The DC Animated Universe has always been massively popular, but when Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was released in theaters on Christmas Day in 1993, it flopped with a mere $5 million at the box office. Fans and critics alike loved the movie, however, and it's since become regarded as a cult classic and one of the best interpretations of the Dark Knight on screen.
During a recent interview with Empire (via CBR), legendary producer Bruce Timm admitted that watching the beloved movie makes him "cringe."
Explaining that the original plan called for Batman: Mask of the Phantasm was for it to be a small screen special, Timm revealed that Warner Bros. then requested it be released theatrically during the midst of pre-production. That left the team scrambling to make some big changes.
"[Co-producer and co-director] Eric Radomski and I were in Japan, meeting with one of the animation studios that worked on the movie," Timm recalled. "We got the word that [the studio] officially wanted to make it a theatrical release while we were literally handing out the storyboards to the animators."
"It had all been formatted for the old-school TV ratio, which was practically a square. It was like, 'What the heck are we going to do?'"
Left with only eight months to finish Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, and a mere $6 million budget, the movie was finished, but Timm remains unhappy with the finished result. "When I see it, I just cringe. It's, like, 90 percent there. I just wish I had that last ten percent!"
While it was a shame that Mask of the Phantasm failed to find an audience in theaters, it would set the stage for the DCAU to expand on home video platforms. That continues to be the case to this day, with the release of movies like Legion of Super-Heroes and Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham.
Despite Timm's misgivings, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm remains beloved in the eyes of comic books fans.