50 years later, Adam West, Burt, Ward and Julie Newmar have returned to their most iconic roles in Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders. Switching from live-action to animation, these 1960s Batman vets worked with current animation directors, producers, and some A-list voice actors to revive the look and feel (and sound effects) of the classic show - and Newsarama talked to several of them at New York Comic Con ahead of the home video release November 1.
“What we’ve done, in a sense, is updated the show and at the same time paid an homage to our 60’s Batman,” explained West. “What it does is embrace the technology and everything that’s going on these days so that we’re able to blend today and then.”
“You know, it’s been fifty years since the original Batman so coming back to it was a bit of a challenge,” he continued. “But when you put on the cowl, it all comes back.”
Did he actually wear the cowl? West was prepared for that question.
"No, but I should've," the actor quipped. "I just wore it to bed."
He also said that when Ward signed on and then Newmar, recording with them once again was easy after a while because the chemistry is still there.
“It all comes back.”
The actor said Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders was important to him because it appeals to the "whole spectrum of the family."
“The humor and charm for children is pretty much the same. We didn’t want to lose that.”
West said that while he originally feared he would be pigeon-holed as Batman, he eventually embraced it and the lasting fan interest.
“People love Batman! And if you people love Batman so much, why shouldn’t I?," said the actor. "Making this movie was me falling in love all over again and I’m the luckiest actor alive that we still get to milk this.”
Screenwriter James Tucker said that this film came about pretty straightforward: his boss told him that West wants to do another Batman movie.
“That’s all I needed to hear," said Tucker.
Tucker, who co-wrote the film with Michael Jelenic, said that they didn't want to mimic the original 1960s, but still honor it.
“I didn’t want to mimic the show. I wanted to homage the show and use the elements from the comics that inspired the show, but didn’t make it in there because of budgets," said Tucker. "Another thing is that lore has it that the show would have gotten another season, but the sets had already been destroyed. So I was thinking about if this was the unofficial fourth season or if they had to start from scrap and that’s kinda the concept I had going into this.”
“What couldn’t the ‘66 series do because of budget reasons or anything like that, and how can we make it better and bigger than that?" said Jelenic. "So our one rule, as it were, to make this a lighter Batman where the villains were bad, but not necessarily evil so to speak.”
“The situations they’re in can be pretty silly, but the consequences are not," added director Rick Morales. "I think that’s goes a lot of way how camp is played. It’s funny, obviously, but it’s not necessarily parody. It’s not about making Batman look silly, it’s about putting him in these situations he takes serious and letting it play.”
Tucker confessed that this Batman is the one true Batman in his mind and that one that has been “hard-wired” to his brain and that any other adaptation is the one he has to make adjustments for.
“To me, Adam West is the first Batman so his voice is always stuck in my head. Well, him and Diedrich Bader, but I mean writing the script I knew how he should sound. The only pressure came from when I had to make sure it was funny. You had to honor both the Batman’s world and not being scared of fans who might reject it. I think a lot of fans loved this Batman, but couldn’t say it in mixed company for a while.”
The producer also talked about the cyclical nature of Batman and how it was campy and how eventually fans were burnt out from that and then the Burton movies came along, which gave way to the Joel Schumacher films which inevitably needed a retooling to the more brooding and gothic type of Batman. Though after that, there was still room for this type of Batman to have an audience if done right.
“Not slamming him or anything, but he was somebody who didn’t understand the Adam West Batman. So it became a mockery of something that was already a satire,” Tucker explained. “That’s not satisfying. You have to know what you’re tweaking so the camp didn’t work. The thing about camp is that smart people get it and the uneducated don’t get. The idea is that it has to be witty and there wasn’t slyness in it at all, but those movies have their fans as well.”
Although Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders is lighter than the one in lvie-action currently, MichaeL Jelenic says that its very different from Brave and the Bold.
“I think Brave and the Bold is probably a little bit more grounded in some ways,” he said. “In Brave and the Bold, he was the straight man and not really playing for comedy. In this one, Batman is in on the joke and while nobody is trying to be funny, they get to be funny naturally. It’s like Airplane where everybody is reading nonsensical lines, but taking it very seriously.”
“We played these characters more realistically,” added Morales. “It’s almost playing it straight and letting Adam West Batman be that and not making it overly cartoony. The script is very different from the Lego DC stuff, that’s more Looney Tunes and slapstick comedy than what this is. This is a lot more dialogue-driven.”
West casually mentioned that he recorded his part for Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders from his home studios - somethings he does for most of his voice-over work. He did bring up the fact that if it’s something he’s not too familiar with, he likes to go into the recording studio and meet up with the cast.
“A lot of the times, they animate based on your movements and how you perform in front of the mic, but what we did here was to lip sync with the animation, which is okay too if you know what you’re doing.”
In addition to the returning trio from the original show, new voice actors Thomas Lennon and Steven Weber surprised Tucker with how much they wanted to do the film.
“There was no convincing. They came in knowing they wanted to do it.”
Morales talked about working with the likes of Lennon and Weber and said they were nothing but fantastic.
“I was particularly excited that we got to use Thomas Lennon. He’s great and he seemed to be such a fan of what we were doing as well. It’s funny because when you get into working on these things, you get so focused on the boards and everything like that, I just show up and was so surprised.”