Watching X-Men: The Animated Series was a very important part of our week. We all had our favorite heroes, our favorite villains, and our favorite episodes. It didn't matter if we had already seen it five times, because we were absolutely going to watch it again and again.
The thing is, even though we loved watching it, there was actually a lot of drama going on behind the scenes. The popular cartoon had issues with toys, casting, and the network, but as kids we never noticed any of that.
Now that we are all grown up, (technically, we are still kids at heart) we can finally dig deep into the background of our favorite cartoon and see just how hard it was to make.
1. Casting was not easy
Showrunner Eric Lewald, revealed just how bad the casting process was. "Our first casting session was awful. It was just worthless. It was like Scooby Doo X-Men.
The casting directors sent down multiple people for the roles, but none worked. "They were really, really wrong. We tried to convey to them what was different about X-Men, and they didn't hear it. They thought, "They want to do something goofy and childish." They didn’t get it. So we had to send a bunch of people up and completely redo it [the casting] from scratch."
They redid the entire pilot four times before they were satisfied.
2. Fox hated their plan for a serialized show
The creators wanted the show to have a running plot, but Fox hated this idea. They only let them do it for the first 13 episodes, but then after that they wanted the stories completely contained in one singular episode.
"If it's live action, by the end of the day of recording you know if you've got the scenes or not," Lewald explained. "But when you wait three or four months to get the animation back, the problem is it comes back so close to air time. If something is wrong with one of them, the whole schedule is screwed."
He also revealed it was why the premiere date was pushed back. "It was one of the reasons the show was delayed until January for the actual premiere [the pilot showed as a special preview Oct. 31]. Then, [the studio] looked at us and said, 'Do you know how much it cost us to delay this thing? We're not going to do stories in a row again.'"
3. They didn't have as big of a budget to work with
Especially when it was compared to other superhero cartoons, X-Men didn't have the same freedom to spend whatever necessary to get things right.
Former Fox Kids executive Sidney Iwanter revealed that the animated Batman series was far more fortunate when it came to the budget.
"Whereas X-Men had to abide by the Fox license deal for each episode, Batman could go well above that and really not worry too much. It had the deep pockets of Warners to cover any production cost over runs. This enabled the Batman series much more time in both animation production and post production."
"X-Men was basically as ragtag and hurried as any normal Saturday morning boys action adventure production. A single hiccup down the line could cost thousands and send the broadcast schedule over the cliff. X-Men did not have a cushion for too many mishaps. Maybe that attests to its rawness."
But those aren't the only behind the scenes secrets...
4. Even the opening credits caused drama
Will Meugniot, artist and producer of X-Men revealed that the iconic credits were cause for concern.
"Larry had presented a version of it that was amazing and wonderful and in some ways better than what we wound up with," Meugniot said. "Because Larry was such a solid fan of X-Men and he knew the show was going to run 65 episodes and eventually everybody was going to show up in it, he put everybody in the title. Fox freaked out. They were already worried we had too many characters in the show."
In the end, they "ended up using about 80 percent of Larry's stuff" even though there was concern for the number of characters, but obviously it works because here we are, decades later, still reminiscing!
5. They refused to give in to sales pressures
Toy sales are usually the reason why a lot of cartoons get made, but Lewald refused to alter his show to force toys into the cartoon.
“[Marvel would say] ‘Put toys in or give Wolverine some Wolverine curtains.’ ‘No, we’re not going to do that.’" Lewald said. "If you were a 30-something serious defender of right and justice in your world, would you be wearing pyjamas of yourself or […] calling yourself on the Wolverine phone? No, you wouldn’t. He’s a serious guy. This is not a toy show. Sorry. You’ll have to fire me to change that.”
6. They cut the writer's fees after it became successful
Even though the pilot episode was a hit, Haim Saban, founder of Saban Entertainment, slashed the $500 from the writers fee per script!
"What he did after the first season was cut $500 off the script fee for the writers," Lewald revealed.
"His rationale was, "it's a hit. They want to be part of it, so they'll take less money."
"And if not, there's a line out the door of people who will," Julia Lewald, writer on the show, added.
7. Some of the actors had it rough, specifically Jean Grey
Catherine Disher played Jean Grey, and she was constantly recording her parts on exactly zero hours of sleep.
"I was doing a vampire series that shot at night, and we would record X-Men on Friday mornings, so I would just work all night and show up without going to bed," Disher explained.
Chris Potter, who played Gambit, had to quickly figure out a Cajun accent. "I didn’t know anything about X-Men at the time … The Cajun accent, I cobbled together, and they liked it enough to keep me around for the next five years."
They would all record together in one big studio, that way they could react to each other, but sometimes it made things difficult.
"I remember us smoking in the recording studio," Disher said. "I remember because when I got pregnant, I had to ask people to not smoke when I was in the room. It just boggles my mind now, that we were allowed to light up in a recording studio."
Even though the show had its ups and downs, it was a huge success and is still loved to this day.
If you want to know more about the behind the scenes drama (believe me, there's still more) about the show, you can check out Eric Lewald's book that is available with the inside scoop on all of the X-Men drama! It's available on Amazon now.