DC Animated Universe

"The Dark Knight's First Night" is the name given to the short two-minute pilot used by Bruce Timm & Eric Radomski to show Fox executives what they were planning to do with Batman: The Animated Series.


The Dark Knight's First Night Batman

A mysterious figure resembling a bat captures a criminal, then watches the other two draw their guns.

Blocks away from the Gotham City docks, two men in fedoras and trench coats stand atop a skyscraper roof. One is smoking a cigarette while the other holds a door open for his accomplice, struggling to carry a load of boxes. In his struggle, the man trips, spilling the box and revealing its contents as jewels fall to the ground below. all the jewels out of the box. The man who was holding the door rushes to help his partner return the valuables to their container, but as they're picking up the jewels, a shadow of a bat soars overhead. Terrified, they both draw pistols from their jackets.

As they watch the skies, Batman approaches their smoking accomplice from behind, taps him on the shoulder, and throws a punch to the face as soon as the man turns in surprise, knocking him out. Hearing the commotion, the remaining two thieves turn to find the masked vigilante over their comrade's unconscious body. As Batman rises, the crooks begin to fire at him, but he nimbly dodges each bullet. Finding a pause in the fire, Batman leaps towards his assailants, knocking them to the ground. The man who was holding the door earlier grabs recovers a pistol from the floor, but is disarmed once again when Batman targets his hand with a batarang.

The Dark Knight's First Night Commissioner Gordon and the cops

Commissioner Gordon and his officers arrive at the crime scene to find a mysterious figure resembling a bat.

Rising back to his feet, the criminal is approached by the caped crusader. He strikes the hero twice, and a knock-down-drag-out fist fight ensues on the edge of the building, the two's shadows cast against the wall. After a rapid succession of a punch to the gut, a strong right hook, and a finishing uppercut, the criminal is finally out for the count.

Just as Batman finishes his adversary, the door is kicked back open, with three police barreling out the door with guns in hand. They're quickly followed by Commissioner James Gordon. Turning to surveil the area, the group spots Batman on the ledge of the building, and watch as he leaps down. Approaching the ledge, Gordon sees the vigilante swing through Gotham and into the night.

Background information[]

Production notes[]

The Dark Knight's First Night storyboards

Storyboards by Bruce Timm.

  • The Dark Knight's First Night came together in 1990 when Jean MacCurdy announced to the studio that Tiny Toons.[1] "After that meeting I went back to my desk, and I had Tiny Toons work I was supposed to do, and I just shoved it in a corner and I just started drawing Batman" recalled Bruce Timm. Bruce showed MacCurdy his drawings, and "a month or two" later was called into her office to be meet Eric Radomski who had independently submitted background art.[2]
Jim Gordon (TDKFK)

James Gordon character model by Bruce Timm.

  • Bruce Timm looked to the Fleisher Superman program for inspiration, as well as 30s and 40s pulp magazines, which he blew up and xeroxed covers from and pinned to his office walls.[2]
  • Timm came up with the scenario for the promo.[2] All the character designs were also drawn by him. Eric Radomski drew all the backgrounds.[3]
  • This short was when Timm and Radomski came up with the idea of doing the backgrounds on black paper.[3]
  • The two-minute promo was animated by Lightbox Animation in about a month-and-a-half.[3]
  • Despite the fact the pilot was created to ease Warner Bros. hesitancy to green light the show, the series ended up selling before the animation was completed.[2] However, corporate liked the promo so much that Jean MacCurdy approached the two inexperienced animators and asked, "Well, I know you guys never produced a series before, but how would you like to produce a series?" to which they responded "If you want to let us do the series this way, like in the promo, and the way we want to do it, then sure, we'll do it. But if you want us to make it a carbon copy of the movie, we don't want to do it."[3]
  • The original audio track for the short was lost, and replaced with the show's main theme when it was officially released.[2]

Uncredited appearances[]


  1. "Knight Vision: That Master of Dark Deco, Eric Radomski, Looks Behind the Mask of the Animated Batman" by Bob Miller - Comics Scene #43 (June 1993)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Batman: The Animated Series, Volume One: Disc One - "The Dark Knight's First Night"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Cartoon Noir" by Bob Miller - Comics Scene Magazine #32 (April 1993)