Do you ever feel like today’s kids don’t get to enjoy the same quality of TV you had growing up? I mean, no one can argue the inexplicable satisfaction of watching Jerry evade Tom time after time, or the heartwarming feeling of seeing Superman save all of mankind. Fortunately, parents can now share their love for the DC heroes and villains with whom they grew up with their preschoolers in the new kids’ series Batwheels. Plus, behind every great superhero — or villain — there’s a really cool car.
Batman stories have taken on several forms over the years, from comic book crusades to live-action adventures, but in this series, Warner Bros. Animation brings an iconic element of the Dark Knight’s universe to the forefront: the Batmobile. And these new stories are for a younger audience than Batman’s typical fanbase.
Batwheels is an animated show that tells the story of a relatable group of sentient crime-smashing vehicles that save Gotham City. The preschool series chronicles the adventures of the do-gooding team led by Bam the Batmobile. In the show, the Bat Family’s vehicles are brought to life by the Batcomputer, and since those vehicles were newly created, they are essentially kids — with little to no life experience. Characters like Bibi (Batgirl’s cycle), Redbird (Robin’s sports car), Batwing (Batman’s jet plane), and Buff (Bat Truck) must navigate growing pains while completing heroic adventures as a new kind of super-squad.
As one can imagine, Batwheels has taken kids’ entertainment by the wheel. Already renewed for a second season, it became Cartoon Network’s No. 1 original preschool series with boys ages 2-5 following its premiere in 2022 and is the No. 1 original preschool show on Max.
The success of Batwheels has cumulated in several licensing deals that bring Batwheels-inspired merch to little ones. Ranging from apparel to books, kids can fully immerse themselves in the world of Bam and his crew and flaunt their fandom from anywhere. Samantha Bushy, senior vice president and head of global e-commerce for Warner Bros. Discovery Global Brands and Experiences, recounts designing the Batwheels T-shirts for The DC Shop with the show’s pint-size fans in mind. “We knew from the start that Bam and his fellow crime-fighting vehicles should be front and center on any collection,” Bushy explains. “The vibrant colors and fun designs created by the team at Warner Bros. Animation translate perfectly to apparel, and we really wanted to play around with that.”
The DC Shop is packed with colorful T-shirts adorned with bright graphics of fan-favorite characters. Each shirt is enhanced with kid-approved shades of vibrant blues and greens, some even feature fun phrases like “Time for Action” and “Ready to Roll.”
And while the heroes take the spotlight, you can’t have good guys without a couple of baddies for them to take down. Bushy believes representing both the villains and heroes of Batwheels in the first apparel collection is a good way to appeal to kids who have favorite characters in both groups. “In addition to Bam, we know fans love the DC Super-Villains, so it was a no-brainer that this first collection should feature the Legion of Zoom, the team of vehicles belonging to Batman’s Rogues Gallery,” Bushy says.
Kids who want the Batwheels adventures to continue off-screen can explore Penguin Random House’s collection of kids’ books that dive into all of the action-packed themes explored in the series with kid-friendly language, light text, and short page counts. The books were created alongside Warner Bros. Animation and DC to include the most engaging materials possible for little ones, explains Dennis Shealy, editorial director at Penguin Random House.
“We launched with an original picture book called Lucky Wheels as a way to introduce Bam and the other Batwheels characters,” Shealy says. “It was authored by one of the show’s writers, Andrew Guastaferro, and he really brought his feel for the characters and the tone of the show to the book.”
And when it comes to crafting captivating stories, it’s important to go beyond the flair of the fandom. Capturing early learning and preschool themes is vital to creating well-rounded books for kids. Lucky Wheels just does that by telling the story of Bam as he struggles to let go of his old tires that are smooth and worn out. “Anyone who is a parent or caregiver is familiar with coaxing a worn-out but beloved pair of shoes, T-shirt, or toy from a child,” Shealy explains. “So, it makes for a fun reading experience with a parent and child.”
Penguin Random House fuses exciting storytelling with fun, show-inspired graphics and early-learning themes to create compelling books for the series’ fans. The entire collection will grow to cater to all types of reading levels.
“We’ll have Batwheels board books and novelty books with short page counts and light text for the youngest fans, as well as leveled readers, activity books, and storybooks that have more text and complicated words for the older end of the show’s audience,” Shealy explains.
As Batwheels revs its engine on its way to becoming one of the most influential kids’ series, many merch plans are still in the works. The appeal of Batwheels lies not only in its adventurous storytelling and bright graphics, but also largely in the nostalgia shared between parents and kids in seeing the same iconic characters re-imagined for a new generation. Preschoolers are finding new inspiration in the heroic ways of a group of crime-fighting vehicles created after the superheroes we all know and love.
This article was originally published in Issue No. 17 of The Pop Insider. Click here to read the full issue!