Not only does 2017 mark the 25th anniversary of the release of Batman Returns to theaters but also the debut of the wildly popular (and still seminal) DC cartoon Batman: The Animated Series. When the show debuted on Fox Kids in the fall of 1992, ratings were boffo and Warner Brothers saw the franchise off to a hot start. The studio, still riding the high of Tim Burton’s sequel, was hot to get the property a wider exposure and fast. Planned as a direct-to-video release, the studio instead wanted an animated movie to hit theaters instead. Christmas 1993, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm hit theaters around the country. Though the movie failed to tally receipts akin to Batman Returns (actually grossing a mere $5.6 million against a $6 million budget), the movie became an instant classic on home video, serving as the launch point for most of Bruce Timm’s DC animated movies.
For years fans have waited to see Timm’s movie finally get a high definition restoration. That wait is finally over. For the show’s 25th anniversary, Warner Archive is officially releasing Batman: Mask of the Phantasm on Blu-Ray. See the cover for the release below.
The movie has been available on DVD for years, though with image and sound more representative of a 1990’s television show. Warner Brothers instead will make a fully restoration to both the audio and the video. The sound will be presented in DTS HD-Master Audio 2.0 stereo, not bad for an animated feature but definitely far better a transfer than what aficionados have endured previously. The movie itself will receive a full high definition transfer from the original negatives and represented in two formats, both the original theatrical 16×9 aspect ratio (1:78:1) for purists and open matte 4×3 aspect ratio (1:37:1) for those who just wish to watch the movie.
Unfortunately the only announced extra is the film’s original theatrical trailer, which is ultimately disappointing and a misfire for a film that could use a true special edition. How about commentary from Bruce Timm and director Eric Radomski? Maybe some insight the cast like Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, or Dana Delany? Maybe some making-of featurettes that detail the creation of the movie? Compared to the most recent DC Comics animated features this release is very bare bones but, as this is from Warner Archives, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Still, getting Batman: Mask of the Phantasm on Blu-ray is a welcome treat in itself.
The film, written by Bruce Timm and Alan Burnett, focused on both the present day and the past, as Bruce Wayne’s old love Andrea Beaumont (Delany) arrives back in town just as Gotham City’s most notorious gangsters are being taken down by a vigilante known as the Phantasm. As Bruce rekindles his romance with Andrea we also explore the early days of Bruce Wayne as he was on the way to donning the cape and cowl, the complications to dating Andrea Beaumont with the shadow of her father looming, and Bruce’s torn emotions to love and to duty. Also factoring in heavily was the Joker, as we are introduced to his rooting in the past story as well as his dirty tricks in the present. Mask of the Phantasm is highly regarded as one of the best animated films of all time thanks in part to its slick animation, dramatic and action-packed storyline, voice performances from the cast, and the music (performed by Danny Elfman’s conductor Shirley Walker, who performed the musical score to Batman: The Animated Series as well).
No release date has officially been set, though it appears both audiences new and old will appreciate Batman: Mask of the Phantasm when the Blu-ray launches sometime in July. Stay tuned to Fan Fest News for any updates to this news as they break.