Whether we like it or not, we live in an age of reboots. From ’80s franchises to ’90s sitcoms, every property with a significant fan base is getting a new chance to tell more stories, so it was inevitable that we would eventually get a wave of reboots of beloved cartoons from decades past. But just because an old title is being resurrected doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to be bad.
If you grew up during the era of Saturday morning cartoons and after the era of toy-commercials-turned-TV-shows, then there’s a big chance your favorite animated series is either getting a fresh start in the near future or has already been the recipient of a recent makeover. It’s a good time to be an animation fan, so we’ve prepared a list with the most exciting reboots of classic animated shows you should keep an eye out for… and a few you can watch right now.
Why It’s Beloved: The original Animaniacs was unlike anything else in children’s animation. It featured a variety show format that consisted of wildly unpredictable segments that could always surprise you, a large cast of memorable and funny characters, and references to everything from classic Hollywood movies to the big players in the industry. Oh, and did we mention the amazing songs? Animaniacs had a lot of them.
How the Reboot is Different: Instead of reimagining the show, Hulu’s Animaniacs reboot actually picks up right after the original series ended, with the Warner brothers Yakko and Wakko and the Warner sister Dot reawakening after 22 years to provide new stories and make fun of everything you can imagine. In other words, it retains the spirit of the original, but updates everything for a more modern audience. The first season, which premiered less than a month ago, is also Certified Fresh.
(Photo by Everett Collection)
Why It’s Beloved: Before MTV’s Daria (see below) went on to inspire countless ’90s kids to embrace sarcasm, Beavis and Butt-Head connected with couch potatoes everywhere. It was an unadulterated satirical look at Gen X, blending poignant social commentary and lowbrow humor in a way that captured an entire generation. The show was so successful that it spawned not only a spin-off, but also a feature film and a previous revival in 2011, and there’s no sign of Beavis and Butt-Head stopping.
How the Reboot is Different: Creator Mike Judge will be back to spearhead the Beavis and Butt-Head reboot, which will, of course, deal with meta-themes relatable to both new and die-hard fans.
Why It’s Beloved: People always love to look to the past to understand the present, so what if a cartoon actually depicted what important people from the past might do in the world today? Clone High had a phenomenal cast of historical figures and great voice actors, and it was a huge love letter to the teen drama boom of the time. Every trope of the genre is explored here, but because of its unique cast, the show was always able to put its own twist to things to hilarious effect.
How the Reboot is Different: This reboot is being described as an updated version of the show that will explore high school and also coming-of-age tension through historical figures. Also, show creators Phil Lord and Chris Miller (The LEGO Movie, 21 Jump Street) will return to write the pilot.
(Photo by ©MTV courtesy Everett Collection)
Why It’s Beloved: Sarcasm reigned in the 1990s, and no character embodied the sentiment of the decade as well as Daria, a high schooler with incendiary wit, razor-sharp insight, and a great cast of supporting characters surrounding her. Any teen who was going through rough time with student life could see themselves in Daria, a show that touched on feminism, social class, and even race. But those teens grew up, and now so has the show.
How the Reboot is Different: This one is actually getting more of a spin-off than a reboot, which is somewhat appropriate, considering Daria itself was originally a spin-off of Beavis and Butt-Head. Comedy Central will be airing a new series called Jodie, following Daria character Jodie Landon — now to be voiced by Tracee Ellis Ross — as she enters the workplace after graduation from college. Jodie aspires to be for Gen Z what Daria was for Gen X. It’s the first in a series of planned Daria spin-offs, and it will be the first adult animated show in decades to center on a Black woman (considering Tiffany Haddish’s character on Tuca & Bertie was technically a toucan).
Why It’s Beloved: Before we got a Batman cartoon, we had Darkwing Duck, the best anatine superhero around. He had more gadgets than the Caped Crusader, a suave personality like James Bond, a sidekick who resembled Han Solo, and a theme song you’d want as your ringtone.
How the Reboot is Different: Avid fans will surely know that Darkwing Duck actually appeared very recently in the DuckTales reboot (see below for that), where the character is reimagined as an actor who decides to take on the role of a caped crusader after being inspired by his favorite movie character: Darkwing Duck. It is unclear at the moment whether the upcoming reboot — produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg — will follow this storyline or continue the original.
Why It’s Beloved: Millions of kids around the world were first introduced to anime during the late 1990s, mostly thanks to two shows: Pokémon and Digimon: Digital Monsters. The latter in particular was also unique among cartoons for its serialized story that continued week by week, its flawed protagonists, and its surprisingly dark themes. It was a kids’ show, to be sure, but it also helped introduce those kids to more sophisticated storytelling.
How the Reboot is Different: This year saw the return of Digimon with a new reboot that reimagines the original 1999 show as taking place in 2020, with all the new technology we have today. Additionally, the show does a great job of including a whole lot of mythology from latter seasons, resulting in a series that has enough surprises for fans old and new.
Why It’s Beloved: The original DuckTales was a phenomenal adventure series that took viewers to fantastical and remote locations in stories that had fans of Indiana Jones hooked for 100 episodes. Plus, it has one of the best and catchiest theme songs around.
How the Reboot is Different: For one, the Disney XD reboot has done a much better job of integrating Donald Duck into the narrative, which is a lot more serialized in this version. There is a lot of depth to the story now, and the characters are more fleshed out, finally giving Huey, Dewey, and Louie distinct personalities beyond their different-colored hats.
(Photo by Everett Collection)
Why It’s Beloved: The Ren & Stimpy Show was one of the original Nickelodeon toons, a show that was as beloved as it was controversial for its raunchy, gross-out humor and sometimes dark themes. The series was purely creator-driven, aimed at kids but with adult humor that any grown up could appreciate, and featured a cast of beloved and ultra weird characters. It has since become a cult classic.
How the Reboot is Different: Comedy Central announced that they will air a new reboot of Ren & Stimpy, albeit without the involvement of the show’s controversial creator John Kricfalusi, who retired from the business after a number of sexual abuse allegations surfaced in 2018. As of now, we don’t know who is returning or what the reboot will be about, but fans of the characters may be pleased to see them back again.
Why It’s Beloved: The original Rugrats was a clever show with a simple concept: What if we do everything regular sitcoms do, except through the eyes of babies? The characters were likable and hilarious, creating a Peanuts for a whole new generation. The show was even able to play with mature themes like divorce and even the death of a parent, despite also being mostly about baby talk. It was also a trailblazer at times, being one of the very first animated series with an episode focused on a Jewish holiday.
How the Reboot is Different: It was originally announced in 2018 that a new film will be made as a live-action/CGI hybrid, but those plans got pulled. Then, we learned just this October that a proper Rugrats series reboot would be coming in 2021 with, yes, 3D animated characters, and it will see the return of most of the cast and the original creators. With a world constantly changing, Rugrats is a show that’s always been able to boil down what’s going on around us through the eyes of the youngest of us.
(Photo by ©Warner Bros. courtesy Everett Collection)
Why It’s Beloved: Before we were introduced to Yakko, Wakko, and Dot in Animaniacs, Buster Bunny, Babs Bunny, and Plucky Duck showed ’90s kids that the Looney Tunes could still be hilarious and fresh after so many decades. The main characters were the young relatives of the famous Looney Tunes characters we know and love, and they grew to become just as beloved.
How the Reboot is Different: Like Animaniacs, the upcoming reboot is more of a direct continuation, dubbed Tiny Toons Looniversity. The characters will now attend an esteemed institution of higher hijinks learning to become professional toons. That Steven Spielberg returns to produce the show should have fans of the original excited.