The MCU finally has the chance for its first use of Marvel's mutant characters thanks to Disney's acquisition of 20th Century Fox, which brought the rights to the X-Men back to Marvel Studios. This will not only allow Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and his team to produce X-Men '97 on Disney+ as a continuation of its animated '90s predecessor, but it also brought the show's classic theme song into the live-action story as well.
This theme was first heard as Patrick Stewart reprised his role as Professor X in a milestone appearance in 2022's Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, making him the first mutant to appear in the MCU. But only a couple of months later, Iman Vellani's Ms. Marvel utilized that classic theme once again as Marvel Studios changed up Kamala Khan's comic backstory and made Marvel Studios' first new mutant.
With the X-Men '97 theme being an integral part of the mutant team's story on the small screen three decades ago, it seems only natural that Marvel Studios would want to pay homage to that history with the X-Men finally available for MCU adventures. But according to one of the animated show's leading developers, getting permission to use that theme wasn't as easy as many fans expected for Feige.
Kevin Feige's Expensive Mutant Request
Speaking at Pennsylvania’s Steel City convention, via ComicBook.com, X-Men: The Animated Series writer/developer Eric Lewald explained how difficult it was for Marvel Studios to gain the rights to use the original animated show's theme music.
Lewald shared that the rights to the song were "all over the place" due to a second party owning them, meaning that Marvel had to go through them for the purchase. The X-Men producer is certain that this came out to an expensive price tag, although Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and co. clearly went through with it as it's been used twice in the MCU's Phase 4 already.
“[The X-Men: The Animated Series theme song] wasn’t a done deal necessarily when they were producing the new show. The rights were all over the place. I think a secondary person had the rights to the music, so it was a negotiation for them. Obviously, you can’t do the new show without that song. But the guy selling it knew the same thing, so I’m sure it was a heavy price.”
Once he got the rights, Feige was immediately ready to put the music to use in the MCU.
In an interview with The Wrap from late July, Ms. Marvel directors Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi revealed that Feige specifically requested the use of this music for Kamala Khan's mutant reveal in Episode 6. The two didn't even get any answers about why they were asked to do it, but they're excited to see where Ms. Marvel goes now that this story detail is official.
“Well, to begin with, it was the last thing we read. So that was a best-kept secret. Nobody knew about it until we read the last version of the script and all of a sudden it was like, damn. And then we would ask producers about it and we would not get any answers. Then Kevin Feige said: ‘Just shoot this, put the little music on, and that’s it.’ We can only hope that we be part of the future of 'Ms. Marvel' because it would be super nice to have some 'X-Men' flavor in there.”
Was Marvel's X-Men Purchase Worth It?
Seemingly even more so than the X-Men's movie rights, the rights to their animated show's theme song was a whole different beast for Marvel Studios to tackle. And particularly since the usage wasn't attached to the project itself, which Marvel Studios was confirmed to bring back in late 2021, it appears that Kevin Feige had to write a pretty big check to bring this iconic music into the MCU.
But with Feige's determination to give Marvel fans the best and most interconnected universe possible, it's no surprise that he shelled out the money necessary for this music. After all, he's the one that was so adamant about the theme's use in Ms. Marvel, and even though mutant characters were decidedly avoided for big roles in Doctor Strange 2, that music still brought out cheers when Professor X made his grand entrance.
Now, fans will have a glorious opportunity to hear that music again on a regular basis with X-Men '97 making its return to Disney+ in just over a year. Whether the theme music will stay in its original form or get a 2023 upgrade is a mystery, but Feige's investment will certainly not go unnoticed.
X-Men '97 will debut on Disney+ sometime in Fall 2023.