The Inverse Interview

The Weird, Long Journey to Bring X-Men ’97’s Iconic Theme Song Back From Legal Limbo

X-Men ’97’s composers had to recreate the classic theme song from scratch.

X-Men '97 team-up.

The greatest superhero earworm of the 1990s is back. In addition to the return of hand-drawn animation, the new X-Men ’97 also features very retro opening credits, complete with that unforgettable theme song. Originally composed by Ron Wasserman — though credited to Haim Saban and Shuki Levy — the iconic music has only appeared sporadically in MCU projects. But now it’s a full and complete part of the introduction of every episode of X-Men ’97, recreating the feeling of the original cartoon, more than three decades after the show first debuted in 1992.

For the new sequel series, Disney enlisted the talents of composers John Andrew Grush and Taylor Newton Stewart (better known as the Newton Brothers). And, as they revealed to Inverse, re-recording the original X-Men theme song was a “very daunting” task.

Who composed the X-Men theme song?

Jubilee, dancing to the ‘90s beats in X-Men ‘97.


In 1992, while under contract from Saban, Wasserman composed and recorded the X-Men theme song alone. In a 2022 interview with Popverse, Wasserman said, “By the time X-Men was written, I’d learned to play or emulate any instrument so I would have played every part. Just me, a MIDI keyboard, and a computer.”

For the first four seasons, the same arrangement of the theme song was used. But in Season 5, a slightly different opening theme — combined with different opening credits — began each episode, right up until the end of the series with the episode “Graduation Day.” Because the new Disney+ series uses a new recording of the theme song that is closer to the Wasserman original and has opening credits sporting the names of the characters, X-Men ’97’s nostalgic opening credits are closer to the 1995-1996 era than 1997.

Wasserman is not publicly credited for composing the song, and this is connected to a different legal issue: At the time he created the song, he was under contract with Saban, meaning Saban had total legal ownership of the song. This is why in both Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness and Ms. Marvel the theme song was credited to Haim Saban and Shuki Levy.

Since 2019, legal battles over alleged plagiarism prevented the use of the song in various new projects. However, in 2022, Disney paid some untold sum of money to get the actual rights back, which is why we can, once again, hear this best superhero theme song ever over the opening credits of X-Men ’97. But to make that magic happen, the Newton Brothers had to re-record it.

A new (old) X-Men theme is born

“It was pure excitement and terror all at the same time,” Grush tells Inverse about re-recording the song. “We said: ‘Just don’t mess it up,’ because it’s a perfect piece of music.”

However, although the current version is very close to the original 1992-1996 theme song, Grush and Stewart did record at least “seven or eight” other versions of the song.

“They were all wildly different,” Grush explains. “Like, here’s one that’s totally modern. Here’s one that’s traditional. Here’s a hybrid. Here’s the dark version — the whole-world-is-ending version. But when it came down to it, when the sounds we were using were in line with the original, that was what was working best.”

That said, unlike the MIDI keyboard version from the 1990s, the Newton Brothers did use human musicians. “We got this guitar player, Nili Brosh, to play the lead guitar part, and then it started to come together. But we worked for months on it. It’s a lot of trial and error.”

Will we ever get to hear some of these darker, alternate cuts of the theme song? “It will sound super annoying for me to answer like this,” Grush says. “But I can’t say really, because it may come out in later seasons.”

“It’s definitely dark and impactful,” Stewart adds. “It’s amazing when you just play something that you're used to being so uplifting and energetic — and especially exciting when you were a kid. So, hearing it being dark and slowed down, sped up, or whatever happens. It’s always a different vibe.”

’90s alt-rock influences

The Prodigy performing in 1997.

Getty Images

For the incidental music heard throughout X-Men ’97, the Newton Brothers wanted to make sure the mood of that music matched the times. So they looked for inspiration from very specific ’90s musicians. “The Prodigy was an influence,” Stewart says. “I would also say [Radiohead’s] OK Computer.

The Newton Brothers emphasize that thinking about these types of beats helped them keep the music throughout the series moving, not just for plot reasons, but to keep the show grounded in the sonic landscape of the time.

“I would say a lot of those kinds of artists definitely influenced us,” Stewart says. “There were a couple of others too. I can’t say who because it will literally give away some of the scenes in the show.”

Does this mean by the end of X-Men ’97 Season 1 we’ll be hearing some bonafide 1990s needle drops?

“Could be,” Stewart says with a shrug. To which Grush adds: “Definitely. Probably.”

X-Men ’97 streams on Disney+.

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