Batman: The Animated Series has long had the distinction of being an animated series that treats its audience like adults, and treats its production like a live-action movie--a rarity on North American TV.
Late last year, Batman Beyond
took that idea a step further, when Warner Bros. released the Batman Beyond
trailer on their Web site.
Strictly speaking, it was the TV show's opening, but by releasing it a month early, Warner was following the same tactic as most movie studios: releasing a teaser ahead of time to build audience anticipation. More to the point, the opening was in the style of a '90s movie trailer: MTV-style quick cuts, fast action, thematic rather than literal images. Very few shows on television, animated or otherwise, have ever had such a dynamic and powerful opening.
Toronto-born Darwyn Cooke, a Batman/Superman Adventures
storyboard artist, designed the innovative trailer. During a telephone interview, I grilled him about the genesis of the most interesting thirty seconds to ever hit kids' TV.
Emru Townsend: What were you doing before
I was born and raised in Toronto. I spent most of my time in advertising and graphic design work, some illustration work. I worked at my own company and got into doing animation and production design for commercials. Then I saw that [Warner] had put an ad in a trade publication, and they were looking for people to work on the show.
This was specifically for
No, this was for the Batman/Superman Adventures
. I had no idea they were actually looking for people, I mean it's the greatest cartoon on TV. So I automatically sent a demo down, and I started working.
You started work on the
Yes, I was a storyboard artist on the final season of Batman
, and a handful of Superman
episodes that were being produced at that time. It was right around the time we were discussing my coming down here to work that Batman Beyond
became a project, and we all sort of threw ourselves into that.
So you had designed the title sequence to
What exactly did that entail?
I think that the work I'd done in commercials and video animation had a lot of appeal to Bruce Timm, and I think that when it came down to the titles for the new show, he wanted something that definitely had a more eclectic, technological sort of look. Something edgier. We started batting it around together, and Bruce was definitely keen to see that we did something that was different. Most titles for animation shows are constructed very meticulously from shot to shot, storyboarded, and blueprinted. We wanted to try to get away from that. What we did was we ended up designing a series of shots that were just great shots, that didn't relate to each other. There was no literal or narrative connection to the shots, they were all just great. The idea was that we would just edit to the music, like a movie trailer. We also got caught up in the idea of iconic imagery, as opposed to, say, a shot of some of the villains from the shows. Iconic images that would actually reflect who the villains were, and the types of characters we had on the show.
So this is why you have, for instance, the close-up image of Themis [the goddess of justice] holding the scales.
Exactly. There's also the shot of the hand that opens up with the eye. That actually refers to a villain, but it's not literal. He's called Spellbinder. We have a liquid assassin on the show named Inque, and she can change shape. She's sort of abstractly represented in the titles, she's just a black figure of a woman sort of uncoiling in one of the shots.
So we're dealing with characters from the show, but in a very oblique way. So it didn't have that literal, here's the hero, here's the villain, here's the explosion.
So from there we had to decide what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it, and we decided to go with something [that had] a very low-tech approach. Some aspects of it look like CGI [computer generated imagery --Ed.
] and people think they're CGI, and they're not.