Most of the movie is based on the graphic novels "Batman: Year One" and "Batman: Year Two". The flashback to Batman's first night of crime-fighting, donning a jacket and ski-hat is parallel to book one of "Year One". The design and concept of the Phantasm was derived from the Reaper, the primary villain of "Year Two".
The computer generated version of Gotham City seen in the opening credits was originally designed to be used in the TV show. The purpose was to create a "virtual set" to replace hand-painted backgrounds and help speed up production of the series. It was never used for that purpose.
Batman: The Animated Series: Trial (1994) was supposed to be the plot of this film. Producers thought it worked better as a standard half-hour episode. Some fans disagree, feeling that 'Trial' is begging to be a two-parter.
Many of the items featured at the Gotham World's Fair were inspired from items featured at the famous 1939 New York World's Fair. The rocket and planet centerpiece echo New York's famous Trylon and Perisphere exhibit.
Late in production, Warner Bros. decided to make the movie a theatrical release instead of the originally intended direct-to-video feature. This left the show's creators with less than a year of production time and scrambling to convert the aspect ratio to wide-screen.
The dummy corporations "O'Neil Funding Corp." and "Adams Tool and Die" shown on Batman's computer screen are references to Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams, respective writer and artist for Batman comics circa 1969. Their somber, camp-free stories have been called "ground-breaking" and are considered a major turning point for DC Comics' Batman titles, which Denny O'Neil currently edits and oversees.
Also seen on the computer screen are the names "Puckett & Peterson." This is a reference to Kelley Pucket and Scott Peterson, writer and editor of comic books based on the Batman: The Animated Series (1992) animated series, including the comic adaptations of both this movie and Batman & Mr. Freeze: SubZero (1998).
When they reviewed this film for their show, Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert both said they regretted not seeing it in its theatrical release. Siskel in particular liked the film and compared it favorably to the other Batman films Batman Returns (1992) and Batman Forever (1995).
The character of Arthur Reeves originated in the comics. In "Half-an-Evil", Arthur Reeves was a short-lived comic relief who had a bone to pick with the Batman. He ceased all complaints, and appearances, after the Batman frightened him senseless with one well-timed "Boo!"
Under the main headline 'Mysterious Vigilante Repels Bandits....' on the newspaper Alfred is holding in the flashback sequence is the smaller headline 'Radomski to Press: I'm Innocent!': probably a reference to producer Eric Radomski.