Chances are you saw the footage on the news. On November 15, 2013 San Francisco transformed into Gotham-By-the-Bay as Batkid, accompanied by Batman, rescued a damsel in distress, threw the Riddler in jail and saved Lou Seal, the Mascot of the San Francisco Giants, from the grips of Criminal Mastermind the Penguin.
It was Make-A-Wish’s largest ever event, a city-wide happening to grant five-year-old cancer survivor Miles Scott’s request to be a superhero for a day. The Batkid—who was still in diapers when he was diagnosed with leukemia—drew crowds in the tens of thousands, earned a twitter message from President Obama and was given the key to the city by San Francisco mayor Ed Lee.
London, Ontario-born software engineer Mike Jutan was given a front row seat to the action when his friend, inventor and acrobat Eric Johnson, asked him to play Gotham’s greatest villain The Penguin.
“Eric Johnston asked, ‘What are you doing on November 15… just say yes.’ So I said yes and then asked him what I just agreed to.
“As a good Canadian boy I like peppering community service stuff in amongst the many things I already do,” says Jutan, who now lives in San Fran and works for Industrial Light and Magic. “I always thought I’d like to do something with Make-A-Wish.”
A new documentary, Batkid Begins, details how the event bloomed from a small experience into a heart-warming media sensation.
“To me it was exciting it was getting big because I think it is inspiring to other people. As it got bigger and bigger I felt like we had a responsibility to stand for what Make-A-Wish stands for but also stick a big flag in the ground as the city of San Francisco and say, ‘This is the most insane, crazy thing that can happen when people work together, when people skip work on a Friday for the good of a little kid.’”
To prepare to play The Penguin Jutan “started obsessively watching the 1960s Batman. I watched them over and over and over, studied Burgess Meredith’s character to get the walk down and the laugh and some of his quips. I wanted to get an idea of his personality so any die hard Batman fans there would also enjoy it,” but, he adds, “our only real goal was to make sure Miles had a great wish and that we succeeded in helping him save Gotham.”