In superhero comics, refreshing an old concept with a new guy in the suit is nothing new, lest we forget Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, and Ray Palmer were all Silver Age revivals of already established Golden Age superheroes. And don’t get me started on the number of Manhunters. Despite this tradition, you can’t imagine the shock that hit fanboys back in 1999 when an animated series called Batman Beyond aired on the WB Network that saw a teenager named Terry McGinnis take over as the Dark Knight. Now retired, an elderly Bruce Wayne took Terry under his wing and handed him the Bat mantle plus an awesome suit to go with it.
Beyond may have unjustly received much “pre-hate” but there’s no denying the influence and impact the show has had on the continuing tapestry of the Batman mythos. The fact that its 20th Anniversary panel at SDCC ’19 practically filled the legendary Hall H is a true testament to its enduring legacy. On the heels of the announced limited edition remastered Blu-ray box set coming this October, The Beat sat down with some of the cast and crew to discuss the genesis of the Batman of Tomorrow.
Let’s address the question on the minds of most fans—the origin of the slang word “schway” in the fictional future world. You can thank writer Bob Goodman‘s wife for that little nugget that began as a joke with writer Hilary J. Bader parodying the various lines like “schwing” from Wayne’s World. As it happened “schway” fit perfectly for a future speak colloquialism to denote something awesome.
Moving on to the actual show, it’s no coincidence that a teenage Batman aired during the zenith of ’90s teen dramas that included the likes of Buffy, Dawson’s Creek, and Felicity. “The beginning of this was a mandate from Jamie Kellner who ran the WB network. It was very much the brand of that network to do young people, college/high school age. And he wanted us to do Batman at a high school age,” said Goodman. “And the expectation up until this meeting was that we would do young Bruce Wayne. None of us liked that idea because it would violate all the continuity we all knew. Bruce Wayne was not Batman at high school.”
Thus to maintain the continuity they had established with Batman: The Animated Series, producer Bruce Timm suggested a solution of taking place in the future. Timm alongside producer/designer Glenn Murakami began crafting the visual look and references such as sci-fi neo-noir classics such as Akira and Blade Runner that would become the world of Neo-Gotham.
Fondly remembered today, at the time however Batman Beyond received much ill will, before the show even aired! “I feel like that every single show they hate in the beginning and then when it’s gone they love it,” said Murakami. “Looking back on it, I don’t know how we did it. It’s kind of a blur to me. I was so immersed in it that’s all I knew. We did Superman, then The New Batman Adventures reboot style, and then we were told we were doing Batman Beyond. So at one point we were finishing all three at one time and doing Return of the Joker. Now I look back and go, ‘I don’t know how we did it.’ I literally at one point was looking at color for Superman and color for Batman Beyond in a chair on wheels and rolling back and forth.”
But as fans warmed up to Batman Beyond overtime, Broadcast Standards and Practices grew to hate the show. “Batman Beyond the first season, they were very lax. Basically our bosses were the BS&P. And so they didn’t really bother us. The next second season there was a whole bunch of new people that came in. They hated our show,” revealed director James Tucker. “Just automatically hated our show and assumed everything we were doing was too dark. Their agenda was social engineering. They really hated action shows with a passion, especially superhero shows. And they really hated Batman for some reason. The second and third season we had to deal with a lot more notes and changes. But we still found ways to work around that.”
Tucker elaborated on one such instance with the “Ace in the Hole” episode he directed that delved into the origin of Bruce Wayne’s dog and dealt with the sensitive subject of animal abuse. “It was a very touchy subject. When we did the board there was a whole middle section of that episode where you see Ace in a real dog fight. It was boarded and everything. ‘You can’t show this.’ That was the whole middle part of our episode. That was the main part of Act B in three acts. Because it was setting up what Ace went through and then it also was going to pay off in the third act when he fights the big mutant dog. And they said we can’t show this. So you have to be very clever. Bruce Timm always says whenever they make us do something because of Broadcast Standards, the solution is always worse because we have to come up with things that make the viewer imagine what they see. And so we quickly had to rearrange that board where every time Ace would lunge. In the original board we see him bite him, but we had to cut away to the audience recoiling in horror. So we did that several times to fill out the footage we lost. It turned out to be a great episode I thought. I love the flashback where Bruce finds Ace in the alley.” I can’t help but be reminded of something Tom King and David Finch similarly did with Ace the Bat-hound in their Eisner nominated short story “Good Boy.”
Batman Beyond required a balance of creating fresh ideas and concepts while simultaneously paying respect to what had come before. As the quintessential teen superhero, viewers can certainly detect the influence of Stan Lee’s early Spider-Man in Terry McGinnis. “I think what Stan created was sort of standard. There was no way around what he did. And once you step into that territory it’s very hard to make something totally different than what Stan had created,” remarked writer Stan Berkowitz who incidentally worked on the Fox Kids Spider-Man cartoon. “We tried to be fresh and original. All of the people who worked on the show had once been teenagers and they would look back on their own experiences to make that world seem real.”
Among the sci-fi ideas for the world of Batman Beyond was the government assassin robot turned pacifist Zeta who would go on to star in his own eponymous spin-off series. Fans may be surprised to learn that according to Bob Goodman, who wrote the episode that introduced Zeta and the developed the spin-off, originally Zeta was supposed to die until Berkowitz convinced him to let the character live. A conversation with producer Alan Burnett led Goodman to pitch a one-sentence Zeta spinoff series to the network and the rest is history.
When it came time to cast the show, having Kevin Conroy reprise Bruce Wayne albeit much older, was a given. Joking that once you turn 40 in Hollywood they make you play 80, Conroy came to appreciate this progression. “The wonderful thing is they didn’t have him become a doddering old man. He’s still virile. He’s still powerful still strong but he just doesn’t have the tenacity that he had,” said Conroy. “He doesn’t have the longevity to get through a long fight which is why he has to recruit a young guy. But he’s still Bruce Wayne. He’s still Batman in his spirit.”
As for Terry McGinnis a decidedly different Batman than Bruce Wayne, Will Friedle, at the time known for his crazy antics as Eric Matthews on Boy Meets World landed the part. Apparently as a frequent viewer of ABC’s TGIF lineup, Bruce Timm’s wife suggested Friedle for the part. Considering the number of other TGIF stars that appeared in various Timm animated shows, it’s not a complete surprise. More than that, according to 8-time Emmy Award-winning voice director Andrea Romano when she had Conroy and Friedle recorded together, “they just clicked. It’s like when you put on an outfit. That blouse and those pants looked really good together.”
Friedle had nothing but praise for the voice director of his first animated series. “Andrea Romano who was arguably the greatest animation director in history being your first director and teaching you what to do, what not to do, how to do it, [you] could not have created a better scenario for taking a young actor.”
In an instance of life imitating art, the bond that fostered between Friedle and Conroy mirrored their cartoon counterparts. “The relationship between Bruce and Terry was very similar to the relationship between Kevin and myself because I had never done voice acting before,” Friedle revealed. “So he jumped in and really became my mentor— how to sit in the chair, how to emote with just using your voice.” Years later when Friedle read the script for the Justice League Unlimited episode “Epilogue” (after Bruce Timm threatened over the phone to kill him if he divulged anything before it aired) and discovered Terry was in fact Bruce Wayne’s biological son, it just strengthened Conroy and Friedle’s friendship.
Sadly, all things must come to an end, but it was was particularly bittersweet for Friedle. “The thing that people don’t realize is we shot Boy Meets World every Thursday night and we recorded Batman Beyond every Thursday morning. So I went from Batman Beyond being that serious thing right to Eric Matthews in front of the audience. To make it worse, the last episode of Batman Beyond recorded in the morning that the last episode of Boy Meets World filmed. So both of my shows ended on exactly the same Thursday.”
Since going off the air, Terry McGinnis has been integrated into DC Comics throughout the way and currently has his own Batman Beyond ongoing series that launched as part of the DC Rebirth publishing initiative. As to why Batman Beyond still resonates with fans, Bob Goodman had his own explanation. “I think the themes are more timely than ever. We’re doing a show about corporate greed and technology run amok and how those two things feed each other. How the people in power and control the technology have become more dangerous because of it. And those are themes that I think are all the more true and the disillusionment [of the] teen generation.”
Batman Beyond, the landmark animated television series that illuminated the imagination of a new generation of Batman fans with its creation of an altogether new hero, is celebrating its 20th anniversary – and you get the gift! Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has remastered the heralded series for its first-ever presentation on Blu-ray™ in the all-encompassing Batman Beyond: The Complete Animated Series Limited Edition, arriving on Digital ($49.99 SRP USA, $59.99 SRP Canada) starting October 15, 2019 and in a stunning box set ($99.99 SRP USA, $119.99 SRP Canada) on October 29, 2019. Distribution in Canada will be day-and-date with the USA, Pre-orders are now available.
The extraordinary Batman Beyond: The Complete Animated Series Limited Edition package features approximately 1,500 minutes of entertainment spread over four Blu-ray™ discs, plus the two bonus discs of enhanced content. In addition to a newly-remastered Blu-ray presentation of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, there are 15 featurettes on the bonus discs, highlighted by two new inside looks at the beloved television series, led by Nostalgic Tomorrow, a gathering of Batman Beyond production talent and cast led by executive producer Bruce Timm and actors Kevin Conroy and Will Friedle, the voices of Batman and Terry McGinnis, respectively. The bonus discs also spotlight four episodes with audio commentary from Timm and select members of the production team.
Collectibles within the stunning packaging include an exclusive chrome Batman Beyond Funko POP, and four beautifully-designed lenticular art cards produced especially for Batman Beyond: The Complete Animated Series Limited Edition. This ultimate collectors Blu-ray box set will be individually numbered for a Limited Edition release of 50,000.
Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, Batman Beyond premiered on January 10, 1999 to instant ratings and critical success. The series would run for three seasons, covering 52 total episodes and a full-length animated film, Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker. Nominated for nine Emmy Awards, Batman Beyond would ultimately take home two Emmys – including Outstanding Special Class Animated Program in 2001 – as well as three Annie Awards.
Of the 52 original Batman Beyond episodes, 41 have been fully-remastered from either their original 35mm film source or the uncommon format “OCND,” the original camera negative digital (a digital scan of original negative). Lines and resolution have been enhanced, and dust and dirt have been removed – however, cell dirt remains to not disturb the original picture. Included in the remastering was the removal of grain, resulting in enhanced colors. The remastering process does cause a slight aspect ratio change (approximately 3% loss of screen image).
Due to time-worn irreparable damage, the remaining 11 episodes were “Smart Rezzed” from standard definition Digibeta video. The process provides for significant enhanced resolution and improvement of the original source material in converting from standard to high definition, though it does sacrifice horizontal lines for clearer image and color representation. While still a marked improvement over the original video, viewers will notice a slight difference between the Remastered and the Up-Rezzed final footage. The 11 affected episodes are: “Eyewitness,” “Final Cut,” “The Last Resort,” “Armory,” “Sneak Peek,” “The Eggbaby,” “Zeta,” “Plague,” “April Moon,” “Sentries of the Lost Cosmos” and “Speak No Evil.”
The creative team behind the breakthrough animated series was headed by the producing quartet of Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Alan Burnett and Glen Murakami, alongside executive producer Jean MacCurdy and associate producer Shaun McLaughlin. Shirley Walker composed the award-winning score with the Dynamic Music Partners trio of Lolita Ritmanis, Kristopher Carter and Michael McCuistion, while 8-time Emmy Award winner Andrea Romano guided an impressive collection of actors as casting/dialogue director. Butch Lukic, Dan Riba and Curt Gida directed the majority of episodic animation along with James Tucker, Kyung Won Lim and Yukio Suziki. Primary story editors and writers on the series were Burnett and Dini with Bob Goodman, Rich Fogel, Hilary Bader and Stan Berkowitz.
The Batman Beyond cast was spearheaded by Kevin Conroy, the fan favorite voice of The Dark Knight as established in the landmark Batman: The Animated Series. Will Friedle (Boy Meets World, Kim Possible) created the character of Terry McGinnis, Batman’s protégé. Veteran voiceover actresses Cree Sumner (Codename: Kids Next Door, Drawn Together) and Lauren Tom (Friends, The Joy Luck Club, Futurama) were series regulars as Max and Dana Tan, respectively.
The guest cast included a healthy collection of film and primetime television stars spanning from Academy Award nominees Paul Winfield, Stockard Channing, William H. Macy, Teri Garr and Michael McKean; Emmy Award winners John Ritter, Wayne Brady, Seth Green, Tim Curry, David Warner and Patton Oswalt; Golden Globe winners Stacy Keach, Amanda Donohoe and Jill Eikenberry; four Grammy Award winners led by Ice-T; and five members of the Hollywood Walk of Fame – Macy and Ritter along with George Takei, Michael Ansara and Mark Hamill. The cast also included legends of the entertainment industry and several young actors heading toward stardom, like Adrienne Barbeau, Kate Jackson, Angie Harmon, Linda Hamilton, Clancy Brown, Gary Cole, Ed Begley Jr., Wendie Malick, Cary Elwes, Olivia Hussey, Kurtwood Smith, Robert Patrick, Ian Ziering, CCH Pounder, Frank Welker, Johnny Galecki, Pauley Perrette, Michael Rosenbaum and Diedrich Bader.
All totaled, the Batman Beyond cast featured actors with laurels totaling five Academy Award nominations, 47 Emmy Awards, 206 Emmy nods, four Gold Globe Awards, 45 Golden Globe nominations, three Grammy Awards and nine nominations, and five actors forever enshrined with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
“Batman Beyond elevated the animated adventures of The Dark Knight to even greater heights, providing an edgier, faster-moving, more contemporary take on crime-fighting in Gotham with an inspiring new character in Terry McGinnis,” said Mary Ellen Thomas, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Vice President, Family & Animation Marketing. “Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has long known the fans’ desire to see this series come to Blu-ray, and we’re excited to finally have the technology to elevate the quality of the original assets to an exquisite high-definition presentation packaged with compelling collectibles in a limited edition set, especially as fans celebrate Batman’s 80th anniversary this year.”
Batman Beyond: The Complete Animated Series Limited Edition Enhanced Content
Nostalgic Tomorrow – A Batman Gathering (All-New Featurette) – Many of Batman Beyond’s core production team and actors gather for an enthralling roundtable discussion of the evolution and execution of the animate series. Join producers Bruce Timm and Glenn Murakami, casting/dialogue director Andrea Romano, director James Tucker, writers Bob Goodman & Stan Berkowitz, and stars Kevin Conroy & Will Friedle as they take a wildly entertaining trip down memory lane.
Knight Immortal (All-New Featurette) – A visual and visceral celebration of the Dark Knight’s 80 years of crime fighting, narrated by storytellers of the past, present, and future.
“Tomorrow Knight: The Batman Reborn” (Featurette) – Storytellers explore the rise of Terry McGinnis as Batman and Bruce Wayne’s relationship with the young hero as he mentors a new Dark Knight for modern times.
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (Feature-Length Film) – The beloved hit animated film from 2000 is included in the box set – fully remastered for your enjoyment.
Audio Commentaries – Enlightening audio commentaries by filmmakers and voice actors for four key episodes: “Rebirth, Part 1”; “Shriek”; “Splicers”; and “The Eggbaby.”
Featurettes – A dozen inside looks at the genesis, production and effects of Batman Beyond.
- Rebirth, Pt. 1
- Rebirth, Pt. 2
- Black Out
- Dead Man’s Hand
- The Winning Edge
- Disappearing Inque
- A Touch of Curare
- Commentary on the episode “Rebirth, Part 1” by producers Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Paul Dini & Glenn Murakami and director Curt Geda.
- Audio Commentary on episode “Shriek” by producers Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Paul Dini & Glen Murakami, director Curt Geda and writer Stan Berkowitz
- “Music of the Knight” – producer Bruce Timm introduces a feature allowing access to key scenes from Batman Beyond, accompanied by the compelling score created for the series.
- “Inside Batman Beyond – Meet the Creators” – producers Alan Burnett, Bruce Timm, Glen Murakami and Paul Dini discuss the creative process behind Batman Beyond and its inaugural season. Jason Hillhouse moderates.
- Batman 80th Anniversary Collection trailer
- Earth Mover
- Lost Soul
- Hidden Agenda
- Once Burned
- Hooked Up
- Mind Games
- Terry’s Friend Dates a Robot
- Commentary on the episode “Splicers” by producers Bruce Timm and Glen Murakami, storyboard artist James Tucker, casting/dialogue director Andrea Romano and Will Friedle, the voice of Terry McGinnis/Batman
- Final Cut*
- The Last Resort*
- Sneak Peek*
- The Eggbaby*
- April Moon*
- Sentries of the Last Cosmos*
- Where’s Terry?
- Ace in the Hole
- Commentary on the episode “The Eggbaby” by producers Bruce Timm & Glen Murakami, director James Tucker, Producer Glen Murakami, casting/dialogue director Andrea Romano and Will Friedle, the voice of Terry McGinnis/Batman
- “Inside Batman Beyond: The Panel” – An in-depth discussion with producers Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Glen Murakami and Paul Dini as season two of Batman Beyond is explored with moderator Jason Hillhouse.
- King’s Ransom
- Big Time
- Out of the Past
- Speak No Evil*
- The Call, Pt. 1
- The Call, Pt. 2
- Curse of the Kobra, Pt. 1
- Curse of the Kobra, Pt. 2
- “Inside Batman Beyond: Season 3” – A fascinating discussion on season three of Batman Beyond with producers Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett, Glen Murakami and Paul Dini.
- “Inside Batman Beyond Season 3: Close-Up On...” – producers Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, directors Butch Lukic and James Tucker, and voice actor Will Friedle discuss their favorite moments among final-season episodes.
- “Inside Batman Beyond Season 3: Out of the Past” – producers Bruce Timm & Paul Dini, director James Tucker and voice actor Will Friedle sit down together to talk about “The Legend of Batman” musical (which appears in this episode) and other memorable moments.
- “Inside Batman Beyond Season 3: The Call, Part 1” – producers Bruce Timm & Paul Dini, director Butch Lukic and voice actor Will Friedle gather to discuss the additional heroes and the exciting action showcased in this episode.
- “Inside Batman Beyond Season 3: The Call, Part 2” – producers Bruce Timm & Paul Dini, director Butch Lukic and voice actor Will Friedle talk about the appearance of Starro and Superman in this episode.
- “Inside Batman Beyond Season 3: Curse of the Kobra, Part 1” – producers Bruce Timm & Paul Dini, director James Tucker and voice actor Will Friedle reminisce about the personal relationships that highlight the story of this episode.
“Nostalgic Tomorrow – A Batman Gathering” (All-New Featurette) – Nostalgia strikes like it’s 1999. Seated at the table are the Batman Beyond Team: producers Bruce Timm & Glen Murakami, actors Kevin Conroy & Will Friedle, director James Tucker, casting/dialogue director Andrea Romano, and writers Bob Goodman & Stan Berkowitz. Care to join us for a chat?
“Knight Immortal” (All-New Featurette) – A visual and visceral celebration of the Dark Knight’s 80 years of crime fighting, narrated by storytellers of the past, present, and future.
“Tomorrow Knight: The Batman Reborn” (All-New Featurette) – Storytellers explore the rise of Terry McGinnis as Batman and Bruce Wayne’s relationship with the young hero as he mentors a new Dark Knight for modern times.
“Gotham: City of The Future” – A Close-Up Look at Gotham City Circa 2039, the modernization and the inspirations for its high-tech design and massive scale.
“The High-Tech Hero” – Batman Beyond storytellers discuss the evolution of the new Bat Suit and its futuristic design and capabilities.
“Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics” (Documentary) – The Story of DC Comics and the rise of the Super Hero mythology as a zeitgeist in American pop culture.
“Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker” – Remastered for Blu-ray, the heralded animated feature film spawned by the Batman Beyond series is included on a separate bonus disc in the box set.
*=Due to source material, episode resolution was enhanced (up-rez) instead of remastering.