08 August 2013

DVD Set Review: "Fantastic Four": The Complete 1994-95 Animated Television Series

Rated: TV-Y7 for fantasy violence (US) / G (Canada)
Starring: Beau Weaver, Lori Alan, and Chuck McCann
Released: 1994-1996 (original TV premieres) / July 5, 2005 (DVD)
Synopsis: Sue Richards, her husband Reed, her brother Johnny, and their friend Ben were just four normal, everyday people...until an experiment led to them being exposed to extraterrestrial radiation, which gave them new superpowers.  Ben became the Thing, an incredibly strong rock-man; Sue became the Invisible Woman, who can not only make herself and others fade from sight, but also can produce force fields; Reed, aka Mr. Fantastic, can stretch and mold himself into various shapes; Johnny is now the Human Torch, who can light himself on fire and fly like a bird.  Together, they are the Fantastic Four...and, with villains such as Dr. Doom and Galactus insistent on mass destruction, our planet needs them now more than ever!

WARNING! The sections below may contain spoilers!

Artistic Merit

Plots: 3.5/5
The series starts off interestingly enough, with the Four appearing on a telethon telling the story of how they became Fantastic.  It's quite fun until the second season, which tends to rely too much on the same villains we saw in the first season, as well as other Marvel heroes.  Where it really falls flat is the "Hopelessly Impossible" episode, which is little more than a retrospective of past episodes; that makes for a waste of twenty-two minutes.

Animation: 5/5
Nothing to complain about here.  The character designs, backgrounds, superpower effects, and everything else are well-done.  Though it was made in the nineties, this series has the feel of an old-school Hanna-Barbera cartoon, which isn't a bad thing.

Voice Work: 4.25/5
Most of the voices are at least moderately good, though some of them could have been better.  The main characters are all well-voiced.  Dick Clark and Stan Lee appear, voicing themselves.

Moral Content

Positive Elements: 4.5/5
As friends/family, the Four constantly look out for each other and their fellow man.  When one of the Four wants to kill a villain, Mr. Fantastic tells him, "We're not murderers!" Elsewhere, the "difference between justice and vengeance" is discussed, and the "Inhumans" story arc is very anti-racism.  Each of the couples within the series--Mr. and Mrs. Reed Richards, Ben/"The Thing" and blind lady Alicia, Johnny/"Torch" and the "Inhuman" Crystal--show serious dedication to each other.  Reed, who is quite the genius, uses advanced scientific language throughout the series.

Sexual Content: 4.5/5
About as bad as it gets is when Sue remarks that her being in a bikini won't even distract her husband Reed from his scientific pursuits.

Nudity: 4/5
Some random women show cleavage, and, as mentioned above, Sue is seen in a bikini.  Probably the worst of it is when another woman accidentally burns her clothes off after Johnny inadvertently gives her his powers, though critical areas are obscured.  Though the Thing only wears something that looks like underwear, because of his character design, it does not feel sexual.

Violence: 2.5/5
Though there is "fantasy violence" throughout the series, it really intensifies during the second season.  Alongside the hits, kicks, explosions, and such, one character gets killed after an alien attaches a bomb to his body as bait for the Four.  Some of the characters' backstories also involve implied murders.  As usual for Saturday morning cartoons, though, it is not the least bit bloody or graphic.

Language: 3.75/5
God's name is misused infrequently, as is "Jeez".  The expression "Holy...!" is left unfinished.  The Thing often resorts to name-calling and trash-talking his enemies, but it remains G-rated the whole time. 

Drugs: 4/5
It is implied that alcohol is consumed.  A transforming alien briefly imitates a character who smokes.

Frightening/Intense Scenes: 3.5/5
Some of the monsters can be scary, and there are a few rather emotional moments.

Other: 4/5
There's a bit of crude/bathroom humor.

Conclusion: I didn't watch television a lot or really care very much about superheroes--other than those Mighty Morphin Power Rangers!--as a kid, so, I missed out on this series when it was originally on TV.  Thanks to Disney, Marvel, and my local MovieStop, I am able to experience it on DVD.  Though well-made, it pales a bit in comparison to some other series, notably the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons and Disney XD's Avengers.  Still, those who were disappointed in the sexual content and profanity in the two Fantastic Four movies will probably find this series to be an improvement.

Score: 3.75/5

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