Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Original Wax Sculpture Prototype
Kenner Michael Keaton Batman Head

Truly a holy grail piece for me, I recently purchased this original wax sculpture of the Michael Keaton Batman head used throughout the Kenner Batman The Dark Knight Collection & Batman Returns toy lines-

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I acquired this from the piece's original sculptor. He worked on the likeness sculpting for quite a few of the Batman movie figures, including Michael Keaton's Bruce Wayne, Jim Carrey's Riddler, Tommy Lee Jones' Two-Face, and Chris O'Donnell's Robin amongst others.

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This head is the earliest form of a physical prototype for this piece. After the wax stage, a silicone mold is made to generate a resin hard copy. That resin prototype can then have revisions made to it before entering into the tooling and plastic test shot prototype stages. The sculpt here is done by hand in wax at a 1:1 scale (unlike many other lines which are sculpted at twice their size to capture detail and then shrunk down to production size). To know that such an amazing likeness (even by today's standards) was achieved at this size without the aid of scanning technology is pretty astounding. And thankfully, the sculpt survived being broken from its original silicone mold almost entirely in one piece; Wax sculptures often break when being removed from their mold.

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To the kind gentleman I acquired this from: If you should ever come across this, my heartfelt thanks for allowing me to acquire this wonderful bit of Batman history- The first live-action Batman movie toy likeness ever created!

Special Feature:
"Rescued From The Gotham City Set!"

As a follow-up to the "Exploring Gotham City" feature, Mark Jones (who took all the wonderful pictures of the Pinewood Studios set) has been kind enough to share these pictures of some of the items he "rescued" while he was there! I'll let Mark fill you in on what came home with him...

I did manage to get some stuff when I was there! I pulled this 'Gerrolds of Gotham City' shop opening times sign (which I still have) off of the shop's window-:

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This vodka sign also came from one of the set walls-

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I have this next piece framed on my bedroom wall. I pulled this off a wall while I was there, hoping that it might be in the film-

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It was one of two attached to the wall. You can actually see them in the background in this shot of Vicki getting out of her car-

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I also took home an "Eros Theatre" sign, but it has sadly been lost over the years. Here is an old picture of it residing on my wall-

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This next shot showcases a few of the actual pieces of the set I managed to get while I was there! The long curved piece was part of the set decoration on the Flugelheim Museum, while the plaster bits are from Gotham City Hall.

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Lastly, this group of pictures showcases the bank notes (dollar bills for us in America- James) I picked up while I was there. This is the money that Joker and his goons showered the Gotham crowd with during his parade!

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Note the 'Motion Picture Use Only' printed on them:

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Great stuff Mark! And not only was Mark kind enough to share these additional pictures and backstory with me, but he also sent me these in the mail...

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Needless to say, this Joker dollar and Gotham City Wall chunk are now the highlights of my collection! Again, I can't thank Mark enough not only for these gifts, but also for sharing his wonderful relics & memories of the Gotham City Set with all of us! Thanks Mark!

Friday, April 26, 2013

For Your Listening Pleasure:
The Action Features Podcast
1989 Batman Discussion Part 1

Hey all! Something a little different today... As some of you may or may not know, I am involved with a few different blogs/ web projects. One of these is Action Features, a site covering comics, toys, movies, cartoons, etc. Action Features is also home to the podcast I do with my good friend Mike Beckett. Each episode covers various things in pop culture; One episode might be about our favorite cereals from the 80's, while another will be our top 5 movie tough guys. For our 38th (and upcoming 39th) episode, we spend an hour sharing our thoughts on the 1989 Batman film. I thought some of you might enjoy checking it out. :) Here is the intro from the Action Features home page:

Action Features Episode 38: The One Where We Dance With The Devil By The Pale Moonlight Part 1

They want you to do them a favor... They want you to tell all your friends about them. That's right folks- It is time for the Action Features 1989 Batman episode! In this installment, James & Mike spend pretty much the entire hour sharing their thoughts on the classic Tim Burton Batman film. Memories are shared, opinions are revealed, and unabashed gushing ensues. And even at an hour, this episode wasn't long enough to cover everything they wanted to say about one of their favorite flicks... So after you finish this episode, tune in 2 weeks later for the sequel! For now though... Grab your batarangs, rev up your Batmobile, and get ready to let Vicki know she weighs a little more than 108- Time for Action Features.

The podcast is available through the iTunes podcast app, or you can use these links to listen to it right here:

HTML Version:

Podcast Powered By Podbean

Flash Version:

Our style may not be for everyone, and I know an hour is a lot to ask for folks to listen to, so don't feel like you'll offend me by not checking it out. :) I just figured some folks might enjoy hearing a couple of fellow fans ramble on about the film...

Friday, April 19, 2013

Video Feature:
Bob Kane Movie Time Clip

A short clip from the show "Movie time" featuring Batman's creator, Bob Kane. Makes me a bit sad to hear him talking about "looking down from his Batcave in the sky"....

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Vintage Magazine Article:
"Prevue" September 1989

Great article from the September 1989 issue of "Prevue" magazine. Pretty interesting read (if not a bit heavy on the use of a thesaurus)... but what is up with the oddly tweaked eyes on the cover?

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Video Feature:
Siskel & Ebert At The Movies
1989 Batman Review

Figured that it would be appropriate to post this today... RIP Siskel & Ebert.

Video Feature:
Entertainment Tonight
Profile On Michael Keaton

A short segment from Entertainment Tonight featuring Michael Keaton sitting down to talk with Leonard Maltin. The discussion covers his 2 (then upcoming) films: The Dream Team and Batman. The Batman bits begin around the 1:15 mark.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Production Materials:
The Pinewood Studios
Gotham City Set

PLEASE NOTE- If you have made it to my page through the Distractify article "21 Abandoned Movie Set That You Can Actually Visit" by Mark Pygas, I have bad news... The author of that article erroneously claims that you can still visit this set, and that parts of it remain (including the "Bat-safe"). This is 100% untrue. The set was destroyed MANY years ago. Please don't plan a trip! :) I have e-mailed the author to request that he fix this major misinformation, and am doing my best to respond to all the inquiries folks are sending me through the page. The Gotham City set is sdaly no longer around... but please take the time to enjoy the "virtual tour" below!

UPDATE- Added alley reference and location clarification... Plus a marked aerial view from the "Beyond Batman" DVD special feature!

The Gotham City set from "Batman" still stands as one of the largest and most remarkable film sets ever created. In all, 18 sound stages were used in its creation- almost the entirety of Pinewood's 95-acre backlot. Its striking visual presence has never been surpassed in the eyes of many fans. With the current penchant for green-screen technology or affordable existing location shooting being the norm of current Hollywood, the '89 Gotham City stands as a testament to the filmmaking of old.

But just how did a set so large function? Even at 98 acres, how did one set bring forth the illusion of a city the size of Gotham? Well, thanks to fan Mark R. Jones, fans might finally have a better understanding.

See, Mark has been there. He's been to Gotham. He stepped on the same stairs that Vicki and Batman raced down on their escape from the Flugelheim. He crouched in front of the cathedral where Joker met his end. He passed by the same Monarch theatre where Bruce watched a final show with his parents. He has seen it all.... and he's here to tell us how:

I worked selling Amiga and ST computers and the games in a computer shop. My friends (Chris Herbert and Conrad Bedford) and I won a prize for selling such and such and the prize was a trip down to Pinewood Studios for some charity do. It was in aid of the Variety Club charity and there was a few 'celebs' there including Ernie Wise (of Morecambe and Wise), Colin Baker (who was a DR Who) and Faith Brown (impressionist). After a while it all got a little boring so me and my 2 mates went for a wander to see what else we could see. It was a Saturday or Sunday so there wasn't many people about. Hey ho, we only stumbled upon Gotham City. There was a hole in the fence, no one at all on the set, so we went in and had a good look around. So obviously this was MOMENTOUS. It was amazing, one minute you were in the woods, cross a stream, then a fence, walk through some scaffolding and there we were, Gotham City.

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It was huge. I'd never been to a film set before (or since) so it was TRULY impressive. The sheer size, scale and look of the place was breath taking.

But, none of us had a camera on us.

So, as soon as we could, we drove back to the film set took the photos that you see here. By the time we visited, the film had been finished but not released so we hadn't seen it. We didn't know at the time which items left laying around were going to be in the film and which weren't. So we took pics of everything! Some of the set was being re-painted as, I was told, they were preparing it for the shooting of the 2nd film. This plan was apparently then abandoned & the set was dismantled a few weeks after these photos were taken. It was great though being there and totally surreal seeing it all for real.

Using Mark's fantastic pictures and screen grabs from the film, we can get a pretty good idea of how the set was laid out. Let's start with an opening shot from the film of the set's main intersection.

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We can see 4 main buildings here. At the front of the picture, we see the back of the "Arnee's Bar" building on your left and the Flugelheim Museum on your right. The small park area with the statue of John T. Gotham (or at least I think it is John T. Gotham) is situated in front of the Flugelheim. Crossing the street, we see the Monarch directly opposed to Arnee's Bar and what we will refer to as the "Gotham Diner" across from the park. I've marked and color coded them all here:

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We'll begin out "tour" at the Gotham Diner building, then work our way clockwise around the set until we get back. So let's hop over to the diner and sample some of Gotham's finest eats!

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The diner building makes its first appearance in the film when Harold and his family try to make their way home from the Monarch. Notice the distinctive iron supports dotting the outer sidewalk and the "Gotham Diner" signs in the windows. These are great markers for pinpointing this location in Mark's pictures:

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Now we'll head to the area down the street to the right of the diner. Notice in this shot from the "On the Set with Bob Kane" featurette that the diner building ends just before an awning that spans the road.

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We see Harold and his family enter this alley after passing by the diner. Notice where the diner building ends to the left of the picture-

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We can match that up to Mark's set pictures from inside the alley (the end of the Gotham diner building is on the right).

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We then follow Harold and his family into the alley portion of the set on their way to be mugged-

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We will get a little more into the alley later.... But for now, let's make sure that this alley is actually situated behind the diner on the Pinewood layout. When we first see them enter the alleys, we can spot a marker that lines up with other shots:

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See that odd cone shaped structure I have marked with a yellow dot on the protruding wall back there? It matches up with the one visible here during the Eckhart and Jack "you oughtta think about the future" exchange. If you look further down the set behind them, you'll see a doorway to building with an ornate awning. I have marked it with a red dot.

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Here is that same doorway in the set pictures-

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Here's a different angle on the scene. Again, we see our cone shaped structure (marked with a yellow dot), but now we also see the beginning of an overpass that spans the street (marked with a green dot).

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...and here is that same overpass marked on our set picture-

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As we pull back from that shot, we can see what important buildings this seedy alley lies near...

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That's right... That seedy little alley is just a few steps from City Hall! Gotham's corruption knows no bounds. Since we're here, we'll take a few closer looks at City Hall.

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We also see in these pics that the small grassy area with the statue is situated neatly in front of City Hall, while the brick building where Bob took his pictures sits beside it.

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Though I never realized it while watching the film, the set pictures show us that the Flugelheim Museum is basically just one building away from City Hall.

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In this scene from the film, we can see City Hall at the upper left of the picture as Batman and Vicki escape the museum.-

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The Flugelheim is probably my favorite spot on this incredible set. Genuis in design.

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A little "movie magic" played a part in the filming of the exterior Flugelheim scenes. As we can see by the set pictures, the doors did open...

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...but since this set is just a fa├žade, fully opening the doors would reveal the lack of interior. Thankfully, Batman's smoke pellet and a little clever lighting hid this quite well.

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Back to the layout... In the opening shot of the Flugelheim scene, we confirm again the statue park's proximity to the museum-

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Something very interesting in relation to the statue turned up in these set pictures. In an early draft of the film, a dedication ceremony for the John T. Gotham statue is interrupted by the Joker. When the statue is revealed, instead of John T. Gotham, a large replica of the Clown Prince of Crime stands atop the pedestal instead. Here is an excerpt from that version of the script:

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As we all now, a park statue (presumably of John T. Gotham) appears throughout the film.

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...But during Mark's set visit, something else VERY similar to what is described in the script was also spotted:

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This large Joker statue doesn't appear in the film (at least not to my recollection), but was present at the Pinewood set. We also know that the size of it pretty closely matches that of the statue in the park, since this Joker now resides (fully painted) in a Planet Hollywood restaurant.

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Does this statue's presence on the set during Mark's visit imply that this scene almost made it into the film? Was it filmed and then deleted? Who knows... This is why we need a director's edition Warner! :)

Anyways... Back to the set. Since we are pretty much done at the Flugelheim, we'll keep moving to the right of the set. A short street is situated right next to the building.

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As we walk down the street, we see the remainder of the Flugelheim at our left (note the large chunk of blackened masonry on the road, as we will use it as reference in a bit). These pictures reveal that the Flugelheim is fairly short... but still awesome. Guess that is all to see here... Wait a second! What is that!?!

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What an incredible find- The Bat-symbol structure used to film the opening sequence of the movie just happened to be sitting around on the set the day that Mark and his friends came to visit!

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The image that folks first saw when they nestled into theater seats way back in June of '89... Just propped up against a wall. Crazy.

But back to the set. We have seen what is on our left, but what about the right?

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Well, thanks to the wonderful chunk of blackened reference, we see that the other side of the street has a few shops and such. We can match those up to the ones seen in the opening shot as part of the "Arnee's bar" building. We aren't heading up there just yet though. After all, we still need to see what is at the end of this street. Let's take a look at a couple of wide shots.

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Yup... That is the cathedral hiding away back there!

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Again, we can confirm its location by using reference points in the film. Here we can see correlating circular anniversary signage on the lightpoles that match our first look at this street from the opposing direction-

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And even though this shot was done in miniature, it still matches the setup of the physical set. Notice the "Weismann" shop sign to your right that was present in the view we just had of this side of the street-

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And of course, there is this wonderful shot from the James Bond fan Pinewood Studios tour event from years ago:

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The cathedral seems to be all that is going on down here. Using our handy chunk of black reference again, we can see that at the front of the block (with the Monarch across the street), is the entrance to Arnee's bar. (A bar less than a block from a church? Only in Gotham.)

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Let's run down the street a bit and get a better view of it from the front (thanks to screen grabs and Mark's pictures).

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...and from the other side-

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Now for those of you that might not remember this location in the film, let me give you some help. Arnee's bar is the building on the corner where Batman shoots his grapple to allow the Batmobile to handle the sharp turn at high speed. See-

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If the Batmobile continues down that street though, it would run smack dab into a building... But not just any building. Note the "HOTEL" sign-

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This is the spot where Wayne's parents were killed and the Batman was born, directly behind and between the Arnee's bar and Monarch Theater buildings at Pinewood.

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As we leave the scene of tragedy, we head on to the prestigious Monarch Theatre. Mark's pictures give us a view of how it connects to the hotel building.

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We get a small glimpse of a building behind the Monarch (more on it later). Oh, and notice the large "Footlight Frenzy" sign?

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That is the same show the Wayne family saw the night Bruce's parents were gunned down-

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As we move to the front of the Monarch, we'll take a look at some shots that give us reference as to its overall placement at Pinewood. In relation to the statue park-

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...and across from the diner building-

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This brings us to the road separating the Monarch and the diner building. Behind the Monarch is a large circular gray building (which we spotted when we looked at the other side of the Monarch).

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See that little red awning on the side of the Monarch in the shot above? Well, Mark stationed himself there to take this shot of the shops attached to the diner building across the street-

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The road actually extends quite a bit down from the diner building though. Check out this shot taken on a tour of Pinewood set up for Bond film fans years ago. This picture was taken from the opposite end of the road, in front of the cathedral.

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We see the diner building with its iron structures peppering the sidewalk... followed by wedge shaped structures lining the road. Here they are again from the opposite end of the street (opposite the cathedral, on the street between the Monarch and diner buildings).

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These wedge-shaped structures play a part in figuring out another location of Gotham... This mysterious alley in Mark's pictures-

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If you look closely, you can see one of the wedge-shaped structures at the very front of the entrance to this alley.

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This helps us place the entrance coming off the street behind the diner. If we look closely at the shot of the diner from the Monarch, we can actually match up a couple of spots to prove this.

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What is so significant about this alley in Mark's pictures that makes me want to pin it down? It is this alley that Wayne walks down to deliver the flowers at the place of his parents' murder. Check this scene from the film:

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Though we are seeing the beginning of the alley in Mark's photo and the end of it in the scene on film, we can still match up certain spots. A red sign is present in both (marked with a yellow dot), the large woodworked panel with 4 X marks at the bottom (marked with a red dot), and the steps in the concrete leading to the first of 2 doors (marked with a green dot)-

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Unfortunately, an obstruction or an error in Mark's film prevents us from seeing the second door in the set visit photo, while a protruding wall prevents us from seeing the first door in the film... But even without those, this definitely matches up as the same alley. After Bruce walks through this alley, he makes a left turn and ends up at the sidewalk in front of the hotel where his parents are murdered. This is one of the few times where the set doesn't match up to the events in the film. For as you make the left turn at the end of this alley, you are here:

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A brick wall. There is that second door Bruce passed by on your left confirming where we are. So in this case, the alley that Bruce walks down couldn't have lead out to the spot where his parents were murdered in front of the Hotel (especially since by going down this alley he is actually traveling away from the Monarch). It is common practice for scenes to be shot in multiple places and then put back together... But with so many shots following a pretty traceable shot throughout the Gotham City set, I found this one being broken up to be very interesting. Makes me think that they thought long and hard about where they wanted the "birth of Batman" to take place, and all the filming had to be structured around making that happen.

Another interesting thing about this alley is figuring out whether or not it connects to the circuit of alleys we talked about before (where Harold and his family get mugged, Jack talks to Eckhart, etc). Using the scenery as reference, we can use Mark's shots to show what is to the right at the end of this alley: A tattoo shop.

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I didn't recall ever seeing the tattoo shop in the film before, but while watching the "Beyond Batman" special feature on the DVD anthology set the other day, I spotted something very interesting...

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There is the tattoo shop! And boy do its surroundings seem familiar. Notice the large "No Dumping" sign and the design of the masonry on the corner? They match up with Harold's entrance to the alley from the other side of the diner set!

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This means that the alley that Harold entered from one side of the Gotham Diner building is actually the same alley that Wayne enters from the other side (at least for some of the scenes). In fact, we can match them up from the set pictures. Notice the large awning (marked in pink), the adjacent small awning (marked in yellow), and the oddly colored stripe of pavement from this scene with Harold and his family:

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Here are those same spots matched up with Mark's pic of "Wayne's alley":

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So thanks to that one shot buried in a special feature, we have connected the alley set. But that wasn't all that popped up in that segment... Look at this beautiful aerial shot of Gotham at Pinewood!

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Using our pictorial journey, we can now identify all of the major shooting areas in this fantastic set-

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I don't think there is any better way to conclude our trip around Gotham than with that picture.... Oh wait, there was one more thing on the set the day that Mark and his friends visited:

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For some reason, the vault that contained Batman's suit in the Batcave was there!

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When asked about its inexplicable presence there, Mark had this to say:

Nope, no idea why it was there. We tried to open it but that rope was tied way too tight! And we didn't want to damage anything. We just thought it was a big safe!

Batman protecting his stuff with knots. Gotta love it.

So that concludes (really this time) our trip around Gotham! Hope you enjoyed it (and that you didn't get lost in some seedy, dark alley along the way). A HUGE thanks to Mark for sharing these wonderful pictures with the world!