Warner Bros. Superman Animated Movies
I was five-years-old when Batman: The Animated Series debuted in the autumn following Tim Burton’s more foreboding (and parentally forbidden) Batman Returns. Cleaned up for Saturday morning standards, Batman: The Animated Series still left a stirring impression on children and adults alike with its Art Deco grandeur and Fleischer Studios influence. I may have been too young to catch its allusions to The Maltese Falcon or William Blake poems, but instinctively, there seemed to be something more somber and brooding about its timeless imagery of police patrolling zeppelins and black and white television sets that stood apart from the show’s shiny contemporaries. Even then, I knew the series romanticized much from a bygone age.
What began as an aesthetic evocative of Tim Burton and Anton Furst’s gothic hellscape from Batman (1989) morphed into its own operatic melodrama that was accentuated by the black paper used for the animation, as well as Shirley Walker’s music, which stands proudly next to Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer’s caped contributions. For the character’s appeal in pop culture, The Animated Series offered an ironically mature counterbalance to where Warner Bros. was going with their Batman films in the mid-1990s, premiering even briefly on the Fox Network’s Sunday night primetime line-up and producing a feature length film called Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) while the live-action franchise conversely was going to Joel Schumacher land.
The Batman Superman Movie is not quite of that caliber and notoriety the Caped Crusader’s animated form enjoyed only a few years prior, but it was crucial to its legacy as it came about during the DC Animated Universe’s true birth—after Batman: The Animated Series had been discontinued.
When The New Batman Adventures debuted on the nascent Kids’ WB in 1997, the original series’ five-year contract with Fox Kids had run out. However, the series had stopped producing new episodes after only three since Warner Bros. Animation had moved on to the more efficiently top-down synergetic Superman: The Animated Series at the WB network. As a result, Batman had not had new episodes in two years (a lifetime in children’s entertainment), and Superman was the biggest icon on the proverbial WB cartoon lot. Normally, such rebranding details about a product considered to be a toy commercial are incidental, but Warner Bros. Animation went to great lengths to continue Batman: The Animated Series in a new form, and the way they intended to make it relevant again was by cross-promoting it with Superman’s red cape.