For many people, BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES is the quintessential Batman story. With its art deco style, backgrounds painted on black paper, simple yet stunning character designs, legendary voice cast, and so much more, this version of the Dark Knight's world is one that has stuck with fans for almost 30 years, and will continue to do so for years to come.
When the opportunity came up to be able to make 1/6 scale figures from the show, it was an easy "yes." What wasn't so easy was deciding our approach. I wanted to try and make the characters as accurate as possible, and knew that doing a traditional 1/6 scale with fabric clothing wasn't going to yield the best results. I've seen some pretty good fan-made custom figures out there attempting this, and while some look pretty good, there is always something off about them (in my personal opinion), whether it be the proportions or the fabric costume taking away some of the distinct crispness of the design. So what to do? Serve the design, which means, in this case, go full sculpture and work in articulation in the most natural way possible, that allows for a variety of great poses while having as little compromising of the form as possible.
First, we turned to Joe Allard to flesh out the figure with a design. Here's the original design he drew up:
As you can see, there are pieces on the sheet that don't end up in the final figure, as well as pieces that we went with that aren't in the original design. Products like this are always evolving and changes can be made early on or much later in the process. The "over-the-shoulder" cape was one that was cut early for several reasons (cost, practicality, packaging size, etc.), and the HARDAC head (not in the original design) was added very late, as it was one of those forehead-slapping "how could we have forgotten that???" moments.
With a design in hand, we turned to our buddies at Ramirez Studios to bring Batman to life. One of the things you notice when studying this show, and specifically its version of Batman, is that forms, proportions, etc., change from show-to-show, scene-to-scene, and even shot-to-shot. As it's animated, the changes happen as there are different needs of the character to do different things. Our task was to take the images/looks/silhouettes we liked the most and combine them into our ideal Batman, and that's just what Ramirez Studios did! Here are some looks at the figure and accessories in various stages of completion:
With the sculpture done and articulation worked out, it was time to turn to the paint design. One thing I really wanted to capture, as close as possible, was the look of an animation cel with hard-lined shading and color breaks. I knew this would be a point of contention for some people, but I feel most fans get what we're going for.
Jason Wires Productions is known in the industry for amazing 3D printing and cleaning, so it was a no-brainer to have the figure printed/molded/casted there. The bonus to all this being done with them is that they also have amazing painters there! The real challenge was picking and choosing the kind of shading and highlights we wanted. Here's what early notes explaining the look we were going for look like:
And some of the almost-complete painted figure:
And finally, the figure as he is today:
And a bonus photo by Sgt. Bananas! Take a look at more of his amazing work here.
I love BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. It has inspired me endlessly in various creative avenues, and I've always wanted to attempt to make the "ultimate" BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES figure. Whether or not we achieved that is up to your personal tastes, but hopefully you can agree we made a decent go at it!
And finally, before I go - many of you have seen the teases of Mr. Freeze or maybe caught a glimpse of him at SDCC last year. He's next, and we're hoping to have him up for pre-order in the spring. After that, well, this line will go as long as you make it successful but I can tell you we have several characters already in the works. Below is a line-up by Joe Allard, of who we have planned so far. Now these are not the only characters we have planned, or even designed, but to talk more about the future is a bit ... beyond ... what we want to discuss today.