Spider-Man Actor Reveals How Disney Mishandled Drake Bell Recasting for TV Show

By Jennifer McDonough Updated:
Spider-Man, Disney logo, Drake Bell

Josh Keaton, the voice actor behind Peter Parker in the fan-favorite Spectacular Spider-Man cartoon, discussed his qualms over getting replaced as the character.

Spectacular Spider-Man, considered by many as the gold standard of Spider-Man animated series, was unceremoniously canceled after a legal snafu between Marvel (who had then-recently been acquired by Disney) and Sony (who owned the rights to Spectacular).

That was back in 2009, and a few years later, in 2012, the DisneyXD network debuted a new Spidey series called Ultimate Spider-Man which starred Drake Bell in the titular voice role.

Josh Keaton Speaks Out on Spidey Recast

Spectacular Spider-Man star John Keaton took to TikTok Live on June 4 to explain exactly what went down with his would-be guest appearance in the Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated series over a decade ago.

Spider-Man in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

Spider-Man made a guest appearance on a 2012 episode of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. There, he was voiced by Drake Bell, but according to Keaton, this was not always the case.

Keaton was the original voice of Peter Parker in that episode and had completed recording all his lines. It wasn’t until the episode aired, and Keaton was watching it, that he realized he had been recast after the fact:

“And then, the night that it aired and I was gonna watch it, I watched it, and I was like, ’Wow, that is not my voice. That is not my voice. He’s hitting all the same beats I’m hitting, ’cause the animation was probably already done, so they had to have him kind of listen, and repeat to what I did, and say, ‘Okay, now you do it.’”

Keaton continued, expressing his distaste over how the whole situation was handled:

“And then when I looked at the credits, it said, ‘Drake Bell.’ I was like, ‘Wow, okay.’ And then right around then is when they announced, ‘We’re coming out with Ultimate Spider-Man and Drake Bell’s going to play Ultimate Spider-Man.’ And I was like, ‘Man, that sucks. That sucks that they did that to me.’ Like, they could’ve at least called me, so I wouldn’t have gotten so excited and just said, ‘Hey, we’re replacing [the voice.]’” 

Drake Bell’s credit as Spider-Man in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

Could Keaton Play Spider-Man Again?

Eagle-eyed fans may have noticed that Josh Keaton’s Web-Slinger actually made a brief appearance in Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. He only has a line or two of dialogue (with Keaton indeed reprising the role), but he gets a very quick spotlight in the film among the hordes of other Spider-People.

This quick cameo begs the question: After the cancellation of Spectacular Spider-Man and the abrupt recasting of Keaton as the character, could this incarnation of Spidey get another chance to shine?

The die-hards have been asking for a revival of Spectacular for well over a decade and maybe with this version showing up in Spider-Verse, his series could be brought back.

It feels like the odds are slim though, with Disney and Marvel Studios currently developing Spider-Man: Freshman Year for Disney+. Having two concurrent Spider-Man animated shows risks over-saturation, or at least runs the chance of one show’s audience cannibalizing the other.

But the Spider-Verse movies still have at least one entry remaining. Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse releases in 2024 and brings with it another opportunity for the Spectacular Spider-Man to swing onto the screen again. Perhaps with that catchy theme song of his in tow.

- About The Author: Jennifer McDonough
Jennifer McDonough has been a writer at The Direct since its 2020 launch. She is responsible for the creation of news articles and features. She also has a particular affinity for action figures and merchandise, which she revels in discussing in the articles she writes, when the situation calls for it.