Here’s something to make some of you feel old, Tim Burton‘s Batman was released 25 years ago today! The film marked a turning point for comic book films specifically and blockbuster level films generally. Batman was a game changer, and it seems fitting that we not let that anniversary pass without notice. I guess others felt the same way because someone went to the trouble of digging up this gem, a behind the scenes look at the production of Batman made in 1988 as the film was in pre-production in England. Apparently Burton’s dark tone for Batman was so in doubt that the studio, Warner Bros., wanted to assure fans and investors that they knew what they were doing with the production. Now, it’s just a quirky little time capsule.
The short film, courtesy of 1989Batman.com, combines behind the scenes footage, interviews, storyboards, and tours of sets under construction. Amongst those interviewed are Burton, production designer the late-Anton Furst, storyboard artist Michael White, special effects artist John Evans, and costume designer Bob Ringwood. Batman creator Bob Kane is also interviewed, however Bill Finger is never mentioned.
The 20 minute piece showed how all the elements were coming together to make the film, and some of it, if this short were made today, would be called kind of spoilery. Whether you know the movie well, or not, this is actually a pretty interesting look at the movie. A rare treat for a movie made, gulp, so long ago. Let’s roll the videotape:
Here’s what Andrew Gillman, the director of the BTS short, told 1989Batman.com how the film came about:
Warner Brothers had found themselves in a very difficult situation at the time. The marketing director at Warner told me that Adam West had been going to various media outlets stating that he should be Batman, that his Batman was the only true Batman, and that this dark thing that Warner was doing had nothing to do with Batman at all. This caused a problem for Warner Brothers because it created doubts in the minds of the film distributors and merchandisers around the world.
Since the longer lead time involved in both merchandise production and film distribution requires a gamble on how a film will look in its finished form, Warner needed to create something to reassure these investors that Tim Burton’s vision for movie was going to work, that this movie was going to be successful. They needed to show them that Adam West’s statements were inaccurate, and that the film would present a version of Batman truer to the comic than the campy, comedic TV show of the 60’s. The opening sequence of the preview film has very specific references to clue-in these investors that the film was returning to Batman’s true heritage, with the West TV show being addressed as merely a footnote in the overall history. In fact, this film would be the vaccination of the Adam West Batman- returning to the character all the wonder of the original comics. So this whole opening statement is basically an assurance to the viewer that Warner is presenting you with the “real” Batman now.
Or at least the “‘real’ Batman” until Joel Schumacher, Christopher Nolan and now Zack Snyder…