Creative forces behind X-Men: The Animated Series fought Marvel over big details which had huge implications for the show and the first episode.
X-Men: The Animated Series is one of the most influential comic book-based TV shows ever. As with many classic programs, there were headaches and fights behind the scenes that shaped what the series would become.
The duo developing the show Eric and Julia Lewald had a vision for the show they had to fight Marvel to maintain. They revealed to Polygon that Marvel and their studio arm wanted to throw in as many characters, particularly villains, as possible right out the gate.
That wouldn’t do with the Lewalds who were focused on introducing mutants to the masses and building their audience. Eric revealed:
“There hadn’t been any Marvel movies at the time, and we were told 80 to 90 percent of our audience wouldn’t know who X-Men were or what a mutant was because only a couple million people knew the comic book… We needed eight or nine million people to have a good show.”
Making the two-part pilot, “Night of the Sentinels,” was hard enough because it meant that they had to introduce viewers to the ensemble of heroes and set up that world so that viewers could “deal with what [they were] seeing”.
Julia Lewald would chime in, adding that they didn’t know if they were getting more than 13 episodes but the writing team was interested in plotting a story about complex real-world issues even if Marvel “didn’t think it’d work.” She revealed that it could have “developed quickly into just bad mutant versus good mutant.”
And that’s almost what happened with Marvel wanting more than one bad mutant. They demanded Magneto and Apocalypse in the first episode, Eric Lewald recalled, adding that Marvel told them after completing a version of the pilot that they “should completely redo it” in order to include the iconic pair.
They didn’t and were determined to keep the Sentinels, understanding Wolverine – undisputed MVP of the X-Men even then – had to put his claws to good use. They ultimately refused to change, telling Marvel that “‘Wolverine is our number one character, and we need him to be able to slash something.'” because he couldn’t “slash creatures on Saturday morning.”
Wolverine was allowed to slash through doors and cars which he did plenty of but flesh was a no-no for a Y7-rated program, as were your typical firearms. Thus, Sentinels were a requirement – something Lewald felt were key.
Lewald added that Sentinels worked better as a symbol of “human suppression” and fears of mutants. They had to fight Marvel on it for a week and fortunately won, freeing them to make the cartoon viewers recognize.
Talk of a reunion with the old cast recently began now that the animated series is streaming on Disney Plus with almost everything else X-related. It doesn’t appear one will happen; Disney isn’t paying much attention to the demand and the cast is short one member anyway after the death of Cyclops voice Norm Spencer.
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