Hollywood is running out of classic 1980s films to revive, so now it’s moving a decade later for inspiration.
Warner Bros. and Steven Spielberg are developing a reboot of the 1990s cartoon Animaniacs, Indiewire reported this week. The series, about three zany, dog-like siblings wreaking havoc on the Warner Bros. lot, joins a rapidly growing list of beloved 1990s animated series to be rebooted in the last year.
In the last few months alone, Netflix has ordered reboots of the popular 1990s cartoons The Magic School Bus and Carmen Sandiego. Meanwhile, Nickelodeon has announced reboots of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Invader Zim (the latter in movie form).
Of course, no reboot party would be complete without the category’s undisputed champion, Disney. The Mouse House will air a reboot of DuckTales on its network Disney XD later this year. (Disney is also rebooting the 2000s animated series Ultimate Spider-Man to air on the same network.)
Cartoon Network has already rebooted The Powerpuff Girls and Samurai Jack, and will soon broadcast a reboot of the Mega Man animated series too. Other animated reboot projects that don’t yet have an official home on television include Power Rangers, Ghostbusters, and, yes, a show called ReBoot.
And for the most unassailable proof of the enduring relevance of 1990s animation, there’s the fact that Leonardo Dicaprio wants to produce a film based on the cartoon Captain Planet. (Though its heartfelt environmentalist message is arguably needed far more now than when the show debuted in 1990.)
Launched in 1993, Animaniacs was a staple in the TV diet of American children throughout the 1990s. While its cast of kooky characters and kinetic style appealed to kids, its irreverence and frequent cultural parodies made the series fun for adults. Spielberg, who produced the original series, is reportedly working with Warner Bros. on finding a home for the revival.
Netflix seems an obvious fit. The streaming giant has rebooted several shows already, and has a vast library of animated shows aimed at kids. And, according to Indiewire, the original Animaniacs experienced a “surge in popularity” since hitting Netflix last year. The hugely successful syndicated afterlife of Gilmore Girls is one reason why Netflix decided to revive it last year.
The other reason, of course, was nostalgia. And that’s where 1990s cartoons come in. The decade has been called the “renaissance age of animation,” a period in which the technical quality and creativity of cartoons improved significantly (especially compared to the 1970s and early 1980s). Millions of millennials grew up on Saturday morning cartoons in the 1990s, and now many have children of their own.
Meanwhile, the TV and film industries have nearly exhausted their supply of 1980s sci-fi franchises to resurrect—so 1990s cartoons seems an obvious next target.