X-Men Cartoon Celebrates 25th Anniversary

October 31 was the 25th anniversary of the debut of the “X-Men,” a popular and acclaimed cartoon that played on Fox Kids. Its first episode, “Night of the Sentinels,” premiered on Halloween, 1992. “X-Men” is also the subject of a new book, “Previously on X-Men” by Eric Lewald, who had been the showrunner.

Back in 1992, Marvel wasn’t the entertainment powerhouse it is today. It last successful foray onto the small screen had been the live-action series, “The Incredible Hulk,” that ran from 1978 to 1982.

Enter Margaret Loesch, a TV executive and fan of Marvel comics. She especially liked the X-Men and wanted to do an animated series starring them. After becoming the CEO of Fox Kids, she persuaded Jamie Kellner, the head of Fox to let her do an X-Men show. After he agreed, she recruited Haim Saban of “Power Rangers” fame and a production company called Graz.

From the start, there were problems, and many of them stemmed from the fact that Fox did not want to spend a lot of money on a cartoon about then-obscure superheroes. Saban hired South Korean animators to cut costs. That sometimes resulted in animation so bad that it had to be redone to please Fox and Marvel.

Similarly, Fox Kids hired Canadian actors to do the voices. That worked very well in the cases of Alyson Court (Jubilee) and Cal Dodd (Wolverine), for they were friends and could readily portray a mentor-protégé pair.

The writers treated “X-Men” as a serious and sequential show complete with story arcs. When the show proved to be a hit, various executives wanted the show to be made campier and sillier, like the 1960s version of “Batman.” Others insisted on lots of product placement to encourage kids to buy merchandise. The creative team dug in their heels and unanimously refused on both counts. “X-Men” ran for five seasons and ended after 76 episodes.

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