X-Men: The Animated Series is one of the most iconic superhero cartoons ever made. Without its huge success, it is unlikely Fox would have ever greenlit the first X-Men film. But the X-Men cartoon we got was almost entirely different from what they originally planned. Back in 1989, Marvel commissioned a pilot episode for X-Men, titled “Pryde of the X-Men.” This story introduced the X-Men’s junior member Kitty Pryde, hence the title.
It only aired sporadically in syndication, but they eventually released it on VHS. With a very odd live-action intro of Spider-Man talking about the importance of voting. To a presumably kid audience. (Sure, why not). Now, via Boing Boing, we’ve learned that you can experience the original pilot via YouTube channel Earworm James. Awkward Spidey intro and all. You can watch the full “Pryde of the X-Men” episode right here.
“Pryde of the X-Men” is fascinating for several reasons. It is a sort of spinoff to the version of the team first introduced in 1982’s Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends series. That is why they continued the weird decision to make Wolverine Australian, an idea first used in Spidey’s cartoon. (And which kind of predicted Aussie actor Hugh Jackman’s eventual role as Logan). For some reason, the producers substituted Rogue with Dazzler.
For this cartoon, they chose the classic line-up and concept from Uncanny X-Men, despite the late ’80s comics featuring a different team living in the Australian Outback. (Obviously, all things Australia were very big in the ’80s). Despite its theme song paling in comparison to the ’90s show, the original pilot has some great things going for it. Overall, the animation was better. And it featured iconic team members like Nightcrawler, Colossus, and Kitty as regulars. Kitty never once appeared in the ’90s show, which always felt like a glaring omission.
Back then, no network believed in X-Men as an animated series. It was producer Margaret Loesch who successfully pitched Fox Kids on the X-Men concept on the second try, in 1992. She cited the massive sales figures for X-Men #1 as an example of the IP’s popularity. No executive believed in X-Men, but Loesch staked her reputation on Marvel’s Mutants becoming huge. She was right, and the rest is history. Although X-Men: The Animated Series as produced bore little resemblance to “Pryde of the X-Men,” the one-off cartoon had a second life. Its designs and concepts were the basis of the massively popular Konami X-Men arcade game, also released in 1992.
As different as both shows were, they had one big thing in common. Both pilots featured a POV character who was a young girl discovering her mutant powers, and she’s our eyes and ears into this new world. In the ’90s series, it was Jubilee. We could easily see this approach, which began in “Pryde of the X-Men,” translated into the eventual MCU X-Men. It’s just too good and obvious a storytelling device to use to introduce the concept. In the end, we would not be shocked in the MCU X-Men film begins with a teenage girl approaching the doors of a certain mansion located at 1407, Graymalkin Lane.