It seems to be that so many cartoons were so beloved in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, that dollar signs could be seen in the eyes of many a television executive in terms of potential goldmines that needed to be further tapped. Granted, many of us remember these original series fondly through the grace of nothing more than nostalgia-tinted glasses, but whatever the case was a lot of the cartoons we grew up with were blessed with awesome. (either cheesy awesome that we didn’t care about much as kids, or through actual honest talent in writing and execution.
And thus, several show saw “comebacks” in the mid-to-late 1990’s and early 2000’s, either as reboots of their original series of sequels, that meant to bank on said nostolgia value and gain the same acclaim that the previous installments gained from much of us.
Sadly, a lot of them failed. Some, miserably so. Either it was because new concepts were being tried that failed, or that concepts that were popular and worked with shows that were made around a certain medium tried the opposite approach and came off looking half-assed at best and utter crap at most. And then there were some that just should have stopped while they were ahead.
These are a few of those.
Tenchi Muyo –> Tenchi in Tokyo
You remember Tenchi Muyo, back when it was on Toonami and the like. The tale of a teenaged boy leading a normal, boring life with his father and grandfather, when all of a sudden he gets besieged by super-powered space pirates, mystical princesses, mad scientists and intergalactic police. And they’re all women. And they all want him. Pretty much sets the tone for the Tenchi Muyo series. The original series was a 20-episode collection of OVA’s that set the tone for all it’s spin-offs. It concluded, but was then followed by Tenchi Universe, which ended up being an loose alternate re-telling with a bit more meat to it and expanded on a lot of the stories from the original. Even though it rebooted the story, it was still interesting and kept the pace well enough.
Then came Tenchi in Tokyo, which was yet another reboot and introduced yet another love interest. However, this one was instantly made Tenchi’s prime interest and ended up discarding the rest of the cast of female character in favor of her. Where the previous two incarnations had fun and complex characters, a balance between mundane and fast-paced action scenes, and a growing plot, Tenchi in Tokyo just ended up coming off like a poorly thought-out fanfic. The new characters weren’t interesting, the plot was slow and dull, and the characters you’d grown to like from the previous incarnations were reduced to their baser, more annoying traits. That, and the animation seemed to take a dive as well, which just added to the nose-dive.
Transformers: Beast Wars –> Transformers: Beast Machines
Beast Wars was the introduction to Transformers for a lot of kids growing up in the early 1990’s. It was another attempt at 3D that seemed to hit the same bullseye that Reboot did. (considering it was made by the same animation studio) Though not the vehicle Transformers that older fans may have been used to, the concept of animal alt-modes was an interesting new take on Hasbro’s line of toys and it translated well to television. The characterization was good and grew with alot of its audience through the three seasons it aired, the 3D rendering was fluid enough to not look too stiff or forced, and it was overall a good spiritual sequel to the G1 cartoon of the 1980’s.
When the series finally concluded in 1999, a sequel series was already in the works. Labeled Beast Machine, it took the cast of characters back to Cybertron, but their world has been left uninhabited except for mindless killer robots dubbed Vehicons and a killer plot device…err, virus. So starts the transformation of a story about robots fighting robots into a story of techno-organic former-Transformerish creatures trying to learn the mysteries of the universe and running away from trouble. It took alot of the action-orientation and interesting plot and tried to make it deep and political and spiritual and everything kids really don’t want to have to worry about until they have to start paying taxes.
Voltron –> Voltron 3rd Dimension
Voltron was one of the awesome 80’s anime cartoons that became synonymous with giant robot animation of the time, along with so many other. It had cheesy dialogue, a silly English dub that either made it more charming or more annoying depending on how you looked at it, but had buttloads of action and was fun when we were all young. So of course during the 1990’s slew of revivals trying to bank on nostalgia value, a “sequel” was greenlit and also chosen for the 3D treatment that had become popular with cartoons like Reboot.
However, this was not to turn out as well as Reboot. Voltron: The Third Dimension (hurr hurr) was an attempt at continuing the tale of Voltron that left off at the end of the English version of the 80’s series. The computer 3D animation unfortunately was clunky and poorly rendered, making all characters come off stiff and without any fluid movement. The characters retained a good portion of their original personalities (and many of the original voice actors even returned to reprise roles), but the storylines seemed forced and the animation wasn’t nearly what we had seen in the much more polished Reboot. In the end, it ended up being a failed attempt at living up to the legacy created by it’s predecessor, and was retconned completely when the cartoon Voltron Force came out in 2011. (No Tim Curry in the new series gave it a head start from the get-go.)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles –> Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation
Granted, this wasn’t necessarily a cartoon sequel, but it counts in that it was based off of one. And that it was a shitty sequel no matter what media it came packaged in.
Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation was the bastard child of the 1987 cartoon series and the live-action movies that really made the franchise take off. Since the movies did well, and the cartoon did well, why not combine the two, right? What followed was a live-action series that tried being both the original cartoon series and the live-action movies in both plotline and characterization AND tried fitting in a female character in Venus, and failed miserably on all accounts. (Nice job even ruining trying to get girls interested. Heck, the boy’s weren’t even interested!) It lasted 26 episodes before it was cut down in 1999 and the franchise was left alone to lick its wounds until 2003, when a slightly better new animated series came out for the Turtles that did them a bit more credit. (though not much if I remember correctly)
Looney Toons –> Loonatics Unleashed
Darker and edgier. Do we really need to say more? When you turn a beloved children’s cartoon variety show with subtle adult humor injected into it, into a EXTREME TEAM of super-powered super-heroes that fight crime and crack jokes that pale in comparison to the original show, it tends to make one’s soul hurt.
I really wish there were more to say, but there isn’t. It will hurt my brain.