Prime Video will release the new animated film Merry Little Batman this Friday, and producer Warner Bros. Animation has given Cartoon Brew a behind-the-scenes look at the design work that went into creating a whole new aesthetic for the holiday special.
Merry Little Batman turns on a young Damian Wayne, who finds himself alone in Wayne Manor on Christmas Eve. Rather than relaxing with a hot coco and fresh-baked cookies, the boy is obliged to transform into “Little Batman” to defend his home and Gotham City from crooks and supervillains intent on destroying the holidays.
The film is directed by Mike Roth (Regular Show) from a screenplay by Morgan Evans (Teen Titans Go!) and Jase Ricci (Batman: The Doom That Came to Gotham). It’s one of three Batman titles heading to Prime Video, alongside Bat-Family and Batman: Caped Crusader.
Ahead of the Merry Little Batman release, we asked the film’s art director Guillaume Fesquet and character designer Ben Tong to talk us through the inspirations and character design process that went into their Batman adventure.
Regarding the overall aesthetic of the film, Fesquet and Tong explained:
Guillaume Fesquet: Taking inspiration from Ronald Searle’s artistic style, our aim was to produce a Batman film that possesses a distinct aesthetic while paying homage to Searle’s universe. Visually driven by a very illustrative and “sketch”-like approach for the overall look and feel, we wanted to keep this naive illustration of the Batman world that reflects the main character’s identity, Batman’s 8-year-old kid named Damian.
Here’s what the duo had to say about designing some of the main characters in this unique adaptation of the Batman universe.
Fesquet: We reimagined Damian, Batman’s child, in a lighter and more endearing version for a Christmas-themed movie. He retains his edge and desire to fight crime while being an adorable 8-year-old. Through his perspective, viewers experience his journey as a small young hero in a big world of villains. The character design draws inspiration from Bill Watterson’s innocent and playful style seen in Calvin & Hobbes.
Fesquet: Bruce, our beloved Batman, is almost retired, but not quite! He still retains his superhero instincts while being a dad now and having a much bigger responsibility: being present for his son and being his protector. While we wanted to inject some humor into his character, we also made sure to keep his charisma intact, which was a challenge to translate design-wise.
Ben Tong: What a fun character to design! Our director, Mike [Roth], really pushed me on this one. We wanted to create a very playful design; we took a lot of liberty with it. I think he’s a great example of how far we wanted to take the silliness of the movie. His shapes translate an older age, a much slower character in comparison to Damian’s.
Tong: I felt incredibly privileged to have the opportunity to put my own spin on such a vibrant and captivating character! When designing the Joker, I drew inspiration from Christophe Blain’s work. Blain is a talented French comic book artist known for his distinctive style featuring characters with simple yet visually compelling personalities. I also wanted to give him a primal, animal-like appearance, exaggerating his expressions to make him appear extra-dramatic.
Merry Little Batman concept art by Guillaume Fesquet.