Pryde of the X-Men: The Animated Series We Almost Got
We revisit the classic '80s X-Men animated special to find out why it didn't get a full-series order. And then we pretend that it did!
I remember the first time I saw Pryde of the X-Men. My parents bought me a copy of it from the local K-Mart and because they knew I liked the Fox Kids cartoon, even if it was too loud and aggressive at times.
I could tell they weren’t the same thing just by looking at the cover, but that just made me even more curious about the whole thing. When I popped it in the VCR, I was treated to a highly charged 20-something minutes that I wish could have stretched on indefinitely. Everything about the special is exciting, right down to the theme song, which got stuck in my head more often than its iconic cousin (the fact that it had lyrics probably helped).
If there’s any such thing as a “kitchen sink pilot”, this would be it. There are so many characters, concepts, themes, settings and dynamics introduced in such a compressed amount of time that it’s pretty damn impressive how its writer Larry Parr was able to pull it off.
So let’s take a look at this one to see what made it so special!
Who made Pryde of the X-Men?
As with other classic ‘80s cartoons featuring Marvel superheroes, Pryde of the X-Men was brought to you by Marvel Productions. Instead of making a 13th episode of the Robocop animated series, a show that nobody needs to remember, they made the very first cartoon featuring the world’s favorite genetic outcasts. It was animated overseas by Toei, the geniuses behind almost every noteworthy anime this side of Miyazaki.
So why was there only one episode made?
Because the Muppet Babies demanded it.
What happened was, Marvel ran into some financial difficulties around 1989 after Pryde was produced. New World Pictures sold the Marvel Entertainment Group to the Andrews Group, halting production on all animated series except that trippy one about Jim Henson’s furry daycare. It was so popular it needed to sacrifice a decade of television based on Marvel’s superheroes at its altar…because the X-Men aren’t cute enough.
Were there any more episodes planned or written?
Since Pryde was intended to be a one-shot pilot to create interest from markets and networks, there wasn’t much of a master plan as far as a potential series would go. And although we can dream about how spectacular and gorgeously an animated Phoenix Saga adaptation would have been, we’ll just have to get by with the other gorgeously animated one we got a few years later.
Speaking of which…
Did this influence the ‘90s cartoon at all?
Yes and no. Yes, in that as a pilot, “Night of the Sentinels” did noticeably evoke the general structure and premise of Pryde, swapping Kitty for Jubilee. No, in that the entire affair was tonally different in every way. The similarities between the two are incredible only because they differ so vastly from each other.
We wrote MUCH more about the best episodes of the classic ’90s X-Men: The Animated Series right here.
Is this why Dazzler was in that one video game?
Konami’s classic X-Men beat ‘em up coin game? Yep.
In fact, as you’ve probably read elsewhere, that game was all inspired by the character designs from Pryde. Not only that, these were also used as the basis for the 1989 PC game Madness on Murderworld, which was exponentially more dull than it sounded. But for some reason, Paragon Software decided to go with a different look for Dazzler, making her look like Madonna if she starred in The Running Man.
Hold on, there’s one more video game that Pryde’s distinctive artstyle influenced: the semi-classic 8-bit Uncanny X-Men for NES. But, again, Dazzler gets the short end of the disco stick – LJN’s creative team replaces her with Iceman. That’s okay, because she will forever be immortalized in the coin-up game and made to seem more important than she actually was to the show. Thanks, Konami!
Were there toys planned or released? Action figures? Bedsheets? Matching pillow cases? Any other merchandise?
Outside of those video games we just talked about and a random “graphic novel” adaptation in 1990 called The X-Men Animation Special, not really. I think the sheets would have been really neat, though. I like that idea. Can somebody mock that up please?
Why was Wolverine Australian?
Apparently voice director Rick Holberg was forced into giving Logan an accent from down under because of that trendy “shrimp-on-the-barbie” zeitgeist of the late ‘80s when Crocodile Dundee was all the rage. Ironically enough, Wolverine was planned to be an Aussie expatriate in the comics at some point, but let’s thank the sweet X-gods that didn’t happen.
Hey, wait a second! Did Professor X just…
Move his leg? Yep, that happened. Either Charlie boy isn’t fully paralyzed on Earth 8919 (which is the Marvel Multiverse designation for this cartoon), or this was just an animator’s slip-up. You decide!
Is this continuity with the other Marvel Productions universe alongside Hulk or Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, etc.?
I’m not quite sure about that. Officially there is not confirmation either way. Unofficially, I’d be inclined to say that yes, Pryde of the X-Men is part of the continuity that those classics shared.
Why’s that? Because of, the season three episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (okay, there was that season two episode as well. But I like this one better).
If you don’t remember it that clearly and can’t guess from its undescriptive title, Spider-Man and his roommates go on a field trip to the mansion where we meet our favorite mutants – and Wolverine is Australian in that, too. That’s because both iterations voiced by the same actor, Neil Ross. My view is that Pryde is a future iteration of that same team (it also features an invasion by Juggernaut). Do with that what you will.
What else is notable about this cartoon?
It started the rather dark trend of every animated series having the mansion destroyed by opposing forces. It’s also the only time that Emma Frost has been a member of Magneto’s brotherhood – ever – in print or any other type of media.
Wait, one last thing: who belted out that epic theme song?
That’s legendary film and TV composer Robert J. Walsh, who was responsible for the music behind Jem, Transformers, Defenders of the Earth, Inhumanoids, and most of your other ‘80s childhood favorites. Oh yeah, and Leprechaun too.
If you haven’t heard it in a while, let me do the honors.
Ah, that’s better.
Well, since we’re all here, we might as well share with you one last thing before we let you go. We present to you our very own hypothetical episode guide to this proposed X-Men animated series that should have happened! It will be the standard one season thirteen episode order, with Pryde counting as the first. Get ready for your imaginations to be tickled, as well as your mutant abilities.
(But not in a creepy way. Promise.)
1×02: Escape the Savage Land!
Professor X and his X-Men are baffled to discover a tropical jungle in the middle of Antarctica. There they meet Ka-Zar, a brave warrior who helps them fight off a group of monsters that stalk our heroes. Things get even stranger when Magneto suddenly appears…
1×03: One Nation, Under Nefaria
Count Nefaria traps the entire city of Washington, D.C. beneath a giant dome that not even the military’s forces can penetrate. Then he makes his team of X-Men imposters look responsible for the deed. Can the real X-Men clear their names and free the US capital before it’s too late?
1×04: Not by a Longshot
Cerebro detects a new mutant in the city. When the X-Men meet up with him, they find out he’s an amnesiac and doesn’t remember anything about his past, or his abilities. The team is in awe of his apparent streak of good luck, but so is Magneto…
1×05: And Your Enemies Closer
When a mad scientist named Dr. William Stryker kidnaps Professor X and wires him up to a machine that will use his psychic energy to destroy all mutants across the world, the team turns to the only person that’s powerful enough to stop it from happening: Magneto.
1×06: Island of Fear
After the X-Men answer a distress call from their friend Banshee in Scotland, they travel across the globe to his island laboratory and find it in shambles. A monstrous experiment of his is on the loose, and it lurks in the dark, watching the team…
1×07: Flight of the Dark Phoenix, Pt. 1
Jean Grey, a former member of the X-Men who disappeared after a fateful mission in outer space, finally returns to the mansion. Cyclops is beside himself. Is she what she seems? But while the rest of the team explain her history to Kitty, the White Queen plots to harness Jean’s psychic powers for her own use. Meanwhile, a group of aliens appear on earth, searching for something called the Phoenix.
1×08: Flight of the Dark Phoenix, Pt 2
Despite the White Queen’s attempts to control Jean Grey’s mind, the powerful Phoenix entity won’t allow it. But everyone is shocked when the mysterious extraterrestrials put Jean Grey on cosmic trial for destroying their entire home planet! Can the X-Men stop this madness, or will the Phoenix powers be the end of Jean Grey?
1×09: The Weapon X-periment
When the Danger Room malfunctions during training, Kitty Pryde and Wolverine are stuck inside one of its simulations. While the rest of the team try to fix the problem in the control room, Wolverine tells the new recruit about how he joined the X-Men and the mysterious “Weapon X” project.
1×10: Meet The New Mutants
When the X-Men are captured and taken off into space by strange aliens known as the Brood, it’s up to Kitty Pryde and a group of misfit teenage students from Xavier’s School for the Gifted to save them. But the real question is: can they get along first?
1×11: The Spider-Man Adventure
Chaos ensues when Mysterio joins forces with Magneto to take over the Daily Bugle headquarters. The X-Men team up with Spider-Man and his amazing friends Firestar and Iceman once again to derail their plans, making Kitty feel like the odd one out.
1×12: The Uncanny Space Knight
When a race of alien witches known as Wraiths come to take over our planet, the team calls upon the help of their number one enemy – ROM the space knight. But Magneto seeks to reprogram him to serve his own agenda…
1×13: Back to the Present
Kitty keeps phasing in and out of the future, one that’s ruled by the Brotherhood of Mutants and their army of robot sentinels – a dark future where the X-Men have lost the war and are hunted like fugitives. Can she stop this timeline from coming to pass with the help of Wolverine and Professor X?
Wasn’t that fun? Now, who wants to take a shot at Season 2?
Stephen is currently producing a comic called Occult Generation he kickstarted with his friends last year that’s a lot like the X-Men, but with more magic and set in 1920s New York. You shold check it out. Also, follow him on Twitter at @onlywriterever while you’re at it. Kapeesh?