How Batman Returns Pissed Off McDonald’s

During the 90s, the still-young Batman movie franchise underwent a pretty massive change. Following the release of Batman Returns in 1992, Warner Bros. decided to go in a different direction with filmmakers, and wound up replacing Tim Burton with Joel Schumacher for what would wind up becoming 1995's Batman Forever. So what exactly happened? Apparently it all had to do with a certain gigantic fast food corporation and their dislike of Burton's dark style.

Yahoo! recently sat down with Tim Burton for a retrospective interview about the filmmakers entire career, and when asked about why the decision was made to walk away from Gotham in the early '90s, Burton revealed that a significant part of it was that McDonald's was unhappy about how dark and gross Batman Returns was at moments - specifically Danny DeVito's portrayal of Oswald Cobblepott a.k.a. Penguin. It turns out that people don't want to sit down for a nice juicy hamburger after spending two hours looking at a sewer-dwelling villain with a black mouth. Said the director,

"I think I upset McDonald's. [They asked] ‘What’s that black stuff coming out of the Penguin’s mouth. We can’t sell Happy Meals with that!’"

To be 100%, it's not hard to see the situation from McDonald's perspective, as Penguin's visage (as seen above) doesn't exactly make me crave a burger.At the same time, it does really suck that the fast food corporation had so much sway at Warner Bros. that they were able to convince the studio to go in a whole new different direction for Batman Forever.

What's rather comical about the situation, though, is that McDonald's really sits on one side of a tonal argument that really has been going on for years. As Tim Burton points out in the interview, there are many that say Batman Returns is too dark for a superhero movie, but in equal measure there are fans who note that it certainly is a bit more upbeat and cheerful than it's predecessor - after all, it is set at Christmas! Burton told the site,

"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."

Obviously the big screen version of Batman has moved on in a major way since the days of the Tim Burton movies, as we've not only seen Joel Schumacher and Christopher Nolan take a crack at the character, but soon will be seeing a brand new version in Zack Snyder's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - with Ben Affleck donning the cape and cowl. All the same, it's still hard not to wonder what Burton's Batman 3 could have been.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.