How Danny Elfman's DNA Found Its Way Into Batman: The Animated Series

It's hard to pin down the quintessential take on the Dark Knight, but nothing comes close to "Batman: The Animated Series" as far as animation is concerned. The show defined an era of superhero television in more ways than one. It spun off a universe of animated projects following DC's greatest characters, including "Justice League." Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill were cemented as the signature voices of Batman and the Joker, respectively. The neo-noir aesthetic that filled out "Batman: The Animated Series" became synonymous with the character, but the acclaimed series also borrowed from its predecessors, too. 

The musical score in "Batman: The Animated Series" is exquisite, to say the least. The composer, Shirley Walker, perfectly captures the heightened world of Gotham City and its players without feeling corny or campy. It also sounds quite similar at times to the Danny Elfman theme in Tim Burton's "Batman." This is no coincidence. Elfman is responsible for the instantly-recognizable theme in the film, and some of that magic trickled down into the animated series. Walker, who had previously worked with him, brought her own sensibilities to "Batman: The Animated Series" while paying homage to the all-time great score.  

The creators behind "Batman: The Animated Series" latched on to Elfman's work, which led to hiring Walker to score every episode of the series.

Finding the Batman

Bruce Timm, who co-created the series alongside Eric Radomski, told Vulture he was watching "The Flash" starring John Wesley Shipp and recognized the score sounded familiar. Surely enough, they found out that it was Shirley Walker who was working on it. The rest is history, according to Timm:

"I made a note as I was watching it: Who did the music? It was Shirley Walker. Did some research on Shirley Walker, found out that she had actually worked with Danny on that first 'Batman' movie, had orchestrated much of it. We contacted Shirley and she was happy to come in and do the show. Back then, it was almost unheard of to score every single episode of a show. Fortunately, we mentioned it to our boss, Jean [MacCurdy], and she said, 'Oh, yeah! We should totally have an original score for every episode!' That was a huge plus."

The path to the hiring of Walker seemed destined for greatness. Her work on "Batman" was the starting point of a journey that gave life to decades worth of superhero gold. After "Batman: The Animated Series," Walker later composed the music for the big-screen sequel "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm." On television, she continued her hot streak with "Batman Beyond," "Superman: The Animated Series," "The New Batman Adventures," and many more. It's hard to imagine a better person to handle all of those projects, but it's a good thing we don't have to.

But don't take my word for it. If you haven't seen it yet, it's never too late to experience the epic adventures of the Caped Crusader. All three seasons of "Batman: The Animated Series" are available to stream on HBO Max.