X-Men ’97 Is Inspected Frame-By-Frame To Ensure It’s ’90s Accurate
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X-Men ’97 Is Inspected Frame-By-Frame To Ensure It’s ’90s Accurate


With the return of X-Men: The Animated Series, now revived as X-Men ’97, fans of the show are excited to see their favorite mutants in a brand-new Disney+ series. One key thing that viewers are expecting is a continuation of a classic ’90s series that looks and feels like the original. That’s indeed the case with X-Men ’97, as the supervising producer and head director of the series, Jake Castorena, wanted to deliver just that.

“I try to keep every facet of the show alive, so it is fresh but familiar, when we’re working in tandem with the visual elements of it all” Castorena explained to GameSpot. “It’s got to be the show you love and remember. It’s got to have that nostalgic feel. But also, it’s got to be relevant for audiences today. The bar for animation is raised continuously everyday. Friends, constituents, peers, and other shows are raising the bar and showing what the animated medium can do. There are a lot of really wonderful things happening in our industry.

“Post-pandemic shed a good light on what animation can do. So we need to stay in tandem and rise with that right. But also, if we go too fancy with too many bells and whistles, or too much polish on certain things, it’s no longer going to feel in tandem with the ’90s [X-Men] show that we love and remember.”

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In seeking to keep that nostalgia alive with the revamp of the series, the animation and production team spent a lot of time making the look and feel of the show line up with the original series. From the animation team to the production team, everyone works together to give that vibe of the classic series, albeit with a smoother, HD look.

“At the end of the day, it involves us sitting on a big couch in front of a big TV for hours saying, ‘Next frame cool. Push this. Push that. Let’s sweep this. Okay, next frame good,'” Castorena said. “It fundamentally came down to, early on, what was being filmed at the time between ’96-’98? What were the cinematic techniques? What were the lenses that they were using? What were the editing techniques? How were things staged? It was taking all of that information we’ve had for the last decades and being able to look at it and really dissect what made it what, and then find that common denominator and start from there. It’s the show I love and remember, but it feels relevant and HD, but also not.”

The animation style takes note from the history of creating animation and getting it on TV, which contributes to the feel that there is a ’90s filter over each episode.

“Back in that time of broadcast, no matter what you did on your episode, it all went through a VHS broadcast process,” Castorena said. “So there’s a finite amount of VHS, and whatever that encompasses that’s going to go over your footage. And so knowing those things [about the history of broadcast TV animation] and what were the realistic parameters of that day and age, we’re not just trying to figure it out because it feels old or vintage.”

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Part of the team’s process was adding these effects not only to give X-Men ’97 a classic, ’90s animation look, but it was also paying tribute to the way animation used to be done–something that is a lot more complicated than it may seem at first. However, there’s one line for the show that didn’t get crossed: CRT scanlines.

“Yeah, CRT was too far,” he jokingly explained. “But what if we put it on the monitors inside of the world to give it a different texture?”

Whether you’re new to this iteration of the X-Men cartoon or have watched every episode of the series, Castorena wants to make sure that everyone can find the series accessible. Neither group will feel alienated. “For the new fans, the goal is for them to go from our show to the original show. So one creates an avenue for the other, and in order to do that, you need to be a seamless revival to be a spiritual successor.”

In my GameSpot review of X-Men ’97, I said, “X-Men ’97 is what you expect it to be. It’s a fun continuation of a series that was beloved. X-Men ’97 has the exact same problems as the original. It’s chaotic, storylines are wrapped up too quickly, and characters tend to disappear with no explanation. However, the first three episodes of the series prove to be a great start for a show that many people wanted to see return, and it’s a great kickoff, with two of those episodes being the best in the entirety of the series. For those who haven’t read many X-Men comics but love the X-Men, this is exactly what they need.”

The first two episodes of X-Men ’97 are available now on Disney+, with new episodes arriving weekly.



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