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Welcome to the five hundred and sixty-eigth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the first five hundred (I actually haven’t been able to update it in a while). This week, in honor of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, here are three legends involving Batman and Superman films! Did Happy Meals really lead to Tim Burton not returning for a third Batman film? Was Jor-El nearly a bagel in the first Superman film? And how did the Daily Planet help put out an issue of the Daily News?
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC LEGEND: Tim Burton wasn’t brought back for a third Batman movie in part due to dissatisfaction over Happy Meals for Batman Returns
STATUS: True Enough for a True
COMIC LEGEND: McDonald’s canceled their Batman Returns Happy Meals promotion due to backlash over the toys.
Whether you agree with the end results or not, I think it is fair enough to concede that the Happy Meals tie-in with Batman Returns was botched from the start. At the same time that Tim Burton was fighting with the MPAA to get Batman Returns down from an R to a PG-13, McDonald’s was rolling out commercials for Happy Meals featuring toys based on the upcoming film.
McDonald’s actually had to put the toys together without ever having seen even a SCREENING of the film! Hence the toys not really matching the film much, except that they featured Catwoman and Penguin…
So when the film came out and it was fairly dark and violent, people freaked out, as they are wont to do.
Entertainment Weekly covered the story back in 1992, showing the reactions of both McDonalds and Warner Bros.:
McDonald’s, stung by the criticism, is trying to downplay the connection between Batman Returns and the Happy Meal promotion, set to end this week. Says McDonald’s spokeswoman Rebecca Caruso, ”The objective of the (Happy Meal) program was to allow young people to experience the fun of Batman the character. It was not designed to promote attendance at the movie. It was certainly not our intent to confuse parents or disappoint children.”
Warner Bros. also claims that the Happy Meal promotion isn’t tied to the movie but to the 53-year-old Batman character. ”We were careful not to provide actual toys from the movie,” says a Warner spokeswoman. She insists that Batman Returns is rated responsibly in comparison with other PG movies, like Hook and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which also were considered not suitable for young children. ”Clearly Batman is not meant for 5-year-olds. As for whether it’s appropriate to Happy Meals, that’s up to McDonald’s. We don’t tell them their business.”
That’s the thing about the promotion – contrary to legend, it wasn’t canceled, McDonald’s just downplayed it until it ended on its own. It’s not like they recalled these toys. They lasted until September 1992.
However, the public relations damage HAD been done, and Tim Burton himself noted that one of the reasons Warner Bros. was not interested in bringing him back for a third Batman film was because his film was TOO dark and that alienated their licensing agreements.
“I think I upset McDonalds. [They asked] ‘What’s that black stuff coming out of the Penguin’s mouth. We can’t sell Happy Meals with that!’ It was a weird reaction to Batman Returns, because half the people thought it was lighter than the first one and half the people thought it was darker. I think the studio just thought it was too weird — they wanted to go with something more child- or family- friendly. In other words, they didn’t want me to do another one
That was basically the rub. They felt it was too dark to market.
Burton also has a funny story in the documentary Shadows of the Bat that aired with the Batman DVD anthology about coming in to a meeting with Warners when he thought he was still returning…
“I remember toying with the idea of doing another one. And I remember going into Warner Bros. and having a meeting. And I’m going, ‘I could do this or we could do that.’ And they go like, ‘Tim, don’t you want to do a smaller movie now? Just something that’s more [you]?’ About half an hour into the meeting, I go, ‘You don’t want me to make another one, do you?’ And they go, ‘Oh, no, no, no, no, no!’ And I just said, ‘No, I know you!’ So, we just stopped it right there.”
Thanks to Jordan Zakarin and Tim Burton for the Yahoo! quotes. Thanks to Shadows of the Bat and Tim Burton for the other quote. Thanks to Pat H. Broeske and Anne Thompson and Entertainment Weekly for the great information.
Check out some Superman and Batman entertainment legends from Legends Revealed:
Did Steven Spielberg Want to Direct the First Superman Movie as a Musical?
On the next page, did Marlon Brando really want to play Jor-El as a bagel?
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