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Spider-Man: The New Animated Series: Season 1 (2003) – DVD Review

Spider-Man: The New Animated Series: Season 1 DVD cover art


Character Created by: Steve Ditko and Stan Lee, published by Marvel Comics
Starring the Voices of: Neil Patrick Harris, Lisa Loeb, Ian Ziering, David Carradine


  1. Running audio commentary on all episodes by select members of the cast and crew, including writer/producer Brian Michael Bendis and creator Lee
  2. All thirteen first season episodes
  3. In screen trivia pop-ups
  4. Production artwork
  5. Test footage
  6. Outtake reel
  7. Featurettes: “The Making of Spider-Man,” “Spider-Man Tech: Creating the Models,” “Spider-Man Tech: Animating Performance,” and ” Spider-Man Music: The Composers”

Released by: Columbia Tristar
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: Yes

My Advice: Wait for cable.

[ad#longpost]Spider-Man, unlike another infamous New Yorker, can truly be called the King of All Media. He’s been in comic books, movies, live action television, and animated cartoons. Now our favorite web-slinger has been reinvented again in CGI for The New Adventures of Spider-Man. Fortunately, we are spared another origin episode and the series gets a running start after the events of the blockbuster movie. Peter (Harris) is still pining for May Jane (Loeb) and taking abuse from J. Jonah Jameson (Carradine). However, he finds a new source of employment and a new love interest at Empire One Television and his intense producer Indy. He must also deal with his friend, Harry Osborn (Ziering), who harbors a burning resentment of Peter’s alter ego. He must still deal with dangerous foes both old (Electro, the Lizard) and new (the hi-tech thief Talon, the samurai for hire Shikata). And as always, Peter Parker must deal with the great responsibility that comes with great power.

Mainframe has put out some quality product over the years like Reboot and Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, so I was excited when I heard they were putting together a Spider-man series. I had forgotten that the series had to be filtered through both Sony and MTV before it aired, along with the added restriction of being based on a currently hot and continuing movie property. So the show comes off as hesitant, unable to go full out and truly impress the viewer. The stories usually resolve themselves in twenty-two minutes and with no story arcs, there is hardly any energy built up. Added to this that the villains are incredibly small scale. Electro is only interested in revenge for mistreatment received from stupid frat boys. The Kingpin involves Spidey in a simple heist of a computer chip. I know that Spider-Man cannot save the world every episode, but the writers need a serious dose of scope enhancement.

The fight sequences, on the other hand, are quite ambitious with Spider-Man incorporating skydiving techniques in his high-rise travels and using his webbing in rather complicated and ingenious ways. The total control the animators get with CGI allow the animators to produce kick butt action without worrying about setting up shots or injuring stunt men. There is some stunt casting with the main characters’ voices. Having to convey your character through just the voice is not an easy skill and not everyone can do it. And Harris, Loeb, and Ziering can’t bring the distinctiveness needed. Added to that the oddly ‘drawn’ human characters and the non-action sequences come off as flat.

Spider-Man: The New Animated Series

All thirteen episodes have the option for pop-up windows giving the viewer little bits of trivia and pointing out in-jokes during the show. While this technique was used quite well in Die Another Day, they come off more as an afterthought here. The running commentaries are very complete, discussing everything from initial concepts to design decisions to voice direction. Many of the production team chimes in at least one episode–which is nice, but their discussion tends to be a little dry. Also, the talk is more on general topics to the point where they will discuss other episodes instead of the one showing.

The animated cast of Spider-Man: The New Animated Series

Having Stan Lee or Neil Patrick Harris breaks up the technical discussion some; it’s still mostly about technique and not about the creative process. The same concentration on methodology is present in the featurettes. You learn how difficult it was to animate Mary Jane’s hair to flow naturally. The amount of work needed to create and then animate these characters is remarkable, even with the custom software Mainframe has developed over the years. But it’s doubtful most people will find these shorts attention-grabbing. Because of this and the less than exciting nature of the series, I’d wait and catch this when they rerun it on MTV.

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