Batman: The Animated Series at 30: The Show That Redefined Animation

If you were a kid (or kid at heart) lucky enough to have been hunkered down on the best seat in your living room on September 5, 1992, watching FOX, then you were not only about to have your mind blown, but you were also about to witness history.  One of the most iconic and beloved fictional characters in our collective history was about to be reinvented and revolutionized in front of your unsuspecting eyes in ways that we are still feeling today, 30 years down the road.  Batman and his surrounding cast of heroes and villains would never be the same again, nor would television animation.  If you were that lucky kid back then (like I thankfully was), you were about to witness Batman: The Animated Series for the first time, and you would still be feeling it on its thirtieth anniversary today.

Batman: The Animated Series- The Show That Changed Everything Turns 30
Image: Screencap

Batman: The Animated Series was a revelation when it premiered.  Hot on the heels of Director Tim Burton's two mega-popular big screen Batman films that introduced mainstream audiences to a dark, mentally complicated version of the character that was a far cry from the version they were previously familiar with, 1966's campy and colorful TV classic Batman starring Adam West, The Animated Series took elements of what worked so well in Burton's films and meshed them with more of a faithful foothold in the comics from which the character was born.

The series was immediately striking in not only its stunning designs and animation but also in that it was perhaps the first mainstream animated series to treat its audience (mostly kids) with respect and wasn't just paper-thin characterizations meant to sell them toys or candy.  Batman: The Animated Series was pretty much the death blow to cartoons of the 1980s like Masters Of The Universe and G.I. JOE, which existed merely as a major part of the marketing department for toy companies instead of as genuine productions by storytellers who were interested in breaking new ground in the medium.

And break new ground they did.  Viewers were presented with a complex Bruce Wayne in Batman: The Animated Series; a man who was both a tortured soul and someone who was able to summon the inner strength to rise past his trauma.  This was a Batman who both kicked ass and was a dedicated detective and pathologist.  The same complexities were applied to his rogues' gallery with incredible success.  Simple one-dimensional gimmick villains like Clay-Face, The Mad Hatter, and most notably Mr. Freeze were now given actual backstories and inciting incidents that not only made sense of the monsters they became but actually made you feel for them and see through the monstrosity to still see them as human beings.  These were now villains with pathos.

I could go on and on (and I have and you can read my in-order episode rewatch reviews starting here!) about how great the show was and still is, how it changed superhero and television animation forever, how it changed characters in Batman's iconography in canon going forward, or how it became popular with adults too and led FOX to start airing the show in prime time on Sunday nights.  But you know all that, that's why we're here.  It's been 30 years, and we're still holding everything Batman-related up to Batman: The Animated Series for comparison.  Bruce Timm and co. didn't just create a great Batman cartoon; they created the gold standard for Batman.

The entirety of Batman: The Animated Series is available to stream on HBO Max.

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Ryan FassettAbout Ryan Fassett

As a lifelong fan of movies, comics, wrestling, and collectibles, Ryan is excited to share his thoughts on all of it with you. He is also an active filmmaker and published comic book writer, along with being a connoisseur of soda.
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