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Releases - DVDs - Batman: The Animated Series, Volume 1

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Release Information:
Studio: Warner Home Video
Announce Date: 4/23/04
Street Date: 7/6/04
Closed Captioning: Yes
MSRP: $49.98
Packaging Type: Slipcase
Subformat: Multi Disc
Media Quantity: 4
Sound Track Language: English
Run Time: 625
Episodes:
Disc 1 - On Leather Wings, Christmas With The Joker, Nothing to Fear, The Last Laugh, Pretty Poison, The Underdwellers, P.O.V.
Disc 2 - The Forgotten, Be a Clown, Two Face: Part One, Two Face: Part Two, It's Never Too Late, I've Got Batman in my Basement, Heart of Ice
Disc 3 - The Cat and the Claw: Part One, The Cat and the Claw: Part Two, See No Evil, Beware the Gray Ghost, Prophecy of Doom, Feat of Clay: Part One, Feat of Clay: Part Two
Disc 4 - The Joker's Favor, Vendetta, Fear of Victory, The Clock King, Appointment in Crime Alley, Mad as a Hatter, Dreams in Darkness
Aspect Ratio(s):
Original Aspect Ratio - 1.33 Standard [4:3 Transfer]

Audio
English: Stereo 2S
Francais: Stereo 2S
Espanol: Stereo 2S

Edition Details:
• Encoding: Region 1
• Animated, Color


Special Features
• Audio Commentary on "On Leather Wings", featuring Bruce Timm and Eric Rodomski (Disc 1)
• Audio Commentary on "Hear of Ice", featuring Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and Eric Rodomski (Disc 2)
• Featurette: The Dark Knight's First Night (Disc 1)
• Featurette: Batman: The Legacy Continues (Disc 2)
• Tour of the Batcave (Disc 3)
• Other Super Hero Favorites (Disc 4)

Official Synopsis: This fantastic 4-disc set packs 28 awesome adventures of the World's Greatest Detective taking down an array of criminal masterminds plus Exclusive Extras also worthy of investigation. Experience the thrills of vigilante justice as millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne and alter-ego Batman protect the streets of Gotham City from a host of villains. Intelligent, dramatic stories, unique characters and sharp dialog shaped this edgy TV series into an Emmy-winning powerhouse that brought the Caped Crusader out of the dark alleys of TV history and into the present for fans of all ages.

Review
It’s been over two years since we got our first taste of BTAS on DVD, “The Legend Begins.” Fans saw that release as either a gateway to a box-set, or a bunch of other single disc releases—and, unfortunately for the impatient (however, by this point, Columbia House had begun releasing their own volumes of BTAS [barebones discs, with six episodes to a volume] at $20 a piece), WB continued releasing BTAS single discs for another year (and is still doing so—a fourth release, “Secrets of the Caped Crusader” is due out in October). However, many fans held out on the last release, “Out of the Shadows” due to increasing rumors that a box set was in the works. Initial speculation suggested that the set would include the entire first season (over 60 episodes), but it was later revealed to contain the first 28—and would be released in “Volume” instead of “Season” sets.

The day that the announcement finally came was a breathe of fresh air for fans—though the set was revealed to contain a sparse amount of special features, it was still one of the most highly anticipated sets (peaking at #3 on Amazon’s DVD Sales) from Warner Bros. Stories of fans going out to buy the DVD on day one came back with mixed reviews—some stores had a truckload, while others seemed to only have one or two sets. It would seem many stores misgauged the popularity of this set and simply didn’t order enough. But—enough about how the long trip many waited to get to this DVD—let’s talk about the discs themselves.

Packing twenty-eight episodes onto four discs, this set really impressed me in some areas, and dropped off in others. Breaking it down by order of appearances:

Packaging (Rating: ***): Your typical fold-out pack of four discs (something I prefer over Futurama’s slim digi-packs), the fold out shows a long stretch of art with the breakdowns of each disc. Behind the disc holders is a montage of images that have been faded out and the discs themselves come out with ease (more than a few times I’ve struggled with my 24 sets).

Menus (Rating: **): Each DVD has the same opening menu, with the same, entirely too short, music. Episode, special features and language menus are all different for each set (which makes you wonder why a different main menu couldn’t have been implemented). From a technical standpoint, the menus are lacking a bit—but they are just a minor part of the DVD experience.

Extras (Rating: ***): Featuring the first commentary on a Batman cartoon since the excellent Return of the Joker commentaries, it was nice to watch an episode with the crew talking over it—and between Timm and Radomski, “On Leather Wings” was made a very, very entertaining episode (then again, to say it wasn’t before—I’d be lying), as well as “Heart of Ice”. The two were the obvious choice for commentaries (“On Leather Wings” being the first BTAS episode, and “Heart of Ice” being a fan [and creator] favorite), but few more commentaries would’ve been a real treat.

The featurettes were, perhaps, the greatest thing (sparing the episodes themselves) on this disc. Fans were finally able to see, in a non-bootleg quality, the original pitch to Fox for Timm and Radomski’s idea of what BTAS would be like, complete with an intro by the two on how the promo was made and the ideas behind it.

The second featurette is a retrospect on BTAS, and included words ranging from Timm, Dini, Radomski, Hamill, Conroy and a few others in the comic “biz”. It really delved into what makes BTAS such a great cartoon, and how much it set the pace for a lot of the cartoons we see on TV today.

The “Tour of the Batcave” was not only a confusing (for a fan-driven set, why put a “special feature” on that was clearly directed towards children?), but a complete waste of time and space. I guess they needed something to put on the third disc—a repeat viewing of “I’ve Got Batman in My Basement” would’ve been more entertaining than this.

Episodes (*****): It’s obvious the highest point on the set would be the fact that we get twenty-eight episodes of BTAS in one fell swoop, but the quality of the episodes was also great. They still had their grain, “snow” and everything from back when it originally aired, ranging from it’s impurities to its greatness. Seeing these episodes “digitally re-mastered” would have been nice, but I think it would have lost some of the feel of the “oldness” the show is able to bring to the audience.

Watching the episodes on a regular TV, I noticed no interlacing at all—though I’m sure on HDTV sets with higher resolutions will be able to pick a few up (similar to the Samurai Jack set, no doubt), but as is, it’s a very nice, and “dirty”, transfer of the original episodes.

Overall (*** ˝): A lot of things could have been done better on the set—the packaging, the menus and at times, the features, seemed a bit rushed. More delays would’ve only angered fans more, however, so with that in mind, WB did a hell of a job on this set. Not perfect, but not bad at all—and considering it’s the only way we’re gonna see the complete set of BTAS on DVD with special features of any kind, it’s definitely worth picking up. 

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