For many kids growing up in the ’90s, the animated X-Men series would have most likely been their first point of exposure to Marvel’s mutants, and — along with the Batman: The Animated Series and later, Spider-Man: The Animated Series — their introduction to comic book superheroes in general. X-Men: The Animated Series ran for an impressive five Seasons between 1992 to 1997 and quickly became one of the highest rated kids shows on TV. This is a legacy that remains strong to this day. Director Bryan Singer used it as his primary source of research when prepping for the first X-Men film, because the series had been so successful in condensing down over 40 years worth of key storylines from the comics. In 2015, Marvel started releasing an ongoing comic series based on the cartoon, X-Men ’92, to honor the show’s impact.
However, for all that the ’90s classic got right, it wasn’t without its faults. Like most animated media of its time, continuity errors, animation blips, off-model characters, and sometimes (hilariously) dodgy facial expressions cropped up in every Season. The over-the-top voice acting, while an accepted part of the series’ charm by fans, played more for unintentional laughs than drama. It’s hard to take supremely powerful supervillains like Apocalypse seriously when they’re chewing all the scenery to pieces. Rigorous censorship also interfered with the impact of some of the scarier and weirder elements of the X-Men’s world. So, there were definitely blunders that marred an otherwise brilliant adaptation of the X-verse, but which ones were the most egregious?
15. IT LASTED A SEASON LONGER THAN PLANNED
The show technically had two endings — and not intentionally. The epic, four-part story, “Beyond Good And Evil” that happened during Season Four was originally planned as the show’s grand finale. This mini-saga saw the X-Men team up with old allies to face off against a quadruple-threat of Magneto, Apocalypse, Mister Sinister and Mystique, with the fate of the entire timeline at stake.
At the end, the team would have faced off against Apocalypse one final time before going their separate ways. But, when Fox ordered more episodes, an entire Season was tacked on after this big confrontation. The show’s second finale, “Graduation Day,” ended with the team saying good-bye to a dying Professor X. It was a suitable tearjerker to send the show off but rendered the first one disappointingly anti-climactic.
14. SOME EPISODES AIRED IN THE WRONG ORDER
The order that episodes are aired in doesn’t particularly matter for shows that are entirely episodic, which was the case for most cartoons up until the ’90s. Season One and Two of TAS aired in the order they were intended to run, but after the five-part “Phoenix Saga” in Season Three, the careful plotting by the writers was kind of thrown out of the window by episodes starting to be aired in a seemingly random order by Fox.
This was a result of the animation being farmed out to different studios, and finished episodes were just scheduled to be shown on TV as soon as they were ready — even if it messed the continuity up. Multi-episode arcs still aired together but some stand-alone ones that set-up certain storylines ended up airing years after those storylines had ended.
13. IT FEATURED WILDLY INAPPROPRIATE SEXUAL CONTENT
For a show that was so heavily censored, it’s amazing that these hugely risqué scenes snuck past The Powers That Be. In “Til Death Do Us Part: Part One,” Morph returns — but he’s not quite himself. After sneaking into the X-Mansion disguised as Wolverine, “Evil” Morph then becomes so committed to his next transformation — Rogue — that he seduces Gambit, leaving him with the promise of consummation later on (which Gambit tried to follow through on.)
Apparently the writers really wanted to let kids know how sexy Rogue was as the next instance involves her, too. In “Deadly Reunions,” she needlessly sexualizes administering CPR to an unconscious Cyclops. “C’mon pretty boy, make a girl feel welcome… Don’t worry, I won’t tell Jean.” As Scott is out cold, she’s really just talking dirty to herself here.
12. ARCHANGEL CAUSED A PLOT HOLE
Winged mutant, Warren Worthington III — better known as Angel — is introduced later into the show as his second alter-ego, Archangel. In the comics, Angel is an original member of Professor X’s team, demonstrated in the show through flashbacks in episodes like “Proteus: Part One” and “Xavier Remembers,” where a guy with the same angelic wings as Warren is shown as part of the original team in their old costumes.
This strongly implies that Archangel has a long history with Professor X and the X-Men as his former identity, yet when he officially makes his debut, they seem to have absolutely no memory of him, which creates an awkward continuity error. To deepen the confusion, he also appears in both his classic blue and yellow, and red and yellow costumes in different flashbacks.
11. THE SHADOW KING WAS A TOTAL MISFIRE
The Shadow King is one of the most terrifying and diabolical presences in X-Men. Unfortunately, his first appearance in Season Two of TAS didn’t manage to do him anywhere near enough justice. In “Whatever It Takes,” the Shadow King is let loose through an inter-dimensional portal on Mt. Kilimanjaro to possess a young mutant boy. After hopping into Storm’s body when she turns up to help, the Shadow King is defeated when the X-Men are able to seal him back in astral plane.
The episode’s disappointingly low-stakes left reviewers cold and the Shadow King described as a “boring villain.” His impact wasn’t helped when he returned in “Xavier Remembers” in his original human form — not as the obese and bald, Amhal Farouk, but as a handsome, bearded man. This was likely (mistakenly) based on one of his later hosts from the comics, Jacob Reisz.
10. IT HAD A BIG DROP IN ANIMATION QUALITY IN THE FINAL SEASON
Not only was the show forced to continue a full Season (and a bit) longer than planned but that extra, final Season was plagued with production problems. Most noticeable was the drop in animation quality during the final six episodes. There were also inexplicable continuity errors in certain character designs. Jubilee, for instance, had her eyes change from brown to blue and got a new non-comic accurate hair style.
Beast’s appearance also got downgraded from animalistic to more humanoid (he even lost his claws.) These changes were likely made to make drawing the characters easier for the new, cheaper studio. The switch happened because Marvel — which was filing for bankruptcy at the time — couldn’t afford to fund the show any longer, leaving Saban to take its place.
9. SOME OF THE ACCENTS WERE DODGY
Definitely not all of the accents were off but some certainly were. Professor X’s very specific Westchester intonations sounded convincing while Gambit’s Cajun charm managed to ooze through decently enough. However, Rogue’s “Southern Belle” left a lot to be desired, an accent usually so strong that long-time X-Men comic book writer, Chris Claremont, was always insistent on finding ways to communicate it through his dialog.
A lot of the voice actors working on the show were Canadian, which worked out great for Wolverine, but accent slips on the pronunciation of certain words made some of the supposedly American mutant characters sound like they also might come from North of the border. Cheesy accents are an X-Men tradition, though, so in some ways this just adds to the charm.
8. THE BROOD’S DESIGN WAS INCONSISTENT AND TONED DOWN
In the comics, the Brood are Marvel’s thinly-veiled take on Alien. Part-reptile, part-insect, they come with big heads, big eyes, big teeth, and lots of drooling. Their whole thing is laying eggs inside their victims to transform them into one of them, which gave us one of Wolverine’s coolest covers in the ’80s. In TAS, they first showed up in “Mojovision” and “Cold Comfort” with designs that were pretty close to their comic book forms.
However, some Fox Executive must have decided later that the real Brood were not kid-friendly, so when they were given a bigger part to play in Season Four’s “Love In Vain,” we find that they’ve inexplicably mutated into Martian crocodile versions of Doctor Octopus who infect victims with spores rather than eggs. We also discover they have rebranded to “The Colony.” Finally, instead of a fanged, badass Wolverine transformation, we got… Piccolo with dental issues.
7. THE JUGGERNAUT WAS PLAYED AS A COMEDY VILLAIN
With his incredible level of strength and durability, the Juggernaut is quite literally the unstoppable force he’s named after. He just lacks the brainpower of his stepbrother, Charles Xavier, to go with it. Though the character has more complexity in the comics, adaptations of him have often focused on his more ridiculous qualities. This is no more apparent than in the TAS episode, “Juggernaut Returns.”
After being tossed into the sea, Cain Marko goes for a stroll across the ocean floor. Along the way, he befriends a seal, punches a shark (pretty badass) and somehow manages to resurface in New York, where he squashes himself into a taxi cab like a clown in a clown car (not so badass) and heads to Xavier’s School. Unfortunately, his maritime adventures are not only a plot contrivance too far, they also take his credibility as a threat away.
6. THE JAPANESE CREDITS ARE COOLER (BUT MAKE NO SENSE)
The opening credits for TAS are considered one of the best openings to a cartoon ever, and rightfully so! You’re probably already humming the theme song to yourself while reading this. But, did you know that Western audiences were actually robbed of an even cooler opening? As hard as it is to believe, both of the opening credits that Japanese audiences were treated to are more action-packed and better animated.
The Japanese credits didn’t just add a new theme song, they completely remade — and reinvigorated — the opening. As awesome as they are, they don’t make much sense. The first opening begins with Magneto summoning the Brood (in their comic accurate-form) which of course he never does. Ever. Those antagonists have literally nothing to do with one another. Still, if you haven’t watched them, go treat yourself after reading this article.
5. THERE WAS TOO MUCH WOLVERINE
Up until recently in the comics, Marvel had a Wolverine problem. Everyone’s favorite grumpy Canadian was just in far too many places at once (more than made realistic sense, even for comics.) The same problem has affected the film adaptations, too. As the old saying goes, you can never have too much of a good thing. Marvel’s solution in the comics was to kill him off, at least for a bit.
Arguably, TAS suffered from Wolverine fatigue, too. Roguish heroes are hard to beat in terms of appeal. But, when you’re writing team-based stories, there shouldn’t be too much spotlight-hogging from just one character or it feels uneven. While the first three Seasons manage the balance fine, the final two became Wolvie-saturated at the expense of other fan-favorites like Gambit.
4. THE OPENING CREDITS WERE FULL OF LIES
The opening credits of a cartoon are supposed to hook you in. So, infectiously catchy theme music and fast-paced action is a must, particularly if you’re trying to hold the interest of a younger audience. TAS certainly delivered on both those things extremely well. Perhaps a little too well. The opening credits were animated by two studios: OLM Incorporated and AKOM.
The latter studio was also responsible for the rest of the show’s animation but the bump from OLM meant the credits look deceptively far better than the rest of the show. They also feature things that never came to fruition in the show either, like that big clash between Magneto’s forces and the X-Men, and characters like Warpath who the heroes never fight. This false advertising is common in cartoons, something that the opening credits for Rick & Morty perfectly parody.
3. SOME OF THE VOICE ACTING IS REALLY HAMMY
The X-Men comics are infamous for cheesy accents and scenery-chewing supervillain monologues, as we’ve mentioned, so maybe following through on that in TAS is just being reverent to the source material. But, it doesn’t make it any less laughable. A lot of the voice acting work was consistently strong in the show, with Professor X, Wolverine and Gambit being particular standouts.
Storm, “MISTRESS OF THE ELEMENTS!” however, seemed to enjoy shouting her lines whenever possible — especially when using her powers. All that wind probably means she can’t hear herself properly. The top prize for ham though has to be shared (or battled over) by Magneto and Apocalypse. “I AM APOCALYPSE! LOOK INTO THE FUTURE… AND TREMBLE!” Oscar Isaacs’ performance in the live-action adaptation seems mild-mannered by comparison.
2. THE ANIMATION QUALITY VARIED HUGELY
With different studios responsible for different episodes and different elements of the show, not to mention the money problems that occurred in the final season when Marvel hit dire financial straits, it’s perhaps unsurprising that TAS‘s production suffered. Most cartoons — and all media, for that matter — contain continuity errors and dips in quality, but sometimes the issues in TAS were more noticeable.
The opening credits alone are riddled with continuity misnomers. There’s a bit where Beast is holding a red book, which completely disappears without a trace seconds later. Character models throughout the show were sometimes inconsistent, especially towards the very end. The sentinels’ heights proved particularly hard for the animators to keep uniform — jumping from being just a foot taller than the X-Men to the size of buildings.
1. IT WAS HEAVILY CENSORED
X-Men‘s premise leans heavily on the theme of prejudice and TAS never shied away from this. Nightcrawler was suitably used as a mouthpiece for not judging a book by its cover, and the show even explicitly addressed racism during an episode that time-travelled back to the 50s. However, other mature content from the comics was heavily censored.
Some changes were understandable, like the rape and murder of Corsair’s wife being described as her being “destroyed” (though that kind of sounds more graphic, somehow). Some changes were laughable, like the Hellfire Club being changed to the “Circle Club” even though the racy costumes stayed. But, others unfortunately lessened characters’ depth, like Magneto’s past as a Holocaust survivor being glossed over as a vague, Eastern European war.
What else do you think was wrong with X-Men: The Animated Series? Let us know in the comments!
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