Exclusive: Eric & Julia Lewald of X-Men animated 92'
Interview transcribed by Brandon the Intern
Z: Welcome everyone to the TWG Grand Comic Fest edition. I’m sitting here with Eric & Julia Lewald. Why Don’t you tell everybody what you’re best known for?
JL: Julia Lewald here, I’m a writer, mostly TV animation some live action and I had the great good fortune of writing on X-Men the animated series. (that came out a few years ago) and we are here celebrating the anniversary of (XTAS) along with other shows I have worked on and Eric has worked on. Eric?
E: Yeah I had the great opportunity to be the showrunner on X-Men the animated series back in the 90s. A fancy way for saying in charge of the stories in charge of the scripts. We’re here in Grand island also with our friend Larry Houston who is in charge of the art side of things. We can’t draw a bit but we love telling stories especially heroic stories. We’ve been in Hollywood for awhile. We both moved out there from the middle of the country. We’ve worked on over 40 different television series. X-Men is the one where everything came together perfectly.
Z: So where did you guys get your start?
JL: Overnight sensations that take ten years. I was born in Wisconsin and grew up in Texas. Those are my bonafides to say I didn’t know anybody. No connections . boy I wish I a little nepotism in my pocket. nothing! In my senior year of college, I was planning on going to graduate school for medicine law whatever that just the path. Bumped into a friend one day who said “I’m moving to California to student teach music, I hear they pay people to write would you like to come with me?” I did it, I moved out to Los Angeles and ten years to the day I arrived in LA I got my law degree because this was before the internet so I thought while being a writer having my law degree would help. One day I got an opportunity from Disney from a friend, for 6 months I was writing scripts and making up ideas for shows and that’s how Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers, got one script past them and then they asked offered me the open desk and that’s how I got started.
E: I got some starts in Minnesota and Tennessee and filmed on movies. Loved the movies and so I made some for dives. I was on the crew for Hercules and that worked and my neighbor actually worked on Conan the Barbarian had written dozens of scripts for them. They just got signed for 5 seasons 65 episodes which is huge! So Conan was looking to hire for the show. I wrote a script and sent it to my friend and he said “they liked one of them this is a good foot in the door” The directors of the show both wanted their own script. We will make you a promise and I said we will let you have this script for free if I can write the next one and read it to you. We each then wrote 6 episodes for a different show called Challenge of the GoBots a transformer competitor. Helped write a few other shows and then got signed onto Disney a few months before she was on. Then an office romance and went from there.
E: We were at Disney for our 3-year contract then they changed their hiring motto and were let go after our 3 years. So, after that the same friend from Tennessee was getting started at this place called Fox Kids. I was hired on there to help oversee the last season of Beetlejuice. That went well and was working on another project for a few months and then got a call one Sunday and was told I need to come in tomorrow morning marvel is going to be here. We are going to have you be in charge of the writing of X-Men animated series. I wasn’t familiar with the comic, so I said that’s Marvel right? He laughed and said, “we will get through the meeting and it will all be okay they have people who know about the comics and they just really like your style of writing.”
Z: When you guys both started writing, did you think you would be a writer for a career?
JL: Honestly, it didn’t really occur to me that you could be a writer because of the way I grew up. But ever since I could I always had a spiral notebook and would constantly write poems or clever quotes I liked from grade school and on. I really would only write for myself I never expected for the world to see what I wrote. But when my friends suggested I could get paid to write in Hollywood it all clicked. I really thought okay this is a good business model and a way for me to make money. I was not into novel writing but being able to make a script and telling a story was magical for me.
E: For me because I liked bed stories, legends, and myths growing up. I also always had a love for big action, heroic movies. My buddies and I would sit down and write a 12-hour movie series about historic adventures things like the trojan war or things with powerful things. Kind of like pre-Game of Thrones. So going out to Hollywood was scary thousands of people trying to do the same thing as me. So, I was lucky enough to have that neighbor who worked on Conan the Barbarian and that was my first step. After working with live action for a while I realized that animation was a little bit more visual. Being a script writer, I was able to help create spectacles and stories. Back in the 80’s if you wanted to have a big action-packed story CGI was not as good as it is today. Animation was the best way to do that because it was too expensive for live action.
JL: The other thing about animation that we both realized was because of the animation by the time you got your script, and everyone signed off they can’t tinker with it on the back end. You know there will always be minor edits and things you may add but that’s about it. Its satisfying seeing something you wrote and your vision on screen the way you wanted it to be.
L: Are there any specific X-Men episodes that you are able to call your own?
JL: The arrogance of the ignorant at that time I was able to write days of future past part 1. That was the crown jewel story. I was lucky enough that fans weren’t as involved you could say with the story. I loved being able to tell this story and add my own little spin with time travel.
L: How many times do you have to go back and look at a script and analyze its logic?
JL: I came up for as story about Beast, in this story Beast helps a blind woman regain her vision. For a character who appears to be the most comfortable in his own skin. Once this woman regains her vision she loves Beast and is very thankful for him but, her father is a raised anti-human so it was a really powerful story.
Z: The whole series I remember watching it and it seems like just cartoons but, looking back on it that’s some heavy topics it approached.
JL: We come up with a 2-part episode in season 4 called “One Man’s Worth” which is about what would the world been like if Xavier didn’t live to form the X-Men.
E: Its one of those things over 5 years that I loved the writing, but it was also about those stories and making sure those stories match and working with the other writers and managing which was about 65% of my job. The hardest part of our job was what stories are we going to tell this season? There is hundreds of stories to pick from. Ya know you pick one out and say yea this could work. But once you find the story the other part is a craft. The inspiration of the story and how it can resonate with a character or the story. With ‘One Man’s Worth”this story it turned into a story about the absence of the X-Men. I am very proud of that one and look back on this episode and it took a few months to animate the show, but the script took 11 months! We are going back and forth struggling with time travel and making sure it made sense but it struggled into existence and we are proud of that.
JL: Because you are pitching to people at Marvel you have to understand the inspiration for them and this inspired the Age of the Apocalypse series.
L: I am glad you mentioned that Futures is one of my favorite comics and the adaptation for it was great.