5 Garbage Cartoon Reboots (And How They Should Have Come Back Instead)

By Loryn Stone

 

When the opening sequence of Disney’s new Muppet Babies 2018 reboot dropped on YouTube a few weeks ago, it got my brain churning. I, like many people who were babies in the late 80s/early 90s watched more Muppet Babies than I need to admit. To this day, the legendary Piggy Dough-Girl is not only one of my heroes, but an all-powerful figure I admittedly wanted to be.

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She’s beautiful.

Surprisingly, I have zero feelings about the Muppet Babies reboot. I have a couple of acquaintances working on it, and they’re super talented people. I saw that Scooter and Skeeter had been killed off in lieu of a little female penguin characters and I said “Good.” I have two young children, and they’ll either take to the show and become addicted, or they’ll hate it and yell at me to put Blippi back on. Whatever happens, I’m open to all realities.

But it’s not quite so simple with other shows.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter to me what Disney does with Muppet Babies. Because that’s exactly who it’s for- fucking babies. Not for me. Not for you. Not for your deceased childhood.

But what about the other show out there? The ones that got reboots we didn’t ask for because the Nostalgia Train is ruthless and jumped free from its tracks? What hopes and dreams were crushed when we saw what shit storms they’d become? And what could have happened if anyone working on them pretended they gave even a little bit of a shit and they didn’t simply come back as garbage?

 

5) Doug / Disney’s Doug

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Opinions and feelings seemed to be mixed when it comes to Nickelodeon’s flagship NickToon Doug. A simple, unpretentious slice-of-life show, Doug had a slow pace, quirky, memorable characters with varying unrealistic skin colors (hey man, cool by me), a bitchin’ soundtrack composed primarily of acapella mouth noises, and gave kids my age all a reason to start Bangin’ on a Trash Can.

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One of my favorite things about Doug at the end of its run was that the show actually ended. It had a series finale. Doug and his friends graduated sixth grade, and Jr. High was just around the corner. Granted, sure, there was plenty to say about these characters, come on. That’s what shit like fan fiction is for. So when my family moved to Israel in 1994 and came back in 1997 just to find that Doug had gotten a revival after only being off the air about two years. Too quick for Nostalgia but too long to catch the wave. Even more interesting that the revival was produced by Disney for their new Saturday morning lineup.

And the results just weren’t so good.

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I get it; voice actors and contracts are a funny business. Billy West didn’t reprise his role as Doug. It happens. But that’s the tip of the ice cream cake here. Beginning with costume design and ending with Doug’s new sibling, Connie’s weight loss, The BEETS breaking up, and Roger’s new “rich-kid” status, this show was a slap in the face to its predecessor.

How It Should Have Come Back:

It shouldn’t have. It ended.

That said, the show should have shifted focus to Skeeter or something. In my perfect narrative, they would have aged up to about fifteen years old and we could have seen all those really juicy “firsts” for them, but again- fan fiction. Plus, the show was purchased by Disney in the “everything is okay and conflict doesn’t exist” late 90s. So all right- we can’t get too extreme here. But that’s why shifting focus might have had less fan-rage. You can’t just throw a Winamp skin over a corpse and convince me it’s my old friend. I’d have loved to see a show from Patty’s perspective, too. We know Doug inside and out. We’ve been in his head, seen his art, nose zits, Durango Doug and Quail Boy fantasies. Pass that torch, you self-absorbed cow-pie.

 

4) The Ren and Stimpy Show/Ren and Stimpy’s Adult Party Cartoon

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Since we’re on the topic of Nickelodeon and flagship cartoons, no article would be complete without talking about one of the best cartoons in animated history, Ren and Stimpy. From the style and art direction, to incredible drawings, to bizarre and gross out humor, Ren and Stimpy was seriously a one-of-a-kind show. It arguably was the strongest of all the Nicktoons, even though audiences seemed to enjoy those easily digestible Rugrats that was on the air way too long (which by the way is not included in this article because those spin offs were just as…not awesome…as the original show.)

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In a society where Beavis and Butthead was for your teen sibling, Ren and Stimpy was what kids were cutting their teeth on. This show was perfect. Everyone at school was quoting it, singing the Log and Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy songs, and trying to smash their heads with hammers.

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It was a great time in American culture.

Now, it was extremely noticeable to many (myself included) when show creator John K. was fired during the second season. The episodes without him just had a different feel to them, even though Bob Camp helped reel in the crazy. I think the most noticeable was probably the season three episode “Ren’s Pecs” where Ren became a buff celebrity because Stimpy sacrificed his money to pay for cosmetic surgery. It was so off that I swore it was the last episode. Which is funny, because that episode felt off once John K. was canned. But years later when Ren and Stimpy’s Adult Party Cartoon aired on Spike TV, it was completely run by John K. And guess what.

It felt completely off.

Ren and Stimpy’s Adult Party Cartoon just reeked of John K. on a mad tear going “Fuck you, here’s some tits! Go to hell, have a piece of poo-poo shit shaped like a COCK! TRY TO CENSOR ME, NICKELODEON!?! WELL, EAT SCMEG, I’M ON SPIKE TV NOW! HERE’S REN GETTING’ COOL ON A PAIR OF TITTIES!”

That may or not be an actual quote, I’m not sure.

Everything about the show was completely off- it was motivated by gnarly freedom. It was no-hold-bar and that’s not necessarily a good thing. Part of what made the original Nickelodeon show so amazing was that constant little tickle of “Oh my god, they got away with that. Holy shit, did he just barf? Did he get his teeth nerve endings pulled out by a beaver? Is that the mom’s hot side boob? Is Mr. Horses’ robe open?!?!” It was those suggestive teases that made the show what it was. And when things got super violent out of nowhere, or Ren ate a bar of soap while floating in space, it was super awesome and special!

How It Should Have Come Back:

Show me one episode of Ren and Stimpy’s Adult Party Cartoon that’s even a quarter as disturbing as that episode “A Visit to Anthony” and then we’ll talk. Seriously, I don’t think any episode of any cartoon upset me more than that one did. The “biggest fan” who kept hyperventilating and his angry, violent Dad kept beating on Ren and Stimpy? I never wanted to go to another sleepover again. Keep your soapy cartoon “edgy” girly tits and Ren’s cock bulge, because really…that episode is how disturbing is done.

But seriously, after that Buzzfeed expose was released, John K. probably doesn’t have any more “comebacks” up his sleeve.

 

3) Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon/Sailor Moon Crystal

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Sailor Moon has a long, long lineage that’s filled with media outside of the principle anime from the 90s. Aside from being originally based on a manga, Sailor Moon has video games, movies, stage musicals, a live actions TV series, and more toys and merchandise than anyone could ever attempt to collect. But even so, when Toei Japan announced a new series was coming, the world collectively freakoutscreamed. Questions were asked, who will voice the characters? Will Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask actually act like a couple? Are any original voice actors returning? What story arc will they cover? Will the story be closer to the manga?

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It may have taken a few years for the new series Sailor Moon Crystal to show up, but it came. And it (depending on who you ask) just wasn’t so good. If by “closer to the manga” you mean under developed, rushed plotlines with zero character development, then yeah, it’s closer to the manga. And yes, while Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask’s relationship does finally make more sense, it’s at the sacrifice of all of her friends, Sailor Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus who are lifeless, bland, and only teetering on one-dimensional. The series banks too hard on you already knowing the characters, therefore taking liberties by chopping the characters up.

How It Should Have Come Back:

I’ll be blunt. Stop starting the show with that forsaken Dark Kingdom arc. Give us a new lineup of villains. Every single retelling (live action, musicals, etc.) pulls us into a shitty warp pipe we never asked to be stuffed into and just starts us over from the beginning. If Toei is banking on us following Crystal because we already have a vague idea of what’s going on, then understand that we know the Dark Kingdom arc backward and forward. What happened after Sailor Stars? Hell, what happened in the slip of time between the Silver Millennium and present day? Literally nothing? What was Sailor Cosmos doing? What were the Sailor Starlights doing on their planet Kinmoku? I doubt I’m speaking only for myself when I say that these are the stories I’m ready for! Show me Sailor Moon’s second daughter, Kousagi, and her bunny-eared pigtails. I am ready!

For the record, the art doesn’t get me wet either, but we’ll save that conversation for another day.

 

2) He-Man and the Masters of the Universe/New Adventures of He-Man/He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (again)

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He-Man is a funny, funny thing. It’s one of those shows I remember watching a buttload of after school but have only fuzzy memories of what actually happened. I remember a swole dude in some undies. I remember the little critter guy in his red robe and hat, who I’m pretty sure was hired to play a Final Fantasy character. I remember Man-of-Arms, who was later recast to play William Murderface in Metalocalypse.  I remember She-Ra later, who I mistook for a warrior Barbie doll, which was hella cool. And of course, I remembered the internet’s favorite boyfriend and mine, the original crab-cake who can’t lift that sword, son- Skeletor.

Now, if you’ve read our article here on PopLurker titled 9 Things About Cartoon Making that Fans Sometimes Get Wrong, you may remember this story. I know a gentleman, now in his 50s. One of his earlier jobs in the 80s was working on the She-Ra, Princess of Power cartoon. One of the ways he and his team saved money and time was by creating new episodes of the show using as many preexisting shots as possible. He claimed that their goal was 80% reuse, 20% original animation. Apparently, if you could make an entire episode of the show with 100% reused animation, which they did sometimes, you were considered a pretty cool dude.

All I’m saying is that the show was by no means perfect. But you know what it was?

It was charming. It was exciting. And you know what? Skeletor was fucking funny. But because it was so flawed with its wonky animation, ridiculous music, and hokey humor, it’s no surprise this show was rebooted.

Twice.

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Once in 1990 and again in 2002. Both of course, were fairly unmemorable.

How It Should Have Come Back:

I think the most charming thing about He-Man was the titular character himself. He was just so innocently clueless. He seriously just looked like a bewildered muscular man-baby Like he didn’t understand how he won the starring role in his own show. Later versions would have this kind of young, cool dude version of He-Man. I can’t speak for myself, but those “cool dude” characters like Captain N and Link (from the TV show) just don’t do anything for me. I’m turned off by that entitlement. But He-Man is so great because the show is telling me he’s some chosen one, and it’s telling me he’s all beefy and ready to rumble…but then he’s just surprised all the time. That’s where the charm is. Skeletor screaming like a buffoon calling everyone a boob all the time, randomly turning good when the episodes need him to? That’s the charm.

You can see clips of the newer versions here and here. They’re not bad cartoons, they just don’t work. Hardcore fans might disagree, and that’s fine. Please, school us. But my stance remains the same as it did in Sailor Moon. Gonna give me a reboot? Give me a hero I recognize. And give me new villains. Don’t reboot them. And if you do…

Just admit it’s to sell toys, damn it.

 

1) Rainbow Brite

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Yes friends, she’s back- our favorite magical little immortal rainbow spirit, Rainbow Brite. This show is no stranger to PopLurker, and she’s been discussed a few times here on the site. But we can’t help it- the show is fascinating. It was a strange, almost-magical-girl-sort-of-superhero-but-too-DIC-and-goony-for-that slice of cartoon history. What was originally a line of greeting cards from Hallmark spawned into a toy line (because duh, 80s), excellent straight to video cartoon, an incredible feature film, and a less than stellar televised second season of the same cartoon that we were still grateful to have.

For a long time, Rainbow Brite disappeared into obscurity, barely making it into the 90s. There was a brief toy line return back in 1996 when new Rainbow Brite dolls came out, but I wouldn’t have even recognized these things if I saw them sitting on a toy store shelf. Another new line of dolls dropped around 2009, which were cute, but definitely more in the vain of Bratz and other teenage fashion dolls with attitude.

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But then in 2014, this shit heap trailer dropped. For long-time fans, it was like seeing your old summer camp friend, running up to her for a hug, just to have her knee-punch you in the throat.

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Was this web-toon a fucking joke? It’s like an Ebaum’s World flash cartoon parody. Hell, Robot Chicken and The Soup with Joel McHale did it better!

How It Should Have Come Back:

Fuck man….I don’t even know anymore. I’m tired and I feel like a need a stiff shot of scotch or something. I can’t keep saving the world and rewriting the world’s cartoons. But yo, if anyone at Netflix happens to read this article and wants to reboot any of these shows PopLurker style?

I can have a script on your desk by Tuesday.

 

Got your own list of how garbage reboots should have come back? Wanna go after that Volton, Thundercats, PowerPuff Girls, Samurai Jack, TMNT, Ghost Busters, Garfield, or any other resurrected cartoon? Tell us about it! Send your pitch to PopLurker@gmail.com and make kvetching comedy magic happen! And if you want to yell at Loryn for ruining your childhood, you can follow her on Twitter!

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4 Comments

  1. I liked the reboot of Sailor Moon Crystal. I would probably say the only problem I had with it was the CG transformation sequences, which I am glad they were fixed by the time season three came around. I LIKED that it did follow the manga more closely, despite how flawed you made it sound. I’m sure like many manga artists starting out, Naoko didn’t know how the series would be received and so most of the development did happen later. I rather enjoyed it. Once a fan, always a fan.

    I will agree with you though on Ren and Stimpy. The Spike TV version was horrendous. What was great about the original was that while most of the grossness was out there, it wasn’t like, “oh let’s do this” just to obtain shock value. I stopped watching after 2 episodes in.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge sailor moon fan. I awaited Crystal desperately. I watched it all. I just don’t think it’s a very strong stand alone series. I always love and appreciate your straightforward, critical feedback and love that we can have these conversations. But those poor inner Senshi were so hacked up so that Usagi and Mamoru would make sense. Just like how in the original series, the characters had so much development that Usagi and Mamoru didn’t make sense. It’s not absolutely crap. I can just do without the original arc again.

      Like

      1. I forgot to add too that I think I am just glad it got straight to the point, whatever it was. While I loved the 90’s anime, there was quite a lot of filler episodes and there were a couple that I could’ve just done without.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think there’s an imbalance there too, to a degree. I’ve heard people say about Sailor Stars (and I feel this way to an extent) that they wouldn’t have even cared if it wasn’t a “Sailor Moon” show. They would have taken a high school slice of life about Usagi and company, with her sexual tension with Seiya, everyone wanting to bone the Three Lights, Mamoru gone, and no one ever transforms. That would be technically all filler, I think. But it would have been a nice show to watch. So I don’t know, I’ll take what I get. I just want the story to continue. Not start over.

        Like

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