Batman: The Animated Series
Hurray! it's time for another featured post, and I've been saving a good one. I liked this show as a kid, but really fell in love with it after listening to in-depth interviews with Paul Dini and Bruce Timm on Kevin Smith's 'Fatman on Batman'. Hearing the behind the scenes, reminded me of the quality of Batman: The Animated Series, forcing me to go back and watch the majority of the show. I was floored with how little I appreciated the subtleties of the storytelling.
For those who don't know, Batman is a timeless cartoon that has reached legendary status, and for good reason. This is one of the few cartoons that I watched as a kid that really stands the test of time. This show could have easily been a forgettable post-movie Batman cartoon, but instead became an important part in building the Batman mythos.
First off, the voice acting for Batman was absolutely stellar. The voices of Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamil as the Joker have become signature to the characters beyond the cartoon. This show launched Conroy's voice acting career and created yet another nerd legacy for Hamil. Also, Harley Quinn was not only voiced by Arleen Sorkin, but inspired by her as well. Harley Quinn has since moved out of the animated cartoon where she was created, and into the comics, video games, and will even be appearing on the big screen.
The artwork was all based on the style of Bruce Timm, who's has gone on to build an entire line of DC cartoons and movies. These cartoons all take place in what is affectionately called the "Timmverse". When creating the show, Bruce Timm decided to paint colour onto black paper instead of white, giving the Batman cartoon the signature dark feel. Not only does the show's deco-noir style stand out, the actual animation is the best I've seen from a weekly TV cartoon by far.
Most importantly, the storytelling is surprisingly complex for a kids cartoon. The biggest merit of this show for me, is that it didn't patronize the kids watching it. Certain episodes have such a deep pathos that you forget that you're watching a kids cartoon at all. Two of the best examples are the "Heart of Ice" and "The Grey Ghost" episodes. The talent behind the narrative is from the main writer Paul Dini, who took pushed the boundaries on what a cartoon could be.
Also worth mentioning is the soundtrack for the show. As a Warner Bros. production, the show had an amazing symphonic sound track tailored for each scene making all of them that much more meaningful and powerful. Play Danny Elfman's introduction theme for any kid from the 90s, and you will transport them back into time.
I'm glad that I had this re-introduction to the show in recent years. With an adult perception of the show, I can really dig into the plot nuances that are lost on children. Not only that, but the implied darkness and tragedy that lingers just under the surface has a much stronger impact than I would have ever imagined in a kids cartoon.