The X-Men animated series to this day remains the #2 longest running animated series in the entire cartoon history behind Batman: The Animated Series. It features the characters drawn and designed by Jim Lee (noted for character anatomy dynamics) and shows all the comic storylines, particularly those written by Chris Claremont in his first stint at Marvel in animated format.
Note: This excludes The Simpsons.
Episodes Run and Overview
The series had a successful 76-episode run from October 31 1992 to September 20 1997. All of these episodes were executive produced by Stan Lee himself and Avi Arad, with Joe Calamari. Then Marvel publisher Bob Harras was the creative consultant for the production. Much of the story arcs seen in comics like the Legacy Virus, Sentinels, Savage Land, Days of Future Past and The Phoenix Saga were successfully translated into episodes run. These episodes were produced by Saban Entertainment, the company distributing Power Rangers worldwide and they were broadcast under Fox Kids and it was shown almost every weekend on their networks. After the successful run of the first X-Men movie in 2000, the series had another successful rerun but it was Disney who broadcast the rerun when they bought the broadcasting rights from Saban in 2001.
Each episode had a consistent average rating of 8 out of 10. Out of the episodes, only 2 were noted to draw flak and criticism from fans. Episode 24, Mojovision, featuring the voice of Andy Dick as Mojo was rated 6.8 while one of the final season's episode, entitled Jubilee's Fairy Tale was rated as the worst episode ever of the series.
The opening title sequence featuring the name of mutant and their abilities were designed by Dave McCarty. This title sequence would serve as the basis for another Marvel animated production series, Iron Man. However, the final season featured a modified title sequence.
At this time of writing, I have watched the first two seasons of the run. Season 2 remains the best of the lot because of its overall cohesiveness. The main plot is about Mr. Sinister and the Savage Land. Most of the episodes are connected to one another featuring a small segment of Professor Xavier and Magneto at the Savage Land, bookmarked and setup for a 2-part showdown called Reunion.
The Fall of The Run
Arguably the success of the 5 seasons was due to the efforts of two men, Larry Houston and the supervising producer Scott Thomas.
Season 5 was supposedly ended at Episode 70 with the conclusion of the two parter Storm Front. However after that, Graz Entertainment, closed shop due to bankruptcy and the writing duties and storyboarding went directly to Saban Entertainment with the production seen by former Batman animated series producer Tom McLaughlin. However, no sooner by March 1997 after the release of Episode 73: Old Soldiers featuring Captain America, Fox Network has decided to cancel the series. But they allowed Saban to release the final three episodes that they had already worked on.
Influence in Film
The first X-Men movie mostly has a storyline that was influenced by the first season of the animated series. If you are to compare the story in the first film and the first season, you will notice that are many similar elements in the film. The only exception is that the episodes focus on Jubilee while the story in the film focuses on Wolverine with Rogue as supporting because Wolverine has brings more character appeal to the fans and Rogue, with her well documented beginnings seen in comics complements of showing a character on the run to a key member of the team.
Pre-Harry Potter Influence?
The character relationships and dynamics of Rogue and Gambit served as the influence of the relationship of Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour by JK Rowling. Like Gambit, Bill is a charmer and has the panache while Fleur, like Rogue can be sometimes an aggressive tough-as-nails character. At least either one of them is a French character except from different origins. Remy is a French-New Orleans guy while Fleur is from Southern France. At the end of the Harry Potter series, Bill and Fleur were married, had three children. Likewise, in the X-Men: The End, both were married and lived in Valley Solada except that their fates were in contrast to Bill and Fleur. The Extreme X-Men series by Chris Claremont has prominently examines their relationship there.
Anyone can remember the signature opening theme that was used in the first four seasons. During the production stage rehearsals that I was involved in school back in 2000, a schoolmate of mine managed to perform the opening track by just recalling from memory alone. We had one piano in the school hall and he played it during rehearsal breaks.
Another theme that I believe was the second best would be the harmonica Bishop's theme. It gives the feeling and inference that Bishop is one tough ass who would love to tackle baddies a la cowboy style.
The theme track is available at this site for download in MP3 format.
I Want to Watch It, How?
Currently you can watch all the 76 episodes of the series on YouTube. But the number of videos are doubled. This is because YouTube has a restriction that will allow a maximum of 10 minutes per video. These videos can be watched but without the opening and end titles.
1. X-Men Animated Series on Wikipedia
2. Interview with Bob Harras (1992)
3. The Episode Guide of the series