The timelessness of Batman: The Animated Series

How often do you find that a work of animation holds up well almost 30 years after release? And not just through rose-coloured glasses. A show with quality animation, great characters and awesome voice acting bringing it all to life. A show which is timeless. Through the stories it tells and the themes these stories communicate.

 I’d wager that if we put our collective minds together we can count a few shows who still receive recognition. My pick is definitely Batman: The Animated Series (BTAS). While its initial broadcast was around 1992, it still find it a remarkable series. To start: It introduced me to superheroes and darker storytelling when I was young. Growing up in the early nineties I was exposed to a different era of animation. Anime had not made its way to my television screen and Disney was kind of the only household name. At least in my memory. I know there was animation on Cartoon Network, but either we didn’t have it on tv or my parents managed to hide it very well for me. Think of a situation where you only get to watch the “kid-friendly” cartoons. Those that are pretty merry and gentle for the maturing soul. So when you are exposed to the dark and gritty world of BTAS, it sticks. It makes an impression. But why? Why do I remember this show specifically? Even after all these years.

Empatic stories

While rewatching the show, the thing that strikes me about the characters in the episodes is that they are real characters. You can find similar people on our streets. A man who tragically lost his parents when he was young; an academic who is wronged or misjudged by his peers; or an ecologist who has rather extreme methods to reach their goal. Fortunately for us, in our reality, people don’t don masks, capes and spandex to go out and about during the night to make people suffer. But we understand their background and their reasoning for doing this. BTAS communicates clearly why people are doing what they’re doing. And does it without making concessions or by talking down to the intended audience. Something I appreciate a lot since I know people are a lot smarter than some media seem to think. 

BTAS lets us think for ourselves. Show the nuts and bolts of a character so the viewer empathises. Then, by using design and animation, create a fun story.

Flowing animation and design

The show has a very distinct look1. Batman’s iconic design of the ears sticking out from the dark background and the white eyes beaming at you. It is not realistic, but it is iconic. The show heavily relies on its iconic designs. The viewer instantly recognises Batman, Commissioner Gordon, Joker, Penguin, Harley Quinn and Catwoman. This is a strength of the medium: showing the core of the characters by simplifying the design. Simplicity is what also allows for a flowing animation style, as seen in the round lines of the characters. Which results in the series holding up relatively well as the medium changes over time.

Another place where this simplicity is very visible is in the way the show uses details. I absolutely love that shot in the opening of the batmobile. It’s so sophisticated in its simple design. Only the necessary details where you expect them to see, namely in the front of the picture. The elements in the back are, in this case, blurred because of the implied speed of the vehicle.

This technique is also used when portraying key locations for instant recognition. Below is an image of the Arkham Asylum. There is a recognition in 2-3 seconds through the framing and composition to let the viewer know where the scene takes place and the Noir Neo-Gothic Futuristic design of the world immediately immerses you in it.

This Dark Deco design transforms Gotham City from a location into a character. A dark place, where hope still glimmers in the night through the actions of our beloved caped crusader. And where the music elevates the city takes the viewer firmly by the hand to immerse them during the journey. One that each time starts with a superb opening.

Orchestral music

The opening for BTAS is iconic. And the music is a big contribution to that. Even if you have not watched the show in twenty years I think you will remember the intro. I love that this show has orchestral music. Shirley Walker’s score based on Danny Elfman’s theme of the Burton movies is certainly the powerhouse behind the curtains. For me, a good soundtrack is not noticeable when you aren’t paying attention while watching, yet it amplifies the viewing experience. I have only listened to parts of the soundtrack2 but I am paying attention and enjoying it during the episodes. 

This also makes me appreciate the music more, especially when the music starts after a period of silence. It is an instant gratification that contributes in a big way to the pleasure of watching the show.


Batman: The Animated Series stuck with me for multiple reasons. Realistic, emphatic stories; flowing animation and design; and a stellar soundtrack. In hindsight, I am not surprised this show had such an impact on my younger self. The use of the iconic designs is easy to understand and proven to be a foundation for my love of clear, and simple communication. Second: The great atmosphere manifested in a world drenched in darkness and balanced with music and light humour showed that there is light in the darkest of moments. And finally, the stories this show managed to tell. A 90 minute film packaged in a 22 minute episode3.

It is safe to say that Batman: The Animated Series managed to influence my younger self a lot. And I’m glad the series doesn’t disappoint 30 years after I (assumingly) watched it for the first time. It is a foundational series that I will love, revere and scrutinise for the rest of my life, like any timeless classic should be.


  1. See the making of on Youtube: The Story of Batman The Animated Series: Heart of Batman
  2. Spotify links Albums. Volume 1; Volume 2; Volume 3; Volume 4; Volume 5; Volume 6.
  3. The episode I am the Night is an excellent example of this