X-Men: The Animated Series (With the Creators)
February 27, 2019
(The Channel Awesome logo and title sequence play)
(The clips from various episodes of the show are shown throughout)
NC (vo): In fact, most people have. It's no secret that this was a groundbreaking cartoon based on the hit Marvel comic, and not only had all the action and one-liners that we loved, but it gave us compelling stories, challenging characters and timeless themes and issues about prejudice, identity and sacrifice. Truth be told, there's little I could say that could add any more to what I or many other fans have already said in the past.
NC: But that's why this time, I have a little surprise. (After a second, he swaps his usual hat with a black cap that has a caption "Previously on X-Men" on it) This "Previously on X-Men" hat (speaks louder as the audience boos) that just goes magnificently with my outfit, and the developers of X-Men!
(Via transmission, Eric and Julia Lewald, the key people that worked on the show, are shown sitting in two chairs behind a table filled with books "Previously on X-Men" written by Eric Lewald and several caps. The audience's cheers are heard)
NC: Yeah. (points at his cap) Shouldn't have dissed the hat! Please give it up for X-Men writer Julia Lewald, and, of course, X-Men showrunner Eric Lewald!
(Eric and Julia wave to the camera)
Eric: Hi. (Julia crosses her hands to make an X)
NC: You two played a big part, if not the biggest part in making X-Men one of the most amazing action cartoons ever made. So, thank you so much for coming on to celebrate it and not just to sell something.
(After a beat, Eric and Julia clear the table from all the books and caps)
NC: Now, let's first get this off the bat that even though you oversaw everything from beginning to end, it wasn't your idea to get X-Men on TV. Whose idea was it?
Eric: It was Margaret Loesch's entire list.
(Clips from the show are shown along with a photo of Margeret Loesch imposed over them)
Eric (vo): She was, uh...we worked at Marvel Productions, she wanted the X-Men on the screen, no one would put it there. As soon as she became the president of a kids network...
Eric: ...she put it on the air, it was all her doing.
NC: This was obviously a passion project because she kept taking X-Men from...
(Another photo of Margret Loesch appears)
NC (vo): ...studio to studio and constantly getting rejected. Even when she was the head of (still of...) Marvel Television, which even they weren't interested!
(The logo of Fox Kids is shown)
NC (vo): It wasn't until she became the president of Fox Kids that she finally decided to make the show herself, pushing it hard on this brand new network.
Morph: If you want something done right...
NC: But maybe that's because studios thought kids weren't ready for a show like X-Men. What was the environment like for action children's shows back then?
Julia: Everything was softer. Uh, even, what...what was reportedly an action show at the time...
Eric: Like Super Friends.
(The intro for Super Friends is shown)
Announcer: In the Great Hall of the Justice League, there are assembled the world's four greatest heroes!
Superman: I heard you've been a busy alien, Darkseid!
Eric (vo): There was a lot of standing around and chatting, and there wasn't really a lot of serious stakes involved. Most of the people involved in our show...
Eric: ...were serious comic book fans and...
(Cut back to the X-Men cartoon)
Eric (vo): ...felt that we needed the show to be as realistic as...
Eric: ...the comics were.
(Clips from the 1989 X-Men special, Pryde of the X-Men, are shown)
NC (vo): Now some may or may not know that there was one attempt prior to make X-Men a cartoon called Pryde of the X-Men. But with hokey dialogue, cheesy storytelling and an Australian Wolverine...
Wolverine: (with said Australian accent) Get with it! The X-Men don't have room for one of your pranks!
NC (vo): ...this surprisingly didn't go over well.
NC: What impact did this pilot have in making the show, and how did they confuse Canadian for Australian?
Eric: Margaret Loesch had been working on other shows, and she actually took the budget from...from the thirteenth episode of the series...
Eric (vo): ...and extended to create Pryde of the X-Men as a sales tool to show the networks how good an X-Men show could look.
Eric: And the ending result, even though they put a good budget on it, and it's very talented people working on it...
Eric (vo): ...it was a bit of a mishmash and some of the creative decisions were...
Eric: ...real poor.
Colossus: (to Kitty Pryde) It is good, little one! Colossus like rain.
Julia: Around that time, there was a blockbuster hit coming up called Crocodile Dundee...
(The poster for Crocodile Dundee is shown)
Julia (vo): ...about an Australian gentleman, and one of the higher-ups above Margaret...
Julia: ...decided, "Well, that's a big hit film, kids are into Australia. Make Wolverine Australian."
NC: So that's why (poster for...) Captain Marvel is suddenly from Wakanda.
Eric: And so, that was the kind of creative decision that was made. It was more as a sales tool...
Eric (vo): ...made by marketers and as a result, story...didn't pull together very well...
Eric: ...and it wasn't persuasive, it didn't make the networks think that it was time for an X-Men show.
Beast: A minor poet for a minor obstacle.
Julia (vo): But in its way, it...it sort of stiffened the spine of Margaret and Will Meugniot and Larry Houston where they...
Julia: ...dealt their next shot at putting an X-Men show somehow on the air...
Julia (vo)...they were determined to make it right.
NC: Well, after that failed attempt at a series, how is it that X-Men finally got greenlit, and is it true that Margaret Loesch actually put her job on the line?
Julia: Yes, she put her job on the line. (chuckles)
Eric: Right. When she was hired at Fox, uh, she told her boss...
(Stills from Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men are shown)
Eric (vo): ..."the first two shows I'm going to make are X-Men and Batman".
NC: (shaking his head) I have never met this woman, but I instantly love her.
Eric: The boss said, "Well, Batman's been a hit movie, we kind of buy that, but I don't see this X-Men thing".
Eric (vo): "It's too adult, kids aren't gonna buy, you know, our advertisers aren't gonna like it."
Julia: No one knows who they are.
Eric: "No one knows who they are, what a mutant is, I don't even know what a mutant is."
Wolverine: (to a pizza guy) I hear you don't like the mutants? Well, we don't much like you, too! (The pizza guy runs away, scared)
Eric: But Margaret said, "Believe me, this is the best Marvel property out there. This will make a great television show."
(Another photo of Margaret Loesch is shown)
Eric (vo): So her boss said, "Well, all the more reason why I hired you, I trust your judgment. But if this fails, you're gone."
Eric: This was not a hidden thing. Her...her job was on the line when she committed to making the X-Men.
NC: Yikes. Well, with so much laid on the table, she obviously got really good people behind it. So, how was the developing team put together?
Julia: Well, in February 1992, our home phone number rang, and (points to Eric) you answered it...
Eric: ...and it was Sidney Iwanter, who's...
(More footage of the series is shown)
Eric (vo): ...Margaret Loesch's right-hand guy at Fox who'd been with her forever. Might've worked for...for...
Julia: Um, the season 2 of Beetlejuice.
Eric: ...of Beetlejuice the year before.
NC: I always wondered why Lydia sounded like Jubilee. (Stills of Lydia and Jubilee are shown)
Eric: (quoting Sidney Iwanter) "We want you and Mark Edens..."
(More footage is shown)
Eric (vo): "...for the head of writing, and we got Will Meugniot and Larry Houston being in charge of the art and we're gonna make the X-Men."
NC (vo): So obviously, X-Men had to be something very different from other kids shows at the time.
NC: Were there any rules or core values that you tried to uphold?
Julia: Well, Eric and I met, um, writing for what was then the...
(Stills of the Disney Afternoon and its respective shows are shown)
Julia (vo): ...Disney Afternoon. Uh, Chip n' Dale's Rescue Rangers, Goof Troop, TaleSpin, those shows.
NC: You have too many good things!
Julia: There were very specific rules in place about what you couldn't...couldn't do specifically in children's animation.
Julia (vo): Then you get the (chuckles) call for X-Men and...suddenly th-those kinds of rules are out the window.
Eric: And it really comes down to Margaret Loesch and Sidney Iwanter. This was not Marvel's show...
(Still of the Marvel Entertainment Group logo is shown)
Eric (vo): ...they were a very small company at the time. They didn't have the...uh, creative cloud on this.
Eric: It was Margaret and Sidney who decided they wanted this to be a...
Eric (vo): ...serious, adult, challenging show that would be different from any other show.
Eric: And besides the fact that they respected the comics, they knew that Fox was a training network and...
(An image of the major networks of ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX is shown)
Eric (vo): ...they're trying to compete with the big g-guys...
Julia (vo; overlapping): Mm-hmm.
Eric (vo): ...that had 95% of the viewing audience at the time.
Eric: So they wanted something different, they wanted something edgier, they wanted something that would grab people's attention. So when they committed to X-Men and Batman, they told both staffs...
Eric (vo): ..."Do not dumb this down; you know, forget about the..."
Eric: "...kind of limitations you had in the last 20 years working in this business. Make these things as...tough and adult as the comics are".
Magneto: The brave are always the first to die.
Julia (vo): As a writer on the show, it happens to be a half-hour animated show for Saturday morning, but this is live action...
Julia: ...hour-length drama stakes.
Eric: (overlapping) Yeah...
Julia: (overlapping) Prime time.
Eric: Yeah, we...we told our writers, "You're making a movie."
Eric (vo): "You're making a movie for yourself; this is a group of 30-year-olds who are thrown together and they're fighting for real stakes and...make the show's adult, make their emotions adult, write this for you, don't write this down." We were given that green light...
Eric: ...by the network, by Margaret and Sidney.
NC: (Pulls up the book Previously on X-Men: The Making of an Animated Series) Now. you mentioned in your book that even though the writers seemed to be on the same page, the advertisers were not.
NC (vo): They didn't understand how to translate the show into toys, which seems very ironic, given...
(A photo of dozens of X-Men figures are shown)
NC (vo): ...how many there still are.
(Back to the show footage)
NC (vo): But with that in mind, what were some of their ideas to work in product placements in the show?
NC: Did I hear correctly they wanted you to write in Wolverine-shaped...
(A Photoshopped still of Wolverine holding those exact Wolverine-shaped walkie-talkies is shown)
NC (vo): ...walkie-talkies?
Eric (vo): You did, since there...
Eric: ...had never been a successful Marvel animated show before. Uh, they didn't really have many toys or much merchandise set up...
Eric (vo): ...but as soon as the show's successful, we got these frantic phone calls saying, "Can you put something in?" (Julia laughs in the background) "We've got some walkie-talkies, we've got pajamas, we've got some curtains. Is there any way you could sneak them in the show?"
Eric: We've told the people that are selling these things that they'll be in the show.
Bishop: Do I have a choice?
Eric (vo): And we ju-just said no.
NC: Well, I think Gambit would look great...
(A photo of a kid in footie X-Men pajamas is shown with Gambit's head Photoshopped on)
NC (vo): ...in pajamas with his face on it.
NC: And you could have made...
(Another photo is shown with Beast Photoshopped in front of an X-Men curtain)
NC (vo): ...Beast a seamstress.
NC: Use your imaginations!
Eric: There was a deal with some, I believe, Australian... fast food... (Julia sighs annoyingly) uh, toys kind of like Happy Meals toys, and whoever was at Marvel had promised them that they'd show up in the television show...
(Another still of Wolverine with a Photoshopped Wolverine action figure is shown)
Eric (vo): ...and we said, "We're not gonna have Wolverine have toy Wolverines...in his bedroom."
Jubilee: Get a clue!
NC: Ironically, the late great Stan Lee even didn't understand the tone of the show, despite him being the one that created the X-Men!
(A photo of the late Stan Lee is shown)
NC (vo): In the book, he'd bring up how he wanted to do a live-action introduction with himself in every episode and discuss what the lesson was going to be that they learned by the end.
NC: (confused) Because it worked so great in Hammerman?
(The intro of Pryde of the X-Men is shown with Stan Lee's narration)
Stan Lee: (narrating) This is Stan Lee of Marvel Comics warning you to look around you. Your classmates, your friends, you never know which one of them may be a mutant!
(Another image of Stan Lee is shown)
NC (vo): As one of your chapters asks, how do you say no to Stan Lee?
Eric: With great difficulty... (Julia laughs) ...in front of all my bosses...
(One more image of Stan Lee is shown)
Eric (vo): ...there was a generational difference. We all loved and respected Stan and appreciated that he'd...
(An image of the very first X-Men issue is shown)
Eric (vo): ...come up with the characters in the early 60s. But when the X-Men...
Eric: ...got reborn in the 70s...
(The first giant issue of the revived X-Men is shown)
Julia (vo): With Len Wein...
Eric (vo): With Len Wein, as did...as did Chris Claremont.
Julia (vo): John Byrne...
Eric: John Byrne. They came up with a very new X-Men. The early X-Men had been American teenagers all basically dressed the same and the characters were not that in sync.
(The 100th and 126th issues of the 70s X-Men comic are shown)
Eric (vo): The new X-Men were tougher, older, distinct, worldly people from all over the planet.
Eric: The stories from the mid-70s on were much more adult. Stan had not been involved with the X-Men since 1963 and really...didn't care for...
(The 300th issue of the X-Men comic is shown)
Eric (vo): ...the new stories. And so, he very much wanted the show to be like what he came up with in the early 60s.
Eric: It just didn't fit.
(Another photo of Stan Lee is shown)
Eric (vo): We needed a garage band and he was telling us how great Pat Boone records were. The tone couldn't work...
Eric: ...and I believed it and all the creative people believed it, but there's such respect for Stan that...we all heard about...and it was a moment that I had to say...
Eric (vo): "Look, if you wanted Stan to supervise the scripts, fine, go with that, and they'll change the tone to that one."
Eric: But if you needed to be me, I needed it to be the way we've already worked on for a couple months.
Rogue: Now that is a shame.
NC: As you mentioned, X-Men goes all the way back to the 60s, which means...
(The giant-sized cover of the 275th issue of X-Men is shown, showcasing a lot of the X-Men characters)
NC (vo): ...tons of changes over time, as well as tons of X-Men.
NC: How did you choose the characters to be the main cast?
Eric: There were a lot of partners, so there was Marvel who had its interest in... in their new and some of their familiar characters like...
Eric (vo): ...Gambit and Cable who were just coming out; Fox, who wanted to make sure that they were popular characters.
Eric: Another partner brought was...
(Cuts to the Saban International logo and a black and white photo of a man shrugging)
Eric (vo): ...Saban, who didn't much care.
Eric: But what happened was there was a group of us in a big meeting, 20-30 people, and everybody threw out who they thought they might be, and we came out with, uh, five or six more characters...
Eric (vo): ...Xavier and Wolverine absolutely a given and Cyclops.
Eric: We wanted a balance.
Eric (vo): Rogue was fairly recent, but she worked well for animation, that was another thing; the artists were talking, you know, who could animate well? Well, characters would fly and animate well, so Rogue and Storm had, like, a leg up on people, they were more fun to watch...
Eric: ...in animation than somebody with a...a less fun, uh, power.
Jubilee: (to Storm) Did you see what she did?!
Storm: Yes, Rogue has a way with men.
Eric: And then what happened, there were half a dozen chosen there at the beginning.
Eric (vo): We went off to Mark Edens, and I went out to lay out the first thirteen episodes.
Julia: Assuming it would only be thirteen...
Eric: Assuming there would only be thirteen because they only hired for one season. They had...little faith it would be successful.
NC: Sounds like the same people who negotiated...
(A picture of Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back toys is shown)
NC (vo): ...the Star Wars toys.
Eric: We found ourselves...more and more using a couple free characters that hadn't been committed to when they were in the meeting.
Eric (vo): One of them was Beast, we loved writing for Beast. We put Beast in jail and, uh, early on by episode three because he wasn't going to be a main character. We just...okay, well, he's had a couple episodes, we'll see him again.
Eric: He asserted himself...
Eric (vo): ...Jean Grey asserted herself because, even though they didn't think that she was, uh, the commercial character, we found that everybody in the X-Men had a relationship with her like that with almost no one else.
Julia (vo): Mm-hmm.
Eric (vo): So she became kind of an emotional core. So, much like in a live-action television show...
Eric: ...where a good actor might make a small character grow and grow over the course of the season...
Eric (vo): ...some of these characters like Beast and...and Jean, and even Xavier who they thought might be headed in the background, they asserted themselves.
Eric: We needed them to tell the best stories, and so, as we wrote, we focused on them, even though we hadn't been told to.
Julia (vo): You had the heart, the core that you picked out...
Julia: ...for the X-Men team, but...
Julia (vo): ...Jubilee was chosen as opposed to Kitty Pryde.
Eric (vo): As the way, yeah, they tried it on Kitty Pryde and we did it. 90% of our audience...
Eric: ...didn't know who the X-Men were, so in the pilot, we needed a new person to come in...
Eric (vo): ...and that was going to be Jubilee to find out what the X-Men were all about along with the audience. She did that absolutely beautifully and that was...that was her initial reason for...
Eric: ...being part of the team.
Jubilee: How did you do that?!
Gambit: With style, petite, with style.
NC (vo): A lot of why these characters worked so well was because of the kick-ass voice actors that brought them to life.
NC: But picking them wasn't always an easy task, as the original casting sounded less like an X-Men cartoon and more like a Yogi Bear cartoon.
Julia: The voice talent, for financial reasons, uh, was, uh, happening in Canada.
Julia (vo): There was a lag time back then. It's easy to forget, but the Internet wasn't the way it was right now, and things that happen in one spot, you literally had to...
Julia: ...put it in an envelope and mail it back and forth. So there wasn't the, uh, immediate real-time ability to say, "This is right, that's wrong."
Julia (vo): There had not been a show like this before.
Eric (vo): Right, and so when we sent our...
Eric: ...scripts and our instructions about the show we wanted to the people of Canada who Fox had used before for Beetlejuice and other shows, and so, there was a...there's a good history there.
Eric (vo): They didn't quite understand that we wanted a completely different show.
Eric: So, the first...recordings, the audio cassettes we got mailed back...
Eric (vo): ...very much sounded like Scooby-Doo.
(Clips of Wolverine and Beast are shown with NC doing voiceovers)
NC (vo; as Shaggy): Like, zoinks, Scoob, it's Sabretooth! (as Scooby) Ruh-roh!
Eric: It was very cartoony, it was not at all like the X-Men that you...see at all today, and all of us down here in Los Angeles just collapsed and thought, "Well, the show's done."
Wolverine: This game is over.
Eric (vo): We went up to Toronto, sat down with them and explained that we were basically telling adult dramas...
Eric: ...we weren't telling little kids shows and to please have another run of it.
Eric (vo): And so, they understood, so there was a miscommunication problem. Some of the same actors read again and did fine...
Eric: ...but they also reached out, they thought, "Well, we want... we want to try extra hard to make sure we get...uh, serious casts here." They reached out to the Toronto...
Eric (vo): ...theater community, which is huge!
Julia (vo): Live theater.
Eric (vo): Live theater. And so, we got a bunch of these Shakespearean actors like Professor X and Magneto and Beast, people...people who were used to...
Eric: ...holding the...the stage and really getting some gravitas into the drama.
NC: And future politicians.
NC (vo): No joke; in Nova Scotia, that's what the voice of Rogue (A picture of Rogue's voice actress, Lenore Zann, appears) is now. Talk about doing everything.
Rogue: Ain't that enough?
NC: So you got the cash, you got the writing, all that's missing is a kick-ass intro! What went into making that awesome opening?
Eric: The minute opening was drawn by Larry Houston in Romania.
(Cuts to the show's intro)
Eric (vo): Those guys are so amazing that...that was basically just like a draft and a half over a weekend. Larry did a one-minute opening, Margaret looked at it and said, "You know, can you change a few things? We'll do this, uh, small pass on it", and what you see...
Eric (vo): ...is what the two of them did in a couple days.
NC: There's people who couldn't make it that good in a couple years.
Julia: And music was coming from, um, uh, a fella who was also on staff...
Eric: At Saban...
Julia: At Saban...
Julia (vo): ...I believe Rob Wasserman...on staff, was getting paid X amount of dollars per week, you know, for writing two tunes...
Julia: ...writing with two teams. He wasn't getting more.
Eric (vo): It sets up our show in such a way and with, again, with all these characters that no one knows. No one knows what they do, no one knows their powers, there's no narration there, we considered that. In one minute, they show you everything, they show...
Eric: ...you what the X-Men were in that.
(A still from the X-Men cartoon is shown)
NC (vo): So everything was set to go until suddenly, it wasn't, and it seemingly looked like big trouble might be on the horizon.
NC: We'll go more into that right after the break, but if we're gonna do a commercial, let's do it the X-Men way. (glances away and points offscreen) Character in trouble!
(Cut to a clip of Storm being attacked)
(Cut to the title card for Fox Kids Network's Action Theater)
Announcer: We'll be right back!
(Fade to a commercial. After it comes back from commercial break, we cut back to the Fox Kids Network's Action Theater title card)
Announcer: Now, back to our program.
NC (vo): With all the pieces seemingly in place, it looked like there was only one element that seemed almost completely wrong...
NC: That little thing known as the animation.
Eric: There was a real rush to start with Batman; it'd been in development for about a year.
Julia: (chuckles) Yes, yes...
Eric: We had about a week.
Julia (vo): X-Men was really trying to be different, and another thing you and Mark Eden's decided to do...
Julia: ...was come up with those thirteen again, thinking they'd be the only thirteen, one of the best thirteen stories you can tell...
Julia (vo): ...and comic books are sequential, they're stories that go over more than one book...
Julia: ...and you two made the bold decision to tell stories that all go for an entire season, that are not self-contained in a single episode.
Eric: Right, which was...
Eric (vo): ...actually, you know, really to make...get Fox to make...to make that decision, it's a big business decision.
Eric: But what happened after that...
Eric: ...was the first two episodes looked okay, the third one didn't and had to be redone almost completely.
Eric (vo): You can't start putting things on the air if you don't have next week's show ready.
Julia (vo): You couldn't run four...
Julia: ...because you couldn't run three.
(Cut to a clip of Beast walking on the ceiling with a beaker in his hand)
Beast: It would be quite disconcerting if this were to detonate.
Eric: And part of the problem was...first of all, it's a brand new show...
Eric (vo): ...there are all these sub-problems we get when you're dealing with an animation house.
Eric: Another problem was there was a serious...miscommunication, or difference of opinion, let's say, between what Margaret Loesch wanted and thought was in the contract for the quality of the show and what things...
(Cut back to the Saban International logo)
Eric (vo): ...Saban, who was in charge of producing it for her, was actually telling the people in Korea that they were going to pay for it.
Eric: So when we saw the first animation come back, it was really, really not...
(Cut to a clip of Cyclops and Storm attacking, then zoom in to reveal Storm's face with one eye and no mouth. Another clip of Jubilee and the X-Men zooms in to Jubilee with what seems to be disembodied fingers on top of the counsel)
Eric (vo): ...the quality of things, again, I get it's one of those moments where you curl up and say, "the show..."
Eric: "...is...is over".
Xavier: (to Jean Grey) I knew the existence of the X-Men would be revealed to the public one day, but not like this.
Eric: Fox and Saban thought out their budget differences, they got back into it, they started making the show look better...it's, well, you know, we're a month behind.
Rogue: (to Cyclops) You look as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
Julia (vo): Again, it's 1992, and things premiered in September.
Eric (vo): Yeah...
Julia (vo): That's when new shows rolled out...
Julia: ...that's one of the shows that they were putting on the air, began their new series' episodes.
Eric (vo): And so, this was a huge decision, you're suddenly like, "Well, what do you do, you put the first couple episodes on and repeat them? Seven times until the third one's ready?"
Eric: And so Margaret Loesch made the decision, she said, "I'm not going to put the show on until it's right."
(Another photo of Margaret Loesch is shown)
Eric (vo): She had to go to all the advertisers who had hundreds of thousands of dollars in...advertising...
Julia: All the affiliates...
Eric: All the couple hundred affiliate stations and saying, "I promised you this show. It's exciting, this show I'm pitching you, but it won't be ready for four months.
Eric (vo): "So for four months, you're going to show reruns, you're gonna lose money, it's not going to be right..."
Eric: "...but when it comes out in January, it'll be worth it."
Gambit: Don't worry, cherie, your insurance can handle it.
NC (vo): But you all worked around what at the time seemed like a step backwards...
NC: ...but actually turned out was a blessing in disguise.
Eric: She had two good episodes, she said, "Wait a minute, let's get the fans into this and get them excited about January, let's show them in October", and so then, we did, and that's why there was a sneak preview.
(A commercial for the X-Men sneak preview is shown)
Announcer: Watch a sneak preview of X-Men next Saturday on Fox!
Julia: But the sneak preview also happened on Halloween 1992...
Julia (vo): ...it happened on prime time and it was treated as a spectacle, but I thought every kid in America is gonna be out trick-or-treating...
Julia: ...who's gonna be home to watch an animated show on...on Halloween night?
Eric: (overlapping) But...but the fans were there...
Eric (vo): ...to prove Margaret right, and to show you how... how excited the fans were about the show...
Eric: ...they had a Fox Kids Club, uh, write-in campaign thing, saying "what's your favorite show on Fox Kids?"
Julia (vo): They take over the network for a weekend.
(The commercial for the Kids Takeover is shown)
Announcer: Kids, which of the shows will you choose for the Fox Kids TV take over?
Joker: The suspense is killing me!
Eric: X-Men...got more votes than all the other shows put together, so...
(A promotion for the first two episodes of the X-Men rerun on Thanksgiving is shown)
Eric (vo): ...they reshowed the pilot of the first two episodes again...
Julia (vo): ...in November.
Eric (vo): ...in November on Thanksgiving.
Eric: And so it...it showed twice before the official premiere in January.
Wolverine: (to a fallen Gambit) Had enough Cajun? Just say, "All good."
NC (vo): I, like a lot of kids at the time, was blown away by the preview and sucked in by all the other episodes that followed. What was your reaction seeing that all the hard work and risk-taking...
NC: ...not only paid off, but gave Fox Kids its biggest show at the time?
Julia: It didn't feel real, just because, at that time, again, the Internet didn't exist. There was no real-time response or reaction that...that we could gauge, sitting at our desks with our computers.
Julia (vo): I went to the studio one day, Fox Kids Studios...uh, from the Fox Network right here in Los Angeles...
Julia: ...and just casually mentioned, "So, how-how's the show being received, what reaction are you guys getting?"
(A promo for Fox Kids Club postcards is shown)
Julia (vo): And Fox Kids Club had little postcards that you could write down what you liked and you can mail it in. Charlotte Fullerton then takes me and escorts me to a hallway...
Julia: ...the hallway was lined down, one side down the other, all the way up the ceiling, all the way up to the ceiling with these big crate things...
(A picture of the numerous crates filled with Fox Kids Club postcards is followed)
Julia (vo): ...and they were all stuffed with postcards from kids who wrote in to say that they loved X-Men. And this was you had to get a stamp (giggles) if you have an address...
Julia: ...writing postcards now, you know, it's a casual thing of tapping something on keyboards these days, and to see that, it made-that made it real for me, that the show had found an audience.
Gambit: Life don't get much better than this!
Eric (vo): There were mornings that half the country was watching it, but that really wasn't tangible to us, I think...
Eric: ...until we started meeting fans later, say, at comic cons...
(A photo of a man in a Wolverine costume is shown)
Eric (vo): ...and got a sense of how...
(A woman dressing up as Storm is shown)
Eric (vo): ...the entire world got a chance of...
(Another woman dressed like Jubilee is shown)
Eric (vo): ...watching the show and ended up really liking it.
(A couple dressing like Rogue and Gambit are shown)
Eric (vo): We were suddenly then thrown into, well...
Eric: Come on, come up with season two!
Eric (vo): So we didn't really have time to sit back and appreciate it.
Julia (vo): And can I also add...?
Julia: We were done.
Eric: Yeah, we were all let go. (Julia laughs) So...so when the show became successful, the minute they found out instead of having a flop, they had a number one hit, they had to call us all up and ask us to come back and work again.
Beast: Security. Are any of us ever truly secure?
Eric: And luckily, both of us were available, but that was a slightly awkward moment for them professionally.
Wolverine: Got bit by a dog, too.
(Footage from Batman: The Animated Series is shown)
NC (vo): Now, of course, Batman had more time and development and was also tapping into similar themes and ideas, but in a different way.
NC: Was there any kind of competitive nature with them?
Julia: (swiping her finger up) Playful rivalry. (chuckles)
Eric: Yeah, yeah, I mean, it's a very small community here, we all know each other.
(More footage of Batman is shown)
Eric (vo): Will Mergunot and Larry Houston, who were...were in charge of working on our show and he's got a, uh, couple of storyboards for Batman since it got started about a year earlier, and Alan Burnett...
Eric: ...an old friend of mine, was basically that guy supervising the, uh...uh, the Batman show.
Eric (vo): Both shows...we were so thrilled that they were successful. For every five shows that you end up doing, maybe one becomes successful.
Eric: You're both so enjoying that, that I don't think there's much time for rivalry...
(X-Men and Batman footage is shown)
Eric (vo): ...the fact that we had a good run there for four or five years, we were all caught up in that, both sides were. We give them credit, they motivated us because we saw early footage...of Batman before we got started...
Eric: ...and they had such wonderful budgets and such beautiful...art.
Eric (vo): We didn't have a budget to compete with that. We're gonna compete by making the shows twice as fast paced. In fact, there was a specific decision made...
Eric: ...Batman might have so many scenes in a 22-minute; we would have 50, 60, 70 percent more.
Eric (vo): We'd be really moving faster, faster, faster, faster because if you lingered on the quality of our animation, you start seeing some of the scenes in it. But, if we double the amount of story, then that would be our distinction vs. Bruce's the Batman show.
Julia: And one credit also to, um, Sharon Janis.
Eric (vo): Right, our editor.
Julia (vo): The editor of the show who really kept the pace up.
NC: Well, with the first season being such a smash, what were some of the changes you wanted to make going forward?
Eric: Interestingly, they were worried about the sequential nature of the first thirteen and the possible production delays again.
Eric (vo): So we were told we couldn't do twenty-six in a row or whatever.
Rogue: What bug crawled up her shorts?
Eric: To get around that, we would do two-parters, four and five-parters like the Phoenix Saga.
(The title card for the episode "Beyond Good and Evil, part 4" is shown)
Eric (vo): ...and in the second season, we had to...
Eric: ...hand that out to the Savage Land...
Eric (vo): ...then put a minute of it into each one, so it felt like a continuation over thirteen.
NC (vo): Much like Batman, the animation over the series went through several different changes.
NC: Was this a stylistic choice or out of necessity?
Julia: Money. All about the money.
Eric: Yeah, yeah, Saban from the beginning was looking for ways to do the show for half the price...
Eric (vo): ...that we were spending. There was an attempt, but in the third season with the Lady Deathstrike episode to try a different animation house at the Philippines house.
Eric: We did a nice job; they did that as a pitch to see if they might take over from the Korean studio that was doing it and do it cheaper.
Eric (vo): Uh, they did a nice job, but we stayed with it in house. Somehow...
Eric: ...Fox had...uh, I...they got the ability to...
Eric (vo): ...dictate a...a big budget cut. So...
Eric: ...many of you remember the fifth season...
Eric (vo): ...not looking like the first four seasons, and the reason for that was that, um, it was sent to a different production house and the budget was cut. All the weaknesses, all the losses that you saw, uh...
Eric: ...that simply came down to, it was the last season they were doing and they thought they'd save some money.
Cyclops: We got trouble!
(Clips from the final X-Men episode, "Graduation Day", are shown)
NC: Even with the budget cut on the animation, the final episode was definitely a tearjerker, making the ballsy move of essentially killing off their teacher and mentor, Xavier.
NC: Who came up with that ending, and why that choice?
Julia: Season four...you were given marching orders, this will be the last season, there will be no season five.
(Clips from the four-part episode, "Beyond Good and Evil", are shown)
Julia (vo): So, there's a four-part episode, "Beyond Good and Evil", that wraps up season four and that was to have wrapped up the whole series and that was to include the sending off of some of the X-Men and they're bringing in newer...uh, newer X-Men to characters to make the team...
Julia: ...then you got the call...
Eric: Yeah, right...
Eric: ...we'd written the entire script which was, like, one hundred-fifty pages for a four-parter to end this ser...the series.
Eric (vo): Five X-Men get four new ones, and then we got the call and said, "Oops, we need eleven more episodes..."
Eric: "...so change all that around and don't have anybody, we don't have anybody to join."
Wolverine: Fake-faced runt couldn't take a joke!
Eric (vo): Well, then we got through the actual finale. It was my decision to tell that last story. You know, what would bring all the X-Men that had been involved in the first seventy-five episodes? All the X-Men and a...
Eric: ...couple of their most important villains, the most important characters we lived with for five years.
Eric (vo): What event would do that? Well... Xavier. Everybody had a relationship with Xavier...
Eric: ...and having him pass...
Eric (vo): ...while his friends and enemy (Magneto) watch...were watching him go with love in their eyes...
Eric: ...seem to be the most emotional way of doing it.
(Julia fans herself during this, trying not to cry)
Eric: It...it still...
Julia: (voice breaking) It still chokes me up!
Eric: It still gets us now!
Julia (vo): And, yeah, this was on a kids' Saturday morning show, these were big stakes.
Eric (vo): Yeah, it never...it never occurred to us to pull back and just...
Eric: ...as with all the episodes, we just thought what would be the most dramatic, what would be the most intense way to have this happen.
Eric (vo): And, uh, losing Xavier was it.
NC: So, after five seasons of awesomeness, I gotta know, what was your favorite episode to work on?
Julia: I was a writer of part one of, uh...
(Clips from the two-part episode "Days of Future Past" are shown)
Julia (vo): ..."Days of Future Past", which was... very gratifying and a lot of fun to figure out how to thread that particular needle by using the character Bishop as opposed to Kitty Pryde and, uh, I had, uh...
Julia: ...the story idea for what became "Beauty & the Beast"...
(A clip from the respective episode is shown)
Julia (vo): ...the one where Beast finds love and...
Julia:...realizes she loves him as well, and that was written by Stephanie Matheson.
NC: Well, it's definitely better than the versions of Beauty and the Beast that (The posters for The Enchanted Christmas, Belle's Magical World and the 2017 live-action remake are shown) Disney is turning out recently.
Eric: Coming up with a really...effective, simple story is really hard; for me, it's the hardest part of the whole business.
(Clips from the episode "One Man's Worth" are shown)
Eric (vo): In X-Men's case, it was "One Man's Worth". We...we all take from the...our favorite things...
Eric: ...and I've been struck by a number of stories with a similar theme where, say, in City on the Edge of Forever in Star Trek or in It's a Wonderful Life...
Eric (vo): ...what is the effect of one person on...the world? What better to...
Eric: ...express the reason for the excellence...existence than to show what the world would be like if nuke had never happened?
Eric (vo): What if Charles Xavier had been killed? And you just...
Eric: ...leap for joy when you find a story that simple and that effective that comes to you that fits with your group of characters. So that was...that was my most satisfying story.
Julia (vo): That two-part episode was itself the jumping-off point, for it became the Age of Apocalypse in the comic books in Marvel.
Eric (vo): A couple years later, yeah.
Julia (vo): Yeah, especially "One Man's Worth"...
Julia: ...gets me every time because we've been with these characters for four seasons up until this point. But then, in the alternate universe where you see Storm and Wolverine are a couple...
Julia (vo): ...you know, of course they are. Why aren't they a couple now? They're supposed to be together!
Julia: It suddenly all makes sense, it just breaks my heart every time.
NC: Awww, even the creators are shippers.
Jubilee: Get a life!
NC: So with an incredible understanding of these characters, I, of course, have to ask, which one's your favorite?
Julia: We just love Beast, 'cause (chuckles) he was...
Julia (vo): ...the smartest guy in the room, and we all fancied ourselves being at least largely as...as smart as Beast, he...he...
Julia: ...just was a great character to write for.
Beast: (quoting Shakespeare to Carly) What's in a name, that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet?
Eric: In my case...
Eric (vo): ...my job was to supervise a bunch of very different people. I have...
Eric: ...great empathy for Charles Xavier as...
Eric (vo):...being the head of the cast and being the one that was responsible for the family.
Eric: And so, I really...I really think I got closest to him.
NC: And seeing how without you, they probably wouldn't exist, what do you think of the movies?
Julia: I'll say this... (chuckles)
Julia (vo): Before X-Men: The Animated Series...there was 30 years up until that point...of X-Men stories. And since 2000, with the very first X-Men movie, and going on, they've got a billion-dollar film franchise, I absolutely believe that...
Julia: ...X-Men: The Animated Series is that bridge. If X-Men: The Animated Series hadn't happened, there would be no billion-dollar franchise.
Storm: People fear what they do not understand.
(Cut to a clip from the first live-action movie)
Magneto: Mankind has always feared what it doesn't understand.
Julia: And also Margaret Loesch, to her credit, as soon as X-Men: The Animated Series began to sort of find its way and hit the audience hard...
(One more photo of Margaret Loesch)
Julia (vo): ...she went to the folks at FOX Films and said, "You need to start making movies. You need to start making live-action movies about these characters."
Julia: (shaking head with Eric) "Nah."
(The trailer clips for the first three movies are playing)
Julia (vo): I mean, X-Men's off the air by 1997, and it's not until 2000 that they (chuckling) finally get together and make a...make a future film that began this, like I said, billion-dollar empire.
Eric: On the plus side...the casting is so amazing.
Julia: Oh, man.
Eric: I mean, if we had...
Eric (vo): ...sat down ourselves and thought what world-class actors could we get to play the parts of the characters we wrote in for five years...
Eric: ...most of the choices they made from the movies were exactly the ones we would have made, so we were thrilled with that.
Eric (vo): We were thrilled that they took them seriously, and thrilled that they basically based the team on the team that we chose, and that made us feel like...we had found the...the best way to tell X-Men movies.
Eric: Out of the nine or ten of them, you know, we have favorites. We have ones that, you know, we...we wish had been a little different. But overall, we were just...were thrilled...
Eric (vo): ...to watch all of them. We can't have lived with these characters for five years without wanting every single thing that they do to be successful.
Eric: Logan was...oh, it was a wonderful cap to that.
(The still from this 2017 movie is shown, as well as one more photo of Len Wein)
Eric (vo): I mean, of all people, uh, the last time we saw Len...Len Wein, who created Wolverine and Storm and all the other characters.
Eric: He saw Logan before he died...uh, saw the movie, and he was very impressed with it. It...it felt right to him as well.
(More clips from the animated show resume playing)
NC (vo): Well, a lot of teenagers, and even adults, for that matter, felt X-Men captured a voice that other kid shows didn't at the time. Sure, a lot of children's media talked about being an outcast or being unique, but this did it in a much darker and more creative way.
NC: And nowadays, a ton of kids shows...
(The stills from Avatar: The Last Airbender, Voltron: Legendary Defender and Young Justice are shown)
NC (vo): ...try to capture the same maturity that both you and Batman accomplished.
NC: How does it feel to know you paved the way for so many future kids shows to be more grown-up and sophisticated?
Julia: Well, let me say this. It's an honor just to be acknowledged. (laughs with Eric) And...
Julia (vo): ...thank you so much for...for thinking of X-Men and Batman in...in those terms. All these years down the road that it had an impact on a way of...
Julia: ...storytelling's approach, that it...it mattered to people, and that's very, very gratifying.
Eric (vo): I mean, that's why...that's why we do this, uh, because we hope it connects for somebody, and it obviously connected with somebody, uh, in the Tens, and millions of people that watch, and...and the people that have...
Eric: ...attempted similar series since then.
Eric (vo): When we were kids, we wanted serious stories, we wanted to be challenged, and...
Eric: ...it's good to see the people are still trying to do it now.
NC: Well, you understood the kids do want to be challenged, and you did an excellent job of it.
NC (vo): X-Men broke so many barriers that no other show at the time had ever broken. And now, most children's action shows try to recreate it in one way or another. (The stills from Gravity Falls (episode "Not What He Seems"), Steven Universe and Teen Titans are shown) Even the funnier ones can be more dramatic, bring up serious issues and not shy away from the tougher moments. X-Men was entertaining, but also taught tough life lessons. At a time when studios said that the show would be too adult and they wanted to play it safe, they forgot that kids don't want to play it safe; they're interested in things that are different, new and challenging. X-Men knew how to always keep that in focus, and we have a great team of smart risk-takers to thank for it.
NC: And if you want to know more about the making of this groundbreaking series, (takes out Lewald's book) you can check out their book, Previously on X-Men.
(The cover of the book is shown)
NC (vo): There's so many great stories about the making of this iconic show, and you can read all about it in great detail.
NC: Thank you so much again for not only being on the show, but for also making a great series.
(Eric and Julia are surrounded by merchandise again)
Julia: Thanks so much for having us.
Eric: Yeah, it's been a good pleasure.
NC: I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I reme... (suddenly freezes in place) Wait a minute. Next month is March! (throws arms out, smiling) You know what that means?! (Beat) TED HEALY MONTH! (Another beat) That's...the guy who was...
(The image of Ted Healy and His Stooges are shown)
NC (vo): ...originally with the Three Stooges. You know, they just weren't the same when he wasn't in the group. It was kind of awkward.
NC: And granted, there's not many film clips of him, but I really feel like verbal descriptions are really gonna play a big part in this...
Eric: (takes two books of his) Why don't you do X-Men Month?
Julia: Yeah, I feel you like X-Men so much. Why don't you dedicate a whole month to it?
NC: Well, the X-Men movies I guess are interesting to talk about, but...
(Julia and Eric teasingly imitate chickens by clucking)
NC: (slams the table) You know what?! Fine! Ted Healy's state is gonna be very disappointed/relieved, but you know what? Let's do it! Next month IS X-MONTH!!
(He leaves his chair, happily shaking his head to a rock guitar riff)
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