Studios: Warner Bros. Animation, Cartoon Network, HBO Max
Air Date: Debuts Oct. 17, 2022 on Cartoon Network, Oct. 18, 2022 on HBO Max
Description: They are a team of incredible crimefighters who have banded together to oppose evil, combat crime and clean up the streets of Gotham City. They are … okay, they’re not Batman and Robin. They’re the Batwheels – an awesome group of sentient super-powered crime-fighting vehicles defending Gotham City alongside Batman, Robin, Batgirl and a host of DC Super Heroes.
Having just been created by the Batcomputer, our heroes are essentially kids with little to no life experience. Led by Bam (The Batmobile), the Batwheels – Bibi (The Batgirl Cycle), Redbird (Robin’s Sports Car), The Batwing and Buff (The Bat Truck) – must navigate the growing pains of being a newly formed super team as well as the growing pains that come with just being a kid. This relatable and aspirational series will follow the journey of this dynamic team as they thrill and entertain with their heroic adventures as well as demonstrate to kids the value of self-confidence, friendship and teamwork.
The Batwheels voice cast includes Ethan Hawke (as Bruce Wayne/Batman), Jacob Bertrand (as Bam), Gina Rodriguez (as Catwoman), Xolo Maridueña (as Snowy), Jordan Reed (as Redbird), Madigan Kacmar (as Bibi), Noah Bentley (as Buff), Lilimar (as Batwing), Kimberly D. Brooks (as The Batcomputer), Mick Wingert (as Moe and The Joker) AJ Hudson (as Duke Thomas/Robin), Leah Lewis (as Cassandra Cain/Batgirl), Griffin Burns (as Prank), Alexandra Novelle (as Jetstah), Josey Montana McCoy (as Quizz), Ariyan Kassam (as Ducky), SungWon Cho (as Badcomputer and The Riddler), Tom Kenny (as Crash), Chandni Parekh (as Harley Quinn), Jess Harnell (as The Penguin), Regi Davis (as Mr. Freeze) and James Arnold Taylor (as Toyman).
Sam Register serves as executive producer. Michael G. Stern serves as co-executive producer, Simon J. Smithis supervising producer and Steven Fink of Bang Zoom Ltd. is producer
By James Harvey
Fun and silly, Batwheels puts Batman’s famous fleet of vehicles in the driver’s seat as they hit the streets of Gotham to help those in need and impart important life lessons. Aimed squarely at the pre-school audience, younger viewers will certainly find plenty to enjoy, including colorful characters, vibrant action and plenty of jokes, though older viewers might want to give the show a test-drive before settling in for the long haul.
Please note this review covers the extra-length series premiere of Batwheels, titled “Secret Origin of the Batwheels,” and spoilers will be minimal.
Batwheels follows Bam the Batmobile, Robin’s car Redbird, Batgirl’s motorcycle Bibi, the Bat-monster truck Buff, and the high-flying Batwing – helped by the Batcomputer and the Bat-cave’s robot mechanic Moe – as they kick-start their crime-fighting after an accident grants them consciousness. Naturally, the focus of the show is on the cars, but Batwheels also puts in the work to establish the basics surround Batman, his sidekicks (here, awesomely, Robin is Duke Thomas and Batgirl is Cassandra Cain), and his foes. There’s a surprising amount of set-up that this cartoon needs to get through, and Batwheels is pulls it off quite smoothly.
Now, Batwheels isn’t going to be a complex take on the Dark Knight, and it doesn’t try to be nor should it. What’s so great about Batman is how pliable the character is, and Batwheels is a solid example of just that. Once these vehicles get their respective engines running, the show really takes off and what follows is basically a Batman riff on Pixar’s Cars, which works way better than it should. It’s not perfect, but it works. It’s bright, cartoon-ish and colorful and, frankly, Batwheels looks pretty gorgeous.
The strong animation and design work is clear from the get-go. City landscapes, at times looking like a sea of purple and pink, are stunning and slick, and help establish the show’s vibrant palette. Character designs are expectedly bulky and exaggerated, especially Batman, meshing perfectly with this especially dazzling take on Gotham City. And, actually, this exceptionally shiny cartoon takes a little bit to get used to since most CG-animated action show tend to have a more muted and “realistic” design approach, but the colorful animation here is legitimately eye-catching and just jumps off the screen.
The same can be said about the show’s multi-wheeled cast, too. The designs for the fleet are pretty basic – offering stylized takes on some of Batman’s most iconic vehicles – but they’re infused with enough personality to make each vehicle successfully stand out. Plus, there’s some neat nods to Batman’s past media appearances here, such as both Bam and Batwing looking clearly inspired by the Tim Burton Batman movies. Plus, the kids will unquestionably be enthralled by the cool gadgets and tricks the Batwheels team can do.
All this flash and silliness translates well over to the show’s action, which is usually heavy on the slapstick, pratfalls and puns. The show’s cast is clearly having a ball playing up the show’s over-the-top and comedic nature. And even with the limited screen time, Ethan Hawke’s Batman – here gruff and straightforward but with a paternal side – leaves quite the impression. And while the plot here is pretty light – it is a pre-school show, after all – never once does it feel like the show is spinning its wheels, but instead just trucking along, jumping from one joyfully flashy scene to the next.
Given Batwheel‘s intended audience, the show also takes the time to impart positive messages and lessons between all the jokes and car chases. Kids are encouraged to discover their inner hero, to be good to others, and to help, and that’s just for starters. And while these themes might make older viewers roll their eyes, or cringe at the writing, it’s worth keeping in mind that, bluntly, this show isn’t made for them. It comes with the territory, so just roll with it.
“Secret Origin of the Batwheels” sets a solid foundation for Batwheels, ripe with possibilities and served up with a stellar voice cast and some adorably sleek animation. With a fun, inviting, cheerful tone, it’s easy to just sit back and let the show take you on spin with the Batwheels.
Unsurprisingly, Warner Bros. Animation has created another strong take on Batman, and one perfectly suited for the younger set. Off to a promising start, Batwheels knows what it wants to be and delivers just that with great visuals, charming characters and colorful actions. Sure, it’s not a groundbreaking or complex new take on the character, but it’s an admittedly novel and cute spin that manages to absolutely work. While mileage may vary for older audiences, younger viewers will undoubtedly be enthralled by these charming, crime-fighting cars. Recommended!
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