In showbiz, a TV show or movie isn’t just a TV show or movie — it’s a product and as with any product, it has a life cycle. So what’s old is periodically revived and reimagined for the next generation of consumers.
Over the weekend, Boomerang and Cartoon Network dropped two such overhauled ‘products’ — Yabba-Dabba Dinosaurs and ThunderCats Roar, respectively.
Yabba-Dabba Dinosaurs is a spin-off/sequel/[inset your choice of terminology] of The Flintstones, which originally ran for six seasons between 1960 and 1966. That series, produced by Hanna-Barbera, followed the adventures of a modern Stone Age family — led by patriarch Fred Flinstone — and their neighbours, the Rubbles; the off-shoot centres on the families’ kids, Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm.
ThunderCats Roars, on the other hand, is an update of a 1980s series about a team of badass humanoid felines fighting evil on an alien planet. Animated in Japan, the original show aired in the US from 1985-89. In 2011, Cartoon Network remade it but that lasted only one season.
Anytime artists take on a familiar property, they have to figure out how much they can tweak without straying too far too from the original. “That’s probably the biggest bit of work to tackle,” Yabba-Dabba Dinosaurs producer Mark Marek tells 8days.sg over the phone.
For Marek, the biggest challenge in Yabba-Dabba Dinosaurs is the redesigning of Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm. “We have a designer who worked on Teen Titans Go! and he pretty much stuck to the adult Flintstones characters with a few changes,” says Marek, 63, who’s been a fan of the show since its 1960 debut.
“[On the original Flintstones], Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm are essentially toddlers but I wanted to move away from that and age them up,” he continues. “By doing so, I think we had [more freedom with their designs]. But Pebbles still has the small bone hair clip and Bamm-Bamm his snow-white hair.”
Elsewhere, Marek also threw in an in-joke fans of the old Flintstones would appreciate. “The original show had a laugh track as if it were shot before a live audience,” says Marek. “I always like that, so what I tried to do with this new show is, when we are in Bedrock, with the core adult characters, we use a laugh track and when we are away from them, we don’t use a laugh track.”
Whatever the changes, Marek hope they will be “received graciously” by fans, both new and old. However, it’s a different story for ThunderCats Roar, a reboot so drastically different from the original that it caused an, er, uproar with fans.
When the trailer premiered in February, it generated so much resentment that Cartoon Network had to shut down the comments section. The fans are disappointed with how the new ThunderCats look. Gone are the ripped physique and killer ’80s heavy metal manes. Instead they look gelatinous, cartoony, and seriously out of shape. And whatever happened to their majestic fur? The tone is also — what’s that word? — kiddie.
This is what happens when they try to be funny, as Thundercats Roar writer-producers Victor Courtright and Marly Halpern-Graser explain to 8days.sg in a separate interview. “I like the ’80s version, I also love the 2011 version,” says Courtright. “If the 2011 version was a big step toward towards action, then ours [is towards] comedy — it’s going to be obviously feel a lot different from the [original] super-serious version.”
“The original ’80 show is already innately fun and weird and we just turn that fun into funny, revisiting that stuff with a new lens that automatically makes you smile,” continues Courtright, who’s worked on Mad and Disney’s Pickle and Peanut. “The source of a lot of our comedy is from revisiting some of its high strangeness."
On the online backlash, Courtright says, “I tell you if it’s not fun when people tell you they don’t like us. But I believe in the thing we are making it brings like nothing but joy for me to work on this show.
“I think it’s a truly honest expression about what we love about Thundercats. At a certain point, [the criticism] bothers you but on another level, they can’t make me feel bad for doing something really cool, something that I love.”
Halpern-Graser — whose credits include Teen Titans Go! and Mad — weighs in, “We make these shows for the people to like them. So the people who do like them, it’s good. And the people who don’t like it, I mean, you can’t make a show that everybody is going to like.
“But certainly we are making things that we think are cool and funny. And you just hope other people agree with you. That’s all you can ever do in anything creative.”
That said, time is the ultimate judge on whether these new 'upgrades' worked or not. So let’s check up on the kids who’ve watched them in, say, 2040? Sounds like a plan.
Yabba-Dabba Dinosaurs airs weekends, Boomerang (Singtel TV Ch 228 & StarHub Ch 317), 10am; ThunderCats Roar goes on weekends, Cartoon Network (Singtel TV Ch 226 & StarHub Ch 316), 1pm.
Photos: Boomerang, Cartoon Network