DC Animated Universe
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"Critters" is the second episode of the second season of The New Batman Adventures.

Plot[]

Critters Sheep

Farmer Brown shows off his latest and greatest invention.

Crowds are filing into The Gotham City Agricultural ExpoOut in a convention hall, microbiologist Farmer Brown proudly displays the results of his research: a giant sheep. He believes that having giant animals will help to end world hunger. However, the sheep becomes irritated by the flashing cameras and escapes the cage. The animal then goes on a short rampage in the hall, only to be stopped when Bruce throws a curtain over it, causing it to blindly rush forward and stun itself by bashing into the wall. Farmer Brown then gives the sheep a sedative and the incident is over for the time being. Commissioner Gordon complements Bruce on his quick thinking and Bruce fibs that he was actually trying to escape through the window. As Farmer Brown and his daughter look on worriedly, the press begins snapping photos of the sedated sheep.

Later, Farmer Brown is summoned to court over the incident and is ordered to remove all giant animals from Gotham and his experiments are terminated. Farmer Brown pleads with the judge, claiming to stop his experiments will ruin him, but the judge has no sympathy and called them monsters. Farmer Brown is outraged and decides to show them some real monsters...

A year passes and Bruce is on a date that isn't going so well. An elderly woman at the next table suddenly screams that there's a bug and points to a giant praying mantis. Several more arrive and start attacking the cafe. Bruce attempts to smack one with a chair while his date runs away. After the bug dismantles the chair, Bruce slips away. At this point, the bugs move on to the rest of the street. The police arrive and start shooting at the bugs, but their exoskeletons are too hard for bullets to penetrate. Batman arrives and tries using pesticides on the bugs, but they have no effect. The bugs corner him, but they suddenly fall apart and the incident is ended.

Batman takes a head from a mantis and analyzes it. He discovers that the bugs were genetically altered to be immune to poison and that they fell apart because they were meant to self-destruct after a certain point of time. He explains to Batgirl and Robin that it was all a preview for worse things to come.

Back at Farmer Brown's farm, his daughter Emmylou is told to "prepare the livestock to go to market."

Critters Cows

Giant cows made by Farmer Brown stampede on Gotham.

A giant cow and bull are unleashed on Gotham and are soon met by Batgirl & Robin. Giant chickens are also unleashed into the skies of Gotham and attack a police blimp. Batman arrives wearing his jet wings and confronts the chickens. The police are fortunate enough to land on a building roof, and the chickens take off after Batman.

Meanwhile, Batgirl & Robin deal with the giant bovines. Batgirl manages to stop the cow by hurling bolas onto her hind legs and getting her caught in wet cement. The bull attacks a china shop and Robin provokes it by waving his cape like a bullfighter. The bull charges after him and crashes into a building. Batgirl then drives a cement truck in behind it, trapping the bull.

While this goes on, Batman continues to flee the giant chickens and catches two of them in nets. However, the third chicken manages to evade the nets and chases after him. This one is caught when it crashes into a vat of hot barbeque sauce and is burned.

Back at the Police Station, Batman talks to Commissioner Gordon about the incidents. Just then, a genetically engineered goat arrives and demands fifty million dollars in cash without any intervention.

Bullock is led to the docks by the goat and delivers the money, but then the goat headbutts him off the side of the boat. He grabs a rope hanging off the side of the boat and manages to make it to Farmer Brown's island hideout, but is caught and thrown to a mutant pig. Farmer Brown checks the money and discovers that it's just a bunch of green papers with a single bill of real money on top. He also discovers a bat tracer on the money and realizes that Batman is coming.

Batgirl & Robin arrive just in time to knock out the pig with tranquilizer darts and save Bullock. Emmylou confronts Batgirl and proves to have super strength provided by beef steroids. She easily manages to stop both Batgirl and Robin. Meanwhile, Batman fights Farmer Brown who is using an electrified pitchfork. Batman seems to have the upper hand but surrenders when he sees Robin being threatened.

Critters Mantis

Batman, Batgirl, Robin, and Harvey Bullock face a giant mantis.

Farmer Brown locks the heroes up in the silo, which is actually a rocket carrying unhatched giant mantises, which will wreak havoc on Gotham without self-destructing as the first ones did. The silo is launched toward Gotham while Farmer Brown & Emmylou head for an escape boat. A mantis hatches and attacks the group, but it focuses on Batman, who tricks it into breaking the door open. Everyone escapes the silo and Batman drives an armored truck into the silo, causing the truck to explode. The silo/rocket launches with the burning truck but then explodes in midair, destroying the bugs and foiling Farmer Brown's plans. The debris from the rocket land on Farmer Brown's boat and the two are left in the water. They are arrested shortly afterward. However, the sound of a rooster crowing from their island hideout indicates that some of their mutant creations may still be alive.

Background information[]

Home video releases[]

Production notes[]

  • Both Bruce Timm and Paul Dini questioned the idea of the story that was pitched and outlined by Steve Gerber, though Alan Burnett convinced them it would work.[1][2]
  • When describing how he landed the job to write this script, Joe R. Lansdale explained "The guy that invented Howard the Duck came up with the idea, and I guess he had sketched it out, and for whatever reason, he didn't write the script. I don't know why. But they thought 'who else is as crazy as this guy?' and so they got me."[3]
  • Dan Riba received the script while working on The Ultimate Thrill, which led to him directing Darwyn Cooke to add a Farmer Brown truck to that episode.[1][4]
  • The critters, as well as Emmylou Brown, were designed by Keo Thongkham. "Keo came by, showing us his portfolio, and it had some of the weirdest designs in it that I had ever seen in an animation portfolio, and we didn't really think we could use them on the show. We didn't think his style would really work for what we were doing on the show, but we remembered Keo, and I said 'Hey, why don't we get that Keo guy to come in and design the monsters for us?' And so, that's what we did. We hired Keo on a freelance basis to design all the rest of the critters. [...] It was like Jack Kirby on acid."[1] The final designs for the Mantis Critters were drawn by Tommy Tejeda.[5]
  • The suggestion to make the chickens pterodactyl-like has been credited to Alan Burnett.[1]
  • The episode's second act was storyboarded by James Tucker. His original boards were going to have the missiles of Batman's catching net impale their wings to pin them to the bridge. "Even though their hideous horrific monsters, BS&P doesn't like us to hurt the critters too much," noted Timm.[1]
  • In Joe Lansdale's script, the giant chickens would have bit into giant vats of frying oil rather than barbecue sauce, ultimately frying the chicken. James Tucker boarded the sequence, but it was ultimately changed.[1]
  • Act III was storyboarded by Darwyn Cooke.[1]
  • Joe R. Lansdale has stated multiple inspirations for this episode, including:
    • H.G. Wells The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth: "Conceptually it's about how to produce more food, make it larger... which, we do... We do that. And this was just an extrapolation in Critters."[3]
    • The Deadly Mantis (1957) and Reptilicus (1961): "I grew up on all those old horror films, like The Deadly Mantis. It was about a giant mantis tearing down toy trucks. Reptilicus, and all that stuff."
    • His own personal experience as a farmer helped shape the script as well.[3]
  • When Farmer Brown's missile blows up, the resulting explosion is reused footage from the scene of the Superman: The Animated Series episode "World's Finest, Part III" in which two Wayne/Lex T-7 droids blow up after Batman electrocutes them.

Production gallery[]

Production inconsistencies[]

  • One of the bugs slashes its arms at Batman but ends up hitting the truck of Pest Away. In the next shot, the now ripped-off arms are no longer visible.
  • In one scene Batgirl is shown binding the hind legs of a giant cow using bolas. However, in the next scene, both the cow's front and hind legs are shown to be bound.

Trivia[]

  • Bruce Timm remarked in the audio commentary for the episode, that from only a select few chosen episodes to do a commentary on, this was one of the ones chosen, because the creative team liked the episode and wanted to stick up for it, as it was very unpopular with fans.[6] "We actually like this episode, but the fans hate it."[1]
  • Joe R. Lansdale said that this episode was meant to serve as commentary on the notion that "bigger is better".[3]
  • Bruce Timm commented that the story of this episode is something out of the 1960's Adam West Batman show, except it's all played straight.
  • Peter Breck was home in Canada when the episode was being produced, but his flight to the States to record ADR was canceled due to the 1997 Canadian airline strike, leading him to drive from Vancouver to Los Angeles. "He had literally driven straight through without sleeping" recalled Bruce Timm. "So I appreciated his attention to duty, and when we found out what he had done we said 'well, you know, Peter, we're not letting you turn around to drive back to Vancouver. We're gonna put you up in a hotel for the night.'"[1]
  • Dina Sherman mentioned she recorded her lines as Emmylou Brown separately from the rest of the cast.[4]
  • James Tucker has stated that this episode and The Ultimate Thrill were his favorite episodes to storyboard for,[7]and credits the episode with helping to inform the tone of Batman: The Brave and the Bold.[8]
  • Bruce Timm mentioned that Emmylou was injected with growth hormones by her father.[1]
  • According to Timm, the goat in this episode wasn't an intelligent creature, but simply programmed to deliver the one message.[1]
  • In the commentary, Timm joked about how Farmer Brown should have been part of Project Cadmus.[1]
  • This episode was referenced multiple times in Batman: The Adventures Continue tie-in comic, with Farmer Brown's van and a Giant Praying Mantis seen in issue #2/Digital Chapter #3 & #4, "Mentors" Part 1".
  • The Mantis designs from this episode were re-used in Capstone Publishing's "Green Lantern: The Last Superhero" as an alien member of the Green Lantern Corps.
  • This is one of the few episodes in which Batman is shown willing to kill, albeit with insects.
  • During the rampage of Farmer Brown's animals in Gotham, the bull that Batgirl & Robin were fighting crashes into a China shop and wrecks it. This is a sight gag of the common idiom "a bull in a China shop".
  • Robin calls the same bull "Ferdinand." This, and the bull's design are references to Ferdinand the Bull from the children's story, "The Story of Ferdinand".
  • Harvey Bullock derisively refers to Farmer Brown as Snuffy Smith and Jed Clampett, and to Emmylou as Daisy Mae, in reference to the comic Li'l Abner.

Cast[]

Actor Role
Kevin Conroy Batman/Bruce Wayne
Mathew Valencia Robin/Tim Drake
Tara Charendoff Batgirl/Barbara Gordon
Peter Breck Farmer Brown
Dina Sherman Emmylou Brown
Robert Costanzo Harvey Bullock
Bob Hastings Commissioner Gordon
Jane Singer Old Woman
Dorian Harewood Judge
Phil Hayes Sergeant

Uncredited appearances[]

Quotes[]

Robin: (seeing giant cows) Holy Cow!
Batgirl: You had to say it.

Robin: That's a lot of bull.

Robotic Goat: (making the ransom demand) No tricks, no surprises, no Baaaaaaaatman.

Farmer Brown: Check your shoes for what the cow left and check your money. Two solid rules.

Batgirl: Now that's purty.

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 "Critters" Commentary by Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Dan Riba, Glen Murakami, and James Tucker - Batman: The Animated Series, Volume Four: Disc Three
  2. Batman: The Animated Podcast Episode 11. Baby-Doll - Paul Dini, Mark Rennie, Kirby Howell-Baptiste
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Batman: The Animated Podcast Episode 28. Critters - Joe R. Lansdale, Phillip Mottaz
  4. 4.0 4.1 "We Interviewed Farmer Brown's Daughter from CRITTERS (Batman: The Animated Series) - Dina Sherman!" - Watchtower Database (Jan. 31, 2021)
  5. "Critters" - Vibrational Frequencies: The Art of Tommy Tejeda (Oct. 04, 2010)
  6. B.T. post in "The Official DC Animated Universe DVD Talkback, Part 8" on ToonZone forums (Aug 26. 200)
  7. "This one and Ultimate Thrill are my favorites of the ones I storyboarded on." by @JTuckerAnimator on Twitter (Sep. 19, 2022)
  8. "I remember not “getting” that script at first but once I wrapped my head around the deadpanned weirdness of it, it was a lot of fun. The pre-social media fandom at that time HATED it. It’s tone informed a lot of BTBATB too." by @JTuckerAnimator on Twitter (Dec. 4, 2018)
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