Batman Beyond Was Created In A Moment Of Desperation

After the runaway success of Tim Burton's "Batman" in 1989, Batman media began to proliferate throughout the landscape. The film sold a massive amount of toys and t-shirts, not to mention many, many copies of Prince's soundtrack record. Imitators immediately started appearing in theaters, with Warren Beatty's "Dick Tracy" being the highest-profile example. A sequel, "Batman Returns," was released in June 1992, and the following September saw the debut of "Batman: The Animated Series," a celebrated TV show that cribbed a lot of its attitudes and aesthetics from Burton's films. Those who were hovering around age 12 in 1992 likely have nothing but effusive things to say about "Batman: The Animated Series," given its shadowy look and intense stories. Late voice actor Kevin Conroy, for many, holds the standard for Caped Crusader performances. 

"The Animated Series" ended its run in 1995 but spawned several spin-offs from the same production team, led by celebrity animator Bruce Timm. From 1997 to 1999, audiences saw an expanded "The New Batman Adventures," a show that incorporated Robin, Nightwing, and Batgirl. Also from the same circle came "Superman: The Animated Series," and the astonishing comedy show "Freakazoid!," although the latter was not based on characters from DC comics. 

In 1999, Timm and co. also created "Batman Beyond," a sequel program to "Batman: The Animated Series" that was set in the far-off, dystopian future of 2019. In it, Bruce Wayne (Conroy) was now elderly and had to train a futuristic Batman prodigy (Will Friedle) to tackle futuristic crimes in a high-tech Gotham City. 

In an interview printed in Les Daniels' 1999 book, "Batman: The Complete History," Timm admitted that "Batman Beyond" was a last-minute idea, and the only one they had that wouldn't mess with the current Batman continuity. 

Welcome to Neo-Gotham

In early 1999, Warner Bros. was angling for additional "Batman" content. While the feature film series had been brought to an end by the sour reaction to Joel Schumacher's "Batman & Robin" in 1997, the Caped Crusader continued to thrive on television for several more years. Warner Bros. asked for a show from Bruce Timm's team, but one that would, perhaps, be geared toward a younger audience than the relatively mature "Animated Series." Timm, along with frequent producing collaborators/co-creators Paul Dini and Alan Burnett, hastily threw together a few ideas, eventually settling on what would become "Batman Beyond." 

Timm admitted it was a hasty decision. He said:

"In desperation, we came up with the concept for 'Batman Beyond,' which we thought was the only thing we could do that would reinvent the character without wrecking the continuity we had done. [...] There was the opportunity to do more of a science-fictional Gotham City, and the more we talked about it the more we liked it."

Despite the initial mandate to keep the show light, "Beyond" was just as grim as its predecessor. In the series, many of Batman's old allies had retired or died, he had resigned from the Justice League, and characters like Batgirl and Nightwing stopped talking to him because they had a falling out. Old and alone and cloaked in resentment, Bruce Wayne had to train the hotshot Terry McGinnis to be the new Batman. It seemed that decades of crimefighting have done nothing to stem the constant rise of crime in the city, even after Gotham went cyberpunk. 

"Batman Beyond" was massively successful, lasted for three seasons, and spawned a straight-to-video feature film, "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker" in 2000. Even if it was a last-minute decision, it was a good one.