This Town Needs An Enema: Ancient Film Industry Feared A Dark ‘Batman’ Movie Would Fail
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A whole lot can change in 25 years.
There may be no better proof of just how much pop culture can shift in a quarter century than this 20-minute video Warner Bros. produced in 1988 to win over ancient movie distributors and other industry folk who were unsure a film about a dark, intense Batman would be something anybody would actually want to watch.
The vintage documentary includes an interview with filmmaker Tim Burton as well as the visionary production designer Anton Furst, who won an Oscar for his art direction of the mega-hit film. Prop designers, engineers, storyboard artists and others are all part of the video as well, and the overarching theme seems to be, “We worked really, really hard on this, and also, Batman is cool.”
There’s also some characteristically terrible grandstanding by Bob Kane, who claims once again that he singlehandedly created Batman. Skip those parts. (He even pushes the unsustainable comics speculation market of the late ’80s.)
The website 1989Batman.com not only posted the video to YouTube but also got an interview with the short film’s director, Andrew Gillman, who was hired by the marketing agency Creative Partnership. Gillman explains the idea behind the video:
Warner Bros. 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 Bros. 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.
That’s seemingly why the video goes to all the trouble to recount about 50 years of Batman history at the beginning. It’s all a counterpoint to Adam West, who was apparently going on some kind of hilarious mission of sabotage.
Gillman says the opening of the documentary is meant to prove the Batman of this movie is the “real” Batman. Of course, that’s silly. Adam West’s Batman is just as real as the movie version or Neal Adams’ version or Greg Capullo’s. But this is what it took to convince people that a movie about a dark Batman could make it. Go figure.
Batman would go on to become one of the 100 top grossing films in US cinema history.