|Part of the reason Batman the Animated Series was so enjoyable was its quality presentation. The title cards used in each episode are a prime example of this. In the book Batman: Animated, Paul Dini explains:
|These imaginatively rendered title cards were a high point of each Batman episode. While some (like "Harley's Holiday" and "Time out of joint") were character portraits, most often the cards depicted an emotional impression of the given episode's theme. According to Eric Radomski, who designed many of the cards, "Going with the overall retro-forties feel we were giving the show, we wanted to treat the episodes as mini-movies. The title cards allowed us to create great drama in a very subtle fashion. It was a process of trying to capture what the overall episode was, and not just show a scene or moment from it."
When Eric did select an actual shot from an episode, such as the image of Batman in a straightjacket from "Dreams in Darkness," he stripped it down even more, casting the figure into silhouette, picking up little highlights on his costume and lighting him from above with the vertical shadows of his cell bars. Right away the Audience would see Batman had gone nuts, he was in an insane asylum, and they would be hooked into seeing what happened next.
Coming up with the perfect image was sometimes harder than it looked. Case in point: "Harley and Ivy." Remembers Radomski, "It was natural to go in and draw these two luscious babes, but at the same time it was just looking too Toony. And we certainly couldn't depict them sexually because the network would have screamed at us for that." What Eric and artist Glen Murakami ultimately devised were abstract swirls of red. Black, orange, and green, representing each villainess's color scheme and conveying the generally lighthearted mood of the episode.
But another important aspect of the title cards that Paul doesn't mention is the music. The title cards allowed the composer a moment to establish both mood and theme, something we don't see in cartoons. It also showcased the fact that each episode had an original score, another quality feature almost never used in children's cartoons, due to the cost involved. [note: for a prime example of a show that reused the same few songs over and over as a replacement for a score just watch a few episodes of Muppet Babies] For example, who could forget the Joker's theme from "Joker's Favor" that we are introduced to during the title card?
Recently I had the chance to re-watch all the episodes of this classic series, as well as see for the first time the New Batman Adventures, which debuted in '97, a lowpoint for the franchise, which was then quickly overshaddowed by Batman Beyond. I soon regretted not watching the series, as it had many excellent episodes that were on par with the quality displayed in the original series. Sadly, the new series lasted only a mere 24 episodes. The biggest shock, since I was already familiar with the new character designs, was the lack of any title cards. Paul explains:
"When Batman moved to the Kids' WB! Network the title cards were dropped, partially to differentiate the new Batman series form the old, and partially because Eric's departure left no one with time to devote to them."
So it gave me an idea:
I took a stab at making my own title cards for some of the episodes. I soon remembered that I didn't have any artistic talent. Despite this, I figured that the simple designs were easy enough to copy. Ultimately, I was only able to make one, as the ideas I had for the rest required more talent than I had.
I was really pleased with the way the card came out.
In all, there were 24 episodes in the new series and one episode, "The Laughing Fish" from the original that lacked title cards. If I am able to create more, I will definitely post them. In the meantime, if there are any animated Batman fans out there who would like to take a stab at making there own title cards, feel free to email them to me, and I will definitely post them.
Click here for an episode guide.
The ultimate goal here is to see if we can't get these in front of the actual episodes before they are released on DVD. If the series will ever get a quality DVD release, this would be a huge step in the right direction on the part of Warner Brothers.
Here's to wishful thinking.