Remember all those beloved character properties that those of us who grew up in the 1980s played with in action figure form, watched on TV, wore on our clothes, and consumed as a licensed fruit drink or cookie? Around the time we reached puberty they faded into the ether as we moved on and they lost their core audience, being reduced to the occassional memory or starring role in someone's fan fiction. Now, after all these years, these properties are rising from the grave, zombie-like, and returning to the fold to clamor for attention from the next generation of children. What are these revived licenses, and why are the back now of all times, and not eight years ago or eight years from now?

The first revived character that springs to mind is the return of G.I. Joe in 1995's G.I. Joe Extreme, a computer animated update of the "classic" cartoon and action figure line. The new Joe also had his own action figures and other related knick-knacks, but he vanished after about a year. The Real Ghostbusters returned in an update in 1997's Ghostbusters Extreme which introduced four new politically correct Ghostbusters (the wiseass, the girl, the differently-abled, and the African American) all mentored by former-Ghostbuster Egon Spengler. Action figures and other items popped up alongside the cartoon, but it too faded away within two years. Why did these concepts fail? Is it because they weren't very good? It could be, but I doubt it. Children aren't a very critical audience. I believe that it's because they appeared too early.

The audience that grew up with early 1980s cartoons has now reached the age where many of them will begin getting married and having children. The first audience have become parents with children of their own; a whole new generation of consumers. These new children will need to be entertained (after all, their parents needed television programming and action figures twenty years ago) and by reintroducing characters and properties that are familiar to parents, the parents are more likely to buy the products for their children because they remember them, have warm memories about them, and will trust their children playing with these characters. After all, they grew up with He-Man and Strawberry Shortcake and they turned out just fine, right?

As more of this generation become parents we can expect to see more old characters revived. Cartoon Network revived He-Man and the Master of the Universe and the Transformers sagas in 2002 with new adventures, for example. Other characters poised to spring back to life include the Care Bears (in a new animated movie set to premiere in 2004), Ren and Stimpy (TNN has commissioned new episodes of The Ren and Stimpy Show to air in 2003) and Pac-Man (in a new computer-generated cartoon set for 2003). Hell, even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have made a comeback on FOX.

Another reason that studios and other companies often dig older concepts out of the vault is that it's must easier and cheaper to take an old concept, dust it off, and give it a fresh coat of paint. For example, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show and Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons are long gone, but video games have been a breeding ground for hot properties for years and now Nintendo has promoted its chosen heros for the 21st century, Pokemon and Kirby, in their own cartoon series Pokemon and Kirby: Right Back At Ya!. Everyone remembers Muppet Babies, so why not create Cartoon Network's Baby Looney Tunes?

As more of the children of the 1980s become parents chances are we'll see more revived characters. Pound Puppies Extreme? It could happen. Popples Redux? Could be. Giggleshort Hotel: The Next Generation? Anything's possible. As long as there are new children who aren't familiar with older characters and therefore haven't become stale, everything old is fresh and new again. So, if after all these years the theme song to Ducktales is still stuck in your brain, you might as well remember it because chances are you'll be hearing it again soon in a revived format, and knowing is half the battle.


References:
http://www.yesterdayland.com
http://www.imdb.com
Too much time thinking about such things

When I got to the party, Cherry’s sister was already there, making the friendly time with some other guests. I overheard a bit of the conversation: "They say, everything you fear has already happened to you before," she told someone, illuminating the truth about our deepest neuroses.

Whatever. I did some shots and grabbed a beer. I played board games and I even danced a little. But Cherry, the belle of the ball, the reason, in fact, I dragged my shy ass over here in 20-degree weather (okay, so it’s a three-minute walk, but I'm kind of a pansy Californian), was hard to keep track of.

Cherry was in her room, on the phone, with the door closed. She came out and danced a little. She smiled at me. I winked at her. She went outside. Some of her friends came over. I smiled at her. She smiled back. Some of her friends left. I couldn’t keep track. Again, whatever. I played it cool and went home at around 2am. Right before falling asleep, I remembered the last time I was at this exact same party.

It was one night in middle school — a birthday party. Back then I was completely crazy for the birthday girl; hands down the prettiest, coolest girl in my class, and I never got to spend a moment with her the whole night, because I just couldn’t go up to this girl, grab her, and dance with her, and all the other guys could.

I’ve never been that guy and I never will be. After a great deal of introspection, self-evaluation, and chain smoking, I’ve come to terms with that. Well, mostly. You know how it goes.

Nevertheless, I went to school with this girl for two more years, and although my dumb preadolescent crush burned and burned and turned me all melty inside every time I saw her, I could never bring myself to say a single word to her. Like, ever again.

And I didn’t go to another party until I got to college.

I’m not mad at the girl. I don’t blame her. I was a shy, silly, stoopid little boy back then.

The point is, I still am.

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