The 90’s X-Men animated series indoctrinated millions of readers. Disney, why don’t you like money?
I’m not going to start a ‘get off my lawn’ rant about the good old days… but I am. A combination of television regulations and technology has forever altered how young people consume media. Gone are the days of waking up to blocks of new Saturday (and even Sunday) morning cartoons on broadcast television (aka free TV). The sad part is, like the ear-splitting noises us seniors experienced as we waited to connect to the dial-up internet- these kids won’t even know what they missed out on. Say what you want about the 90s, it was indeed a decade of extremes, but it was also an era of originality and discovery. I’d argue that more than 40% of today’s comic book reading population is thanks to shows like Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, and the reason I started reading comic books; X-Men: The Animated Series (XTAS).
As popular as the Merry Band of Mutants remains to be today, they could be so much more. There’s a huge reason why Batman and Spider-Man are the media juggernauts they are. They rarely left the air, and when they did, it wasn’t for long. Television plays a big part in indoctrinating new fans of characters. Barney and Friends has been canceled for years, yet still, my 3-year old niece knows exactly who that terrifying, purple, lizard is.
The original Fox Kids series ended in ’97’but the franchise saw a reboot in 2000 under WB Kids. They called it X-Men Evolution, the series ran until 2003 with 4 seasons. Following the success of the X-Men movie franchise, another animated series titled Wolverine and the X-Men debuted on Nickelodeon. Due to several factors including Disney’s purchase of Marvel Comics, the series only ran one-season with 26 episodes. The last animated series was less of a traditional cartoon and more of a semi-mature anime produced for the Japanese audience. However, a dubbed version did make its way to our shores.
It’s been nearly 10-years since America, the franchise’s prime market, has had a true X-Men series in front of kids. Yes, we’ve had several live-action movies in that span of time, but cinema exposure every couple of years and television, are very different animals. Because of this fact, the X-Men have missed out on thousands of opportunities to create millions of fans, both for the movies and the struggling comic book industry. For all intents and purposes, the X-Men have become more of a franchise geared towards parents, opposed to children. But perhaps this was done intentionally?
It’s no secret why there hasn’t been a new X-Men series. When Disney purchased Marvel Entertainment, they took possession of most of their properties, and the ones they didn’t have, eventually reverted back to them i.e. Ghost Rider, Blade, Daredevil, and several other franchises. That is except for the distribution rights of the Hulk movies, Namor, and just about everything Fox-owned- those being the Fantastic Four and of course, the X-Men.
Allegedly, in hopes of slowing down the franchise, thus making it less marketable, Disney pushed the Fox-owned franchises to the side in terms of exposure. We even saw the Fantastic Four’s comic book canceled. It also appeared that Marvel attempted to swap the concept of ‘mutants’ with the Inhumans, in both the books and TV (well, they tried at least). Again, allegedly. Of course, just about everyone in the Disney/Marvel camp denies this, but it’s really hard to ignore the treatment the Fox-owned franchises received following the acquisition.
From a business standpoint, what Disney may, or may not have done, makes a lot of sense. With Marvel Studios basically taking over the world, Disney has been doing its best to keep the intellectual property that they own and putting it in front of the faces of every child possible. Though, to my knowledge, prior to 2007 there had only been one Avengers-based animated series
The situation is a bit different now. Disney is in the process of acquiring 21st Century Fox and many of its assets including their Marvel franchises, the Fantastic Four and the X-Men. With Marvel’s ‘first family’ and the X-Men returning to the fold, we are sure to start seeing them return to the forefront of merchandising sooner rather than later. One can even argue this is happening in the comics as the X-Men are once again taking center stage over the Inhumans with a number of events surrounding the mutant team. While I, and I’m sure legions more, would appreciate a series on a streaming service ala Disney Play or Netflix- I think the best place for it will be somewhere more accessible. One of Disney’s many cable channels come to mind.
As for the tone… I’ve always leaned on the old saying; if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. All three major series’ in the past and even the anime version held more serious tones. The only one of the four that may have been on the lighter side was Evolution. Still, it wasn’t anywhere near as soft as what we’ve been seeing from the Disney owned animated shows as of late. Appealing to a younger audience doesn’t necessarily mean they have to alienate more mature viewers. Heck, XTAS was the only program that my older cousins and I were able to enjoy together, and they were all easily ten-years-older than my 9-year-old self.
When the X-Men are on TV, only good things can happen. They are too intriguing and dynamic a franchise to only be seen on the big screen every two-years. The impression XTAS alone has left on millions of fans should be reason enough to fast-track a new project. In a climate when there is so much demand for comic book related content, there are studios that would kill to have a franchise and catalog like the X-Men in their back pocket. The time is now. The X-Men, with all their multi-colored angst, is well overdue for a resurgence in young, virgin, minds of children. Please, Disney- bring the X-Men back to the small screen.
P.S.- I wrote this piece prior to the premiere of your little animated short. If it has to look like Steven Universe, you can go ahead and put it back on the shelf.
Not like this. Not like this.
Do you think Disney and Marvel should launch a new X-Men animated series?