I never thought much of Minimates or Lego toys until I learned they were used in an animated production featuring the voices of Adam West as Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker!
Entitled Batman: “New Times,” the 12-minute film was created by the 2004 graduating class at the DAVE School of Digital Animation and Visual Effects in Orlando, Florida, and released to the public the following year.
The story begins at stately Wayne Manor, where Bruce Wayne is hosting a lavish New Year’s Eve party until he notices a woman standing alone on a balcony.
“Such a lonely place for such a lovely woman (voiced by Courtney Thorn-Smith) to be standing on New Year’s Eve,” Wayne says as he approaches her.
“I vould have to disagree vith you, Mister Vayne,” she replies. “I find the view to be quite amazing.”
“Call me Bruce,” he says as Alfred (Allan Shearman) enters the scene. “Master Bruce,” he says. “Sorry to interrupt, but your presence has been requested … downstairs.”
After seeing the Bat-Signal in the sky, Wayne tells the woman that he hates to leave and never got her name.
“Kitka,” she states. “Kitka Karenska. It’s a pity you can’t stay. The evening was turning out to be purrrrrfect.”
After Wayne leaves, the woman says she also must be going and leaps off the balcony with an acrobatic flair.
As Bruce approaches the entrance to the Bat-Cave, he distracts the nearby party guests by saying: “Look! Madonna!”
The millionaire quickly dons his Batman costume, then slides down a pole into the cave before calling up an image on a massive screen.
“Happy New Year, Commissioner Gordon (given voice by comedian Dick Van Dyke),”the Dark Knight says.
“I had hoped that it would be,” Gordon replies, “but the Joker’s been spotted in Gotham Square.”
“With a big celebration in full swing, he must be up to something big to come out of hiding after so long,” Batman states.
“You know the Joker,” Gordon responds. “Whatever it is, it’s bound to happen at midnight.”
“That doesn’t give us much time,” the Caped Crusader says. “I’m on my way!”
“Godspeed, Batman,” the commissioner adds before his image fades away.
The Darknight Detective then contacts Alfred to find out where Robin is. “Master Grayson and Miss Gordon left the party earlier. Shall I reach him for you, Sir?”
“Tell him to meet me in Gotham Square right away,” the hero says before leaping into the Batmobile and roaring out into the night.
As Batman enters the city, a truck pulls in front of him, and Harley Quinn (Chrissy Kiehl) opens the vehicle’s back doors.
“Mister J wouldn’t want you crashing his party when you’re not invited,” she says. “He asked me to deliver this to you.”
Quinn then throws several lighted explosives at the Batmobile, but the detective fires a missile at one of the truck’s rear tires.
However, Harley continues to try and destroy the car, even as police cars (some get caught in a spectacular crash) and a helicopter converge on the scene.
But Batman manages to take out another tire, and the truck comes to a halt. When Quinn steps out, she finds herself illuminated by a spotlight and told to freeze because she’s surrounded.
“Not good,” she states in defeat.
Across the city, a massive crowd of people in Gotham Square starts counting down the seconds until the new year begins.
When the clock strikes midnight, a laughing voice says over the loudspeakers: “That’s my cue.”
“Gather ’round, kiddies,” the Joker says as he emerges on the stage. “This show is just about to get started.”
At that point, a huge Jack-in-the-Box comes out, and a huge Joker figure aims machine guns at the crowd.
“You’re all invited to participate in the world’s largest stick-up,” he continues, “so stick ’em up.”
When the people consider the Joker’s threat part of the festivities, members of the villain’s gang start firing machine guns to frighten the crowd into compliance.
“And now my favorite part,” the Clown Prince of Crime states. “It’s time to prove that crime does pay.”
But while everyone starts handing over their wallets and purses, a dark figure begins quietly taking out the villain’s henchmen.
“Now this is what I call entertainment,” the Joker continues before Batman’s image fills the huge screen behind the villain.
“Look, Batman!” one of the partiers shouts.
“Well, well. If it isn’t Bat-brain,” the Joker says. “He always knows how to spoil a good party. No worries, though. We were just leaving.”
“Think again, Joker,” the Caped Crusader responds. “The only place you’re going is back to Arkham Asylum.”
Just then, a purple-and-green helicopter descends into the square, and the criminal’s henchmen connect a huge bag full of valuables to the flying vehicle before they and the Joker start climbing into it to escape.
“Pleasure doing business with you,” the Clown Prince of Crime shouts as he climbs into the helicopter. “Happy New Year! Bye, bye, Batsy!”
Batman leaps onto the rope holding the huge bag and cuts it loose. He then climbs into the copter and knocks the henchmen off the vehicle and onto the big bag on the street.
“Batboy is onboard,” the Joker says. “Get out there and handle it!”
With that, Catwoman enters the fray. “Such a lonely place for such a handsome man to be standing on New Year’s Eve,” she states.
She then snares Batman’s legs with her whip and pulls him to the floor before jumping on top of him.
“Got to admit there’s something between us,” Catwoman says.
“Yeah,” the Dark Knight responds, “the law.” He then tosses Catwoman aside, and she states she didn’t know Batman “likes to play rough.”
“Thank you for flying Joker express,” the villain notes as he steers the copter. “We hope you enjoy the trip, and remember: When you fly Joker Express, you get service with a smile!”
Batman and Catwoman continue to spar until the detective loses his footing and almost falls out of the vehicle, clinging to the copter with only one hand.
“How’s it hanging, Batman?” she calls out as she prepares to break his grip
“Don’t do it, Catwoman,” he responds.
“Sorry, Batman,” she states. “A girl’s gotta go what a girl’s gotta do.”
With that, she forces Batman to let go, and he falls from the helicopter.
Spoiler Alert: If you’d rather watch the fan film’s ending yourself, skip down to the link at the end of this article. If not, just continue reading.
But the Caped Crusader doesn’t fall far before landing on the Batplane piloted by Robin (Joshua Adams).
“What are you waiting for?” Batman asks the Boy Wonder. “Take the helicopter down before they get away!”
“Wait for it,” Robin responds while waiting patiently before firing a rocket at the copter that forces it to plunge to the ground.
When Catwoman and the Joker climb out of the remains of the helicopter, they find themselves surrounded by police.
“Blast that rodent! He hasn’t seen the last of me!” the Joker growls.
“The day will come when the joke will be on you, Batmaaaaan!” he shouts as the view pans back to reveal that Robin brought them down right in the grounds of Arkham Asylum.
As I turn my focus on reviewing the production, I find myself wondering what it would have been like if Clint Eastwood had played Batman; “Feelin’ lucky, Joker?”
The Good: From start to finish, “New Times” is an excellent production with fantastic graphics and a clever plot. Add in such voices as Adam West (who was Batman in the 1960s) and Mark Hamill (who’s the current animated voice of the Joker), and some other familiar voices, and you get a classic fan film that’s a great way to kick off the new year.
The Bad: I’d post a bad review if I didn’t include a tip of the hat to the DAVE School (of Digital Animation and Visual Effects, get it?), which has provided effects for several independent productions, including Star Trek: Phase II. If you want to learn more about that school, click here.
The Ugly: My only regret in reviewing “New Times” is that I didn’t learn about it sooner. I’ve been discussing fan films for almost three years now, and somehow this one fell into the cracks. Still, better late than never.