Beau Weaver …. Mr. Fantastic/Reed Richards/Additional Voices (voice)
Lori Alan …. Invisible Woman/Susan Storm Richards (voice) (as Lori Allen)
Quinton Flynn …. Human Torch/Johnny Storm (II) (1995-1996) (voice)
Chuck McCann …. The Thing/Benjamin J. Grimm (voice)
Stan Lee …. Himself
rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Brian Austin Green …. Human Torch/Johnny Storm (I) (1994-1995) (voice)
Simon Templeman …. Dr. Doom
The 1990’s were a great time for animated television shows featuring the heroes of DC and Marvel Comics. Top of the heap was Batman: The Animated Series, which was created by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini. Batman: TAS was important because it established that not only could a compelling TV show come from a Comic Book character, but could add to the mythos of the character in a way that no other form has been able to do outside of its original form in the pages of DC. Great pains were taken with many of the characters of the series to make it as compelling as possible.
The trend continued in the 1990’s with the fantastic superhero spoof based on Ben Edlund’s The Tick which was enormously funny. Also Marvel threw its hat into the ring of TV animation with a very popular animated series based on its flagship heroes Spiderman and the X-Men. The shows ran for four and five years respectively and were quite entertaining. The Spiderman series was notable for adding in a lot of computer generated backgrounds into its animation which gave the show a very crisp look. Marvel hoped to expand its earlier successes with adaptations of more of their characters.
The Fantastic Four debuted in 1994 and this DVD set covers the entire series’ short run of 27. The two seasons of the show on this set are very uneven. The first season is absolutely terrible animation-wise. All of the show’s problems are very evident in the series” first episode, The Origin of the Fantastic Four. Right from the get go, you know something is wrong with the production of this series. Instead of the very cinematic themes of the Batman and X-Men that get you pumped for action and suspense, the theme for Fantastic Four is closer in tone with My Little Pony or The Care Bears. From there the episode gets no better.
The show opens at a telethon where Dick Clark is asking the heroes about their origin. The heroes are seemingly there just to plug their new book, but Reed eventually relents and goes into the story of their origin. He tells of the space shuttle and how the four heroes immediately started showing their powers. The moment here should be one of two things. The origin of Marvel Comics’ first family should be either horrific due to the immediate changes in the bodies of our heroes, or it should be a majestic moment where ordinary people gain extraordinary powers. The origin in this episode is neither. The transformation is just kind of glossed over and also the animation is so cheap looking that a viewer is completely distracted. Perhaps its unfair to compare the animation to that of Batman: TAS, but the look of the series is closer to looking like half hour episodes of The Ambiguously Gay Duo on Saturday Night Live than a major Comic Book adaptation for television.
On top of all these other problems, the writing is bad. The dialogue is very sophomoric and cheesy, and minimal character work is done to expand on the individual personalities. Even X-Men took the time to try and look into the psyches of its characters. With this series, everything is all on the surface and very repetitive. Just as in the live action film, only The Thing is given anything to do here. Unable to fit in due to his outward appear, Ben Grimm takes solace in the love of a blind girl. For the other characters, nothing really seems to be bothering them even though they have all these new abilities.
Fortunately, the show does get better in its second season. Marvel had the series change animation houses, and the series got a new look and much better animation. One of the best episodes of the second season is entitled Nightmare in Green. In this half hour installment, Dr. Doom, who actually looks cooler here then he does in the live action movie, is able to trick the Hulk into attacking The Fantastic Four. The best portion of this episode is the two confrontations between The Hulk and The Thing. These are epic showdowns, but when the action stops, the shows bad dialogue and storylines rear their ugly heads again. Dr. Doom comes off as a buffoon and the episode has huge gaps in logic. This is typical of most second season episodes.
Mercifully, this series was put down after two seasons. The combination of bad animation, bad characters and horrible dialogue made the show a complete flop. Fortunately, the entire series is encapsulated in this box set, so no more exposure to this series is needed and it can be quickly forgotten.
The transfer on this DVD is pretty awful. The show is presented in a 4:3 Fullscreen which is the show’s original format for broadcast. As bad as the animation is on this show, it’s made worse by the poor transfer here. In any type of action on the show, there is a visible “ghost” where the characters are blurred for a moment. This is just par for the course on this disc I’m afraid.
The Dolby digital stereo track is just fine. There’s no degradation from its original broadcast. All the terrible dialogue and theme music comes in loud and clear.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Stan Lee’s Soapbox, Episode Introductions by Stan Lee, Trailers
Stan Lee’s Soapbox– This is Stan Lee speaking about the origin of the Fantastic Four in the 1960’s. It’s actually a nice little feature as Lee talks about how FF was the answer to DC Comics’ Justice League.
Episode Introductions by Stan Lee– You get Stan here talking about what’s going to happen in each episode. Lee’s enthusiasm comes through as he speaks about Galactus and Dr. Doom, but unfortunately for viewers after the intros the episodes begin.
Trailers Trailers here are for other cartoon packs such as ’67 Spiderman Collection and other films like The Pacifier and Narnia. Unfortunately for this set, there is a trailer for a number of episodes from the Spiderman series, making the comparison of animation that much worse for Fantastic Four.