by Jim Harvey
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Finding a Voice
Finding the voice actor to bring Freeze alive, so to speak, was a difficult task. The actor had to be able to portray a wealth of emotions in under twenty minutes. Timm collaborated with voice director Andrea Romano and came up with Michael Ansara.
"As usual, I discussed the casting with Romano," Timm says. "I gave her a list of actors I thought might be good for the part, but none of them were available for one reason or another. "And then Andrea gave me a list of actors that she thought might work out, including Ansara," says Timm. "I'd admired his work since I was a kid, thought he'd be terrific, and, of course, he was!"
Ansara has starred in a vast number of high-profile series, and has played a wealth of characters during his distinguished career. His career highlights include roles on the western classic Gunsmoke, the 1960's The Fugitive series, and he has appeared in many of the Star Trek television series. Dini agreed that Ansara's cold, stoic voice fit the character perfectly.
'Heart of Ice' premiered early in the series run, on September 7th, 1992. It received immediate praise, and won the series a Daytime Emmy for 'Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program;' today, it is widely considered the best individual episode of Batman: The Animated Series. The execution for 'Heart of Ice' was near flawless, with both comic and animation fans applauding the bold revision of the Mr. Freeze character.
Dini says that the episode combined action and emotion seamlessly to create a unique and emotional episode.
"Well, it's beautiful to look at, and Bruce did a hell of a job directing it," says Dini. "Also, it's sad. And I think people like a bit of romantic sadness now and then, even in their Batman cartoons."
Meanwhile, the revised origin for the animated Mr. Freeze was quickly translated to the comic version of the character as well. In 1997, Dini further explored Freeze's character in the DC Comics' one-shot Batman: Mr. Freeze, which was intended to tie into the Batman & Robin movie. The one-shot even delved into Freeze's traumatic and depressing childhood of abuse and tragedy. The mainstream comic also included some new twists too dark for the animated series to explore.
"I felt I did a reasonable job incorporating the elements of the animated Mr. Freeze with the darker tone of the Batman comics at that time," says Dini. "I also killed off Nora for good in that story, so now Freeze blames Batman for killing her, though Freeze himself caused the fatal accident."
His rebirth in the mainstream comics was a success, but his translation to the big screen wasn't. While the character's ambition in the feature remained the same, it got lost in neon backgrounds, bright fluorescent teeth, and a plot that could make even Ed Wood blush. Batman & Robin, the widely reviled 1997 flop, not only ruined the Batman movie franchise, it put a kink in Mr. Freeze's armor. While a hint of a dramatic and tragic origin was in place, it was quickly lost in flamboyant spectacle.
"I was actually quite happy to see certain elements of Freeze's origin used in the movie," says Dini. "I wish the entire picture had been as powerful as those few moments that focused on Victor and Nora, but I think pretty much all the moviegoers and fans would have liked that, too."
Meanwhile, Timm confesses, "I've never actually been able to watch more than ten minutes or so of it."