(CBR) Never let it be said that the Dark Knight’s latest animated series didn’t come with a fair warning. This Saturday, a long-in-development new chapter of Batman’s cartoon history debuts when “Beware The Batman” airs its premier episode as part of Cartoon Network’s DC Nation block. The series marks a number of firsts for Batman on TV — his first CGI show, the first animated appearance of villains including Professor Pyg, Anarky and Magpie, the first sidekick from beyond the traditional Bat Family (Outsider member Katana) and more. But to hear producers Glen Murakami and Mitch Watson tell it, being different wasn’t nearly as important to them as being stylish and mysterious.
Murakami has years of experience with Batman and the DCU, having served as character designer on everything from “Batman: The Animated Series” to “Justice League” to “Teen Titans.” Watson may be new to DC, but he certainly has experience with deeply woven pop culture worlds thanks to his work as producer and writer for the popular “Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated” series. Both men say they’re stretching out the boundaries of what’s been done with Batman in “Beware.”
To test the title’s warning, CBR News spoke with the pair for our latest installment of THE BAT SIGNAL — our ongoing exploration of Batman and his world. Murakami and Watson explain how their show grew not out of a need to break Batman tradition but to go back to his roots, what new relationships obscure villains offer the series, how a police procedural vibe will and won’t match the stylized visuals of the CG and their decision to craft a series with long-form character arcs.
CBR News: Gentlemen, I’ll admit that when I saw the initial promos for “Beware The Batman,” my first thought was to the later episode of “Batman: The Brave & The Bold” where Bat-Mite is trying to force the series to reboot so he can get a darker Batman cartoon. But then, when he does get a dark, CGI cartoon, it’s a Batgirl show! I felt it was interesting that that episode came before both a more serious-looking take on the Dark Knight for TV and a CGI one. Was this series in development when that gag was written into “The Brave & The Bold,” and do you agree with that general take that it’s time for Batman cartoons to swing in a different direction after the last one was more fun-loving?
How does the pilot airing this Saturday work not only to introduce the tone and themes of the show but also start those character arcs rolling towards bigger things?
Watson: Pilots are always a tricky thing because you’ve got to lay a lot of pipe and get stuff established pretty quickly. One of the things we discovered when we got the pilot back and saw it fully lit was that, visually, it did a lot of the work for us. Right off the bat, the visuals and the great music by Frederik Wiedmann get the tone set. In terms of how we set up the characters, you’ll see in the pilot that we accomplish it all in the first three scenes. Those scenes are designed to say, “This is our show. These are our villains. These are our relationships.” It’s just boom, boom, boom. The goal was in the first act of the show to establish those ideas, and I know we did that. There’s no question that when you go to the first commercial break, you’ll know what kind of show you’re watching, and you’ll know that it’s like nothing else you’ve ever seen.
Murakami: That question is a little harder for me to answer because the CG was challenging, and I think we were learning how it works for a while. People keep asking me what my favorite episode is, and I can’t pick one because the whole show is one thing for me. We’re continuing to develop it and grow in it. We were happy to see the first episode because so many things we were trying to do were there in a way where we said, “Okay, that’s working.” So many things we wanted we’ve never seen done in CG. It was a challenge for us, and I think in the first episode, we pulled it off. But you also want to keep improving on it and making it better. Another thing when I first came on was that I was a little skeptical until I started to see some of the stuff they were doing on “Green Lantern.” Then I was like, “Wow, that’s amazing!” In some ways, I didn’t realize how far CG had come, and “Beware The Batman” was a matter of how we could take that an push it even further. It’s a different beast, CG animation. In some ways it’s more like live action, and there are maybe more rules. We tried to figure out how to break them because we wanted things that hadn’t been done before — just things like cloth and his cape. Most studios said we weren’t going to get that to work, but we really pushed to do it right. You can’t cheat as much as you do in 2D. You’re building things. People don’t realize that before you animate anything, you have to build it all first. And we almost built everything in Gotham City like a movie set before we filmed it, and that’s why you’ve been hearing about the show for so long.
“Beware The Batman” debuts Saturday, July 13, at 10:00 AM Eastern and Pacific on Cartoon Network.