The animated series that made the X-Men a household name in the 1990s is making a comeback with X-Men ’97.
Many current fans of the merry mutants were introduced to the X-Men and its mythos through the now-legendary animated series. Whether it is Wolverine’s familiar berserker rage, to the tendency of Beast to spout poetry, to Jubilee’s spunk, the animated series under Fox helped forge what the X-Men is to the masses.
The series ended after 5 seasons from 1992 to 1997. With Marvel Studios Animation's upcoming X-Men ’97 apparently being a continuation of the story, what could fans look forward to? We take a look at everything revealed about the upcoming Disney+ animated original series.
The 1990s X-Men animated series and where it left off
Any kid of the 90s that religiously watched the cartoon renaissance of the time would know how X-Men: The Animated Series was a gamechanger. Alongside other animated series of the time like Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, and Marvel Action Hour (which featured the Fantastic Four and Iron Man), the one starring the ragtag band of mutants fighting for a world that feared and hated them jump-started the modern fascination for superheroes in pop culture.
It should come as no surprise that this was also during the time comic books truly became mainstream thanks to the boom that occurred from key events like the founding of Image Comics, The Death of Superman, and X-Men #1 selling 8.2 million copies.
This latter event is what helped push the creation of X-Men: The Animated Series. Developed for the Fox Children’s Network and produced by Saban Entertainment, it starred a variation of the roster from the then-modern X-Men team drawn by superstar artist Jim Lee. At the time, the X-Men were actually split into two smaller teams referred to as Blue Team and Gold Team.
The animated series focused on the most popular members, comprised of Cyclops, Wolverine, Rogue, Gambit, and Beast (from the comics version’s Blue Team) and Storm and Jean Grey (from the Gold Team), with Professor X serving in his traditional role as the mentor. Curiously, Colossus, Iceman, Archangel, and Bishop from the Gold Team would only appear as guests as the series progressed.
Regardless, X-Men: The Animated Series followed its own continuity, although it was heavily influenced by notable events from the comic books. Key storylines such as the Dark Phoenix Saga, the Age of Apocalypse, Days of Future Past, the Savage Land, and the Phalanx Covenant were prominently used and were considered very close to the source material.
The show was very popular and the first four seasons were some of the finest in 1990s animation. However, Fox ordered an additional 11 episodes, which became the series’ fifth and final season. The series is also notable for being one of the first to have legitimate crossovers, having cameos from the Spider-Man and Iron Man animated series and its characters appearing in Spider-Man episodes.
With the final episode of the fifth season, the X-Men are left to be guided by their former enemy Magneto. Professor X, having been afflicted by an incurable disease, left for the Shi’ar Empire with Lilandra to save his life. Later animated series such as X-Men Evolution and Wolverine and the X-Men would be entirely different continuities, though would be greatly influenced by the 1992-1997 cartoon show.
— Marvel Studios (@MarvelStudios) November 12, 2021
Video games based on the X-Men, particularly the X-Men vs. titles from Capcom, were largely influenced by the cartoon. In addition, the X-Men: The Animated Series was pivotal in getting the first X-Men live action film made, as it was a huge inspiration. We would never have had Hugh Jackman as Wolverine without X-Men: The Animated Series.
What we know about X-Men ‘97
The X-Men properties had been tied to the former deal that Marvel made with 20th Century Fox. Even though Disney had acquired Marvel, the X-Men (along with the Fantastic Four, Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Blade, and their associated content) still belonged to Fox. However, that changed in 2019 when the Walt Disney Company completed the acquisition of 21st Century Fox.
It was generally believed that the first major project that would be developed with the reacquired X-Men properties would be a live-action reboot of the films. Instead, it was announced on Disney+ Day 2021 that Marvel Studios would be developing a new X-Men animated series. More than that, it would be a continuation of the much-loved series from the 1990s.
Appropriately, the new series would be titled X-Men ’97. The title itself is a reference to the year the previous series ended, with the final episode that aired, episode 76 (Graduation Day), on September 20, 1997. But while fans are excited with the prospect of watching the continuing adventures of the merry band of mutants from the 1990s, there have arisen questions about what they will be looking forward to.
At the Marvel.com official blog, Marvel Studios' Brad Winderbaum (Head of Streaming, Television, and Animation) and Dana Vasquez-Eberhardt (VP of Animation) shed some light regarding the X-Men ’97 series that will air on the Disney+ streaming service. Winderbaum stated:
This is the first X-Men title produced by Marvel Studios. What an amazing first step to reintroduce audiences to the X-Men with a look at one of the most pinnacle eras of the X-Men comics, which was the ‘90s. That iconic style that has its roots in Chris Claremont, and is celebrated in Jim Lee, and then again in ‘The Animated Series.
Meanwhile, Vasquez-Eberhardt enthusiastically shared the vision of how the new show will evolve from its roots:
As an animated show, the original X-Men was the forerunner to some amazing action series. Everyone that is making X-Men ’97, top-down, is a fan. On this project, instinctually, we knew exactly what this is. To bring this series forward and pick up that baton, and not just keep running at the same pace, but to really elevate. That’s the responsibility.
Production team and voice cast returning
The X-Men ’97 production will have Beau De Mayo as the head writer and executive producer. Jake Castorena and Charley Feldman will serve as supervising director and supervising producer, respectively. From the original X-Men: The Animated Series, showrunners Eric and Julia Lewald and series director Larry Houston would serve as consultants for the new show.
More importantly (especially for long-time fans), Marvel has also confirmed that the original voice cast from X-Men: The Animated Series will be returning.
Cal Dodd (Logan/Wolverine), Lenore Zann (Rogue), George Buza (Hank McCoy/Beast), Alison Sealy-Smith (Ororo Munroe/Storm), Chris Potter (Remy LeBeau/Gambit), Catherine Disher (Jean Grey/Phoenix), Adrian Hough (Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler), and Christopher Britton (Mister Sinister) would all be playing roles in X-Men ’97, though not all will have the same roles as they did in the original. Of special note is the absence of Norman Spencer, who voiced Scott Summers/Cyclops, as the actor sadly passed away in August of 2020.
Aside from the veteran voice cast, Marvel has also confirmed new voice actors for the series including Jennifer Hale, Anniwaa Buachie, Ray Chase, Matthew Waterson, JP Karliak, Holly Chou, Jeff Bennett, and AJ LoCascio.
Other confirmed details and what remains unconfirmed
Based on the image and logo released by Marvel, X-Men ’97 will be following a similar design to X-Men: The Animated Series, at least for the characters. The original cartoon had mostly used the services of South Korean animation company AKOM, as well as Hong Ying and Philippine Animation Studio Inc. for later episodes. The new show, however, will be developed in-house with Marvel Studios Animation which has also been responsible for the recent multiverse series What If…?
But with all the details so far confirmed, there are lingering questions. For instance, if the story will pick up immediately after the final episode from 1997, does this mean Magneto will serve as the mentor/leader of the X-Men? This is not unheard of, as the mutant Master of Magnetism did take over from Charles Xavier in the comic books during his brief heroic turn. He was also the X-Men’s leader in Age of Apocalypse when Charles was assassinated in an alternate timeline.
Another point is Morph had returned in the final episode. Morph was a character especially created for X-Men: The Animated Series and was the first fatality in the debut two-part pilot episodes Night of the Sentinels. Would he be returning as a main member of the cast? And what about the other X-Men? While Archangel, Iceman, Colossus, and Nightcrawler appeared as guests, they never became full-time members in the original series run. Given the popularity of these characters, could that change in X-Men ’97?
Finally, and probably most importantly, will X-Men ’97 have THAT instrumental theme song written by Ron Wasserman? It would seem to be unwise and even disrespectful not to use it, given how interconnected the theme intro has been to the cartoon itself. In fact, many casual fans might not recall the details of episodes, but they will definitely have immediate recollection of what the theme song sounds like. However, there is no official confirmation of whether it (or a remixed version) will be used for the new Disney+ series.
X-Men ’97 is targeted for release in 2023.