I still vividly remember my first viewing of â€œPryde of the X-Menâ€. At the time, my only experience with the animated X-Men was the Saban series, and with trade paperbacks not quite as frequent as they are now, my only exposure to the characters were the ones featured in the comics at the moment. So when I first saw this animated video, I was a fair bit disoriented (I was, like, 8 years old, anyway). My mom rented the VHS cassette from Blockbusters and copied it onto a blank Beta cassette for me. However, some copy protection thingamajig got in the way, and as a result, the cartoon would periodically turn black & white. A very strange way to view the cartoon, but never-the-less, I adored the thing and watched it ceaselessly. Eventually, I had all the lines memorized.
Pryde of the X-Men was produced in 1989 as a pilot for an X-Men animated series that never got picked up. Other Marvel Comics cartoons of the time, such as Spider-Man & his Amazing Friends and the New Fantastic Four, had already run their course and interest in Marvel Comics animation was supposedly lacking. Itâ€™s uncertain whether it was intended to take place in the same animated universe as Amazing Friends and the New FF. The animation for the pilot was produced by Toei Studios in Japan, who also did several episodes of the two aforementioned cartoons. The X-Men and Juggernaut had appeared in the Amazing Friends episode â€œA Firestar is Bornâ€, and though they had different voice actors, a few consistencies in their types of voices remained. Most notable is Wolverineâ€™s inexplicable Australian accent. Iâ€™ll never understand what was up with that. Meanwhile, Magneto had appeared in the New Fantastic Four, though he was presented as a really corny villain whose superpowers were finite and eventually ran-out by the episodeâ€™s end, allowing him to be arrested. He also appeared in Amazing Friends where he was once again defeated and sent to prison. At the beginning of this video, Magneto is being sprung from his prison convoy by the White Queen. Does this mean itâ€™s all one big happy universe? Who knows? Food for thought, though.
The story opens with a quick narration from Stan Lee-himself, explaining to us what Mutants, X-Men and Magnetos are. We then see a heavily armored military convoy carting an imprisoned Magneto (the master of magnetism) across a desert highway. The White Queen pops up and uses her mental powers and energy bolts (what theâ€¦?) to break Magneto free. At Xavierâ€™s School for Gifted Youngsters, timid new student Kitty Pryde (who can phase through solid matter) arrives at the request of the headmaster, Professor Charles Xavier (the worldâ€™s most powerful telepath), and wastes no time freaking out. Professor X then introduces her to the X-Men: Cyclops (who can shoot optic blasts from his eyes), Wolverine (who has razor-sharp adamantium claws), Dazzler (who can turn sound into energy bolts), Storm (who can control the weather), Colossus (who can turn his body into organic steel) and Nightcrawler (who can teleport). No sooner do they all get acquainted, the X-Men are summoned by an alarm to deal with some mutant mayhem at a nearby observatory.
While the X-Men are off at the observatory, dealing with the likes of Pyro and the Blob (who are after the coordinates to the Scorpio comet), Magneto and the unstoppable Juggernaut attack the mansion. They break through the defenses and Professor X, using his telepathy, discovers that Magneto is after Cerebroâ€™s mutant tracking circuit. Juggernaut and Magneto make short work of Kitty and the Professor, stealing the circuit and returning to Asteroid M. Asteroid M is the home base of Magnetoâ€™s Brotherhood of Mutant Terrorists (thatâ€™s right, â€œterroristsâ€): the White Queen (a psychic who can shoot energy from her hands now, apparently), Juggernaut (the unstoppable behemoth), Pyro (who can control fire), the Blob (the immovable fat man), the Toad (who can leap great distances…wow, he sucks) and their itty bitty punching bag, Lockheed (the adorable dragon-thing). Magneto has Toad install the circuit in a device he had built and uses his own power to summon the comet Scorpio onto a collision course with Earth. He intends to use the mass destruction to weed-out the weak (humans), allowing only the strong (mutants) to survive. This plan cannot fail.
The X-Men catch wind of this after they dig the Professor out of the rubble and head out for Asteroid M on their aircraft, the Blackbird. Kitty tags along, much to the Professorâ€™s chagrin, and imposes her help upon the team. The X-Men infiltrate the Asteroid and each member is gradually distracted by one-on-one combat with a member of the Brotherhood. Some even defeat their enemy in a matter of seconds and then just stand around like they have nothing better to do (Iâ€™m looking at you, Wolverine). Eventually, only Nightcrawler and Kitty are left to face Magneto. With some fancy teamwork, they manage to redirect the course of Scorpio into Asteroid M. Magneto and the Brotherhood escape and the X-Men retreat, though Nightcrawler is left behind. Just as the Asteroid explodes, Nightcrawler teleports into space where he begins to burn up in Earthâ€™s atmosphere. The X-Men attempt to rescue him, but he appears to disintegrate. Just as everyone begins blubbering over Nightcrawlerâ€™s demise, he bursts out of a locker on the Blackbird, smoking. The X-Men then celebrate another victory, though Stan Lee tells us that the Brotherhood will be back (Oh No!). Oh, and Lockheed defects to the X-Men.
Pretty cut and dry Saturday Morning Cartoon schlock, isnâ€™t it? The writers donâ€™t really win any points for the plot, but to their credit, this was just the pilot, meant to introduce the audience to the characters and their universe as quickly as possible. Probably the one bit of writing that stands out is the dialogue, which can be rather clever in an â€œaction movieâ€ sort of way. There are a few mischaracterizations here and there. Since when can the White Queen shoot energy out of her hands? Also, Wolverine is uncharacteristically bitter towards Kitty, whom heâ€™s usually shown to be good buddies with in the comics. Lockheed being with the Brotherhood is pretty random, as well.
The voice acting for this video is excellent, for the most part. The one voice everyone always remembers is Neil Ross as Wolverine. I will concede that the random Australian accent (Wolverine is Canadian!) is really bad and sucks the â€œcoolâ€ right out of the character. Michael Bell, better known as Duke from G.I. Joe, is casting perfection as Cyclops. He plays the Mr. Perfect leader-type magnificently. Cartoon legend Frank Welker voices Toad and Lockheed, channeling a Peter Lorre impression of some kind for the leaping villain and doing various hisses and grunts for the dragon. In a bit of irony, John Stephenson (Mr. Slate from the Flintstones) voices Professor X, though he had previously been the voice of Magneto in the New Fantastic Four. Pat Fraley stands out as the Aussie flamethrower, Pyro. You might remember him as Krang and Baxter Stockman from the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon. Then thereâ€™s Kath Soucie (Fifi from Tiny Toon Adventures, Phil & Lil from Rugrats) as Kitty Pryde, and she plays the role rather admirably.
What really stands out about Pryde of the X-Men is the animation, produced by the Japanese studio, Toei, who are known for Devilman, Sailor Moon, Transformers, Dragonball Z, One Piece, G.I. Joe and tons more. The animation is very high-quality; smooth and detailed with a lot of fluid and natural character movements. The fight scenes are done exceptionally well, too. Toad actually manages to kick a little ass, if you can believe that.
Thereâ€™s a truly awful theme song included before the episode which should really just be forgotten. â€œMagnetoâ€™s hordes are on the way to pillage, burn and plunder! But thereâ€™s one team that will not yield: the team that strikes like thunder! X-Men! X-Men! Save the day! Save the day! X-Men! X-Men! Coming your way!â€ It makes my head hurt just thinking about it.
As cheesy as it all is, itâ€™s worth seeking out if youâ€™re a big fan of the classic Chris Claremont/John Byrne era of the Uncanny X-Men. The cast is selected from that time period, as are their outfits, and itâ€™s all rather nostalgic. It has a fun post-Silver Age feel to it and, while occasionally violent, isnâ€™t nearly as painfully dark as the Saban series could get. I picked up a copy of the VHS cassette off eBay for $2 bucks, and I bet you can find this thing on the internet for free by â€œother meansâ€. Itâ€™s a fun little time-killer with some great animation and occasionally impressive voice-overs, even if the story tends to make the little sense and goes by in a flash.