Bruce Timm Didn't Expect To Have So Much Creative Control Over Batman: The Animated Series

"Batman: The Animated Series" is not only one of the greatest cartoons of all time, but is also considered by many to be the definitive version of the Dark Knight. Batman lost his voice recently, with the heartbreaking death of Kevin Conroy, who has become synonymous with the Caped Crusader since first voicing him for the show in 1992, which led to countless other appearances. He has been immortalized by his unparalleled performance and will always be Batman to multiple generations.

"Batman: The Animated Series" was created by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski, neither of whom had experience running a show prior to landing the job. Both had worked on "Tiny Toons," but they didn't really know one another before becoming the dynamic duo behind the beloved Batman show. Based on Timm's talent for character design and Radomski's excellent backgrounds, the pair were asked by Warner Bros. Animation to come up with a two-minute Batman presentation. That presentation changed everything for the two creatives.

'It didn't even occur to me'

Although the series had been approved before Timm and Radomski had even finished their presentation, the test reel still made the rounds, impressing TV and comics professionals alike. That test reel would not only go on to pretty much become the intro sequence to "Batman: The Animated Series," but also made Timm and Radomski the most obvious choice to run the show. According to Back Issue #99 (via 13th Dimension), Timm was still shocked, having thought that he would, at most, become art director for the new series. Timm said:

"That was about as far as my ambition went. It didn't even occur to me that I could possibly be offered the chance to actually be the showrunner. That was just ... y'know, mega-gravy. It was an amazing opportunity and I was wise enough to not just get totally freaked out and say, 'Oh, no! I can't handle it!' I would be crazy to turn down an opportunity like that. But at the same time, yeah, it was definitely a whole lot of responsibility dumped on us out of nowhere. Yeah, it was daunting. Absolutely."

Being handed the keys to the castle

Timm wasn't the only one surprised by president of Warner Bros. Animation, Jean MacCurdy's decision to hand the entire 65-episode first season to the relatively inexperienced pair. In Vulture's oral history of "Batman: The Animated Series," Radomski explained:

"We never imagined they would hand over the show to us and let us make it. We thought, at a minimum, we might be art directors on it, to have some influence on what it might look like. But I don't think either of us conceived that they would just hand the keys to the castle to us. But that first minute-and-a-half piece ended up being the confidence that Jean needed to hand the keys off to us and say, 'You guys know how to make this, so go off and make 65 of them.' We were both stunned. We were like, 'How the f*** are we gonna do this?'"

Timm added:

"Neither of us had ever produced a series before, so that was a big gamble on her part. There was a period in the early couple months of production where, literally, Eric and I didn't know if we were gonna show up and find the locks changed on our offices. I mean, this had never really been done before for TV. What we wanted to do was quite a bit more adult than, say, shows like 'G.I. Joe' or 'Transformers' or 'He-Man.' Those shows were deliberately designed for young kids, and nobody else. If you were 13, that was pretty much the cutoff point for a show like 'He-Man' or 'G.I. Joe.' But we wanted to do a show that would appeal to kids and also to adults, as well. Basically, we were making the show for ourselves."

Not just another Saturday morning cartoon

There are a lot of things from the '90s that haven't aged particularly well, but "Batman: The Animated Series" holds up just as well today as it did then — perhaps even better now that we've got more iterations of the Caped Crusader to compare it to. I love the Tim Burton films, Christopher Nolan's movies, and Matt Reeves' recent take on the character, but for me, no show or movie has interpreted the Dark Knight better than "Batman: The Animated Series. It took all the best elements of the comics and perfected them for a different medium. In the films, Batman is often upstaged by his more charismatic villains and while the cartoon does indeed boast some amazing Big Bads such as Mark Hamill's unforgettable portrayal of Joker, the real star of this show is undeniably Conroy's Caped Crusader. The actor not only gave us the Batman we all deserve, but a pitch perfect Bruce Wayne as well.

Timm's slick Batman design is still just plain cooler than its competitors and Radomski's method of painting backgrounds on black paper gave the show a distinct look all its own. Plus, the series' noir approach served the World's Greatest Detective incredibly well. Radomski and Timm might not have felt ready for the responsibility of running a show, but the fact that they were making the series for themselves feels integral to its success. Their love of these characters shone through in every frame and they created a series that truly does feel timeless. It's too bad HBO Max canceled plans for the show's spiritual successor, "Batman: Caped Crusader."