Rainbow Brite and 9 Other '80s Cartoon Reboots
Oh my bows—Rainbow Brite is back! And, as evidenced by the trailer for her new series, she’s got a sassy new voice and Powerpuff Girl makeover, wields snappy slang, and makes winky references to Internet memes. She’s ready to take on the 21st century.
The reboot of the 1980s cartoon will stream exclusively on Feeln beginning November 6. But while it’s got some ‘80s star power behind it—Miss Pretty in Pink herself, Molly Ringwald, provides the voice for the villain—the new Rainbow Brite seems to lack the sweetness of the original. The trailer promises Rainbow Brite is back to fight the encroaching darkness with her vibrancy, but can the cheeriness and innocence we loved in the original survive in the smartphone age?
Check out the trailer for yourself:
Rainbow Brite is only the most recent in a deluge of reboots of 1980s cartoons, the quality of which, unfortunately, seems to indicate that the odds are not in this resurrection’s favor. Here are nine beloved ‘80s cartoons that were recently brought back to life—but arguably should have been left to rest in peace.
1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
How can you make the story of four pizza-loving super-reptiles named for Renaissance masters appeal to kids these days? You give it a multi-million-dollar budget and fill it with Michael Bay explosions! And turn investigative journalist April O’Neil into Megan Fox…
The 2014 big screen reboot of the Saturday morning cartoon, which ran from 1987 to 1996, tried to appeal to the nostalgia of its original audience, now in their mid-to-late-twenties, and attract new viewers. Unfortunately, it failed to do either. While the movie raked in just shy of $189 million domestically, general consensus was: It was terrible.
The Transformers, as any good Gen Y'er will tell you, started out as toys—plastic figurines eager children would flip and fold to transform from cars into heavily-armed robots. And with the launch of the TV series in 1984, shortly after the toys’ debut, the franchise’s money-making potential was realized. So, in a way, the 2007 live-action reboot—and its three sequels—are a natural extension of the brand. According to Box Office Mojo, the four rebooted films and the 1986 original (Transformers: The Movie) have together grossed over $1.3 billion at the box office.
3. The Smurfs
Our little blue friends were originally created in 1958 by Belgian comics artist Peyo, but the Smurfs we all know and love lived on NBC from 1981 to 1989. Then, in 2011, someone at Sony Pictures decided to plump them up to 3D and drop them into New York City for an ill-advised live-action adventure, with Katy Perry, Hank Azaria, Sofia Vergara, and Neil Patrick Harris along for the ride. While The Smurfs has only a 22 percent fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes, it made enough money worldwide (over $563 million) to warrant a sequel, released in 2013, and a third film, with an anticipated 2016 release.
4. Alvin and the Chipmunks
Like The Smurfs, Alvin and the Chipmunks was first created in 1958, for a novelty music album. A television series based on the trio, called The Alvin Show, aired on primetime CBS from 1961 to 1962, and then was retooled as Alvin and the Chipmunks in 1983. Alvin and the Chipmunks aired on NBC from 1983 to 1990. The 2007 live action-CGI hybrid film, starring the voice talents of Justin Long and Jesse McCartney, is, therefore, a reboot of a reboot. Once again, the critically panned film did box office gangbusters, earning itself a squeakquel and triquel. A fourth film is planned for December 2015.
Garfield and Friends, a series based on the Jim Davis comic strip, entertained children on Saturday mornings from 1988 to 1994. It was turned into a charmless live action film, starring Breckin Meyer, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and Bill Murray (as the voice of a CGI Garfield), in 2004. A sequel, Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties, was released in 2006.
In a reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything, for you newbs) done in January 2014, Murray explained how he came to be involved in such a flop. Turns out, it was a case of mistaken identity. Murray thought that Garfield screenwriter Joel Cohen was the Coen brother Joel Coen (of Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and Raising Arizona fame). "I only read a few pages of [the script] … because I had looked at the screenplay and it said 'Joel Cohen' on it. And I wasn't thinking clearly, but it was spelled Cohen, not Coen. I love the Coen brothers movies. I think that Joel Coen is a wonderful comedic mind. So I didn't really bother to finish the script, I thought, 'He's great, I'll do it.'"
And how was his experience filming Garfield? "It was sort of like [Wes Anderson's] Fantastic Mr Fox without the joy or the fun."
6. G.I. Joe
G.I. Joe is yet another toy-to-TV success story. The Hasbro action figure line, relaunched in 1982 at 3.75", in turn inspired a Marvel comic book called G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, which was published from 1982 to 1994. In 1985, A Real American Hero was adapted for the small screen. The series ran 95 episodes before its cancellation in 1986.
G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra hit the big screen in 2009. Starring Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sienna Miller, and Kevin Costner, the film had a serious A-list pedigree. But, alas, a good cast does not a good movie make—Rise of the Cobra has a 35 percent fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes. Its sequel, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, was released in 2013. Tatum reprised his leading role and was joined by Bruce Willis and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
7. Care Bears
Amid the flashy reboots of its contemporaries, the Care Bears—who made their debut on greeting cards in 1981 and had their own television series from 1985 to 1988—quietly rolled out an updated version of their series in 2012 on The Hub. Care Bears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot, is now available on Netflix. While the new Care Bears are computer animated (and the script doesn’t hold a candle to the fabulous 1985 Care Bears Movie), they maintain their original message of love and friendship (and they’re age appropriate).
8. My Little Pony
My Little Pony, a television series based on Hasbro's line of sparkly plastic equines with flowing, braidable, cutable—Shhh! Don't tell Mom—manes, aired 65 epsides from 1986 to 1987. It instilled a sense of magical wonder and imagination in a generation of girls and boys. The franchise was rebooted as My Little Pony Tales for the Disney Channel in 1992. In a departure from the original, My Little Pony Tales anthropomorphized the ponies—they took bubble baths, visited the local ice cream shoppe, and—in a controversial move—went out on dates.
In 2010, My Little Pony was revamped once again—this time for a generation of kids who can't imagine life without the Internet. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, which features a vibrant, seemingly anime-inspired aesthetic similar to the new Rainbow Brite, was a hit with its new audience. Four seasons have aired to date and a fifth is planned for 2015.
9. Jem and the Holograms
Jem, the rock star alter ego of regular girl Jerrica Benton, inspired and empowered girls from 1985 to 1988. A live action reboot of the series is currently in the works. Jason Blum (producer of the Paranormal Activity films), Jon M. Chu (director of the G.I. Joe: Retaliation and the Step Up movies), and Scooter Braun (Justin Bieber’s manager) are masterminding the operation, so the quality is anyone’s guess. Oh yeah, and they are crowdsourcing their talent. The Hollywood Reporter reported in March 2014 that the new movie will be about an orphan who becomes a YouTube sensation and will not cater to fans of the original show. Rather, the new Jem is “for a whole new generation with themes of being true to who you are in a multitasking, hyperlinked social media age.”