When BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES premiered in September 1992, I was just four years old. In that short amount of time, I had already become accustomed to the extreme malleability of the character by first being introduced to Adam West’s campy BATMAN ’66 live-action television series, and then the dark, quirky Tim Burton-directed and Michael Keaton-Starring BATMAN and BATMAN RETURNS.
What BTAS did, however, was groundbreaking.
In the 25 years since its debut, one thing is clear: the only “angle” the creative team behind this show had was to make a series about Batman that was honest, true to both its characters and its history, and didn’t speak down to its audience. That is why the show continues to be such a benchmark for any form of superhero media—not just animation.
Now, with the release of BATMAN: THE COMPLETE ANIMATED SERIES in a Deluxe Limited Edition Blu-Ray Boxset, WB Home Entertainment has gone all-out in an effort to create a definitive home release of the series.
Join me as I perform a written “unboxing” of the set, breaking down the packaging and bonus content, before diving into the animated series itself!
The first thought I had when receiving my copy of this set was that as cool as the promotional shots looked, they didn’t do it justice! All of the red accent colors around the box (on things like the BTAS logo, Batman’s outline, etc) are actually shiny/foil, and even some of the shadowed areas of Gotham City in the background are part glossy and part matte, so when the box gets hit with light, the deep colors pop while the dark colors recede. It’s a striking choice that instantly reminded me of the technique used in the series where the backgrounds were painted over black.
This theme carries over all sides of the box; while the back of the set has a “Limited Edition” sticker letting you know which number your set is (out of around 70000, which had its production run increased at the last minute).
Inside the box, the Blu-ray discs themselves are packaged in a superb booklet-style case (carrying over the art style from the outer box), featuring an introduction by series writer/producer Alan Burnett, with each page littered with BTAS artwork, separated by season, along with a listing of each disc’s episodes and corresponding special features. The two bonus discs—BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM and BATMAN & MR. FREEZE: SUBZERO are also stored in this same booklet, making the set feel as complete as possible.
BONUS CONTENT (PHYSICAL)
Beyond the aesthetics of the outer packaging and the booklet that holds the discs, there’s a worthwhile amount of extra physical goodies that sweeten the pot and add to the “deluxe” feel of the set. Included with the set are three Funko Pocket POPS! of Batman, Harley Quinn, and The Joker. The outside of the box teases them through a transparent window, and out of the box, they’re begging to be placed on one of your geek shelves. Folks who know me well know that I’m not a huge fan of these things, but they add value and really are a fun addition to the set.
The other exclusive physical item is a collection of seven “lenticular collector cards of original animation artwork.” They’re housed inside of their own BTAS-branded folder inside of the outer box. And when they say “lenticular” that means, yes—they animate. It’s a fun addition to the experience to have some select scenes of Batman’s battles with Poison Ivy, Two-Face, The Joker, and others, to watch move back and forth in your hands. They’re kind of like oversized versions of something you’d get out of a cereal box, and they reminded me of looking at BTAS View-Master slides as a kid…which is awesome.
BONUS CONTENT (DIGITAL)
Digging into the discs themselves, there’s a wealth of bonus content to get through…IF you never owned the original Volume 1-4 DVD sets of BTAS. Yes, the bulk of the bonus features are the same ones from those previous sets. There are lots of featurettes and full commentaries on 12 episodes of the series (again, the exact same ones from the previous release). It’s certainly nice to be at parity with the previous release in terms of content, but wouldn’t it be nice if there was something new?
Of course, it would, and that’s exactly what we get in this set! The brand-new, marquee bonus feature, The Heart of Batman, is a full 90-minute documentary that delves into the making of BTAS, highlights the creators that made it possible and reflects on why the series continues to resonate with people today. It’s fantastic. There is also what *I think* is a new feature in Concepting Harley Quinn, which has the legendary Paul Dini discussing the creation of the popular character.
THE COMPLETE ANIMATED SERIES
The true star of the show—of course—is the series itself. Following the massive fan response to the great work done by the folks at the Warner Archive for MASK OF THE PHANTASM and SUBZERO, WB Home Entertainment had all 109 episodes of BTAS remastered and restored, and the results are stunning. Presented in its original 4:3 television aspect ratio, the animation is in crisp 1080p high definition, the colors are more accurate, and Shirley Walker’s score has never sounded better. It all comes together to create the perfect experience that enables you to truly appreciate the incredible artistry that went into the series. From On Leather Wings to Heart of Ice and Over the Edge, it’s like watching the episodes again for the first time.
As amazing as the set is, I do have a word of warning—there are a few drawbacks to the experience you could get out of purchasing this set right now. I’ve seen many reports of Amazon shipping the sets in padded envelopes, with the boxes arriving with heavy damage. I was one of the lucky ones, but if you haven’t pulled the trigger on this set yet, I would try to either request the item be shipped in a box, or find it at a brick-and-mortar retailer.
I have also read reports of disc damage inside of the sleeves of the booklet; it’s not easy to remove the discs from the booklet and could lead to damage if handled improperly. If you get the set, it’s probably worth checking the discs to make sure they’re all fine.
And finally, while this set does come with a Digital Copy code, the episodes you get upon redemption are in SD, and are not the HD remasters. WB is aware of this issue and is working on a fix as soon as possible.
It’s also worth noting that the digital copy code covers the 109 episodes of the series; MASK OF THE PHANTASM and SUBZERO are not included. There seems to be some confusion amongst fans with this one; those films were never advertised as being part of the included Digital Copy, and were always referred to as “Bonus Discs.” Still, if you’re in the market for this set, your main point of concern should be the physical items…right?
Minor drawbacks aside, if you’re a massive BTAS fan, the Deluxe Limited Edition Blu-Ray Boxset of BATMAN: THE COMPLETE ANIMATED SERIES is a must-own. The series was groundbreaking for a reason, and it’s so beloved because it’s one of the purest expressions of the world of The Dark Knight that has ever existed.
He is vengeance. He is the night. He is Batman. – Ryan Hoss