Before he was swole, before he was depressed before he was a cartoon, he was a swole depressed cartoon – it’s Batman: The Animated Series.
The series took influence from Tim Burton‘s live-action films, Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992), and the acclaimed Superman theatrical cartoons produced by Fleischer Studios in the early 1940s. In designing the series, creators Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski emulated the Burton films’ “otherworldly timelessness”, incorporating period features such as black-and-white title cards, police airships (although no such thing existed, Timm has stated that he found it to fit the show’s style) and a “vintage” color scheme with film noir flourishes.
The visual style of the series was based on the artwork of Radomski, and the gothic look of Gotham City was derived from his initial designs. In addition, Radomski issued a standing order to the animation department that all backgrounds be painted using light colors on black paper (as opposed to the industry standard of dark colors on white paper). The distinctive visual combination of “noir” imagery and Art Deco design was dubbed “Dark Deco” by the producers.
The series initially took a variation of music written by Danny Elfman for the Burton films as its theme; later episodes of the series used a new theme with a similar style by Shirley Walker (Walker was occasionally Elfman’s conductor for films). The score of the series was influenced by Elfman’s work on the Burton films, as well as music of 1940s film noir.
The series is more adult-oriented than many of the previous superhero cartoons. It depicts outright physical violence against antagonists, including realistic firearms (though only one character, Commissioner Gordon, was even depicted as having been shot, in the episode “I Am the Night”). First-time producers Timm and Radomski reportedly encountered resistance from studio executives, but the success of Burton’s first film allowed the embryonic series to survive long enough to produce a pilot episode, “On Leather Wings“, which, according to Timm, “got a lot of people off our backs”.