X-Men ’97 Is Too Nostalgic For Its Own Good

By Zack Zagranis | Updated

Now that Disney has released a trailer for their upcoming X-Men ’97 series fans have an idea what their in for…and it doesn’t look good. Literally. Very serious grownups have been too busy arguing online about changes to the new series, like Morph being nonbinary and Rogue losing her previously shapely derriere, to notice how bland and unappealing the animation is. Marvel was so concerned with capturing people’s nostalgia for the old X-Men cartoon that they seem to have forgotten the leaps and bounds television animation has gone through since the 1990s.

In short, X-Men ’97 looks like crap.

X-Men ’97 Looks Like It Was Made In The 90’s

That’s not our opinion on the series as a whole but rather solely the visual style—or lack thereof—that Marvel went with for their new X-Men series. X-Men ’97 is a continuation of the ’90s show, something Disney has made abundantly clear by bringing back many of the original voice actors and their decision to have the story pick up directly after the original’s finale. Unfortunately, in their desire to squeeze every drop of nostalgia from young Gen X-ers and elder Millenials, Disney has also brought back the cheap, flat animation of the original as if that was part of the series appeal or something. Spoilers: it wasn’t.

Kids Weren’t Watching For The Animation

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We can all but guarantee that no child in the ’90s was tuning into Fox Kids every Saturday because they were blown away by the crisp, detailed artwork of Marvel’s X-Men. That could have been true for some of the other cartoons of the era, like the ultra-stylized Batman, the Animated Series, or the more bespoke Ren and Stimpy, but X-Men? As Rogue would say, not on your life, shugah!

Saturday Morning Cartoons Were Made Cheap

Kids watched X-Men for the complex plots straight out of Marvel’s Uncanny X-Men comic. They watched to see big guys in bright costumes beating the tar out of each other with cool powers. For all of those reasons, we tolerated what was essentially typical ’90s-style animation: flat, cheap, undetailed, and full of continuity errors. See also Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Fox’s own Spider-Man.

Animation Has Improved

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The reason you didn’t hear anyone complaining about the animation at the time was that kids in the ’90s didn’t know any better. Most of us still hadn’t been introduced to anime, and Genndy Tartakivsky’s Samurai Jack was still a few years away. We just assumed that Television animation sucked, and they saved the good stuff for movies.

Marvel Embraced The 90’s Style

Now we know better. In the digital age, better and more detailed cartoons are possible without spending a fortune. They almost have to be: the advent of HD and UHD televisions pretty much demanded a higher quality of animation.

And yet Marvel seems to think that the poor animation of the ’90s X-Men series was a feature and not a bug. As weird as it sounds, sometimes it’s possible to be too faithful to the source material. To paraphrase Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder, “Never go full nostalgia.

The Other Way To Do A Revivial Series

For comparison, look at Kevin Smith’s Masters of the Universe: Revolution on Netflix. Smith and Co. wanted their series to pick up where the ’80s He-Man cartoon left off, but they realized that the subpar animation of the original Filmation cartoon wouldn’t fly in the 21st century. Instead, they used a modern animation style that was reminiscent of the old show. A style similar enough that it’s instantly recognizable as He-Man but also something you can watch with a 10-year-old in 2024 without the kid whining about the show’s “bad graphics.”

Disney Should Have Learned From Netflix

Disney should have employed the same tactic. Instead, it looks like they asked an AI to create a program that mimics the rushed work produced by overworked and underpaid animators in Korea during the ’90s. Marvel might have reduced Rogue’s posterior—there’s a “The cake is a lie” joke in there somewhere—and used a modern gender identity term to describe a character who could already switch sexes on a whim, but at least they nailed the original X-Men animation style!