The most recent trend in rebooting older shows and movies is to take a beloved kids franchise and update it with a dark tone. On CW, the network took a beloved kids franchise in Archie and created “Riverdale,” which is a “Twin Peaks”-esque dark murder mystery. Saban Entertainment has recently taken its “Power Rangers” franchise and rebooted it with a darker vibe, which is very different than the hyper-colorful, campy original series.
Many diehard fans of these franchises are horrified by these new twists on classic characters, but many casual, as well as completely new, fans are eating it up. So why not look at other classic kids shows and see what’s ready for a grim and gritty reboot? Let’s take a look at 15 kids shows that are ready to be rebooted in a live-action film with a much darker tone!
“ThunderCats” is a beloved animated TV series that ran in the late ‘80s. The story follows a group of cat-like young aliens trying to flee their dying planet while being attacked by their mortal enemies. They flee to Third Earth and engage in a never-ending war with Mumm-Ra and the Mutants of Plun-Darr. Make no mistake, a live-action dark reboot of “ThunderCats” would be huge.
A classic franchise about warring alien factions of humanoid cats and mutants is perfect for a mature audience. Just imagine Lion-O as a Jon Snow-type character earning his place as leader by commanding the ThunderCats and becoming a hero. You can picture how frightening Mumm-Ra would be if he was taken completely seriously. The fighting would have consequences with heroes and villains dying, with a background of political intrigue as Lion-O’s leadership is questioned. With “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” and “Beauty and the Beast” showing that CGI characters can be done well, a live-action “ThunderCats” has potential to be the next big movie franchise.
14. CAPTAIN PLANET
A dark reboot of “Captain Planet” is almost too easy. The animated series told the story of five teens from around the world who are summoned by Gaia, the spirit of Earth, to fight against environmental terrorists and disasters with their magic rings, each controlling one of the elements of nature (plus Heart). When the job becomes too much for them, they combine their powers and summon Captain Planet, a hugely powerful superhero with nigh-infinite elemental abilities.
With environmental issues all over the news, a dark reboot of “Captain Planet” would be perfect, with almost no changes to the concept. The diverse cast of teens from around the world would summon the world’s best superhero, Captain Planet, to fight against the major environmental terrorists of today. Obviously, you could have mutant monsters, but you’d also have Captain Planet taking on big business and oil companies. You’d probably be able to convince Leonardo DiCaprio to star (as he’s been keen to recreate the series), and Al Gore could produce! With its diverse cast of characters and environmental focus, this film could carry socio-political commentary that would transcend its somewhat silly premise.
Imagine a movie where kids travel all over the world to capture little animals, and eventually pit them against each other in a fight to the death. Pretty dark, right? Well, that’s your “Pokémon” movie! Ash is a troubled teen that is joined by his friends as he tries to be the best Pokémon Trainer, collecting magical little animals and training them for the next big fight.
Featuring all the Pokémon you know and love, but with actual life and death stakes, the film would highlight what is already a pretty dark concept. Instead of being sad when Pikachu “faints” at the end of his battle, imagine the tears in the audience if Pikachu is vastly outmatched in a fight, but doesn’t want to let Ash down. So, Pikachu keeps fighting until he can’t any longer, as Ash watches. Audiences face moral dilemmas about capturing animals and using them for sport. Finally, they’ll ask, “Who’s the real villain, Ash or Team Rocket?”
“Gargoyles” is a cult classic among mid-‘90s cartoons. Overshadowed by the amazing “Batman: The Animated Series,” “Gargoyles” was a cartoon that was ahead of its time, tackling darker themes than your standard cartoon at the time. Telling the story of a group of Gargoyles that were cursed and frozen in stone until present day, they are awoken and now protect New York City at night.
Honestly, there’s no way to make a “Gargoyles” live action film without being dark. These are flying monsters that fight other supernatural threats. Featuring fantasy elements mixed with modern day, “Gargoyles” could be a refreshing change of pace in today’s film marketplace. Think of the cartoon, but with an “Underworld” vibe to it, with the Gargoyles as these massive monsters brutally battle other monsters. Studios have tried, and failed, with modern monster films like “I, Frankenstein,” but there’s a devoted fanbase with “Gargoyles” that could make it a hit movie franchise.
Forever appearing in lists of animated series that should be made into live-action movies, “Voltron” is one of the most obvious candidates for a dark reboot. Featuring a group of astronauts who pilot five robot lions that combine to form Voltron, these defenders protect the planet from evil from all around the universe. With the massive financial success of the “Transformers” series of films, it’s clear that audiences love big robots fighting. The next logical step is to introduce a live-action film based on the beloved “Voltron.”
Without the silly characters that plague the “Transformers” films, “Voltron” would have political intrigue, hard sci-fi action and of course, robots fighting. With five human actors as the pilots of Voltron, you can naturally introduce real drama and emotion into a film about space robots fighting, instead of the “Transformers” films that shoehorn humans into a story and ultimately derailing the films. Obviously, a studio would have to figure out the story, due to the many different iterations of the series, as well as a way to differentiate from existing fare like “Pacific Rim,” but with a more streamlined origin, the film could be exactly what audiences have been craving.
10. JOHNNY BRAVO
“Johnny Bravo” is an absurd, silly show about a guy who is always trying to impress women, but routinely is turned down by them. He thinks he’s a ladies man, but instead is just horribly ill mannered and brash. He treats his friends badly, and is singularly focused on getting girls. This has all the makings of a psychological thriller! Wait, stay with us…
Imagine Johnny Bravo as a down on his luck, former ladies man. He’s trying everything he can to be with this girl of his dreams, leading him to becoming the villain of his own movie. His friends notice his slow spiral into psychosis, but they can’t help him because he’s too stubborn to listen. Eventually, he ends up breaking into a woman’s house and she has to escape. Granted, this is a big departure from the source material, but it would forever change how people view the Johnny Bravo character. “Johnny Bravo” would show the character’s slow descent into madness and a crisis of identity.
9. AAAHH!! REAL MONSTERS
With the success of “Monsters, Inc.,” there’s really no way to do “Aaahh!! Real Monsters” as a straight-up adaptation. The similarities between two stories about monsters attending training to learn how to properly scare humans prevents a faithful reboot of the beloved animated series. However, if you take a darker turn for the series, and make a film about three horribly disfigured monsters that are being hunted by humans after they scare some children, then the film could be compelling.
The film would keep the original three characters of the series — Ickis, Oblina and Krumm — as the main monsters that audiences sympathize with. It would be interesting seeing these monsters as they have to navigate New York City, while avoiding the humans who think they’re demons. While the movie would have a darker tone than the animated series, the film could still appeal to children with the live-action monster society that was in the original series. The way we see it, the tone would be similar to “Beetlejuice” with potentially scary visuals but still with no small amount of absurdity.
On paper, “ALF” is a pretty dark concept. An Alien Life Form — aka ALF — crash lands in the garage of a suburban family. He befriends the family as they protect him from a government organization out to study him. ALF escaped his home planet that exploded after nuclear war, and he is always trying to kill the family cat, as cats are treated like cattle on his home planet.
Take away the humor from the TV show, and you have a great basis for a dark, sci-fi film. Think about how exploring the history of Melmac, ALF’s home planet, would look on the big screen, eventually ending in nuclear destruction. Then, while on Earth, ALF is evading law enforcement and eating kittens. ALF has to assimilate into human culture while dealing with PTSD from watching his home planet destroy itself, while simultaneously watching Earth lead itself into a similar fate. “ALF” has the potential to be a more adult version of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.”
7. JONNY QUEST
It’s honestly a shame that there hasn’t been a live-action adaptation of “Jonny Quest.” The series tells the story of a young boy named Jonny Quest and a group of adventurers, led by his scientist father, as they travel around the world, solving mysteries and fighting bad guys. Instead of focusing on a young Jonny, in a darker reboot, the film could age him up to late teens. He would be a skilled fighter and adventurer, much like his father, and when his father tragically dies, the character would assume leadership of the group as they continue to explore.
Set in the modern day, Jonny would be similar to Jason Bourne meets Indiana Jones. The film would feel like a new version of the insanely popular “Mission: Impossible” series. Changes would have to be made to some of the characters of the franchise, of course. The series was created in a time when racial stereotypes were commonplace, so characters like Hadji would be much more fleshed out, instead of just being a sidekick. Of course, you keep the dog Bandit around, but he is never to be hurt. The film is dark, but not THAT dark!
“He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” was already adapted as a live-action film once before, while a reboot has been in various stages of development hell since. Unfortunately, the original film is generally known as a huge financial and creative failure, so the character and the series, in general, is ripe for a new darker turn. Telling the story of He-Man and his group of close allies as they battle the forces of the evil Skeletor and defend the planet of Eternia, the film would be a dark,epic scif-fi fantasy film.
With a villain that looks like Skeletor, the film is destined to have a more grim tone. If the film goes full-on “Game of Thrones,” the battles between He-Man and the evildoers would be epic in size and incredibly high stakes. Using the Sword of Power, He-Man would be a character similar to the classic Conan the Barbarian. The original film played up the silly, campy aspects of the animated series, and ultimately failed because of it. However, if you take the fantasy elements, mix a little realism and “Game of Thrones” tone, “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” could be a massive film franchise perfect for the adults who once watched the show as kids.
5. THE POWERPUFF GIRLS
There aren’t too many shows that are cuter than “The Powerpuff Girls.” The series focused on three super-powered girls — Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup — as they battled criminals and protected Townsville, USA. A mega-popular multimedia phenomenon, it spawned a massive franchise of shows, comics, video games and tons of merchandise. At the risk of losing its DNA, to make the film work in a live-action setting, filmmakers would have to tone down the campy aspects of the series. The Powerpuff Girls, themselves, would have to be more realistic representations of young women for a start.
Facing all the issues that young women in the US face today, the film could touch on some more serious elements, while also featuring huge super-powered fights. “The Powerpuff Girls” film wouldn’t need to murder people or have an R-rating, but allowing the film to focus on more mature themes would allow it to appeal to a much broader audience, not to mention its original one, which has grown up. There’s not a whole lot of female representation in superhero films, so a more realistic take on “The Powerpuff Girls” could be exactly what the genre needs today.
Much like “The Powerpuff Girls,” “She-Ra: Princess of Power” has the potential to be a huge film franchise that’s all about empowering women and showing how badass they are. The original animated series was basically a carbon copy of “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” down to the characters being actual twins, but the film franchise doesn’t need to have ties to He-Man.
Allowing She-Ra to exist on her own in a dark, epic sci-fi fantasy film would give female audiences something they’ve never seen before. She-Ra could be a powerful warrior and hero, existing in a world surrounded by men telling her she should just be a princess. While “Wonder Woman” takes the titular warrior hero and puts her in a superhero universe, “She-Ra: Princess of Power” could be the female warrior in a world similar to “Game of Thrones.” Overcoming the normal gender role of a young female princess, She-Ra has the potential to be an iconic hero on the same level as Wonder Woman or Xena.
3. ARE YOU AFRAID OF THE DARK?
“Are You Afraid of the Dark?” is an anthology series from the ‘90s that focused on a group of teens called The Midnight Society who would sit around a fire and tell each other scary stories. The series is basically a kid’s horror version of “The Twilight Zone.” Instead of taking a meta approach to the material like last 2015’s “Goosebumps,” the film version of the series could be like “Twilight Zone: The Movie” from 1983. Telling a few different stories, The Midnight Society could finally tell full dark horror stories that aren’t censored for TV. While they don’t need to go R-rated, the stories could be intended for teens and still feature truly terrifying tales.
One change would have to be made from the original series, though. Most of the stories in the original series always had happy endings where conflicts were resolved and main characters survived. In the darker film version, filmmakers would be able to end their stories with a main character dying and no clean resolution. The franchise could live on with more and more stories being adapted in future anthology films.
“Scooby-Doo” has already been adapted twice as a live-action film, and more recently, as a slightly more mature comic book. However, in the films, the tone is still cartoony, and is basically just a live-action cartoon. What if you take the characters that everyone has grown up with, update them and put them in a modern, realistic reboot? You’d end up with a fresh take on the series and, potentially, pretty scary supernatural thrillers featuring a loveable dog.
A dark “Scooby-Doo” could still use a CGI dog, but instead of looking exactly like the cartoon, filmmakers could make him look realistic, with motion capture technology. Instead of focusing on stereotypical characters like the various animated versions, the new reboot could be much more diverse and give each character greater complexity. Of course, they’d still solve mysteries and save the day, but instead of each “supernatural” mystery being done by humans, the crew would come up against real supernatural phenomena, or even better, keeping it hauntingly vague. Imagine “Scooby-Doo” meets “The Conjuring.”
1. JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS
First off, let’s pretend that the “Jem and the Holograms” film from 2015 never existed. That film is so far away from what the original animated series was about, it almost doesn’t even qualify as a Jem movie. Instead, let’s imagine a “Jem and the Holograms” movie where, in the not too distant future, Jem and the Holograms is the biggest band in the world. Through the use of holographic technology developed by Jem’s father, they’re able to be the rock stars on stage, but normal women when they’re living their lives.
The film would focus on the more unsavory aspects of being rock stars, while also allow its leads to maintain a secret identity. The dark reboot could go over their struggles with fame, drugs, and of course, rival bands such as The Misfits, who want nothing more than Jem and the Holograms to be gone for good. Imagine realism and drama of “The Runaways” but with futuristic tech and bright colors.
Which franchise did you grow up with that you’d love to see in a darker reboot? Let us know in the comments!