However, many fans that grew up with these shows (and, during childhood, could name their favorite episode and toy from each one!) often overlook subsequent tv series and toys based on the original series they loved so much. Life happens, work, family, and "adulthood" intervene. Most fans lose track of the characters and stories that were so important during their youths. Anyone outside of the toy collecting world could be forgiven for missing the latest Thundercats relaunch. Other fans hold the original shows on a pedestal and refuse to believe that anything made today could be half as good as the shows they watched as kids. (These are also the people that haven't gone back and re-watched those old shows as adults...)
It's pretty easy to ignore the new and hold onto fond memories of the old with the attitude that there's no way it could be as good as what came before. Movies like the Star Wars prequel trilogy only help prove this, but for everyone in their 30s that cringed at every "Yahoo!" shouted by young Anakin there's an 8-year-old watching those movies for the first time that shares in Skywalker's excitement. Perhaps surprisingly, many other beloved nostalgic properties have had high quality new TV series and toy lines that lapsed fans might enjoy.
So with that in mind, we've compiled some of the best revamp shows over the past decade that fans of the classics may have missed that are definitely worth your time and after watching some of them, hopefully you too will be inclined to give even Jar Jar a second chance. Just kidding, even Jar Jar hates Jar Jar.
G.I. Joe: Resolute (2009)
1 Season, 11 Episodes, Total Run time 60 mins
The episodes were first aired online in the spring of 2009 on Adult Swim Video and were approximately 5 minutes each in length. The episodes were later compiled and shown in its entirety on Adult Swim just a couple weeks after it's online debut.
Resolute showed fans of the brand what a world of G.I. Joe would look like combining elements of both the original comic book and the original cartoon. Within the first few story moments fans saw a named-character death and a major city laid to in ruins. We were also treated to a ninja showdown that is inevitable in any incarnation of G.I. Joe. However this time, there's actual blood. Actually, I saw an early version of the duel between Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow where the amount of blood was on point with the animation style, but ultimately it was scaled back to maintain the TV-14-V the show held.
Speaking of the animation style, fans of anime will appreciate this show's style. It's very obvious a studio that specializes in anime was used, as it gives off a very Ghost in the Shell or Cowboy Bebop feel. I know that this may be a deterrent for some, but having the series done in this style definitely makes this the version of G.I. Joe to show anyone who thinks the original show was too corny or passive. While I'm not an avid fan of anime, I feel like this style choice was good for G.I. Joe and helped bring it to a more mature level.
The toys that were released for the show were sprinkled into the 25th Anniversary line of G.I. Joe figures, getting a few box sets and a couple single carded figures here and there. They fit in well with the other Joe figures being released at the time so they could be included or kept separate depending on your collecting habits. It should also be noted that G.I. Joe: Resolute was released between two other short-lived G.I. Joe shows (G.I. Joe: Sigma 6 & G.I. Joe: Renegades), but while it was by far the shortest of them all, it's length ultimately resulted in a fast-paced story and action that a lot of shows take way too long to ramp up to.
Being released between the other two G.I. Joe cartoons I mentioned, Resolute's character designs share similarities with what came before it as well as the show that aired after. While G.I. Joe: Sigma 6 was heavily inspired by anime as well, it was more flamboyant with it's designs than Resolute. Eventually with G.I. Joe: Renegades, things eased off of the anime stylings and went for a somewhat realistic and more simplistic look, all the while returning to the franchise's roots of laser rifles instead of actual bullets that harm humans (unlike the very lethal bullets shown in Resolute).
Out of all the shows mentioned within this article, G.I. Joe: Resolute - with its short episodes - is the quickest payoff and a good stepping stone for people looking to follow our advice and delve into the world of revamped 80s cartoons.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (2010 - present)
4 Seasons, 91 Episodes (at time of this article)
MLP: FiM started as one of the flagship shows for Hasbro Studios' venture into the world of broadcast television back in 2010, starting their partnership with Discovery Communications to form the now-defunct cable channel the Hub Network. While the Hub Network has been disbanded and now fully a Discovery Communications channel named Discovery Family, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic remains a staple of the station and will continue in 2015 with a fifth season.
A couple years ago I did work on a team that was responsible for some My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic content. I helped create artwork and design for toy marketing collateral, not directly for the show itself, but it did require me to read an episode's script. While reading that episode it was pretty clear that the level of character development is really what makes this show appealing to the millions that tune in. Each character on the show is unique and has strengths and shortcomings that separate them from one another. No pony is interchangeable for the others in any given situation. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that if faced with danger, Pinky Pie and Rainbow Dash would react very differently. I'm sure the original show from the 80s kept most of the cast pretty interchangeable as far as characteristics; ponies were scared of the same things like rain and mud while good at the same things like running and giving compliments.
Ask any fan of Friendship is Magic and they'll tell you that humor is a huge part of the show. From clips I've seen it reminds me a bit of Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends and The Powerpuff Girls. Smart, cute humor. While those references may be lost on someone that stopped watching cartoons in the 80s you should be made aware that cartoons are much funnier and much, much smarter now. Shows now are being made by people that grew up watching the originals just like you and me. Just as humor has evolved in the past few decades, it helps having a background with these shows and characters as a jumping off point for these new creators.
The toys that have been on shelves for the past few years that coincide with the show have been very impressive as well, both in the quantities but also the designs of the characters. You have to hand it to Hasbro for being able to command such a large section of a toy aisle with a toy line born in the 80s while Thundercats, G.I. Joe and Masters of the Universe have either very little or absolutely no presence in toy aisles. (But that won't keep any of those titles off this list...) It's a testament to the fans and the writing/animation/voice actors of Friendship is Magic.
I'm probably going to take my own advice and watch the show. Let's meet back here and compare notes!
Transformers: Prime (2010 - 2013)
3 Seasons, 65 Episodes
But once in a great while a Beast Wars / Beast Machines happens and we're given a wonderful storyline, deep character development and classic good vs. evil struggles wrapped in ground-breaking digital animation. If you're not getting it, I'm saying that if you missed Beast Wars & Beast Machines you should go back and watch them too, but this write-up is about Transformers: Prime so let's move on.
Fresh off the heels of Transformers: Animated with a very similar cast, Prime shared some key points with Beast Wars as it stars a small cast of Autobots stranded on Earth (in a very G1-ish desert, no less) not only just looking for other Transformers that might also be stranded, but Cybertronian artifacts as well. The one thing that Prime can boast that Beast Wars couldn't is the presence of human allies. Both with a liaison to the US government and a group of three pre-teens that represent the lesson-learners in the series. Having humans in a Transformers show usually is the most annoying part of the series, however Prime pulls it off and actually makes the kids likable and useful members of the team while their relationships with certain Autobots become important to the storyline.
The show often places the Autobots as the underdogs against an ever-looming Decepticon threat, sometimes quite literally. Starting off the series with a heartbreaking event that carries consequences throughout the rest of the show effectively pulls the viewer in and makes for a great binge watch this series, much as you would any HBO or Showtime saga.
Transformers: Prime was also a show that helped kick off the newly formed Hub Network and lasted just about as long as the channel itself. During its run it won multiple awards including 4 Day Time Emmys for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation" and "Outstanding Special Class Animated Program".
Finishing out the series with a season focused on beasts and adding the subtitle "Beast Hunters" once again mirrored Beast Wars / Beast Machines. The warring factions also bring the fight back to Cybertron to finish things off, another similarity to the previous CGI shows. When the story changed, so did the toys, introducing new "Beast Hunter" retools and repaints of the stars of the show. I was personally very impressed with the Megatron figure that was easily shifted into a shark-type alt-mode without straying too far from the original design from Prime.
From the very first time you hear the grand and ominous title sequence to the last moments of the final episode, Transformers: Prime delivers a wonderful revamp of an 80s brand that we had all long been waiting for. (That was in case they needed a quote for the back of the DVD box set...)
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002 - 2004)
2 Seasons, 39 Episodes
In this updated version of MotU, origin stories are given for almost every character that we start the show off with as well as those we met along the way. While origin episodes are usually revered as the most interesting, it's was in large part these origin episodes that we missed out on in the 80s. But the origins we did get back then were usually just as silly as the show as a whole. These glimpses into their backgrounds help you understand each character's motivations, starting with one of the most important origins as we watch brothers in a long overdue battle. With almost twenty years between the two shows' air times it gave the writers enough time to dream about what they'd do with the large cast.
This incarnation of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe gets credit for actually distinguishing Prince Adam from He-Man as their character designs and voices are completely different. Unlike the original, this show assumed viewers weren't idiots and could keep up with the complex idea of a secret identity. I mean, can you figure out if this is Prince Adam or He-Man? I know I can't!
The revived He-Man and the Masters of the Universe went as far as to introduce the Snake Men, which is where the series and toy line ultimately fittingly ended: those characters were meant to be the end-all, be-all for the show's universe.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012 - present)
3 Seasons, 58 Episodes (at the time of this article)
Late in 2012 Nickelodeon released the first episodes of the revamped (and definitely ramped-up) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon to high praises from fans new and old. The show even re-cast the original voice actor for Raphael for this incarnation's.. Donatello?! It's okay, it works here and helps give you a nostalgic feeling while watching an entirely new show.
The story is pretty much the same, four turtles hanging out with a rat fighting some angry dude with scars on his face. But now with a few twists and turns as well as a ton of winks and nods towards the original show (particularly when creators are unable to utilize a character from the 80s show due to rights issues). The thing that's glaringly different about the new Turtles is the design and feel of the show. If the 80s TMNT show was all skateboarding and pizza, then the new show is graffiti and smartphones (with it's fair share of pizza). It seems as though a battle has been won between the show's designers and artists over what a corporate marketing team would assume that "kids these days" want to see in a show and action figure line. The result is a sleek and clever show with equally impressive character designs.
One of the things that makes the show interesting is that characters change constantly, both physically and in certain aspects of their personas. What could be a cute and cuddly pet one day might be a dangerous foe in the next episode. And just because a character has mutated once doesn't mean that there isn't a second or third stage for them as things progress.
The toy line has done very well over the last couple years, commanding quite a bit of attention from fans all over the spectrum. It's nice to see that the toy line has stuck with Playmates Toys in every incarnation. Though the cartoon that was released in the early 2000s didn't receive as high of praise as the current show, Playmates Toys kept that toy line fresh and just as inviting as they ever have, exactly as they're doing with the current line.
You have to hand it to Playmates Toys and Nickelodeon for working so closely together: soon after the hilarious LARPing episode aired, Playmates delivered figures of Mikey the Elf, Raph the Barbarian, Leo the Knight and Donnie the Wizard. Cooperation like this, and giving viewers and collectors additional toys based actual story lines and costume changes from the animated series is a great way to keep both the show and toy line alive.
Thundercats (2011 - 2012)
1 Season, 26 Episodes
Though the show did the best it could to wrap up before its premature finale, a lot of loose ends were still left unanswered. But don't let that deter you from delving into this new version of Third Earth. The storyline that we do get in the short series is very well crafted and sprinkled with a bunch of wonderful self-contained stories that play into the over-all story arc. The fact that I can remember that the show's Art-Director was Dan Norton, should give you some idea as to how beautiful the cartoon was. Probably too well done for being a episodic cartoon. The art in the new Thundercats was worthy of a full-length animated movie.
While this show is vastly different from the original, the characters you're looking for are all there for the most part. A much smarter story has been crafted to give them all a reason for being there. The original voice of Lion-O from the 80s cartoon is there once again as the father of Lion-O and Tygra (that's right they're brothers!) and even with that switch, no voice actor seems out of place. Well, maybe Snarf's - as he's no longer annoying. He actually doesn't talk at all! That alone makes this show worth watching.
The plot is just about as grim as the first one, but now it turns out that the band of Thundercats that we know as the main cast are renegades on the run after their magic-based civilization is destroyed by attacks by the mutants and Mumm-Ra with the use of technology. While on their journey to find certain artifacts in hopes of defeating Mumm-Ra and returning the kingdom of Thundera back to power, the cats run into all sorts of characters, both helpful and not-so-helpful. Through the various adventures, the show's writers do a great job at explaining why things are as they are - the origin of Mumm-Ra's pyramid of darkness alone is amazing.
The toy line that accompanied the show was well executed and though there were only a couple waves of figures and vehicles, still did it's best to give collectors as many characters as possible in the short amount of time. Since the second wave didn't get as wide of a release as the first, many of the second wave figures have fairly high prices on the secondary market.
One final note before finishing thoughts on Thundercats and this article as a whole: someone out there has to back me up that the update of Panthro for this show was based heavily on the character Jet from Cowboy Bebop. There's so many similarities including character design. Both characters are pilots/drivers/mechanics and the voice talents are very similar (though not the same actor). You tell me once you've seen it what you think. But for now - here's a photo of them looking in a mirror.