No franchise is safe from an extended cartoon reboot
Latchkey kids from the 80’s were the first generation to grow up on cartoons that people explicitly crafted to be marketing vehicles. So it feels on-brand that beloved 80’s franchises would reach into a similar bag of tricks to bring a new generation into the fold. With the pandemic keeping live-action production down, groundbreaking animation shows are flooding TV platforms.
Studios are stuffing the entertainment world with new shows and animated spinoffs of older properties: the new Tom & Jerry movie, Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, Little Ellen for some reason, and a repurposed mishmash of animated Hanna-Barbera characters called Jellystone! The new crossover streaming fanbase also gets: Stan Lee’s Superhero Kindergarten, Kamp Koral (Prime), Rugrats, Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (Netflix), The Mandalorian and The Bad Batch (Disney+). Hasbro isn’t shushing whispers of a possible first-ever Power Rangers cartoon. And now here come the Gremlins.
Secret of the Mogwai
Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai is a hotly-expected animated prequel series follows 10-year old Sam (a.k.a. Mr Wing from the 1984 movie) meeting a young Gizmo in 1920’s Shanghai. They mix with a plucky street thief, encounter monsters from Chinese folklore, and battle an “evil industrialist” (a feudal warlord or corrupt CNP official was probably too real for a cartoon) and his definitely-fed-after-midnight Mogwai minions.
Gotham writer/producer Tze Chun is the creator and Gremlins 1 & 2 director Joe Dante brings old-school cred as a creative consultant. The show made waves in February when HBO announced its star-crammed cast: Ming-Na Wen (The Mandalorian), B.D. Wong (Jurassic Park), Matthew Rhys (The Americans) and James Hong (Kung Fu Panda). HBO doubled down by greenlighting season 2–while audiences have yet to glimpse season 1, which is still waiting for a release date, beyond a single piece of concept art.
Those who grew up on Gremlins and its 1990 sequel are torn between accusing HBO of ruining their childhood and salivating over rumors that the CGI series is testing the waters for an animatronic Gremlins 3, as a new Mountain Dew commercial (with Howie Mandel voicing Gizmo) seems to tease.
Netflix is working on a long-awaited adaptation of DC’s Sandman comics, after decades of false starts and creative churn. Creator Neil Gaiman is closely involved in the 11-episode series, in which Morpheus the dream king (Tom Sturridge) is imprisoned for a century before escaping to reclaim his kingdom. The comic’s moody, surreal visuals make it tricky to translate on film, and Covid slowed production, but Gaiman is going to bat for the show, specifically scolding critics of its nonbinary and black casting choices:
I give all the fucks about the work. I spent 30 years successfully battling bad movies of Sandman.
I give zero fucks about people who don't understand/ haven't read Sandman whining about a non-binary Desire or that Death isn't white enough. Watch the show, make up your minds. https://t.co/KcNzap8Kt4
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) May 29, 2021
Comic nerd Patton Oswalt is Morpheus’s raven emissary Matthew, Boyd Holbrook is the Corinthian, and Game of Thrones star Gwendoline Christie is Lucifer.
Blade Runner: Black Lotus
If A Scanner Darkly taught us anything (besides the fact that drugs are bad yet they made Robert Downey Jr.’s performance so good), it’s that you can beautifully render Philip K. Dick’s stories in animated form. Enter Blade Runner: Black Lotus (Crunchyroll), a continuation of the 1981 classic that saw Harrison Ford hunting replicants in a glittery but grim future. While the plot stays under tight wraps at Cartoon Network, the 13-episode anime series will center around a female replicant 13 years after the original action, and feature some familiar faces.
Produced by Cowboy Bebop creator Shinichiro Watanabe, we can expect lots of noir themes and cyberpunk visuals in the vein of Akira, Memories, Perfect Blue, Ergo Proxy, and Ghost in the Shell. Coming on the popular success of Blade Runner 2049 (Hulu) and Watanabe’s trio of prequel shorts commissioned to promote it, the moody sci-fi vehicle is refusing to be lost in time, like tears in rain.
While fans wait to watch Black Lotus sometime this year, they can check out Watanabe’s prequel trio and Serial Experiments Lain (Crunchyroll), Paranoia Agent (Prime), and Blame! (Netflix).