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Cat’s Cradle: ‘Batman the Animated Series’ is a Classic

"Batman the Animated Series" turns 30 this year and remains a classic of the genre. Meant as an animated tie-in to the Burton era, Batman the show quickly shook these ties and created something unique to animation and adaptation. 

The lead creative pairing of Paul Dini and Bruce Timm came up with an animated series that broke the mold of traditional American animation. Each working on shows like "He-man" and "Transformers," the creators often met the limited production and creative visions with frustration. 

It wasn't until "Tiny Tunes Adventures," which was the progenitor of "Animaniacs," that Timm and Dini first collaborated. The creators' work on Looney Tunes brought them recognition, which was fully realized the following year with Batman. 

The Burton era was never faithful to character methods and now shows its age, as its animated tie-in has gone to eclipse the original films and establish Batman in a larger canon. This is in part to three elements: its intros, characterization and cinematic. 

The intro of each episode acts as a short film. Absent of dialogue and clear figures, the show establishes a noir style punctuated by the looming presence of police airships. Compare the Batman intro to similar shows of the era, where each intro is meant to explain the plot with each new episode. 

Instead, the creative team on Batman allows the intro to establish a narrative to create a mood moving into the episode. A similar example of the era is "The Simpsons" couch gag, which served no purpose except to establish an absurdist tone. 

Next is characterization, from Batman to his rogues. These are episodes like "Heart of Ice," where the character of Mr. Freeze was reimagined from his ’60s counterpart. His crimes were justified by his pursuit to cure his wife's disease in the wake of being fired from Wayne industries.

This iteration of Batman is one of the best performances of the Caped Crusader since he is a detective. Equal to his skills as a pugilist are his investigative skills. These core attributes are often lost in live-action adaptations, only fully realized with the recent film "The Batman" (2022). 

Regarding the cinematic, we have the visual inspirations found in the episode "Appointment in Crime Alley." Here the use of clocks and the ticking bomb is evocative of the opening scene of "Touch of Evil." The race against the clock and the constant diversions away from the presence of the bomb heighten the tension. 

Beyond the inspirational, we have the elements only possible with animation. This is the hand-drawn scene of Clay Face's rapid transformations from episode "Feat of Clay" animated by TMS, the studio behind "Akira." 

This roll shot of the camera to the right side up in "Be a Clown" evokes a camera trick that reappears in films like "Black Panther." It is a trick achieved often from the top down, working without a camera to do the near impossible. 

"Batman the Animated Series" is not only a great animated show but a great piece of superhero media. It has extracted the essence of what makes a good story and animated it to the fullest of its ability, creating a timeless show. 

Benjamin Ervin is a senior studying English literature and writing at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Benjamin know by emailing him

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