13 GREAT THINGS About Filmation’s 1968 BATMAN Cartoon

It’s the 50th anniversary!

I’ve spent quite a bit of time on the Filmation Batman cartoon over the last couple years. It was an indelible part of my childhood and I’ve really enjoyed exploring it in depth, especially on The Batcave Podcast, where host John S. Drew and I have been reviewing every episode. (Click here.)

And now we’re at the show’s 50th anniversary. The series debuted Sept. 14, 1968, as part of The Batman/Superman Hour but I was much too young to watch it when it was in first run Saturday mornings on CBS. Instead, I discovered it a few years later in syndication on Channel 5 in New York.

Since then, it’s etched itself in my Bat-psyche, an essential part of my formative years as a fan, alongside Batman ’66, Megos, the 1973 Ideal Batman playset and, of course, comic books.

If you’d like to check out all of our Filmation Batman coverage – and why wouldn’t you – click here. You’ll find not only a series of features and tributes, you’ll find the links to all The Batcave Podcast episodes on the series.

You’ll also find 13 QUICK THOUGHTS: The Kitschy Kick of FILMATION BATMAN, which takes a broad look at what made the show tick. (Click here to jump right to it. Go ahead. We’ll wait.)

But for the anniversary, I wanted to hone in on the specifics, the elements that make an often silly cartoon resonate 50 years later.

So dig these 13 GREAT THINGS ABOUT THE 1968 BATMAN CARTOON:

1. Olan Soule as Batman. Adam West may be the era’s definitive screen Batman, but Olan Soule provided him with the perfect voice — so much so that he was later hired by competing studio Hanna-Barbera for Scooby-Doo and Super Friends. Soule’s Batman — and Bruce — was authoritative and confident, the ideal combination for a Silver Age interpretation. I’d even argue that his animated Batman voice was superior to West’s later Filmation and Super Friends appearances.

2. The Theme. Filmation’s superhero cartoons all had cool music but John Garth’s kinetic opening theme – complete with strobing colors and Knight’s bombastic narration – is next level ’60s power groove.

3. Casey Kasem as Robin. Like West and Soule, Burt Ward was the ideal screen Robin but Kasem was the ideal voice. Fun fact: Kasem was 36 when he first played the Boy Wonder in 1968. (Click here for a look at Kasem’s time as the junior Caped Crusader.)

4. Yellow is the New Black. There’s no greater sport in Filmation (or Hanna-Barbera for that matter) than spotting the gaffes — especially when the colors of Batman and Robin’s logos are inverted. Or missing. Or in the wrong spot, where Robin’s concerned. Same goes for when, say, gloves mysteriously disappear.

5. Jane Webb as Batgirl. As much as I disliked Webb as Catwoman (sorry), I loved her as Batgirl. Filmation’s version of the Dominoed Daredoll was relatively callow when compared with Yvonne Craig but Webb’s can-do spirit was infectious.

6. The Artistry. Let’s face it: Filmation was schlock. Lovable schlock but schlock nonetheless. However, this was still a studio staffed with talented artists and you could really see it in the many evocative matte paintings and effects utilized throughout the show. I also really dig the vehicle designs.

7. Duck! The 1967 Spider-Man cartoon may have set the standard for using stock footage over and over and over and over again but Filmation played the same game. Best moves? When Batman and Robin threw their punches right at the viewer. Same goes for when Robin threw his Batarang at the screen.

 

8. Partners in Peril. One day soon I’ll be posting a list of the series’ 13 best episodes. I would have done it for the anniversary but I’d rather get through the reviews we’re doing on The Batcave Podcast and we still have a few more to go. But here’s a spoiler: This episode, by George Kashdan, will be on the list. The two-parter was the closest thing we got to a sequel to the 1966 Batman movie until the first animated Batman ’66 flick a couple of years ago: The Joker, Penguin and Riddler join forces only to be schooled by Catwoman. (Click here for a closer look at the episode.)

9. Simon the Pieman. Filmation generally stuck with Batman’s tried and true villains but, like the live-action show, the producers did add their own characters to the mix. Best example? Simon the Pieman — an evil pastry chef with a penchant for cross-dressing and Russian blondes. Edward G. Robinson would have been great as Simon had the bad baker been around for the ’66 show. Or Jonathan Winters, as a reader suggested. (Click here for our 50th anniversary tribute to Simon.)

10. From Catwoman With Love. Another episode that’ll make the Top 13 list, even if you have to endure Catwoman’s screechy voice. The twisty-turny plot gives us the series’ best chase scene.

11. Filmation Logic. Let’s face it: The show was written for kids. Hell, it was written down to kids. But with adult eyes, the show’s many leaps of logic make for its biggest unintentional laughs.

12. Those Sly Dogs. That said, the writers also snuck in plenty of adult-skewing gags. Best example? The brilliantly subversive Hizzoner the Joker, by Denis Marks, which not only lampooned the politics of 1968 but was remarkably prescient. (Click here for a closer look at the episode.)

13. Ted Knight, the MVP. The future Ted Baxter did most of the heavy lifting, with an arsenal that included almost all of the villains and Commissioner Gordon. And, of course, he was the narrator who memorably told us about Gotham City’s “kooky criminals.” Love him.

MORE

— The FILMATION BATMAN Index. Click here.

— The Single Best Sequence of FILMATION BATMAN. Click here.

— The Weirdest BATMAN Cartoon of the ’60s. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

Share This Post On

10 Comments

  1. re. #12. Those Sly Dogs

    I guess no one caught the use of “KKK” as one radio/TV station’s call sign.

    Post a Reply
  2. It’s really amazing how this cartoon came out after the Adam West “Batman” show ended.

    Post a Reply
  3. Looked up music composer John Garth once. I believe I remember it saying he had been an organist for old silent films. The Batman cartoon was evidently something he did at the tail end of his life and career. I find that fascinating. He really plugged into the right vibe for this.

    Post a Reply
  4. Thanks for this excellent tribute (and all the previous ones), Dan. I was 6 years old in 1968, and distraught that the live-action Batman had been cancelled earlier in the year. When I first saw that great CBS Saturday morning ad in the comics, I was so excited that Batman and Robin were coming back to my TV set as a cartoon (for the first time in history…well, after the fantabulous and essential opening to the Adam West series, of course). The Filmation designs certainly brought to mind the Infantino comics of those days. Ahhh, the wonderful memories this post brings. 🙂

    Post a Reply
  5. I’m so glad that Eaglemoss made a scale model version of the Filmation Batmobile. Love that design!

    Post a Reply
  6. Love this article and Filmation’s Batman cartoon! John Gart’s music for Superman & Aquaman was sort of from the “John Phillip Sousa” school of heavy marching, patriotic with heavy orchestra sounds which I thought fit those characters perfectly. However, Gart got to let loose on the Batman open end themes. The organ rifts along with the surf guitar sound is hip, cool and fantastic!

    Post a Reply
  7. I find it interesting that Jane Webb did double duty on three different series and she re-recycled her two archetype voices twice in a row: She recycled her “Betty” voice from Archie for Batgirl on The Adventures of Batman & Mary-Ann on The New Adventures of Gilligan (billed as “Jane Edwards”) and likewise, she also recycled her “Veronica” voice from Archie for Catwoman on The Adventures of Batman & Ginger on The New Adventures of Gilligan”. (this time, billed as “Jane Webb” again) I wonder, if Filmation had gotten the rights for the Superfriends instead of Hanna-Barbara, would’ve Jane Webb re-recycled her “Betty” voice for Wonder Woman & her “Veronica” voice for Wendy? Just a thought.

    Post a Reply

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: