It's been 25 years since the first episode of X-Men: The Animated Series made its debut on Fox Kids. Fortunately, the series can still be celebrated by people of all ages today, although it may have been forgotten had a weird incident involving merchandising led to the show's early cancellation. On the mutant-infused series' anniversary, artist and producer Will Meugniot shares a truly bizarre story that tells how an Australian fast food joint could've led to the end of X-Men: The Animated Series as we know it:
There was merchandise threat that almost shut down the production. They had made a deal with a fast food franchise to do some X-Men giveaway toys in Australia. And whoever had negotiated the deal had promised the Australian food franchisee that those toys would appear in the show. They were some of the most God awful designs possible. So I said no, and the situation festered for a few days. At home one night I got a call from Jim Graziano, who was the head of Graz, the production company I was working for. Jim just said, 'Look, Marvel is threatening to pull the show from us if you don't cave on this.' He goes, 'If you think it's important, we'll back you. But think very carefully, because there will probably be consequences.' I said, 'We can't cave on this, or we are going to have to cave on everything.' And Jim backed me and it was a really tense few days and we prevailed.
According to other writers and crew of X-Men: The Animated Series who spoke to THR, it would not be the first time an incident like that would occur, either. Eric Lewald says there was always tremendous pressure from executives to make the show sillier or to introduce other ways to include merchandising for the program. Beyond adding toys that could be found in stores or fast food chains, the writers also mention executives wanting to add "Wolverine curtains" to the hero's room, or for the show to dress the hero in "Wolverine pajamas."
As fans of X-Men: The Animated Series know, the creative team stayed strong in not dumbing things down, and they even sometimes risked being fired to ensure the show kept the serious tone they all wanted it to maintain. In doing so, all involved managed to keep the Saturday morning hit running for 76 episodes before the show came to a proper end in 1997. Three years later, the first X-Men film would come along, incorporating some inspiration from the series in creating what has become a giant and successful film franchise. In fact, the voice actor for Beast, George Buza, is even featured as a truck driver in the film's bar scene (skip to 1:30):
Those with a strong urge to relive some 90s nostalgia and watch X-Men: The Animated Series can currently do so on Hulu. (Just don't expect to find any shitty looking toys.) For more on the series, check out this fan-made trailer that mixed the classic show with the trailer for X-Men: Apocalypse. For more on the here and now and what shows may currently be coming out that will be talked about 25 years from now, be sure to visit our fall premiere guide.