Reusing animation is a common practice to save money on the budget of most every animated show. Even for mega hits like The Simpsons. So you have to have some level of forgiveness there. I don’t agree with, but I can understand, even reusing basically an entire show, just juggling a few scenes and changing up some dialogue ala Menace From The Bottom Of The World and Spiderman Battles The Molemen. But Phantom from the Depths of Time (what does that title even mean?) takes things to a whole other level.
Generally, that repeated animation is from the same series, which makes sense. If a reused scene from Futurama showed up on The Simpsons it would look out of place.
I’ve commented previously how season two has often felt like it was another show with Spider-Man just dropped into it. Well, for Phantom, the cash strapped Krantz Animation did exactly that. This entire episode is basically From Menace To Menace from another Krantz Animated series, Rocket Robin Hood.
Here are the two episodes for the masochistic like myself to watch and compare:
Same villian, basically the same story, same music. It’s like they took the cells for the Rocket Robin episode and gave them to some intern along with a pencil and said, “here, erase all the animation of Robin and Will and just draw Spider-Man in their place.” Almost quite literally. To the point that Spider-Man, a character who in the comics has dificulity driving a car, flies several “space ships” in this episode. Of course, he never actually goes to space (no matter what Tom Kelly may tell you), but flies the first space ship out to an island in the middle of the Atlantic. Hey, I live on an island in the middle of the Atlantic…luckily it is not under the control of some alien overlord who can bring the hills alive into robotic bugs and rhinos. But then again, I haven’t been out of these lavacide mines in a long time. Who knows what is on the surface area these days. But I digress…
The show is basically an LSD trip disguised as a cartoon. Actually, when watched in context, the original Rocket Robin Hood cartoon is not all that bad. It’s not great, but at least the concepts of aliens and rocket ships make sense in that sci-fi show. When they drop Spider-Man into the middle of things you are too busy wondering WTF is going on here to even allow yourself to get into the show.
I made a whole bunch of notes about the plot of the show, but I’m not sure there is much point really getting into it. Alien overlord captures civilians and makes them slaves in his lavacide mines. One of the slaves escapes and sends a distress call…that Spider-Man’s spider sense somehow picks up on thousands of miles away. Spidey then “borrows” a “spaceship” that he flies off to some remote island. When he arrives, robotic bugs destroy his ship. Yada, yada, yada, Spider-Man defeats Dr. Manta (another evil doctor) and…flies that ship the bugs tore apart back to New York. Just another normal Spider-Man adventure.
There’s not much more to say about this episode. It’s a bit of a disgrace.
Let’s finish by switching gears a little.
I’ve owned the box set containing all the episodes of this Spider-Man series for many years. It might even be a bit of a collectors item today as it has been discontinued. Alas, though all the episodes seem to be readily available on YouTube and various other sites, I like to go old school and watch the shows on DVD.
At the end of this episode, there is a little “commercial” with clips (that appear to mostly be from season one) advertising next week’s episode Revolt in the 5th Dimension. (Which isn’t actually the next episode, but a season 3 episode that plays a similar Rocket Robin switcharoo trick.)
That little commercial though seemed awfully familiar, and very out of place seeing that I’ve watched a season and a half of these shows during this rewatch and had never seen one before. With a little research I discovered it was familiar because most (if not all) episodes when airing on TV, have that little “Next Week” teaser. Often with clips from the next episode. While other are simply the same clip with a different voice over from Spidey saying what is coming up for his next adventure.
Here are some examples:
(This is the one that appears on the DVD)
(Not sure why this is black and white)
I wonder why the DVD remaster decided to exclude these? As a completist, now I wish I didn’t know this.