The Director of X-Men ’97 explains how the Disney+ series achieves a retro 90s look

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The creative team behind X-Men ’97 had to stick to the tried-and-true in order for it to succeed. Supervising director Jake Castorena discussed some of the techniques employed in an interview to give the much anticipated X-Men: The Animated Series sequel the impression of a genuine late 1990s product. According to Castorena, capturing that nostalgic vibe required “looking at what was happening between ’96 and ’98; what was being done in anime, what were cinematic elements at that time, and how did television look,” even if the images and character models were hand-drawn. In 1990s TV, three camera setups had distinct looks, and images were frequently repeated. Since you can tell anything is from a given age just by looking at it, I wanted to identify the commonalities among all the aspects of that era. However, we still needed to make it current and ensure that it remains relevant. For the most part, we spent hours deciphering that material while seated on a large couch in front of a large TV in a room.”

In a different interview, Castorena talked on the animation’s overall aesthetic, emphasising how their internal team and partner Studio Mir, located in Seoul, avoided using modern animation methods on the characters and battle sequences. In his opinion, “if we go too old, audiences of today won’t want to watch it, but if we go too modern, too advanced, too many bells and whistles, it doesn’t feel like the original show.” Therefore, a great deal of work and planning goes into keeping it both current and authentic, as done by a large number of people on this team.”

In addition to having graphics reminiscent of the 1990s, X-Men ’97 also included the voices of old X-Men cast members Cald Dodd, Lenore Zann, George Buza, and Alison Sealy-Smith reprising their roles, with Ray Chase, Jennifer Hale, and others covering the entire 90s mutant cast. The show ran for ten episodes, and executive producer Brad Winderbaum hinted that certain well-known non-Mutant characters may make an appearance in the future, even though no more Marvel appearances have been announced to yet. However, the first few episodes of the programme were well praised, and as of the writing of this article, X-Men ’97 has a flawless 100% Rotten Tomatoes score. Marvel has not yet provided an explanation for why Beau DeMayo, the cartoon’s showrunner, was fired just before it went live on streaming services. Despite Winderbaum’s mysterious explanation of his departure, “‘We parted ways,'” he acknowledged DeMayo’s efforts on the plots for a possible second season.

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