CREDITS: Written by Paul Dini; directed by Dan Riba.
REVIEW: The New Batman Adventures are off to an odd start. I'm not talking about the redesigns (I'll keep those to the end), nor even about the fact this Christmas/New Year's episode was broadcast in mid-September. Rather, and this would have been lost on viewers not also invested in the tie-in comics, it's that this trio of stories (plus coda) are adapted straight from Batman Adventures Holiday Special #1. It is essentially a repeat. And they had a wonderful opportunity to tell different stories, and still end on Batman and Gordon's tradition of meeting on January 1st to toast their surviving another year. For comics readers, it would have been a nice "they did it again" moment. Alas.
And yes, sure, the stories retold were pretty great to begin with, and I suppose Dini and Riba (who contributed to those stories) must've not wanted to "waste" them on a smaller audience. Adapting them to television allows for some excellent atmospheres, animation and character acting. But to my eyes, they don't manage the same energy they had on the page. Harley and Ivy trying on clothes and all that was a fun and detailed spread in the comic, for example, but while the show bathes the sequence in color and music, its pace is languid. The Batgirl vs. Clayface story has some horridly drawn kids, even if we're supposed to understand they're "unfinished" for a reason, I guess. Joker's plot to kill revelers at midnight was my least favorite story in the original book, and is perhaps only notable here because it introduces a new Robin and the Joker's Three Stooges-inspired henchmen, Mo, Lar and Cur. All four stories are, and I've just checked, almost beat for beat what was in the comic, except some of my favorite bits (Batman breaking the fourth wall, Barbara using a changing room) are missing. And what of every other writer and artist who worked on the Special? Where are their credits?
Some of the only differences have to do with the redesign of the Batman universe - new Robin, new looks for most of the characters - so let's address the so-called Revamp. Chronologically, this would have come about a month before World's Finest, which has already been covered here, so I'm already kind of used to it. The characters are more angular, more simplified, and seem to draw more overtly on anime influences. Generally, these redesigns don't really move me (Ivy with pale skin), or I like less than the originals (Joker without red lips, Gordon having lost a lot of weight), but y'know, whatever, they're not deal breakers. Having moved to Kids WB, there can be talk of murder (the Superman show was likewise allowed a few deaths), and I think we'll see the technology become more modern to Gotham more in line with contemporary Metropolis. The weird thing is Batman reverting to a Year One look - no oval, pouches on belt - and with a young Robin tagging along (who will only later be revealed to be Tim Drake, while Dick has grown up to become Nightwing), you could mistake this for the past, if not for all the relationships with villains and allies already set. And they haven't changed the opening sequence, which admittedly is the best in television history, even though it shows, in its final shot, the yellow oval. Ultimately, there's more good than bad here, and it's really up to the scripts to dazzle us, as I think the animation side of things is well sorted by this point, no matter what "skins" the characters wear.
IN THE COMICS: Batman Adventures Holiday Special #1 beat for beat, like I said, even shot for shot, at times. The Special does have a Mr. Freeze story that was not animated, and reversed the order on Batgirl and Harley/Ivy. Robin (any incarnation) did not appear in the Joker story.
SOUNDS LIKE: Tim Drake is played by Mathew Valencia; this is his only famous credit. Mo, Lar and Cur are all played by Ron "Hellboy" Perlman (on loan from Clayface) for this episode only. Batgirl's Melissa Gilbert is replaced by Tara Strong, the voice of Raven on Teen Titans, Bubbles in Powerpuff Girls, and many more. She was glimpsed in live action as the unnamed Harley Quinn in an episode of Arrow.
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - If you don't read the comics, a Medium-High. I don't mind adapting old Batman stories from the 70s, but this was already a DCAU story from only a couple years back.