I love it when a Batman-centric project arrives animated and has a stylized design. Such is the case with Warner Bros. Animation’s family holiday movie Merry Little Batman, which takes the Caped Crusader and his son Damian Wayne and gives them an illustrative, Ron Searle-inspired coat of paint.
As if Prime Video hasn’t cornered the market enough regarding stellar superhero content, their acquisition of Merry Little Batman, along with a ton of other Batman-related projects, including the Bruce Timm/Matt Reeves/J.J. Abrams animated series Batman: Caped Crusader, from Warner Bros. Discovery, adds just a bit of power to the streamer’s greatness. One Zaslav’s trash is another studio’s treasure. The funniest part is that this is the best DC movie Warner Bros. didn’t even distribute this year. Ain’t that a killer joke?
Twas the night before Christmas, and all through Wayne Manor, precocious eight-year-old Damian Wayne (Yonas Kibreab) wants to fight crime under the Batman banner. To his disappointment, his dad, Bruce/Batman (Luke Wilson), put the child safety lock on all of Gotham, forcing ALL villains into retirement or prison before he was born (Told in a series of hilarious gags where iconic Gotham settings become safety zones for the better). Barely doing bat work, Bruce spends less time in his cowl and hovers like a copter over his son. Understandably so because the vigilante king of childhood trauma makes sure his son doesn’t undergo the same problems he did. That mindset becomes exemplified by the Christmas present Bruce gives Damian: a utility belt full of safety equipment. Baby Wayne prefers gadgets under that belt, but Bruce is scared he’d get boo-boos. Shortly after, Bruce gets called to go on a solo Justice League mission and hands Damian and the utility belt to Alfred (James Cromwell) to watch, even though he wants to join his dad on the mission.
Using his childlike ways of persuasion, Crocodile tears, Damian sends Alfred on a wild marshmallow goose chase. With Damian alone in the house, his belt eventually gets stolen by robbers who work for no other than The Joker (David Hornsby). Since no adults are around, Damian suits up and takes matters into his own hands, “Kevin MaCaped Crusader” styled, dishing a serving of yuletide cheer…AND JUSTICE!
Merry Little Batman is like a Little Golden Book coming to life. Stylistically and tonally, it bears an adorable, light-hearted touch with an illustrative storybook art style that pops with each frame. The animation quality is highly cinematic, as it carries thick line weight in character outlines and background design details. Every action sequence has stunning hand-drawn animated fluidity with quick dynamic movement.
If a Batman multiverse existed where Gotham was interpreted by every cartoonist who once drew for the New Yorker, this would be it, and it’s stunning. With Regular Show alum Mike Roth spearheading the project, he and his team passionately provide an action-packed but sincerely sweet Dark Knight universe they can proudly call theirs. Part of Merry Little Batman‘s fun is seeing how a Batman Rogues Gallery villain specifically looks in this designated world for each familiar character’s uniquely shaped design and build. Young Damian has a UPA flair to his design, Bruce is straight up a Brawny man towel mascot in a bat costume, continuing the top-heavy hunky dad trend right next to every dad from any given Lord/Miller project, and Alfred is like if John Callahan designed an old Igor.
As if it wasn’t enough, the movie bleeds with exuberant expression from its continuous line boil technique on each character’s outlines to every character’s features, from flesh to wardrobe, bearing a watercolor texture. While watching this on my 50-inch television, my mouth was watering from wanting to see this in a theater.
Merry Little Batman also benefits from ace voice casting across the board. Yonas Kibreab–about to be in Pixar’s recently moved to 2025 flick Elio–makes for a great Damian Wayne, drawing a fine line of innocence without appearing bratty. Luke Wilson’s soft voice coming out of this buffly-drawn Batman is so effortlessly funny. It makes his entire helicopter dad persona so cute. But David Hornsby as the Joker is such a base casting. His high-active, silly, sinister voice resembles an evil clown, which matches this storybook aesthetic. When he does his own Joker laugh, it’s like hearing a new star being born.
The film truly stands out through the thought dynamic between Damian and Batman. Writer Morgan Evans (Teen Titans Go) threads a sweet coming-of-bat-age tale about becoming a hero, coming into their own, and appreciating their parent’s efforts. Merry Little Batman‘s story borrows heavily from the first two Home Alone movies, which corresponds to the holiday tone and is utilized as a perfect character establishment for this Damian iteration.
Evans also makes the development reciprocal for Bruce, who must learn about letting your little one soar their wings and kick crime butt. One ingenious aspect lies in Bruce’s brooding getting replaced with an overbearing mood. That’s the most in-character, psychologically accurate route. I’m surprised it has yet to be explored across the character’s 85 years of existence. Other Batmen drive their sidekicks away, but the conflict between this Batman and his hyperactive Damian shows how much he loves him. That fresh characterization only advances Merry Little Batman’s uniqueness and leaves you wanting more.
Thankfully, this is a precursor to a show called Bat-Family, and man, it’s enough to have me reconsider getting a Prime account because of how adorable this holiday flick was overall. Merry Little Batman is a wonderous hand-drawn holiday delight bolstered by its humor, incredible animation quality, and sweet-natured soul, adding another feat of excellence under Batman’s lengthy utility belt. It’s odd to have a series precursor be through a holiday movie, but for this being the best feature film DC has done all year, please bring on all the Bat-Family fun.
Merry Little Batman is available to stream on Prime Video now.