Last week we gazed into the abyss, and the cold, dead eyes of the new International Rescue team from Thunderbirds gazed back. As movies and TV constantly seek to strip-mine your nostalgia for profit, redesigns like this are common. And sometimes, they go very wrong. Here are 11 awful makeovers of our childhood favourites.
Hallmark's Rainbow Brite is just one of many childhood characters to get a slimmed-down update for Modern kids - but there was something particularly egregious about aging up Rainbow Brite, giving her more makeup, more skin to show and a more conventionally "aesthetic" body type. Which is especially creepy, considering that despite the age-up, she's still a kid. Despite looking like she's less astonishingly 80's, she just looks bland instead.
Unfortunately, the next update of Rainbow Brite's aesthetic looks equally turgid — less aged-up, and more just tonally awful.
Oh, poor Sonic. He's not been treated well by Sega since his halcyon days in terms of his actual video games — but their latest attempt to restore the character's appeal has ruffled plenty of fans' feathers. Sonic Boom, a new TV-show-stroke-video-game media blowout was revealed last year, much to the displeasure of many. It's been a gradual change physically for Sonic as he gets longer and longer appendages (and yet, his ginormous head has barely changed), but the kicker for many was the bizarre attempt to 'busy up' the relatively minimalist design of the character with... bandages and a tatty scarf? It's by far from the most radical redesign on here, but its relative pointlessness still makes it utterly terrible.
This might hold the honour of the shortest lived 'redesign' of a character - kind of sort of, anyway. The sixth issue IDW's Powerpuff Girls series faced huge backlash last year when a subscriber's variant cover revealed a... sexy look for the trio, apparently mandated by Cartoon Network. Fans reacted quickly and angrily to these innocent little girls being turned into sexed-up pin-up girls. And the cover variant was scrapped before it was released to the public.
At least the recent reboot, while very different, doesn't go too far from the original designs.
As a company, Nintendo have been known in recent years to be feverishly defensive on the subject of licensing out their characters to other companies — and while that was largely down to the awful Super Mario Bros. movie in the mid-90s, I'd like to think their earlier attempts at a Nintendo-focused cartoon helped play a part in that.
The show, loosely sharing a premise with the Captain N comics (very loosely) followed teenager Kevin Keene after he was transported to 'Video Land', populated by nightmarish versions of heroes from popular NES games like Megaman, Pit from Kid Icarus and Castlevania's Simon Belmont. They weren't meant to be nightmarish, but they certainly looked it - especially Megaman, shown above. That's just goddamn creepy right there.
It might be a cheap shot to include these modern day 'hyper-realistic' redesigns of classic cartoons on this list — but goddammit, that's the whole reason they're so freaky-looking. Last year's Michael Bay produced Ninja Turtles movie gave us these creepy, scaly and hulked-out updates to the Turtles, complete with the weirdly disturbing nostrils that had fans of the comics and the 90's cartoon (which in itself was a pretty radical departure from the aesthetic of the comic series) freaking out. Many fan edits attempted to give the Turtles smoother beaks akin to their traditional design, because seriously, those nostrils took these guys to a whole new level of ick.
The New Adventures Of He-Man is not well remembered thanks to the awfulness of its premise (and the fact that it turned He-Man into a ponytailed Chippendale dancer.) But it's not He-Man's own design that people reviled — it was his archnemesis, Skeletor.
It was a pretty simple change, but one that already made the guy who's head is literally just a skull look even creepier — they gave him cartoonish eyeballs. That was enough to make a good creepy design into a bad creepy one.
Another day, another creepily hyper-realistic redesign. Unlike the Ninja Turtles' design however, The Smurf's live action adaptation by Sony stayed relatively true to the classic designs from the cartoons — it's just that the realism was cranked up to the max so these CGI monstrosities could romp about in our world with Neil Patrick Harris. I don't think anyone ever wants to see the wrinkles on Papa Smurf's face ever again.
Plus, again with the eyes. Give a formerly stylised cartoon character human eyes, and bam! Instant blergh.
Often reviled as one of the worst video game redesigns in history, the update to the classic gaming hero Bomberman for Bomberman Act Zero is one of the finest (well, not in a good way) examples of grim and grittiness to the extremes, just for the sake of it. The awful design pretty much booted everything about Bomberman out the window, the chibi aesthetic and cutesy suit replaced with a shockingly generic armoured dude with a random giant claw for a hand, because, ya know, extreeeeeme.
Suffice to say, it and Act Zero were not well received, and the updated design was never used again.
Now this is a weird one, as it's not really a cartoon character, but one closely associated with them. Any child of the nineties who's first exposure to anime through Cartoon Network's Toonami block will remember Tom, the CG robot character who provided links between your episodes of Gundam Wing and Dragonball Z, or what have you. As Toonami's audiences dwindled, a desperate attempt to revitalise the block lead to Tom getting a radically more kidsy redesign, once again instantly creepified by the addition of human eyes on a mouth onto an otherwise robotic frame. More time was given over to the new petrifying Tom's antics rather than the anime itself, and the audience continued to dwindle, until Cartoon Network canned it a year after the new Tom was introduced.
You know who needed a post-apocalyptic spin-off? The Looney Tunes! Wait, what?
Loonatics Unleashed took the likes of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and more and gave them descendants from the future, clad in grim and gritty futuristic designs for this animated series in the mid-2000's. Loonatics sought to combine the slapstick humour of the original Looney Tunes shorts with a more action-focused cartoon series — but, unsurprisingly, it didn't work. The darker approach to such lighthearted characters didn't please audiences, and neither did the absurd designs, and the show was cancelled — after somehow surviving for two seasons.
Look, you know these had to be on the list. I know they had to be on the list. In fact, I struggled with where to put them, either an honorable mention or at number 11 just to get them out of the way, but it's hard not to argue that the modern movie designs of the classic Transformers are anything but some of the worst updates to a classic franchise around. The Transformers have received some pretty duff visual updates over the years, but these were particularly terrible — gone was the relative simplicity of the transformers designs, and much of their bold color palettes, replacing them with overdesigned, spiky shards of metal and subdued colors, giving way to dirty, grimy gunmetal. They didn't just look like bad robot designs, you could barely even tell one Transformer apart from the other when they fought, leading to awful, incoherent messes for fight scenes.
Also, they gave Optimus lips. NEVER GIVE OPTIMUS LIPS. Every time that goddamn mask lifted up it was a nightmare.