Batfink being chauffeured 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
Golden West Broadcasters
|Distributor||Sony Pictures Television|
|Original network||KTLA & Syndication|
|Original release||April 21, 1966 – October 4, 1967|
Batfink is an animated television series, consisting of five-minute shorts, that first aired in April 1966. The 100-episode series was quickly created by Hal Seeger, starting in 1966, to send up the popular Batman and The Green Hornet television series which had premiered the same year.
- 1 Production and syndication
- 2 Cast
- 3 Plot devices
- 4 Cliffhangers
- 5 Hidden political message
- 6 Episodes
- 7 DVD release
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
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 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 of 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 is revealed that he obtained his powers when he was born in an abandoned plutonium mine and that he lost his natural wings as a child while saving his mother's life, after escaped convicts blew up their mountain-top cave. This incident is what motivated him to become a crime-fighter.
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 over-sized and not 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" (a parody of Batman's utility belt), but he often has trouble finding what he needs in it. Karate tends to succeed by dumb luck rather than by skill or ingenuity, and often Karate's involvement will make a bad situation worse.
Karate is a direct send-up of Kato, the Green Hornet's companion, but his hulking size is inspired by the James Bond villain Oddjob. In early episodes, his voice is a stereotypical Asian accent, but in later episodes, Len Maxwell adopts a clipped and nasal speech pattern. This was inspired by Don Adams, whose Get Smart character, Maxwell Smart, was popular at the time. Karate on occasion even utters the Maxwell-inspired catchphrase, "Sorry about that, Batfink."
Karate was usually ordered to check downstairs, while Batfink checked the upper floor.
At the end of each cartoon episode, Karate would make a corny pun that was sometimes physical on the part of his stupidity.
Karate's 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 include:
- "Brother Goose" (who always leaves taunting clues based on nursery rhymes)
- "Goldyunlocks" (with an obsession of unlocking every lock she sees; Batfink finally defeats her by putting her in a cell with no lock)
- "Gypsy James" (a parking-meter thief who makes voodoo dolls of Batfink and Karate to try to seal their fate)
- "Judy Jitsu" (a martial artist, whose name is derived from jujutsu, and on whom Karate has a crush)
- "Queenie Bee" (with her army of bees – Batfink sends Queenie Bee to Sing Sing and her bees to "Sting Sting")
- "Victor The Predictor"
Batfink has at his disposal two main superpowers: his 'supersonic sonar radar' and his metallic wings. At least one of these features in every episode in order to help Batfink catch the bad guy.
Super-sonic sonar radar
Batfink's "supersonic sonar radar" is a super-powered version of a bat's echolocation, used to locate prey. Batfink's power takes the form of the letters of the word "BEEP" (or "BEEP BEEP") emanating from his mouth. The letters are anthropomorphic and sentient, and can fly wherever Batfink needs them to go - accompanied by a distinctive beeping noise.
- "My super-sonic sonar radar will help me!"
Whenever Batfink said those words, he would say it through the open sun roof of the Battilac car, while it was not in motion.
The letters can see; feel fear; evade capture; and report back to Batfink on what they have 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 spy upon the episode's villain. Once, when the "BEEP" is sent to investigate Queenie Bee and her swarm of villainous bees, it returns with the letters "EEP" swollen with bee stings. When Karate asks Batfink: "How come they just stung the EEP?" Batfink replies: "Because a bee would never harm another B. But a B will tell on another bee – Queenie Bee is in THERE!"
The literal spelled-out appearance of an onomatopœia was a running gag not limited to the super-sonic sonar radar; in one episode, Hugo A-Go-Go invented a tickling stick that tickles its adversaries into submission, which sent out the words "Kitchy Koo" to do the deed on Batfink. (The episode ended with Batfink slicing the K's off to create the far more irritating, but less distracting, "Itchy Oo.")
Batfink's main defense are his metallic wings, which he is able to fold 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 claims in some episodes that his wings are stainless steel, but in other episodes he explicitly states that they are not - since he always carries a can of spot remover to keep them polished.
Batfink can also use his wings as offensive weapons. In one episode, he uses one of them as a sword during a duel. His wings can also help him fly at incredible speeds. They are often used to help him escape certain death or cut through bonds when he has been captured (he can break out of regular ropes but not rubber ones). In the episode "Ebenezer the Freezer", Batfink has automatic retrorockets built into his wings, but not in any other episode.
Sometimes his wings hinder him. When in water, he will sink because of the weight of his metal wings. Powerful magnets are also a problem for him. Plutonium, for reasons unexplained (but possibly relating to his birth in a plutonium mine) also renders 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 and bat-winged red "B" emblems on the doors and hood. Called the "Battillac" (rhymes with "Cadillac"), it is outfitted with a sun roof and lots of 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 replies, "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 dangerous situation; typically this is effected by trapping him in some sort of bondage, placing him in a position that renders his wings useless. At the moment the potentially fatal shot is fired, the action freezes, and the narrator asks dramatically if Batfink will survive. Then, the action continues with Batfink escaping, via a convenient but previously unseen Deus Ex Machina or through the use of his superpowers.
Hidden political message
According to Dave Mackey's Batfink site, a two-part political message is concealed 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.
- David Mackay published a filmography of Batfink in the Sept. 1993 issues of Farmes per Second magazine, and also provided a complete listing of episodes, plot summaries and air dates on his website As of June 2014, the website is down an only available via the Internet Archive.
- 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.
- Batfink - "Gypsy James" - 1967 - YouTube
- "Spin the Batfink" at Dave Mackey's site
- "Bride and Doom" at Dave Mackey's site
- Batfink: The Complete Series Archived 22 May 2007 at the Wayback Machine. at the Shout! Factory store