X-Men ’97 Season 1 to Take Fans Beyond Genosha with Unprecedented Twists

X-Men ’97 directors Emi Yonemura and Chase Conley discuss the Genosha events in episode 5 and tease other twists for the rest of season 1.

Gambit, Magneto & Rogue in X-Men 97 Episode 5

X-Men ’97 directors Emi Yonemura and Chase Conley share the details of working on episode 5 and how it carries the rest of the season for the Marvel animated series. X-Men: The Animated Series is back bigger than ever in the form of the X-Men ’97 TV show, serving as a proper sequel to the beloved Marvel adventure. However, for both longtime viewers and the next generation of fans, the middle of the season will, without a doubt, never be forgotten as it changed the mythology forever.

While it appeared that a new beginning was upon the mutants, little did they know of the attacks that were coming as a Wild Sentinel arrived on Genosha. What became a mutant genocide will set the X-Men ’97 characters on a whole new path, as they had to witness death and destruction. However, more tragedies struck the leading characters in X-Men ’97 episode 5 as core players became casualties in their attempt to save Genosha.

Following the events of X-Men ’97 episode 5, S.R interviewed Emi Yonemura and Chase Conley, who have directed several episodes for season 1, and have episodes coming up that have yet to air on Disney+. Throughout the interview, Yonemura and Conley discuss what it was like having to lead up to X-Men ’97 episode 5, what viewers can expect to see transpire in upcoming installments, as well as their own personal attachment to the source material.

X-Men ’97 Directors On The Unforgettable Episode 5 Events

Sentinel attacking Genosha in X-Men '97 episode 5

How on Earth will you guys outdo the events of Genosha?

Emi Yonemura: [Laughs] I know! I think when we read that script, we were kind of wondering that too. How do you go bigger than this? But oh, get ready, we do!

What was your initial reaction to reading this? Were you like, ‘How are we going to do this? How deep are we going with this?’

Emi Yonemura: 100%. We knew it was going to be a complex script with very big important events and we knew that we had to earn it, we had to earn every moment in it. We received a strong script, but then as directors, it’s our jobs to plus that even more especially taking it into a visual medium and then also reflected on the comics. The comics were always our source material as well and how do we bring honor to the comics while also trying to tell something visually different? But it was a very big step and when that script landed on my desk, I sure knew I had a lot of work ahead of me, but a lot of well deserved worthwhile work.

Chase, where do we find the X-Men in episode 6?

Chase Conley: Well, this is titled, “Lifedeath – Part 2,” so we’ll pick up naturally with the continuation of Storm’s story and her journey as to how she’s now navigating not having powers anymore. To answer your question to me, I look at it as the season arc. So every episode has its place, I actually really enjoyed having more whimsical, or at least a top of episode 4, more whimsical kind of fun episode because I knew episode 5 was coming. I just want the audience to feel the emotional roller coaster, to catch them off guard.

I love to play my position, it’s like the way these episodes land, I’ll do my best to try to make them as cool as they can and then you think about it almost just like a story like you would break down any script, you don’t want to spend too much time on certain scenes or put too much into certain scenes that are not the big spectacle. You just have to go with the flow of storytelling and this is just as important to in terms of the scope of the season. We treat it with seriousness and, like I said, it’s one of the core stories about Storm and who she is as a character. We handled that with pride. and I think people are going to like it as well. It continues to escalate like we mentioned, this is a roller coaster, for sure.

The Journey Of Storm In X-Men ’97 Season 1

Storm looking down in disappointment in X-Men '97

We all assume that Storm will get her powers back, but will she have to pay a cost to get back to where she once was?

Chase Conley: Well, I don’t want to say too much, but I think cost is not the right word. I think it’s more about becoming whole and it’s about getting wrapped up in your identity. I think an athlete is the easiest way to compare, that’s the direct comparison to me, where I approach it like someone if you were the Michael Jordan of whatever you do, and that’s all you’ve known your whole life. You have to learn how to life after, you can’t be that once your body starts to betray you, become a little bit older, you’re not going to stay on top forever. So what does that next stage of your life look like? I think that her embracing that makes her more of a whole person over this in terms of the scope of her story as a character.

The Joy Of X-Men & Marvel Easter Eggs

Cyclops from X-Men 97 and The Watcher from Marvels What If

As I’ve been watching this first half of the season and, as a comic book fan, I always love the Easter eggs and little nods. Who has the final say on Easter eggs you guys can or cannot use, is there a council for that? Because there’s so much in Marvel that you’re able to tap into.

Emi Yonemura: What I love about our team is we’re all fans of X-Men already. So from the script, there’s already ideas and nods. Then when we get our hands on it, I’m like, ‘Right, but I remember this iconic panel from the comics, we got to make sure that we have that in there!’ Then from there, we have execs who hop in and go, ‘I’m missing this cameo here, or I’m missing another nod over here to this great splash page.’ What I love is that, because every person on this team is so close to the source material and the X-Men, it’s kind of like every cameo and Easter egg can come from any department. I’ve seen even our design team sneak in little baits, their actual issue numbers or releases. It’s all intricate in there and even deeper than what some people have found so far.

Chase Conley: Yeah, I agree there’s not necessarily a council, but it is flat in that sense of everybody is a fan. So an Easter egg could come from anywhere. It’s just kind of fluid and before you know it, it’s like, ‘Oh man, this is very rich storytelling,’ because we’re all trying to embellish on it. It is very much like a baton handoff, you take it in and you plus [it.]

Personal Favorite X-Men Characters

Cyclops and Jean Grey's clone Madelyne Pryor cuddle in X-Men '97

Do you guys each have like a personal X-Men that is your favorite that you get to handle in your episodes? Because when I see Nightcrawler, he’s my favorite, how’s it working with these type of characters that we’ve all grown up with that we’ve seen in comics for all these years, and now actually getting to work in that world?

Chris Conley: I got a couple, I have three – if we’re talking about favorite character, that fluctuates. It depends, ask me tomorrow, it may be different. But as far as our show is concerned, I’ve really taken a personal liking to boarding and help directing any scenes with Magneto because I identify with his struggle as a character. I love how regal he is, as well, and just the internal struggle that he goes through, as well as Storm I handle her with the utmost care, like every character for sure.

But I’m also just naturally kind of drawn to both of them. I think there’s a certain sense of regality that you see when they’re on screen. They have immense screen presence. They’re both Omega level mutants and Nightcrawler is just fun, I have as much fun drawing Nightcrawler because you can have him do whatever you want at the time. He’s a swashbuckler, he’s agile, he teleports, he can do all that stuff, you get cool fight choreography as well. So those would be probably my three.

Emi Yonemura: It’s so hard to pick, for me when I was a kid watching the original series, Cyclops was my favorite because I was always drawn to leader characters and, actually, Morph was one of my favorites because I think it was the first time I felt smart as a kid where I was like, ‘I recognize this characte, this character is back, what’s going on?! What’s this complex plot going on here?’ I found that my love for those characters actually carried into this show and then I found new love for the characters who I hadn’t quite looked closely at.

I’ve got a role soft spot for Madelyne Pryor – I’d say Jean, but really Madelyne Pryor. I love the direction we took Morph in, I really love bringing honor to their identity and what the message behind this character is. Everybody needs that friend who brings comedy and sarcasm to the group, so I love that. There’s always Rogue and Gambit, they were also a favorite of mine growing up and just to be able to continue their story, even with episode 5, I think it was such a treat. It feels like such self fulfillment.

There’s an Alex Ross quote that I’m gonna very very much misquote, but I remember him talking in his art book about how these are characters and heroes who really helped save his life as a kid. They gave him friends, they gave him direction. That’s 100% the same, I think what I really love is that we can take the characters who are our favorites and bring them honor, and bring them to a whole new generation of people and hopefully they’ll resonate the same way.

Magneto’s Final Line

Magneto looks pensive at the Hellfire Gala in Genosha in X-Men '97

Was there a specific reason why Erik spoke German for his final words, or are we reading too much into it?

Emi Yonemura: It’s a very specific quote, actually tied to his culture and his history when he’s on the rooftop having a little bit of his panic attack after the Xavier statue falls on people. One of the shots that we cut to, it’s very subtle, but it’s a shot of him as a child in the internment camps, so I think it is actually directly tied to his history

The Potential Jump From X-Men In Animation To Live-Action

Hugh Jackman as Wolverine from Days of Future Past, and the characters from X-Men 97

Given that you have taken on the X-Men in animation, would you want to take on them in live action – as directors, would you want to tackle their stories outside the world of animation?

Chase Conley: I’ll jump in. I think it’s always an interesting challenge, for sure. I’m always up for a new challenge as well, I actually really love the medium of animation, because it’s limitless. We can just do things that you cannot do in live action, if you do is really expensive. But I enjoyed the medium, because I think that, like the audience as well, because, animation has been around for so long, you can kind of bridge that gap and fill in that gap as far as like tangibility, because it’s a language that everybody understands. You don’t have to do as much to suggest in terms of scale, and scale is limitless in animation as well.

But if that’s a call that we get, at some point, I’m gonna pick the phone up, for sure. But at the same time, I love the medium, so to me, I’ve never looked at live action as the pinnacle. I think they’re just mediums that both have their pros and cons. I think it’s a language and there’s certain things that you can do an animation, I feel like to speak to the subconscious because of your ability to manipulate hand drawn frames and things of that nature you can do a little bit more in terms of emotional impact of even if it’s with action. You’re exaggerating characters in terms of squash and stretch, frame the frame, in terms of composition, you can manipulate those things and get it just right, when you work in animation as a medium. So, that will be my answer.

Emi Yonemura: I feel the same, I would always love the challenge. I’m fascinated by live action because it’s honestly a different art form. There’s similarities, but it is a different way of telling a story. But Chase and I both grew up especially with the 80-90s era [of] Japanese animation and the variety that that brought, and there was something tantalizing about what they were doing even back then that I don’t even know that we’re necessarily always hitting nowadays live action or animation. And I think that to me, I’m hoping what our what our animated series is proving is that animation is a medium, but it should be almost held as in as higher regard as live action, because look at the response to episode 5, look at the emotions that we can still pull out of people and those are drawn faces. It’s to get people to connect the characters and it’s not an actor’s face, which is a lot easier for us to connect to.

I find that what I would love most is just to be able to elevate animation to that level of live action. But I would never say no to that phone call because I love a good challenge and I love trying new things. But at the end of the day, I honestly feel like, this is the right place for our team. It feels right. I feel like, again, our effects team, the polishes that they do with our superhero powers are just so delicious and sometimes I do wonder, is that going to hold up the same way if that was CG? So, again, different, different mediums, but I do think that animation is in my blood.

About X-Men ’97

X-Men ’97 revisits the iconic era of the 1990s as The X-Men, a band of mutants who use their uncanny gifts to protect a world that hates and fears them, are challenged like never before, forced to face a dangerous and unexpected new future.

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