From 1992 to 1997, millions of kids plopped down in front of their TVs every Saturday morning to watch X-Men: The Animated Series. Masterfully bringing decades of X-Men tales to the screen, the Fox Kids’ cartoon found a place in the hearts of a generation, and led untold numbers to march into their local shops and start reading comics for the first time.
Though the series only lasted 76 episodes, X-Men was also the bridge between Jim Lee’s reinvigoration of the comic books and the leather-clad, big screen team we first saw a few years later. With its Saturday morning sibling, Spider-Man: The Animated Series, X-Men proved definitively that everyone’s favorite merry mutants had appeal both on the printed page and off.
Of course, while we all remember X-Men: The Animated Series fondly, actually re-watching the show tends to bring its faults right to the forefront. And, man oh man, does X-Men have faults.
From the stilted dialogue to the cheap animation to whatever was going on with Professor X’s eyebrows, the cartoon was actually kind of terrible. And living in a Golden Age of animation isn’t helping to hide its flaws.
Here now, for your memory-ruining enjoyment, are the 15 Biggest Mistakes In X-Men: The Animated Series You Never Noticed.
15. It Has Two Series Finales
Because animated shows are scripted and drawn well in advance of any corporate edicts about the fate of their renewals, sometimes they don’t get the message in time. That’s how X-Men ended up with two series finales.
Season four’s epic, four-episode-spanning “Beyond Good And Evil” was planned as the show’s big, explosive, final hurrah. Magneto, Apocalypse, Mister Sinister, and Mystique team up and tee off against the X-Men, with some kind of Time Castle and the very fate of creation itself hanging in the balance.
In the end, Magneto turns on Apocalypse, Bishop, and Cable and Psylocke show up, Jean Grey and Cyclops make out, and everyone lives happily ever after – and then there are four more episodes and a whole other season, because, again, cartoon production schedules never make any sense.
X-Men’s second finale, “Graduation Day”, is far less grand – or good – and, after a seriously rushed plot and a surprisingly moving speech by Magneto, ends with the team saying good-bye to a dying Professor X.
14. Later Episodes Aired Out Of Order
Having two finales wasn’t the only production screw-up that befell X-Men: The Animated Series. Basically everything after season three’s five-part “Phoenix Saga” is a continuity nightmare.
As a result of the animation being farmed out to a number of different studios, finished episodes were thrown onto television as soon as they were ready, continuity be damned. Thankfully, multi-episode arcs still aired together, but a lot of standalone episodes that set up future storylines ended up airing well after those stories had been concluded.
While the home release of the cartoon tried to correct some of this confusion, it only ended up making things more confounding. As it stands currently, the production order, original broadcast order, the DVD order, and the order the episodes are included on Hulu are all different.
13. Morph Sucked On Purpose (Then They Brought Him Back Anyway)
Morph was an original creation for X-Men: The Animated Series, though he was based on an early X-character named Changeling (he now goes by Kevin Sydney, since DC trademarked the name “Changeling” as an alias for Beast Boy).
Anyway, Morph was created specifically as a throwaway character, whose only purpose was to die early and embody the dangers that the X-Men faced. Presumably this is why he’s kind of super annoying and named “Morph” instead of, really, anything else.
Still, despite the fact that he has regularly been called the worst X-Man ever, Morph was so popular that they brought him back in season two, and later, in the finale.
12. The First Episode Was Riddled With Errors
Putting aside the fact that X-Men: The Animated Series might not have even existed without the atrocious Pryde of the X-Men pseudo-pilot years earlier, their first real episode was still pretty terrible.
Airing as a “sneak preview” on October 31, 1992, the original broadcast of the two-part “Night of the Sentinels” was woefully incomplete. Almost every scene had some kind of animation error, from coloring issues to continuity, while entire scenes were missing from the second half. Turns out, the animation studio, AKOM, handed in the episode the day before it was due to air, with no time for editing.
Thankfully, when FOX re-ran the pilot in 1993, in its official Saturday morning timeslot, the errors had been corrected. Threatening to sever a struggling studio’s contracts will get things done, after all.
11. They Turned Juggernaut Into A Joke (Long Before X-Men: The Last Stand)
Juggernaut is, as the name implies, a force to be reckoned with. Granted superhuman strength and durability by the Gem of Cyttorak, he is all but unstoppable able of moving mountains and healing from any and all wounds – assuming anyone can get past the gem’s invulnerability field. Premiering in X-Men #12 in 1965, Juggernaut’s been both an intimidating thorn in the X-Men’s side and a teammate, and a constant presence for nearly 40 years.
Meanwhile, in the cartoon, he’s a stupid goofball.
This characterization is at its most egregious in “Juggernaut Returns.” In the episode, Juggernaut ends up underwater, where he befriends a seal and punches a shark. Later, he rips the roof off a taxi and drives around like a Shriner in a parade– and that’s before some glasses-wearing nerd steals the gem and starts doing dishes as the unstoppable Juggernaut.
10. They Didn’t Get To Be In “Secret Wars” Because They Were Canadian
After the success of X-Men, Fox Kids and Marvel teamed up again to bring the world Spider-Man: The Animated Series, and the two shows weren’t shy about crossing over. When it was convenient, that is.
Spider-Man’s fifth season introduced an abbreviated version of the original “Secret Wars” storyline halfway through. The Beyonder and Madame Web select Spidey to lead a team of heroes against Doctors Doom and Octopus, as well as the Red Skull and a couple of others. Naturally, the episodes include an embarrassment of superheroes, including Iron Man and Captain America. Only Storm, however, is there to represent the X-Men.
While the original script actually included the entire team, transporting the voice cast to Los Angeles (where production for Spider-Man was based) from Toronto (where X-Men was recorded) proved too costly. So the episode was re-written to include only Storm, whose actress, Iona Morris, lived in Los Angeles. How much did plane tickets cost back then?
9. Dialogue Occasionally Came From The Wrong Character
Voice recording for cartoons is typically done months, if not years, before the animation itself is actually finished. Voice actors read from their scripts, and then it’s up to the animators to match up what they’re drawing with the recordings. Sometimes, though, this doesn’t work out the way it’s supposed to.
For example, in “Weapon X, Lies, & Videotape”, Sabretooth and Wolverine switch dialogue. The two are in the middle of a fight, grappling in an abandoned science lab, when their voices are reversed: Sabretooth’s mouth moves during Wolverine’s lines and vice versa. The producers actually left the glitch intact during reruns for years, all the way up until it was remastered for digital release not too long ago.
8. Angel and Archangel Might Not Be The Same Person
The tenth episode of the first season, “Come the Apocalypse”, introduces the audience to not just Apocalypse, but to Warren Worthington III, aka Archangel. Also being introduced to Warren for the first time? The X-Men – the very same team he co-founded.
Now, in the comics, Warren – as Angel, sans metal and emo costume – is an original member of the X-Men, but, hey, adaptations take liberties with the source material all the time, right? Wrong.
While the series obviously had no problem changing various things from the comics, they kept Angel as a founding member of the team. Throughout the run of X-Men: The Animated Series, Angel is shown in flashbacks, in both his blue-and-yellow and red-and-yellow costumes.
Yet, when Cyclops and the rest of the gang meet Archangel, even after he tells them he’s Warren Worthington III, they all act like they’ve never met him before. Not a single “Dude, what happened to you?” in the bunch.
7. Marvel Went Bankrupt During Season Five (And It Showed)
Back before Marvel sold themselves to Disney for all the money in the world, they were just an overextended comic book publisher, branching out into cartoons and trying to stave off bankruptcy. While X-Men and Spider-Man are lovingly looked back on as highlights of comic book animation, neither series was able to save the company from filing Chapter 11 in 1996.
In fact, Marvel was so broke at the time, they couldn’t even afford to finish funding Season Five. Instead, their production partner, Saban Entertainment, took the reins for the last six episodes, changing to a cheaper animation studio and generally letting the series go out with a whimper instead of a bang.
6. They Ruined The Southern Accent
Ever notice how Rogue never sounds like any actual person from Mississippi? Or how Moira MacTaggert sounds suspiciously like someone telling an offensive joke about a Scottish person?
The voice actors for X-Men: The Animated Series were recruited, almost entirely, from the Toronto theater scene. The X-Men they were voicing, meanwhile, were a collection of international misfits with a wide range of accents, including several from the American South.
Generally speaking, regional accents aren’t that well known outside of their home countries – ask a Londoner to imitate an American and they’ll probably give you a generic Hollywood voice, or maybe an over-the-top Texas drawl. They won’t be able to pinpoint an intellectual from Westchester, or a thief from the Louisiana bayou, or a farmgirl from Mississippi.
5. The Show Censored Parts of the Comics Lore (And World History)
The prevailing themes of all incarnations of the X-Men have always leaned pretty heavily on some intense subjects: racial prejudice, gay rights, and generally not being a bigoted a-hole who judges others based on their appearance.
In that regard, X-Men: The Animated Series was a fairly accurate representation of the team. There were, however, some other bulwarks of X-Men lore that the production team felt needed to be censored.
Some things– like the rape and murder or Corsair’s wife or Storm stabbing Callisto in the heart– make perfect sense. However, others– like changing the Hellfire Club to the Circle Club, or making the Reavers robots– are a little greyer. Then there’s Magneto.
An intrinsic and inescapable part of Magneto’s history is his time in a concentration camp during World War II. Being a Holocaust survivor is what drives him; seeing the worst of mankind up close is what makes him believe that mutantkind is better. Instead, though, the show glosses over his origin entirely, writing off The Worst Thing That Has Ever Happened as an undefined Eastern European war.
4. Standards And Practices Had Some Weird Requests
In addition to the self-censorship from the writers and producers (and, presumably, investors), Fox’s Broadcast Standards and Practices department also had some of their own things that they didn’t want children to see.
For one thing, they wanted to change the name of villain Fabian Cortez, arguing that there weren’t any positive Hispanic characters to offset such a negative one. Similarly, Magneto’s Acolytes weren’t allowed to be called Acolytes, because it might portray religion negatively, maybe?
Finally, the Brood: a Xenomorph-knockoff alien race with a longstanding comics history. For whatever reason, they were not allowed to appear on the cartoon – at least not by name.
Twice, incidentally, the classic comic version of the Brood show up as generic, unnamed aliens. In “Love in Vain”, they show up heavily edited as the Colony, where they’re turned from slavering bug people to talking lizard cyborgs with stupid hats.
3. They Weren’t Released On DVD Until 2009
Despite X-Men: The Animated Series being a staple of every ‘90s’ kid’s Saturday morning, and despite the fact that VHS sales of the show were robust enough that most of those kids had a closet full of X-Men episodes, the cartoon wasn’t actually released on DVD until 2009, over ten years after it went off the air, and several years after DVDs became ubiquitous.
Even then, the studio tested the waters, initially releasing only a few episodes on DVD, grouped either by story or character – specifically, “The Phoenix Saga” and a couple of Wolverine-heavy discs.
The full cartoon wasn’t released until a while later, across five volumes, as “The X-Men: Marvel DVD Comic Book Collection.” The discs also had new, comic book-style art on the covers, instead of anything resembling what the show actually looked like. We doubt that this was accidental.
2. The Animation Is So, So Bad
Look, we love X-Men: The Animated Series, but have you watched it recently? It it doesn’t hold up well. Putting aside all the more specific and egregious errors listed here, X-Men still isn’t a very high-quality cartoon.
Starting with the credits, which are, arguably, the best animation in the show: Beast’s book and glasses disappear. He’s holding and wearing them, respectively, then, as the camera pans out (or whatever the correct term is for a drawing) they both just vanish.
Things like that happen throughout the series. Wolverine’s arms and face are regularly yellow for a frame or two, his claws are never the same width or angle, Mr. Sinister was drawn in such a way that he couldn’t turn around on-screen, mouths were sometimes pushed over to the side of the face, as well as the excessive shadowing varied from episode to episode.
Then, of course, there was Professor X’s elongated head, Jean Grey’s hair, and the faces anytime someone screamed. Body proportions often made no sense, changing from scene to scene – although that’s par for the course for comics, really.
1. The Show Was Too Good
Generally speaking, as far as adaptions go, X-Men: The Animated Series was one of the most faithful to the comics lore – and, in fact, added to it.
The animated X-Men were the first incarnation of the team to be introduced to a mutant cure, something that Joss Whedon would add to the comics canon years later, and something that the X-movie franchise would poop all over even later.
For all of its (many) flaws, X-Men was an amazing cartoon, introducing a new generation to the X-Men comics, paving the way for the current comic movie boom, and beloved by many people to this very day. And that, in fact, is why the show was cancelled.
In case you think that inter-studio sniping is a new thing, Fox and Marvel were going at it as far back as 1997. Fox wasn’t thrilled that its two most popular kids’ shows — X-Men and Spider-Man: The Animated Series — were controlled by Marvel. So, once the X-quality took a dip and they had a “reason,” they pulled the plug on both shows.
Their Saturday morning ratings dropped 31%. Just goes to show, you don’t mess with Marvel.
X-Men: The Animated Series is currently available on Hulu, until October 10, 2017.
Did you notice any other huge mistakes in X-Men: The Animated Series? Sound off in the comments!
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