Top 10: Cartoons That Need to be Revived by Jerry Whitworth
Nostalgia is a powerful force and with the kids of the 1980s, arguably the most creative decade in modern history, hitting middle age, the time is ripe to mine those happy memories. While reboots are nothing new, sequels to pre-existing television series have exploded in recent history. Akira Toriyama returned to his hit Dragon Ball with Dragon Ball Super, Young Justice was revived for the DC Universe streaming service (and now HBO Max), Rocko’s Modern Life developed Static Cling and Invader Zim returned to Enter the Florpus in 2019 for Netflix, Animaniacs added more baloney to their slacks on Hulu, Masters of the Universe: Revelation will continue the story started by Filmation for Netflix, Disney+ will make the Proud Family: Louder and Prouder, Tiny Toons is going back to school for HBO Max‘s Looniversity, and the rumor mill has X-Men: The Animated Series and Batman: The Animated Series returning. Lets take a look at what other cartoons could be getting a sequel in the future.
Developed by Ciro Nieli of Teen Titans and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fame for Disney’s Jetix, Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go! was a love letter to tokusatsu with a nod to anime, comic books, and science fiction. The series followed Chiro, a boy who discovered a giant robot and awoke the Super Robot Monkey Team, just as his world Shuggazoom is being invaded by the vile Skeleton King. Gaining the awesome might of the Power Primate, Chiro joined the team to combat the forces of darkness. Running for four seasons, SRMTHFG was the first original show produced for Jetix and is believed to have ended due to low merchandise sales. Nieli has gone on record stating he has an ending in mind for the property and that he plans to release it in some form or another before he dies, Disney owning the property or not. Given the show’s cult following and Disney+‘s seeming desire to throw money at anything that can add eyeballs to its service (considering they have money to burn), SRMTHFG would be a no-brainer if there was enough interest to get the company’s attention.
One of the earliest superheroes animated for television, Space Ghost is an intergalactic lawman who travels the spaceways with teenage sidekicks Jan and Jace and their pet monkey Blip. Combating a myriad of foes like Zorak, Brak, Moltar, Metallus, Creature King, Black Widow, Tansit, and Lokar, several of them came together to form the Council of Doom. To deal with this threat, Space Ghost crossed over with fellow Hanna-Barbera superheroes in Mightor, Moby Dick, Herculoids, and Shazzan. Only airing for one season, the series received a sequel nearly two decades later in 1981’s Space Stars. Therein, Space Ghost teamed with the Herculoids, Space Mutts, and a new group of heroes called Teen Force against a common foe in Uglor (as an evil Space Ghost from a parallel dimension called Space Spectre became a reoccurring enemy). The character has endured through the ensuing years, parodied in the talk show series Space Ghost Coast to Coast (airing for eleven seasons with multiple spin-offs and largely gave life to [adult swim]), starred in his own comic book series from DC Comics and teamed with Green Lantern in a one-shot, guest starred in Batman: The Brave and the Bold and Scooby-Doo! Team-Up, and featured prominently in the DC Comics brand Future Quest which had Space Ghost join with the likes of Jonny Quest, Birdman, Herculoids, Mightor, Dino Boy, Galaxy Trio, Frankenstein Jr., and the Impossibles. Given the success of the DuckTales reboot and its creation of a Disney Afternoon shared universe, reviving Space Ghost could give rebirth to a new rich IP for Warner Bros to mine.
Arguably the most critically acclaimed adaptation of Spider-Man for animated television, Spectacular Spider-Man came from the minds of Greg Weisman (Gargoyles, Young Justice) and Victor Cook (Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, Stretch Armstrong) with character designs by Sean “Cheeks” Galloway. Drawing from over four decades of stories, the series incorporated elements from the comics (including the Ultimate line), films, and more and sewn a rich mythology drawing a cult-like following. Unfortunately, the acquisition of Marvel by Disney sank the series after two seasons as Sony retained the rights to the show and Disney didn’t want to share development with a competitor. Weisman has gone on record that at least five seasons were planned out with direct-to-video films incorporated. The fan community regularly came together on social media to make Disney aware that there remains a hunger for more Spectacular Spider-Man and with a seeming mutually beneficial relationship between Disney and Sony over Spider-Man’s film rights, time will only tell if the companies can come together for this animated series.
The brainchild of Ted Turner in his desire to educate people about the environment, Captain Planet and the Planeteers told the story of five youths empowered by the Earth’s spirit Gaia as the Planeteers to try and save the world from mankind’s pollution. To aid in their fight, when circumstances proved too dire for them to face alone, they were able to combine their power to create Captain Planet, a superhero with the power of the five elements of nature. Among their foes were Hoggish Greedly, Verminous Skumm, Duke Nukem, Dr. Barbara Blight, Looten Plunder, Sly Sludge, Zarm, and the Slaughters with several of them aligning to become the Eco-Villains with the power to summon an evil counterpart of Captain Planet in Captain Pollution. Captain Planet was the longest running animated television series of the 1990s with 113 episodes across six seasons. Today, the need for the brand to return maybe greater than ever as the threat of climate change maybe the greatest in human history. Combining that fact with the continued popularity of the franchise (the series parodied by Funny or Die with Don Cheadle and Captain Planet guest-starring in OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes), the time is ripe for a return.
An animated sequel of arguably one of the most popular films ever produced in 1984’s Ghostbusters, The Real Ghostbusters featured the continuing adventures of that film’s protagonists and their struggles against malevolent paranormal forces. A franchise juggernaut in its own right independent of the blockbuster it derived from, Real Ghostbusters maybe the most successful animated series to develop from a film brand (helping turn the film’s Slimer into a cultural icon). Airing for 140 episodes across seven seasons with a Slimer spin-off of 33 episodes, the series saw a sequel in 1997 with Extreme Ghostbusters. Therein, the original team retired but when paranormal forces again rose up to challenge New York, Dr. Egon Spengler was forced to return and mentor a new generation of Ghostbusters. Unfortunately, the new series didn’t enjoy the kind of national platform and promotion of its predecessor and ended after one season of forty episodes. Still, the character of Kylie Griffin endured and transitioned to the IDW comic book series based on the film franchise. In 2016, the film brand was rebooted but failed to catch on with audiences as a direct sequel to the original material was produced and is awaiting the descent of the pandemic to be released. A Ghostbusters animated series has been in development since the 2016 reboot so only time will tell what such will entail.
Born out of the popularity of Voltron, Robotech is an American adaptation of Japanese anime series Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber MOSPEADA. The series followed the Earth’s multiple conflicts with various alien invaders, employing vehicles that transform into giant robots as romance and music played important roles in the plot. Robotech was another huge hit, both on air and in the toy aisle. A sequel series was fast tracked as the OVA (original video animation) Megazone 23 – Part I was adapted as a feature film. Sadly, the film tested horribly with audiences and the studio that animated Robotech II: The Sentinels burned down with all of the original footage and animation cels. A transfer of the show’s first three episodes survived and was cut years later into a direct-to-video film but the brand largely languished for decades. 2006 finally saw a sequel to the original series in the direct-to-video animated film Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles which proved popular with the franchise’s cult-like following and another movie in Robotech: Shadow Rising was soon to follow. Unfortunately, the brand hit another speed bump as that animated movie was killed to focus on a live action one that never materialized. In a big way, Robotech is the brand that many love that keeps stumbling despite itself. Eventually, it’ll return if it can get out of its own way.
You dig giant robots. I dig giant robots. We dig giant robots. Chicks dig giant robots. It’s science. Born from the minds of George Krstic and Jody Schaeffer, Megas XLR followed the misadventures of Coop, Jamie, and the time-traveling freedom fighter Kiva with their giant robot Megas in their struggles against the alien Glorft and various intergalactic forces. Created to be the latest Cartoon Cartoon for Cartoon Network, the show proved to be wildly popular as one of the station’s most beloved original creations. Sadly, the show ended after two seasons to make way for newer programs like Teen Titans and Ben 10 whose audience skewed younger (which was more promising for selling toys). In 2012, news broke that Cartoon Network abandoned domestic distribution rights for Megas XLR resulting in a media frenzy as its series creators sought to claim the show’s rights to continue the brand. However, by 2017, it appeared negotiations have gone nowhere. When these parties can come together, the fans will be the winners.
Famous for their Christmas specials, Rankin/Bass dipped its toe into the popular action animated television series trend of the 1980s with ThunderCats. Animated initially by Topcraft (before it was broken down and transitioned into the foundation for Studio GHIBLI), ThunderCats followed the royal family of the planet Thundera escaping their world’s destruction, landing on the planet Third Earth to begin a new life. However, they were followed by their greatest enemy in the Mutants, a union of conquerors from various worlds, who aligned with the ever-living Mumm-Ra awoken by the aliens’ arrival on the world he ruled in the name of the Ancient Spirits of Evil. Third Earth became a crossroads for various aliens, some good and others bad, as the ThunderCats became heroes for Third Earth, New Thundera, Planet of Snarfs, Ro-Bear, and more. ThunderCats was a massive hit, on television and especially in merchandise, giving rise to similar brands from Rankin/Bass in SilverHawks and TigerSharks. Spanning 130 episodes across four seasons, ThunderCats was one of the most successful animated series of its time spawning one of the most popular brands in what is popularly regarded as boys entertainment. In recent years, two reboots have been attempted but failed to catch on. Often compared to Masters of the Universe, should the aforementioned Revelation prove popular, time will tell when ThunderCats will follow course.
Created from the mind that later gave us Spectacular Spider-Man and Young Justice, Greg Weisman’s Gargoyles was intended to be the Disney Afternoon’s answer to Batman: The Animated Series. A rich mythology blending fantasy and science fiction, Gargoyles followed the adventures of Goliath and his clan of gargoyles awoken from a thousand year slumber to become the nocturnal guardians of modern day New York. Intermingling elements of Batman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the Lord of the Rings, Gargoyles sported a cast of morally complex characters with voice actors many of whom hailed from the various incarnations of Star Trek. Airing for two seasons of 65 episodes with a poorly executed sequel series of thirteen episodes called Goliath Chronicles, Gargoyles was going to establish an animated universe not unlike what Warner Bros. achieved with the DC Animated Universe until an executive shake-up at Disney saw the brand abandoned. With a cult-like following, Gargoyles was resurrected as several comic book series by Weisman in 2006 ignoring the events of Goliath Chronicles. In recent years, Gargoyles has been the target of multiple social media campaigns to bring it back with blockbuster director Jordan Peele allegedly pushing to adapt the series for live action film.
When news broke the final season of Venture Bros. was canceled last year, backlash was swift and fierce. A parody of Jonny Quest and various other aspects of pop culture, Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer’s Venture Bros. is one of [adult swim]’s most beloved properties and airing across seventeen years, it was also its longest running. Following the bizarre lives of the Venture family featuring Rusty Venture, his sons Hank and Dean, half-brother Malcolm “The Monarch” Fitzcarraldo, brother Jonas Jr., and assorted others surrounding his father Jonas, Office of Secret Intelligence (O.S.I.), and the Guild of Calamitous Intent, the show is a dark action/adventure comedy without parallel. With [adult swim] issuing a statement that they will try to work with Publick and Hammer to realize a return of Venture Bros., only time will tell if its creators will be able to end the story on their terms.
Honorable mentions: Danny Phantom, Sym-Bionic Titan, Legend of Korra, Secret Saturdays, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Scooby-Doo! Mystery, Incorporated, Wolverine and the X-Men, Captain N: The Game Master, Dungeons & Dragons, Centurions, Bionic Six, Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers, and Mighty Orbots.