Spider-Man: The New Animated Series-Complete Season 1 (2003)

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Released 10-May-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Dolby Digital Trailer-Aurora
dts Trailer-The Digital Experience
Audio Commentary-Filmmakers
Informational Subtitles-Amazing Spider Facts
DVD-ROM Extras
Filmographies-Cast & Crew
Theatrical Trailer
Trailer-Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis, Cyborg 009, Astro Boy
Featurette-Making Of
Featurette-Spider-Man Tech: Creating The Models
Featurette-Spider-Man Tech: Animating Performance
Featurette-Spider-Man Music: The Composers
Outtakes
Featurette-Building With Layers
Featurette-Initial Mainframe Pitch
Featurette-Abandoned 'Spidey-Sense' Test
Featurette-Rough Animation
Gallery-Production Artwork
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2003
Running Time 266:32
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Sebastian Brodin
Alan Caldwell
Patrick Carroll
Johnny Darrell
Studio
Distributor
Columbia Tristar F/D
Sony Pictures Home Entertain
Starring Neil Patrick Harris
Lisa Loeb
Ian Ziering
Case Amaray-Transparent-S/C-Dual
RPI $39.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Hindi
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
English Information
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Spider-Man - The New Animated Series continues the trend of some recent animated shows by utilising the latest in technology in the form of computer-generated animation. From Mainframe Entertainment, the creators of Re-Boot (if you remember back about 10 years, the first CG television show), this is, however, a departure from standard CG. The norm seems to be to use 3D characters, but I find them to be very unnatural in look and movement. A new direction is used for Spider-Man, using 3D computer animation and rendering it to look like traditional cel animation.. While the environments have real depth to them, the 2D looking characters do not look out of place, with all animation blending in seamlessly and smoothly. I have not seen such effort put into an animated television show.

    By now I am sure that you know the Spider-Man story. Peter Parker was bitten by a genetically altered spider, which transformed the geeky high school student into a superhero. I do not think I need to get into the back story, but if you have not seen the original movie, or the recently released sequel, or have no idea about this famed Marvel character, then please do not continue reading this.

    This computer animated series continues on from the events of the first movie. Peter is now at college, his best friend Harry Osborne is head of his father's company Oscorp, and his other very close friend Mary-Jane Watson is beginning to make her mark as an actress. Almost every week they are put in danger, and it is up to Peter's secret identity to save the day.

    Doogie Howser himself, Neil Patrick Harris, voices the lead role. Lisa Loeb is Mary-Jane, and 90210's Ian Ziering is Harry. There are countless guest voices, like Scrubs' John C McGinley, Buffy's James Marsters, and Star Trek's Michael Dorn.

    Villains are aplenty here, with notable inclusions being Kingpin (fresh from his encounter with Daredevil in the big screen movie), and Electro (a misunderstood college student who is transformed into an electric being). Their appearances, along with just about every other villain, make this series a memorable one, with great action scenes and involved storylines.

    Strangely enough, every episode bar the series finale goes for exactly 20:29. I could not believe the accuracy, as just about every other television show varies the runtime by at least a few seconds. It left me wondering how they would wrap up each episode with 3 minutes to go, but somehow each one wraps up on time, and none feels rushed. Additionally, the episode order is different to what was aired in the U.S.

    Disc 1

    Heroes and Villains 20:29

    A dorm at Peter's college is being prepared to be torn down, and students are protesting. During the protests, several expensive items are stolen by Turbo Jet, who is using these items to save the college dorm. Spider-Man must stop Turbo Jet from doing this, and he must find the link between this thief and the dorm.

    Royal Scam 20:29

    A helicopter flies around the city shooting at a car, which leads Spider-Man to discover that it is a hoax by the FBI to pull him out into the open. They give him a task; to steal a computer chip from a scientist. What Spider-Man does not know is that it is an elaborate plan by Kingpin to frame Spider-Man. Michael Duncan-Clarke reprises his role for the voice of Kingpin.

    Law of the Jungle 20:29

    Dr Connors, one of Peter's lecturers, experiments on himself using reptile DNA. He begins a transformation into Lizard. This creature causes havoc for Spider-Man, who does not wish to injure his former teacher. Rob Zombie provides the voice of Dr Connors.

    Sword Of Shikata 20:29

    Spider-Man is the target of a rare species collector. This collector hires Shikata, a skilled hit-woman with a killer sword to do the job. It is up to Spider-Man to be a woman basher, and what a job he does.

    Keeping Secrets 20:29

    Spider-Man attempts to foil a robbery in a high-rise by a female assailant. She escapes the crime scene, but soon comes back into his alter-ego's life, in the form of Harry's new girlfriend.

    Tight Squeeze 20:29

    Peter is trying to earn more money, and tries to break into the television scene. He meets Indy, a young worker at the studio who helps Peter get his footage of Spider-Man onto the news. The studio is then held hostage by a group called Pterodax, who are after the webslinger after he foiled a previous crime of theirs. The problem is that Peter is caught with the rest of the hostages.

    Head Over Heels 20:29

    Peter is teamed up with Christina for a class project. However, Christina is eccentric, and infatuated with Spider-Man. She shows Peter her experimental mind-reading device. When she tries to use it, it backfires and gives her a shock. The accident leaves her with delusions that Spider-Man is talking to her, and telling her to do evil things.

    The Party 20:29

    Mary-Jane and Harry try to convince Peter to attend a party. While Peter is unable to attend initially, he promises to turn up. He does arrive in his Spider-Man outfit, to stop Electro.

    Disc 2

    Flash Memory 20:29

    Flash, a college football grunt who normally does not have an intelligence to boast about, strangely develops increased knowledge. This impresses Mary-Jane, who shows interest in the footballer. Peter notices several bumbling criminals who are showing the same symptoms, so it is up to his alter-ego to find out what is happening, and who is doing this.

    Spider-Man Disabled 20:29

    After an attempt to destroy the mayor's car is foiled by Spider-Man, he discovers that things may not be all that they seem, and that it may not in fact be the mayor who was targeted. Spider-Man searches for the attempted assassin to find out who is being targeted and why.

    When Sparks Fly 20:29

    Electro is back, and seeking the girl that he had feelings for prior to his transformation. Spider-Man has to stop Electro, because the only way that he can be with his girl is to convert her into electrical form too.

    Mind Games Parts 1 & 2 20:29 & 20:44

    Telekinetic criminals take control of Spider-Man's mind, making him believe that Mary-Jane has been killed. His mind is altered to get him to seek revenge for the killing. Spider-Man does not realise that he is being used as a pawn in a much bigger scheme.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer for each episode is something to drool over. The presented aspect ratio is 1.78:1 and the transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    Transferred from the original digital source, there are virtually no problems with this transfer. This is reference quality here, people!

    Those expensive computers used to create the image do not produce any film artefacts. There is no low-level noise, no edge enhancement, nor any other major problem.

    Sharpness is of vital importance here. In fact, the image could be a bit overly sharp.

    Shadow detail is another important feature here. A lot of night-time scenes involve Spider-Man jumping out from the darkness, and his suit never looks better than in the shadows.

    Both discs are dual layered. The layer change occurs between episodes, so you don't get any interruptions.

    We have 3 subtitle selections, in the form of English, English Captions and Hindi.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    If you think the video was good, you will find that it has been topped by the audio. We have both an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack encoded at 448kbps and an English dts 5.1 track encoded at 768kbps on offer.

    Dialogue is very clear, and lines up perfectly with the mouth movements. This is one advantage of using CGI, as realistic mouth movements are used for speech.

    There are no pops, scratches or dropouts - nothing to interrupt your aural pleasure.

    The surrounds are used throughout. Scenes in the city allow you to immerse yourself in car noises, background conversation, and when Spider-Man swings through the cityscape, the accompanying whoosh goes from the front to the rear speakers.

    The subwoofer is used as often as the surrounds. Car explosions, fast-revving car/motorbike engines and weapons fire are just some of the on-screen activities giving us LFE. It is very deep, but does not bring much in the way of gut-wrenching, couch-shaking low rumbles. All I would suggest is MORE BASS!

    Now the big question... who is the winner in the eternal battle between Dolby Digital and dts? I myself am leaning towards the dts track. It has noticeably deeper bass than the Dolby track, but is not over the top in any way. The dts track  is also more natural sounding. It is also considerably louder.

    One noticeable feature of the disc is that the dts track was automatically selected as the primary soundtrack when the disc was played back in my DVD player. I thought this was a nice feature, although when viewed with PowerDVD on my PC, the Dolby Digital track was the primary track selected. This confused me, because PowerDVD is capable of playing dts tracks. I have not had a chance to test this out on another system, but spent a while trying to work it out. If anyone out there has come across this, or can explain this anomaly, please get back to me.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Dolby Digital Trailer - Aurora

    Probably the rarest Dolby trailer, which only seems to be put on new Columbia Tristar discs such as T3. 0:35

dts Trailer - The Digital Experience

    Much louder than piano. I find this trailer suits action films better. 0:32

    

    All of the following extra features are 2.0 channel encoded at 192kbps, and are 16x9 enhanced where applicable.

Audio Commentary

    Unfortunately, what was supposed to be an informative audio track enlightening the viewer about the technical challenges and achievements of this series, storyline creation and character development, turns out to be one of the least interesting commentaries I have had the displeasure in listening to. The group turn into a bunch of fanboys/girls, praising Stan Lee and all of his creations, and how they were in such awe at the work that they themselves created. Try listening to 13 episodes of that!

Informational Subtitles - Amazing Spider-Facts

    Occasional popups on screen with comic-like bubbles, throwing in some interesting (and some not-so interesting) facts, with a lot of the information being the same as what is discussed in the commentaries.

DVD-ROM Extras - Character Modeller

    You can only access this by using an Internet browser with Shockwave installed. Unfortunately it does not use a real DVD-ROM program like Interactual. This consists of static pages of concept art, which could have been placed in the gallery section.

Filmographies-Cast & Crew

    Gives a listing of achievements and starring roles.

Theatrical Trailer & Other Trailers

    Spider-Man: The New Animated Series - Does not give away too much, but do not watch it before seeing the show unless you want possible spoilers. 1:56

    Osamu Tezuka's Metropolis - This looks like an extraordinary Anime, something that I cannot wait to watch. The visuals are just stunning. This is a letterboxed image. 1:35

    Cyborg 009 - Back to the basic anime television show look. 1:14

    Astro Boy - The new version of the show is being released on DVD, but I can only remember the classic series having a VHS release. 0:32

Featurette - The Making of Spider-Man

    Interviews with the creators of the show, from the computer animators to Stan Lee and Neil Patrick Harris. From storyboards through to the end product, this featurette briefly touches on each section of the creation. 23:23

Featurette - Spider-Man Tech: Creating the Models

    It is quite fascinating how these models were created from scratch, and the extraordinary detail put into making them so life-like. 12:35

Featurette - Spider-Man Tech: Animating Performances

    Now that the characters have been created, it comes time to make them move in their 3D world. 13:41

Featurette - Spider-Man Music: The Composers

    The soundtrack is all techno dance music. Unfortunately, it is nothing recognisable, or even too appealing. Created by 2 guys on their computers, it is the one aspect I did not like in each episode.7:03

Outtakes

    Quite funny, this shows the animators having some fun. Strangely the image is compressed to make the characters look tall and thin. Looks like someone forgot to hit that 16x9 enhancement button. 1:34

Featurette - Building With Layers

    Use your angle button to view the different layers of animation composited into the one shot. This runs as a continuous loop, and only runs for 0:31.

Featurette - Initial Mainframe Pitch

    A test run from Mainframe Entertainment of what the show might look like. The most interesting extra of them all, because I was hoping they would use this design for the show. 1:09

Featurette - Abandoned "Spidey-Sense" Test

    In black & white. After several viewings, I still could not understand where the Spidey-Sense came into it. 1:00

Featurette - Rough Animation

    This very basic computer animation is to help the animators see if the scene will work before investing in the expensive final rendering shots. No sound, very basic. Watch the real episodes for better viewing. 1:40

Gallery - Production Artwork

    This shows hand drawn artwork and basic computer generated characters, all the way through to the final product. You can select Main Characters, Villains, Guest Characters and Miscellaneous.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This appears to be the same version as available in Region 1. Get whichever is cheaper and easier to locate. Just make sure you do get it.

Summary

    Spider-Man: The New Animated Series is an excellent new animated television show. It does not have quite the look of a computer animated show, but then again it is of a higher standard than cel animation. It is somewhere in the middle, and looks great. Excellent video and audio. While the features are aplenty, only a handful of them are interesting. Steer clear of the audio commentary.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Aiden O'Brien (Here are the results from my biopsy.)
Monday, October 18, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DVD-RV31A-S, using Component output
DisplayPanasonic TX-76PW60. Calibrated with Sound & Home Theater Tune Up. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Sound & Home Theater Tune Up.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR500E
SpeakersJensen SPX-9 Front, Jensen SPX-13 Centre, Jensen SPX-5 Rear, Jensen SPX-17 Sub

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