At long last, a great injustice has been rectified, ladies and gentlemen. Yes, the complete Batman: The Animated Series is now available on Blu-ray. But… wait… Seeing as how you’ve clicked on this little review, I can only assume that you somehow resisted the urge to pre-order the deluxe edition box set that hit stores recently. Well, don’t worry, I won’t shame you for not rushing out to expand your collection of Bat-merch. You’re not being a bad Batman fan, you’re being a smart consumer! After all, this deluxe edition isn’t exactly cheap! So allow us here at Batman News to give you a brief rundown of everything you get for your crisp $100 bill. Will you receive enough quality content for your dough? Is it truly worth upgrading from the DVD set you undoubtedly already own? And, if so, is it absolutely necessary to buy the limited edition bundle now rather than wait for a sale or– gasp– a version of the Blu-ray set that is undeserving of the “deluxe” label?
The Show Itself
You know damn well it’s good. You’re a reader (a frequent one, I hope) of Batman News, so I’m not going to preach to the choir. Yes, it’s the definitive take on The Dark Knight, yes, it’s iconic and groundbreaking and yadayadayada… I don’t have to sell you on why watching the show is time very well spent, but if you like that sort of thing or maybe want a viewing guide of sorts to enhance the viewing experience, check out my ranking of every episode of Batman: The Animated Series. And that’s the actual Batman: The Animated Series, by the way. The box set we’re reviewing here (like the previous DVD set) labels The New Batman Adventures as “Batman: The Animated Series, Season 4” but trust me, it’s a different animal. You don’t call Batman Beyond “Batman: The Animated Series, Season 5” so don’t call TNBA something it’s not.
Anyway, the box set includes 109 episodes spanning full run of both Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures and presents them in 1080p, which I assure you is a considerable leap in quality from the 480p you’ve grown accustomed to watching on DVD or streaming via Amazon Prime Video (no longer available there, by the way).
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm
Oh yes, the set does indeed come with a copy of Batman: The Mask of the Phantasm, and like the show itself… you already know and love Mask of the Phantasm, so let’s move on.
Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero
It’s okay. Personally, I would’ve rather seen Trial expanded into a feature-length film (that was originally the plan before the team decided to do Batman: Mask of the Phantasm instead). That said, I would have rioted in the streets had SubZero not been included with the rest of the set. WB did well throwing this and Mask of the Phantasm into the mix. It wouldn’t have been truly complete without them.
If you owned the DVD release, you’ve seen almost all of the bonus material offered here, already. No new commentary tracks have been recorded, which is a major disappointment. The only bonus that didn’t make it to the Blu-ray upgrade is a 22-minute film titled “Shades of the Bat: Batman’s Animated Evolution.” That video has been replaced by Alexander Gray’s documentary “The Heart of Batman” and, folks, it’s outstanding. Am I saddened by the lack of new commentary tracks, no inclusion of the production notes from “The Last Gun Story,” and the absence of Tim Curry’s original recording as The Joker? Absolutely. But, Heart of Batman floored me! I was expecting 20 minutes of something totally phoned in at the last minute, I really was. What I got was an hour and a half long exploration of the entire production, with footage I had never seen before.
In my opinion, there are now three things that every fan of Batman: The Animated Series must consume (beyond viewing every single episode) before they can truly call themselves an expert on the show:
- The Batman Series Writer’s Bible (you can find this as a PDF online)
- Chip Kidd & Paul Dini’s book “Batman Animated”
- “The Heart of Batman” bonus featurette found in this very deluxe box set
Heart of Batman isn’t the same soundbytes from Dini and Timm that you’ve heard time and time again. They are sharing their influences, tales of how their careers got started, including stories from their time working together at Tiny Toon Adventures, and more. And it’s not just those two who are most famously associated with the show. We finally get to hear more from co-creator Eric Radomski and executive producer Jean MacCurdy. The voice cast, directors, writers, they all get a chance to chime in and share their unique experience working on the series. Even the show’s censors get to talk about how when they knew to tone down the violence and when they knew to let it slide! It’s an incredibly thorough look into your favorite show. My only complaint with this piece is that it didn’t dive into the team’s work on Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Batman: SubZero, and The New Batman Adventures. And also that the documentary failed to adequately acknowledge the contributions of Melissa Gilbert and Mary Kay Bergman in the role of Batgirl.
For a full list of bonus features, click the spoiler tag below…
The Dark Knight’s First Night Pilot Promo: Hosted by Bruce Timm(Featurette) – Witness the 1991 Batman promo reel as producers Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski discuss the origins of Batman: The Animated Series.
Batman: The Legacy Continues Retrospective (Featurette) – DC luminaries join BTAS creators as they explore the combination of exquisite design and in-depth storytelling that helped create a once in a generation show.
Robin Rising: How the Boy Wonder’s Character Evolved (Featurette) – The evolution of Dick Grayson from young ward to crime fighter.
Gotham’s Guardians: The Stalwart Supporting Characters (Featurette) – Batman is not the only hero safeguarding Gotham City. This documentary focuses on the importance of the Dark Knight’s allies in the Batman mythology.
Voices of the Knight (Featurette) – Actors Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy, Adriene Barbeau, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., and Andrea Romano discuss the process of bringing their iconic characters to life.
Gotham’s New Knight (Featurette) – Barbara Gordon swings into focus in this exciting look at Batman’s trusted ally and equal, Batgirl.
Video Commentary: “House and Garden” – Watch along as Producer Bruce Timm, Director Boyd Kirkland and writer Paul Dini take viewers behind the scenes of an exciting episode of Batman: The Animated Series.
In-Movie Experience – Watch along as Producer Bruce Timm, Director Boyd Kirkland and writer Paul Dini take viewers behind the scenes of an exciting episode of Batman: The Animated Series.
Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: Introduction (Featurette) – Bruce Timm, Dan Riba, James Tucker, Paul Dini, Alan Burnett and Andrea Romano discuss Gotham’s most popular rogues.
Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: Clayface (Featurette) – Clayface personnel file revealed by Bruce Timm, Dan Riba and James Tucker.
Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: Harley Quinn (Featurette) – Alan Burnett, Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski, Paul Dini and James Tucker discuss bringing Harley Quinn to life.
Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: The Joker (Featurette) – Alan Burnett, Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski, Paul Dini, Andrea Romano and Dan Riba discuss Mark Hamill’s inimitable Joker.
Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: Mr. Freeze (Featurette) – Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Andrea Romano and Dan Riba discuss MR. Freeze and the Heart and Ice Origin story.
Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: The Penquin (Featurette) – Bruce Timm, Andrea Romano, Alan Burnett, James Tucker, Dan Riba and Eric Radomski discuss The Penguin.
Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: Poison Ivy (Featurette) – Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Andrea Romano, Alan Burnett, Dan Riba and Eric Radomski discuss designing Poison Ivy.
Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: Ra’s Al Ghul (Featurette) – Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, and Dan Riba discuss why Ra’s Al Ghul is such an exciting villain.
Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: The Riddler (Featurette) – This file discusses The Riddler and how creators differentiated him from the Batman ‘66 Riddler with: Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Andrea Romano, Eric Radomski and Dan Riba.
Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: Scarecrow (Featurette) – Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Andrea Romano and Dan Riba discuss the various iterations of the Scarecrow.
Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: Two Face (Featurette) – Discussing Batman’s key nemesis are Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, James Tucker, and Dan Riba.
Arkham Asylum: Examine the Top-Secret Case Files of the Dark Knight’s Many Foes: Ventriloquist & Scarface (Featurette) – Lively discussion about one of Batman’s most unique villains with creators Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Eric Radomski, Andrea Romano, and Dan Riba.
“Concepting Harley Quinn” (Featurette) – Producer Paul Dini discusses how Harley Quinn was incorporated into the series.
Tour of the Batcave (Featurettes):
- Utility Belt
“On Leather Wings” – Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski.
“Heart of Ice” – Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, and Eric Radomski.
“Robin’s Reckoning, Part One” – Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski
“Heart of Steel, Part Two” – Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski and Kevin Altieri
“Almost Got ‘Im” – Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski and Paul Dini
“Harley and Ivy” – Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski and Boyd Kirkland
“Read My Lips” – Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Michael Reaves, Boyd Kirkland and Shirley Walker.
“Harlequinade” – Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Shirley Walker and Eric Radomski
“Over The Edge” – Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Glen Murakami, and James Tucker.
“Critters” – Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Dan Riba, Glen Murakami, and James Tucker.
“Legends of the Dark Knight” – Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Dan Riba, Glen Murakami, and James Tucker.
The Digital Copy
You’re not just getting one copy of the show you love, you’re getting two. This was bittersweet for those who bought the box set in the first week, because Warner Bros. made a mistake and only the standard definition was available for folks to download. Thankfully, WB corrected this after a few days, which saved me another 500 words of typing here, because I was ready to go into a mad tirade. Believe me. Not only did the picture quality stink on the standard edition, but imagine my disgust when I queued up On Leather Wings only to be greeted with the opening title sequence for The New Batman/Superman Adventures. How does that even happen?!
Anyway, the powers that be fixed it. You get every episode, Mask of the Phantasm, and SubZero in glorious 1080p and the world is a better place as a result.
Now we’re getting to the part of the review where I’ll throw some things your way that’ll make you consider waiting for a discounted price or even a standard edition of the Blu-ray set, so here goes…
Including three Funko Pops is a fine idea.
Including three miniature Funko Pops is a less fine idea.
Including three miniature Funko Pops that don’t even match the design of the animated series we’re all here to celebrate? Well, that’s just plain stupid. Funko makes Batman: The Animated Series themed Pops. They’re cute Funko likenesses of the Bruce Timm illustrations we all adore. So… why are we getting these? Harley is the only one that belongs! Just give us one of those regular sized pops from the Funko BTAS line instead. Or, why not include one of DC Collectibles’ many fine Batman: The Animated Series figures? Those are awesome too, and they match the show’s unmistakable style. Unlike these… And why are they peeking out from their own little windows and ruining the kick-ass look of the box set’s cover art? Sigh… These have no business here. They’re just making the set cost more.
The Lenticular Cards
The other extra goodies you get in this set: seven cards featuring 3D artwork based on the series. Do we need them? Nah. Are they kind of cool? Kind of. I’m not sure what I’ll do with mine, but they are indeed… kind of cool. And, unlike the Funko mini figures, they actually look like they’re based on Batman: The Animated Series.
I’m on the fence about the packaging. The big box is ruined by the windows to the ugly Funko Pops, so toss that. Inside we have this hardy sleeve with the same box art (uninterrupted by Pops this time) and that looks stellar. Tucked within the sleeve is a hardcover booklet carrying all of your discs, and it looks sharp. However, I am not a fan of sliding my new Blu-rays in and out of cardboard sleeves every time I want to watch them. Feels like I’m risking a scratch, you know? It makes me long for the satisfying snap cases that the DVD set had. Those felt a lot less risky.
While I am cautious about these sleeves, I’m flat-out insulted by the artwork that is printed within the booklet. Don’t see it? Look closer. Really look. Most of the pages are fine and dandy, but others? Others were not made with such care. Why does disc three of season one feature a drawing of The New Batman Adventures mime Joker but with the color scheme of Batman: The Animated Series Joker? Why does the page for disc one of season three display the season one character model for The Scarecrow painted in colors that were never ever used for that design (he always had a red shirt in BTAS)? Why is Dick Grayson wielding a yellow and red bo staff on the page for SubZero when the character never had such a weapon in the movie or the show proper? Details like that are aggravating.
Anyway, despite a few bad pages of half-assed artwork, the booklet does have an overall sleek appearance. It also includes a helpful episode list for every disc, and there’s a letter from writer/producer Alan Burnett as well. The letter warmed my heart and balanced out my ire for the page art, so I suppose, in the end, I find the way the discs were packaged to be…adequate.
Every Batman fan should own Batman: The Animated Series on Blu-ray. However, I do hesitate a little to tell you it’s worth ponying up the extra money for the deluxe edition. Do you really need miniature Funko figurines that aren’t even based on character designs from the show? What about those lenticular collector cards? Look, you absolutely need to see these episodes in crystal clear Blu-ray 1080p, and getting a digital copy of every one of them AND the two feature films? That’s outstanding! But if you didn’t already pre-order it and you’re not champing at the bit to watch The Laughing Fish without a DC Universe subscription, I suggest waiting another week or two for a holiday sale to knock an extra $10 bucks off the cover price. But, on the other hand, if you decide not to wait… If you go ahead and pay full price… You will most definitely not beat yourself up about it. You’re guaranteed hours and hours of enjoyment for years to come when you have your very own copy of the positively timeless Batman: The Animated Series.
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