Blu-ray and DVD Reviews

Batman: The Animated Series - Volume One

Reviewed by: Scott Chitwood
Movie Rating:
10 out of 10
Extras Rating:
8 out of 10
Movie Details:
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Rating: Not Rated

Starring:
Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne/Batman (voice)
Loren Lester as Richard 'Dick' Grayson/Robin (voice)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. as Alfred Pennyworth (voice)
Bob Hastings as Commissioner James 'Jim' Gordon (voice)
Robert Costanzo as Detective Harvey Bullock (voice)
Michael Ansara as Dr. Victor Fries/Mr. Freeze (voice)
Adrienne Barbeau as Selina Kyle/Catwoman (voice)
Lloyd Bochner as Mayor Hamilton Hill (voice)
John Glover as Edward Nygma/The Riddler (voice)
Mark Hamill as Jack Napier/The Joker (voice)
Aron Kincaid as Waylon Jones/Killer Croc (voice)
Roddy McDowall as Dr. Jervis Tetch/The Mad Hatter (voice)
Richard Moll as District Attorney Harvey Dent/Two-Face, Batcave Computer, Additional Voices (voice)
Ron Perlman as Matthew Hagen/Clayface (voice)
Diane Pershing as Dr. Pamela Lillian Isley/Poison Ivy (voice)
Brock Peters as Wayne Enterprises CFO Lucius Fox (voice)
Henry Polic II as Professor Jonathan Crane/The Scarecrow (voice)
Arleen Sorkin as Dr. Harleen Quinzel/Harley Quinn (voice)
Paul Williams as Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot/The Penguin (voice)
Adam West as The Gray Ghost (voice)

Special Features:
28 Episodes

"Batman: The Legacy Continues" Retrospective Featurette

"The Dark Knight's First Night" Pilot Promo

"Tour Of The Batcave"

Commentary on 2 Key Episodes by Series Producers Bruce Timm, Eric Rodomski, and Paul Dini

Other Info:
Fullscreen
Dolby Digital Surround Sound
English, French, and Spanish Languages
Running Time: 625 Minutes

Synopsis:
This is the complete first season of Batman – The Animated Series. It began in 1992 and was revolutionary in style, content, and story. It was a landmark portrayal of the Dark Knight and spawned animated shows like Superman and Justice League.

In these early episodes, Batman faces off with the Joker, Catwoman, Clayface, Mr. Freeze, Scarecrow, Killer Croc, Riddler, Penguin, The Mad Hatter, and more. Aiding him are Alfred and Robin.

Batman – The Animated Series – Volume 1 is not rated.

The Movie:
When Batman – The Animated Series first debuted in 1992, my college roommates and I would drop everything and watch it each day. It was simply incredible. The animation, story, and style were landmark and every episode felt like a mini Batman movie. It took all the best parts of the movies, comics, and TV shows, mixed them up, and then gave it a retro look while throwing in their own unique touches. It's a formula that still works to this day and has rarely been repeated since. In fact, the Animated Series made the movies look bad years later. For example, while Two Face and Mr. Freeze were reduced to lame bad guys by Tommy Lee Jones and Arnold Schwarzenegger, this show turned them into compelling, interesting, and dramatic characters. They ended up being the definitive versions of the characters, and that ended up being the case across the board with the other characters.

The stories were able to do an incredible blending of character drama and action. In one episode you would have Batman wrestling with his inner demons and feelings of guilt about his parents. Later in that same episode you'd have him narrowly escaping a huge explosion. They were able to keep up the awesome action through the whole series. From early on where Batman beats the crap out of Man-Bat while flying over the city to Clayface beating the crap out of Batman in return, it was all good. It was action as good as any you'd find on the big screen.

The look of the show was awesome, too. Gotham City was turned into an amazing, dark metropolis with blimps, 1940's era cars, and retro costumes. The characters were also overhauled into Fleischer styles designs. Batman's square jaw and distinct animated look ended up being so definitive that many cartoons since seem to have been patterned after him. Just look at Justice League (also by Bruce Timm), Clone Wars, and other animated shows that have come along since. The show was also uniquely dark, so much so that sometimes characters completely disappeared against backgrounds. These early episodes are also a little more roughly animated than the later episodes, but it helps add to the retro look of it all. The fantastic music and distinctive intro music by Danny Elfman also beautifully help set the tone.

The voice acting in the shows is first rate. Kevin Conroy is perfectly cast as Batman. His deep voice is as good as you could ask for, and he perfectly changes his voice for Bruce Wayne. The villains are also excellent. Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame makes a surprisingly good Joker. (In his character's introduction, he even sings "Jingle Bells, Batman smells...". Roddy McDowall even appears as the Mad Hatter and Richard Moll (Bull from Night Court) is the voice of Two-Face. Hellboy himself Ron Perlman plays Clayface while Michael Ansara has an incredibly haunting voice as Mr. Freeze. Arleen Sorkin delivers a landmark performance as Harley Quinn, a character created just for this series. And in a brilliant piece of casting, they get former Batman actor Adam West to play The Gray Ghost, a predecessor of Batman. Rarely does a voice cast come together so well, but they pulled it off.

I mentioned that I first watched the TV series with my college roommates back in 1992. Now in 2004 I'm watching them again with my 2 ˝ year old on, and he loves them. For him this will likely be the Batman portrayal that all others will be measured to, and I think I'd agree with him.

The Extras:
There are a few bonus features included in this 4 disc set:

"Batman: The Legacy Continues" Retrospective Featurette – In this 16 minute video, the creators, actors, and various DC comic writers talk about the show. They discuss how it came about, how it was landmark, and how it changed how Batman was written from 1992 on. Look for interviews with Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and others. There's also Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, and more. They show storyboards, clips from the shows, and other cool stuff.

"The Dark Knight's First Night" Pilot Promo – Bruce Timm and Eric Rodomski introduce this video by telling how they were tapped to do the Batman series after working on Tiny Toons. They then show the demo reel that won them the job. (It has apparently been bootlegged a lot in the past.) Though the original soundtrack was lost, they dubbed it with new sound effects and music. The result is something that is very reminiscent of the opening to the show. It's also easy to see why they got the job based on this. It's a rare find and a nice addition to the DVD extras.

"Tour Of The Batcave" – This is a brief look at the gadgets and vehicles in Batman's cave. You get descriptions of them and then it shows clips highlighting them from the show. It's probably the weakest of the extras.

Commentary on 2 Key Episodes by Series Producers Bruce Timm, Eric Rodomski, and Paul Dini – Timm and Rodomski do commentary for the first episode of the series, "On Leather Wings". Paul Dini then joins them for another commentary on Episode 14, "Heart Of Ice". They have interesting stories about how they got the show made, how they wrote the stories, how they cast the voices, and more. As a fan of the show, I was really interested in their stories and their bits of trivia that they pointed out. It's well worth listening to.

The Bottom Line:
If you're a Batman fan, then this is a required addition to your collection. The same goes if you're any sort of animation fan. And even if you're not, I think you'll find it to be an action packed exciting series well worth checking out.

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