Monday, September 8, 2014

X-MEN Episode Seventy-Two - November 16, 1996


Jubilee's Fairytale Theatre
Written by Brooks Wachtel

Summary:  Jubilee chaperones a group of young students on a tour of the cave underneath the mansion.  The group is trapped by a cave-in, forcing Jubilee to keep the kids calm by telling them a story.  She invents a fairy tale starring various X-Men and their enemies as mythological characters.  The X-Men arrive to save the kids, and Jubilee finishes her story with a happy ending.

Continuity Notes:  
  • X-Men appearing in the non-fantasy segments this episode are Jubilee, Wolverine, Gambit, Cyclops, Jean Grey, and Professor Xavier.
  • The premise of this episode is inspired by “Kitty's Fairy Tale” in Uncanny X-Men #153.

“Um, Actually…”:  Kitty Pryde and Jubilee are not interchangeable, you know.

“Actiiing!”:  A new voice for Gambit debuts this episode.  According to the internet, it’s Canadian voice actor Tony Daniels (not to be confused with the voice of C-3PO).  He’ll voice Gambit in three episodes as the series draws to a close.

Approved By Broadcast Standards:  In the fairy tale, Gambit rather flagrantly hits on the clearly underage Jubilee.

I Love the '90s:  One of the kids on the field trip is thoroughly impressed with Jubilee’s beeper.

Production Note:  The new opening returns, along with the individual scene during the closing credits.

Review:  According to the broadcast dates listed online, only one week separated the previous episode from this one.  Behind the scenes, however, the show went out of production for around a year, and was eventually revived for a small order of six episodes.  The producers stated in interviews at the time that they viewed this final, small batch of episodes as an opportunity to play with the show’s visual style, which explains why the look of the show has changed so dramatically.  Allegedly, the work of Joe Madureira on Uncanny X-Men inspired a switch from the early ‘90s Jim Lee style, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any Joe Mad influence in these designs.  Essentially, the character designs have been simplified and the cast has been given Disney-fied faces.  It’s “cartoonier,” yes, but there’s nothing specifically Madureira here.

Amazingly, the show is still airing episodes out of order.  “The Fifth Horseman” was intended as the debut of the new style, but instead “Jubilee's Fairytale Theatre” aired first.  This was a horrible way to introduce the new look because it’s a fantasy episode.  The kids watching this episode had no way of knowing if the visual style changed merely for this one story or not.  Furthermore, debuting the new look with a story that’s also a radical departure from the previous seventy episodes could easily lead the audience to believe that the entire show has changed.  This episode is shamelessly goofy and clearly aimed at younger kids; it’s easy for a viewer to make the assumption that this is the new direction for the show.  “Hey, they brought X-Men back, but it’s for stupid babies now.”  

It’s hard to determine why anyone thought “Kitty's Fairy Tale” really needed to be adapted, anyway.  The show never bothered to even acknowledge Kitty, and virtually none of the context of the original story is present.  The fairy tale element doesn’t introduce any real humor, and most of the reimaginings are easily predictable.  (Wolverine as a grumpy troll, Gambit as a thief, Magneto as an evil wizard…)  The original story’s specific to Kitty’s personality, so it’s not as if Jubilee would’ve invented a similar adventure.  Jubilee’s fantasy would probably involve the mall, her beloved chili fries, and video games.  Actually, a Jubilee fantasy incorporating video game parodies might’ve been entertaining.  The target audience would certainly relate to it more than a satire of five hundred year old folktales.

It’s disappointing to see Philippines Animation Studios return for another episode, but to get work that’s clearly not by the same team that animated “Out of the Past.”  The only fluid movement in the episode is during Xavier’s five-second lecture at the end.  Honestly, the movement of Xavier’s head back and forth is the smoothest animation in the entire twenty minutes.  The new character models are also frustrating.  The original designs were considered outdated almost as soon as the series debuted, but I always found it admirable that the show tried to imitate the look of the comics, even when it was obvious they didn’t have the budget to pull it off.  Switching to a cartoonier style isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but this episode looks so generically “Saturday Morning” it’s hard not to be disappointed.  I can’t blame the producers for eventually dropping the Jim Lee look, but was it so hard to find another artist from the comics to imitate?  We couldn’t get a Mike Mignola or Kevin Nowlan style X-Men cartoon? 


Matt said...

An additional order of six episodes seems so odd. I wonder what the justification was?

Anway, I find that I mostly like the new designs, at least when compared with the old ones. In particular I think Cyclops looks great, and I love that Jean finally gets her full head of hair. I never understood the ponytail.

Just looking at the Toonzone page you linked to, my initial thoughts are that, as noted, Cyclops looks really good. So does Gambit. Jean looks fine. I like Rogue's new face in certain shots, but her hair is too droopy. Wolverine is acceptable but could've been better. Professor X and Beast are too simplistic, I don't like Jubilee's hair, and Storm looks awful.

They really should've tried for a Bruce Timm approach, given the success of his cartoons, but they probably didn't want to be seen as imitating him.

(Speaking of, I know Timm is pretty much married to WB, but I never stop fantasizing about Marvel poaching him to do some cartoons for them. But I know they'd just ruin it somehow with too much oversight.)

Comicbookrehab said...

The final episodes were financed by Haim Saban, as Marvel was in financial trouble at the time.

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