When a pair of "Tiny Toon Adventures" animators tried their hand at reinventing Batman for the small screen back in 1992, they created the definitive version of the Dark Knight for many a '90s kid. Led by Eric Radomski and Bruce Timm, "Batman: The Animated Series" was a big hit for Fox Kids for the three years of its airing. The show re-envisioned Batman for a new generation, picking up where Tim Burton left off with 1989's "Batman" and reintroducing the dark tone that had been so central to the character's inception.
With a Superman film in the works, Warner Bros. Animation president Jean MacCurdy asked Timm if he wanted to cartoons with the DC superhero (via Comicology). Timm and Alan Burnett ("Batman: Mask of the Phantasm") partnered up to work their magic with Superman. Once again, they reinvigorated the character, bringing a distinctive design language, nuanced characters, and mature storytelling to "Superman: The Animated Series." Running from 1996 to 2000, it was the second series in what would become the DC Animated Universe, more affectionately known as the 'Timmverse.'
While Timm has received his fair share of praise over the years, one particularly influential figure not mentioned as often as you might hope is voice director Andrea Romano. After starting her career at Hanna-Barbera in the '80s, she, too, had worked on "Tiny Toon Adventures" and followed Timm when he took on Gotham City, acting as voice director and influencing "Batman: TAS" in significant ways. The Hollywood Reporter has since called her "the show's secret weapon."
But it wasn't just the Caped Crusader that benefitted from Romano's expertise. She also followed along when it came time to give Superman the Timm treatment, and became perhaps even more invaluable there.
Camaraderie In The Studio
Andrea Romano has worked on an impressive array of animated shows, from "Ben 10" to "Animaniacs," and from "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" to "Spongebob Squarepants." But her work on Bruce Timm's animated shows is perhaps her most significant, if only for how much she helped shape the final products.
For the 25th anniversary of "Superman: The Animated Series," DC looked back on the show that reinvented the Man of Steel for the '90s, gathering voice actors Tim Daly (Superman), Dana Delany (Lois Lane), and Clancy Brown (Lex Luthor) to reflect on the show's impact. Alongside the cast, Romano was on-hand to provide her insights — she praised the voice actors for their willingness to "put themselves on the line the way they do for every audition," and recalled how she would tell the cast that she "would not let voices go out sounding bad. I wouldn't allow them to be embarrassed by the work we were doing."
Romano, who has voiced minor characters in various shows herself over the years, is clearly a champion of voice actors and has real respect for the work she oversees. That led to a supportive and fun recording environment, particularly on "Superman: TAS." As Romano recalled: "There was such comradery in the recording studio, that the reputation got out. Agents heard from their actors, who said, 'I heard that it's really fun to be on a Superman episode, would you please submit me?' It all worked out so very nicely that way. We ended up with a bunch of fabulous actors who had a good time, and that's always fun."
So crucial to the success of the show was Romano, that the voice actors "all agreed that [she] was the lynchpin that held everything together."
Looking Out For Her Cast
Andrea Romano influenced the show right from the audition stage. She suggested that Clancy Brown read for Lex Luthor after his attempt at Superman didn't match Bruce Timm's expectations. As she told DC: "Clancy Brown came in to audition for Superman. He opened his mouth and said three words, and I looked at Bruce Timm and said, 'We have to read him for Lex Luthor.' If we hired Clancy Brown for Superman, how would we ever cast Lex Luthor to be a tougher guy?"
That proved to be an insightful move on Romano's part, with Brown going on to embody the antagonist, prompting Tim Daly to comment that he "has got one of the most beautiful voices of any human."
Elsewhere, Romano made the cast feel comfortable by trying to shield them from some of the harsh realities of the voice-acting game. As Dana Delany recalled, Romano often "[muted] the mic so you [wouldn't] hear the producers saying anything mean." And even back in the "Batman: The Animated Series" days, she looked out for talent. Legendary Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy — he brought Romano to tears with his performance at one point — told The Hollywood Reporter:
"I remember one day we had an actor who kept giving the same line reading no matter what direction Andrea gave him. She tried several different prompts and he just couldn't do it. Finally she said, 'Perfect, let's keep going.' At the end of the session […] Andrea asks, 'Is your afternoon free?' I told her that it was and she said, 'Ok good, there's another actor coming in to re-record the guy's part.' Andrea didn't want to embarrass him in front of everyone in the recording session. It was really professional."
A Lasting Legacy
Over her prolific career, Andrea Romano has received her share of accolades, including eight Emmy Awards, and a Peabody Award. Now retired, she remains a big name in the industry and leaves an enviable legacy as not just a highly professional voice director, but someone who tried to influence her shows for the better.
Aside from providing her casting expertise and safeguarding her actors, Romano tried to push the shows she worked on in progressive directions — especially with "Superman: The Animated Series". Dana Delany referred to Romano as "a ball of fire" and added, "You have to keep up with her because she goes fast. Her energy is boundless." That fiery attitude came in handy when Romano wanted to go beyond directing voice talent and shape her shows in other meaningful ways. As she told The Beat:
"I wanted to make a show both for the 'Batman' series and 'Superman' series that would appeal to women as well. So there was a feminine viewpoint that wasn't disregarded. Lois [Lane] was a great vehicle to do that. She was smart and successful and she didn't put up with male garbage."
It's the attention to these kinds of aspects that have helped "Superman: TAS" and the other DC Animated Universe shows enjoy a lasting appeal decades after they first aired. With James Gunn looking to shake up the DC Universe by using the same actors for animation as he does for live-action — an approach some have criticized as unrealistic — he would do well to listen to the likes of Romano.
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