Is the Action Cartoon Dead?
Will the 80s/90s heyday ever come back?
Cartoon Network debuted the new Thundercats Roar trailer and the verdict is in... a lot of people think it trash. It's a lot of people in their 30s and 40s. You know, the ones that grew up with the original Thundercats and not the core demo that they're trying to catch with this series, but people, nonetheless. There was a Thundercats reboot that came out in 2011 and it was really good. It had good action and a very complex, dark storyline, and it got canceled after 26 episodes. So Cartoon Network is gonna take another crack at the Thundercats by making it a comedy and giving it an animation style that looks like a five-year-old boy drew it.
And it seems like they're doing this with all action cartoons by replacing the more serious action-based version of a show with a more comedic based version of a show with a more manic animation style as seen in popular kids show like Steven Universe and Adventure Time. And that brings me to the question that's been on my mind for a while now. Is the action cartoon dead? I mean, it seems that way with shows like the aforementioned Steven Universe, Adventure Time, and The Amazing World of Gumball being the most popular cartoons out now while shows like Young Justice die a horrible death. With comedy cartoons making a comeback in a big way, it's almost like cartoons are reverting back to the Looney Tunes/Hanna Barbera days of the 50s, 60s, 70s when shows like Scooby Doo and Hong Kong Phooey reign supreme. It wasn't until mid-1980s and the success of the Masters of the Universe toyline that the action cartoon boom really started with shows like Transformers, G.I. Joe, and Thundercats jumping on the bandwagon. And when robots, soldiers, and muscley armed cat people weren't popular anymore in the late 80s with the success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, every studio rushed to find whatever animal they could make muscley armed, from Street Sharks to Biker Mice from Mars. In the 90s, we also had animated version of our favorite comic book superheroes like Batman, Spider-Man, and the X-men, which focus more on a complex story than selling toys and the live-action adaptations of shows from Japan like Power Rangers and VR Troopers. So when did the action die? I have my theories.
My first theory is that the generation of kids grew up. By 1997, all the kids that grew up on 80s and 90s action cartoons were teenagers and young adults who had other interests. My second theory is just that video games became more popular. I mean why play with a little-molded piece of plastic anymore when you can just grab a controller and take a character wherever you wanna take him, and when kids got that mentality and stop buying action figures, there was no need for the cartoon.
My final theory, and it may sound absurd, but I think Spongebob killed the action cartoon. Spongebob Squarepants debuted in 1999 and is what I think is the final nail in the coffin to action cartoons. Spongebob was the start of a new wave of cartoon; cartoons that were more manic, cartoons that were crasser and rude, and cartoons that were weirder and brilliant, grabbing a whole new generation of kids who don't respond to violence is the answer to your problems, and hypermasculinity is the key. Instead, they use humor to get out of a situation, which is something they probably learn from Spongebob Squarepants. So, in conclusion, do I like the new Thundercats Roar trailer? No, but I also have to come to terms that I am an old man now and these cartoons aren't made for me anymore. And is the action cartoon dead? Yes, and it may be for a good while now, but I still have faith that one good action cartoon will come around that you just can't deny, and it will inspire a whole new generation of children and the action boom will begin again.