– Production Information –
In 1989, a legendary hero burst into fresh life on the motion picture screen in a film that thrilled the entire movie going world. Before long, “Batman,” directed by TIM BURTON, had become the sixth-highest-grossing motion picture of all time, breaking box-office records in the U.S. and abroad with its startlingly unique sets, intriguing story, astounding special effects and powerhouse performances.
Now, Batman–and MICHAEL KEATON–return to the screen in the all-new, gripping epic adventure that pits The Dark Knight of Gotham City against an array of fascinating villains, from the evil Penguin, played by a master of diabolical humor, DANNY DeVITO, to the sinuous, mysterious Catwoman, played to sultry perfection by MICHELLE PFEIFFER, to the scheming mega-millionaire Max Shreck, played by Academy Award-winner CHRISTOPHER WALKEN.
Once again directed by Tim Burton, “Batman Returns” brings a darkly dazzling and completely fresh realization of Gotham City and its inhabitants to cinematic life, as Batman battles for the soul of his city against his most fiendish opponents yet.
The initial onslaught has all of Gotham asking: who– or what–is The Penguin? A reclusive and strangely deformed creature with a brilliant mind honed on rage and an insatiable need for revenge, The Penguin forms an unlikely alliance with amoral business mogul Shreck that sends Gotham and its residentsto their knees in terror. Flanked by an army of loyal pen- guins prepared to do his most evil bidding and a treacherous band of vandals known as the Red Triangle Circus Gang, The Penguin carries the secret of his-origins with him as he embarks on his diabolical plan to destroy Gotham City–and its savior, Batman.
Yet Batman has an even greater challenge to face in the form of the seductively beautiful, yet lethally dangerous Catwoman. Catwoman, whose own existence, like Batman’s, sprang out of tragedy, is a stunning combatant who confronts Batman with a fierce energy, a scathing wit–and a secret he must discover before he falls under her spell forever. As Catwoman’s slashing, slithering whip curls around Batman’s shoulders and flings him to the floor, the humbled–but tantalized–Dark Knight wonders for the hundredth time.. .where has he met this amazing woman before?
Director Burton once again mines the rich legend of Batman to present a caroming funhouse ride through the imagination, a dizzying glimpse into a dark urban future, and an exploration of a romantic attraction as mysterious as it is powerful, in “Batman Returns.”
The screenplay by DANIEL WATERS (“Heathers”) is based upon Batman characters created by BOB KANE and published by DC Comics. DENISE DI NOVI produces, and JON PETERS, PETER GUBER and MICHAEL E.USLAN serve as executive producers. LARRY FRANCO is the co-producer. The associate producer/unit production manager is IAN BRYCE.
Joining Keaton, DeVito, Pfeiffer and Walken in the cast of “Batman Returns” is MICHAEL MURPHY as the city’s beleaguered Mayor. MICHAEL GOUGH once again appears as Alfred the butler, and PAT HINGLE returns to the role of Police Commissioner Gordon.
A world-class team of behind-the-scenes creative artists has been assembled for the film, including director of photography STEFAN CZAPSKY; production designer BO WELCH; costume designers BOB RINGWOOD and MARY VOGT; film editor CHRIS LEBENZON; visual effects supervisor MICHAEL FINK; mechanical effects supervisor CHUCK GASPAR; Academy and Emmy Award-winning key make-up artist VE NEILL; Emmy winning key hair stylist YOLANDA TOUSSIENG; second unit directors BILLY WEBER and MAX KLEVEN; and composer DANNY ELFMAN.
About the Production…
Producer/director Tim Burton faced a unique challenge …creating a completely original second “Batman” adventure which could stand entirely on its own.
“The legend of Batman is incredibly well-developed and fertile,” says Burton. “The heroes, villains, supporting characters and story lines have been embellished over the years, first by Bob Kane in his original comic books and then by everyone who’s re-interpreted this material for film, graphic novels and television. The temptation to delve into this legacy again, to put our own spin on Batman and his opponents, was irresistible. There was too much to fit into only one film…I just had to explore this character and his world further.
“Batman Returns’ is not a sequel to ‘Batman’,” emphasizes Burton. “It-doesn’t’pick up where the first movie left off. The sets for Gotham City are completely new. There are lots of new elements in the visuals and storyline that haven’t been seen before. Even Batman’s costume has been revised.”
Burton’s approach was supported by Di Novi. Previously, the team had been responsible for “Edward Scissorhands,” one of 1990’s most original and acclaimed films. For Di Novi, however, “Batman Returns” represented a quantum leap in scope.
“What’s exciting about this movie is not only that it’s such an extravaganza, but that it marries artistic vision with story, which is a rare thing,” she explains.
Burton and Di Novi’s choice for screenwriter was Daniel Waters, best known as the author of “Heathers” (produced by Denise Di Novi), a cynically original view of the denizens of an all-American high school.
Waters soon discovered that he and Tim Burton “work very well in a yin/yang sense. Visually, Tim puts no limits on himself.. .and I try not to put any limits on myself when it comes to words.
“To me, ‘Batman Returns’ has two strong stories which function well together,” notes Waters. “There’s Batman versus The Penguln, and then there’s the whole Selina story. The subplot approaches issues of sex and desire and love and romance–as well as humor–in ways that I think
are very rich.”
To suit the requirements of the combined visions of Tim Burton and Daniel Waters, the best of the best in production staff was required. Overseeing the hiring and day-to-day operations connected with the filming were co-producer Larry Franco and associate producer/production manager Ian Bryce. And as the crew was being assembled, casting proceeded.
One of the main tasks–finding Batman–had already been accomplished by Burton for the first movie. “Batman is a character who likes to remain in the shadows,” notes Burton. “He has a real split personality. Batman is an odd character to portray because he’s fairly remote and conflicted.”
It was this understanding of the Gaped Crusader’s complex psychological essence which led Burton to cast Michael Keaton as the Dark Knight in the first “Batman.” Realizing that a fully dimensional portrayal was needed by a popular, accomplished but offbeat movie star, Burton went against the grain of traditional “superhero” casting. At the time it was a controversial decision. After June 21, 1989, nobody any longer questioned Burton’s wisdom, or Keaton’s suitability.
Keaton is excited to have the opportunity to further explore the Gaped Crusader’s heart and mind in “Batman Returns.” “In the first movie, I felt that we took a new look at this character,” observes the actor. “So in ‘Batman Returns,’ we’re a little more comfortable in taking this
foundation and then exploring it a little deeper.”
In addition to the central character, “Batman Returns” gave Tim Burton a chance to introduce two flamboyant arch- villains who lend their own indelible personalities to the new film.
The Penguin was one of Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s most popular _comic-book creations, a verbose villain with an umbrellaful of evil tricks. He was as natural a choice for cinematie conversion as The Joker was in the first “Batman” film, and Tim Burton found the perfect actor to embody a very new vision of what The Penguin could be: Danny DeVito.
I don’t think there’s anybody better at making the horrible acceptable,” says Burton of DeVito. Indeed, Danny DeVito has excelled in finding an intrinsic humanity in characters whose charms may be obscure to others. In “Batman Returns,” DeVito faced the challenge of discovering The Penguin inside the man and the man inside the penguin. As conceived by Burton, the screenwriters and DeVito, The Penguin is neither human nor fowl, but rather a terrifying combination of both.
“The Penguin is actually a very intelligent man,” declares DeVito, “someone who has always wanted acceptance.
He’s a guy who is living one world in his mind and another in reality. I mean, his parents took one look at him when he was a baby and totally rejected him,” says DeVito. “But if they had tried to understand that there was a human being inside that hideous ‘penguin boy, he might have become another Einstein.
“He could have been nurtured, gone to the best schools and become a worldly human being,” continues DeVito. “But from the confines of the lair in which he was raised, and the underworld of characters to which he was exposed, The Penguin became what he is.”
Another world-famous Batman character which naturally lent itself to a new interpretation was everyone’s favorite feline temptress.. .Catwoman.
“Catwoman was certainly a childhood heroine of mine,” says Michelle Pfeiffer. “I used to watch the TV series and just wait for her to come on, and she was never on enough as far as I was concerned.
“I guess she just broke all of the stereotypes of what it meant to be a woman,” she recalls. “I found that shocking and forbidden. Also, I was probably at the age where I was really just coming into my own sexuality, and I just found Catwoman thrilling to watch.”
Now, Michelle Pfeiffer, in the role which she coveted for so many years, emerges as Catwoman’s ultimate, dangerously sensual incarnation.
The versatile Christopher Walken, an Academy Award-winner for “The Deer Hunter,” was chosen by Burton to play a brand- new character of stunning villainy.. .Gotham City’s devious mega-mogul Max Shreck. Shreck is outwardly “Gotham’s Santa Claus,” and inwardly its dark, icy heart.
Max Shreck is a name familiar to certain film buffs..,with one letter added, it’s the name of the German actor who portrayed the vampirical main character in F.W. Murnau’s 1922 German expressionist masterpiece, “Nosferatu”: Max Schreck.
“Oh, it’s absolutely intentional,” says a cheerful Daniel Waters. “Max-Schreck played a character who sucked blood from the population…and Max Shreck is also something of a- vampire, sucking up energy, power and money from Gotham City.”
Returning to their respective roles of Alfred and Police Commissioner Gordon were the two actors who created the characters in the first “Batman” movie: Michael Gough and Pat Hingle, who between them have careers that have spanned almost 100 years.
Gough, the elegant English actor, perceives Alfred as “an old-fashioned man who tried to bring up Bruce Wayne like a little gentleman. Because, as a boy, Bruce lost both of his parents, Alfred had the great responsibility of being both substitute father and mother to him.”
“Batman Returns” gives Alfred (and Michael Gough) more of an opportunity to display the impeccable butler’s ingenuity and courage in that task.
Pat Hingle, who embodied Police Commissioner Gordon’s gruffness and compassion in “Batman,” created his own personal “backstory” to explain his character’s bond of understanding with the Caped Crusader:
“The way I see it,” Hingle declares, “Gordon was just a cop on the beat when the young Bruce Wayne watched his parents gunned down. Gordon was the first one to get to the scene of the crime. Somehow, when Batman made his first appearance in Gotham City, Gordon knew that he had seen this person before.”
To consider a truly thankless job is to imagine the responsibilities of the Mayor of Gotham City…a man faced with the impossible task.of keeping law and order in a city which frequently knows neither. ,Well, in “Batman’Returns,” the task falls to Michael Murphy.
Says Murphy, “The Mayor of Gotham is basically a decent guy, but there’s so much crime, civil disobedience and deceit in Gotham City that the Mayor is inevitably in over his head.”
Burton brought two relative newcomers to important secondary roles for “Batman Returns”: Cristi Conaway as Gotham’s bitchy beauty queen, the Ice Princess, and Andrew Bryniarski as Chip Shreck, Max’s spoiled, thuggish son. As for the mysterious Red Triangle Circus Gang, who helped raise The Penguin and have now become his bizarre henchmen, Burton and associates cast such fine actors as Vincent Schiavelli in the role of the Organ Grinder; Anna Katarina as the haunting and doll-like Poodle Lady; Rick Zumwalt as the Tattooed Strongman; Travis McKenna as Fat Clown and Doug Jones as Thin Clown; as well as real-life circus performers, acrobats, side-show experts and stunt-people, including Erika Andersch as the Knife thrower Dame, John Strong as the Sword swallower (Strong holds the Guinness Book of Records title for the most swords swallowed at one time–11!) and Flame–an honest-to-golly snake woman–as the Snake Woman.
For The Penguin’s winged retinue, Tim Burton required not a flock of penguins, but an army… literally! In the story, Danny DeVito’s Penguin commands battalions of Penguin Commandos, programmed to execute his every order. And in the film, what the audience will see is a splendid and seamless amalgamation of four separate elements: (1) Real) live-from- their-webs-to-their-beaks Blackfoot penguins and King penguins; (2) thirty incredibly complex penguin “puppets”–actually articulated robots—developed, constructed and operated by Stan Winston’s famed special effects studio; (3) four complicated Emperor penguin “suits,” inhabited by performers of small stature; and (4) fantastic three-dimensional computer-generated penguin images created by the multi-award-winning Boss Film Studios.
It goes without saying that coordinating these diverse units was a monumental undertaking.
To Stan Winston–who received Oscars for his work on “Aliens” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and nominations for “Heartbeeps,” “Predator” and Tim Burton’s “Edward Scissorhands”–“the biggest challenge in creating the army of penguins was doing the best we could to replicate real life, with anatomically and cosmetically correct penguins to perform and act under direction.”
The penguin “puppets” from Winston’s studio were all fabricated from non-organic materials, except for their plumage made of dyed chicken feathers.” These talented individuals, many of them actors in their own right, were capable of mechanically articulating the “puppets” through an intricate system of cables and radio controls. But they also had the ability to impart personality to the penguins through their performance skills.
Also employing their acting techniques were the “little people” who occupied the 40-pound Emperor penguin suits. All agreed that their study of penguin behavior and movement before their on-set work began was a great help. “It was important to watch their behavior within a group, their slight neck movements, exactly how they walk,” says Denise Killpack. “Then, when you’re in costume, you visualize, remember and transform yourself.”
The only problems facing both puppeteers and Emperor penguin performers occurred when the real penguins took a more than passing interest in them.. .which might include a friendly peck on the beak, or something a little more aggressively territorial!
By and large, though, the Blackfoot and King penguins won over the entire cast and crew. Lovingly raised and cared for by humans (the Blackfoots by “Batman Returns” animal trainer Gary Gero, and the Kings by Richard Hill, owner of a British park in the Cotswolds known as “Birdland”), the penguins were usually quite sociable and friendly. And when they finished their work, the human souls on the set were all sad to bid their aquatic colleagues goodbye.
Stan Winston was also responsible for creating much of the special makeup effects that transformed Danny DeVito into The Penguin on a daily basis.
Every morning, DeVito entered the makeup trailer, presided over by the Oscar-winning makeup artist ye Neill, hair stylist Yolanda Toussieng and their associates. About two hours later, The Penguin would emerge in all his frightening glory. (Toward the end of his work on the film, DeVito noted that “right flow, after wearing the makeup for some 60 days, for 12 to 15 hours a day, I’ve been looking at myself more as The Penguin than as Danny. When the makeup’s put on, it’s so organic that it just becomes part of you.”
Whips and Kicks
Without question, one of the most extraordinary aspects of “Batman Returns” is the amount of rigorous and often dangerous physical work performed by the stars. While stunt doubles were required for potentially life-and-health threatening situations, the stars all insisted on putting themselves on the line as often as possible.
Notes Keaton, “I’ve only done a few films–like ‘Beetlejuice,”Batman’ and maybe ‘One Good Cop’–which really allowed me to be physical. But I was a very physical kid, I still love sports, and my first heroes were the guys on TV who were involved in a lot of action.”
For “Batman” and “Batman Returns,” Keaton underwent a rigorous training program with British-born martial arts/ kickboxing champion Dave Lea, learning the swift, lethal moves
which make Batman such a fighting machine. “Michael was an incredibly fast learner on the first ‘Batman,’ says Lea,
“and by now there isn’t much more I can teach him.”
Michelle Pfeiffer also studied kickboxing and martial arts, training with another champion in that sport, Kathy Long.
“Michelle is a perfectionist,” notes Long of Pfeiffer. “If she doesn’t get it right the first time, she’ll keep on and on until she aces it. She’s a woman with incredible determination.”
That determination would be crucial for the greatest task facing Pfeiffer for her Catwoman role–her whip training, which began several months prior to the start of her shooting schedule.
“Believe it or not,” says Pfeiffer, “the physical work has been the easiest part of playing Catwoman for me.” Notes Anthony De Longis, Pfeiffer’s whip trainer, “I know of only one or two other people who have anything like Michelle’s vocabulary with the whip. Michelle is using the whip exactly as Catwoman would. It’s sensual, sinuous, sexual and dangerous.”
The task of re-creating Gotham City fell upon Bo Welch, one of the film industry’s most respected young talents. Having already designed Burton’s “Beetlejuice” and “Edward Scissorhands,”
Welch had an understanding of Burton’s needs and wants. He felt that the new “Batman” adventure, true to Burton’s vision, required a re-thought, re-conceived and re-structured Gotham City.
Welch worked closely with art directors Tom Duffield and Rick Heinrichs (the latter another old Burton friend and associate), set decorator Cheryl Carasik, prop masters Bill and Vic Petrotta, and their attendant staffs of talented production illustrators, storyboard artists, model makers and set designers.
While a wide range of architectural and design influences can be detected in Welch’s Gotham City (which set decorator Carasik defines as “Machine Age Teutonic”), the results are wholly original. At Once oppressive, grim and grandly claustrophobic, they also reflect a dollop of whimsy which delights the eye.
“Overall, what we wanted to do was to create the impression of ‘city,’” maintains Welch. “You never see any set in its entirety. You see a piece of the city here and another piece there. It allows your mind to fill in the rest and use your own imagination.”
A dozen sets began to rise at Warner Bros. in Burbank, with another at nearby Universal. Among the highlights were: Gotham Plaza – One of the largest interior sets ever built at Warner, the 65-foot tall Gotham Plaza is, according to Welch,
“a deliberate caricature of Rockefeller Center in New York..something like its weirder twin. The design is clearly influenced by fascist and totalitarian architecture and statuary, dehumanizing in its scale, with hints of the other parts of the city peeking into the corners.”
Among the Plaza’s unique elements are several statues, sculpted by Leo Rijn and his crew. They include two colossi setting the gears of Gotham City into motion; four startling statues surrounding the 35-foot-tall Christmas tree, given the appellations “Misery, Grief, Ecstasy and Victory” by Bo Welch (“which actually refers to my work process,” he quips); and a large stone Greco-Roman head, half-buried in the pavement, referring to Gotham City’s propensity for building one layer on top of an older one.
The bizarre cathedral was “influenced by a smorgasbord of modern and ancient religions,” says Welch. Ringed by Shreck’s Department Store, looming government buildings, and a tottering skyscraper held up by one rusting crutch, Gotham Plaza “isn’t so much evil as it is inhospitable and demoralizing,” asserts Welch. “The buildings are meant to dwarf the human beings down below. But you cannot repress the human spirit…Gothamites will still rise up and maintain hope for the future.. .despite the fact that their city is decayed,
corrupt and overwhelms them in terms of scale and feeling.”
Gotham Plaza–and all other “exterior” sets built inside of soundstages–was chilled down to 38-40° Fahrenheit by massive air conditioners, a climatic condition insisted upon by Tim Burton to maintain the authenticity of the movie’s dead-of-winter setting.
The Penguin’s Lair- Built inside a soundstage with a 50-foot ceiling at Universal Studios (since the biggest Warner stage was already occupied by Gotham Plaza), the Lair is the old, crumbling, abandoned aquatic pavilion where The Penguin is raised from infancy.
“In designing the set,” explains Welch, “we researched theme parks, old World’s Fair aquariums, synchronized swimming shows, and manmade animal habitats. You let all that stuff fester inside of your brain…then take those impressions and feelings, and try to enhance and magnify them.
“You think of what would happen to one of those old places if 50 years had gone by. It’s rotting, spooky, with green moss crawling up the sides of the walls. What was a beautiful kind of, white, ‘light arctic display has now become a dangerous petri dish for The Penguin and his army to grow in.”
Arctic World Exterior/Gotham Park – This is the topside of The Penguin’s Lair, and the only part of the old Gotham Zoo complex built to full scale (the rest of the Zoo was created in miniatures by Stetson Visual Services).
“Once we decided that The Penguin lived in an abandoned arctic animal pavilion far underground, that served to inspire the topside of the zoo,” says Welch. “It’s fenced off, and no one goes near it. It’s damaged, condemned, and it’s been that way for a long time.”
The Arctic World and Gotham Park set was notable for its totally snow-covered (artificial, of course) hilly surfaces, and more than 200 bare trees. The stone bridge, festooned with charming dancing animal statues, is built over an actual running stream…a stream which is to the
baby Penguin what the Nile was to baby Moses.
Gotham Rooftops – Two combined Warner Bros. stages held the length and breadth of the spectacular Gotham City “rooftops set,” the staging ground for much action, particularly the battles-of-the-sexes between Batman and Catwoman.
“Rooftops exude a kind of romantic feeling to me,” states Welch. “The irony about bigzcities is that they often look the most beautiful from rooftops. You can see the lights of other windows, interesting silhouettes, the best decorations, spectacular cityscapes. There’s always a kind of mystery, and a lot more air than on the claustrophobic streets down below.”
This set featured some of Welch’s most interesting designs, an entire city built to scale and using forced perspective. Huge, looming stone faces–a motif in Welch’s Gotham City–peer down upon the tiny inhabitants below. Up on the roofs, air circulator fans whir and smokestacks belch steam.
Set decorator Cheryl Carasik provided small-scale Christmas wreaths and lights for the little windows off in the distance.
Also on the “rooftops” set was Selina Kyle’s “working girl” apartment.. .with a characteristically Gothamesque steel beam running right through the kitchen!
Shreck Industries Office – This is the seat of power for Max Shreck, and the lavish surroundings reveal the man who inhabits them.
“Max Shreck sits in a kind of throne on top of the city and dominates things for his own greedy interests,” says Welch,
“There’s a lot of glamour and machine-age finish on this set, because it represents money and consumerism and capitalism.”
One of the most prevalent images in the movie is the Shreck Industries’ “cute” pussycat logo–there’s a Shreck cat clock revolving from the exterior of the department store, a large cat-logo rug at the entrance to Shreck’s office suite, and a giant cat head at the very top of the Shreck Building.
“This strange cat is designed to throw you off,” says Welch. “Its cuteness is just a cover for the evil malevolence of the Shreck Empire.”
The Batcave – The massive black set filled a large soundstage, its two biggest sections housing the Batmobile on one end and the Batcave consoles–one for Batman and the other for Alfred on the other.
A large holding space for Batman’s armored suits is separated from the main lab and accessible only by a medieval- style drawbridge. As for the laboratory consoles, they’re built into the black slate rock and are, according to Welch, “multitech”.. .a mixture of old and new video and audio devices, tracking screens, surveillance equipment, revolving radar, and in the case of Alfred’s console, an ironing board, sink and refrigerator for his more domestic tasks.
Downtown Gotham City – Whereas Bo Welch constructed most of the exterior settings of the film inside soundstages, this three-city-block stretch of Gotham was the only major environment created out-of-doors.
In fabricating downtown Gotham, Welch and his crew made use of a standing exterior on the Warner Bros. backlot which has been employed by countless films and TV programs. The set is actually a combination of two different sections built 44 years apart.. .one for the classic Warner gangster movie, “Angels With Dirty Faces” (1938), the other for John Huston’s 1982 film version of the stage musical “Annie.”
But nobody wandering onto this set after Welch and com- pany got through with it would recognize it as the same place.
The streets were radically refurbished to serve as backdrops for some of the biggest action scenes of “Batman Returns,” including the smashing ride of the out-of-control Batmobile and Batman’s street fight with a small army of Red Triangle goons.
Whereas Gotham Plaza has a seat-of-power, upscale feeling, these downtown Gotham City streets are rundown, characterized by bargain shops, inexpensive hotels, downstairs bars and tenement houses. Rotting pipes jut out, with power lines hanging dangerously low to the pavement from concrete poles.
“These giant pipes and bolts and washers and what-not are intended to give the impression of an industrial-utilitarian overlay,” notes Welch. “The idea is that the city is so old, so decrepit, so corrupt, so in need of repair, that it’s hanging on for its life.”
Building the Better Batman Costume and Other Fabrications Burton’s Law states that there is always room for re- vision and improvement, and that extends into every thread of the production… including the costumes.
No one could have been more up to the task of creating the myriad costumes for “Batman Returns” than Bob Ringwood, an Englishman who served as costume designer for the 1989 film. Due to the sheer volume of work on the second movie, Ringwood was joined by the equally talented American designer, Mary Vogt.
For “Batman Returns,” Ringwood and Vogt not only had to create a new Batman costume for the Caped Crusader and appropriate dress for The Penguin and Catwoman. they also had to clothe residents and officials of Gotham City, and the fantastically attired Red Triangle Circus Gang.
To begin with, Tim Burton desired( a modification of the first movie’s Batman costume, which was, itself a dramatic alteration of the comic book’s familiar.blue-and-gray-tights.
“The fact is that Batman’s new costume is much closer to the original concept we had for the first film,” says Ringwood. “It’s more like armor now, rather than a muscle
suit. We’ve also modified the mask by strengthening the eye- brows and the nose, and changing the shape of the eyes and chin.”
For The Penguin and Catwoman, Ringwood and Vogt also had to create designs that were faithful to the popular concept of the characters, while creating visual innovations that would newly personify them on film. Tim Burton’s sketches were utilized by the designers as a foundation for the results.
“Tim is a very visual director who’s involved with everything, including the costumes,” declares Mary Vogt. “As an artist, he’s able to provide sketches of his basic idea, and gives you the freedom to take off from there.”
In the story of “Batman Returns,” Selina Kyle makes the Catwoman costume herself after she’s been brought back from the dead by a coterie of cats. As a result, Catwoman’s suit has large, visible white stitches that reveal its homemade origins, becoming more distressed and torn as the film progresses.
Those ragged stitches also function as visual suggestions thatSelina has been sewn back together again in an act of physical regeneration.
“It’s like she’s wearing black glass,” says Vogt. “And with Michelle Pfeiffer in it, the suit looks like a beautiful sort of dark sculpture.”
For The Penguin, Ringwood and Vogt not only had to develop original costumes, but also the character’s very body shape ..which differs radically from that of Danny DeVito’s.
The costume designers created a body “shell” for DeVito to wear, and for his actual wardrobe, Ringwood and Vogt chose a strange, Victorian look that’s markedly different from the familiar tuxedo of the comic book. “It’s almost like something out of Charles Dickens,” declares Ringwood.
The costumes for the other important characters, as well as the residents of Gotham City, create an intentional melange of several periods of American design. And for the Red Triangle Circus Gang, the designers drew upon the colorful and somewhat sinister circus traditions of 19th century Europe.
Remarks Ringwood, “The American circus has become very wholesome, but the European circus has always been more decadent.”
Decadence was also the hallmark of Max Shreck’s “Maxsquerade Ball,” a costume bash to end all costume bashes.
For the 182 masks that festoon this sequence, Burton and Ringwood called upon the talents of Ted Shell.
“We wanted to make the Maxsquerade costumes not only fun and fantasy, but also a little bizarre,” explains Shell: The results cover a hilarious gamut of inspirations, from world famous buildings and mythological personages to signs of the zodiac to natural disasters (the Titanic, for instance, attends the ball with her date, the Iceberg).
Wheel’s of Fire
The vehicles showcased in “Batman Returns” reflect the film’s overall consistency of design, with Bo Welch and his staff making sure that they fit right in with the Gotham scheme of things.
Essentially, the Batmobile retains the design that Anton Furst created for the first film, described by the late production designer as “menacing and intimidating.” But for this new adventure, in addition to the two Browning machine guns concealed beneath flaps in each wing, the Batmobile packs a few new surprises for the villains of Gotham City to contend with…including the Batdisc Ejector, which shoots off lethal, metallic flying discs; twin black blades that spring from the Batmobile just above the front wheels on either side, ready to trip up or cut down any bad guys in the vehicle’s path; and a hydraulic lift, which juts down from the chassis and allows the car to revolve quickly in any direction.
But the Batmobile’s most special new feature is its ability to transform itself into a completely different speed racer.. .the Batmissile.
Two separate Batmissiles were constructed for the film: one full-sized and operated by Chuck Gaspar’s mechanical effects department, and another in miniature–for the actual transformation from Batmobile to Batmissile–that wasconstructed and shot by Bob and Dennis Skotak’s 4-Ward Productions special-effects company, 1991 Oscar-winners for their work on “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”
Another vehicle created especially for “Batman Returns” is the fabulously swift Batskiboat, which Batman uses to zoom through the sewers and waterways beneath Gotham City.
Again, as with the Batmissile, there were two Batskiboats –one full-scale, and a quarter-scale miniature which was also built and photographed by 4-Ward Productions. “The miniature Batskiboat is propelled on a track that’s pretty much like a monorail,” notes visual effects supervisor Michael Fink. “Its actual movements are controlled by a chain drive with an air motor.”
In terms of design, the Batskiboat follows the same basic motif that has been seen in the Batmobile, Batwing (from the first movie) and Batmissile–dark, smooth and dangerous.
In ironic contrast to Batman’s modes of transportation,
The Penguin’s vehicles are nothing if not amusing. The
Penguin’s large yellow Duck Vehicle is an amusement park ride re-rigged to allow him to travel amphibiously through the sewers, up steep embankments, through his watery lair, even onto dry land.
The vehicle’s scissors-lift feature enables The Penguin to rise up from the depths of Gotham City to observe its innocent citizens from behind the various sewer grates that dot the Gotham landscape.
The Batmobile “Kiddie Ride”–which The Penguin uses to maliciously control the real Batmobile on its wild, destructive ride through the streets of Gotham–is, according to Bo Welch, “a stylized, chunky, kiddie-ride version of the Batmobile.. The Penguin is making fun of the whole Batman aesthetic with this vehicle.”
And in addition to their garishly colored motorcycles, the Red Triangle Circus Gang also have their very own circus train. “It has a classic turn-of-the-century circus feel,” says Welch. In fact, the caged cars are authentic relics of that period, discovered by propman Vic Petrotta. The locomotive, however, was designed by Welch and then built by the transportation department. Transportation captain Tommy Tancharoen gave the task of building the locomotive to legendary car designer and customizer George Barris, who has an historical link to the Batman character, as the man who fashioned the Batmobile for the mid-’60s TV series.
In Gotham City, fantastical vehicles are reserved for the use of superheroes -And supervillains. The general populace, however, has to make do with Brand X autos. They’re all the same (with no brand name)…only come in four drab colors (white, black, blue and red)…and don’t have one iota of individualism.
It was Welch’s idea to model Gotham’s autos after the boxy, utilitarian Eastern European models, such as (the former) East Germany’s notoriously shoddy Trabant. “If I had my way
I would have imported a fleet of Trabants!” laughs Welch.
Weapons and Gadgets
As with the vehicles, the task for designing and building the weaponry and gadgets of “Batman Returns” fell to two departments–art and mechanical-effects, with props also having a hand in making sure that heroes and villains alike had their arsenals fully stocked.
Batman relies on his superior deductive abilities as well as his physical prowess to battle the bad guys, utilizing his weapons only as a last resort. Bo Welch and his art department re-designed the Caped Crusader’s armory, feeling that what was good the first time could be made even better the second.
Batman’s Speargun is basically the same model that John Evans designed for the first film, a handy and compact item capable of firing grappling hooks with attached wires at high speed. The Double Grappling Hook–also known as the “Slide- for-Life”–is a completely revised version of the first film’s Gauntlet, a more elaborate variation of the Speargun which allows Batman to fire twin grappling hooks connected to wires and pulleys.. .which he can ride to safety.
“We wanted this gadget to have a real edge,” says Welch, “so the section which Batman actually grasps is designed like high-tech brass knuckles.”
The Batarang, seen in the first “Batman,” has also been completely re-designed. Notes Welch, “It might be called the ‘Super-Batarang.’ We designed it as a computerized weapon, with something like a little computer game built into it.
There’s a readout screen which allows Batman tb program his target.”
Mention The Penguin, and to a lot of Batman fans, his name is synonymous with “umbrellas.” They look harmless enough when folded and resting in an umbrella rack, but get them into The Penguin’s webbed hands, and watch out!
The Penguin depends upon six different umbrellas which serve equally ignoble functions: The Knife-Umbrella (releasing a razor-sharp blade from its tip), the Machine Gun (spraying a deadly hail of bullets in rapid succession), the Dazer (producing a “hypnotic” effect, in addition to firing off individual shotgun rounds), the Flamethrower (unleashing a virtual conflagration), the Umbrella-Copter (high-speed, quick-getaway transportation) and the Pied Piper (a multi- colored carousel of twinkling lights and revolving toys, hiding its much darker purpose).
Essentially, Catwoman relies on two utterly low-tech weapons to defeat her foes: an old-fashioned but menacing bull- whip, and her razor-like talons. She also packs a stun-gun taken from a defeated Red Triangle Circus Gang thug –for really desperate situations. As wielded by Michelle Pfeiffer, who became an expert, the bullwhip is a natural extension of Catwoman’s character.
As for the Red Triangle Circus Gang, Bo Welch notes that “there’s a perverse irony behind the whole design of their weapons. You have all these guns, bazookas and rocket packs painted in a colorful circus motif. There’s something very funny and darkly disturbing about things that look like toys but are actually capable of destruction.”
Welch and his gang also designed the Penguin Commandos’ rocket packs and headgear, which allow The Penguin to control the minds and movements of his avian army. They were fabricated in very lightweight plastic, which the real penguins quickly became used to. The Penguin Commandos’ rockets, consistent with the overall design, have red-and-white stripes, like candy canes with built-in warheads!
Miniatures, Miracles of Multiplication.. .And Other Special Effects
There are special effects.. .and there are special effects!
And that’s what Burton and Di Novi wanted for “Batman Returns”: state-of-the-art movie magic from the best of the best.
The creative minds at Boss Films (“Ghostbusters,” “2010,” “Die Hard”) utilized up-to-the-microsecond computer technology to enhance the film’s epic range by expanding the Penguin Commando Army by thousands.. .all on chips!
And over at Video Image Associates, equally skilled computer artists were inventing the Batmobile’s security-cloak effect and generating likenesses of bats swarming over the terrified citizens of Gotham City.
Besides the sophisticated Batmobile, Batmissile and Batskiboat models created by 4-Ward Productions, models of Gotham Plaza and the Shreck Industries Building were constructed and shot by Boss Films, with John Bruno supervising all of that company’s effects in “Batman Returns.”
These models served a variety of functions, appearing it.scenes where Batman dramatically extends his special wings to glide off a building; when Catwpman is dangling from one of The Penguin’s umbrella7copters; and in several high angle shots looking down on the expanse of Gotham City from the rooftops.
Stetson Visual Services, who have contributed effects to such films as “Total Recall,” “Edward Scissorhanas,” “Bugsy” and “Honey, I Blew Up The Baby,” assembled yet another intricate miniature–the entire abandoned and very strange Gotham Zoo. 4-Ward Productions–in addition to their work on the scaled-down Batmobile, Batmissile and Batskiboat–also created an authentic 3/4-scale miniature re-creation of the Downtown Gotham set for the Batmissile to zoom through.
Up north in San Francisco, the artists at Matte World (“Avalon,” “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”) were painting beautifully detailed elaborations of the “real” Gotham City.
An epic film requires an epic shoot, and “Batman Returns” certainly had one. On any given day, new standards in movie making were established by a dedicated and professional crew.
Certain innovations–like stunt coordinator Max Kleven and co- coordinator Charlie Croughwell’s work with “ratchets,” yanking a record-setting 14 people into the air at one time during The Penguin’s party-crashing sequence, and 13 cars exploding from the effects of the Batmobile’s wild ride–made cinematic history.
Not to mention DeVito’s 35-foot-high flight into the skies of Gotham, courtesy of his Umbrella-Copter: Devito allowed the mechanical-effects department to rig him onto a hydraulic lift, elevating him far enough above the studio floor to give the crew some cause for worry. DeVito, however, was unflappable in the chilly studio air.
In the end, everybody who devoted time and talents to “Batman Returns” was pushing toward one goal…to make the best possible movie for the enjoyment of audiences around the world.
Everyone was infused with the knowledge that the film they were laboring on was unlike any other. There was a sense of responsibility to the legend that was created by a teenager named Bob Kane more than 50 years before.. .and to Tim Burton, the young artist who revitalized that myth for the next generations.
And all that mattered would be the final result on theatre screens.
Batman, The Penguin and Catwoman – A History
In the beginning, there was an 18-year-old kid cartoonist named Bob Kane.
Laboring away in the jam-packed New York comic book and comic-strip market of the late 1930s, the Bronx-born teenager began his professional career by drawing funny filler for the short-lived Wow! comic book, later contributing gag cartoons and a comedy-adventure strip about “Peter Pupp” for Jumbo Comics, Kane then began making his first sales to the thriving DC Comics, mostly two-page comedy material like “Professor Doo- little,” “Ginger Snap” and “Oscar the Gumshoe,” but also such action-adventure fare as “Rusty and His Pals” and “Clip’ Carson.”
Then one day.. as if struck by lightning.. .Kane gazed upon a book about Leonardo Da Vinci which included many of the genius’s futuristic inventions.. .including flying machines, machine guns and parachutes.
‘”There was one drawing of a man on a kind of sled with bat-wings called an ‘Ornithopter,’” Kane recalls more than 50 years later. “To me, it made the man look like a large bat.
“Funny.. .everybody else must have seen it, millions of people through the years, but I interpreted it into a new kind of comic book hero–a ‘Bat-Man.’”
Thus, with the collaboration of writer and fellow teen Bill Finger, did Bob Kane create a new legend for the 20th century.
“From decade to decade Batman has been something special,”
wrote comic book historian Mark Cotta Vaz in his comprehensive Tales of the Dark Knight, chronicling the hero’s first 50 years.
“Stop a stranger on the street and just mention ‘Batman’ and they’ll know who you’re talking about.”
The creation of Batman has been oft-told, particularly since the 1989 release of Tim Burton’s “Batman,” which fans saw as the first serious attempt to do The Dark Knight justice on film.
“Originally, when I created Batman I had no idea it would become such an event,” notes Kane. “Batman just seems to hit a certain chord with people. It’s not just fighting for justice against evil. It’s the duality of Batman and the villains who confront him.”
“The Bat-Man” (as he was originally called) first appeared in May 1939, when Detective Comics introduced him in “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate.” Kane and Finger then proceeded to develop .a magnificent array of bizarre, ingenious and frightening arch-villains. Some of them found their way to the small screen in the 1960s, and The Joker was performed to malicious perfection by Jack Nicholson in the first “Batman” adventure.
In “Batman Returns,” two more of Kane’s creations are given unexpected new spins…The Penguin and Catwoman…portrayed by two major stars, Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer.
The Penguin, with his beak-like nose and incongruously elegant dress, first reared his distinctive head in late 1941.
Bob Kane came up with the character from a somewhat less classical source than Leonardo Da Vinci.
“I haven’t smoked in 40 years,” claims the cartoonist, “but at the time I did, like everybody else in America. I thought smoking was cool, so I smoked Kool cigarettes.
“If you remember, the Kool cigarette pack had a drawing of a penguin on it. So when I was trying to invent some arch-villains for Batman to fight, I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh! This penguin looks kind of like a little fat man in a tuxedo. Why not have a villain called The Penguin?’”
Like most of Kane’s characters, The Penguin’s persona and modus operandi have evolved quite a bit since his invention, but in the beginning he was clearly a cold-blooded killer (then again, in those early days, Batman himself thought little of dispatching his opponents to the hereafter). Later, The Penguin became more of a master crimesmith than a murderer, chastising his enemies (especially Batman) in overblown language and relying upon his astonishing array of trick umbrellas as weapons, tools, modes of transportation, even communication devices.
“When I created The Penguin in the comic book I thought he was comical-looking,” remembers Kane. “And the idea that I made him a nefarious villain went against the typecast of what he looked like. I think that’s part of his popularity …that this cartoonish character who looks so innocent is really a maniac. And therein lies the fascinating combination of good and evil.”
Look under “C” in The Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes and you’ll find Catwoman…described as “daring and beautiful, whose costumes, special equipment, and choice of crimes all revolve around a feline theme.”
Catwoman’s history even pre-dates that of The Penguin, having made her comic book debut in mid-1940. Her real name is Selina Kyle (The Penguin’s is the less musical Oswald Chesterfield Cobblepot). In “Batman Returns,” Selina is given a contemporary spin. .as the much oppressed assistant to Gotham mogul Max Shreck, suffering the slings and arrows of mean spirited, sexist barbs launched at her from both Max and his obnoxious son, Chip.
As with The Penguin and other arch-villains, Catwoman’s personality has ebbed and flowed through the years, usually evil but sometimes not, with one consistency–her love/hate relationship with Batman…a theme very much explored in”Batman Returns.”
The physical origin of Catwoman was a combination of 1930s blonde bombshell Jean Harlow…the darker-haired 1940s screen siren Hedy Lamarr…and Bob Kane’s girl friend at that time. “I admired Hedy Lamarr,” recalls Kane, his eyes still twinkling these many years later. “She had that great feline beauty, and my girl friend looked very much like her. My girl friend was kind of handy as a seamstress, and she evolved a cat costume in which she posed as my model for the character.”
Why a cat?
“Well, a cat has nine lives,” Kane emphasizes. “So I figured that whenever she was caught, or wounded, she would survive and live again for another go-round with Batman.
“Also,” the legendary cartoonist adds, “I feel there’s something very mysterious about cats, and •I equate that with women.”
Curiously enough, neither The Penguin nor Catwoman were featured characters in the very first filmizations of “Batman,” Columbia Pictures’ low-budget black-and-white serials in 1943 and 1949.
The live-action, stupendously campy television series that aired on ABC-TV from January 1966 to March 1968, however, gave both The Penguin and Catwoman extensive screen time. Burgess Meredith, a fine and serious actor, was a popular Penguin of his day, generally acknowledged as everybody’s favorite villain in that particular manifestation of “Batman.’
It took not one, but three successive actresses to fill Catwoman’s claws.. .Julie Newmar, followed by Lee Meriwether, then Eartha Kitt. Meredith and Meriwether would portray their respective characters in Twentieth Century-Fox’s splashy 1966 feature film version of the television series.
It would take a fine detective,, though, to draw a direct line from those pop-art era evocations of The Penguin and Catwoman to their brand-new interpretations by Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer in “Batman Returns.” Just as Tim Burton and his actors in the first “Batman” restored power, terror and psychological validity to The Dark Knight and The Joker, so do the director’and his players take Batman, The Penguin and Catwoman into the ’90s with “Batman Returns.”
To begin with, Burton and screenwriter Daniel Waters developed new origins for both characters, haunting and humorous, tinged with tragedy and contemporary sensibilities.
Although The Penguin and Catwoman remain essentially true to their original essence (Bob Kane’s ex-girl friend would be proud to know that in the new film, Catwoman’s costume is also home-sewn; and The Penguin still has that fabulous arsenal of evil umbrellas), they’re now spirited in new directions.
And that’s just fine with Bob Kane, the father of them all. “When I created Batman and the related characters, he was a dark, brooding vigilante. It all became campy and comedic in the ’60s with the advent of the TV show.
“But if I had my druthers, I’d rather have the mysterioso, profound Batman characters. The first Batman movie brought them back from whence they came.
“Tim Burton is a wonderful director,” concludes Kane, “and he brings great visual atmosphere to his movies. He and I think alike, and Batman was depicted exactly the way I created him in the beginning. It’s dark, it’s textured, but it’s also a lot of fun.. .and I like that.”
So did millions upon millions of moviegoers around the world…added to the millions upon millions who have relished Bob Kane’s brilliant comic book creations for more than half a century.
Warner Bros. Presents A Tim Burton Film: Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito and Michelle Pfeiffer in “Batman Returns,” starring Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle and Michael Murphy. The film is produced by Denise Di Novi and Tim Burton and directed by Tim Burton. The executive producers are Jon Peters, Peter Guber, Benjamin Melnicker and Michael Uslan and the co-producer is Larry Franco. The screenplay is by Daniel Waters from a story by Daniel Waters and Sam Hamm, based upon Batman characters created by Bob Kane and published by DC Comics. The director of photography is Stefan Czapsky, the production designer is Bo Welch and the film editor is Chris Lebenzon. The music is by Danny Elfman. Distributed by Warner Bros., A Time Warner Company.