Batfink being chauffered by his aide, Karate
|Created by||Hal Seeger|
|Written by||Dennis Marks, Heywood Kling|
|Narrated by||Len Maxwell|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||100 (6-min. cartoons) (List of episodes)|
|Running time||26 min. (approx. 6 min. per cartoon)|
|Production company(s)||Hal Seeger Productions
|Original run||21 April 1966 – 4 October 1967|
||This article or section appears to contradict itself about the first broadcast date (lead section vs. infobox). (February 2013)|
Batfink is an animated television series, consisting of five-minute shorts, that first aired in September 1967. The 100-episode series was quickly created by Hal Seeger, starting in 1966, to parody the popular Batman and The Green Hornet television series which had premiered the same year.
The cartoon was produced at Hal Seeger Studios, in New York City, and at Bill Ackerman Productions in Midland Park, New Jersey. It was syndicated by Screen Gems and continued to air on local stations throughout the 1980s. Nickelodeon briefly aired episodes of Batfink on its Weinerville and Nick in the Afternoon series in the 1990s. In September 2006, it returned to the U.S. as part of "Cartoons Without a Clue", Boomerang's mystery lineup on weekends.
The Batfink series was very popular in the UK, becoming a cult series like the later DangerMouse, and from 1967 onwards was shown at least once every year on UK terrestrial television up until 1983, initially on the BBC network where it was allocated an early evening slot just before the BBC News, and latterly as part of Children's ITV; it subsequently reappeared in 1986 on the ITV Saturday morning magazine show Get Fresh. In the early 1990s it was repeated again as part of TV-am's Wide Awake Club/Wacaday series; after Wacaday finished in 1992, Batfink was consigned to the vaults in the UK for the next twelve years. It was introduced to a new audience in 2004 when it was included in a number of episodes of the BBC's Saturday morning show Dick and Dom in da Bungalow, and since April 2006 has been enjoying an extended, if somewhat irregular, repeat run on CBBC.
Batfink was made quickly and cheaply by re-using stock sequences. Although most serial animations do this to some extent, Batfink did it more than most. Commonly repeated scenes include the intro to the initial briefings by the Chief (the TV screen hotline buzzing into life), Batfink and Karate getting into the Battillac, the Battillac going round mountain bends, the Battillac going over a bridge, Batfink's radar and others. Sometimes the repeated scenes would be cut short so that sections could be re-used to fit the storyline more closely.
Batfink (Frank Buxton) is a superpowered anthropomorphic grey bat in a yellow costume with a big red "B" on the chest and red gauntlets and boots. He uses his super-sonic sonar radar and metallic black wings to fight crime. In the last episode of the series ("Batfink: This Is Your Life"), it's revealed that he got his powers from being born in an abandoned plutonium mine and that he'd lost his natural wings as a child while saving his mother's life after escaped convicts blew up their mountaintop cave. This incident is what motivated him to become a crimefighter.
Batfink lives in a split-level cave, and has a direct video link to the Chief's office.
Karate (Len Maxwell) is a gi-clad martial arts expert and Batfink's oafish sidekick who drives the Battillac. He is somewhat oversized and isn't very bright, but is strong enough to help Batfink out of any situation. He carries a wide variety of objects and gadgets in his "utility sleeve" (which is a parody of Batman's utility belt), but he often has trouble finding what he needs in it. Karate tended to succeed by dumb luck rather than by skill or ingenuity, and often Karate's involvement would make a bad situation worse.
Karate was a parody of Kato, the Green Hornet's sidekick, but his hulking size is inspired by the James Bond villain Oddjob. His voice was originally a stereotypical Asian accent, but in later episodes Len Maxwell adopted a clipped and nasal speech pattern inspired by Don Adams, whose Get Smart character Maxwell Smart was popular at the time. Karate on occasion has even uttered the catchphrase "Sorry about that, Batfink."
His father was the blacksmith who made Batfink's mighty metallic wings.
The Chief (Len Maxwell) is Batfink's contact on the local police force and informs Batfink of all the latest crimes via a direct video link to Batfink's split-level cave ("The hotline! Batfink here.").
The blue-smocked, wild-haired Hugo A-Go-Go (Frank Buxton) is the main villain of the series. He is referred to as "the world's maddest scientist" and spends his time in his "secret" laboratory creating weird and wacky inventions (including a robot bride complete with robot mother-in-law) to defeat Batfink and dominate the world. He always manages to escape jail to antagonize the hero in a later episode. He often breaks the fourth wall and has conversations with the narrator.
Other villains have included "Queenie Bee" (with her army of bees – Batfink sent Queenie Bee to Sing Sing and her bees to "Sting Sting"), "Victor The Predictor", "Judy Jitsu" (a martial artist whose name is derived from jujutsu, and who Karate has a crush on), "Brother Goose" (who always left taunting clues based on nursery rhymes), and "Goldyunlocks" (with an obsession of unlocking every lock she sees – Batfink was finally able to catch her by putting her in a cell with no lock).
Batfink had at his disposal two main superpowers: his super-sonic sonar radar and his metallic wings. At least one of these would feature in every episode in order to help him catch the bad guy.
Super-sonic sonar radar
Batfink's "super-sonic sonar radar" was a superpowered version of a bat's echolocation, used to locate prey. Batfink's power took the form of the letters of the word "BEEP" (or "BEEP BEEP") emanating from his mouth. The letters were anthropomorphic and sentient, and could fly wherever Batfink needed them to go, accompanied by a distinctive beeping noise.
- "My super-sonic sonar radar will help me!"
The letters could see, feel fear, evade capture and report back to Batfink on what they had seen. In one episode, the "BEEP" is ambushed and beaten up. The "BEEP" also gets confused, misdirected and lost, leaving Batfink to rely on other means to surveil the episode's villain. Once, when the "BEEP" was sent to investigate Queenie Bee and her swarm of villainous bees, it returned with the letters "EEP" swollen with bee stings. When Karate asked Batfink, "How come they just stung the EEP?" Batfink replied, "Because a bee would never harm another B. But a B will tell on another bee – Queenie Bee is in THERE!"
Batfink's main defense were his metallic wings, which he was able to curl around himself as a protective shield against most attacks, thereby spawning the most famous catchphrase of the show:
- "Your bullets cannot harm me – my wings are like a shield of steel!"
He claimed in some episodes that his wings were stainless steel, but in other episodes he explicitly stated that they were not, since he always carried a can of spot remover to keep them polished.
He could also use his wings as offensive weapons. In one episode, he used one of his wings as a sword during a duel. His wings could help him fly at incredible speeds. They were often used to help him escape certain death or cut through bonds when he had been captured (he can break out of regular ropes but not rubber ones). In the episode "Ebenezer the Freezer", Batfink had automatic retrorockets built into his wings, but not in any other episode.
Sometimes his wings hindered him. When in water, he would sink because of the weight of his metal wings. Powerful magnets were also a problem for him. Plutonium, for reasons unexplained, also rendered the wings useless.
Batfink's life and wings are explained in the final episode, "Batfink: This Is Your Life", which depicts his boyhood, and how his real wings were replaced.
Batfink rides in a customized pink car resembling a Volkswagen Beetle with scalloped rear fins, called the "Battillac" (rhymes with "Cadillac"). It is outfitted with a sun roof and lots defensive devices. The car is resistant to collision damage and energy weapons. Batfink often says something like, "It's a good thing the Battillac is equipped with a thermo-nuclear plutonium insulated blast shield!" and Karate says, "It's also good it was a small bomb." As soon as a crime is acknowledged Batfink says, "Karate, the Battillac!"
Many episodes end with Batfink in a potentially fatal situation. The action freezes, and the narrator asks dramatically if Batfink would survive. Then, the action continues with Batfink escaping, via a convenient but previously unseen Deus Ex Machina or via his superpowers.
Hidden political message
According to Dave Mackey's Batfink site, there's a two-part political message hidden in two episodes, disguised as sped-up gibberish. He translates the message as follows:
- Part 1 (in "Spin the Batfink"): "The most dangerous force in America today is Walter Reuther and his political machine. It’s time we realized that they intend to run this country. When the smut publishers put a..."
- Part 2 (in "Bride and Doom"): "...dirty cover on a clean book, let’s take it at face value and call it trash and dump it in the river."
- On 6 December 2004, Cinema Club released the complete series on Region 2 DVD.
- On 3 July 2007, Shout! Factory released Batfink: The Complete Series on DVD in Region 1.
- Both DVD boxsets run over 4 DVDs and contain all 100 episodes of the series.
- In January 2007, A-Design released a single Batfink DVD in Bulgaria. The DVD includes 26 5-minute segments.
|Australia||ABC||196? – 197?|
|The Netherlands||Kindernet||6 January 1994 – 10 July 1998|
|UK||BBC1||early evening slot (1967–1975)|
|BBC2||afternoon slot (1976–1982)|
|Children's ITV||1983, 1986|
|TV-am||as part of Wacaday (late 1980s-early 1990s)|
|BBC Two||(2007) before 8 am|
|USA||KTLA||–Channel 5 Los Angeles|
|Nickelodeon||as part of Weinerville (1995–1997)|
|India||Nickelodeon (India)||(2007) in Hindi|
- Decaro, Frank (5 August 2007). "Another Caped Crusader, Super Tongue in Cheek". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 January 2011.
- "Batfink". DVD Talk. Retrieved 10 January 2011.
- "Spin the Batfink" at Dave Mackey's site
- "Bride and Doom" at Dave Mackey's site
- Batfink: The Complete Series at the Shout! Factory store