Marvel Unlimited’s ‘X-Men: 60 Uncanny Years Live Virtual Event’: Revisiting the X-Men’s Animated Legacy
Eric Lewald, Julia Lewald, and Larry Houston, the creators behind ‘X-Men: The Animated Series,’ and Beau DeMayo, executive producer of the upcoming Marvel Studios’ ‘X-Men ’97,’ talked about the impact—and future—of the fan-favorite cartoon.
The X-Men’s 60th anniversary celebration continues with Eric Lewald, the showrunner behind X-Men: The Animated Series, series writer Julia Lewald, and Larry Houston, the series’ producer and director. And joining the group is Beau DeMayo, writer and executive producer of the upcoming animated series Marvel Studios’ X-Men '97, streaming on Disney+ later this year!
At Marvel Unlimited's X-Men: 60 Uncanny Years Live Virtual Event, the creators joined host Ryan Penagos to talk all things '90s animated X-Men, from the original series’ 1992 debut to the continuation of the team’s story in X-Men '97! We also asked the eternal question: Does a mall babe eat chili fries?
ON THE LONG ROAD TO PRODUCING X-MEN: THE ANIMATED SERIES:
LARRY HOUSTON: When we were given the green light to do a pilot for [precursor to X-Men: TAS] Pryde of the X-Men, I was like a kid in a candy store, getting to put together what I knew was going to be a successful show with myself, [X-Men supervising producer] Will Meugniot, and [animator] Rick Hoberg. We put this thing together because we were all fanboys who were also directors working in the animation studio. And it was like the best thing that we could ever have hoped for. We got the best animation. And we got really good voice actors. The only problem we had was that the zeitgeist was wrong. I mean, CBS, NBC, ABC just didn't understand-- “What's a mutant? What is this? How come they don't like each other?” It was just the wrong time to do it. We had to wait another six years to put the real series on, the series that you guys saw.
JULIA LEWALD: Fox Kids was a brand-new network back then. And it's hard to realize, but ABC, CBS, NBC were the three big players in kids Saturday morning [programming]. Fox and Fox Kids were brand-new players, and they were willing to take some chances and willing to try some properties that the other networks had passed on.
ERIC LEWALD: And the lady that made it happen, Margaret Loesch, [had] just been made president of this little company. And she took the biggest risk on the planet and hired all of us.
ON WHAT X-MEN: THE ANIMATED SERIES MEANT TO ITS VIEWERS:
BEAU DEMAYO: When I first met Eric, Larry, and Julia, it was very emotional. And I was like, literally, “your show saved my life.” I think it is [like that] for a lot of people. I grew up in Florida, a very small town, and no one looked like me. I was this mixed-race kid, Black, white. Then was like, “Oh, shoot, I'm gay too!” No one around me resembled me. And then here's this show that I'm tuning into as a 10-year-old. And I'm like, “Oh, they get it.” [The X-Men] are struggling with identity too. And it was really giving me those building blocks to start to understand how you create an identity in a vacuum. And as I was getting older, I was reading comics. Then I saw the first X-Men movie. And I remember I went to a bookstore [and picked up] Screenwriting for Dummies to learn how to write a script. I wrote a horribly formatted—no one will ever see it—sequel to the first movie and discovered my love of screenwriting in general.
ON HOW X-MEN ’97 CAME TO BE:
BEAU DEMAYO: I had just wrapped up working on Marvel Studios’ Moon Knight, and got a call that Brad Winderbaum, who is [Marvel Studios’] Head of Streaming, wanted to chat. And I was nervous, but cool. And we got on this [call], and we were talking about projects. He's like, “Would you ever be interested in maybe pitching a show? Well, let me just show you a picture…”
And he shows me a picture of X-Men: The Animated Series. And I'm like, OK, well, I should be professional and try to play this cool. So, I was like, “yeah, I'd be really interested in thinking about that. Yeah, let's think.” And then properly got off the phone, screamed, cried, ran around. And then just came up with a pitch and pitched it to Kevin Feige. And he and Brad could not have been more supportive, and also encouraging to make sure that we got it right.
And I went into the desert for about two weeks, came up with the entire first season, and then came back. And we got Eric, Julia, and Larry to come aboard. They have been such amazing creative partners. We've just assembled a great team of amazing directors and artists and storyboard artists and writers to just get this right and really drill down what I think the X-Men is always going to be about.
BEAU DEMAYO: I'm a massive Jean Grey fan. She's very near and dear to my heart. But Magneto-- I mean, Magneto is a pure joy to write. [So is] Jean because I get to write the word “darling.” I don't get to write that in other stuff! The fact that I get to write “darling” as much as I do in this show, and “dear,” and “Scott,” it's just so-- I love it. Magneto and Jean would be my top two.
JULIA LEWALD: In our animated series, we got to do, [mimicking cries] “Scott!” “Jean!”
ERIC LEWALD: “Jean!” “Scott!” “Jean!”
BEAU DEMAYO: One of our artists drew on our office whiteboards. It's Scott screaming “Jean!” And then he's looking at a pair of jeans.
ERIC LEWALD: One of my favorites was not one of the flashier characters. And that was Xavier-- he had this whole group of people. As a showrunner, you have a dozen, 20 different writers that you try to keep writing in the same direction. So I felt a great deal of empathy for him. And the other one was Magneto, as Beau said. I just loved their bromance. I love the fact that you have 76 episodes where the lead character and the lead adversary loved each other.
Did you miss Marvel Unlimited's X-Men: 60 Uncanny Years Live Virtual Event? Check out more panels now: Editors Jordan D. White & Lauren Amaro | Chris Claremont, Walter Simonson, & Louise Simonson | Grant Morrison & Jonathan Hickman | Rob Liefeld & Marc Silvestri
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