Marvel’s generational domination of the entertainment universe extends from the original “true believers” who remember buying Fantastic Four #1 on the newsstand in 1961 to kids just tall enough to push their money over the counter to see the latest MCU blockbuster, but every year brings a new crop of little ones yet to be initiated into the ways of Spider-Man and company. So Marvel has created glossy new onramp in the form of a charming kid-oriented animated series, Marvel’s Spidey and His Amazing Friends. The show, Marvel’s first full length animated offering aimed at preschoolers, is set to debut on Disney
Spidey follows the exploits of Peter Parker (voiced by Benjamin Valic), Gwen Stacy (Lily Sanfelippo) and Miles Morales (Jakari Fraser), a trio of fun-loving pals who take on bad guys as Spidey and the gang. Friendship, inclusiveness, teamwork, learning to respect differences and overcome adversity are the core values of this group, and episodes balance action with problem-solving and affirmation.
The world of Marvel’s Spidey and His Amazing Friends may be simplified and adapted for preschoolers, but it is recognizably a version of the Marvel universe, featuring classic villains like Rhino, Doc Ock and the Green Goblin along with allies Hulk, Ms. Marvel and Black Panther. There’s also the team’s computerized helper, Trace-E (the “E” probably stands for “exposition” since the device provides a lot of helpful explanations of background concepts). surely intended to be a future must-have holiday gift item.
“We’re taking these characters and introducing them to a younger audience who’s meeting them for the first time,” said series Supervising Director Chris Moreno.
But not the last time. Tots raised on the exploits of the pint-sized Spider gang should age gracefully into the brand of pre-teen animated Marvel fare offered on Disney XD, featuring a Marvel pantheon with a penchant for one-upmanship, boasting and fart jokes, and then onward into the mainstream world of the MCU and more adult-oriented streaming shows. Marvel is engaged in a similar enterprise on the print side, recently striking a deal with kids-lit juggernaut Scholastic to produce licensed graphic novels for younger readers featuring superheroes in age-appropriate stories, rolling up to a middle grades line currently licensed to IDW Entertainment, then to the main 14+ comics published by Marvel. Good franchise management always looks to fill the pipeline for the future, after all.
Whatever brand machinations lay behind Marvel’s Spidey and His Amazing Friends, the show itself is the product of a very thoughtful approach to both story and visuals. The glossy 3D animation is reminiscent of 90s-era Pixar (another Disney property that has the kid market dialed in), with lots of eye candy and fun sequences that depict the Spiderverse as a colorful and magical place. Though the plots center on simplified conflicts between good guys and bad guys, the team usually has to overcome internal limitations or apply ingenuity to solving the problems, and each of the diverse cast of teammates gets a chance to shine. The narration gently introduces some fairly advanced concepts by explaining powers and equipment . There’s also plenty of peppy music courtesy of series composer Patrick Stump (of Fall Out Boy).
The result is definitely a kid-oriented show for preschoolers that may be entertaining enough for kids age 6 or 7 — and one that might not drive parents crazy on repeated viewings, particularly parents who are themselves Marvel fans and want to share their enthusiasm with their kids in an age-appropriate way.
“We talk to people, particularly superfans of Marvel, and they tell us this is the show they were waiting for as little kids,” said Lori Mozilo, Vice President, Original Programming at Disney Junior.
Harrison Wilcox (“Marvel’s Avengers: Black Panther’s Quest”) is executive producer and Steve Grover (“Hello Ninja”) is supervising producer. Chris Moreno (Disney Junior’s “Muppet Babies”) and Chris Gilligan (Disney Junior’s “T.O.T.S.”) serve as supervising director and consulting director, respectively. The series is produced by Disney Junior and Marvel Entertainment in association with Atomic Cartoons.
Marvel’s Spidey and His Amazing Friends will be available in DisneyNOW on its premiere date and will begin streaming on Disney+ shortly thereafter. Launch platforms will vary in international territories.