As Superman returns to the big screen and an animated Batman returns to television, I consider the milestone that is this year’s 20th anniversary of BATMAN: MASK OF THE PHANTASM. In December of 1993, it was the first of Warner Brothers’ animated DC features (to my knowledge) and the only time that I recall Batman animated for the silver screen. Some of you may be too young to recall this first hand, but I was 14 at the time, a fan of at least 4 years and fortunate to be among the few to see it on the big screen. Between the lackluster marketing and its last-minute Christmas release date, PHANTASM probably never stood much chance at the box-office and left screens about as soon as it arrived. Yet it went on to win everyone over on video and is still considered by many to rival the live action features of the time and even since... except, possibly, for THE DARK KNIGHT.
Though marked by exciting action and an engaging mystery at its core, the film is distinguished by parallel stories of Batman/Bruce Wayne’s past and present that merge to solve the mystery at the end, all hinging on a central romance that is arguably better handled in animation than in any of the other features. Most of you have probably seen it, but if not and are interested, do check it out soon. Sadly, I know of no plans for a 20th Anniversary Blu-Ray or other significant commemoration, but I now believe that a new, possibly CG animated Batman feature for the big screen might fare better than another live action reboot that would inevitably draw unfair comparisons to ’s DARK KNIGHT TRILOGY. An animated feature overseen by original producer and company, however, could reinvigorate and even expand the already huge fanbase – not only being cheaper to produce as a series, but most likely as profitable creatively as financially. I’ve yet to see anyone write much if anything on this anniversary or the prospects of an animated Batman franchise (besides the upcoming Lego films), so what do you think of all this? Could animation help DC compete with Marvel on the big screen or would it be overshadowed by live action entries on both sides?