One of the more surprising details of Tim Burton’s 1989 game-changer Batman is that Robin was originally meant to turn up half way through the film. Now thanks to the vocal talents of the legendary Animated Series cast, you can watch the whole scrapped sequence via a cool little animatic.
It’s important to note that the general public opinion in regards to Batman during the 70’s and 80’s was not positive. In fact the general consensus was that the Dark Knight was a laughing stock. Adam West’s camp TV series (and subsequent, “Bat-aclysmic” movie) had set the precedent of Batman being childish and over-weight, and most of the big studios were not interested in a darker Batman film.
When the movie did eventually get green-lit, the eventual hiring of comedian Michael Keaton (Beetlejuice, Jackie Brown) did no the production no favours either, as fans and pundits alike moaned and cried.
Few executives in Hollywood even acknowledged that Batman had a dark side, or that his core themes were ones of revenge, obsession, and duty. Instead they felt it was all, biff, bang and wank. While the likes of Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, or Death in the Family (where former DC editor Denny O’Neil’s made the fateful choice to kill off Robin), was showing off Batman as creator Bob Kane intended, everyone of importance felt the film had no market beyond that of a cheap and nasty comedy.
Richard Donner’s Superman changed all that. Donner’s huge success in 1978 helped pave the way for the caped crusader, and numerous scripts began to fly around Hollywood. Most of them were thoroughly rubbish. So Warner Brothers, the studio who’d (wisely) decided to hold onto the Batman license, enlisted comic-book writer Steve Englehart to write a new script in 1986. While the Joker was always intended to be in the film, Englehart’s script also included gang boss Rupert Thorne as one of the main villains. He also planned a cameo appearance by the Penguin as well.
Alongside the Dark Knight fighting this trio of bastards was Dick Grayson, aka Robin.
However, both Burton and Englehart agreed that there were too many characters, and he removed both Robin and the Penguin from his next draft. It is here that writer Sam Hamm enters the scene. He re-wrote much of Englehart’s script, transformed Thorne into Carl Grissom (Jack Palance – Hawk the Slayer) and reintroduced Robin back into the mix. Insanely, the studio were even pushing for Eddie Murphy (Beverly Hills Cop) to play the role. Keifer Sutherland (Last Boy Scout) was also considered.
But the Bat-fates were not smiling on the Boy Wonder once again, as in late October, Hamm demoted Grayson to a tiny cameo, before ultimately removing him altogether. Burton, and most of the production staff felt Robin needlessly complicated the plot. Plus many agreed that Batman’s first major screen appearance should mirror his emergence onto the comic scene 50 years previously – he should be alone.
As this was a last minute change, much of the pre-production had already begun, including the storyboards. Many years later these were recovered and put together to form a small animated scene. To bring even more life to it, Batman: The Animated Series super badasses, Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill (Star Wars), once again lent their famed voices to Batman and the Joker alongside Danny Elfman’s now classic score.
You can watch the entire proposed sequence below:
A lot got changed it would seem, including much of the Joker plot and back story. It also still feels very much like a comic book, and not a major film at this stage (perhaps because it is still effectively a comic – duh). Another interesting omission from Hamm’s script was having James Gordon on duty the night of the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents. This out-take was later added once again to Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. Spooky.
On a personal note, I’m glad the little shit (Robin, I mean) didn’t appear. He always annoyed me, and was a pointless comedy sidekick that made Batman look that little bit less mental and badass. Not only that, but being named after a bird is pretty lame as well. They can’t even see in the dark!
I could crush a robin in my bare hands.
While I could probably mangle a bat as well, it would probably give me rabies at least.
Anyway, Robin wouldn’t appear until Chris O’Donnell donned the spandex seven years later in Batman Forever. I’ll write about that piece of shit another time…
On the 23rd of July Batman will be celebrating his 75th year patrolling the dark streets of Gotham. In the lead up to Batman Day, I shall be looking at the various Bat films and incarnations as they’ve appeared over the last 30 years. I’ll also be dropping Bat-facts of my own, and will looking at some of the cooler fan-made spin offs too. Keep checking back for updates.