May 16, 2015



(Syndicated, September 16, 1989)

Marvel Productions, New World Television, Toei Animation, Baker and Taylor Entertainment, Metrolight Studios

Michael Bell – Cyclops/Scott Summers, various
Patrick Pinney – Wolverine/Logan, Juggernaut/Cain Marko, various
Neil Ross – Nightcrawler/Kurt Wagner
Kath Soucie – Shadowcat/Kitty Pryde
Andi Chapman – Storm/Ororo Munroe, various
Dan Gilvezan – Colossus/Piotr “Peter” Rasputin
Alexandra Stoddart – Dazzler/Alison Blaire, various
John Stephenson – Professor X/Charles Xavier
Earl Boen – Magneto/Erik Lehnsherr
Frank Welker – Toad/Mortimer Toynbee, Lockheed
Pat Fraley – Pyro/Saint-John Allerdyce
Alan Oppenheimer – Blob/Fred Dukes, Col. Chaffey
Susan Silo – White Queen/Emma Frost

Stan Lee - Narrator

For the history of the X-Men, check out the post here.

The Marvel Action Universe was a programming block that ran from 1988-91 with programs by Marvel Productions, a subsidiary of Marvel Comics, intended to be a weekly block of five shows. Unfortunately, animation delays and picky markets rendered the block to being only 60 or 90 minutes, depending. Amongst the featured programs were Dino-Riders and RoboCop: the Animated Seriesas well as reruns of Defenders of the Earth, Dungeons & Dragons, Spider-Man (1981), Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, The New Fantastic Four, The Incredible Hulk (1982) and Spider-Woman. The most notable thing to emerge from the block was the half-hour X-Men pilot: Pryde of the X-Men.

The X-Men's first animated appearance in 1966.

            The original X-Men (Cyclops, Marvel GirlIcemanBeast and Angel) first appeared as part of the limited-animation series The Marvel Super Heroes in 1966, and also briefly appeared in the Iceman origin episode of Amazing Friends. The new X-Men, first seen in 1975’s Giant-Size X-Men #1, made two appearances on Amazing Friends. The second appearance, “The X-Men Adventure,” was intended to be a backdoor pilot for an X-Men spin-off series featuring not only the established X-Men of the episode, but also Amazing Friends original character Videoman and a Ms. Marvel (the Carol Danvers version) copycat called Lady Lightning. That series was never produced.

Character model sheets for Pryde.

            The second attempt came in 1989 as Marvel Productions wanted to try and push the distribution of content they owned outright as the majority of their past programming consisted of licensed properties. They took the funding for the 13th episode of RoboCop and redirected it into the making of the X-Men pilot by Toei Animation. Written by Larry Parr with direction from Ray Lee and voice direction by Stu Rosen, the pilot focused on the master of magnetism Magneto (Earl Boen) being freed from capture by his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants: the high-bouncing Toad (Frank Welker); the telepathic White Queen (Susan Silo); the massively large immovable object called the Blob (Alan Oppenheimer); the unstoppable force called the Juggernaut (whose powers are actually mystical in nature in the comics, played by Patrick Pinney); and the fire-controlling Pyro (Pat Fraley).

Magneto escapes!

Magneto planned to have mutants dominate the world by causing a comet to collide with the Earth. The resulting dust cloud would block out the sun, creating the next Ice Age that only mutants could survive and allowing them to conquer humans effortlessly. To accomplish this, Magneto stole a piece of Professor X’s (John Stephenson) mutant-detecting device Cerebro and kidnapped his newest student, Kitty Pryde (Kath Soucie), in the process.

Kitty Pryde and Lockheed making their animation debut.

            As the production crew had worked on the previous Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends series, the X-Men chosen for the team were largely comprised of those who had appeared before: original X-Man Scott Summers, aka Cyclops (Michael Bell), who could fire optic blasts of concussive force from his eyes; Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler (Neil Ross), who has the appearance of a demon and the ability to teleport; Ororo Munroe, aka Storm (Andi Chapman), who could manipulate weather; Logan, aka Wolverine (Pinney), who possessed animal-keen senses, rapid healing powers, and an adamantium skeleton and claws; and Piotr Rasputin, aka Colossus (Dan Gilvezan), who could transform his skin into organic steel. Professor X himself was in possession of great telepathic powers. Kitty, better known as Shadowcat, possessed the ability to phase her body through almost any solid surface. She served as the gateway to the audience to allow the producers to introduce and explain the characters and situations without needing to tell an origin story if at all avoidable. Also present was her pet dragon, Lockheed.

The X-Men: Dazzler, Wolverine, Colossus, Cyclops, Storm and Nightcrawler.

Along with Kitty, marking her animated debut was Alison Blaire, aka Dazzler (Alexandra Stoddart): the singer-turned-hero who could turn sound waves into various forms of light energy. New World Entertainment, then parent company of Marvel, wanted to explore the potential for a Dazzler movie or recording contract. Her creation in the late 70s was devised between Casablanca Records, Marvel and Filmworks, but the plans for her eventually fizzled out. The character was kept and placed in her own monthly comic and graphic novel. Similarly, New World was looking into the possibility of a Wolverine movie. Wolverine, as he was in Amazing Friends, was given an Australian accent because of the growing popularity of all things Australian at the time, thanks initially to the Mad Max movies starring Mel Gibson and Crocodile Dundee starring Paul Hogan. According to voice director Rick Hoberg, there were also plans to make Wolverine an expatriated Australian in the comics rather than Canadian. Those plans never saw fruition and the entire notion was dropped by the time Wolverine made his next televised appearance.

Some mutant shenanigans.
The pilot sought to ambitiously cover a lot of ground in its meager 22-minute runtime with its heavily involved plot and dense cast. Originally it was intended for the mutant-hunting Sentinels to be the villains, but with a desire to base a toy line around the show Marvel wanted as many characters as possible represented. It was praised for its high-quality animation, but the low regard of comics at the time in other media ultimately proved its undoing in finding a network to pick it up. Network executives felt that not only could comics not translate well to animation, but they would not attract the 6-to-11-year-old demographic they coveted for their Saturday morning programming. 

VHS box art.

            Although the series never happened, Pryde found life in occasional syndicated reruns and a video release prefaced with commercials about upcoming Spider-Man video games (which used footage from 1981’s Spider-Man and Pryde) and a live-action message of Spider-Man encouraging people to register to vote. In 1989, Paragon Software released a video game called X-Men: Madness in Murderworld for AmigaDOS and Commodore 64. The game came with a limited edition comic and featured the same character line-up as the pilot (although Wolverine was given his classic blue and yellow costume in the actual gameplay rather than his brown one). LJN also released The Uncanny X-Men video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System, swapping out Dazzler with Iceman and featuring Storm in her 1980s look. In 1990, Marvel Comics produced an adaptation of the pilot in their over-sized graphic novel format utilizing screen captures instead of original art.

Konami’s 1992 arcade game X-Men was a loose adaptation of the pilot. The game added the boss characters of the mythical forest creature Wendigo, the futuristic Sentinel Nimrod, and the shape-shifting Mystique to Magneto’s Brotherhood, and also gave Magneto an army of present-day Sentinels under his control as the primary minions players fought through. Also, the designers chose to give Storm a cane-like weapon that she never had in either the comics or the pilot. The most unique aspect of the game was that three different cabinets were produced, allowing 2, 4 or 6 players to play at one time. The game was later made into a digital download for Playstation Network and Xbox Live Arcade by Backbone Entertainment with Kyle Hebert and Mela Lee re-recording all the male and female roles respectively from the original script. The following year, it was made available for portable devices until the licenses were cancelled in 2014. Arcade1Up, a company dedicated to making half-sized replica arcade machines with multiple games included, released a 4-player version of the game in 2021 along with Captain America and the Avengers and Avengers in Galactic Storm.

X-Men arcade game opening titles image.

            After the pilot was produced, Marvel entered into financial issues when parent company New World sold Marvel Entertainment Group to the Andrews Group in 1989, retaining Marvel Productions until Andrews bought up the rest of New World the following year. Every production being made by the company except Muppet Babies was scrapped, ending the Marvel animated universe that began in 1978. The company would be renamed New World Animation in 1993 and produced three new Marvel projects—Fantastic FourIron Man and The Incredible Hulk—before being sold to News Corporation/FOX in 1996. Margaret Loesch, President and Chief Executive Officer of Marvel Productions, left the company in 1990 to become the head of FOX Kids. Loesch, who had tremendous faith in the project, used her new home and position to finally bring the X-Men to the air in X-Men: The Animated Series.

Originally posted in 2015. Updated in 2021.

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