The Art of TV Animation: Batman: The Animated Series

I'm a sucker for beautifully animated TV. The times I've sat down and watched Chowder or Kekkaishi marathons should attest to that. I don't particularly care for either of those shows except for the art. The first time I noticed this about me was while watching Batman: The Animated Series. I had no loyalty to DC or the Batman franchise at seven years old. I just knew I liked the dark art. I now know noir would be the right word for it. Lots of shadows, details on cold city architecture, and a focus on extremes of crime and justice, good and evil.

The animators on this show always did an amazing job creating believable Gotham City environments. Just look at this tilt shot from police blimps to the depths of Gotham. *

Beautiful. Just beautiful.

Watching this show was like seeing the comic book come to life. There were some creative changes, sure, but it felt like the Gotham City on those inky pages. The character design was great. You immediately know who is climbing up the side of this building, for example.

Which brings me to my next point: how great wass the perspective on this show? What an introduction for Catwoman on the series.

Looking at this image is enough to set off some of my acrophobia. It really does look like she's barely clawing on to the side of a skyscraper. The building is just at the right angle to sell the image and show off a little bit. Would you really see that much stone detail from the top of a skyscraper? Probably not, but you'd definitely see the cars looking like tiny specks forever and a day away.

Speaking of great perspective, who do they first show this episode barely peeking over the edge of the skyscraper?

Why Batman himself, of course. What a sneaky way to show his crime fighting instincts. Either he got a tip that Catwoman would be stealing from that building tonight or he has the best guessing skills in the world. Just by showing the shoulders, cape, and jawline in the distance, they capture the essence of the hero. He's always watching. How could he not be? He's the one stopping Gotham City from going under.

Perhaps the greatest achievement in animation on this show is the action scenes. Everything, from the staging to the colors the movement, is done to perfection. I never thought I'd point out the skill in breaking down a door. There's a first time for everything, I guess.

If you want to see arguably the best animated superhero TV series, rent a few discs of Batman: The Animated Series. It's worth it for the beauty of the animation alone.

Any favorite memories from the show? Sound off below.

*All images for this post come from Season 1, Ep. 15: "The Cat and the Claw, Part 1."

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