considered the dramatic equivalent of more adult-oriented cartoon shows like The Simpsons. For this reason the show's popularity (along with that of its various spin-offs) endures among older audiences and comic book fans.
The Lego minifigures of various Batman characters are more strongly based on the designs from Batman: The Animated Series than any other form of Batman media. More precisely, the Joker, Two-Face, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze and Harley Quinn's minifigures seem to have identical costumes and faces to the characters from the series.
The dark atmosphere, mature themes, and even some of the voice cast from the series are heavily employed in the 2009 video game Batman: Arkham Asylum and its 2011 sequel, Batman: Arkham City. Furthermore, Batman's design and costume in the series are featured as an alternate skin in Arkham City. It is available as downloadable content or as an early unlock with a pre-order at GameStop and a valid membership to Power-Up Rewards. There are also Animated-inspired alternate skins for Catwoman, Nightwing and Robin. The same darker themes were also featured in the 2013 prequel game Batman: Arkham Origins.