The Incredible Hulk (Animated Series)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // Unrated // $14.99 // June 17, 2003
Review by James W. Powell | posted June 17, 2003
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DVD Marketing 101: In this new class designed for DVD aficionados, you will learn to market mediocre entertainment that features the same main character as the one found in a new film that is all but guaranteed to make millions of dollars. Although free of charge, students will need to rent (not purchase) The Incredible Hulk animated series.

This practice of riding the bandwagon of soon-to-be box office hits is getting more and more common these days. Unfortunately, the material offered isn't of the highest quality and would most likely fail if not for the instant fan base created by the new film. The new The Incredible Hulk animated series doesn't buck the trend of mediocrity.

The DVD features four episodes from the 1996 television series. Why they didn't incorporate the entire run of shows (I only know they didn't because the final episode ends in a semi-cliffhanger) is unknown, but I can take a guess: Buena Vista and Marvel wanted to make money with minimal effort. They will most likely succeed.

The greatest asset of this animated series is also it's major shortcoming. The cheese factor rating is through the roof. Bruce Banner (voiced by Neal McDonough) is a scientist with "big" problems, and Betty (Genie Francis) is the woman who loves him. Of course, her dad, General Ross (John Vernon) wants to kill the Hulk (Lou Ferrigno), but he doesn't know Banner and the Hulk are the same person. You can see where this could lead to some cheesy, but fun, sequences.

The writers also saw where these situations could take the characters, and unfortunately, they went there pretty much every episode. Watching all four back-to-back is like a bad case of deja-vu. In a lab, Banner is "this close" to freeing himself from the Hulk when something goes wrong, the lab either explodes or is destroyed, the Hulk goes on a rampage and smashes things, General Ross yells at his troops, Betty yells at daddy to stop or he'll kill him, she then calms down the Hulk in order to save him from her dad, and the Hulk then runs away without actually bashing anything living.

But The Incredible Hulk isn't Shakespeare and doesn't pretend to be, so all of this is just fine. It's a hokey, enjoyable cartoon with the same premise every week. So what? It's still entertaining if you have 25 minutes to kill, particularly for Hulk fans. Plus, Iron Man (Robert Hayes) makes an appearance, and who doesn't like a hero with special guest stars? If you need something to satiate your needs for large green men with lots of muscle, this fits the bill, but barely. Just don't watch them all in one sitting.

Buena Vista and Marvel present The Incredible Hulk in the original broadcast format of 4:3 full frame, and it looks very close to how it must've looked in 1996 when the episodes first aired. The image isn't particularly crisp, and there are instances of dirt specks and scratches. However, the colors look very vivid and bright, which is key to an animated series. It doesn't look as nifty as a more recent offering, but considering the source material, it's a good transfer.

Offered in 2.0 Dolby surround sound (both English and Spanish), the soundtrack does an adequate job delivering the goods as long as you're not expecting too much. You won't find a terribly deep low end, but the explosions and artillery sound reasonably well, and the Hulk does indeed smash things with a solid thuds. Voices are generally crisp, too, although The Hulk sounds a little too girlie (which isn't a transfer issue, it's just that Lou Ferrigno's voice sounds a little too high for such a big, strong hero).

This disc is also captioned for the hearing impaired.

The extras are the best part of the disc. Sure, they're not an incredible selection of extras, but they do indeed add to the value of the disc. First up is the original 1966 episode introduced by Stan Lee, the Hulk's creator. This episode tells the origin of The Hulk in four chapters and is nothing more than the panels of the comic book's first issue with voices and the occasional moving limb. The art in this one puts the one produced 30 years later to shame. To top it off, I couldn't help but smile when I caught myself singing a section of the theme song that goes: "Ain't no monster who is as lovable as the ever loving Hulk." Now that's a theme song!

Also on tap is the Inside the Hulk feature. With this enabled, you can watch each 1996 episode with fun facts about the Hulk added at strategic locations. Just click when you see Hulk's mug appear in the upper right corner and you're told, by either Peter David or Stan Lee, about the various characters and settings of the Hulk's 40 years of comic book fame.

Plus, you get Who is Peter David, a 36 second "interview" with one of the Hulk's most famous writers, Stan Lee's Soapbox in which Lee tells about how much he enjoys comics and why people around the world should stop looking down on the medium, and nine trailers including "Spirited Away" and "Castle in the Sky."

The Incredible Hulk animated series doesn't stray far enough away from the usual "Hulk smash" mentality to be worthy of repeated viewings. But for those looking for something to get them ready for the Ang Lee film, this should definitely fit the bill. Plus, the 1966 episode alone is worth the price of a rental.

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