DC Stays Old While Going to Preschool in ‘Batwheels’

The phrase “kick-ass” is probably not often associated with a preschool show. But, again, how else to describe a Batmobile car chase? Even though it’s aimed at four-year-olds.

Batwheels — starring award-winning actor, writer, and director Ethan Hawke as Batman — marks DC’s first-ever Batman preschool series, giving young viewers a high-speed, CGI-animated iteration of the Caped Crusader. The series features a team of super vehicles – Bam (the Batmobile), Bibi (the Batgirl Cycle), Redbird (Robin’s race car), Buff (the Bat-Truck) and Batwing (the Bat plane) – so that they help Batman, Batgirl, and Robin keep the streets of Gotham City safe. Whether it’s taking on Zoom’s Legion or one of Gotham City’s notorious super-villains, the Batwheels will use their amazing gadgets and creative teamwork to save the day.

Based on DC characters, Batwheels is produced by Warner Bros. Animation, Bang Zoom! Entertainment, and DC Entertainment with animation by Superprod Studio. The first seven episodes will premiere on Cartoon Network’s Cartoonito on Monday, October 17 and HBO Max’s Cartoonito hub on Tuesday, October 18.

“I’m extremely proud of the show because we tried to attract and involve as young, old and diverse an audience as possible so everyone could enjoy the ride,” said supervising producer Simon J. Smith. . “And we were able to create a legitimate Batman, in a legitimate Gotham City, but also create a whole new set of Batman superheroes. The action is great and it’s funny too!

Batwheels creator Michael G. Stern, who is co-producing the series with Looney Tunes Cartoons‘ Sam Register, adds, ‘It still feels like a fully valid Batman world that any fan would love. We’ve just drawn and emphasized the more fun and colorful aspects that are already there and added this batch of fun new vehicle characters – the Batwheels and the Legion of Zoom. I don’t like to approach adaptations by saying, “What do I need to change to make this work for young people? I’d rather say, “What should I do to stay true to the original, awesome IP, so kids fall in love with it the same way I do?” »

“The most gratifying thing for me is knowing that for a whole new generation, this will be their first Batman,” Stern notes. “It’s a huge responsibility, but I’m very proud of the version we present to them. What’s even cooler is that this will also be their first Robin, and he’s African American, and their first Batgirl, and she’s Asian American. How cool is that?”

But as rewarding as the experience has been for Stern, known for writing and producing preschool series like Doc McStuffins and sofia the first, it came with a lot of unique challenges. Primarily, creating an entertaining and fun children’s series out of one of pop culture’s darkest superhero stories.

“Obviously, we’re not dealing with the trauma of Batman’s past or telling the villains’ psychotic origin stories to a preschool audience,” says Stern, whose show features villains Penguin, The Riddler, Harley Quinn and others. “But we don’t deny the existence of these things either. If you want to believe the Joker was thrown into a vat of acid and went insane, our show doesn’t contradict that. We just don’t tell that origin story. And Batman is who he is on our show. What made him this masked vigilante, we do not discuss. But if you want to believe that his parents’ death did that, we don’t contradict that idea.”

For Stern, it was important to “keep Batman Batman,” the same cool, mysterious character that most DC fans know and love, and not dumb it down or “kiddify” him for the show’s audience.

“I think that audience is underappreciated,” Stern says. “They were never allowed to see Batman the way adults do. But why not? I want to let preschoolers have the same experience we all have when we watch a movie or a superhero series. heroes. They deserve to have the same fun! Once I decided to do this, I needed other characters that young children could relate to, and that’s where vehicles came in. game. These would be the “child” characters that our young audience would see through the stories.

In the show, just created by the Batcomputer (SungWon Cho), the heroes Bam (Jacob Bertrand), Bibi (Madigan Kacmar), Redbird (Jordan Reed), Buff (Noah Bentley) and Batwing (Lilimar, or Lili Mar ) are essentially children with little or no life experience, which means that the characters learn alongside Batwheels’ preschool audience.

“It’s the first TV show I’ve worked on and I really wanted Batwheels feel like you’re in a Batman movie when you watch it,” says Smith, known for directing Penguins of Madagascar and bee-movie. “I wanted to bring as much cinematic nature to Batwheels, without being too intense, so that the whole family can enjoy it. As soon as I read the first four scripts, I recognized what Michael was doing. Not trying to change Batman or Gotham City, but not highlighting anything that would be inappropriate for our young audience. I really enjoyed that.

The team’s approach to animation also played a key role in ensuring the show entertained, not terrified, its audience. It would be easy to make the color scheme a bit too dark, the character designs a bit too grainy – but the Batwheels the team took an interesting turn with the designs, making them bubbly, almost like a Super Mario Game.

“We knew this show was for an audience of kids four and up and that the whole show would be at night, which is pretty rare for that audience,” admits Smith. “So we wanted to make sure that everyone would be drawn to the screen if they saw an image from the show and one word that we kept coming back to was ‘fun’. It may sound cliché, but it really worked. for all aspects of the show. If it didn’t seem “fun”, it shouldn’t be in the show. For the colorscript, we tried to find a reference for a place where families go at night and have fun a lot: a theme park! That’s how we imagined the colorful palette of the show. We lit up Gotham City as if it were a theme park.

He adds: “For the animation of the action scenes, I found an abbreviated recipe: fast furious: + Batman = Batwheels.”

And, of course, those hero vehicles also go hood-to-hood with villainous vehicles, including helicopters. So the next challenge was to make these cars look like legitimate members of the DC Universe, fierce defenders of Gotham, but also kid friendly and approachable.

“Those were the biggest challenges because, in our Batwheels universe, it’s really two shows in one,” says Smith. “It’s not just a human superhero show with the Batfamily and the traditional Batman villains, but also an animated vehicle superhero show and all the vehicle villains. And Batman and co ride in the Batmobile or the Batwing, or Robin’s Redbird car and use them as legitimate vehicles.

Smith says the team wanted “the visceral impact of CG but not the intense, realistic visual effects that might scare the little ones”.

“Our animation supervisor came up with a test,” Smith says. “He animated Bam’s eyes and mouth on 2, but rendered the car CG on 1. It was a smash hit, as you get a familiar 2D animation feel to the character while retaining the CG properties high impact on the vehicle. We did the same as any big visual effect in the series and leaned into the 2D feel to make the world and characters pop. All water, fire, explosions, smoke, are animated in 2D. And, in the surface, there are reflections painted on the objects as well as light hitting the objects. So throughout the show there is a lot of 2D/3D integration.

With Smith and Stern harboring a “mega-geek-level love” for Batman and the DC Universe, the two hope and pray they’ve done all they can to bridge the gap between the preschool world and that of older kids.

“I would like the public not to think of Batwheels like, ‘that preschool show with Batman.’ I want them to see it as “that awesome Batmobile show”. Then I will know that we have succeeded. And somewhere in there, behind all the awesome action and fun, if young children learn a little something about how to navigate the problems they face, how to get along in the world, then it’s is the icing on the cake.

The photo of Victoria Davis

Victoria Davis is a full-time freelance journalist and part-time Otaku with an affinity for all things anime. She reported many stories ranging from activist news to entertainment. To learn more about his work, visit victoriadavisdepiction.com.

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