Fantastic Four
( 1994 Animated )

Fantastic Four ( 1994 Animated )

Perhaps my favorite of all the Marvel comics
was the Fantastic Four ( 1994 Animated )

Fantastic Four ( 1994 Animated )

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There are certain times that we never forget in our youth. For me one was sitting on my best friend’s porch in the lazy summer days and reading comics.

Now this was way before the advent of video games so comics where our major form of escapism. While most people where into the DC comics, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern etc, I tended to like the super heroes presented by their rivals, Marvel Comics. Marvel gave us heroes with faults, believable on a human level. Perhaps my favorite of all the Marvel comics was the Fantastic Four. Since there is about to be a release of a major live action treatment of this comic it was only natural that the animated series from the early nineties would come to DVD. Even though I missed that animated series my life long fond remembrance of the comics made reviewing the DVD release something I was anxious to do.

He animated series began at the beginning. The Fantastic Four reminisce about how they came to posses such incredible powers that would make the most famous super heroes in New York City. Reed Richards (voice of Beau Weaver) was a brilliant scientist. His life’s work was to create a new type of rocket that would enable us to explore space. On the maiden voyage he takes his girl friend Sue Storm (voice of Lori Alan), her kid brother Johnnie (voice of Brian Austin Green/Quinton Flynn) and his old friend and pilot Ben Grimm (voice of Chuck McCann). When they pass the Van Allen radiation belt that surrounds the earth something happens and the four are bombarded by gamma rays. Instead of killing them the rays affect each of them in a unique way. Johnny bursts into flames but instead of consuming his flesh he can control the fire even using it to make him fly. Sue can turn invisible and Ben changes into an orange rock like creature with super human strength. Reed finds that his body is now like plastic, he is able to stretch and reform his body at will. They come to the decision that they must use their new abilities to help mankind and the Fantastic Four was born, Mister Fantastic, The Invisible Girl, The Human Touch and The Thing. As with any super hero universe the appearance of super villains follows like night follows day. Among the most dastardly is Doctor Victor Von Doom (voice of Simon Templeman). I still think that this is one of the greatest, campy villain names of all times! Doctor Doom had the whole man in a metal outfit complete with metal face mask long before Darth Vader was ever to appear on screen.

The series only ran for two seasons and there was a sharp change in quality between them. In the first season the typical low tech animation was utilized. This style was more primitive, especially for 1994. It was jerky with unnatural movements. The dialogue was straight out of the comics, good for that format but for a cartoon it came across as too corny and static. Fortunately, they changed the animators for the second season and the problems where for the most part ironed out. With the second season not only did the animation improve but the story lines became more cohesive. Virtually every episode was based almost directly on the original comics but with the second season the plots explored more of the human problems and relationships that made the comics so great. For those that remember those comics this will be a real stroll down memory lane. There is a certain camp appeal to this series that goes a long way in overcoming the obvious faults of the production. Sometimes you just have to be a bit more forgiving, especially if you are in the generation that grew up with the incredible special effects that most movies have today.

All the great bad guys from the comics are here. There are the Inhumans, a race of genetically altered proto humans with special powers. Johnny Storm even dates one of them, Crystal (voice of Kathy Ireland). There is the famous Silver Surfer, a solid silver humanoid in the service of the master of all evil, Galactus. Galactus does what comes natural to any evil super powered being; he wants to dominate the universe and only the Fantastic Four stand in his way. Then there are the Skrulls, pointy eared aliens that can alter they form to any shape they want. The aforementioned Doctor Doom is the major foe for the Fantastic Four. The former college roommate of Reed Richard, Doom blamed Richards for stealing his ideas and for the deformity that makes his mask a necessity.

Not only did Fantastic Four bring many of the villains into the stories there were actually guest star super heroes. In the first episode you can spot Daredevil, others Marvel favorites like Thor, Iron Man as well as the X-Men and the Avengers. This was another thing that I always liked about the Marvel Universe, there were always cross over appearances between the various titles. Fantastic Four is presented here naturally, like these super heroes are used to bumping into each other. The Fantastic Four stories are not always contained in one episode, like the comics they can carry on in multi-episode arcs. This provided a means to present more complex plots and character development. Another difference between the Fantastic Four and most super heroes is they didn’t have secret identities. The Fantastic Four where headquartered in the Baxter building in New York City, everyone knows exactly who they are. Here, the stories are not involved with hiding your true identity, they centered on real human emotions set against great fantasy.

While we are waiting for the theatrical release of the new Fantastic Four flick this DVD release from Buena Vista can get us all back in the minds set. Sure, there are defects but the characters are classic and presented just the way I remember them. Watching Fantastic Four I found myself back in that porch swing flipping through the latest Marvel comic. Just overlook the lack of style in the first season’s episodes, let go and enjoy the ride.

Movie Review of Fantastic Four ( 1994 Animated )
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