From Transformers to G.I. Joe to [last] weekend’s The Smurfs, children of the ’80s have lost many a Saturday morning cartoon memory to the cash-grabbing clutches of the Hollywood remake machine. Plenty more are being developed into shiny, CG-smooth reboots as we speak. So let’s take a moment and plea, for the sake of those that remain, that these nine beloved, totally ’80s children’s properties be left where they belong: In our fuzzy, warm past — safe in the glow of yesteryear.
One of the reasons the ’80s were so damn colorful? Rainbow Brite. The little girl heroine with big hair and friends of every color (literally) ruled Rainbow Land and kept Earth colorful for all little children with the help of her trusty talking steed, Starlite — a rainbow-colored pony who walked on top of rainbows. A 13-episode animated series ran from 1984-1986, but 1985’s feature-length animated film Rainbow Brite and the Star-Stealer is a forgotten classic, by far the strongest piece in the Rainbow Brite catalogue. (Better to forget the terrifying live-action show hosted by a giant, person-in-a-suit Rainbow Brite, Barney-style.) Remake or reboot this artifact of ’80s nostalgia, Hollywood, and I will cut you.
“Gummi beeears, bouncing here and there and everywhere… high adventure that’s beyond compare, they are the Gummi Bears!” Eisner-era Disney achieved the feat of turning the delicious gummi bear candies into a wonderfully rich animated series envisioning the Gummi Bears as a race of magical Medieval creatures living in secrecy in the kingdom of Dunwyn, hunted by the evil Duke Igthorn and his sidekick, Toadwart. Yes, it was basically a Smurfs knockoff (the father figure, the human villain, the “Gummiberry juice”), which is even more of a red flag for fans of the Disney Afternoon staple: If The Smurfs is a hit, will Disney unearth and update the Gummi Bears with a modernized, CG treatment?
Jem and the Holograms
If there’s any truth to rumors about a Jem and the Holograms live-action movie, I’ll be truly, truly, truly outraged. For starters, how can you possibly recreate the dated (but awesome) spirit of the show about a businesswoman by day, rock star by night without completely losing that totally ’80s rock ‘n’ roll flair? Updated for the 21st century, Jem’s magic is ruined; holograms, Synergy, male love interests with great hair and names like Rio — they’re so of a time, it’d be a shame to replace them with, say, iPods and tween stars and whatever the Justin Bieber demographic is into these days. Besides, what actress today could really fill Jerrica Benton/Jem’s pumps? (Well, here are a few guesses.) Better to leave Jem to live forever on,and fabulously so, on DVD and on The Hub.
He-Man (but really, She-Ra)
Despite (or maybe because of) the massive failure that was 1987’s live-action Masters of the Universe, they’re rebooting He-Man into a new feature film. Fine by me. But for the love of Grayskull, don’t touch my beloved She-Ra! The Princess of Power’s saga was Star Wars space opera-meets-sword and sandals, and she a much more interesting sword-equipped champion than her brother. Evidence: Better outfit, more complex sexuality (a woman on top vs. a meathead with a pageboy cut), and she rides a unicorn. Does it get better than that? NO. So don’t ruin it, people.
The multi-billion dollar Care Bears franchise has been around since 1981, but after the property’s ’80s heyday — which bore a television series, three animated films, and plenty of merchandising spin-offs — the cuddly bears have mostly languished in direct-to-DVD hell, with four millennial home video sequels making nary a blip on the mainstream radar, and in a 2007 rebooted cartoon series featuring new designs. Now, American Greetings is planning a 2013 CGI series to re-introduce the love-spreading bears with yet another updated facelift, and if that’s popular, it’s only a matter of time before we see the Care Bears on the big screen a la Alvin and the Chipmunks — the freaky, CG-animated, Pussycat Dolls-miming 21st century Chipmunks, that is. * Shudder *
Thundarr the Barbarian
If this summer’s R-rated Conan reboot is a hit with the grown-up crowd, could it inspire more confidence in the sword-and-sandals genre? If so, Thundarr’s not only ripe for reimagining, it’d be coming full circle in a way, having been inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger’s original Conan film. Still other upcoming film properties may clear the way for the sci-fi barbarian saga, including Rise of the Planet of the Apes and John Carter… but is Thundarr better left preserved where we last left it, in 1982?
Real talk: Snorks were basically underwater Smurfs, tiny creatures with tenuous ties to the world of humans who existed in their own society. Family Guy made the easy joke about the little creatures and their unique appendages, but otherwise the Snorks have little cache these days among the current generation of kids, which is the good news; you know some producer out there has floated the idea of updating The Snorks (their snorkel heads were made to pop out at you in 3-D!), but they’re probably nowhere near recognizable enough to get the reboot treatment.
The Brave Little Toaster
One of the best (and most terrifying) animated children’s films of the ’80s, the Disney-distributed Brave Little Toaster was indeed followed by two sequels, also based on author Thomas Disch’s novels. Director Jerry Rees hinted last year at plans for a new CG sequel that would catch up with Toaster & Co. the next day, but you know what? The Toy Story movies already pretty much covered that ground. So… thank you, Pixar? (Below, watch the sarcastic Air Conditioner — voiced by Phil Hartman — try to burst the BLT and Friends’ bubble. “What are you gonna do, suck me to death?”)
Garbage Pail Kids
Technically, the Garbage Pail Kids were primarily a trading card property, and they’re included here out of revulsion and not love for the franchise, but still: Let us never see this “Topp’s Chewing Gum” production or its 1987 animated series (canceled before it even aired due to watchdog group concerns) brought back to gross out another generation on the big screen. Poor, poor Mackenzie Astin — an auspicious debut, indeed.