4 Mistakes That Keep Happening In Reboots Of Beloved Cartoons
While news of revivals of classic shows like Sex in the City and Gossip Girl have dominated recent entertainment headlines, no demographic is safe from Hollywood's primal ravenous desire to reboot every show that's ever graced the screen. This is especially true for children's cartoons in recent years, as media execs pour more and more money into bringing back classic shows and characters from millennial childhoods. And honestly, it makes strategic sense: by using beloved cartoons with a nostalgic appeal, Hollywood is able to draw in a new generation of young viewers while simultaneously appealing to older audiences who grew up with these characters.
Some cartoon reboots are indeed quite successful. Take the 2017 reboot of DuckTales, for instance:
The revival received acclaim from audiences and critics alike. As did Teen Titans GO!, a goofier and oftentimes self-reflective version of the original Teen Titans cartoons that feels like the original cast of characters took shrooms together. GO! found its stride by its ability to playfully nod at its original inspiration while establishing a unique sense of style.
Sadly, other cartoon reboots usually end up lacking ... well, everything. Why? Well, it's namely due to decisions like ...
Not Honoring The Original Creator's Vision
We all know the saying that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Or rather, we all should know this, but sometimes people (Yes, Hollywood executives technically count as those.) forget the original formula that brought a show success in the first place. And speaking of formulas, let's talk about one of our favorites as a clear example of this mistake: the Krabby Patty Secret Formula. That's right, it wouldn't be a list about children's cartoons if we didn't talk about SpongeBob.
SpongeBob SquarePants is one of the longest-running and most successful children's shows of all time, and much of this success can be attributed to its creator, the late Stephen Hillenburg. Hillenburg was the showrunner for SpongeBob's first three seasons, widely believed to be the show's best. After Hillenburg resigned, Nickelodeon kept cranking out seasons like it they do traumatized child actors. Most O.G. SpongeBob fans agree that there was a noticeable decline in quality following Hillenburg's departure from the show. But if that wasn't enough, Nickelodeon decided to revive an undead cartoon with a spinoff called Kamp Koral: SpongeBob's Under Years.
Set to premiere in March of 2021, Kamp Koral is a prequel show featuring SpongeBob and his most iconic friends meeting at a summer camp as children. While we could spend an entire article dissecting the numerous reasons why this show will flop based solely on the trailer alone ...
... most die-hard SpongeBob fans are enraged that Nickelodeon would go against the wishes of the show's creator. Numerous Reddit forums and Change.org petitions have popped up across the internet, emphasizing how Hillenburg specifically did not want a spinoff to ever be created for SpongeBob, and how the entire concept is disrespectful to his dying wishes.
Paul Tibbitt, one of the showrunners of the original SpongeBob, went so far as to speak out on Twitter about this was a clear conflict of Hillenburg's vision for his show.
And while it has yet to premiere, it is unlikely to see real success if it can't win over the vocal fanbase of one of television's most beloved cartoons.
Trying Too Hard To Make Cultural References
Many of today's most beloved contemporary cartoons like Adventure Time have been praised for their intelligent meta-humor, social commentary, and pop culture references. However, others haven't quite figured out how to incorporate these styles effectively into their show without coming off as forced.
One of the most recent examples of this is Scoob!, the 2020 movie featuring Scooby-Doo & Mystery Inc. that should have been bagged and thrown in the trash like a steaming pile of Scooby-DooDoo.
Scoob! tried its very hardest to be relevant and make pop connections. It features an iconic cast of voice actors like Zac Efron and Amanda Seyfried and has a soundtrack that, with artists like Galantis and Rico Nasty, definitely caters to a broader audience than children's cartoons have been known to do. And it carries the entire weight of the Hanna-Barbera empire through the introduction of lesser-known characters like Dynomutt and Blue Falcon, likely in another sad studio's dream of creating a cinematic universe rivaling Marvel.
Yet, the critical consensus appears to be the same: Scoob!'s attempt to use a barrage of pop-culture references is its Achilles' heel. Critic after critic held a magnifying glass to the reboot, discussing how the references made the show feel "ridiculously overpacked." The New York Times said the movie was teeming with "pop-culture shout-outs maladroitly designed to bring Scooby up to date," while a Roger Ebert review (Uh, by his site, not his ghost.) said that in execution, Scoob! is just a "frantic jumble of retro kitcsh and random pop-culture references."
Scoob! learned the hard way that dropping those in just for the sake of having them isn't enough to trick audiences into liking a movie, even if the characters are beloved (or, in Fred's case, tolerated).
Not Staying True To The Original Format
We all understand wanting to reinvent yourself, but sometimes this can make someone or something lose the very qualities that made us fall in love with them. Teen Titans GO! and the 2016 reboot of Ben 10 are prime examples of succeeding and failing at that.
Teen Titans GO!, while having developed a loyal cult following in recent years, struggled to initially gain acceptance among audiences because of how different it was from the original Teen Titans show. The first iteration featured complex characters, gritty cartoon design, and action-driven plotlines. On the other hand, Teen Titans Go! actively rejects all of these qualities and is more focused on the shenanigans the titans get into when they are just hanging out at the tower. This new format was a lot for some steadfast fans to accept in a show that had traditionally revolved around stopping crime and fighting villains.
However, the show was just plain old funny and, gag by gag, it won.
Similarly, the 2016 reboot of Ben 10 also tried to mix things up from the original, but this one flopped in developing a cult following. With a 2.5/10 rating on IMDb and dozens of outraged reviews online, Ben 10 2.0 has royally pissed off fans of the original show for reasons ranging from cheaper-looking animation to simple plotlines. However, the cardinal sin of this reboot is how it doesn't stay true to the original tone of the show. Like Teen Titans Go, the 2016 Ben 10 attempts to be more of a comedy than an action-driven show, which aligns with Cartoon Network's shift towards more comedically-geared programming. Except the Ben 10 reboot isn't funny enough to be a comedy, and the Ben 10 producers learned that the hard way.
Just Straight Up Laziness
It wouldn't be a scathing critique of Hollywood reboots if we didn't bring up one of the most popular critiques of sequels and reboots: sheer laziness. This can take form in many ways, from lazy writing to animation to voice acting. And sometimes, it's laziness across the board in all categories, like with the 2016 reboot of The Powerpuff Girls.
The show experienced resistance from fans right out the gate with the announcement of an entirely new voice cast. Audiences and critics alike were not impressed by the new voices, with many calling out the show for having voice acting that was "mediocre at best." The writing was criticized for its laziness as it shifted to show less of the girls fighting their enemies and more of them just palling around at home (I think we're seeing a trend here, Cartoon Network). And to add insult to injury, the animation received the brunt of the laziness criticism. My personal favorite review was that of Shelby Watson, who said the "animators routinely forget their own rules on how to animate their characters, leading to a disjointed style that just comes across like the animators don't care." If you don't believe us, take a look for yourself.
Sounds like sugar and spice aren't enough to save the day this time.
We all wish we could relive the glory days of our favorite childhood shows. And it's no surprise that consumer demand for nostalgic comfort is at an all-time high. But as sequels and reboots continue to flop, we hope that it's only a matter of time before Hollywood opens its ears and genuinely listens to audiences. We don't just want our favorite characters back in action -- these shows need to actually be written and produced well. And if not, at least we have some new characters to pick up the sla--