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  • Widescreen 1.78:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • English: DTS 5.1 Surround
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Stereo
    English, English - Hearing Impaired, Hindi
  • 4 Theatrical trailer
  • 13 Audio commentary
  • 8 Featurette
  • 4 Photo gallery
  • DVD-ROM features
  • Outtakes
  • 6 Filmographies
  • 13 Trivia track

Spider-Man The Animated Series - Complete Season 1

Columbia Pictures/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 270 mins . PG . PAL


Following on from the widespread appeal of the movie release a few years back, Spider-Man – The New Animated Series takes up the story from that point and carries forward. And it does so very neatly with some absolutely awesome animation.

As most everyone knows, Peter Parker got bit by a radioactive (sorry, update; genetically enhanced) spider which scrambled his DNA to incorporate the spider’s abilities. Now he can spin webs, walk on walls and has a developed ‘spider-sense’ that can feel danger coming. So, he’s moved to New York City where he goes about fighting crime under the guise of Spider-Man. Meanwhile, Peter’s life is complex as he hides his secret from his two closest friends, Mary-Jane Watson and Harry Thompson. Peter has had a lifelong crush on Mary Jane and is attempting to form a relationship with her, but it isn’t easy. The fact Harry believes Spider-Man killed his father doesn’t exactly help matters either.

"These newspaper guys read too many comics…"

Here the film’s storyline has been utilised, but not the animation. It’s back to the classics with CG animation being skinned like a comic book, giving us the impression of a comic come to life. Not to mention the use of the illustration style of the greats of the Spider-Man stable; Todd McFarlane and the Romitas (Jr. and Sr.). Character modeler David Hartman has used the comic art as pure reference here and the show sings with this comic style. The movement of Spider-Man is exactly that of if the comic could come to life, with over-exaggerated poses and some very nifty movement. This is the nearest thing I’ve yet witnessed to a moving comic book and it looks awesome.

While in the past Marvel®™ have farmed out their animated series' to animation houses with no real input, here they have retained control, producing the series as they have the various recent films (of this and other comics). Attention to detail is paramount, as is the attention to storyline and quality writing. Each 20-minute episode runs pretty much like a comic book in that it’s a short one-off story in which you only need know the major characters to understand it. There is only the one two-parter here as the season closer, and the rest of the episodes run in order over two discs. There are also a bunch of favourite Spider-Man characters and villains brought into the fold here, including Silver Sable, Kraven and The Lizard, while a bunch of new adversaries are also introduced.

As a whole, while the character animation in the day-to-day existence of Peter Parker and his friends is a little lacklustre, the fight scenes are where this series shines. Utilising every last shred of the over-extended gamut of Spidey movement from the more dynamic art of the comics, the human/arachno motion of Spidey is absolutely liquid and perfectly portrayed. This includes movement they’re inventing for the character because there’s certainly been no human who can do some of the moves we see here. A new method of climbing walls, for example, has been created which sees Spidey resembling the wall-crawling abilities of Kif from Futurama. Spidey’s eyes also work in the way the comic does, with his immobile cloth mask becoming his facial expression and giving us information through the squinting of the mask’s eyes. It may not sound like it could work, but it does and well.

I thought this series would be 2D scanned animation and was, oddly, both disappointed and glad to see it was in CG. I am now glad they have used total CG (while still tipping the cap to the original artwork) as they’ve created a huge, three-dimensional city of movement and light undoable in a hand-drawn format. Cameras follow Spidey in flight and alongside him in action (much like the film), but also add more interest to regular scenes of Peter Parker just hanging out with friends. There’s no doubt much love has gone into the creation of this show and it is highly visible in the attention to authenticity of the original Spider-Man vision Stan Lee had all those years ago.


Made last year (2003), this show looks absolutely brilliant in the DVD format. Occasional aliasing is about the only flaw apart from one other aspect of CG modeling. There’s one major problem with CG in that when the (invisible) cameras pull back to take in a bigger shot, the mathematical programs behind the scenes use one colour or the other in the divisions of lines. For example, if pulling back from a building in afternoon sun, the lit and shadowed areas are the same colour in different shades. Where they meet, the computer must choose the more dominant colour for the ‘new’ shot as the camera is pulling back and detail is evaporating. This means the shadow lines can wiggle a little (or even briefly disappear) as the program’s math does its perfect sums. Unfortunately, the human eye is like a computer in that this sort of anomaly is easily picked up upon. At this stage of CG evolution and with the limited resolution needed for a mass-produced television show, this isn’t really correctable and certainly not in a show with this sort of budget.

However, that being said, this is the only real flaw here and it’s not all that important once you get used to it. The show is delivered in the widescreen TV aspect of 1.78:1 with 16:9 enhancement and the colour is truly brilliant without over-saturation. Great looking stuff.


It’s not very often we get a TV show with a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1 surround or DTS 5.1 and here it is welcomed. The surrounds don’t get a huge workout, but they carry the music a fair bit throughout and the subwoofer goes a bit mental with the heavy bass of the techno/trance soundtrack. Renowned DJs John Digweed (voted top world DJ in DJ and Mix magazines, according to the extras info) and Nick Muir do all sorts of fun stuff with the soundtrack, giving us a five-seconds-from-now technology feeling for the show. The action scenes are brilliantly accompanied with heavy bass and frenetic drumbeats and this adds plenty. William Anderson seems to be responsible for the rest of the musical score here, but it’s the DJ stuff that makes the show without doubt.

Dialogue has been voiced by a fairly competent smattering of name-brand actors including Neil Patrick Harris as Peter Parker, Lisa Loeb as Mary Jane and Ian Ziering as Harry Thompson (for those of you wondering from where you know that name, he played Steve in Beverly Hills 90210). There’s also an ensemble cast of guests and such each episode and it is great to see that Michael Clarke Duncan voices the Kingpin as he did so well in Daredevil. The sound for the whole series is just superb and there’s no doubt that the Spidey fans have been taken into account here (particularly the militant Internet types who can be so cruel).


There's plenty of stuff included here that really fills up the remaining gaps in this two-disc set.

Disc One holds, firstly, an audio commentary with the major host of the piece(s) being director and writer Audu Paden. He talks fairly interestingly and is visited throughout by various cast and crew relative to each episode. They’re fairly lighthearted commentaries in which the smaller problems of the Spider-Man universe are detailed, as are the solutions.

Next comes the trivia track which is always a fun thing to have on the second or third viewing and this is followed by four production art galleries. Four subheadings of Characters, Villains, Guests and Miscellaneous hold over 180 images, with the highlight being the Miscellaneous section. Some awesome concept stuff in here.

There are DVD ROM features that take the form of Character Modelers which I assume means we can muck around with the character design ourselves. That gets followed by six filmographies for the major voices and Audu Paden (who has worked on other notable series Pinky and the Brain, Rugrats and The Simpsons (whoever they are).

Finally for Disc One we have a series of trailers which include a cool one for this series, the brilliant Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis, Cyborg 009 and the eternal Astro Boy.

Disc Two features a like-minded collection with similarly executed audio commentaries and trivia tracks. The final AC though features the de rigeur Stan Lee cameo and he makes an appearance for the commentary. Excelsior, true believers!

Anyway, four featurettes follow, including a making of (23:23) which features a great discussion of the Spider-Man characters. Three shorter vignettes are less informative, but no less interesting and take the self-explanatory form of Spider-Man Tech: Creating the Models (12:35), Spider-Man Tech: Animating Performance (13:41) and Spider-Man Music: The Composers (7:03). This last is probably that of the least interest, though the other two show some very concise info about CG animation.

The outtake reel is little more than the animators having some fun with the character and only runs a paltry 1:34. There is a cool scene where Spidey gets blown up and out through plate glass with a pithy remark about DVD though.

The next bit sounds far more interesting than it is. It’s called Building the Layers and using the 'angle' button on your remote you can strip away any of the five layers of animation in one particular scene. Kinda dull, but worth the once-over.

Filling the blank disc now comes a variety of shorter bits, with the first being Initial Mainframe Pitch, which is 1:09 of the earliest evolution of the Spider-Man animation with lots of differences, but one exquisite movement as Spidey bridges two buildings. Worth the look (and re-look, as I did) for that scene alone. The next lil bit is the Abandoned Spidey-Sense that was thankfully abandoned as it resembles the Daredevil sense a fair bit. It’s in a very cool Frank Miller-esque black and white though. Nice to look at, but thankfully not employed in the series.

Finally we have 1:40 of rough animation which is very dodgy and quite uninteresting by comparison to the rest of the show. This is basically barely rendered tests to check everything works before the very time consuming (and therefore expensive) final renders are begun.

Sit back Spider-Fans, and enjoy poring over that big, hairy, eight-legged bunch of stuff.


Thankfully not a piece of crap, shirt-tail hanging poorer cousin to the film, this is in fact a rabidly individual interpretation of the Spider-Man world beginning from where the film let off. It’s not realistic animation as the film is, but a vivid and honest portrayal of the comic book that started this whole spider thing. The artwork of the best of all Spider-Man artists has been used as the reference point and the brilliance of that has translated incredibly well to this format.

My advice, Spider-Freaks, is get moving and jump on a copy of this. You have never seen Spider-Man in comic form move like this before. The moments between rumbles aren’t so great to look at, but the action scenes are well worth the wait. This is awesome.

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      And I quote...
    "This is the nearest thing I’ve yet witnessed to a moving comic book and it looks awesome."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Teac DVD-990
    • TV:
          AKAI CT-T29S32S 68cm
    • Speakers:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Centre Speaker:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Surrounds:
          Teac PLS-60 Home Theatre System
    • Subwoofer:
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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