The X-Men ‘97’ executive producer on bringing the 1990s animated hit to Disney+

Marvel Studios Head of TV, Streaming, and Animation Brad Winderbaum needs the original theme song and cast to continue X-Men: The Animated Series, according to his boss, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige. Winderbaum said gaining them both “was the easiest thing in the world.” “Everyone was thrilled to come back,” Winderbaum said, “and we were thrilled to have them back.” Disney+ will watch X-Men '97 exclusively on Wednesday, March 20.

The 1997 season of X-Men is neither a reboot nor a remake. This sequel picks up directly after X-Men: The Animated Series' finale. After Dr. Charles Xavier's death, the series begins. “Even though Xavier is no longer with the team, his message and influence loom large,” Winderbaum said.”

“Much of the story in those early episodes is about characters wrestling with how to fulfill Xavier's dream of coexistence in his absence,” Winderbaum said. Scott [Cyclops] struggles with that. Magneto fights with it, and everyone has a different idea on how to maintain his legacy.”

Why was 2024 the best year to bring back these characters? “Because it was the first opportunity we had to do it,” Winderbaum joked. Marvel wanted additional animated series after What If? Winderbaum eagerly reunited the X-Men with audiences. Winderbaum said, “The original X-Men: The Animated Series has been secretly influential for so many creators of our generation.” "It comes up all the time, as often as Star Wars if you were born then.”

Winderbaum says, “The plan was never going to be ‘Let's make a new X-Men show that takes place in 2024 and we're going to redesign them and make them cool for today.’” It was more exciting to work within the nineties, which "makes it feel like new, even though it's old." Winderbaum said it's interesting to tell heroic stories before the Internet and cellphones. “It’s just a different rulebook that players must follow.”

We spent all of our time and creative effort trying to emulate our memory of this thing, which is why it was so important not only to get the cast back, but also [original series co-creator] Eric Lewald and [original series director] Larry Houston back to tell us how the original show was made and help us set our parameters,” Winderbaum said.

Producing the show was difficult due to animation technology advances over the last three decades. Winderbaum said, “We needed to create our own rulebook based on the limitations that Larry and Lewald were under when they made the original show.”

Winderbaum said, “staying in a nineties aesthetic locked in flat space storytelling with big bold colors, staying on the x/y axis as much as possible.” Winderbaum said, “Now, we broke those rules,” but “in really specific times when the drama of the story demanded it.”

Rule breaking allowed the original authors to realize some of their goals, which were hindered by hand-drawn technology. Winderbaum noted that the opening credits feature a scene “where Rogue flips that bad guy over her that—if you watch the original opening—that's a much shorter shot.” “We extended it and did this shot that matched [Houston's] nineties storyboards.”

“One thing that makes Marvel storytelling unique is that we’re always standing on the shoulders of giants,” Winderbaum remarked. Winderbaum mentions Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Jim Lee, Eric Lewald, and Larry Houston for effectively guiding the X-Men on screen and page. “This is our opportunity with our new team to carry that torch,” Winderbaum said.

Winderbaum saw similarities between his crew and Xavier's descendants: “In a way, the narrative kind of mimics the show's creation. Legacy preservation is in the project's DNA.” What is Winderbaum most thrilled for fans to see in X-Men '97? “I'm excited for fans to revisit the X-Men's dramatic depths. I'm delighted for new audiences to be startled by how powerful some of these stories are on screen.”

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