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Cinema Studies in the News

"X-MEN: The Animated Series" and the Tennessee Connection

In 1992, in Hollywood, University of Tennessee alumnus Eric Lewald was hired to do something that had never been done successfully: develop a realistic, serious TV series from a Marvel comic book. As showrunner, his first decision was to ask two fellow UT graduates, brothers Mark and Michael Edens, to head the writing staff. These three former UT Film Committee members, along with talented artists, cast, and crew, built the worldwide number-one hit that the New York Times claimed, in a 1994 arts section cover article, had “vanquished America.” X-MEN: The Animated Series had billions of viewings of episodes. The series remains a beloved cult favorite.

Lewald and the Edens brothers will return to campus Thursday, February 15 to discuss their experiences working on the series. Hosted by the Cinema Studies program, the event will take place in the UT Hodges Library Auditorium at 7 p.m.

Additionally, Lewald recently published Previously on X-MEN, a book about his personal history of making the show, which combines interviews he conducted with dozens of other series contributors. In it, Lewald lays out the details of how the series was sold, developed, written, produced, and managed; casting issues, design, music, storytelling decisions, creative struggles, business crises, and the mystery of popular acceptance. It is a personal view, told by those who did the work, of how a successful television show is born, grows, and perseveres. A book signing will follow the panel.

Eric Lewald Mark Edens Michael Edens

About X-MEN: The Animated Series

X-MEN: The Animated Series (1992-97) was the “little Saturday-morning cartoon” that changed Hollywood. For 50 years, American television consisted of three networks: NBC, CBS, and ABC. In 1992, the Fox Television Network was a struggling little half-network, a distant fourth place. In January 1993, after a delay and a Halloween sneak preview, X-MEN:TAS debuted in first place in its time slot and often was attracting more viewers than the three “traditional” TV networks combined. The Fox Network had arrived! Further, it and sister Fox series Batman:TAS showed a resistant film industry that superheroes could be true big- and small-screen dramatic leads. Audio-visual pop culture shifted. A gold rush of more realistic, sophisticated comics-based movies and television series followed. Today “superhero” has grown into a full-fledged TV and movie genre.

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