One of the new animated projects for Disney+ alongside X-Men ’97, Spider-Man: Freshman Year will be a prequel series, following the early adventures of the MCU Spidey.
An unusual approach, this would be the first time that a mainstream Marvel Studios live action property would explore prior untold stories in animated form. However, Marvel has had Disney+ exclusives that interconnect with the continuity of the main MCU, particularly Phase Four projects and the animated dive into the multiverse with Marvel’s What If…?
What could fans of the Wall-Crawler expect from Spider-Man: Freshman Year? Would it have any connection to the upcoming Spider-Man: No Way Home film? Read on for more.
Spider-Man animated history in brief
Ever since the Weblinger first appeared in Amazing Fantasy #15 (cover dated August 1962), Spider-Man has been a popular comic book icon. And with that popularity comes branching off into other media.
Marvel’s friendly neighborhood Spider-Man has had many versions in animated form. The very first popular Spider-Man cartoon was from 1967. Running for 3 seasons for a total of 52 episodes, this series used many of the classic Spider-Man elements, including his job in the Daily Bugle, his supporting cast of Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, and Betty Brant. He also fought classic villains like Doctor Octopus, Electro, Green Goblin, Mysterio, The Vulture, The Lizard (called Lizard Man), and the Rhino. Interestingly, it is also renowned for the catchy Spider-Man theme ("Does whatever a spider can") as well as the oddball season 2 and 3 which were produced by Ralph Bakshi.
Surprisingly, a cartoon based on Spider-Man would not revisited until 1980-1981. There would actually be two Spider-Man animated shows, with Spider-Man and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. The latter would be a team-up with the X-Men’s Bobby Drake/Iceman and Angelica Jones/Firestar. These animated efforts are notable for exploring the bigger Marvel Universe, with appearances of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and the very popular 1970’s roster of the X-Men.
The next cartoon to star the Web-head is 1994’s Spider-Man: The Animated Series. This ran for 5 seasons and 65 episodes. Running alongside the mega-popular X-Men: The Animated Series and Marvel Action Hour, it helped bring about revitalized mainstream popularity during the comic book boom of the 1990s. When the series ended in 1998, an experimental alternate reality version sending Spidey to Counter-Earth was explored in the short-lived Spider-Man Unlimited.
Other subsequent animated series that were based on Spider-Man include Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (2003), The Spectacular Spider-Man (2008), Ultimate Spider-Man (2012), Disney XD’s Spider-Man (2017), and Disney Junior’s Spidey and His Amazing Friends (2021). There is also the Into the Spider-Verse film in 2018, though that focused more on the Miles Morales version.
Untold tales of Spider-Man
What these prior animated efforts that star Peter Parker and his superhero identity of Spider-Man have in common is that they occur in their own continuities. Although the core elements are based on the comic books, they are separate and distinct from one another.
— Marvel Studios (@MarvelStudios) November 12, 2021
On Disney+ Day 2021, the announcement of Spider-Man: Freshman Year also revealed something unique. It would explore and expand on the early days of the live action MCU Spider-Man which is portrayed by Tom Holland since his first appearance in Captain America: Civil War (2016). The events will be in continuity and will be part of the MCU’s Phase Four.
According to the official Marvel Studios synopsis of Spider-Man: Freshman Year:
The animated series follows Peter Parker on his way to becoming Spider-Man in the MCU, with a journey unlike we've ever seen and a style that celebrates the character’s early comic book roots.
Many fans of the MCU and Spider-Man have felt that the journey of Holland’s version was too abrupt. Very little of what his experiences were prior to being recruited by Tony Stark have been revealed, even after his multiple appearances in other movies and his own films, Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) and Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019). But based on the scene where Tony showed clips from YouTube videos, Peter was indeed active as Spider-Man in his homemade costume and webshooters.
Another important aspect of the Spider-Man mythos that remains unexplored with the Holland version is how Uncle Ben died. In the MCU, the role of mentor and father figure for Peter has been associated with Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man. It is likely that Spider-Man: Freshman Year will finally address this missing chapter.
Animation style, voice cast, and Spider-Man: No Way Home connection?
While there is no animation clips revealed so far, we did get a very brief glimpse of what Peter will look like in the Disney+ Day 2021 announcement.
As the title card for Spider-Man: Freshman Year was shown, part of it collapses to show a young Peter Parker wearing eyeglasses (which is something the Tom Holland version did not have, but the Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield versions did). Unlike X-Men '97 which has a similar style to its 1990s counterpart, Spider-Man: Freshman Year will appear to have its own style inspired by the old comic books as drawn by the legendary Steve Ditko.
The voice cast for Spider-Man: Freshman Year is also yet to be announced. However, it was revealed that the show will be written and executive produced by Jeff Trammel. Trammel is a veteran in the animation industry, previously working on Cartoon Network’s "Craig of the Creek".
Would Tom Holland return to lend his voice for the Spider-Man: Freshman Year series? What about Jacob Batalon and Zendaya for the animated versions of Ned Leeds and MJ? It would not be unusual given how many of the live action actors reprised their roles doing voice work for Marvel’s What If…? such as Hayley Atwell, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sebastian Stan, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth, and the late Chadwick Boseman. Still, some actors such as Brie Larson, Elizabeth Olsen, and Scarlett Johansson did not, so there is no guarantee.
On another note, with how Spider-Man: No Way Home will be pivotal to the live action future of the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, could the film provide hints or tease at what Spider-Man: Freshman Year might include? We will have to wait and see.
Spider-Man: Freshman Year will air on the Disney+ streaming service, with the release schedule to be announced at a future date.