In March 26 IssueBy Jeff Smith, Columnist
Some of you may know and some of you may not even care, but nostalgia seems to be a hot item these days in the entertainment industry. A lot of the most popular cartoons from childhood have been modernized for a new generation of fans. The remakes usually feature greatly enhanced art and effects as well as updated plotlines to reflect today's society. Also, some of the more glaring character flaws have been fixed although, for the most part, these remakes tend to be very respectful of the source material.
For instance, in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe cartoon that came out in 2002, they found someone to do the voice of Skeletor absolutely perfectly, but Cringer, Prince Adam's green tiger companion, does not speak at all. After some reflection, I found that I'm completely fine with that. Cats generally don't speak, and if they did, they'd never say anything but "feed me" "let me outside" or "go away, I'm sleeping", so the chances of an enlightening discourse are fairly slim. No big loss. But something that they did that really made the show a lot better was to draw Prince Adam as a teenage boy rather than, as in the original show, He-man with a purple shirt and a bad haircut. It always bothered me in the original. Here was Adam, drawn like He-man in pretty much every way but for the wardrobe, and yet nobody could put two and two together. It always made me think that the World of Eternia is populated by morons, and Teela, who stood by his side in both personas day in and day out, she was queen of the morons. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe is completed, of course, and can be found on DVD fairly easily. If you liked the old show, I highly recommend it. They don't recycle footage constantly like in the old show (He-Man always running off the right side of the screen) and the plot and special effects are awesome. They didn't leave any characters out that I could see, even putting in lesser knowns like Zodak and Count Marzo.
Recently, and probably due to the popularity of the movie franchise, the Transformers have a new show called Transformers Prime airing on The Hub network. Peter Cullen, the original voice of Optimus Prime in the first generation of Transformers, has returned to the role to great effect. The new show does a great job of beginning the story anew, and manages to avoid the hip-hop feel that the movies have so sadly embraced. What's better? I know we all thought that the original Transformers was drawn pretty awesome, and it has been said that the movies make the bots look like someone threw a truckload of wires and scrap on the ground and brought it to life, Transformers Prime takes the old Transformers' boxy look and puts it into 3D in a way that makes Michael Bay's version look like walking piles of junk. A mix of old and new characters make up the starting line-up, but more are being introduced every episode. It started in November, and the first season is still airing, so you can either search them out on Youtube to catch up to the rest of us, or wait for the DVD.
In GI Joe: Renegades, also on The Hub, the original show's plotline has been dumped on its ear, but in a good way. In this amazing remake, Cobra has been re-imagined as a multi-national corporation loved by the people. Cobra hides its illicit operations behind a facade made up of bakeries, free clinics, television networks and more. Think of Cobra as a cross between Walmart, General Electric, and Fox News and you've got the right idea. But behind the scenes, the snakes are working on synthetic soldiers, mind control and (dare I say it) weapons of mass destruction. One small group of soldiers, at the behest of Scarlett, infiltrates a Cobra-run clinic and discovers proof of Cobra's true intentions but are unable to escape with anything other than their lives. Now they're on the run fighting Cobra's agenda while Cobra does everything it can to eliminate them and smear their name. It's really a great show, at times it is a bit more serious than my 8-year-old son is interested in, but I enjoy it all the same and if you liked the original show, I highly recommend it.
Last but by no means least, The Thundercats are due to make a return. The show is in production right now, and is due to be aired sometime this year, though the official air date has not been released. Like in the He-Man remake, Lion-O will be drawn as a teenager rather than a full grown adult, and apparently Panthro will be the leader of the group. Other than that, the show is rumored to have a little more of an anime feel to it, which was done to give homage to its Japanese roots. I'm eagerly anticipating this one and I hope it pans out to be as awesome as these other fine examples.
In many original cartoons of today, the biggest themes seem to be random plotlines and stupidity. It's good to see some of these old cartoons coming back as it enables me to watch some shows with my son without feeling like both he and I are losing I.Q. points in the process. Now, if I just had some adult-sized pajamas with the zipper and the padded feet... On second thought, maybe not. I would probably end up trying to slide across the linoleum and give myself a hernia.