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RELEASES - THE BATMAN: TRAINING FOR POWER




Announce Date: 2/24/05
Street Date: 5/24/05
Closed Captioning: Yes
MSRP: $14.97
Packaging Type: Amaray Case
Media Quantity: 1
Run Time: 63
Subtitles: 1 English, 2 Francais, 3 Espanol
Aspect Ratio: Original Aspect Ratio - 1.33, Standard [4:3 Transfer]
Sound Quality: English: Stereo 2S
Espanol: Stereo 2S
DVD Features: Challenges: "The Batman Junior Detective"
Featurette: "Building the Batman"
Other: "Cape & Cowl" toy easter egg


Synopsis: Three episodes from the all-new The Batman animated TV series available for the first time on DVD. Episodes in this release include: 1) "The Bat in the Belfry": The Batman finds himself dealing with a new breed of criminals when the Joker takes over Arkham Asylum, then plans to fly a hot air balloon filled with Joker Gas, a toxin which leaves its victims in a strange rictus state and pop its contents all over Gotham! 2) "Traction": The Batman faces off with masked criminal Bane, and once Bane's Chemical steroid-infusion is activated, Batman finds himself outmatched in the Brute strength department. 3) "Call of the Cobblepot": Ozzy Cobblepot, aka Penquin, has delusions of rebuilding the last Cobblepot fortune, via high-flying robberies employing various trained birds. Unaware of Cobblepot's criminal plans, Alfred finds himself in the run-down and decrepit Cobblepot mansion where he is ensnared by Ozzy. Now, Penguin will let his hungry birds feast upon Alfred, unless The Batman can rescue him in time.

Review by Zach Demeter: The Batman hits DVD on May 24th, arriving with three episodes from the hit Kids WB! show and containing a few special features.

Starting out, you can find one plus about the release already: it’s in a standard DVD case (a.k.a. "Amaray") and not a DVD tray (a.k.a. "Snapper"). This makes it the first animated DC release to arrive in this manner; previous single disc releases all came in the DVD tray cases, much to the dismay of many fans. Of course with Amaray, it comes with the option to include a chapter’s insert or a flyer. Unfortunately, this release doesn’t come with one, so on the inside is a bunch of emptiness, with just the disc and a security label staring up at you.

One comforting thing about these volume releases is that you can see that by naming it "Season One, Volume One," WHV is dedicated to, or at least planning on, releasing entire seasons instead of breaking it up into "Best of" collections. With Teen Titans, the only other DC release so far to come in similar Season/Volume form, we got the entire first season in just two releases (Volume 1 with six episodes, Volume 2 with seven); The Batman will take at least twice that. The first volume only puts out the previously mentioned three-episodes; it’s disappointing that we get such a low amount when there’s already over two seasons worth of episodes in the can. Spacing the releases out wouldn’t be much of a problem, but instead we’re stuck with shorter releases with nearly the same price point as the more extensive releases coming from Teen Titans.

With the outside appearances out of the way, we can dig into the disc (what there is of it). Popping the disc in immediately gives us a fancy animated tour through Gotham City, with The Batman hopping all around (stationary model sheet images made to move are incredibly funny to look at) and finally stopping on a building top. This is now the main menu, with bats flying by occasionally and The Batman's cape moving in the wind. A simple animation, but it's a neat touch.

All three episodes are presented in a way we didn’t get to see them in their original broadcast airing: no channel logos, no bumpers and a full look at the credit music and who is involved in each episode. In addition, we get a crystal clear transfer with very little compression and interlacing noticeable. Compression will dance across the building edges if the red sky is in full glow; what interlacing is there is hardly noticeable and most likely won’t be to those watching on regular televisions. Audio is strong and clear throughout, with no fading or bouncing.

Special features are extremely slim on this release, so don’t expect any in-depth featurette with the creators. Instead, we’re taken over to the Mattel building, where Detective Ellen Yin searches for The Batman’s true identity, going from sculptor, to artist, to sound effects and a few others thrown in for good measure. No one "knows" who he is, but once Yin’s police alarm goes off, she runs back to Gotham to investigate a sighting of The Batman. Those that Yin interviewed get together at the end, with one calling The Batman to say that they successfully threw Yin off of their trail; it was kind of goofy, but you can’t expect much from something that’s made for the kids. It’s worth a chuckle or two, at the very least.

The second feature is a "Junior Detective" quiz, narrated by Alfred (Alastair Duncan). It includes seven questions that are all automated and give you just a scant few seconds to answer the questions. All are overly simple, assuming you have just watched the three episodes on the disc. Not worth the time for fans of the show, but kids might enjoy the ‘challenge.’

An easter egg on the special features menu adds a "deleted" scene from the Mattel office excursion finish off the special features, with only trailers and alternate languages rounding the release out.

The release will definitely not go down as one of the best that WHV has offered; of the three episodes, only one ("Traction") was really that tolerable, but it even had its share of problems. It’s definitely not a release to pick up for the episodes, but more for the fan that plans on picking up the rest of the releases. Special features aren’t that exciting, with the only real strengths of the release being its Amaray packaging and video and audio.

Review (Jim Harvey): One thing I will say for The Batman Vol. 1 DVD: it's much better than the Justice League Unlimited: Saving The World DVD release. Even if it's still a bit thin, it's clear there was a generous amount of effort put in here, which elevates it a step above that bargain basement. Sadly, there aren't many other good things I can say about this disc.

With the first three episodes produced for the hit animated series, The Batman Season One, Volume One: "Training for Power" is over way too quickly. The three episodes included, "The Bat in the Belfry," "Traction," and "Call of the Cobblepot," clock in at just over an hour total and lack any real staying power. Aside from "Traction," these episodes aren’t even that good to begin with.

The episodes quickly thrust us into the new animated series, making us very aware how different this series is from any that came before. Batman has just toppled the last mob boss of the city, unknowingly leaving it wide open to be taken over by the costumed lunatics waiting in the wings.

A good idea in theory, but executed poorly. Enemies come off more as gimmicky crooks than characters with any real development. As for our hero, we do get a few moments here and there, but Bruce Wayne remains a bit cardboard for the majority of these three adventures.

Though the writing might be sub-par, the animation is beautiful, and it has never looked better than on this release. The video quality is excellent, with compression only visible during the occasional red-heavy scene, and even then it's hard to notice. No station logo, episode bumpers, or animated ads running across the screen mean an uninterrupted view of the show, and it's a nice view. Like the video, audio is strong on this release, as well.

The extra features and animated menus are a nice bonus, though nothing of any real substance. The main menu is laughably animated, with model sheet poses awkwardly warped into animation. A good dose of Dramamine before loading up the disc might be in order. The only bearable part is the nice animation on Batman’s cape as he sits there, waiting for the viewer to make up his or her mind on a selection.

Like previous DC Comics Kids' Collection releases, special features are quite slim, and even slimmer on actual communication from the creators of the series. For instance, I would have found an explanation of their intent in developing the show a rewarding topic. But kids would apparently rather see the toys, so the featurettes focus on that instead. But since I do not own any of the toys based on The Batman, and I'm not keen on buying them to write a review, I wasn’t able to "unlock" their supposed interactivity with the DVD.

"Building the Batman" is the only real highlight in the special features department. On a quest to discover The Batman’s true identity, Detective Ellen Yin visits the Mattel building, essentially interviewing everyone related to the toy production, but no one that actually produces the series these toys are based on. Though it's clearly aimed at the younger set, the featurette is still worth a chuckle or two. Hopefully future extras will keep this theme going with a look at the creative process behind the show and not just the toys. Trailers and a simple quiz round out the extras.

With at least two more volumes on the way before the end of the year, we should be seeing some of the more superior early episodes on DVD in no time. If you’re a fan of The Batman, or if you're looking for a kid-friendly interpretation of the Dark Knight, "Training for Power" will do nicely.

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