?Most animated series live short, brutish lives, retiring after they’ve told their story, sold their toys, or pissed off the wrong studio executive. For those fortunate few shows that hit the jackpot, there’s life after cancellation. If a cartoon’s labeled a classic, deservedly or not, someone’s always willing to relaunch it for a new generation of children and forgivingly nostalgic parents.
It happens all the time. This year alone sees a new Thundercats, Voltron Force, and yet another Transformers. Then there’s My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, an adorable little show that started one of the bloodiest nerd wars the Internet has ever seen. All of these animated revivals have one thing in common: they’re a far cry from the worst. For the most insulting and terrible attempts at bringing back popular cartoons, read on.
11) Quack Pack
The shows of the Disney Afternoon never tired of putting familiar characters in strange new clothes. Chip and Dale became private investigators, Goofy became a suburban single dad, and the characters of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, in a pitch session we’d just love to hear, became 1930s bush pilots and corporate oligarchs. This formula wore thin over the 1990s, however, and after limp attempts like The Mighty Ducks and Bonkers, Disney trotted out some familiar characters in the tiresome Quack Pack.
It was a desperate attempt at recasting characters from Duck Tales, which adapted many creative adventures from Carl Barks’ old Uncle Scrooge comics. Quack Pack showed far less invention. Instead of tagging along on worldwide treasure hunts, Huey, Dewey, and Louie are now the kids from Home Improvement — or any other inane sitcom. Their perpetually foiled adult guardian is Donald Duck, and the show’s only watchable if you assume that Donald is actually in hell and being tormented by three teenage arch-demons.
10) Voltron: The 3rd Dimension
This year’s Voltron Force isn’t the first attempt at recapturing the glories that the multi-lion robot knew throughout the Reagan years. Back in 1997, World Events Productions greenlit Voltron: The 3rd Dimension, an all-CG sequel to the original Voltron series. Someone possibly thought that what had worked for Transformers: Beast Wars would work for Voltron.
Well, it didn’t. A primitive CG look was acceptable in Beast Wars and wasn’t that bad for ReBoot, but it didn’t do Voltron any favors. Most of the show’s human characters have the same mannequin-y look as an early PlayStation game intro, and the robots are also as awkward. Yes, Voltron: The 3rd Dimension can’t even put together good robot battles, and that’s one thing clunky CG shows could conceivably do well.
9) Dirty Pair Flash
In chronicling the destruction sown by interplanetary police officers Kei and Yuri, the original Dirty Pair movies and TV series are silly, frantic, and, to put it scientifically, ’80s as fuck. The big hair, detailed animation, and vapid sci-fi flashiness all make Kei and Yuri symbols of Japan’s cheesy ’80s anime boom.
Not realizing that Kei and Yuri were best left in the decade that spawned them, their creators wanted to revive the Dirty Pair for the 1990s. Plans for a sequel went astray, leaving only a bland remake. Like so much mediocre anime, there’s nothing horribly wrong with Dirty Pair Flash; it’s just unremarkable in everything from the generic plots to the obligatory quasi-nudity to the routine J-pop opening number.
Other ’80s anime staples were reinvented with debatable success; in fact, some still claim that the Bubblegum Crisis 2040 TV series is better than the original. But few people recall Dirty Pair Flash fondly — and those who do appear to be batshit insane. Consider the Wikipedia entry for the series, which tells us that the new Kei “dislikes showing her softer side, which she does have, as apparent when she had to protect a young baby being chased by assassins. During a crisis, she had allowed the baby to suckle her (even though she wasn’t lactating) in order to keep him quiet when the assassins were close by.”
Even though she wasn’t lactating. This is very important to someone, and we hope we never learn why.
8) Speed Racer: The Next Generation
Speed Racer will be remembered for its original 1967 series and, if there’s any justice in this world, the Wachowskis’ brilliantly garish film. Not to say that there aren’t many other versions of Speed Racer, but most of those are terrible. For one, there’s the 1997 New Adventures of Speed Racer, which again proves that kids should immediately turn off anything pitched as “The New Adventures.”
Then there’s the more recent (and even worse) Speed Racer: The Next Generation, which meshes stilted, cutout characters with ugly, featureless CG. Its only saving grace: veteran actor Peter Fernandez, who adapted and played the title hero in the original Speed Racer, got a paycheck out of this mess.
7) Tom and Jerry Kids
It’s a rite of passage for every major cartoon property to have a “Kids” incarnation. It happened to Scooby Doo. It happened to The Flintstones. It sorta happened to The Pink Panther. And it was always predictably inane. Then it happened to Tom and Jerry.
Tom and Jerry were always vaguely unpleasant in their one-dimensional violence, but the original cartoons are at least dynamic and competently animated. So it’s painful to see the characters in low-effort TV animation from 1990, complete with a flat theme song that rhymes “dripple” with “simple.” The show also assumes that the best thing about Tom and Jerry was the repetitive slapstick, so there’s plenty of that and very little clever humor. Say what you want about Tiny Toons, but at least it knew what to take from its source material.
6) Tenchi in Tokyo
Anime is full of rehashed shows, but Tenchi Muyo! holds a record for recycling itself the fastest. By the end of the 1990s, the franchise had two separate series telling slightly different versions of the same clich?d story: a dull kid named Tenchi is set upon by space police, space royalty, space pirates, and space scientists. All of them are women, and most of them want Tenchi in some way. This whole mess apparently wasn’t confusing enough, so AIC introduced a third Tenchi Muyo! series in 1999.
Tenchi in Tokyo follows along the same lines, but there’s a shocking, wondrous, never-before-seen twist: it adds another girl to the cast! And she’s ALSO romantically interested in our boring hero! Tenchi in Tokyo came and went rather quickly, leaving the franchise to wander through even more spin-offs. It wasn’t until 2003 that AIC tried to wrap up the original Tenchi Muyo! plotline. In another shocking twist, no one cared by that point.
5) My Little Pony Tales
For a cartoon about pastel unicorns, My Little Pony covers a lot of ground. The new Friendship is Magic series is a lighthearted comedy that wrings surprisingly good animation from Flash, while the 1980s My Little Pony was more of a serial adventure where the horse heroines contended with everything from evil furniture to a centaur version of Satan. In between these two shows, you’ll find My Little Pony Tales and very few fond memories of it.
As the 1990s dawned, My Little Pony‘s keepers decided to relaunch their cash horse. Yet they also decided that girls didn’t want shows about ponies who fought rock monsters or lava demons anymore. No, girls wanted shows about ponies who went to school, flirted with boys, and got mixed up the same insipid preteen melodrama that stuffed a million Sweet Valley High books. And that’s what girls found in My Little Pony Tales.
It may be the least memorable version of My Little Pony, but it’s also the most unnerving. That’s because these ponies constantly walk around on two legs, making sundaes and playing the guitar with their hoof-like hands. It’s as though this is some twisted planet where ponies evolved from men. Or maybe it’s just the work of animators who desperately wanted to go back to drawing Bucky O’Hare.
4) G.I. Joe Extreme
Any kid who grew up on G.I. Joe remembers a point where it just wasn’t cool anymore. Maybe it was the G.I. Joe movie that starred Sgt. Slaughter and turned Cobra Commander into a giant snake. Maybe it was the introduction of Captain Grid-Iron and his battle-ready football helmet. Maybe it was the story arc where G.I. Joe and Cobra joined forces to fight the real villain: a drug dealer. If any fans stuck with G.I. Joe through all of this, their spirits were surely broken by a 1995 revamp called G.I. Joe Extreme.
Yes, everything was EXTREME in the 1990s, but this is off the chart. The semi-likable stereotypes of the old G.I. Joe are nowhere to be seen. In their place we find a squad of super-macho soldiers who apparently crawled out of Rob Liefeld’s sketchbook. They don’t fight a terrorist group called Cobra and its bumbling, histrionic leader anymore, either. Their enemies are now Iron Klaw and the forces of SKAR. That stands for Soldiers of Khaos, Anarchy, and Ruin, by the way. It sums up G.I. Joe Extreme very well.
3) The New Adventures of He-Man
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was a pioneer of ’80s cartoons. Taking advantage of relaxed broadcasting standards, it was the first show to blur the line between kids’ programming and toy commercials. Fittingly, He-Man was also the first ’80s toy property to wane, a downfall no doubt abetted by a live-action movie where Dolph Lundgren protects Billy Barty from Sketelor’s store-brand Stormtroopers.
Yet the people behind The New Adventures of He-Man didn’t think that Ivan Drago in shag-shorts was the problem. The problem was that kids were tired of He-Man’s sword-and-sorcery trappings. So they did what had to be done: they put He-Man in space.
The New Adventures of He-Man is technically a sequel to the original series, as He-Man and his equally corny antagonist Skeletor are transported to a future full of spaceships and lasers and other things that were a bit pass? by the time the 1990s and the Ninja Turtles rolled around. Now, the original He-Man cartoon was terrible, but The New Adventures is baffling in its ignorance of everything children might’ve liked about the first series. The characters resemble rejected designs from Centurions, the fantasy element is gone, and Skeletor is now a buck-toothed, painfully unfunny smart-aleck.
2) Yo, Yogi!
Perhaps Yo, Yogi! wasn’t made the same way as other cartoons. Perhaps it lurched forth, vengeful and deformed, after lightning struck a pile of old Yogi Bear shorts and early 1990s commercials for Whatchamacallit and Bubble Tape. Whatever the origin, it turned Yogi Bear, who’s reinvented every decade for new and dumb audiences, into a creature of the ’90s — or rather, a creature of the late 1980s pop culture behemoth that didn’t die until 1991.
Yo Yogi! transplants numerous Hanna-Barbera characters to a shopping mall where Boo-Boo rides a skateboard, Snagglepuss wears flip-up shades, and Cindy Bear has one of those little tree-like ponytail things that weren’t a long enough fad to have a real name. Together with Yogi, they thwart a kid version of Dick Dastardly and have adventures that make Mallrats look like an episode of The Wire.
1) Loonatics Unleashed
We thought the worst had passed. We thought that we’d seen the last of the cartoons that turned once-ordinary characters into EXTREME monstrosities. We thought we’d never again see the likes of G.I. Joe Extreme or Extreme Dinosaurs or Extreme Ghostbusters (the last of which, honestly, isn’t awful enough for this list). We were so very, very wrong.
Loonatics Unleashed proved just how wrong we were back in 2005, when it ran Looney Tunes through every possible EXTREME filter. It’s set in a bleak future. It’s rendered in a dark, deliberately spare style somewhere between Teen Titans and Pok?mon. And it turns all of those likeable Warner Bros. characters into quipping superheroes with names like Tech E. Coyote and Slam Tasmanian. The show itself isn’t overwhelmingly bad in its production values, but of all the cartoon reinventions out there, is has the least cause to exist. There’s simply no reason this should be.