Reconciling Cartoon Reboots and Nostalgia

The other day, my niece called me into the living room to show me Teen Titans Go!, a reboot of the original, way cooler (in my opinion) Teen Titans. She told me, “It looks like the one you like!” And it did; the animation was exactly the same as it was in 2003, and I excitedly sat down to watch, hoping they would bring back all the plots, stories, and character development that I was used to seeing in the original.

Overall, it is a fun show, but Teen Titans Go! just does not hold a candle to its predecessor. The jokes are wholly for kids, and the plot is all surface level; Robin and Cyborg spend the whole episode arguing about whether or not someone can be a hero if they don’t wear a cape. Considering it is a kids cartoon, I obviously give the show a pass; how can I not? It was not made for an adult wanting depth and character development. I guess my issue is that it used to be.

Lately I have been appreciating the ability of cartoon and kids show writers to make a show or a movie truly “family friendly,” meaning fun for the whole family. Pixar movies these days just have a way of slipping in enough adult jokes to keep me giggling, and cartoons like Steven Universe give me the complexities I crave while still being fun and enrapturing for my six year old niece. But not all content creators can achieve these standards, and to be fair, they are not really required to.

More than anything, it makes me nostalgic for the cartoons I grew up watching. Cartoons of this generation are wonderful; amidst all the animation news lately (see: Voltron), I can’t totally complain. I am just hoping that moving forward, reboots will take a page out of their predecessor’s book and remind viewers of why they loved the originals in the first place.

The fact that both Rugrats and Invader Zim are making a comeback definitely makes me curious. Invader Zim was a weird show, and I wonder how far they will try to keep it that way or if they will do a total 180 like they did with Teen Titans. It might be difficult to retain the original nuances of Rugrats, too. It may have been fairly simple, but it still managed to delve into the tough stuff like losing a biological parent or gaining a new step parent.

I am nervous and excited all at once. I don’t expect everything to stay the same, and maybe if I went back and watched the old Teen Titans again, I would not be as impressed as I thought I would be. Reboots have that interesting effect, I guess. Animation and its content will continue to change and evolve whether or not I like it, and I hope that I can find kid-friendly shows that I can enjoy, too. I already have, after all.