Batman: The Complete Animated Series
Blu-Ray Deluxe Limited Edition
A little over a year after celebrating the 25th anniversary of its series premiere on television sets back in 1992, "Batman: The Animated Series" is now available in a complete series Blu-ray deluxe limited edition. "Batman: The Complete Animated Series - Deluxe Limited Edition" has all 109 episodes are included on 12 discs with the special features and commentary tracks from the previous DVD set releases, along with the first two movies "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" and "Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero" (both of which released on Blu-ray recently through Warner Archive), a new special feature "The Heart of Batman" that looks back on the legacy of the series, and several collectibles, including three Funko Pocket Pops! figures, lenticular cards, and an art book fashioned as the disc case. The limited edition was originally going to be 30,000 copies total but as of the set's release on October 30, 2018, the total amount has been increased to 70,000 due to overwhelming demand.
The crown jewel of the set is that all episodes have been remastered for the Blu-ray format and essentially cleaned up and presented as originally intended from its 35MM source. This ain't a standard definition to high def transfer port. The team behind the remastering spent the past year working very diligently but they didn't overdo it on this set. They struck up an palatable compromise between clearing up vs. keeping around. They didn't just steamroll it. For instance, some of Disney's releases have been pretty bad from banding in "Treasure Planet", oversharpening in "Aladdin" and the infamous issues with "Gulliver's Travels" and "The Sword In The Stone". The upgrade is noticeable from the start in the classic title sequence. Red skies are the blood red they were supposed to be. Even Batman's exposed chin is no longer that off brown that 90s overseas animation studios left us with. Playing "On Leather Wings" for the first time in a long time, I was blown away at how pristine it was compared to the old television broadcast or the DVD version. The shadows are jet black and the various colors were bold like brand new again. The episodes are all presented in Full 1080p HD at the original 1.33:1 TV aspect ratio. The fine line artwork and shadows between the layers of cel animation done in excruciating painful detail by hundreds of individuals are that much clearer. Sure, they couldn't get it all. There still a few bits of dust and film grain here and there but far less than the DVD version. But heck, even the episodes marred by bad animation like "Christmas with the Joker", "Cat Scratch Fever", "Joker's Wild", "Prophecy of Doom", "Moon of the Wolf", and "Heart of Steel" (both parts) look way better. The audio is in 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless and now that we have Smart HD TVs and sound boosting accessories, the score done by the late Shirley Walker is even more amazing. Audio tracks are the standard, French and Latin Spanish and optional subtitles available in English (for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing), French, and Latin Spanish.
The Deluxe Limited Edition comes with seven lenticular collector art cards, in an envelope, presenting various stills such as Poison Ivy and Batman entangled in vines from "Pretty Poison", Batman atop Two-Face's getaway car, Batman on his Bat Glider chasing the Penguin, Batman trying to stop Joker from dunking Summer Gleason in a vat of acid, Batman swinging to safety with Catwoman in his arms, or Batman going after Joker and Harley. The opposing side of each card features location designs like Gotham City Police Department headquarters, Laffco Factory, the Batcave, and various shots of the city itself. There are also three Funko Pocket Pops! of Batman, Harley, and Joker. The discs come in an art book stored in a hard sleeve that also uses the front cover box art. The discs are ordered by season and on opposing pages are classic artwork from both "Batman: The Animated Series" and "The New Batman Adventures". There is an introduction by writer and producer Alan Burnett. Each disc averages around 10-13 episodes each along with a special feature from a previous release such as "The Dark Knight's First Night Pilot Promo: Hosted by Bruce Timm" on the first disc. At the end of the book is the bonus disc, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, and Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero. The bonus disc contains the previous released "Concepting Harley Quinn" feature and the brand new special feature "The Heart of Batman". It is 1 hour and 36 minutes in total length and features the cast and crew, Warner Bros Animation and Fox executives at the time of the series who reflect on the beginnings of the series, the conditions and landscape that led to "Batman: The Animated Series" being green lit, the leadership of Jean MacCurdy, assembling the right, young and hungry people, Steven Spielberg's major contribution, and the series' legacy. As the commentators speak, the viewer is also treated to rare photographs of the cast and crew hard at work... mostly. While admittingly if you've read similar takes on the series' history from past behind-the-scenes material such as "Batman Animated" or the Modern Marvels feature on Bruce Timm , it will sound familiar but nothing beats watching and listening to these people look back on it all. It was real treat to to listen to Jean MacCurdy, the former head of Warner Bros. Animation.
The strikes against the Blu-ray set are few. In terms of the box design, the limited edition's art book format store the discs in sleeves on every other page as opposed to the basic disc cases. There are some that worry the sleeves lead to disc damage. While the set boasts itself to be complete, that isn't the case. The "World's Finest" crossover between "Batman: The Animated Series" and "Superman: The Animated Series", the last direct-to-video movie "Batman: Mystery of the Batwoman" and its accompanying "Chase Me" short, as well as some of the more obscure media like the animated cutscenes from the Sega Genesis video game and the "Gotham Girls" shorts have been omitted. The episodes from season 3 (or better known as "The New Batman Adventures") lack the option to play the title sequence from "The New Batman/Superman Adventures" and instead play the classic "Batman: The Animated Series" version whereas the Volume 4 DVD set of "Batman: The Animated Series" played the newer sequence if you chose the Play All option. The Bruce Timm video introductions were also omitted for some reason. As for the digital edition, these are only for the 109 episodes and not the 2 movies. And as of writing this review, there is the error made by Vudu to present the digital version in standard definition instead of high definition and is in the process of being rectified. The only other current outlet is iTunes. In terms of the picture quality, the remastered episodes are stunning beautiful but there are few instances when close up shots of characters scrunch up and appear out of focus like Roland Daggett in "Feat of Clay, Part 2". The special feature "The Heart of Batman" isn't meant to cover the entire history and focuses more on the legacy. For instance, despite the inclusion of Tara Strong in the feature, it doesn't delve into the era of "The New Batman Adventures" or even any of the movies for that matter. All in all, these are minor quibbles and the series on the whole is well worth the $112 price tag as you can't get the 109 episodes remastered for Blu-ray anywhere else. "Batman: The Complete Animated Series - Deluxe Limited Edition" is a highly recommended purchase. Set aside those nickels and get this set as soon as you can. You won't regret it. It's "Batman: The Animated Series" the way it was meant to be seen and treasured. Here's hoping "Superman: The Animated Series" and "Batman Beyond" are next.
Reader's Note: As of November 7, 2018, the DCAU Resource has reviewed 56 of the 109 episodes as of this review's publication.