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Batman: The Animated Series
Batman: The Animated Series is one of the finest achievements in animation history. The series helped to redefine the medium of animated television series and shape the landscape of the art form for years. It helped to define and change the way animated television series were even thought of in the eyes of audiences and critics alike. Warner Bros intended to make a fun series from the start. To entertain the kids and make something memorable enough to sell merchandise. What the network didn't expect to occur, no doubt, was for something so iconic and legendary to be created. For Batman: The Animated Series to be a masterclass of animation.
Batman: The Animated Series is an essential animated program which is compelling from beginning to end. Constantly gripping and emotionally involving, it's a series that takes audiences on a compelling journey. The series was heavily inspired by Tim Burton's Batman feature film but it was also a series which had a distinctive voice and style that was unlike any other previous incarnation of the character on film. The series would delve into the character of Bruce Wayne in a way that became gripping and enthralling on a weekly basis.
The exploration of Batman's many arch-nemesis foes including The Joker (voiced impeccably by Mark Hamill), Harley Quinn, Two-Face, The Penguin, The Riddler, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Mr. Freeze, and others was regularly surprising and intriguing. For example, Mr. Freeze had an expanded story-line in the iconic episode Heart of Ice. The episode delved further into the backstory of Mr. Freeze and truly became a classic exploring the character in a way never before done within the Batman universe.
Two-Face: Part 1 & Part 2 are also some of the most memorable episodes. The series delved into the psyche of Harvey Dent in a way that made the story-line all the more engaging. While every episode manages to play out like a mini-theatrical film, this two-part episode feels just as richly layered as a feature length production. Robin's Reckoning Part 1 & Part 2 are also exceptional at weaving Robin into the series. While many might prefer the standalone Batman episodes, Robin was also a great side-kick who had a terrific introduction on the show. Robin's story-line was equally compelling and richly rewarding as the series ex
While the later seasons of Batman: The Animated Series weren't quite up to par with season one (which is undoubtedly the best of the entire run) the series managed to maintain a consistently high quality from every aspect of the series production. The direction by series showrunner Bruce Timm was consistently entertaining and exhilarating. Paul Dini, series writer, had a good knack for telling these stories and wrote some of the best episodes and always managed to bring major contributions to the series storytelling development. The music score by Shirley Walker was gigantic in scope and featured iconic themes that were perfectly matched to the dark tones of the storytelling.
Though the series was produced by Warner Bros with the intention of being entertaining for children, the production team put an enormous amount of effort into making the series something adult fans could appreciate. The brooding noir animation, legendary character designs, and detailed backdrops form a mesmerizing animated world which feels unique, cohesive, and legendary. The series helped define Batman for an entire generation of audiences. It inspired something in fans which is rarely seen in film or television. Batman: The Animated Series should be considered a textbook example of great television (animated or otherwise). The rich storytelling and artistry make it one of the best series ever made.
Batman: The Animated Series arrives on Blu-ray after years of speculation and anticipation from fans. This has long been heralded as one of the greatest achievements in DC animation yet the series has never really had a definitive presentation. Previous DVD releases had artifacts and an enormous amount of dirt, debris, and dust on the film prints. Warner Bros decided to put work into bringing Batman: The Animated Series to Blu-ray with the best possible quality.
First things first: fans will consider this to be a noteworthy upgrade over all previous home media releases. The series has never looked better than it does here. This is a terrific upgrade with better colors and significantly better compression. It's a noteworthy upgrade which Batman fans won't be able to resist.
The release isn't perfect, though. It seems as though there was minimal effort done to truly clean up these prints. Doing so would have undoubtedly been enormously time consuming and expensive. It didn't get a fully "A-Grade" restoration effort (which is what many fans wanted from this project). I wish I could say they went the extra mile on Batman: The Animated Series, a cornerstone in animation, but the release never reaches those heights.
The picture also has noticeable DNR (digital noise reduction) which causes the image to sometimes look softer and less detailed than it could have been ideally. This is of course to have grain look less noticeable on the image but I would have preferred the studio to leave this aspect alone. The result is some scenes have less detail than the ideal but it's the process WB decided on for their restoration.
Even with some picture-quality drawbacks, it's hard to argue that this isn't a big improvement over previous DVD releases. The series has never looked better than it does here. For an animated series produced over twenty years ago, it's astonishing to see it again with this degree of quality. It certainly never looked so good when watching it growing up. The clarity of the opening sequence with it's iconic title music and logo will send shivers up the spines of Batman fans everywhere.
WB did not send the full set for this title for review. The film discs, as an example, were not included and cannot be commented on.
The audio fares even better than the picture-quality. This is arguably the area where this release is improved upon the most. From the moment I started to listen to the 2.0 stereo DTS-HD Master Audio, it was apparent the audio restoration is a superb improvement over the previous Dolby Digital tracks. The score composed by Shirley Walker has never sounded better (and for some fans, myself included, her scores helped make the show become a weekly cinematic experience). Nothing disappointing in regards to the quality of the audio on this release. For a classic animated series to sound terrific is a surprising joy. Astonishing quality.
The Deluxe Collector's Edition includes 3 mini Funko figurines and comes in collectible digibook style packaging. The Blu-ray release also includes both of the following feature films: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and Batman and Mr. Freeze: SubZero.
First of all, the bulk of the bonus features on this Blu-ray release are archival and are carried over from previous DVD editions. The run-down is as follows:
On Leather Wings commentary by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski
The Dark Knight's First Knight Promo: Hosted by Bruce Timm
Batman: The Legacy Continues Retrospective
Heart of Ice commentary by Paul Dini, Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski
Tour of the Batcave
Robin's Reckoning Part One commentary by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski
Heart of Steel Part Two commentary by Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski and Kevin Altieri
Robin Rising: How the Boy Wonder's Character Evolved
Gotham's Guardians: The Stalwart Supporting Characters
Almost Got ‘im commentary by Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski and Paul Dini
Voices of the Knight
Harley and Ivy commentary by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Eric Radomski and Boyd Kirkland
Read My Lips commentary by Bruce Timm, Michael Reaves, Boyd Kirkland and Shirley Walker
Gotham's New Knight
Harlequinaade commentary by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Shirley Walker and Eric Radomski
House and Garden video commentary by Producer Bruce Timm, Director Boyd Kirkland and Writer Paul Dini.
Over the Edge commentary by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Glen Murakami and James Tucker, Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight's Many Foes, Critters commentary by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Dan Riba, Glen Murakami and James Tucker, Legends of the Dark Knight commentary by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Dan Riba, Glen Murakami and James Tucker.
This set does include a NEW bonus features disc with some interesting supplemental features:
The Heart of Batman (HD, 1 Hr. 38 min.) is the biggest addition to this release. It's an essential view for fans of the series and includes interviews with so many key players in the series: from director Bruce Timm to writer Paul Dini to voice director Andrea Romano. The animators and key players behind the series production (as well as voice actors like Kevin Conroy, who so impeccably voiced Batman) all share their thoughts on the origins of the animated incarnation. The documentary does extend somewhat beyond merely exploring Batman: TAS and also delves into other early Amblin produced animated series (with the group discussion also focusing some on Animaniacs and Tiny Toons Adventures due to so many central figures involvement in all three series). The key focus is certainly Batman but this far ranging documentary is also a bit of a throwback look at the early 90's animation-house at WB altogether. You get to see early concept work of the series development and hear stories about the casting of Conroy as Batman. Some details might not be surprising to longtime Batman TAS fans and other details will feel fresh and revealing about the series production history.
Concepting Harley Quinn (2 min.) is a short featurette about the origin of the Harley Quinn character as seen in Batman: The Animated Series and how her style and look was designed.
Batman: The Animated Series is one of the greatest achievements in animated television history. Each and every episode always set a high bar with film-like episodes that are reminiscent of mini-movies within the Batman universe. With striking animation, noir-style designs, superb voice-performances, excellent writing and direction, Batman was never so good in film as on this series (until Christopher Nolan arrived to help reinvent the wheel once more). There are few animated series so impeccably made and that could equally appeal to adults and children alike. It's a joy to revisit this series on Blu-ray. Anyone who has ever considered themselves a fan of the series owes it to themselves to check out the series newly remastered edition.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.