The Unique Challenge Superman: The Animated Series Cured Was No Problem On Batman, Producer Says

In 1996, four years later Batman: The Animated Series premiered on Fox Kids and taken the world by storm, the creative team behind the popular show joined forces to bring Superman: The Animated Series to live. This show, which featured vocal talents like Tim Daly in the title Man of Steel, Dana Delany in Lois Lane and Clancy Brown in Lex Luthor, was also a critical darling during its four-year run on Kids’ WB. That said, a unique challenge arose in Superman: The Animated Series it was not a problem during the Batman days: draw the largest action sequences.

I learned this by speaking with Superman: The Animated Series co-creator Bruce Timm on behalf of the series’ Blu-ray release. When I asked if there were any specific issues that arose during the making of this series that he did not address on Batman: The Animated Series, Timm replied:

Oh, tons. It was all a challenge. One of the most important things was the increase in the scale of the action sequences. Because Superman has superpowers, that means he fights overpowered villains more often than not. And that means a lot more collateral damage and big chunks of action. Batman was mostly street-wide and a lot of hand-to-hand hand-to-hand fist fighting, like Republic. Superman is a much bigger scale. At the same time, it was the same budget we had on Batman, so it wasn’t like, “Oh, they’re going to give us more money so we can blow up the shit.” It wasn’t going to happen. So that was a challenge, and it was a challenge not only to see bigger, but also to keep it on a scale that was still achievable within our budget. So it was a challenge.

While Batman: The Animated Series Certainly wasn’t without its fantastic elements, as Gotham City wouldn’t have a vigilante in a cloak if it weren’t filled with weirdness, overall the action from the cartoon was certainly more grounded than Superman: The Animated Series. As Bruce Timm noted, focusing on a superhero like Superman allowed the action sequences to get even bigger, from the Kryptonian power plant preventing a plane from crashing to venturing into space to fight alien antagonists. As if plotting those moments wasn’t hard enough, Timm and his cronies also had to work with that same budget they had been given. Batman, which makes it possible to understand why this aspect of the Superman: The Animated Series together was intimidating.

Along with larger action sequences, Bruce Timm also pointed out in our conversation how Superman: The Animated Series was able to dive into the realm of science fiction more often than Batman: The Animated Series made. In his words:

And again, just by the fact that we were exploring a lot more elements of sci-fi, both in our story and in our villains. A, that was a muscle we hadn’t used a lot on Batman obviously. We had no aliens, rarely giant robots. So it was fun doing that stuff, and at the same time coming up with designs that would still be animable in a way that wouldn’t break our budget, break our studios. So it was a big challenge for us.

Batman’s galley of thugs features a handful of people with special abilities like Poison Ivy who wields plants and Clayface who changes shape, but for Superman it is much more common for him to face threats with powers beyond that of mortal man. Yet in the end Superman: The Animated Series managed to deliver a lot of entertaining content during its broadcast and kept within its budget. Playing around with those bigger action sequences and sci-fi villains also ended up being good preparation for DCAU’s continued adventures of Superman in Justice League and Unlimited Justice League alongside Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl and many more.

Superman: The Animated Series is out now on Blu-ray, and you can stream the show on HBO Max as well. If you’re looking for other DC animation projects to watch, check out our movie and TV series recommendations for those who enjoyed. Zack Snyder Justice League.

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