In 1997, Batman & Robin arrived in cinemas and was met with a largely negative reaction from audiences. As such, the Batman movie franchise, which included Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992) and Batman Forever (1995), entered into a period of development hell, as Warner Bros. Pictures debated how to move forward with the series.
Ultimately, the studio would take the Batman films in a new direction, beginning with 2005’s Batman Begins. However, before abandoning the previous era of Bat-films, Warner Bros. and DC Comics allowed for a mini revival of the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher movies – in the shape of six television commercials.
Do you remember them? Are you aware of the Onstar Batman commercials?
The Onstar Batman commercials
The commercials were used to promote General Motors’ subscription-based system, Onstar. Across the course of six advertisements – which aired between 2000 and 2002 – the Caped Crusader utilised OnStar technology (accessible from the Batmobile) to aid his war on crime.
Borrowing various elements from the Burton/Schumacher films, the commercials provided short, sharp bursts of the movie universe, with each TV spot lasting between 30 seconds and one minute. The spots were fun for fans of the series, but for General Motors, they were hugely successful in helping the company promote its service.
The six Onstar commercials
The first commercial was called Batcave and featured an interaction between Batman and Alfred Pennyworth. The story took place in the Batcave, with actor Michael Gough – the actor who played Alfred in four live-action movies – reprising the role of Bruce Wayne’s trusty butler.
The second commercial was Joker Face. In this advert Batman, was in hot pursuit of the Joker.
The third commercial, Minor Setbacks, saw Batman seek some assistance from Onstar, while he was out in the Batmobile. The fourth commercial, Batmobile, involved Batman making a call to Commissioner Gordon, using Onstar tech.
In the fifth commercial, Hot Date, Batman was involved in an altercation with the Penguin. The final commercial, Riddle Me This, involved the Riddler.
The cast of the Batman Onstar commercials
Bruce Thomas took on the role of the Caped Crusader for all six commercials. Michael Gough reprised the role of Alfred for one commercial, while Curtis Armstrong appeared as the Joker, Brooke Burns played Vicki Vale, and Brian Stepanek played Riddler.
The Burton/Schumacher aesthetic
Created by ad-agency, Campbell-Edward, the commercials took huge inspiration from the Tim Burton/Joel Schumacher Batman movies, in both the look and feel. From lighting to camera angles and even the Bat-suit, this was clearly the Burton/Schumacher universe.
To really help tie the series together, the Batmobile that appeared in the commercials was the Burton-era vehicle, while the music was the Danny Elfman theme. The commercials also used some footage from Batman Forever.
Vincent Ward directed two of the Onstar Batman commercials (Hot Date and Riddle Me This), while Andrew Davis directed the remaining four (Batcave, Joker Face, Minor Setbacks and Batmobile).
As mentioned earlier, the Onstar commercials were very successful, and helped to effortlessly convey the two brands (Onstar and Batman) to consumers. They provided a nice little callback to the Batman Anthology and demonstrated just how popular the Batman movie were with audiences.