Synopsis: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment and DC are celebrating the 25th anniversary of Superman: The Animated Series with a fully remastered Blu-ray box set. Superman: The Complete Animated Series includes several hours of bonus features headlined by an all-new documentary detailing the creation of one of the most beloved animated Super Hero cartoons in history.
Produced by Warner Bros. Animation (WBA), the Emmy Award-winning Superman: The Animated Series was the perfect follow-up to the landmark Batman: the Animated Series. Producers Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and Alan Burnett elevated The Man of Steel's animated presence with an imaginative, heartfelt look at Superman's adventures in Metropolis alongside Lois Lane and opposite the villainous likes of Lex Luthor, Brainiac, Darkseid and more. Premiering on September 6, 1996, the series continued WBA's dominance in Super Hero animation, once again setting new standards for storytelling, art direction and acting performances - and garnering 11 Emmy Award nominations and two Emmy Award wins, including top honors as the Outstanding Special Class Animated Program of 1998.
The remarkable Superman: The Complete Animated Series box set features nearly 21 hours of entertainment spread over six Blu-ray discs, including all 54 exciting episodes, an all-new series-defining featurette entitled "Superman: Timeless Icon," a special video commentary episode and three specially selected episodes with audio commentaries by the showrunners.
All 54 episodes have been remastered from the original 35mm Interpositive sources, giving special attention to extensive color correction, dirt and scratch clean up, and adding a grain reduction pass to create a pristine picture, all while making sure not to affect the original lines in the artwork of the animation. The audio was retransferred from the original audio masters, and the series is presented in its original aspect ratio (4x3).
Click the "Press Release" links above for more details!
Superman: The Complete Animated Series Blu-ray Collection
Review by James Harvey
Timed for the 25th anniversary of the classic cartoon, Superman: The Complete Animated Series finally brings the acclaimed series to high-definition Blu-ray in a slick six-disc set. With a great, albeit flawed, transfer and a hefty, albeit incomplete, batch of bonus content, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment does mostly right here by DC Comics' premiere super-hero. While there are some significant missteps made, what we get overall is a fairly satisfying collection for Superman: The Animated Series, one of the best animated series ever made.
Produced by Warner Bros. Animation, the Emmy Award-winning Superman: The Animated Series was the perfect follow-up to the landmark Batman: the Animated Series. Premiering on September 6, 1996, the series continued WBA's dominance in Super Hero animation, once again setting new standards for storytelling, art direction and acting performances - and garnering 11 Emmy Award nominations and two Emmy Award wins, including top honors as the Outstanding Special Class Animated Program of 1998. And now, the Superman: The Complete Animated Series Blu-ray set collects all 54 episodes spread over six discs, along with bonus content, including the new "Superman: Timeless Icon" featurette along with other special features.
As with previous "complete" collection reviews, the focus will be more on the release itself rather than the show. But, before we get to the Blu-ray, a quick look at the show itself - Superman: The Animated Series - is still in order.
To sum it up, Superman: The Animated Series follows the remarkable journey of the Man of Steel, from his earliest adventures right up to his most challenging. We see just about everything. His first "day on the job," his first team-up, his first major loss, and so on. What unfolds over the course of 54 episodes is a fun, exciting and occasionally surprising (and shocking) journey that admirably captures the essence of the world's greatest super hero. True, not every story ends up a winner (*cough*Unity*cough*), but you can't deny the overall top quality of this animated series.
As with Batman: The Animated Series, producers Bruce Timm, Paul Dini and Alan Burnett, along with the entire crew, essentially took Superman (and the inhabitants of his "world") back to the drawing board to figure out what works and what doesn't. Some characters were tweaked while others were recreated from the ground up (ie: Toyman, for one), Metropolis was given a futuristic deco remake, and, more importantly, Superman became more than just an alien who can take a punch or throw a planet. The series fully fleshes him out, imbuing him with personality, heart and character, while also putting some legitimately novel challenges in his path, some of which are truly devastating.
It's not just the stellar creative team that makes this show sing, but also the incredible behind-the-mic talent. While he may not get as much recognition for what he brings to the role in comparison to Kevin Conroy's Batman, Tim Daly's Superman is pretty darn close to perfection. He's sounds caring and warm, and will absolutely put his foot down and hold firm for what he thinks is right. Dana Delaney's Lois Lane is spot-on casting by Andrea Romano, and the same goes for the series' other major heavy-hitters, Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor and Michael Ironside as the devious Darkseid. It doesn't stop there, though, as there's not a single misstep to be found down the rest of the cast list. Seriously, and considering not just the voice talent but everyone involved and, well, Superman: The Animated Series just might be the pinnacle of the DCAU for overall execution.
And while it's open for debate, Superman: The Animated Series easily surpasses the movies, most comic titles, and even other television series when it comes to nailing all the key elements of the Superman mythos (after the animated series, only the classic Superman: The Movie and the recent Superman & Lois come close). There's just something so right about this take that the rest - despite all their respective pros and cons - just can't touch. Much like what Batman: The Animated Series did for The Dark Knight, this show does the same for the Man of Steel. Sure, it may not be as acknowledged or critically hailed as Batman: The Animated Series, or some of the other DCAU and DC Comics-based series, but you can't deny how this show excelled on nearly every level. It had some duds, totally, but the overall quality here is just unparalleled. And, regardless of the format, this show deserves to be in everyone's home collection.
Speaking of, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment's Superman: The Complete Animated Series Blu-ray collection arrives just in time for the show's 25th anniversary, and, all things considered, it's worth the wait, but perhaps not for everyone. Unfortunately, for everything this collection gets right, it does make one fairly big mistake that some fans might not be able to overlook.
Looking quickly at the physical set, the six discs are housed in a slipcase-covered and slightly thicker Blu-ray case (there's also a "25th Anniversary" sticker on the shrink wrap). Packaged inside is the digital code slip and a leaflet breaking down the collection contents disc by disc. Also, each disc gets its own holder. Overall, Superman: The Complete Animated Series gets a more basic, stripped-down release when compared to the previous Batman: The Complete Animated Series and Batman Beyond: The Complete Series collections.
Moving to the on-disc content, there's a good splash of extras to go with the high-definition episodes, all 54 remastered from the original 35mm Interpositive sources. While commentaries are somewhat spread out across the set, all the remaining bonus features can be found on the set's last disc. Superman: The Complete Animated Series breaks down as follows:
Episodes - The Last Son of Krypton Part 1, The Last Son of Krypton Part 2, The Last Son of Krypton Part 3, Fun and Games, A Little Piece of Home, Feeding Time, The Way of all Flesh, Stolen Memories
Special Features - Commentary on The Last Son of Krypton Part 1, Stolen Memories
Episodes - The Main Man Part 1, The Main Man Part 2, My Girl, Tools of the Trade, Two's A Crowd, Blast from the Past Part 1, Blast from the Past Part 2, The Prometheon, Speed Demons, Livewire
Special Features - Commentary on The Main Man, Part 2
Episodes - Identity Crisis, Target, Mxyzpixilated, Action Figures, Double Dose, Solar Power, Brave New Metropolis, Monkey Fun, Ghost In The Machine
Special Features - Commentary on Mxyzpixilated
Episodes - Father's Day, World's Finest Part 1, World's Finest Part 2, World's Finest Part 3, The Hand of Fate, Bizarro's World, Prototype, The Late Mr. Kent
Special Features - None
Episodes - Heavy Metal, Warrior Queen, Apokolips...Now! Part 1, Apokolips...Now! Part 2, Little Girl Lost Part 1, Little Girl Lost Part 2, Where There's Smoke, Knight Time
Special Features - None
Episodes - New Kids In Town, Obsession, Little Big Head Man, Absolute Power, In Brightest Day..., Superman's Pal, A Fish Story, Unity, The Demon Reborn, Legacy Part 1, Legacy Part 2
Special Features - Superman: Timeless Icon (featurette, new), Menaces of Metropolis: Behind the Villains of Superman (featurette), Building the Mythology: Superman's Supporting Cast (featurette), Superman: Learning to Fly (featurette), A Little Piece of Trivia (trivia), The Despot Darkseid: A Villain Worthy of Superman (featurette)
There's a good amount of bonus material collected here, no question, but there's also some curious omissions from the content ported over from the earlier Superman: The Animated Series DVD releases. Not included here are the commentaries for "Tools of the Trade," "Brave New Metropolis," "World's Finest Part 1," "Apokolips...Now! Part 2," "New Kids in Town," and "Legacy Part 2," along with the "Apokolips...Now! Part 1" easter egg commentary and "Superman: Behind the Cape" featurette from Superman: The Animated Series - Volume Three. It's a total mystery why this content isn't included here, nor any real reason why it would be left out.
Also curious, for the included commentaries, is how the episode will switch from the HD version to the SD version when a commentary track is selected. Basically, you can't watch/listen to the commentaries in high-definition. Instead of dedicated audio tracks for the commentaries included on the set, they're separate standard definition versions of the episodes with just the single audio commentary track hard-encoded. Another confusing production decision.
That said, the older content on this collection is solid material. Informative, interesting, and full of plenty of cool facts and tidbits that fans of Superman: The Animated Series and the DC Animated Universe in general will enjoy. Feel free to read the reviews for the three Superman: The Animated Series DVD releases for a closer look at the ported-over special features.
The sole new bonus feature, titled "Superman: Timeless Icon," is a roughly 33-minute feature covering the inspiration, creation, production and legacy of Superman: The Animated Series. On top of a hefty look at some of the rare, early production art for the series - more than what's been floating around - there's also genuine insight into how the series was shaped, how challenging it was, and it's even impact on the wider DC Animated Universe as a whole. Plenty of the series' key players make appearances, including Timm, Paul Dini, director Dan Riba, writer Bob Goodman, Daly Brown, and Andrea Romano. Plus, it also features a cameo by a certain "SuperPR guy," too! It's a respectful, honest and legitimately interesting look back at the show that, really, was a little overlooked in its time.
Moving on to the audio and video transfer quality, things fall along the lines of the previous Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond HD remasters. The quality, for the most part, is comparable. The episodes look great, even revitalized, with the bright tone and look of the series really benefiting from the remaster. The show's bright palette arguably leans into the strength of the remaster more so than the darker look of Batman: The Animated Series and Batman Beyond (excluding that series' digitally colored episodes). The massive uptick in visual quality is immediately noticeable, looking clear and vibrant with detail, for the most part, shining through.
There are occasional blemishes, which appear to be the result of the remastering process, where some background detail looks scrubbed, but they're infrequent enough to not be really distracting. The video transfer is really solid, but not perfect, as some artifacting and blocking can be spotted from time-to-time throughout the collection. Some episodes also have spots that look soft, or have very noticeable scratches or dust, but that's merely due to those issues being present in the original source materials and are to be expected. That said, there are moments where the picture looks jaw-dropping at times, almost jumping off the screen. It's a commendable transfer which ultimately gives the series a nice refresh.
However, there is one glaring mistake that might be a deal-breaker for some. This collection, unfortunately and erroneously, includes the botched version of "Apokolips...Now Part 2." For those unaware, the Jack Kirby dedication text featured at the end of episode was mistakenly removed during the HD remastering process. This error came to light when the HD transfers for Superman: The Animated Series made their debut on HBO Max earlier this year. It has since been fixed with the text properly restored at the end of the episode, both on HBO Max and on digital. Not so much here.
On the plus side, the also previously-known 'green screen' error from "Last Son of Krypton, Part 3," since fixed in the digital and streaming versions of the episode, is also thankfully not to be found here. To describe it briefly, another remastering error removed a chunk of animation during Superman's confrontation with Lex Luthor at LexCorp at the end of the episode, leaving Luthor to momentarily talk opposite a big, empty green screen.
While the video quality hits a couple issues, thankfully the audio transfer comes out clean across the board. The original stereo audio is offered in 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless and it sounds exceptional. Whether it's a quiet dialogue-driven scene or a massive set piece, everything sounds crystal clear. The score, featuring some of the best music ever put to animation, has never sounded better, and the same can be said about the action beats. In fact, some of the series' more epic-scaled episodes - especially the latter Apokolips-focused adventures - feel like they finally sound as boisterous as intended. You need that weight behind those big moments, and the audio transfer here absolutely delivers.
Considering the high-definition remaster and the accompanying bonus content, Superman: The Complete Animated Series does make a bold case for itself. Even discounting the special features, just having this classic DC Comics cartoon in high definition is, honestly, worth it alone. This is such a strong series and having it in quality (albeit imperfect) high-definition, finally, is absolutely worth the price tag. However, that alone may not be enough to win over some consumers.
There are some understandable obstacles that may prompt fans to just hold on to their DVD collections instead. While the new "Superman: Timeless Icon" featurette is definitely worth checking out, the mishandling of the ported over bonus material is a definite strike against this collection. However, the bigger strike goes to the "Apokolips...Now! Part 2" error, which will be understandably difficult for a lot of fans to look past. It's a major, major oversight that's hard to discount and brings into question overall quality control.
Even so, with everything against it, it's still hard to just discount this collection. The HD remaster really revitalizes the series, making every Superman: The Animated Series episode pop like never before. It's genuinely that good. However, if this set's shortcomings are too much to justify the purchase, then fans may want to consider picking up the Digital HD release as an alternative (and it includes the corrected "Apokolips Now...Part 2"). While the quality of the video won't be one-to-one, it's pretty close. To bring it back to the physical release, there is a tinge of disappointment that's hard to dismiss, but the pros of the collection do pull ahead in the end, though not by a big margin. Nevertheless, it's really going to come down to personal preference when considering just how detrimental this collection's faults will be for some consumers, and what can ultimately be overlooked. Taking everything good, bad, and ugly into account, Superman: The Complete Animated Series still is still worth it, and comes Recommended, but with reservations.
Please note Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided a copy of this title for reviewing purposes. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment also provided product synopsis details and additional imagery. Additionally, the author purchased the iTunes Digital HD collection of Superman: The Animated Series for the sake of accurate comparison and completion.
Check out The World's Finest reviews for the Batman: The Complete Animated Series and Batman Beyond: The Complete Series Blu-ray releases!