Sunday, July 6, 2008

Heart of Ice

Season: 1
Episode Number: 3
Season Episode Number: 3
Production Number: 514
Airdate: September 7, 1992

Writer: Paul Dini
Director: Bruce W. Timm

Awards: Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program - 1993

Voices: Kevin Conroy (Batman), Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Alfred Pennyworth), Mark Hamill (Ferris Boyle), Michael Ansara (Mr. Freeze), Mari Devon (Summer Gleason).

Plot: A new villain has shown up in Gotham City using a 'freeze gun' to steal large pieces of GothCorp machinery. Batman figures out that together the pieces could create a large cannon capable of emitting an ice beam powerful enough to level the city.

Batman tracks the villain's next move to another GothCorp building. There, he meets Mr. Freeze, a brilliant cryogenics scientist and ex-staff member of GothCorp. Batman discovers that a year ago, Victor Fries was working to find a cure for his wife's incurable disease. He froze her in suspended animation to be released when a cure was found.

But Ferris Boyle, CEO of GothCorp, found out that Fries was using company equipment for his work and ordered the experiment terminated. Outraged by the apparent murder of his wife, Fries lashed out at Boyle, accidentally knocking over toxic chemicals that turned Fries into Mr. Freeze.

Now Fries is out for vengeance and Ferris Boyle is his target. And even though Batman sympathizes with Mr. Freeze's tragic tale, he can not let him go through with his plans of taking down GothCorp and killing Ferris Boyle.

Review (Warning! Spoilers!): Heart of Ice set a new standard for television animation writing. The tragic saga of Mr. Freeze has become a fan favourite episode and a major milestone in the history of television animation. When Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Alan Burnett and Eric Radomski created Batman: the Animated Series, they wanted each episode to be a mini movie. They pushed for quality writing, animation and excitement for each episode. Heart of Ice was the fourteenth episode produced but it was the third episode to air, which helped the series off its feet. Viewers knew right from the beginning that this show was going to be unlike anything they had ever seen. The bar was raised and this episode won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program.

One of the changes made in the show are several of the villains' origins. Many of Batman's Rogues Gallery are simply petty crooks with a gimmick (cats, riddles, birds, etc.) including Mr. Freeze who first appeared as Mr. Zero in Batman #121 in 1959 but later got renamed to Mr. Freeze in the Adam West Batman TV show in the 60s.

Mr. Freeze was another throwaway villain whose crimes always had something to do with ice or cold. When writing Heart of Ice, Paul Dini scrapped everything that everyone knew about Freeze and told his own story. The result was so great, that even the comic books adapted to this origin story, completely forgetting about thirty years of continuity.

Part of the brilliance of this episode also comes from the wonderful voice acting. Although not even thought as a possibility in the initial casting call, Michael Ansara (Broken Arrow's Cochise) auditioned for the role of the villain. The deadpan, monotone result was a perfect match for the soulless character of Mr. Freeze.

Another notable voice in this episode is Mark Hamill (Star Wars' Luke Skywalker) who plays Ferris Boyle. Hamill, a huge comic book fan, really wanted to be a villain in the series, but when he found out that all the villains had been cast he settled for this role of Ferris Boyle. Later, when the plans for Tim Curry to play the Joker fell through, Hamill was called back to audition for the role of the Clown Prince of Crime.

As with many episodes of Batman: the Animated Series, the villain gets all the screen time. I find that Batman actually doesn't get a whole lot of character development in this series because the villains have much more interesting stories to tell. Batman is just a vessel to carry those stories.

DVD Releases:
  • Batman: the Animated Series - Volume One
  • Batman: the Complete Animated Series
  • Batman: the Animated Series - Secrets of the Caped Crusader
  • Batman: Gotham Knight (Two-Disc Special Edition)
  • The Adventures of Batman & Robin - The Joker/Fire and Ice
  • Kids TV Favorites - Heart of Ice

  • Back to Episode Guide

    1 comment:

    Chip Chief said...

    One of the greats. This just may be the best episode of BTAS. On the other hand if it wasnt for the triumphant reinvention of Mr Freeze here, we may have been spared Batman and Robin. Anyways, gotta love that chicken soup.