Thursday, 24 July 2014

Revivals - The Why and the How

You know, it's pretty amazing how many TV Shows are being revived nowadays, a vast quantity being animated shows of yesteryear. Whether as a new series entirely or, if the producers are daring enough, a feature-length adventure to enhance a new generation.

However, the vast amount of characters past being dug up these days is staggeringly high, many of these being British or American properties. And every time the same old questions and belly-aching are brought up also;

"Will it be exactly like the old series?"
"Will INSERT NAME / COMPANY be involved?"
"Ahh, not another one! It'll be lame! It'll suck!"
"Does nobody have any original ideas anymore?!"

To be honest, so many classic shows are being revived nowadays that there really is no point for me alone to argue or whine online just like everybody else. There are some revivals that, if it gets my attention, I may watch and draw my own conclusions. But for any others, I'll chose not to watch and pretend that they never happened. And for that, I am happier.
So why do particular studios choose to adapt / revive a children's book or cartoon character? And why do long-time fans sometimes have a good moan of it?

For a long, long time, I've been trying to figure this out. And while it's not perfect, I believe that my theories may be part of the answer.

First off, let's look at the argument reg; original ideas in Hollywood. People complain that there is not enough originality in movies or television (scriptwriting clich├ęs aside) and when a different concept with wholly new characters does pop up, they still complain and remain suspicious even before they've seen one trailer or draw up speculations from a lone piece of concept art.

Most of the time, those who do complain of new shows usually repeat similar arguments;

"Why can't cartoons be more like Tex Avery or Chuck Jones?"
"The style of this show reminds me of Ren and Stimpy…"
"Why can't they do more shows like THIS or THAT?"

The fact is, as is the way of human nature, many of us despise change when we're comfortable with how things currently stand - whether seeing new characters take over or watching old friends going through "different phases".

This leads into my Second point - why many prefer older content than new. Some studies show that Nostalgia plays an important part in our lives. Remembering happier times helps to "increase self-esteem, strengthen social bonds and to imbue life with meaning".

This is how events like Comic Con come into play, to allow other nostalgic fans to share their memories with one another. So depending what year you may have been born in, you will remember specific shows from that particular time of your childhood, what you loved about them and how you wouldn't want to see them in any other shape or form.

Others learn the phrase "respecting the past to make the future". This, drawing key elements from particular shows for their own creations. It could be a type of visual style or how a writer structures a plot or joke. Craig McCracken's newest hit for Disney, Wander Over Yonder, draws a lot of elements from the original Looney Tunes in terms of look, feel and storytelling, whilst also embracing the technology readily available to make something amazing and new.

And now the Third reason - why revivals actually happen.

Many companies realise that Nostalgia is, above all else, a goldmine for profit. It's all down to the longevity and popularity of particular characters that makes the world cry out for "more, more, more!"

When one company buys up another that contains nostalgic characters or properties, they're more than free to do what they want with them. Putting the original shows to DVD is one thing…but it's well aware to one and all that if "new" shows were added, it would mean more merchandise to sell, drawing in a whole new audience.

Such is the case when Dreamworks bought up Classic Media a few years back, whose library contains many UK and US properties of old, and how Star Wars was bought out by Disney - both have already made use of their newly-acquired franchises since.

But "with great power comes great responsibility". And sadly, not all revivals work out exactly as we would like. In many cases, as often enough, the wrong decisions are made where some people try too hard to make them more "contemporary" for today's audience - yes, even changing up to CGI animation - or they just go for a full-out "re-imagining", for better or worse.

"George of the Jungle" (2007) and "The Mr. Men Show" (2008) are some examples where too many changes don't always work out. Both shows received radical revamps in art styles while the scriptwriters tried to "reinvent" them to a new audience by nearly abandoning the original source material with (they assume) the type of humour the current viewing audience might like. Farts, snot, etcetera.
However, in case of the Mr. Men Show, at least Renegade Animation tried to make amends in Season 2 with subtle changes relating to feedback from Season 1 - such as bringing Mr. Pernickety much closer to his original persona, Mr. Fussy.

Then of course there are various properties that are more famous for their quantity than their quality - franchises that have been continuing for decades and which try to adapt or "reinvent" themselves to keep up with the times. Some have hit a few rough patches yet manage to improve themselves with time and patience...and proper understanding behind the scenes.

These didn't quite turn out well...
Warner Bros, though, is a different story. Their main long-running properties to date have been Scooby-Doo, Tom and Jerry, Batman and the Looney Tunes - and many of their attempts to keep each franchise fresh with numerous reboots and direct-to-DVD movies have been a very mixed bag. Most companies would allow five to ten years to try reviving a particular franchise - but these days, it's usually shortened from three to five years! Again, more "new" episodes mean more DVDs mean more money...

…but I'm beginning to ramble, so let's get back on topic.

The point is revivals are happening left, right and sideways, and older fans will always be drawn either out of curiosity or pure joy to see an old friend. And at the same time, many will still remain sceptical and will cover up any optimism by moaning.
So yes, there will be a new Danger Mouse series, with the merest possibility that certain characters MAY receive a sex change, and there will be a new Powerpuff Girls show without Craig McCracken involved. And no amount of angry mobbing will stop either from happening.

...unless by chance, some proposed revivals are canned, shelved or quietly fall by the wayside.

But is there a way to handle all this? How can fans accept the reality that revivals of their favourite childhood shows won't be exactly as they remember them?

The obvious answer would be not to watch them. But there is another way...

It was round about the time when Paul Rudish's hugely popular "Mickey Mouse Shorts" first came out and, out of curiosity, I asked one of my favourite cartoonists, Andrew Dickman, his opinion on them. I think that everyone should try and pay attention to the following text. It may help you manage in the future as it's the type of advice that we often forget about;

"If my thoughts on how different takes and styles on a previously established franchise didn’t hit the nail on the head before, THIS SHOULD.
For years, I always thought that Disney cartoon characters were being led the wrong way, same with Looney Tunes, and Looney Tunes have always been different depending on the director and the artists working on them. So why not Mickey Mouse and etc?
These are great because they bring a new take on Mickey, made by different artists and styles and they WORK because they bring new personalities to the established characters that have different takes to make them WORK.
What we always neglect is that things do change, it’s good to have the old ideas and looks, but it’s also good to take them in different directions, and we should never forget that IT’S OKAY TO HAVE AN ALTERNATE. Because for one, we’ll always have the old stuff to look at and enjoy, but the new ideas aren’t canon either. It’s not like we’re getting a permanent staple, otherwise it’ll grow stale and slowly uninteresting. We can have Adam West Batman, Movie Batman, Cartoon Batman, Silly Crazy cartoon Batman etc etc and they are ALL their own entities. To stay with one formula makes it stale and limited. Let’s not be closed minded to our own wants and “needs”
So we can have classic Mickey, we can have modern Mickey and we can have silly crazy Mickey! I love it! They are their own entities, so let ‘em have it."

LINKS OF INTEREST (or alternative views):
Icon Reboots are freaks of nature
These revivals could lead to Zombie Takeover
Kids React To Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987)

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