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Spider-Man: The Animated Series (also known simply as Spider-Man) is an American animated television series based on the Marvel Comics' superhero Spider-Man. The show ran on Fox Kids from November 19, 1994 to January 31, 1998.
The series focuses on Spider-Man and his alter ego Peter Parker during his college years at Empire State University. As the story begins Peter Parker has already gained his powers and is a part-time freelance photographer for the Daily Bugle. The series features all of Spider-Man's most popular villains with the exception of Sandman. Over the course of the series the single Peter Parker contends with the romantic love interests of Mary Jane Watson and Felicia Hardy. A sub-plot through most of the series focuses on Madame Web sending Spider-Man on missions to prepare him for his ultimate battle. The series also features guest appearances from several other Marvel heroes.
While Marvel's X-Men animated series was being produced by Saban, Spider-Man: The Animated Series was produced by the newly formed Marvel Films Animation (which was headed by Avi Arad) and was animated by Tokyo Movie Shinsha with Korean studios. It was Marvel's second longest running animated series (after X-Men: The Animated Series) and was the longest cartoon based on Spider-Man (until both shows were beat by Ultimate Spider-Man's third season which reached 78 episodes as of September 2015).
The studio originally wanted the story editor for Batman: The Animated Series but when negotiations broke down John Semper Jr. was called by Stan Lee. Stan Lee then told Semper that the original person they had hired was fired. Semper was then brought on to work on the show immediately.
In 1994, Semper began working on Spider-Man: The Animated Series as a story editor. However, upon starting his job he learned that no writing had been done. Semper then took it upon himself to write the scrips for every episode except for five.
Marvel had no creative control on the tv series because at the time Marvel was in a tough time and close to bankruptcy. However, Stan Lee had influence on the shows first thirteen episodes.
In preparation for creating the the series Semper watched every Spider-Man series that preceded his      , both live action and animated, and especially drew inspiration from the Spider-Man cartoon from 1967. However, Semper knew that he didn't want to create a series like Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends.
Avi Arad always intended Spider-Man: The Animated Series to be "one big toy commercial" which caused disagreements between Semper and Arad. At one point Arad almost fired Semper. However, John Semper Jr. and Avi Arad found common ground when Arad realized that a good show could sell toys better than anything else. Arad was dead set against using Madame Web because he felt that he couldn't create a toy out of her. However, Semper wanted to use her for the series big finale. Semper was eventually able to use her.
According to John Semper Jr. he was forbidden from doing season long story arcs but did it anyways and almost got fired for it. However, he was allowed to get away with it because Marvel was dealing with their financial problems. Semper has stated that he is proud that he did season long arcs because it forced the viewers to pay attention. Semper has also said that he is proud of the fact that he made enemies over this decision.
The villains Sandman and Electro could not be used in the series because James Cameron was planning to use them in a Spider-Man movie he was going to make. The film ended up not being made and toward the end of the series Semper got to use Electro but ran out of time on the series before he could use Sandman.
Spider-Man was forbidden from appearing on any other Marvel cartoon on Fox Kids and The Incredible Hulk which aired on UPN. However, he did make very brief cameos in The Incredible Hulk  and X-Men: The Animated Series .
The series was also known for it's high level of censorship which included:
- Spider-Man and other characters were never allowed to punch anyone.
- No realistic weapons were allowed to be show, only laser weapons were allowed on the series.
- Characters were not allowed to say the words like die, death, or kill. Instead of these words characters like Spider-Man would say that the burglar "Got Uncle Ben." Also when the Destroyer told the story about how his wife died he said that his wife "Was caught in the cross fire."
- Carnage in the comics was a serial killer. In the series he was not allowed to kill anyone so he was changed to a lunatic. However, it is implied that he has killed people but this is never seen on screen. The Punisher as well was not allowed to kill people but it was implied that he had killed before.
- When characters would be killed such as Uncle Ben, Kingpin's father, and Jack Murdock they would be killed off screen.
- Morbius was not allowed to suck characters blood through his fangs so he sucked the blood through suction cups that are on the palm of his hands.
- Additionally Morbius and other characters were not allowed to say the word blood. The word plasma was used in it's place.
- When the Sinister Six was introduced the team had to be renamed the Insidious Six because the network sensors thought that the word sinister sounded to frightening. This is strange because at the same time X-Men: The Animated Series was using the character Mister Sinister.
- Characters were not allowed to break windows and show broken glass.
The series was censored so much because at the time parents groups were complaining about the level of violence on Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers. However, John Semper Jr. has stated that the series was not censored as much as everyone believes ant that this rumor has been blown way out of proportion.
When Semper went to conventions he would read the censorship notes. His two favorites were "Caution that when Spider-Man lands on a roof, he doesn't harm any pigeons" and "You may have a villain sent to jail, but you may NOT give him a bus ticket and send him to Florida."
Spider-Man: The Animated Series was a traditionally hand drawn cartoon. Originally Marvel Films Animation wanted to make the backgrounds completely CGI while Spider-Man web swung around New York City. However, due to budget constraints the animators were forced to use traditional cel based animation while occasionally using CGI. In the later episodes of the series animation from previous episodes would be reused. This included scenes of characters talking which would be slowed down to match the speed of the actors recordings.
Bob Richardson desired to give the show a "contemporary live-action feel" by merging CGI and traditional animation. Richardson described the outcome to be more "NYPD Blue than The Smurfs."
The animation staff was directed to populate the city with cars and crowds on the street level. Semper believed that was one of the limitations of earlier Spider-Man cartoons.
Producer John Semper Jr. was the primary credited writer on the show, receiving some sort of writing credit (usually a story, co-story or co-writing credit) on 60 of the 65 produced episodes. He wrote 8 episodes solo; many of his story credits were actually adaptations of previously published comic book stories.
Many of the other series writers had previously worked on Batman: The Animated Series, including Brynne Chandler Reaves, Marv Wolfman, Gerry Conway, Marty Isenberg, Robert N. Skir, Len Wein, and Sean Catherine Derek.
It's ultimate cancellation after 65 episodes was not due to low ratings but disagreements between executive producer Avi Arad and network head Margaret Loesch. Arad antagonized Loesh until she was fed up and cancelled the series.
Saban Entertainment wanted to produce their own Marvel cartoons so they had Avi Arad antagonize the network head until Spider-Man: The Animated Series was cancelled. Avi Arad and Saban Entertainment then worked together to create a new Spider-Man series called Spider-Man: Unlimited.
Cast and characters
|Christopher Daniel Barnes||Spider-Man / Peter Parker|
|Ed Asner||J. Jonah Jameson|
|Sara Ballantine||Mary Jane Watson|
|Roscoe Lee Browne||Kingpin / Wilson Fisk|
|Linda Gary||May Parker|
|Julie Bennett||May Parker|
|Jennifer Hale||Black Cat / Felicia Hardy|
|Gary Imhoff||Green Goblin / Harry Osborn|
|Rodney Saulsberry||Joseph Robertson|
Spider-Man was one of the most popular shows on Fox Kids, ranking with the programming block's other hit shows such as X-Men: The Animated Series, Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers and Batman: The Animated Series. In 1995 the series won an Annie Award for Best Individual Achievement for Writing in the Field of Animation for the episode Day of the Chameleon and in 1996 Spider-Man: The Animated Series was nominated for a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Animated/Live-Action/Dramatic Youth or Children's Series/Special.
Writer / Producer John Semper Jr. won an Annie Award in 1995 for Best Individual Achievement for Writing in the Field of Animation for the episode "Day of the Chameleon." Spider-Man was also nominated for one 1996 Image Award for Outstanding Animation / Live-Action / Dramatic Youth or Children's Series / Special.
- At the very start of production of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, while the production staff was still in the New World Building in West Los Angeles, supervising producer Bob Richardson hired an actor/acrobat to pose in a Spider-Man costume for action photos to be used as a reference for the studio artists.
- Before distributing a new script of Spider-Man: The Animated Series, John Semper Jr. would always attach an enlarged Xerox copy of a comic book cover that was close to the spirit of the story. He figured it would inspire the artists, as well as indicate the source from which the staff was drawing inspiration from. They were almost always John Romita covers. According to John Semper Jr. he still finds copies of his scripts for sale at comic book conventions on some dealers table with the covers still attached to them.
- Spider-Man: The Animated Series was ranked the top show in Germany, Portugal, and Spain.
- In Japan the series aired on Cartoon Network.
- For unknown reasons Spider-Man: The Animated Series was banned in Hong Kong after airing thirteen episodes.
- Reruns of Spider-Man: The Animated Series were later shown on ABC Family and on the Toon Disney (now Disney XD) night time programming block Jetix.