Just as young comic book artist Bob Kane had revolutionised the superhero concept in the 1930's with his dark, driven, ironically potent creation, and director Tim Burton's mega-movie take on the character had touched a nerve with cinema audiences world-wide in the late eighties, Batman: The Animated Series, darkly noir-ish and Art Deco inspired, finally presented the television viewing public with arguably the definitive depiction of Gotham City's legendary Dark Knight vigilante.
Produced by Burton, this superior example of the power of stylishly designed and executed animation, wedded to intelligently plotted insightfully scripted stories, and a cast of guest voices out of a television 'who's who', brilliantly showcased the inherent dramatic possibilities of the serious depiction of larger-than-life characters through the use of the animated medium.
Rejecting the colourfully camp excesses of the classic live action version of the sixties, and the emasculated bland cartoon versions offered up during both the 70's and 80's, the latest incarnation opted to highlight a sardonically sombre, psychologically complex portrait of Bruce Wayne, obsessed by the all consuming need to avenge the brutal murder of his parents years before by waging an unceasing nocturnal war on crime, garbed in a costume which symbolises not only the potential terror of the night itself, but also his own childhood trauma; the Bat.
The 65 episodes of Batman: The Animated Series originally premiered in September of 1992 and for the following two years was a central staple of the Fox weekday afternoon line-up, including a four month period when the series was also aired Sunday nights and a movie-length special: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm for Christmas 1993. The show won the coveted Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program in September 1993, whilst in September 1994 it was relocated to Saturday mornings, where, at the behest of Fox network executives, the series underwent retooling to bring it in line with the Network's wish for 'Less introspection, more humour, more larger-than-life adventure and more Robin'. To reflect this lighter tone, the show was renamed The Adventures of Batman and Robin, the title it retained when it was moved back to the Fox weekday line-up a year later, and where it was to remain until the fall of 1997, when it was once again moved, this time transferring to the WB network as part of The New Batman/Superman Adventures.
Exciting, intelligent, bold, daring and thoughtful, Batman: The Animated Series redefined the boundaries and set the standard as a template for the presentation of quality animated televisual action drama. It also gives us, the viewers, the enduring legacy of the definitive image of a media spanning legend.
Published on November 28th, 2018. Written by Steve Hulse for Television Heaven.