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2-D Animation may be a thing of the past on the large screen, but on the small screen it is still going like gangbusters. One of the busiest departments is the Warner Brothers animation department. One of the current, and most successful, series to come from WB is the show based on the heroes of the DC comics universe, Justice League Unlimited.

The Series
After successful runs with both Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series, Warner Brother animation decided to turn its focus to an even greater number of DC comics stars. For two seasons Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter and Hawkgirl fought evil as the Justice League. Then, in season three, the floodgates open and the series now had seemingly the entire DC universe to play in. Renamed Justice League Unlimited, second tier heroes like Captain Atom, Green Arrow and more would find their way into adventures, usually accompanied by one or more of the original Justice League septet.

Justice League Unlimited - Saving the World
This disc, bearing the subtitle “Saving the World”, contains three episodes of the third season of the show. The first explains the concept of "Justice League Unlimited" and sees Green Arrow, Supergirl and Captain Atom team up with Green Lantern to battle a robot gone beserk in eastern Asia. At first reluctant to join the group, GA is eventually convinced to give it a try after the adventure (partly a result of when he sees Black Canary in the satellite). In the second episode, brothers Hank and Don Hall join forces with Wonder Woman to take on another android, this one created by the Greek God Hephaestus. Hephaestus has built it for the God of War Ares, who plans to use it to take over the human world. The Hall brothers are also the super-hero team of Hawk and Dove, one brash and impulsive, the other more reserved and peaceful. Both possess tremendous powers, and it takes all of the efforts of the three heroes to figure out how to stop the android. The final episode features four of the original seven-Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. When the evil child magician Mordred banishes all adults to another dimension, his mother, Morgan LeFey, transforms the quartet of heroes into children and sends them back to battle her son and restore normalcy to the universe.

This series follows very much the Bruce Timm animation style that was so prevalent in both the Batman and Superman shows before it. Timm is one of the producers so that is no surprise. There have been only slight modifications to both Superman and Batman from their earlier animated series, nothing too noticeable, and it is obvious that the other heroes have been cut from the same artistic cloth. Each of the "guest heroes" are rather faithful to their comic book counterparts in appearance and style, and there is much to be said for the actors they have gotten to give voice to each of them. In this three episode disc alone, listen for the voices of George Eads (of CSI fame), Ed Asner, Michael York, and, in an inspired bit of casting, Fred Savage and Jason Hervey as Hawk and Dove (the two played the Arnold brothers on the comedy The Wonder Years). Further, their sister from the show, Olivia D'Abo, voices Morgan LeFey in the final episode on the DVD. In addition, it is worth noting that Kevin Conroy continues his voice characterization of Batman, something he has done since the first season of Batman: the Animated Series. Conroy is marking his thirteenth year voicing the character in one form or another. He has become the quintessential Batman voice.

Justice League Unlimited - Saving the World
Video
I was a little disappointed in this, because in previous releases of the Justice League, there was an option to watch the shown in the 16:9 widescreen format, but here there is only the standard 1.33:1 format. I can only assume that unlike the earlier releases of the program, this falls under the "DC Comics Kids Collection", Warner Brothers was marketing this towards children and assumed that kids wouldn't care what the aspect ratio was. However, there are many adults who will enjoy this just as much as the kids, and we would have been better served by either a choice of how to view it, or the 16:9 ratio alone.

As a video transfer, the set does well. As one would expect, there is a virtual explosion of colors with the many different heroes, and the color palettes used are all very vibrant and rich. There is little to no film grain or dust noticeable here, and both black and white levels are done well so as not to bleed into other areas of the screen or overtake any other images. So, a nice job on the transfer, a poor job of choosing the aspect ratio.

Audio
Not much to work with here. An English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack accompanies the disc, and although I know it is a pipe dream, I wished for more. It is rare that you find any of these TV animated releases with anything other than 2.0, but ever there was a case for it, a show like Justice League Unlimited would be it. With heroes flying about, blasts, gunfire and general mayhem about, a 5.1 track would be welcome and could be fully utilized. To be fair, what is here is adequate, but I just feel it could be much better.

Justice League Unlimited - Saving the World
Extras
Here is where the disc really proves that it is more for the kids than for adults. There are no commentaries or featurettes as there were on the Batman and Superman collections. Instead, we are given rather stale hero spotlights (simple graphics of the heroes with a voiceover, and then you can choose to see a clip featuring the hero). These are for the guest heroes only. Also, a very simple game using the arrow keys on your remote to try and save Gorilla City from Grodd.

There is also the inclusion of the a bonus cartoon short, on entitled “Keepin’ Up with the Joneses”. It is actually not too bad and is very much in the style of many other series on the Cartoon Network (the cable channel on which JLU is broadcast).
Overall however, the extras disappoint. There are no featurettes on the morphing of the series from Justice League to Justice League Unlimited. Nothing on the voice talent (much of it rather famous) that was assembled for the show. There is so much more that could have been included, but sadly was not.

Justice League Unlimited - Saving the World
Overall
In future releases of the show, look for the inclusion of further lesser known heroes from the DC Universe. Such figures as Jonah Hex, Batlash, Doctor Fate, Aquaman and others will all make an appearance as Timm and company really try to throw a broad net and see which DC heroes they can scoop up to bring to the small screen. Although I am a big fan of the show, the fact that WB has chosen to market this towards children, and is releasing the episodes three at a time leaves me less than impressed. Warner Brothers saw the light when they converted the Batman releases to season sets, I can only hope that someone there realizes that is how these should be released as well. It worked well for the Batman and Superman sets before it, and it can work here. Also, it is fine to include the kids stuff, but throw the adults who are fans something as well. Then, perhaps I could recommend the DVD. Until then, I’ll just hope someone at WB gets the message.


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