Nostalgia is king right now. Especially on Netflix.
The streaming giant seems to know exactly what fangirls and boys want, thanks to their recent success bringing ’80s classics like Voltron and She-Ra back in the form of highly-entertaining new animated series. These new versions both honor the previous versions’ legacies while also furthering the brands.
As much as we love using our brains as wayback machines to revisit nostalgic milestones from the ’90s, the 1980s is our jam. The decade is full of similar cartoons/delivery systems for toy sales worth revisiting and rebooting for a new audience.
Here are 11 of the most worthy and watchable candidates. (Sorry/not sorry, GO Bots.)
“From the makers of He-Man” is all a young boy in the ’80s needed to hear to drag their parents to the toy store to collect these figures – which deserved a much longer shelf-life than they got. (Since Paramount’s attempt to turn this series into movie has seemingly stalled in development hell, Hollywood might as well give TV a shot.)
While not a huge hit, the toy line and the animated series is ripe for a “Game of Thrones meets Harry Potter” take on the material, which centers on the Knights of the Magical Light, members of an electronics-free society that relies on magic instead of science or industry (hence the figures’ cool hologram sticker chest plates that have a 3D effect.) Their planet, Prysmos, is home to warring factions: The good guys, called the Spectral Knights (new band name, called it!) and the obvious baddies, the Darkling Lords. The former are the only ones preventing the latter from acquiring all the magic, and the power struggles therein are tailor-made for some engaging stories on par with Netflix’s Castlevania in terms of delivering leveled-up narratives for adults. Who wouldn’t want to see one of these knight’s emblems, which basically house their spirit animal that best speaks to their power set, come to life and battle it out with PG-13 (or R) rated abandon?
Selfishly, we just want to have the toys back. They’re nostalgia porn.
It’s a Sophie’s Choice between the Real American Heroes and the Robots in Disguise when it comes between our favorite ‘80s cartoons based on toys. We give the slight edge to Duke, Flint, Snake Eyes, and Company because their big-screen adventures left much to be desired. With the recent success of Mike Costa’s IDW comics run, fans seems to want a grittier, Jason Bourne-esque take on their favorite kickers of Cobra ass. Netflix feels like a good home for that.
Imagine an animated series that follows young recruits under Duke’s command as they embark on a Casino Royale-style origin story that exposes the new villains on the block. It could bring both new and old fans to the brand and achieve the critical acclaim recent revivals like She-Ra have achieved for the streamer.
Whatever version an animated series could take, we’d want it to be as epic and fun as our eight-year-old imaginations, like when we would get into dogfights with our Sky Strikers and Cobra Rattlers – landing safely (if you could afford it/had awesome friends) on the U.S.S. Flagg. The series can be grounded and deliver amazing action, just like the original. And here’s hoping, should there ever be a new animated series, it re-adapts the epic G.I. Joe animated movie storyline because, two words: Nemesis Enforcer. (And don’t get us started on our dreams of Tom Hardy playing NE in a live-action movie.)
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Speaking of She-Ra, since Netflix recently brought back our favorite Princess of Power, why not give Battle Cat’s owner a second act?
The possibilities are endless for a reboot of the property. And, yes, we know Sony has been developing a He-Man movie for eleventy years, but a live-action version of our hero sounds cooler on paper than it may ultimately prove on the big screen. Netflix could go both the animated and live-action series route with the property.
On the live-action side, a show that embraces the toy’s more magical and exaggerated properties in a Game of Thrones tone (especially when it comes to Orko and Skeletor) could prove to be the thing that gets viewers and critics over the initial hump of, “A big-budget He-Man series? Really?” Whether He-Man and friends make a comeback via 2D animation or a big-budget, flesh-and-blood series, fans would stream any iteration in droves. The good will from She-Ra is so strong right now, might as well cash-in on it. You know, for Cringer’s sake.
Skybolt. Ace McCloud. Max f**king Ray. These are only a few of the things that give us all the nostalgia when we look back at this underrated staple from our toy chest. The Centurions toyline and animated series is prime for an animated update; it would give Netflix – or any network or studio – their version of Marvel’s Iron Man.
Centurions centers on a three-man team of specialists – working on land, sea, and air – that are capable of summoning the most badass exo-suits in the history of human events (one guy literally turns himself into a mini-sub). It’s basically like having three Iron Men, and who wouldn’t want to have the opportunity to make Marvel-sized entertainment on an animated series budget?
On top of an established toyline, they can re-skin, make new products, or do a mix of both and drop a few Comic-Con exclusives from the original toyline every July. The storyline and bench of characters are insanely viable revenue streams, both in terms of content and merch.
The Real Ghostbusters
Netflix is already home to the original animated series, which ran from 1986 to 1991. (The less said about Slimer and the Real Ghostbusters, the better.) The streamer might as well add a rebooted animated series to their collection.
Given the status of the franchise’s live-action efforts at Sony Pictures, the likelihood of an animated reboot featuring Peter, Ray, Egon, Winston and (cringe) Slimer is about as high as Ray not getting scared sh**less by the New York Public library ghost. However, there is a (slim) chance Sony could loosen the reins enough for an animated entry that cashes in on fan nostalgia and picks up where the original show left off. Bring back fan-favorites like the Boogeyman and raspy-voiced Samhain, leave Slimer’s solo adventures out of it, and we’ll add this to our watch list ASAP.
If there is anything cooler than dinosaurs strapped with missile-launchers, we don’t wanna know about it. Don’t beat yourself up too much if you don’t remember this toyline; it’s a deep cut but worth looking at through the lens of rebooting.
Tyco’s toyline was short-lived, as was the animated series. But from 1988 to 1990, we were obsessed with these figures and all the battles they could wage. (The Smithsonian was also impressed; they called Tyco to create dinos for their collection.) Storyline-wise, an animated series could scale down the dino conflict to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom size (minus the bad storyline and even worse characterizations). Or it could level it up to the epic visual of a 20-foot T-Rex, armed with lasers and Stinger missiles, trampling into a prehistoric warzone. Either way, just tell us where to send our monthly subscription fees.
Another deep, deep cut for nostalgic toy collectors, StarCom is a burgeoning franchise collecting dust with the potential to be the animated version of Battlestar Galactica.
Best known for having figurines capable of being magnetized to their vehicles, some of which had motorized parts, StarCom pits a militarized version of NASA against an alien race known as Shadow Force (because reasons). The toys and their creatively disappointing animated series served as a way to draw young eyes to NASA’s space program. That noble intent would be embraced today, given our current climate where science and the hopes to voyage beyond our solar system could use a boost. A strong writer’s room has a wide-open canvas to create any type of show they want, and an all-but-forgotten IP worth bringing back to life. And who wouldn’t want to play again with a modern updating of those toys?!
Paramount recently assembled a writer’s room to bring Matt Tracker and Thunderhawk, his flying Camaro (true story), to the big screen. Those efforts have yet to yield something “coming soon to a theater near you,” and that’s a good thing. Because M.A.S.K. belongs on the small screen, uninhibited by the constraints of big-budget, live-action filmmaking.
This show and toyline is basically a LEGO man-sized version of G.I. Joe meets Transformers, just swap out Cobra for VENOM and military vehicles for civilian ones like semi-trucks that can turn into mobile command centers capable of firing lasers or launching midsize nukes. (Yup, the ‘80s… hell of a time.) An animated reboot could benefit from modern CG animation and give the action a much-welcomed upgrade. (Think less Reboot in the CG animation department, more Pixar or The LEGO Movie.) Speaking of LEGO Movie, a potentially fun take could be going very meta with it and giving audiences a Lord & Miller version of Matt Tracker 2.0 duking it out with his nemesis. The Comic-Con crowd would eat that up.
Not the most memorable (or poseable) of figures, SilverHawks nevertheless holds a special place in our 80s-kids hearts. Because shiny silver-coated space heroes with deployable wings.
We’re gonna be honest with you: We don’t really remember liking or disliking the animated series about these space-based heroes and their glorified squirrel-jumper outfits. (And maybe that’s very telling). But we do remember the toys (inspired by the cartoon) being exciting alternatives to others in our collection, especially when you factor in the aforementioned wing deployment. The gonzo story – about a bionic space cop charged with assembling a team of SliverHawks to battle something called Mon’Star – could achieve the dizzying visual heights of the best anime. It is just slightly under being filed as a bonkers concept, but half-human, half-silver heroes fighting a baddie capable of morphing into an armor-plated beast is just too good of a show to pass up.
SliverHawks is arguably all but forgotten about, save for a small niche of fans. But recent properties with similarly sized fanbases have benefited from those fans having voices louder than their smaller numbers would indicate. Don’t let us down, Netflix.
Raise a hand if you had the figures, their vehicles, and the interactive VHS tapes that served as target practice/flight simulators if you had the series’ version of an X-Wing?
These toys, and the live-action series produced in Canada, take us waaaay back. Captain Power and The Soldiers of the Future was a futuristic cross between The Terminator and G.I. Joe. The series, which ran from 1987-1988, combined early CG-animated images with live-action stories set on 22nd Century Earth, during the fallout of The Metal Wars.
Captain Power leads a small band of revolutionaries against a Borg-like force of machines that are one Sarah Connor away from going full Terminator. In 2016, a reboot – Phoenix Rising – was teased to fans at Comic-Con, but there haven’t been any further reports on its momentum since. Since then, Peak TV has become a big deal obviously, and streaming is king. Netflix loves to scratch our 80s nostalgia itch, and this property – a rebooted mix of live-action and CG-animation — would be a great addition to their library, and to the list of panels at Comic-Con.
These toys were weird. Which sort of explains our soft spot for them.
Inhumanoids tells the classic tale of scientists forced to battle three monsters living close to the Earth’s core. Helping our science bros are, you guessed it, a few elemental – almost magical – creatures called Mutores. So it’s a batsh** version of Tremors by way of Jurassic Park – or it could be, with the right creative force driving the project into a new animated series. Horror is obviously bigger now than ever, and the property’s horror monster angle, coupled with a Tremors tone, could be our next favorite guilty pleasure to binge.