Spider-Man In Animation - A Retrospective

Part One - Part Two - Part Three - Part Four - Part Five - Part Six

After realising that it probably was a mistake to cancel their most popular show on a cliffhanger and most of their new cartoons werenít delivering in the way Spider-Man and X-Men did in the ratings, and they went back to the drawing board and decided they wanted Spider-Man back on TV. Unfortunately for absolutely everyone involved, creators, executives, viewers, Spider-Man: The Movie had just been green lighted over at Sony, and a cartoon series based on the Ďclassicí Spider-Man was forbidden. The contract was already signed however, there was no getting out of the series which now had no basic premises to speak off and a deadline that wasnít going to wait around.

Spider-Man 2099 was briefly considered for a few weeks before being scraped. Itís not sure why the show changed course, but one would probably assume itís because Peter Parker isnít Spider-Man in that version. No one is quite sure how the new premises came about, but from the comments of those who actually worked on the show, no one liked it. Spider-Man flies to another planet to battle an evil dictator and The Beastials, his hybrid of humans and animals, as they are making life miserable for normal humans.

The concept sucked, to be blunt.

Spider-Man Unlimited, as the show was now called, never really got passed this concept and the re-imaginations of the regular Spider-Man supporting cast simply paled into comparison with the originals. The new costume wasnít really all that cool, and again, compared to the normal suit it just looked off.

Weird versions of Venom and Carnage were used in the show (more than likely because there wasnít a chance of them appearing in the first Spider-Man movie) but they again, werenít the Venom and Carnage people liked. Both of them had out there designs (Carnage was utterly hideous) but the main problem I had with them was that they kept going on about the synobtic, without ever once explaining what it actually was, leaving them without any real motivation. Thereís no chemistry between the two of them and Spider-Man and a Spider-Man and Venom without chemistry make it just another feud, with just another supervillian. This showís version of the symbiotes was a truly poor attempt at the two biggest Spidey villains of the 1990ís.

I personally thought the entire show was too far away from Spider-Man to really be considered Spider-Man, and being that it premiered a little over a year after TAS finished, this was a big let down. There are a few decent things to be found here, the staging of the web slinging, the music is actually pretty cool and thereís an awesome scene in which Spider-Man re-bonds with the symbiote, but to be honest, TAS trumped this on itís worse day. After sitting right the way through the series, Iíll admit it Ė Iíd sooner watch The Spot than an episode of Spider-Man Unlimited.

This series was just as embarrassing to Marvel as it was to the viewers. With Marvels bankruptcy prematurely cancelling the show, they were free of this series and they began preparing to finally bring Spider-Man to the big screen. Hoping to create a cartoon to air shortly after the movie hit theatres, Sony, who now hold Spider-Manís animation rights began immediately preparing a show based on the white hot Ultimate Spider-Man property, even going as far as hiring the comics writer, Brian Michael Bendis to serve as the showís executive producer. Jeff Matsuda was brought in as a character designer (in the very least) and the show was to be Marvelís first foray into 3D animation.

Until the Spider-Man movie came into theatres and completely blew away both fans and Sonyís expectations, bringing in a staggering $800 Million Dollars in theatres alone. On the Spider-Man: The New Animated Series DVD, producer Audu Paden explains that he knew that changes were afoot the moment he stepped back into his office the Monday morning after the film was released.

Due to the success of the movie, the show was changed from itís original Ultimate Spider-Man to tie into the movie even more, and the series would be used a sequel to the original feature film. This meant several things, pretty much all of them bad. The series could no longer use the vast majority of Spider-Manís comic book rouge gallery, lest they appear in future Spider-Man movies. The series could not have Mary Jane and Peter get together when millions of people were pouring into cinemas to see it in the sequel and Peter couldnít be placed in high school like originally planned, Peter was now made a college student.

The real trouble began when it was announced that the show would air on MTV, of all places. Anyone whoís watched animation on MTV will tell you to save yourself the trouble of getting attached Ė chances are it wonít last long anyway. Whilst all shows are subjected to network input, the amount here was astronomical. The show had to fit in with the MTV crowd, and anyone who has the slightest clue as to who Peter Parker is will know that Peter is a textbook example of everything an MTV teen isnít.

Hereís a basic list of MTVís demands. None of this was ever confirmed, but itís obvious from what weíve previously heard and what was said in the audio commentary on the showís DVD release.

The characters were to dress and sound the same way as MTVís target audience.
No old people were allowed to feature in the show Ė No Aunt May or Robbie.
The showís main cast was to Peter, Mary Jane and Harry, and all episodes must prominently feature the 3 characters.
Popular music artists are to provide voiceovers for the guest stars.

A lot of these factors take away the very heart of the character, and between the movie and the network restrictions, the show had a lot going against it before the first episode aired. Worse still, the series was delayed for months on end twice, and thrown on the networkís very worst possible slot in the summer, a time when most of MTVís target audience are well, hammered. Turning on the TV to watch their favourite superhero wasnít exactly priority number one. After all there interference, it was clear that MTV didnít really want the show to begin with. After all, why air 2 episodes every week if you plan on keeping the show around?

Finally, on July 11th 2003 The Party and The Sword Of Shikata (the two worst episodes of the show according to the vast majority of itís fans) aired at 10.00pm on Friday. To the surprise of everyone, it was one of MTVís highest rated shows.