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
? 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.
Too much time thinking about such things