I have already read through the first five chapters which detailed the initial conception of the show through to its ultimate greenlight for production. I took some extensive notes so this will be rather long lol:
- Spoiler: show
- *Lewald wholly credits the existence of the show to Margaret Loesch, who was in charge of Fox Kids Network. The show was the baby of Fox Kids; Graz Productions and Saban made the show but it was given to them, not the other way around. Loesch had worked for Marvel Productions in the 80s where she and Stan Lee pitched X-Men to the big three networks (ABC, CBS, NBC). Loesch believed X-Men was likely to succeed because it was about disenfranchised teenagers who were discriminated against for being odd or different, something that would be very relatable. However after Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends and Incredible Hulk cartoons were considered failures, the networks did not want Marvel shows. One female exec (whom Loesch won't name) told her that comics are only for nerdy boys. Loesch and Stan gave up on the idea.
Then in the 90s new network Fox starts up and Loesch is hired. She suggests to them that the other networks have gone after girls with 'softer, funnier' properties and they have a chance to do something different. She literally stakes her career on X-Men: TAS, saying she will leave the network if it fails. It is approved with this condition and her plan is to do X-Men, then Spider-Man, then Silver Surfer (the first two indeed are successful, for whatever reason the third doesn't happen). It is mentioned Loesch also made her X-Men pitch to the execs at Fox who make movies, and obviously they listened.
* The new Fox Kids Network needed shows and X-Men: TAS had a very short production window. He notes that while Batman: TAS had a year of prep time, X-Men had only weeks. (The meeting in which the show was officially approved was in February 1992. The first episode would air in October of that year).
*When looking at material for the show, only 1975-1992 stuff was considered. The 60s stories were too outdated. Lewald notes that at the time there was basically no internet and few comic book compilations. Lewald was not an X-Men fan coming into production and not familiar with the comics. The only way he could look at the comics was to borrow issues from people that had them. With a week's notice to Marvel though they would do a black-and-white photocopy of a few issues and send them via regular mail. Lewald ended up using a role-playing supplement (Uncanny X-Men Special handbook for Marvel Super Heroes) to look through descriptions of the characters and for a layout of the mansion and the Blackbird. Larry Houston (see below) also gave him a photocopied Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. So Lewald did not have knowledge of specific issues, he just looked for interesting characters and moments.
*The main crew behind the initial creation of the show:
Previously mentioned is Margaret Loesch. She ran the whole Fox Kids Network while her deputy who had helped her fight for the show and would be the actual overseer at Fox was Sidney Iwanter.
The main producer on the design side was Will Meugniot. He would be the one who would fight for story decisions against both Marvel or the network. He also supervised the character designs and co-designed the title sequence and set the general tone of the series. He had been a fan of Marvel since the 60s and had been a major figure behind creation of the previous failed Pryde of the X-Men pilot.
The main producer on the director side was Larry Houston (for those interested in diversity in the production, Houston is African-American.) Houston was the biggest X-Men fan of everyone involved and was present for the first four of the five seasons. He oversaw many of the storyboards and would be the one to layer in details and Easter Eggs for fans.
As mentioned showrunner was Eric Lewald, author of this book.
The head writers were Mark and Michael Eden. Mark Eden and Lewald wrote the story arc of the first 13 episodes and Michael joined them for season 2. Between the two brothers they have 19 credited scripts and would have had more but after season 2 they left to develop the show ExoSquad.
On the Marvel side the two that were involved were Joe Calamari, Marvel's exec in charge of TV and movies. He would be Marvel's eyes and ears on the show. Also advising was X-Men group editor Bob Harras, who provided encyclopedic knowledge to Lewald when he had questions.
*Lewald describes the keys to success that they initially laid out. The first was to not 'write down' aka dumb down content for kids. A running joke among the creators was that network executives would insist if they tried to do Bambi that Bambi's mother can't die. Which obviously is the significant moment for one of the most beloved children's movies of all time. The fact that X-Men TAS ended up being popular with every age demographic surprised the execs.
The second was to not pander. During the late 80s around the release of Crocodile Dundee there was a big fad of Australian content (Quigby Down Under, Rescuers Down Under, etc) which is why in Pryde of the X-Men they had tried to make Wolverine Australian. The execs were nervous that X-Men TAS did not appear to be toy-based like many kids shows but rather character-based. A serious suggestion was made that the X-Men on the show wear X-Men pajamas and use X-Men walkie-talkies as these could be merchandise. Another suggestion for the format of the show was that the X-Men ride around in a van solving mysteries since this was a proven concept. Lewald insisted they remain true to the source material and establish a core theme for the show.
Another thing they wanted to do is "out" the X-Men, meaning have them in contact with normal people. It was intentional that episode one opened with people seeing mutants on the news. Lewald says this making the X-Men more public was the one thing they decided to do differently from the books at the time.
Another key was to establish believable vulnerability. This is why the team would often be broken up to individuals or pairs, and why characters were examined for traits that would reveal personal issues. The team was always to be matched by their enemies but should never be in jeopardy due to their own stupidity.
They also really wanted to tell personal stories. Those in trouble were often made to be those whom a member of the X-Men deeply cared about. The stories were about relationships more than fights.
*Lewald next goes into his creation of the series bible. He excerpts a passage on what makes an X-Men story and it is very on-point imo. Notably he writes in this initial document that there are no plans to have the X-Men go to space. Also Xavier's is to be treated more as a research center than an actual school. For the season opener they used Meugniot's basic idea from Pryde of the X-Men but Marvel requested that they use Jubilee instead of Shadowcat. Also in the original draft that he excerpts Thunderbird is the character that dies and not Morph. Also I don't know if this was ever directly mentioned, but the script says Jubilee is 13.
Lewald says he could always tell when a writer assigned to an episode was an actual X-Men fan because they would try to cram in way too many characters. He says Days of Future Past was the only direct adaptation (though they did tweak it to feature modern characters) that they did in the first two seasons and it was done so at the suggestion of Harras and Houston.
*With the opening two episodes and the concluding episodes known plus the two for DOFP, they had eight more to fill. They used these to highlight individual characters, including being sure to introduce the big villains like Magneto, Apocalypse, and Juggernaut. The core team of characters evolved with the needs of the writers. He shows the initial document that laid out the characters and they are listed as follows:
A-Team, characters that are to appear in almost all episodes: Cyclops, Wolverine, Storm, Rogue, Jubilee, and Gambit
B-Team, characters that should be featured when they can be fit in: Xavier, Colossus, Beast, Bishop, and Cable
Others: Archangel, Jean Grey, Iceman, Nightcrawler, etc
The A-Team was a combination of who Marvel wanted to showcase, who the network thought would be kid-friendly, and who producers wanted to work with. Obviously the line-up would change as Xavier, Jean, and Beast ended up as core members and he explains why: Xavier was found to be crucial as the spokesperson for why X-Men need to exist and was relatable in how much he cared for his students. Jean Grey became an emotional core to whom the other characters would bring their issues. She had a special relationship with all of them and they would listen to her. And Beast was Mark Eden's favorite as writers like words and thinking that they are smart and Beast allowed them to have fun when writing. As for villains on the show, obviously powers and popularity were important but more significant they considered the individual characters and their relationships to the heroes. On costumes it was noted they needed to animate well and thus be somewhat simplified. Jim Lee's designs fit this and so were adapted for the show. When large numbers of background characters needed to be used the writers did not know who should be featured and so just wrote them to be generic. Starting with episode 7 (the Genosha one) Houston began having cameo characters inserted into these backgrounds, though Marvel had to be asked to approve them all.
*The process for story ideas was Lewald would pitch them to Iwanter at Fox, Meugniot and Houston at Graz, and Calamari and Harras at Marvel (he mentioned Saban too but that they didn't seem to care what the plots were). Ultimately the show featured 59 stories (some were multi-part) and he says this came out of 300 pitches that he sent. The scripts for X-Men TAS were unusually detailed. Lewald mentions another show he would work on, Young Hercules, would average 20-page scripts aka about a page per minute of the show. X-Men TAS averaged 42 pages per script. This is because the writers were encouraged to detail the action and the emotional state of the characters during the sequences rather than just leave it vague for the animators. The action was also meant to be intense. Meugniot did storyboards for Batman TAS as well and noted for that series there would be 280-300 shots per show. In X-Men TAS there was 400-500.
*Lewald recounts that when writers had already been assigned to scripts and were working to get it done, he received a memo from a senior Marvel Comics editor (he will not name who) who had seen the story ideas, and this person trashed the show in detail. Meugniot told Lewald to ignore it and that he would deal with it. What exactly this editor said isn't shown but Lewald includes a response to it that he wrote and it is clear from it that a main complaint was that the show opens with the Sentinels story. It appears this editor was suggesting that not showcasing Magneto first, and having Sentinels be a later response to him, made it look like the US government were the bad guys of the show. Lewald insisted the Sentinels needed to come in at the start because this metaphor for human anxiety establishes why there needs to be the X-Men. It would be noted that a small group is what perverted the Sentinel program, but ultimately human repression was to be emphasized over mutant terrorists. This would allow the show to avoid having the X-Men just be police with a villain of the week format.