In a surprising development, HBO Max has passed on the upcoming animated series Batman: Caped Crusader. Coming from a star-studded creative team comprised of Bruce Timm, The Batman director Matt Reeves, J.J. Abrams and Batman Beyond character designer and director James Tucker, the show was given a straight-to-series order in 2021.
Caped Crusader—initially expected to stream on HBO Max—was billed as a reimagining of the Dark Knight's mythology, akin to Batman: The Animated Series. As was described in the show's press release (via THR): "Utilizing state-of-the-art animation techniques and technologies available, this powerful creative partnership will once again reinvent Batman and his iconic rogue's gallery with sophisticated storytelling, nuanced characters and intense action sequences all set in a visually striking world."
Warner Bros. Discovery made headlines earlier in 2022 with the cancellation of high-profile projects Batgirl and Scoob!: Holiday Haunt. The announcement was followed by HBO Max removing several titles from its platform, which included the animated series Aquaman: King of Atlantis.
Now, TVLine has revealed that HBO Max has passed on Batman: Caped Crusader, along with five other animated titles expected to stream on the platform. The projects are Merry Little Batman, Bye Bye Bunny: A Looney Tunes Musical, Did I Do That to the Holidays: A Steve Urkel Story, The Amazing World of Gumball: The Movie and The Day the Earth Blew Up: A Looney Tunes Movie.
There is a silver lining, however, as TVLine reports that all projects will be shopped to other companies. Furthermore, The Hollywood Reporter's Borys Kit clarified that Caped Crusader (which was deep into production) was not canceled, and that it would end up finding a new home.
While HBO Max passing on a high-profile project like Caped Crusader seems surprising, the move comes as part of Warner Bros. Discovery's changing content focus. Upon the cancellation of the HBO Max's Gordita Chronicles, a spokesperson for the streamer revealed to Variety that the platform would be moving away from live-action children-focused content:
"Live-action kids and family programming will not be part of our programming focus in the immediate future, and as a result, we've had to make the very difficult decision to end Gordita Chronicles at HBO Max."
Given this most recent development, it appears that strategy extends to animated projects. While details on the series are scarce, during 2021's DC FanDome (via Polygon), producer James Tucker revealed that Caped Crusader would be a standalone story not set in a shared universe, focused on Batman's struggles against Gotham City's underworld:
"[In this new iteration], it's just Batman right now. The Justice League doesn't exist, there aren't any other superheroes. It's Batman. You're watching this lone figure swimming through the cesspool of Gotham. It's Batman, alone."
There is no word on when the show will come out, but while we wait for more concrete information, you can watch Bruce Timm's short, Batman: Strange Days, released in 2014 to commemorate the Dark Knight's 75th anniversary: