15 Fun Facts about Batman: The Animated Series

On September 5, 1992, Batman: The Animated Series--one of the greatest American cartoons of the 1990s--first aired. It launched a great era of DC superhero cartoons known to fans as the DC Animated Universe. Here are 15 facts you might not know about this show.

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1. Animators Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski created this short pilot film in order to pitch their Batman series to network executives. They voiced it themselves, with Timm providing Batman's grunts and Radomski providing everything else.

2. Radomski developed the backgrounds for the series. In order to give it the film noir atmosphere that he and Timm wanted, Radomski started by painting everything black, then adding highlights. The visual effect of this decision is especially effective in the shots of Gotham's skyline. 

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3. Among the strongest visual influences for the show were the old Dave Fleischer Superman cartoons. These 17 cartoons, such as the one you see above, were made in the 1940s.

(Photo: Baldwin Saintilus, Warner Bros.)

4. When casting for the voice of Batman, voice director Andrea Romano searched for a voice that was “inherently sexy.” Batman was “a rule breaker,” and that dangerousness could appeal to women. Kevin Conroy had just the right voice and nailed his audition.

5. In the episode “Showdown,” the long-lived Ra’s al Ghul tells Batman about his past. The Governor of the Utah Territory in this episode was voiced by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who is a fan of Batman.

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6. The animated movie Mask of the Phantasm includes vocals that sound like Gregorian chanting. But it’s not Latin. The choral performers are actually saying the names of the show creators--Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski, Alan Burnett--backwards, over and over again.

(Images: 20th Century Fox, Lucasfilm, Warner Bros.)

7. Tim Curry was originally slated to be voice the Joker. But the producers decided that he wasn’t the right fit and so held new auditions. Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame got the job of voicing the Joker.

(Images: Warner Bros.)

8. The appearance of the Penguin is taken directly from Danny DeVito’s version in Batman Returns. In fact, Bruce Timm sketched DeVito in costume in person on the set of Batman Returns before designing the animated Penguin.

(Images: 20th Century Fox, Warner Bros.)

9. Roddy McDowall provided the voice for Jervis Tetch, the villain also known as the Mad Hatter.

(Images: ABC, Warner Bros.)

10. Abe Vigoda provided the voice of mobster Sal Valestra in Mask of the Phantasm.

(Images: Warner Bros., ABC)

11. The episode "Beware the Gray Ghost" is a fan favorite. It's about an old actor who played the lead role in The Gray Ghost, a superhero television show that aired many years ago. The actor was typecast as a result of that role and has financially struggled ever since. This was similar to the life of Adam West, the actor who played Batman in the 1960s television series.

Adam West provided the voice of the Gray Ghost actor in this episode.

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12. But it gets even wilder. Bruce Timm, one of the creators of The Animated Series, was a devoted fan of the 1960s Batman series. He provided the voice of Ted Dymer, the villain in this episode.

13. The network censors were often lenient with Batman. But they sometimes thought that it was necessary to change the content to make it less violent, insensitive, or erotic. For example, Avery Coburn, one of those executives, once required that Alfred not get pooped on:

Bruce, the network says that it is not their practice to show animal excrement hitting anyone on a children’s show. They want us to cut the bat guano landing on Alfred’s jacket and send them a fixed version of the episode.

14. The Fox Network increasingly insisted that Batman be a kids’ show. Their preferred vehicle to do so was Robin. That’s why the title changed from Batman: The Animated Series to The Adventures of Batman and Robin. The network mandated that Robin appear in every episode.

15. When the show moved from Fox to the WB network, the producers decided to make Robin younger in order to appeal to even more kids. So they promoted Dick Grayson to Nightwing and brought in Tim Drake as Robin.

Dini, Paul and Chip Kidd. Batman Animated. New York: HarperCollins, 1998. Print. 

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7. Tim Curry was originally slated to be voice the Joker. But the producers decided that he wasn’t the right fit and so held new auditions. Mark Hamill of Star Wars fame got the job of voicing the Joker.

The decision was actually made by the network after Tim Curry had already voiced several episodes. Curry also voiced Captain Hook on the network's Peter Pan show. The network execs thought the two villians sounded too similar especially for shows that were running back-to-back.

Mark Hamill had already done a guest shot on Batman as Ferris Boyle, the evil industrialist in Heart of Ice. Hamill tried out for the Joker part and got it largely because of the Joker's laugh (which he'd actually created while performing Mozart in Amadeus on Broadway). He had to go back and ADR Curry's episodes. Hamill talks about this on Rob Paulson's Talking Toons Podcast.
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