Dive deep into the making one of the 90s greatest cartoons with this amazing in-depth book on X-Men: The Animated Series; Previously on X-Men: The Making of an Animated Series.
Chances are that if you clicked on this article, you may have grown up in the 90s. During that decade there were no shortage of great animated shows that have stood the test of time and that are still cherished today. But one in particular was something truly special, and is the lucky recipient of a brand new in-depth book from the series’ very own showrunner; Previously on X-Men: The Making of an Animated Series.
Eric Lewald has been behind the pen of some of the best in animation over the last few decades but perhaps the biggest item under his belt is X-Men: The Animated Series that ran from 1992 to 1997. For 74 episodes the show perfectly captured the look and feel of the most popular comic book around. So who better to tell the tale of just how this attempt to finally do a proper X-Men animated show got off the ground and onto the screen than Eric himself.
This book has everything that a fan of the show could want, from details on the meetings that got the show running, to interviews with writers, actors and fans. It’s rare that such a detailed look at an animated property can be compiled in this format, and the book truly does it justice.
From Pitch To Perfection
Previously on X-Men: The Making of an Animated Series benefits greatly from the fact that it is written by the showrunner himself; Eric Lewald. This gives the book a more personal feel than other “Making of” projects. It gets inside the very mind of one of the most integral parts of the series.
The book opens with many recounts of initial meetings with the newly formed Fox Animation Studios and Marvel, including Stan Lee himself, as a large group of talent took steps to bring the X-Men to television successfully, after a few failed attempts in the past. The first hand accounts of what took place, and the ups and downs, are not only delivered by Eric but from some key players in the industry at the time.
Margaret Loesch, the then president of Fox Kids Television, sits down and speaks with Eric about her previous X-Men attempts with Marvel and her time in the industry including her work at the legendary Hanna-Barbara. There are also discussions with Fox Network Executive Sidney Iwanter and producer Will Meugniot on just what it took to get this fantastic show, then just an idea, up and running. From selecting the core characters to developing the world that they would be protecting, which would have some minor focus changes from what was already established in the pages of the comics.
Assembling a team of writers, animators and voice talent is where the first quarter of the book is spent, putting together a “series bible” and giving fans a good idea at just what takes to succeed in projects like this. Not only will fans of the show enjoy this inside look, but fans of the industry and those craving the knowledge of the process will have plenty to latch onto here.
Episode By Episode
Far and away the best section of Previously on X-Men: The Making of an Animated Series is the chapter on the filmography. Lewald breaks down all 74 episodes in a way that is more than just a story recap. It’s filled with insight into the decisions that went in to produce the final product, and what may have been left out, and why. Story arcs, production dates vs. air date, storyboard art and more. Even if you’ve seen them all before, it’s definitely worth reading through for the extra background information.
Another fun chapter is 16 titled “The Literary Quotes of Beast, Our Resident Philosopher”. Beast, who is known for his well mannered and deeply intellectual dialogue, is always ready with clever and timely poetry or philosophical quotes for just about any situation. The book breaks down by episode each quote, where it was used, where it came from and why it was put in there. For what is for most a minor detail, it showcases again the level of thought and care that went into this show.
All throughout the book are scattered storyboard art, production notes, photos of the cast and crew, meeting notes and inter office memos. A real treasure trove of the years spent designing a beloved television show, before they knew it would be a sensation.
Points Of View
Several chapters are dedicated to present day interviews with the cast of voice actors, writers and production department crew members and artists. The insight into the voice talent and how they came up with their own personal interpretation of how the voices should sound is fascinating, as is how they first got these roles and what they’ve been up to since.
The major writers for the series are all interviewed and there are some serious heavyweights among them.
Steven Melching who wrote nine episodes shares his background as a fan who came on board to write for X-Men: The Animated Series. Since his run on the show, he has gone on to work on several hit animated shows, most notably Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Wars Rebels.
A truly remarkable and touching interview with the late Len Wein is the highlight of the back half of this book. Len is one of the leaders responsible for giving life back into the X-Men franchise in 1975 when it was brought back after a five year hiatus. He can also claim credit for co-creating such legendary characters such as Storm, Wolverine, Colossus and Nightcrawler. Eric dives into Len’s history in the comic industry, from his childhood all the way up to writing for the animated series. This piece is bittersweet, as Len passed away September of this year, but this interview encapsulates his importance to not just the show, but to the industry at large. A fitting tribute.
It’s a great look back after all these years, and hearing their thoughts on the shows aftermath is priceless.
By Fans, For Fans
Eric and Julia Lewald have received over the years countless letters and testimonials from fans all over on just how impactful the show has been to them and how it has influenced their lives. But rather than just a second hand recount of their tales, some of the best are included here in their entirety.
The love of this series that still endures to this day 25 years later is due to the love that was put in right at the very beginning. Truly for the fans by fans of this world and its characters. It has influenced other animated shows and can also be seen as the springboard for FOX’s eventual launch of the X-Men live action films. Oscar Isaac has even been quoted as going back to this series for inspiration on his portrayal of Apocalypse in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse.
On this 25th anniversary of the amazing series, there’s no better way to celebrate it and its creators than by picking up the amazingly detailed and well crafted Previously on X-Men: The Making of an Animated Series. Again, it’s not just for fans of the X-Men, but also for fans of the process.
You can pick up Previously on X-Men: The Making of an Animated Series direct from Jacobs Brown Media Group here today!
Side Note – io9 has a great brief article on Eric Lewald’s on-the-spot pitch for what a sixth season of X-Men: The Animated Series could look like.
Mike Harris hails from the suburbs of Chicago and has been a fan for most of his life. Working as an industrial radiographer and raising a family with his wife take up most of his time, but there’s always room for Star Wars books and podcasts! Just looking to give back to Star Wars and the fan community, it’s been a source of fun and learning for him for so long.