Batman: The Animated Series is an American animated television series based on the DC Comics superhero Batman. It was developed by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski. Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, it originally aired on Fox Kids from September 5, 1992, to September 15, 1995, with a total of 85 episodes. During its second season, the series was given the on-screen title The Adventures of Batman & Robin.
The series was praised for its thematic complexity, darker tone, artistic quality, film noir aesthetics, and modernization of its title character's crime-fighting origins. IGN listed The Animated Series as the best adaptation of Batman anywhere outside of comics, the best comic book cartoon of all time and the second best animated series of all time (after The Simpsons). Wizard magazine also ranked it #2 of the greatest animated television shows of all time (again after The Simpsons). TV Guide ranked it the seventh Greatest Cartoon of All Time. The widespread acclaim led the series to win four Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Animated Program.
The series was also the first in the continuity of the shared DC animated universe, spawning further animated TV series, comic books and video games with most of the same creative talent. Its ratings success and critical acclaim led the series to spawn two feature films: Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (released to theaters in 1993) and Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (a direct-to-video release in 1998).
Re-runs of the series were shown on Kids' WB from 1995 to 1999, and were shown on Boomerang from 2005 until 2009.
The series took influence from Tim Burton's live-action films, Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992), and the acclaimed Superman theatrical cartoons produced by Fleischer Studios in the early 1940s. In designing the series, creators Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski emulated the Burton films' "otherworldly timelessness," incorporating period features such as black-and-white title cards, police airships (although no such thing existed, Timm has stated that he found it to fit the show's style) and a "vintage" color scheme with film noir flourishes.
The visual style of the series was based on the artwork of Radomski, although Timm is often mistakenly given credit because the characters were based on his designs. However, the gothic backgrounds and look and feel of Gotham City were based on the initial designs laid out by Radomski. In addition, Radomski issued a standing order to the animation department that all backgrounds be painted using light colors on black paper (as opposed to the industry standard of dark colors on white paper). The distinctive visual combination of "noir" imagery and Art Deco design was dubbed "Dark Deco" by the producers.
The series initially took a variation of music written by Danny Elfman for the Burton films as its theme; later episodes of the series used a new theme with a similar style by Shirley Walker (Walker was occasionally Elfman's conductor for films on which they collaborated). The score of the series was influenced by Elfman and Walker's work on the Burton films, as well as music of 1940s film noir.
The series is more adult-oriented than previous superhero cartoons. It depicts outright physical violence against antagonists, including realistic firearms (though only one character, Commissioner Gordon, was ever depicted as having been shot, in the episode "I Am the Night"). First-time producers Timm and Radomski reportedly encountered resistance from studio executives, but the success of Burton's first film allowed the embryonic series to survive long enough to produce a pilot episode, "On Leather Wings," which, according to Timm, "got a lot of people off our backs." During the series' production, producer Alan Burnett wrote a silent episode (without dialogue) entitled "Silent Night" to explore more Batman's sexual life, but this was never produced. Burnett also intended to make an episode featuring a female vampire that would bite Batman to suck his blood, but plans never materialized.
The series is also notable for its supporting cast—a number of well-known actors provided voices for various classic villains, most notably Mark Hamill (previously famous for his role as Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy), who later found success in voice acting thanks to his "cheerfully deranged" portrayal of the Joker. The role was originally given to Tim Curry, but at the final, Curry's performance was too scary. The recording sessions, under the supervision of voice director Andrea Romano, were recorded with the actors together in one studio instead of taking separate recordings, as is typical. This method would later be employed for all subsequent series in the DC animated universe. Al Pacino was considered to voice Two-Face in the series, but he declined the offer.
One of the series' best-known inventions is the Joker's assistant, Harley Quinn, who became so popular that DC Comics later added her to mainstream Batman comic book continuity. The Penguin underwent change for the series; his appearance was remodeled after the version seen in Batman Returns, which was in production simultaneously with the series' first season. New life was also given to lesser-known characters for the series such as the Clock King. In addition, dramatic changes were made to other villains such as Clayface and Mr. Freeze, who was changed from a gimmicky mad scientist to a tragic figure whose "frigid exterior [hid] a doomed love and vindictive fury."