1989 Batman documentary

A lot can happen in 25 years. When Warner Bros. was pushing Tim Burton‘s Batman, released on this day in 1989, changed the landscape for superhero movies. But at the time, the studio had to convince many people that there was good reason to make a Batman movie. More to the point, Warner Bros. put in a lot of effort to convince people that a serious take on Batman was a good idea, rather than a continuation of the Adam West concept for the character.

One tool used to make the case for this new Batman was a 20-minute documentary feature showing the history of the character, and detailing the thought and work that went into Burton’s film. In celebration of the film’s 25th anniversary that doc has been dropped onto YouTube, and you can watch it below.

There’s so much good stuff in here, primarily with respect to the immense sets and the detailed design work that went into the film. “Big buildings here in Gotham,” deadpans Tim Burton as he stands on the front steps of Gotham’s Flugelheim Museum, the set facade of which which towers behind him.

One of the interviews is rather infuriating, however. ”I had several, influences,” Bob Kane says when talking about creating Batman. He does not go on to say that the primary influence was Bill Finger, however. This was to be the height of the celebration of Kane as the creator of Batman, and he wasn’t about to give up the spotlight. Never mind the fact that most of the Batman design work should have been credited to Finger.

The video comes from 1989Batman.com, which talked to Andrew Gillman, who directed the promo doc. He explains,

Warner Brothers had found themselves in a very difficult situation at the time. The marketing director at Warner told me that Adam West had been going to various media outlets stating that he should be Batman, that his Batman was the only true Batman, and that this dark thing that Warner was doing had nothing to do with Batman at all. This caused a problem for Warner Brothers because it created doubts in the minds of the film distributors and merchandisers around the world.

Since the longer lead time involved in both merchandise production and film distribution requires a gamble on how a film will look in its finished form, Warner needed to create something to reassure these investors that Tim Burton’s vision for movie was going to work, that this movie was going to be successful. They needed to show them that Adam West’s statements were inaccurate, and that the film would present a version of Batman truer to the comic than the campy, comedic TV show of the 60’s. The opening sequence of the preview film has very specific references to clue-in these investors that the film was returning to Batman’s true heritage, with the West TV show being addressed as merely a footnote in the overall history. In fact, this film would be the vaccination of the Adam West Batman- returning to the character all the wonder of the original comics. So this whole opening statement is basically an assurance to the viewer that Warner is presenting you with the “real” Batman now.

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