10 ’80s Cartoons that Need ThunderCats-Quality Reboots
?It’s official — the new, long-awaited ThunderCats cartoon is a hit, the rare reboot that not only looks better, but might actually be better than the original. Taking the original, clunky tale of cat-people living in relative peace in paradise and turning it into a anime-style hero’s journey along a path of revenge, the new ThunderCats tweaks the familiar aspects of the show just enough to make them actually make sense together, and knifes enough people in the back so as not to make everyone’s survival a foregone conclusion. While Masters of the Universe gave a slightly darkened update a whirl a decade ago, and Voltron is attempting to do the same now, ThunderCats is now the gold standard, and there’s a long list of 1980s cartoons that would give their right Snarf for a similar treatment.
10) Dungeons & Dragons
When it debuted in 1983, Dungeons & Dragons was slapped with a warning against its violent content. But in these days of Camelot and Game of Thrones, I think we can do better. I’m not saying make Bobby the Barbarian into a savage killing machine, or have Eric the Cavalier partake in unrepentant whoring, but picture the most realistic outcome of putting teens in a primitive fantasy world where killing is often the only recourse, and all of the Lord of the Rings-meets-Lord of the Flies scenarios that would result, and tell me that wouldn’t be a smash hit. However, if Snarf isn’t allowed to talk in the new ThunderCats, than Uni the Baby Unicorn should be silent, as well.
9) The Real Ghostbusters
Let’s face it, there will never be a third Ghostbusters movie. But maybe there can be a third Ghostbusters animated series! The Real Ghostbusters told some truly epic stories, thanks to writer J. Michael Straczynski, even if none lasted past the half-hour mark, and while Extreme Ghostbusters passed the torch to a new generation, there’s just no substitute for the four original members. ThunderCats has successfully de-aged most of its characters, so I say why not de-age the Ghostbusters, making it so they started the company in their mid-20s? Then, slowly escalate the threats to New York City over the course of the season, while simultaneously revealing the past traumatic incidents that triggered each member’s interest in the afterlife. And the best part is that you might actually get Bill Murray to participate, since voice-over work seems to be all he’s willing to do anymore.
Central Organization of Police Specialists may have been outfitted with cutting-edge technology, but it was largely unnecessary, given the complete and utter idiocy of Empire City’s criminal population. Led by a James Cagney impersonator, this evil cadre of morons was unable to make any of their plans last beyond a single episode, and it was more or less a given that the doofuses would be busted by either the cop with the robot dog or the cop with the flying Segway. Therefore, just as the lizard men of the new ThunderCats have been shown to be infinitely more effective than the mutants of the original series ever were, any successful C.O.P.S. reboot (if such a thing could, in fact, exist) needs to increase both the intelligence displayed and threat posed by the Crooks. Also, as with the new ThunderCats, a balance will need to be established between the animation quality of the opening sequence and the rest of each episode.
The original ThunderCats made anthropomorphic animals cool, and the reboot made them even cooler, but what about slightly less anthropomorphic animals, like the ones in TaleSpin? Yes, they wore clothes, and yes, they flew planes, but Baloo basically had the same physique he had as an actual bear in The Jungle Book, and Louie was pretty much a monkey in a shirt and hat. Could any TaleSpin reboot make furries as happy as the new ThunderCats does? I think so. All we need is some pulp-fiction intrigue to go with the pulp-fiction adventure the show did so well, the occasional knife fight between Baloo and a shirtless Shere Khan, and more female characters who aren’t voiced by Sally Struthers. Nothing drains the sex appeal out of a Talespin ….
One of the most striking things about the new ThunderCats is the show’s lush anime look, which is head and shoulders above the original show’s occasionally choppy animation. And since anime has been referencing and glorifying the Western for decades (see: Trigun, Cowboy Bebop, etc.), it’s high time those highly skilled animators took on a real cowboy cartoon. Sure, Marshall Bravestarr may live on the planet of New Texas, have Native Kryptonian — er, Native American superpowers, and ride a talking cyborg horse from an ancient race of talking cyborg horses, but it was definitely a cowboy show. With the gritty Western series Deadwood and the sci-fi Western series Firefly as thematic forebears, and the new ThunderCats as an artistic role model, the trials and tribulations of a settlement on the untamed frontier of space will never have looked so good.
5) Bionic Six
Like ThunderCats, Bionic Six starts with tragedy — an alien spaceship triggers an avalanche that almost kills a family of six. Of course, we all know that it turned out okay, and the five family members who weren’t already powerful cyborgs were given bionic implants that helped them survive. For the most part, they seem happy with their newfound abilities, but what if the feelings weren’t so resoundingly positive? What if Mother-One, Sport-One, Rock-One, Karate-One and IQ were unhappy about not only their newfound freak status, but also their patriarch’s frequent lies about his own pre-avalanche bionic status? A super-team that hates itself and doesn’t trust its leader would probably have a much harder time defeating Dr. Scarab and his minions, and who knows, might also want to track down those aliens for a little payback.
A dinosaur planet on the opposite side of the sun from Earth, in which everything is the same as here, only with dinosaurs? That was the element of DInosaucers that always struck me as sounding a little too Howard the Duck (read: crummy), so I vote for making the ‘Saucers astronauts for an ancient dinosaur civilization, returning home millennia too late to save their people. As the last surviving members of their people (a la Lion-O and the Gang), they struggle to find a place they can call home, and when they battle their evil opposites, they’re torn between wanting to make peace with their genetic brethren and not wanting to be eaten by the carnivores in the group. Lets get some pathos and cannibalism in this thing, not necessarily in that order!
3) Captain N: The Game Master
Getting pulled inside a video game sure seemed like fun back in the 1980s, when little cupids were shooting hearts at people and one of the biggest bad guys around was a wizard whose powers were largely based on vegetables. But nowadays, entering the video game world means you have to fight a war on a giant ring in space, or carjack sports cars to save your own neck. Take the journey angle of the new ThunderCats and apply it to a teenage protagonist who’s been sucked into the world of video games, and you’ve got an alterna
tely thrilling and harrowing series, in which he tries to make his way back home through level after interminable level of arduous gameplay. Think Gamer, but starring a teenager in a varsity letterman’s jacket.
2) Gummi Bears
In the original Gummi Bears mythos, the bears of Gummi Glen were all that remained of a once-massive Gummi Bear civilization, which moved on after humans drove them out of their lands. But what if all of the Gummi Bears had instead been slaughtered by murderous ogres, as the ThunderCats were by the lizard people? That means no Ursalia, no New Gumbrea, no Gummadoon — just stacks of Gummi Bear bodies, piled high like cordwood, and a handful of survivors doomed to wither and die due to a lack of breeding options. Imminent extinction might just be enough to knock any reboot of the show into a grimmer, more serious bracket, although making Gummiberry juice strictly an addictive super-soldier formula (and not also a bounciness enhancer) would certainly help.
1) Jem and the Holograms
The music industry is pretty brutal, and Jerrica Benton suffered no small amount over the course of the Jem series, but you know what medium has given us some of the greatest and most messed-up stories about the music industry? Anime. In Perfect Blue, a pop idol who tries to become an actress is threatened by a stalker and driven temporarily insane. In Macross Plus, an artificially intelligent singing computer discovers love, goes crazy and attacks everybody. And in Robotech, singer Lynn Minmei is physically abused by her manager, but still manages to defeat an alien armada with her music. It makes Jerrica’s house burning down and her 12 foster kids not seem so bad, right? If we gave Japan full animation and plot control of Jem, you can bet that hologram-projecting computer Synergy would develop a faulty logic circuit and one of those foster kids would discover a murderous streak. Suddenly, losing a gig to the Misfits will be the best thing that happens to Jem all day.