by Jim Harvey
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Batman Beyond & Beyond
Fans were surprised when Mr. Freeze made another appearance in the animated continuity, this time more than forty years into the future. But Freeze is one of the rare characters who could realistically pull off an appearance in Batman Beyond, as the character had aged barely a day in forty years. Not only did Freeze get a new costume, he also obtained a new lease on life, for a time.
"I don't know who pitched the idea for 'Meltdown' originally, whether it was Alan Burnett, Stan Berkowitz, or Hilary Bader," says Timm. "Again, because of my special fondness for the character, I wanted to make sure the story was very solid, so I spent some time with Stan and Alan going over the script. It was Glen's idea to bury Freeze's old head, which I thought was a deliciously morbid idea, and somehow the writers managed to make the scene quite touching as well.
"Did he really, truly die in the end?" asks Timm. "Who knows? I like 'Meltdown' a lot, too. I think Michael's performance was his best yet, the score's killer, and Linda Hamilton's death scene is amazing! I'm still amazed we got away with that."
The idea of having Freeze appear in Batman Beyond was one the creative team had had for sometime. Since no one stays dead for long in cartoons, jokes Dini, they toyed with ideas right away on how the villain should reappear.
"We flirted with the idea of having Freeze's head in the refrigerator in the Batcave," says Dini. "Bruce would open the door from time to time and there would be Freeze's head in a jar, balefully staring at him and saying 'I will kill you, Wayne. Somehow, someday...' and Bruce would just sneer at him and close the door. That idea was a little goofy for the overall tone of the show, but we did seriously consider it."
The creative team finally settled on an idea that would tie him to the series' main antagonist at the time, Derek Powers. Desperate for a cure to stop his deteriorating condition, he decided to experiment on Freeze. Dini says the episode works because it brought Freeze back to being human again only to have it snatched away again.
"Dang, we really did make life hard for that poor guy," Dini says. "No wonder he turned out so mean."
Over the course of Batman: The Animated Series, as well as its later incarnations and spin-offs, the character of Mr. Freeze has stood out among the villains. A radically updated origin and some of the sharpest writing in the series turned this character into one of the most memorable villains. It's hard to believe that before 'Heart of Ice' aired, this was a character that no other writers could pin down and make interesting. Timm believes that it's the tragic nature of the character that people respond so strongly to, but he says that if had he another chance, he'd still make some changes to the episode that launched it all.
"'Heart of Ice' is definitely a very strong episode, a good solid story with a tight emotional hook, terrific vocal performances, good mix of pathos, humor and action," says Timm. "But when I look back on it, there are so many things about it that bug me, that I'd do differently if I had a chance to. For instance, the way we shot Fries' 'flashback' video bugs the hell out of me! If I were doing it over again, I'd shoot that whole sequence from one or two camera angles, using close-ups of Batman watching the tape as cutaways when I needed to. Little things like that."
"I liked all of Mr. Freeze's appearances to a degree, but I don't think any of them will ever top 'Heart of Ice,'" says Dini. "I wanted the last image of the episode to be a man sitting alone weeping, with his tears turning into snow. I worked backward from that scene and everything else fell into place."
Special thanks to Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and Boyd Kirkland.