In Batman (1989), the Joker asked a very important question about the Dark Knight: “Where does he get those wonderful toys?”. It was a great question and one that many have asked over the years – especially those who are interested in the Caped Crusader’s vast arsenal of gadgets, gizmos, and weaponry.
So, where does he get those wonderful toys? Is it all thanks to the help of Bruce Wayne’s trusty butler and confidant Alfred Pennyworth, or is it due to someone else?
The truth? In Batman ’89, Batman’s gadgets were created by a number of talented craftspeople, all of whom were responsible for different elements of his arsenal.
In this post, I will take a look at the core gadgets that appear in Tim Burton’s Batman and tell you who was responsible for what. The gadgets discussed in this post include:
- The Batmobile
- The Batwing
- The Batsuit
- The Utility Belt
Who created the Batmobile?
The iconic Batmobile from Batman ’89 was based on a design by award-winning Batman Production Designer, Anton Furst. The car was built by Special Effects Supervisor, John Evans and a team of 12 technicians.
The Batmobile measured approximately 20ft in length and was 8ft wide. Initially sculpted in polystyrene to get the right shape, the finished car featured a black fibreglass outer shell, a set of 24inch wheels (drag race wheels imported from the US), and a rear afterburner that produced fire through a mix of paraffin and gas.
The Batmobile was designed to fit into the retro look and feel of the movie, while also standing out as something unique. Speaking about the look of the vehicle in the pages of Batman: The Official Book of the Movie (John Marriott, 1989), Production Designer, Anton Furst said: “I wanted the Batmobile to look timeless.”
The Batmobile took 12 weeks to construct (including ten days to paint) and was designed as an aid to Batman – a weapon that would allow him to fight urban crime. The vehicle included two concealed Browning machine guns, a side-loaded grappling hook and a Chevrolet Impala engine. The petrol cap was repurposed from an old London bus, the headlights were taken from a Honda Civic (and painted yellow), and the rear lights were sourced from Ferrari.
Speaking in a behind the scenes documentary about the Batmobile, Batman Director, Tim Burton said: “It was tough, but it was kind of perverse, and it had a weird quality to it that I can’t quite put my finger on.”
- Speed: 90mph in 5 seconds
- Power: Powered by a 24-volt system
Who created the Batwing?
The Batwing was designed by Production Designer Anton Furst to mirror the shape of Batman’s Bat-emblem. The vehicle was constructed by Visual Effects Supervisor, Derek Meddings.
While it might appear on screen to be a life-sized, fully-functional aircraft, in reality the Batwing that appeared in Batman was actually a miniature model, often operated on a gimbal. Only one section of the Batwing was built to scale, and this was for a scene in the film where the Batwing supposedly crashed on the steps of Gotham Cathedral.
As the Batwing was built as a 1/12th scale miniature, it required expert planning to ensure it looked good (and realistic) on screen. Detailed scenes were drawn by storyboard artist, Michael White, while Derek Meddings and his team constructed the models and miniature backdrops of Gotham for it all to appear real on camera.
When it came to filming the Batwing special motion-controlled cameras were employed, to ensure manoeuvrability. An overhead camera was also utilised to capture the action.
- Weapons: The Batwing included rockets, two gatling guns, a front-loaded cutting tool, and a targeting system.
Who created the Batsuit?
The Batsuit that appears in Batman ’89 was the creation of Costume Designer, Bob Ringwood, as well as Costume Effects Supervisor, Vin Burham and Sculptor, Alli Eynon. The suit was made from a mix of Lycra and foam rubber and while it looked good on screen, it wasn’t very practical in real life.
To create the correct shape and size of the Batsuit, the team used a life cast of actor Michael Keaton and shaped all of the elements and embellishments on top. Wherever Keaton’s joints would appear, the designers had to leave room for the actor to be able to move (i.e. bend his arms).
Lycra was used for the main under suit, while foam rubber was used to give the suit the impression of muscles. Foam rubber was also used for the cowl, which sat above the latex cape.
Different sized capes were created to ensure Batman could have the right cape for the right occasion (bigger wing span etc) – it all depended on what was needed. The cape was textured to give the impression of bat skin.
Batman’s boots were made by Nike. The boots were based on Nike cross trainers and were reportedly quite comfortable and supportive to wear.
A total of four prototype suits were constructed before the final design was perfected. While Keaton was in the suit, he had limited movements and he admitted to feeling very claustrophobic.
Speaking in an interview in 2014 (while promoting RoboCop) Batman actor, Michael Keaton said: “We didn’t know that the suit was even going to work, at all, until literally I think hours before we were about to start shooting.”
Who created Batman’s Utility Belt?
For Batman ’89, Batman’s yellow Utility Belt was designed and built by Special Effects Supervisor, John Evans and his team. In the movie, the Utility Belt could carry an array of gadgets, including the Batarang, the Speargun, the Gauntlet and the Ninja Wheel – all items that proved vital in Batman’s war against the Joker and his henchmen.
Could the belt really carry all of those gadgets? Well, utilising a little bit of movie magic it could at least appear that way.
If an item had to appear on Batman’s Utility Belt, a motorised chain within the belt would help move it into place. Likewise, if a gadget, such as the Gauntlet had to help Batman get from one location to the next, wire work was employed to get the character get from A to B.
All of the items were practical effects/props, but there was some movie trickery to help realise them on the big screen. However, they were designed to look as realistic as possible, to suggest that they could be real world tools.
What were all of Batman’s Batgadgets?
- The Speargun – This gadget was built as working, non-lethal hand gun which incorporated motors, that were two-inches in size.
- The Gauntlet – This was Batman’s 9-inch, wrist-mounted rope/winch device which included two steel rods, wheels and trailing wires. For the purpose of the movie the device was scaled down in size, because in reality it would have needed to be much larger to hold the character’s weight.
- The Ninja Wheels – The Ninja Wheels were in essence throwing stars. For the movie the Ninja Wheels were constructed in two different materials: Aluminium for close-up shots and fibreglass for non-close ups.
- The Batarang – The final weapon in Batman’s belt was the Batarang. Shaped like a bat, this was a foldable throwing device which Batman could employ at short range.
The Joker gun
In addition to Batman’s array of tools, many practical effects were used during the movie to ensure the Joker also had his own, more comical collection of weapons. These included an elongated gun, an ‘acid’ shooting orchid, and a boxing glove gun, amongst others.
All of these items were created by Special Effects Supervisor, John Evans and his team. They were designed to look a little rough around the edges and fit in with the personality of the Joker.
Tools of the trade
As Batman (1989) was filmed at Pinewood Studios in London, the team responsible for creating the Dark Knight’s vast array of vehicles and gadgets were all British craftspeople/artists. So, the next time the Joker poses the question, “Where does he get those wonderful toys?”, remember to shout very loudly back at the screen, “He got them in England!”