DVD Collection Is Fun But Not "Fantastic"
The four-disc Fantastic Four: The Complete 1994-5 Animated Series DVD set is a mixed offering giving us both the best and worst of Marvel Animation. Thankfully, a fantastic (pun intended) second season makes up for a wretched, laughably horrid first season. But much like the first season of this cartoon, the DVD extras fall incredibly short.
Reed Richards, Sue Storm, her sister Johnny, and pilot Ben Grimm charge into space only to be caught in a “cosmic storm” that alters their DNA and gives them each their own unique superpowers. Reed Richards can stretch any part of his body. Sue Storm can bend light around her, turning invisible. Johnny can burst into flames and control them. Ben Grimm is mutated into the orange-skinned rock monster The Thing.
With their new abilities, these adventurers set out to explore the universe and battle evil. It’s a pretty easy concept that’s difficult to mess up.
Even the most uninvolved comic fan knows the origin of Marvel’s “First Family.” But if you happen to have no idea who these characters are, the opening credits to the first season will sing you their origin in one of the most wretched songs to grace any cartoon. Ever. It’s worse than Krypto The Superdog‘s brain-numbing theme. And there’s even a reprise of it during the end credits that’s much, much worse.
Though the first season handles the basic concept just fine, its execution was simply terrible. The primitive animation was beyond horrible, with some of the worst dialogue and situations ever written. It is possible to sit through all thirteen episodes if you drop any expectations, but it’s mostly good only for a bad-tempered chuckle.
After the show launched its second season, though, there was a major change in the creative staff, and the difference is pretty substantial. The animation was vastly improved, and the characters designs were spot on. The opening credits were redone, giving the show a more epic feel and theme. The plots were taken right from the pages of the Marvel comics that had inspired the series. The show truly became fantastic in the second season.
During that season, we were given a host of cameos and excellent heroes and villains: Daredevil, Scarlet Spider, The New Warriors, The Inhumans, and even a couple quick cameos by the X-Men. Twelve solid episodes really brought the Marvel Universe to life in the second season. Only one episode, “Prey of the Black Panther,” stumbles about.
Sadly, the episode introductions featuring Stan Lee that originally aired when this show hit the airwaves in 1994 are nowhere to be seen in this set, despite being mentioned in the end credits.
Like the series, the DVD is a bit of a mixed bag. The episodes are presented in their original full-frame aspect ratio with no pixelation, edge enhancement, or other transfer faults. And like the video, the dialogue sounds crisp and clear, with the 2.0 sound helping the effects/music come through almost crystal clear.
The extras—a Stan Lee interview and brief Stan Lee intros for each episode—fall short of any real quality. It’s the usual hyperbole we’ve seen from the easily excitable creator on just about every Disney/Marvel DVD that has come before. He provides a couple interesting facts but nothing substantial.
Trailers for Disney features, DVDs, and television shows are also included.