"Animated Robin, Part 1 (of 2)" Author: Ricky Chruch (Follow RICHARDCHURCH16)
Date: July 1, 2015
Not only is Robin the oldest sidekick in the comic book industry, heís also the most recognizable to the mainstream audience. People who have only seen the various Batman films or television shows instantly know who he is and his importance to Batmanís world. While he hasnít appeared much in live action, Robin has appeared in nearly every animated version of Batman throughout their history. To help celebrate Robinís 75th anniversary, hereís a look at Robinís animated history and the voice actors who played him.
THE ADVENTURES OF BATMAN (1968 Ė 1969)
Robinís first appearance in animation was in the Filmation series The Adventures of Batman (originally part of the BATMAN/SUPERMAN HOUR) voiced by the late Casey Kasem. In this series, much like the comics and 1966 Batman television series, he and Batman were the Dynamic Duo and fought crime together using their stunning wits and gadgetry. The show was eventually rebranded Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder.
Casey Kasem was a famous radio host, actor and voice actor throughout his career. He would voice Robin again in Super Friends, provide several voices for Transformers and, most significantly, voiced Shaggy in various Scooby-Doo shows and films all the way up to 2009. He also co-founded the American Top 40 radio program, hosting it throughout the 70s and 80s before becoming the host of Caseyís Top 40. He was even inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, Casey Kasem passed away in 2014 after a long struggle with Lewy Body Dementia, leaving behind four children and a long legacy in the entertainment industry.
THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BATMAN (1977)
Filmation made another Batman cartoon where Adam West and Burt Ward actually reprised their respective roles as Batman and Robin. Despite being returned to his darker roots from the original comics, Batman was still shown as the campy hero from the í66 series complete with Robinís famous catchphrases.
Thereís nothing that can be said about Burt Ward that hasnít already been said. Heís arguably the most famous actor to have played Robin in live action and has been associated with the role for over 50 years now and has nothing but love for the fan community. Outside of acting, he and his wife run a charity that rescues giant-breed dogs.
"The DC Animated Universe" (1992-2006)
Starting with Batman: The Animated Series, Robin was no longer considered the campy sidekick to Batman and was treated as a real character. Robinís relationship with Batman was shown to be a rocky one as Dick Grayson transitioned from his teenage years to adulthood, sometimes being resentful of the control Batman had over him. For the first time outside the comics, Robinís origin was shown during the two-part episode ďRobinís Reckoning,Ē a story which was responsible for Batman: TAS wining an Emmy Award. Dick Grayson discovered the man who killed his parents had returned to Gotham City and was hell bent on getting him even as Batman tried forcing him out of the case. Despite this tense relationship, Batman and Robin cared for one another and were shown to have a good friendship outside the angst.
Eventually, Dick Grayson had enough and left Gotham to become his own hero, Nightwing after a rift between him and Batman. In The New Batman Adventures, Batman met Tim Drake, a streetwise kid who was needed his life turned around fast. In this show, Tim was a combination of his comic book self and Jason Todd, the second Robin who had a tough upbringing as a child. After taking him under his wing, Tim became the next Robin and often worked with Nightwing and Batgirl alongside Batman.
Neither Nightwing nor Robin appeared in Justice League or Justice League Unlimited, but Tim Drake did have a prominent role in Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker. Set 40 years in the future, the villainous clown somehow returned, not a day older, to Gotham City, plaguing Terry McGinniss, the new Batman as he continued his training under an elderly Bruce Wayne. Bruce and Terry had to uncover how Joker came back, digging up a terrible secret from Batman and Jokerís last encounter, one which Robin was at the heart of. Loren Lester portrayed Dick Grayson and Mathew Valencia voiced Tim Drake while Dean Stockwell voiced an older Tim in Return of The Joker.
TEEN TITANS (2003-2006)
The Teen Titans were a group of young heroes who fought crime without the help of their older counterparts. Robin had a prominent role in this series and was considered team leader by the other heroes. One notable factor about this show is Batman never once appeared, though he was indirectly referenced multiple times. Robin also had romantic feelings for Starfire, one of the female heroes on the team. Starfire shared his feelings, but neither one acted on it due to nervousness and Robinís belief that the mission should come first. This changed in the direct-to-DVD film Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo.
An interesting factor throughout this show is it never identified exactly which Robin it was under the mask. The audience was left completely in the dark about whether or not it was Dick Grayson or Tim Drake that acted as the Boy Wonder. Jason Todd is even referenced at one point, meaning it would have to be Tim under the mask, but various clues throughout the series point to Dick Grayson being Robin. In this series Scott Menville voiced him.
THE BATMAN (2004-2008)
Dick Grayson was introduced midway through The Batman, a show which focused on Batmanís formative years as a rookie. Much like Batman: TASís ďRobinís Reckoning,Ē his introductory episode looked at his origin and how he met Batman (Kevin Conroy guest starred as Robinís father and Mark Hamill as Tony Zucco, the man who killed the Graysons). Seeing shades of his younger self in Dick, Bruce took him in and eventually began training him as Robin, helping him catch Zucco to avenge his parentís murder.
In an odd note, Robin was introduced after Batgirl began a partnership with Batman. This resulted in a bit of a rivalry between the two sidekicks as Batgirl feared Batman was replacing her. The two of them ended up bonding and having a sibling-like relationship though, often teasing the other over small things. In an episode set in the future, Dick transitioned from his Robin persona to Nightwing. He was voiced by Evan Sabara.
BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD (2008-2011)
In this return to the joyful, campy sense of the í66 series, Batman and Robin had a falling out due to Batmanís over-protected nature and constantly treating him as just a sidekick. Robin moved to Bludhaven, the city he protects as Nightwing, though interestingly kept going under the Robin guise. Eventually Batman and Robin re-formed their bond as Batman finally saw Dick as a capable crime fighter in his own right. Eventually, he did leave the role of Robin behind and embraced his new alter-ego Nightwing.
Multiple versions of Robin appeared throughout Brave and the Bold. In one episode, Dick had taken over as Batman with Damian Wayne acting as Robin, only for Damian to replace Dick when he retired and passing off the role of Robin to his own son, creating a dynasty of Batmen and Robins. Crawford Wilson provided the voice of Dick Grayson while Patrick Cavanaugh voiced Damian.