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TV Legends: Did Stan Lee Almost Host X-Men: The Animated Series?

TV URBAN LEGEND: Stan Lee almost live action hosted episodes of the X-Men Animated Series.

Last year, I did a Comic Book Legends Revealed about how the opening credits to the X-Men Animated Series, which are now iconic and dialogue-less...

Were almost narrated by Stan Lee.

The show runner of the series, Eric Lewald, wrote a great book called Previously on X-Men: The Making of an Animated Series

You can buy a copy of the book right from the publisher right here.

Eric explained how he even wrote a test example of how the credits would go. Ultimately, it was dropped.

However, Stan almost had an even BIGGER role in the series!

You see, back in the early 1980s, Stan Lee was the narrator on the Incredible Hulk cartoon series and the second and third seasons of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (they also had him go back and re-narrate the first season).

When the X-Men first had a try for a series, the infamous "Pryde of the X-Men," Stan Lee was along for the narrating...

Thus, Stan pushed for him to narrate this series, as well, but he would actually do more than just narrate the show, he would HOST the show!

In case you are unfamiliar with the show (since it debuted, you know, 64 years ago), for many years, Disney had a popular TV program that went by a number of different titles, the most popular one being The Wonderful World of Disney. However, that title only came about after the death of Walt Disney. The first few versions of the show explicitly mention Walt Disney, because he would host the show.

Here is an example...

Stan believed that the new X-Men were confusing and thus the audience would need for someone to introduce the episode and explain to everyone what the show was about and who the X-Men were.

In his aforementioned book, Lewald interviewed Will Meugniot, who was a designer/producer on the X-Men series:

On X-MEN:TAS I’d gotten a call from Margaret that Stan had persuaded her that he should be narrating the episodes, that they should open with Stan at a desk like Walt Disney explaining what was going to be happening. Larry (Houston, director) and Rick (Hoberg, artist) and I hadn’t minded that idea on SpiderMan and His Amazing Friends and The Hulk, both younger kids shows. But X-MEN:TAS was different: I knew we had to go for the young adult audience. I had a tough phone call with Margaret because she’d decided to let a very persistent Stan introduce the series, and I had to talk her out of it. I said: “We’re going up against our own sophisticated Fox show, Batman:TAS. Even though we’re both on the same network, that’s our biggest competition. If you start out with this nice old man explaining who the X-Men characters are and what the lesson is, you’re going to kill the show.”

Lewald: But Stan had got her to agree to it.

Meugniot: He’d gotten her to agree to it, and, it took a good half-an-hour, but Margaret finally says, “Okay, I accept your argument, Will, but you have to tell Stan.” So prior to going into that (big Fox network) meeting, I had already pissed off Stan, telling him that he wasn’t going to get to be the on-camera host of the show. It was a little dicey as to whether Stan would accept me and our formerly friendly relationship where I could mediate things with him. Fortunately he’s a rational guy: He got what I was saying. I think what’s important here is that when push came to shove, Margaret backed us, where she’d made the decision she was going to go with us: Even if we made some wrong choices, she wanted to see what happened if she let us run our show. It was very courageous of her: If X-Men wasn’t a hit, after she’d gone to the mat on it, she was going to be fired. Her choosing to back you, me, Sidney, and Larry was courageous. Particularly when the show first came in and a lot of the people in the business didn’t know what to make of it. I knew that we would have a hit, but nobody had ever seen a kids’ show like it before. They were terrified of it.

Can you imagine how different that would have been?

The legend is...

STATUS: True

Thanks again to Eric Lewald for the information. Go buy his book! Actually, speaking of books about the X-Men, go buy my book, too!

Be sure to check out my archive of TV Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of TV. Click here for TV legends specifically about animated television programs.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

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