Though not as financially successful as the Disney canon of animated films (they did have a good 50 year head start)

“Hey, Ted, kids like verminous mice, right?”

I can’t think of another animated house that has as solid a portfolio as the WB Animated Premiere line. (The animated Marvel films are very hit or miss, more often than not in the miss category. How do you mess up the Ultimates? Twice, might I add.)

 

Pictured: Considerably less interesting than Wolverine.

 

For the intents and purposes of this article I will be talking about t only the related DC Comics based animated films (unless you really want me to talk about Cats Don’t Dance or Pebble and the Penguin. You don’t.)

Batman Mask of the Phantasm was originally intended to be a straight to video release. Warner Bros. fresh from seeing all those Dollar signs in their eyes from Batman and Batman Returns merchandising, apparently saw the possibility of a new Batman string of merchandising as a stop gap between Batman Returns and what would eventually become Batman Forever. The film was not a financial success. On a budget of 6 million dollars it only managed to recoup 5.6 million.

Very early in production, WB decoded that the film would be released in theaters. This unfortunately led to a very abbreviated window for the filmmakers. A traditional animated film is usually granted somewhere in the ball park of  two years or more. From inception to completion, the film took less than eight months.

Though many critics said that the film had a better narrative structure and even favored it over either of the Burton Batman films. But saying lack of narrative cohesion and Tim Burton films is redundant.

 

That isn’t a misprint. It says penguin commandos.

 

Go ahead. Say out loud the plot of Batman Returns.

I’ll wait.

You’ve either confused yourself or you think you sound like an idiot.

Granted, Burton’s films are lush, visual masterpieces, but that’s only half of the recipe. If I give you a hungry man dinner, but fail to heat it for you, your meal with be left with something to be desired.

Barely recouping its production costs at the theater, it would be the last of the animated DC films to be granted a theatrical release. Over its multiple releases over the years on DVD and VHS, the film has ended up turning a substantial profit and had two direct sequels, Batman & Mr.Freeze and Batman” Mystery of the Batwoman.

However, If Batman: The Animated Series owed its creation to the Batman films, Batman and Mr.Freeze was delayed because of Batman and Robin’s lack of success (and insuring wave of suck).

 

Artists rendering of wave of suck.

 

Financially, critically, microscopically and metaphysically a disappointment, the film’s performance so poorly, it caused the animated film, meant to tie-in to it’s eventual video release to be delayed another year.. The film was apparently completed sometime in 1997 but Warner, not wanting the stink to transfer, held the film off until 1998, hopefully improving its chances at success. And as they eventually went on to produce another Batman animated project, they were, by all accounts, correct.


supermanbrainiacattacksr

 

The first non-Batman animated Warner film was a little miss for me. They used all of the designs from the Superman Animated series that was produced from 1997-2000, but used none of the timeline or actor in their roles.

I’m not saying that you can’t recast or do another interpretation (as they did eventually with the Superman: Doomsday project) but why go to the trouble to reproduce so many details of the animated series and then ignore everything else about it.

Granted, I may have been out of the intended age range for the film, assuming that most 10 year olds wouldn’t remember a cartoon that was on television roughly the same time that they were born.

 

“Can someone flip it to Nick @ Nite. I loves me some Fresh Prince.”

 

Regardless, for us longtime fans, it was just kind of confusing and could have easily been solved but not having them look like their animated series counterparts.

After that slight misstep, the films have been bating 1000.

I don't know anything about sports. I can only assume this photo is illustrating the point that I just made.

I don’t know anything about sports. I can only assume this photo is illustrating the point that I just made.

Green Lantern’s likely reboot and Wonder Woman’s eventual live action interpretations will be doing well to reproduce the quality of these entries.

The Superman/Batman films (based on the comic of the same name) are probably my favorite of the DC animated films.

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, New Frontier and Batman: Under the Red Hood are also adapted from existing material and are more than worthy successors to their source material.

This only took til 2005 for a live action adaptation to think to use the 60 plus years worth of stories as the basis for the film, which resulted in Batman Begins. Good call, Nolan.

Batman: Gotham Knights had a very interesting premise, letting different anime directors creatively control the segments and allowing them to translate the Dark Knight as they saw fit. Not necessarily fitting anywhere as far as continuity is concerned, is never the less a fascinating exploration of Batman.

All-Star Superman, based on the seminal Grant Morrison miniseries, suffered from trying to place too much in a constrained time frame. As The Dark Knight Returns used a Part I and II to adequately cover it’s legendary source material, All-Star Superman could have used a similar treatment.

Superman/Shazam is a collection on shorter subject, mini films, which was first for the series. This eventually led to shorts being included as bonus material on their full length disks (Green Arrow was the featured short on Superman/Batman: Apocalypse, for example.) I would honestly prefer the longer format, but seeing as how I have purchased and watched every other DC animated project over the last 17 years, you could guess that I probably invested in this release as well.

Of the more recent fare, which is mostly based on arcs started after the recent continuity reboot,  Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox is probably the best.I think when people look back on it, years from now, it may be looked at as the animated film that took the DTV  comic book movie market to another level of storytelling. The characters feel fully realized and I found an emotional connection I can’t say I’ve ever experienced with the Flash character in any of his various iterations.

As and addendum to what I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I stopped reading DC, consistently, after the reboot. It honestly just felt like a slap in the face to erase the Universe I had been reading since I was seven years old. I’ve enjoyed Morrison’s Batman Incorporated and his run on Action Comics, but have found most of the rest of the titles to be wanting. Even the usually consistent Jonhs’ work on Justice League was bland. The individual personalities, which were masterfully done in the 1997 relaunch of JLA, are all but gone here. The Justice League, save Batman seem to have been lost their sense of individuality.(And this time Ra’s Al Ghul or the Injustice Gang have nothing to do with it.) I have purchased Throne of Atlantis, but have yet to motivate myself to read it. Oh, and Superman is apparently a douche now. Thanks, DC.

If you haven’t spent the time to watch these films or Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League, JL Unlimted, Batman Beyond or Green Lantern: The Animated Series you legitimately have hours worth of entertainment at your finger tips.

Seriously, go search Netflix or Amazon Prime or whatever. They are remarkably consistent and feature quality storytelling that often overshadow their blockbuster, theatrically released counterparts.

If you do decide to dip you foot in the proverbial pool, make sure to check out the second season finale of Justice League Unlimited entitled “Epilogue”.

The producers were uncertain of whether or not the show would be brought back for a third season and used it as what they assumed would be a finale to the animated DC Universe. It’s one of the most touching and poignant explorations of Batman, ever. I’d place this story beside Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke or the aforementioned The Dark Knight Returns. For anyone that was previously unaware, it shows you why Batman is, and ever thus shall be, the greatest hero in the DC continuity (Or Marvel, for that matter.)

DC Comics Animated Films

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero (1998)

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)

Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman (2003)

Superman: Brainiac Attacks (2006)

Superman: Doomsday (2007)

Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)

Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)

Wonder Woman (2009)

Green Lantern: First Flight (2009)

Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010)

Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)

Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010)

All-Star Superman (2011)

Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (2011)

Batman: Year One (2011)

Justice League: Doom (2012) (Adaptation of Tower of Babel story arc.)

Superman Vs. The Elite (2012) (based on “What’s so funny about Truth, Justice and the American way?” )

Dark Knight Returns Part I (2012) (based on…wait for it…. Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns.)

Dark Knight Returns Part II (2013)

Superman Unbound (2013)

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013)

Justice League: War (2014)

Son of Batman (2014)

UPCOMING ANIMATED RELEASE TITLES

Batamn: Assault on Arkham

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis

Batman vs. Robin

Justice League: Gods and Monsters

 

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