Words By Dr Hip-Hop | @DrHipHop85
We love cartoons — a lot. And so do a host of other men over the purportedly acceptable age to watch them (i.e. Kendrick Lamar, Adam Sandler’s character in Big Daddy). And why not? They’re direct links to our childhood and, to be honest, are incredibly engaging and oftentimes funny.
So we revisited shows from a golden age of cartoons – the 1980s – to wax poetic on those that have seen creative renaissances in remakes, and even offered suggestions to some that would benefit from a millennial remake. Herewith are five shows that have transformed wonderfully in new formats and five that could possibly do the same.
Transformers: Beast Wars
To be honest, nobody was really looking for a Transformers remake in the 1990s outside of a scattered few fanboys. So imagine the surprise of all former Transformers devotees when Transformers: Beast Wars debuted in 1996. Here’s the skinny on the reboot: it was less remake, more continuation of the Transformers universe; it followed the battle between the Maximals and Predacons, descendants of the Autobots and Decepticons, respectively; and all the Transformers now resembled animals. T:BW also focused on more complex narrative and characterization, making the 1980s Transformers obsolete and relegating another Reagan-era idea to the “could’ve been better” bin.
Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes
Most of you probably don’t remember the god-awful Avengers: United They Stand cartoon from the 1990s because, well, it was f*cking horrible. So when Marvel queued up Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes last year, I was oddly excited because the 1990s series had potential–it just never acted upon it. The newer version does everything the older didn’t: fantastic characterization and dynamic personalities; non-stop action; and, best of all, the sublime storytelling that made The Avengers a classic. Is it the cartoon (as well as the movie) to watch right now? You bet it is.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles holds a special place in my heart. However, when it comes to a lot of things I enjoy in a TV series as an adult (action, good plot, good characters, etc.), the original TMNT lacked more than a few things. Fast-forward to 2003 when a new TMNT premiered. Old heads might’ve cried blasphemy, but those who drank the Kool-Aid and actually watched saw their attitudes change immediately.
The original TMNT was very much a show that used action as a place-holder between jokes, but the new series took a much more serious tone. While they still used humor, this version wasn’t afraid to up the action and drama. So set aside your nostalgic bias and ignore the season where they live in the future. You’ll probably end up liking the new Turtles even more than the old four.
The Spectacular Spider-Man
Spider-Man has managed to be on our television screens for the last 40 years, and in every incarnation there are great things about the series and lots of really bad things. The 1990s version went big on story, but skimped on action. Enter The Spectacular Spider-Man, which took everything that made Spider-Man a unique property and molded it into animated form. The animation was slick and clean, and all the action sequences flowed perfectly together. It also didn’t hesitate to give you complex storytelling that involved mystery, drama and fun. It was quintessential Spider-Man and perhaps better than the combined sum of Tobey Maguire’s attempts.
Justice League And Justice League Unlimited
Original (As Super Friends): 1973-1986
Remakes: Justice League (2001-2004), Justice League Unlimited (2004-2006)
A straight reboot of the original Super Friends cartoon, Justice League and Justice League Unlimited washed away all the corniness of the original and gave it true dramatic storytelling. Featuring DC Comic’s top superheroes, the Justice League was a team dedicated to protecting the universe. Possessing some of the best voice talent in the business, combined with strong, clean animation, JL/JLU was the show thousands of kids, teens and adults watched religiously every week. If any cartoon stands to prove that a remake can be leaps and bounds better than the original, then look no further than JL/JLU.