One of the best-known animated series ever is Batman: The Animated Series. When it comes to Batman Beyond and Batman: The Brave And The Bold, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree either. The New Batman Adventures, however, was not as well received as the other Batman animated series that came before and after it.
The cast and crew of this American animated superhero series were much the same because it followed Batman: The Animated Series. However, there was a significant alteration to the overall appearance, which many fans did not like.
Strangely, Bruce Wayne adopted the same intimidating voice as his superhero identity, adding additional layers to the plot. His vocal cords must have been stressed by that. Or perhaps he was merely attempting to become more frightening.
Obviously, this is a minor change, but in today’s video, we will discuss some of the more significant ones that set The New Batman Adventures apart from its predecessor. We will also discuss the reasons for and areas of failure.
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What The Cartoon Television Series Is All About?
Business is as usual in Gotham City, as The New Batman Adventures maintain the same track as its predecessor Batman: The Animated Series. The premise is the same with Batman (voiced by Kevin Conroy) protecting Gotham City from criminals, but this time, there is higher importance on the entire cast, such as the rogues and the Bat Family, as Batman, despite being the main character, often has to sacrifice his spotlight.
Another key element that sets this animated series apart is the alteration of the animation style with a higher emphasis on darker and more streamlined art. In fact, the new art style was a lot closer to Superman: The Animated Series rather than Batman: The Animated Series, probably because creators Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett were working on Superman at the same time. The style was also reminiscent of the film noir imagery (and if you’re someone who cannot put your mind to what film noir actually looks like, think Spider-Man Noir from the film ‘Into The Spider-Verse’).
This also symbolizes how the darkness in Gotham is growing. But the Dark Knight’s allies [that is Tim Drake’s Robin (voiced by Mathew Valencia), Nightwing (voiced by Loren Lester), and Batgirl (Tara Strong)] are by his side. In fact, we get a glimpse of Tim Drake’s backstory and journey to becoming Robin in the second episode known as ‘Sins Of The Father’. Turns out, that Tim Drake’s father used to be a part of Two-Face’s gang.
However, Two-Face suspects Tim to have stolen something precious and so, he pursues the boy, but of course, Batman gets involved. And as a fan of the Dark Knight, Tim Drake seizes the opportunity to impress his idol. Needless to say, he succeeds at this. The episode also brings out a Dick Grayson cameo (who used to be Robin and is now Nightwing).
Meanwhile, The Joker (voiced by Mark Hamill), Harley Quinn (voiced by Arleen Sorkin), Mr. Freeze, Scarecrow, Clayface, and Poison Ivy are some of the villains that are still a nuisance to Batman. The villains are a bit different too. For example, here, Mr. Freeze cares less about his wife and more about being spiteful.
He believes that if he is miserable, the others should be miserable too (kind of like 2020 not being too bad a year because everyone was miserable. 2022 is worse if you are miserable, because you can see that others are having a decent time while you are not). Mr. Freeze feels the same way. Harley Quinn also gets an episode called ‘Mad Love’ which is dedicated to her.
The problem is that this new method faltered when it came to likeability and popularity. As a spin-off of Batman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures had to continue a heavy legacy, which was not easy. So, combining this with Batman losing out on a lot of screen time did not bring out the best results. This is made evident from the pilot episode ‘The Holiday Knights’ itself.
A sleeker, darker Batman makes his debut against a more light-hearted cast, which makes the contrast between Batman versus the rest pop out more. The episode is Christmas and New Year themed and has three story segments in its twenty-minute run.
The first segment opens on December 22. Harley Quinn cribs about wanting a Christmas Tree, but Poison Ivy hates the botanical genocide that the occasion brings. However, Ivy has a plan that can make Christmas extremely fun for her and Harley alike.
Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne is at a party where several socialite women try to snag him as he is the richest and the most eligible bachelor of Gotham City. Bruce tries to stray away from the woman when another woman gets him from behind and manages to plant a kiss on his lips. Bruce Wayne is taken aback and leaves the place to head home. He is soon intercepted by Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy with Ivy being responsible for kissing Bruce Wayne using a lipstick that allows her to control her prey.
With the billionaire under their control now, the two villains go on a shopping spree, making Bruce pay for everything. After the event, they return to Harley and Ivy’s room but the effect of the lipstick begins to wear off. Bruce gets his footing and Harley tries to kiss him with the lipstick but he trips on an out-of-order elevator and seemingly falls below. Of course, he is not dead, but Harley and Ivy assume he is.
Not long after, Bruce Wayne is able to catch up to them as Batman. Harley and Ivy turn out to be tough opponents but he takes the cake by outwitting them, causing a huge Christmas Tree to fall over Gotham’s top two most innocent and cute girls. Harley is finally happy to have a Christmas Tree.
We then enter a story that takes place on December 24th, that is Christmas Eve. However, Batman is far from being present here. Harvey Bullock poses as Santa Claus in Mayfield’s Department Store while Barbara Gordon wishes to buy a tie for her father Commissioner Gordon. They are mainly here to catch a shoplifter who is seemingly impossible to get.
Barbara does spot the shoplifter but as she tries to catch him, his arm dissolves and he runs away. Turns out that four child bandits have been spotted in the store and all four of them are chased. But the four unite and merge their bodies, revealing themselves to be Clayface. He wreaks havoc, but soon Barbara switches to her Batgirl outfit and fights him.
Montoya and Harvey Bullock try to shoot Clayface, but Batgirl urges them to shoot the prop sledge above them, which tears the electrical wires and makes them fall on Clayface. The villain is electrocuted and passes out. Meanwhile, Harvey gears up to get his hands dirty by finding the precious items Clayface had stolen and hidden inside his body.
Jump to New Year’s Eve, we move to the third segment of the story where the Joker makes a New Year’s resolution to not kill anyone for the year that is about to come. But he intends to make up for that in one night. And he has gotten his hands on a powerful sonic weapon that can kill all the people present within earshot. Being a detective, Batman is able to deduce where Joker will carry out his activities and set off his bomb.
The Joker masks every attendant at Gotham Square’s countdown to confuse Batman. He plays the piano on stage, the sound of which has been tampered with, thanks to the sonic weapon. However, Batman is able to spot the real Joker as he and his bodyguards are the only ones using earmuffs. Batman and Robin try to take out the bodyguards but soon find themselves at a disadvantage. However, Batman manages to pour the champagne held by Joker on the sonic device. A short circuit around the nearby bell pulley causes the bell to fall directly on the Joker, who looks like he should die from the impact but he just says ‘ouch’.
The episode ends with a fourth segment, which is not really a story and revolves around Batman and Commissioner Gordon meeting up at Joe’s Tavern. Batman is slightly late and bounces early. But he has left the bill on the table and Commissioner Gordon swears that someday he will beat the Bat to the check.
It’s not like the episode is not good. But it has its lows, especially with the second segment, where Batman is seemingly out of action. There are several moments and episodes throughout the series where the other members of the Bat-Family take centerstage, such as in the episode ‘You Scratch My Back’, where Nightwing allies with Catwoman, while Batgirl remains a bit suspicious towards her. And even if they do not, Batman is still having to share a hell lot of his screentime with three other heroes. But here’s the thing, why call it Batman when it’s really about the Bat-Family as a whole?
What Happened To The Cartoon?
Batman is a nuanced character with several layers. And the same applies to his entire roster of characters. For such a format, people tend to prefer slower pacing for that slow burn effect. He is a detective too, so you would ideally expect to experience a sense of suspense until the answers to the mysteries are revealed. This does not happen in The New Batman Adventures, which is a lot faster and action-packed. Batman: The Brave And The Bold does an excellent job at pulling off the mini-movie storytelling that Batman is famous for. The New Batman Adventures does not.
There’s also Batman’s character that changes and not in a good way. He has a heart. He has severe trauma from the death of his parents and as much as he likes to gloat on vengeance, a huge reason why he does what he does is not for revenge but to protect his city and his people. In The New Batman Adventures, he comes off as a one-dimensional, stoic character who does not seem to feel at all.
And even if he does, he never admits to it. Several fans believed that Mr. Freeze’s character arc was also butchered as he went from being a guy we felt for to a guy who wants revenge for the dumbest reason ever. It’s not like his entire family was killed by a brother of his or the government. He’s not even doing it for his wife. He just wants revenge because he wants others to be as miserable as he is.
And finally, there’s the art style. This can be very, very subjective, but the redesigns were often a miss. Especially The Riddler’s new green spandex onesie and bald head. Change is great. Things do not have to stay the same forever. But when you opt for spicy food, you do not want a dessert. And when you have sugar cravings, you do not want something spicy. This is exactly what happened with this show. Having to fill in the shoes of Batman: The Animated Series made it increasingly difficult for The New Batman Adventures to find success.
Other Interesting Facts About The Cartoon
As a part of the same league of Batman cartoons as Batman: The Animated Series, The New Batman Adventures takes place three years after the events of the former. It also marks the debut of Tim Drake’s Robin and Dick Grayson’s Nightwing in animation.
The series was released in 1997, which is also the year of the release of the live-action film Batman & Robin. That is the one where Poison Ivy’s main form of offense is her poisonous kissing.
This new series was often referred to as the ‘red sky seasons’. This is because the new artwork strayed away from the neo-retro style of Gotham City in Batman: The Animated Series and was replaced by a more modern and rectangular Gotham, where the sky was red and the old school 30s to 50s era cars were exchanged for newer ones.
At the end of the day, art and entertainment boils down to personal preference. Some of the worst horror movies (from a technical standpoint and critical ratings) have often turned out to become cult classics. And The New Batman Adventures is not nearly that bad. In fact, it is pretty good. It is just… not what many people wanted around the time of its release.