Monday, February 7, 2011

Why Batman: The Animated Series Is The Greatest Saturday Morning Cartoon In TV History

Despite it's linkage to the Fox Network, (the most evil of all TV networks) Batman The Animated Series (BTAS) took kid's cartoon shows to new heights.  Amongst all the other cartoons with a "dark decor" that I watched growing up, like X-Men, Captain Planet, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, BTAS was the beginning of my journey into a much more mature and "adult" way of looking at comics.

Before Joe Lieberman came in and toned down the violent nature of kid's cartoon shows in the mid 90's, networks carrying animated TV series' targeted towards younger viewers began creating cartoons that fit the "young adult" label; delving into broader, more mature concepts and ideas that were typically saved for shows our parents watched after 9:00 PM.  BTAS and X-Men is where it all started.

Even though X-Men rocked my world, I was always much more partial to the Dark Knight's time slot and made sure I was awake with my batwings on every Saturday.  While many of the other shows relied on flashy effects and booms and explosions to  keep the kid's attention, BTAS stayed much simpler and less complex visually. And to this day, the show remains a cult classic with Batman fans, old and young alike.

Why?  Because it was fresh, new, and different from all the other shows.  When Batman first hit comic book stands, the art was far from being worthy of of the title.  Then Warner Bros. took something that was bad and turned into something artistic; giving it that "Film Noir" motif and keeping it classy, reminding us of the great detective comics like Dick Tracy and the Green Hornet.  The most defining feature of Batman?  That incredibly square chin that stuck out of that pointy-eared cowl like a sore thumb.  And what did Dick Tracy's face look like back in the day?  I'll let you do the math.

The show took major risks by tackling ideas that most parents probably wanted to keep their kids away from.  Examples: Poison Ivy making plant-like copies of her husband because she never wanted her new found love to end, Robin dealing with the discovery of his parent's murderer, Batman confronting his father's legacy, and the list goes on.  I was lucky enough to have a mother who relished the fact that I was thinking critically about comics and cartoons where all the rest of my friends were wondering what that thing dangling between their two legs was.

But let's look even further into that dark and well-written kid's shows and find out the work that went into each individual episode.  The scripts took the show to incredible bounds, allowing for even more dark and twisted cartoon shows to emerge.  But the most impressive aspect of the show was it's musical setting.  How many of you knew that each episode had it's own specific theme song?  I'm not talking about the Danny Elfman musical score that would start the show off weekly, I'm talking about after the fact, when the episode's title screen came up with it's painted still...THAT music was unique to it's specific episode.  Great care was taken when it came to the music of the show, because that's where the heart of BTAS lay.

Of course we can't forget the amazing voice talents of Mark Hamil (The Joker), Kevin Conroy (Batman), Ron Perlman (Clayface), Helen Slater (Talia), John Glover (The Riddler), which helped boost the show's already awesome standard of quality.  I wish I could spend as much time as I would like and praise this show's almost perfect execution in creating a new wave of kid's cartoon shows, (There's a disertation somewhere in this right?) but I can just simply ask you to get Netflix or buy one of the box sets and see it for yourself.  In the meantime, check out this incredibly awesome Theme song opener, because I know we all love it!

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree, Batman: The Animated Series was the pinnacle of animation for its time. I still remember watching the premier episode; if I remember correctly it was on at 9 on a Friday night. Kind of a weird spot to premier a Saturday morning cartoon, but it worked. I still enjoy watching this with my son, who now has a fond place in his heart for Batman as well.

    If you liked this series, check out the Spectacular Spider-man series from a few years ago. It is excellent; in my opinion it even gives Batman:tAS a run for its money.