In the 1989 movie Batman, the Joker is seen falling and the images make it seem like it was animated.

How was this done?

I am talking about the images of the Joker himself, which are not photographs or an actual film of Jack Nicholson, but rather seem like a drawing that is animated, or claymation. When looking at the hands we can see they might not have been made from film but from drawings as well (or the result of heavy edits to brighten footage?).

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    Green Screen, most likely
    – cde
    Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 3:59
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    @cde Are you sure it wasn't a blue screen? youtube.com/watch?v=zIXA4qqXOrI ;) In all seriousness Chroma key has been around since the 1930's per Wikipedia. And could certainly achieve this effect.
    – Erik
    Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 4:36
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    Either way, blue or green, both would have been a PITA considering Jokers green hair and purple jacket.
    – cde
    Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 4:43
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    Even with a blue/green screen, with that lighting, some extra hand-painted shading may have been added to the frames, or perhaps they needed to rotoscope them. Blue/green screen effects only work if the screen is properly lit, which, in the absence of other lighting, tends to tint the subject. I'm guessing this shot might have been a tough one to pull off as a matte shot. Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 20:05
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    @MicroMachine I couldn't find any pages -- most of the techniques there weren't public. They were painted -- the moving scenes (ie joker's face) were done on film, but the background scene (the starry night) is often painted on a glass shower door so the scene is consistent. They (ILM) have many of the doors on display in the hallways if you ever get to have a tour of the facility.
    – Tim S.
    Commented May 11, 2018 at 12:28

2 Answers 2


This shot of the Joker looks to be done with a sort of Screen Printing, a method of printing. The shadows created on the Jokers face look very similar to images created with this technique and would give this same look as his hands do.

In this process of Screen Printing, each individual layer and color are printed at a different time helping it look animated and also helping his jacket and hands pop even more. This picture is of another screen printed image and has an almost identical shading done to the facial features:

Screen printing

this process could have been done onto the film of the empty background image. They just made the Joker smaller and smaller in each frame to give the illusion of him falling.


Before the rise of CGI a lot of post production effects were done by a process called rotoscoping

Here the film is projected onto a glass screen frame by frame to allow an animator to draw over each frame onto a transparency which could then be overlaid onto the original film and re exposed to create a new combined image, a process similar to cel animation.

This can either be done in positive or negative for example the lightsabres in the orginal version of star Wars are rotoscoped in negative by creating a mask whcih was slightly offset form the original film and re-exposed to create the diffuse glow essentially by over-exposing a controlled area of film stock.

Indeed some processes involve scratching directly into the negative.

  • 1
    This is the correct answer, what I was talking about in my comment above. The "glass panels" they used were in fact shower door panels purchased at a local hardware store in San Rafael, CA. It was the least expensive method to get large panes of cut glass, and did the job very well.
    – Tim S.
    Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 15:31

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