Reboots are all the rage these days although they’ve actually been around for a while. With ‘90s nostalgia riding high, TV networks are returning to some old properties with success likes Roseanne and Fuller House (and failures like Murphy Brown). That counts for cartoons which actually started the reboot trend long before live-action TV. The biggest example is Scooby-Doo which has boasted no less than twelve different incarnations over the last 50 years. It’s not alone as numerous other cartoons have found success remaking themselves for new generations. Of course, quite often, these reboots can misfire massively by trying to replicate rough periods and missing what made the original work.
It’s tricky as for every fan open to a new version, there’s a dozen who will hate any attempt to continue the original. Some versions do falter (almost every Batman cartoon has suffered compared to the 1990s Fox show) but others can actually do pretty well. They can treat the property with respect but also give it a spin to liven it up for fans. Sadly, too many times, the new version goes the opposite direction and is way too different for fans to get into. They can only emulate the look of a cartoon but not the depth that made it work right. Here are 10 cartoon reboots that left fans bored but 10 that were actually pretty good to show how the risk of redoing the past is as major for animation as it is for live-action.
20 BORED: GI JOE EXTREME
In the 1990s, the idea of “extreme” took hold amid cartoons and toy companies. Sadly, G.I. Joe suffered badly with a truly horrific attempt at a reboot. The opening looks like what would happen if Rob Leifeld turned to animation. The characters look ridiculous and, except for Snake Eyes, no classic Joes appear. Instead, we get guys like “Sarge Savage” and other names out of a bad ‘90s comic book.
Far worse, we don’t even get Cobra but rather SKAR (Soldiers of Kaos, Anarchy and Ruin) led by the Iron Claw. The animation was horrible with even worse writing and acting that went too far trying to give “extreme” action in a PG setting. Michael Bay movies are more subtle than this cartoon. Thankfully, like many of the “extreme” wave of properties at the time, it died a quick death but existing in the first place was an insult to classic Joe fans.
19 GOOD: GI JOE RENEGADES
The inspiration for this show is pretty obvious. The opening narration is straight out of The A-Team: “Accused of a crime they didn't commit, a ragtag band of fugitives fights a covert battle to clear their names.” Yet it actually works out for a more realistic take on the franchise. Duke, Rip Cord, Tunnel Rat, Scarlett and Roadblock are sent to investigate the mysterious Cobra Labs and discover them building deadly weapons. When the building is destroyed, the group are framed as traitors. They’re now on the run, trying to escape their own people, led Flint and Lady Jaye, out to bring them in. At the same time, they try to prove what Cobra is up to.
The show did away with the classic lasers and super-crazy plots for a more gripping tale. The Joes have to handle being away from their loved ones and considered fugitives even as they fight for what is right. Cobra Commander is not a screaming buffoon but a truly brilliant and conniving figure who makes a terrific enemy. There’s also how Flint and Lady Jaye are slowly convinced of the Renegades’ innocence and trying to get to them before Cobra does. The finale brings it all together although sadly, a second season never came. Yet this worked well for a better take on how the Joes can work today.
18 BORED: LOONATICS UNLEASHED
Why? That’s all you can think of when you look at the above image. Why would Warner Bros decide that the classic Looney Tunes character needed to be “grim and gritty” superheroes? In 2772, a meteor strikes a small town, causing many of the inhabitants to gain super-powers. An alien named Zadavia chooses the descendants of the original Looney Tunes gang to use their powers to fight off the wave of evil villains who start to attack the planet.
It’s even worse than it sounds. Trying to mix the usual Looney Tune cartoon slapstick with super-hero thrills produced a disaster of epic proportions. Just imagine Porky Pig as a gangster or the “future” tech amid the nuttiness. Seeing Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner on the same side is just…wrong. Throw in the horrible voice work and the show should have been leashed and kept from ever seeing the light of day.
17 GOOD: X-MEN EVOLUTION
The 1990s Fox show managed the daunting task of making slews of the complex X-Men mythos work in animated form. That was a pretty tough act to follow but the WB version managed to pull it off. It shows the X-Men as a true school recruiting new characters who are showcased as true teens with the usual angst along with super-powers. The smart move was building up to Magneto as the figure in the shadows manipulating things. That made his final debut a stunning moment that boosted the show up nicely.
The series had a darker tone than the original but managed to make it work well. Keeping mutants secret from the world was an intriguing touch that led to drama with Magneto having a point of mutants just standing on their own. The third season had them exposed and dealing with the public reaction while the final season featured an epic clash with Apocalypse. While it was axed before its planned conclusion, this show still did a good take on the X-Men that could work in the MCU and pulled the complex arcs off well.
16 BORED: TEEN TITANS GO!
The first Teen Titans series on Cartoon Network was enjoyed for its fun storylines and how it balanced out teen moodiness with compelling super-hero action. While it had to tone down some stuff (Deathstroke is simply called Slade), it incorporated everything from space action to traitor Terra and won fans over well. So it’s no surprise why fans hated the transformation of it into a second-rate Powerpuff Girls.
The show is all about nutty antics as the characters aren’t teens but silly kids. Robin is the straight man acting too Batman, Beast Boy a goof, Cyborg arrogant, Starfire silly and Raven the “moody type.” There’s nothing wrong with lightening a show up but taking a good show and making it a total kid’s property is something else. That this team got their own movie is just astounding. Fans desperately hope for a return of the Titans as true teens and not tots.
15 GOOD: TRANSFORMERS PRIME
The animation could turn a few off but this Hub Network show was a terrific “return to roots” for the franchise. It went back to the classic story of the Autobots and Decepticons fighting their secret war on Earth. A trio of teens fall in with the Autobots as a military agent also aids them in their quest. The stakes are high as Cliffjumper is bumped off in the very first scene. It all builds up to the first season finale with an epic battle against Unicron.
The reason this show is a gem are the voices. At long last, Peter Cullen and Frank Welker return to voice Optimus Prime and Megatron (with Welker also doing Soundwave). Hearing these old enemies in their original voices is an absolute thrill for fans as Prime leads the heroic team while Megatron is right back to dealing with the backstabbing Starscream. It’s really a great revival of the original property and fans of the original series can thrill to the Transformers brought to life right for a new generation.
14 BORED: POWERPUFF GIRLS
When the original show’s creator slams the reboot, you know it’s bad. Cartoon Network was already in trouble bringing back the beloved series with its quirky humor and “girl power” themes. That it had none of the voices of the originals was bad enough but not even bothering to invite creator Craig McCraken made it worse. The animation looked good but as soon as the episodes hit, fans were outraged.
The show lacked the fun action of the original, instead throwing in horrible humor. Worse was the use of constant memes that made it instantly dated. Throwing out some beloved characters just added to the woes and that’s without the now-infamous backlash over its inconsistent animation and the addition of a fourth Powerpuff Girl. The show just was a huge letdown from the original to show the Girls should have been left alone.
13 GOOD: BATMAN BRAVE AND THE BOLD
At first, the cartoonish drawings were a bit hard to take. But soon, fans were falling in love with this terrific new version of the Dark Knight’s adventures. It pays tribute to the classic comic of Batman teaming with a new hero every week. The teaser will have him working with a hero for some adventure before the rest of the episode has a new hero joining in. Virtually every major DC character (and a few less-known ones) has joined with Batman for some truly fun adventures.
The animation looks like a 1950s story and the tone works too. Some plots can be clever such as when Batman finds his mirror universe double Owlman has framed him for crimes. Batman is thus forced to team up with the only person who believes in his innocence…the Joker. Batman has even teamed up with Scooby-Doo and Sherlock Holmes. From the countless characters to the unique storylines, this may be lighter than other Batman shows but also the most fun.
12 BORED: BE COOL, SCOOBY DOO
It was always going to be hard following the fantastic Mystery Incorporated series. But that’s no excuse for how terrible this incarnation of the iconic Scooby-Doo series was. It has the gang going on a road trip around the country that inevitably leads to more mysteries. The animation is poor, looking like a bad MTV cartoon of the 2000s and the characters come off parodies of themselves. Fred is more of a jerk while Daphne is a goofball and Shaggy and Scooby’s antics are worse than ever.
Indeed, the show seems to emulate Family Guy with toilet “humor” and far too many cut-away gags. The mysteries themselves are barely part of the plot as it always focuses on goofy antics of the bunch and makes them a “team” who can barely stand each other. Thankfully canceled earlier in 2018, fans hope the Mystery Inc team get a much cooler ride next time.
11 GOOD: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (2012)
After a couple of rough reboots, the Heroes in a Halfshell got their much-overdue revival in this 2012 series. It puts a spin on the classic origin as Splinter was a human who was exposed to alien energies while carrying his four pet turtles. He turned into a rat while they became human-sized. We then move to the old formula of how Splinter trains them as ninjas to take on Krang and his ally, Splinter’s old enemy the Shredder.
The animation is fantastic to make the fight scenes stand out nicely as the show does a great job turning April into a capable fighter as well. The alliance/rivalry of Shredder and Krang is well handled as the show delves deeper into the mythology of the characters. It ran for five seasons and while a new version is out there, this was a terrific return to form for the TMNT mythos to rock as well as it did in the ‘90s.
10 BORED: REAL ADVENTURES OF JOHNNY QUEST
The 1960s Johnny Quest was notable as being far more adult than other cartoons, even willing to bump off characters. The character remained popular enough for Cartoon Network to revive it in the 1990s. Sadly, this new version wasn’t quite as fun despite aging up Johnny, Hadji and Jessie to teenagers. The storylines could work in supernatural stuff like vampires yet the science-based stories lacked the same thrills of the original show and did a bad job integrating sci-fi.
The worst was when the characters would enter a virtual reality landscape with horrible CGI graphics. Dr. Bannon was a lab rat while Race spoke in a weird accent and a laid-back attitude. The second season corrected some of this with Race once more a government agent and Dr. Bannon a fighter but it wasn’t totally enough to save the show. The only thing “real” about this series was how much it stunk compared to the original.
9 GOOD: DUCKTALES
One of the first (and best) of the 1980s Disney cartoons, the original Duck Tales boasted one of the best cartoon theme songs of all time. It also had funs stories as Huey, Duey and Lewey hung with their Uncle Scrooge in a variety of wild adventures. The Disney reboot in 2017 has been a huge success by keeping to the same wild charm of the original show. This is a series where Don Karnage of Talespin and his air pirates stage a mid-air hijacking…all done to a musical number. David Tennant is a fun Scrooge as the kids have their own great chemistry.
The show brings back great characters like Launchpad and Gizmo Duck but new twists such as how housekeeper Mrs. Beakley is a former spy. The animation is sharp and the plotlines keep up the wild stories of the original for a new generation. To anyone who complains Disney “can’t make them like they used to”, here’s proof they can make them even better.
8 BORED: RUGRATS ALL GROWN UP
The Nick series was one of the most loved of the 1990s, even inspiring a couple of movies. The antics of this band of little kids playing together with fun animation made it a wild but fun show. Sadly, someone at Nick decided it would be a good idea to catch up on those kids hitting their teenage years. This totally ignored that the entire appeal of the show was watching a bunch of toddlers dealing with everyday life and trying to understand the world in their own ways. Who was really begging to see those kids growing up?
The show was as bad as it sounded. Tommy has a fear of water after nearly drowning which is hardly a kid-friendly plot. Dil is shown to be mentally addled by being dropped on his head as a kid. Angelica is every “mean girl” stereotype brought to life. What worked for funny bits for kids falls apart showing them as teens and robs the charm of the characters. This entire cartoon is a key example of why some childhoods are best remembered but not relived
7 GOOD: TRANSFORMERS: BEAST WARS
This could have been a mess but instead turned into a wonderful entry in the long-running franchise. The original concept was that the Maximals and Predacons are descendants of the Autobots and Decepticons. They inhabit a far future Earth where they’ve taken on forms on the beasts of the time. The Maximals tend to be noble animals (Prime is a gorilla) while the Predacons are more monstrous (Megatron a T-Rex) as they do battle.
The CGI animation was quite amazing for the mid-1990s and made the transformations look even better. The characters were well-realized from the Maximals pulling together to the Predacons scheming against each other. The show had cool turns such as the revelation the groups had gone back in time and would inspire their later counterparts. While the Beast Machines follow-up wasn’t as well-received, this was a terrific way to revive the property for the ‘90s.
6 BORED: SPIDER-MAN NEW ANIMATED SERIES
The 1990s Fox cartoon was a terrific series that brought Spider-Man and his adventures to life. Sadly, MTV faltered trying to revive it in 2003. The idea was that it was a spin-off of the smash-hit movie with Peter (voiced by Neil Patrick Harris) attending college while continuing his life as Spider-Man. A subplot was Harry Osborn blaming Spider-Man for his father’s death and out for revenge. The only famous villains appearing were Kingpin and Electro as the series seemed held back by how they didn’t know what the next movie was going to be about.
The CGI for Spidey didn’t help, making the entire show look like a bad video game. The addition of a new love interest named Indria didn’t work as well as it should have and distracted too much. The show just didn’t work for fans and was canceled after 13 episodes. This was one time the Wall-Crawler failed to scale any heights.
5 GOOD: SCOOBY DOO MYSTERY INCORPORATED
How do you do a proper spin on a classic? Cartoon Network answered with this fantastic reboot of the Scooby-Doo saga in 2010. At first, it looks like the classic formula of the gang going around solving mysteries. However, they soon start to run into actual ghosts and zombies. Also, a longer story arc is launched revealing their small town is cursed and their own parents might be part of the plot controlling them. The layers of subplots and the character interaction was unlike anything seen before and it clicked nicely.
Shaggy is less the goof and much smarter than he seems while Scooby has actual combat skills. Daphne is a trained fighter, not a damsel in distress and Velma stronger than she looks too. Fred actually comes off a smart and capable leader handling all this. The series ran 52 episodes for a fine conclusion to show that you can make a classic cartoon work wonderfully for a new generation.
4 BORED: AVENGERS ASSEMBLE
In 2011, Disney XD had a major hit with Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. This wonderful series brilliantly mixed in scores of Marvel comic lore into the storylines. From battling Ultron to the Skrulls staging a Secret Invasion, the show had comic fans enthralled. In 2013, the network axed the show to make way for Avengers Assemble, which was obviously designed to tie in with the major movies. Instead of the classic costumes, fans got more of the movie versions with characters like the Falcon added.
The show has its moments integrating things like the Thunderbolts and Squadron Supreme. But it just lacks the same care and charm the original series had. That was genius reworking classic comic book epics into animated form but the new series doesn’t manage things like Secret Wars as well. The latest season was dominated by Black Panther due to his movie being a hit. The Avengers were much better on their own than tied in with the movies to shine in animated form
3 GOOD: SHE-RA
There were doubts but the reboot of the He-Man spin-off has become one of the biggest hits of 2018. The Netflix series has won huge praise from critics and fans for its stellar animation but also reviving the property nicely for today. It sticks to the story of Adora, serving the evil Horde, discovering she’s really a heroine and using her magical sword to defend the people of Etheria. The show is stellar for its great supporting cast of fully-rounded characters, all of whom can be inspirational figures for young female viewers.
There’s also the fun touch of She-Ra’s rivalry with former best friend Catra and Hordak a far more formidable enemy. The storylines carry real-world parables and the show has been praised for its bold wide representation. It’s also a rip-roaring adventure series to push the Princess of Power as a star in her own right.
2 BORED: NEW ADVENTURES OF HE-MAN
This was doomed from the start. In the 1980s, Masters of the Universe was a huge toy line that inspired a hit cartoon and even a movie. In 1990, an attempt was made to revive it by having He-Man leave Eternia to aid a futuristic planet against some mutants. Naturally, Skeletor follows and leads the mutants himself for some clashes. The potential was there for some stuff with He-Man dealing with a new world and allies.
However, stripping away just about every familiar character (even Battle-Cat) robbed He-Man of many of his trappings. The terrible new design that cut down those famous muscles didn’t help. Skeletor, instead of a wicked threat, instead was a lame jokester and bumbling fool. The animation was rough and the toy line a flop. It lasted an amazing 65 episodes but fans prefer to ignore the “new” adventures for the classic He-Man and company.
1 GOOD: THUNDERCATS
Recently, fans were upset over the announcement of a reboot of Thundercats that makes it look like a comedy. The original 1980s cartoon is loved for the tale of a race of feline warriors battling on an Earth-like planet. From the Sword of Omens to the awesome bad guy Mumm-Ra to one of the greatest themes in cartoon history, the show is still a huge favorite of the time. Amazingly, the 2011 reboot was perhaps better. The anime-style drawings sparked up the action, making it flow much better and not just for kids.
The characters were top notch with Lion-O growing from an arrogant punk to a seasoned leader. Tygra was his adoptive brother who was jealous of Lion-O but grew to respect him. Having Cheetra in a love triangle with the duo could have been a mess but it worked out with her an independent woman. Mumm-Ra was even more ruthless an enemy and even scary at times. Even the annoying Snarf came off downright appealing. It only lasted 26 episodes but this proved the Thundercats could roar as well in the 21st century as in their ‘80s prime.