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Play Elevated’s Deb Weber, Imaginnovation’s Wayne Lindsay and Vize Creative’s James Oddy give us their picks for shows ripe for a comeback.
Barney the dinosaur is coming out of extinction in 2024, thanks to an all-new slate of content planned by Mattel.
In what Mattel hope will be something of a fresh purple patch for the brand, Barney’s return will span TV, film and YouTube content, as well as music and consumer products. There will also be apparel and accessories based on classic Barney, to satisfy adult fans of the brand.
“Barney’s message of love and kindness has stood the test of time,” said Josh Silverman, Chief Franchise Officer and Global Head of Consumer Products at Mattel. He continues: “We will tap into the nostalgia of the generations who grew up with Barney, now parents themselves, and introduce the iconic purple dinosaur to a new generation of kids and families around the world across content, products, and experiences.”
Fred Soulie, SVP and General Manager of Mattel Television, added: “In creating the new series, it was important to us that we properly reflect the world that kids today live in so that the series can deliver meaningful lessons about navigating it.
“With our modern take on Barney, we hope to inspire the next generation to listen, care, and dream big. We think that parents, many of whom will fondly remember the original Barney from their own childhoods, will love the show, too.”
Barney is just the latest icon of kids’ TV to get rebooted in recent times… Disney+ welcomed the return of The Proud Family in The Proud Family: Louder & Prouder and X-Men 97’ is in the works. Over at Paramount+, there’s been a recent Rugrats revival, while live-action reboots of Dora the Explorer and The Fairly OddParents are in development.
Elsewhere, Yogi Bear, Boo Boo, Huckeberry Hound and other iconic characters from the world of Hanna-Barbera got a reimagining in 2021 with Jellystone. Like the upcoming Barney reboot, the show’s characters were pitched as being ‘modernised for today’s family audience.’
With all this in mind, we asked Play Elevated’s Deb Weber, Imaginnovation’s Wayne Lindsay and Vize Creative’s James Oddy for their picks of shows that are ripe for a relaunch.
Deb Weber, Founder, Play Elevated
I’m going to have to go with Dragon Tales, because I think it checks all the boxes: nostalgia, educational, diversity, positive messages and role models, diversified portfolio (toy, books, music, games, toys, puzzles, live events), strong ratings by parent and child viewers, Common Sense Media, Parents’ Choice Awards, Emmy nominations – and academic research outcomes showing significant positive change in social-emotional and language skill development gains among children ages two to five years old.
From a mom perspective, Dragon Tales was one of my daughter’s favourite shows growing up! I thought the characters were lovable and engaging, the episodes were educational and helped her imagination and the series sent the right message to all kids.
On YouTube’s segment DefunctTV: The History of Dragon Tales, I learned more about the series that I think is worth sharing. The documentary explained that Ron Rodecker – educator, illustrator and creator of the Dragon Land storybooks the series was based on – believed that using the plot of the stories could be a way to “teach children to meet new situations with confidence”. The dragons could help children learn lessons and approach situations. Ultimately the show was compared to Sesame Street – that is, what Sesame is for academic readiness, Dragon Tales is for social-emotional readiness.
Given today’s climate and the needs of this generation of kids and families around the world, a relaunch of Dragon Tales could be opportunistic for many. Our young children have fallen behind in their social-emotional learning and development. Dragon Tales could once again, be an effective positive tool for parents, families, and educators alike; a tool to use as a platform to promote conversations with our kids! They face all kinds of challenges today, and the characters and storylines in the series demonstrate how kids can count on their friends and family to help tackle difficult social situations.
Dragon Tales is a perfect blend of “real” kid characters and fantasy-based characters that embody relatable traits for a wide age range and interests of children today. Introducing a catchy song – including lyrics with meaningful messaging in each new episode – and weaving in lessons – with topics including problem-solving and facing challenges together – made the series relevant and purposeful in the past and in the present.
There could be so much potential and opportunity for a Dragon Tales relaunch – it has my vote!
Wayne Lindsay, Founder, Imaginnovation
This question took me back! When it comes to iconic characters, the ones that pop into your head first are those that don’t need a relaunch as they’re still currently top of mind… So it was fun to reflect on the ones that are currently grounded, archived, memories.
It got me thinking about the intro to each episode of the much-loved Super Ted: “An ordinary teddy bear… When he was made, they found something wrong with him and threw him away like a piece of rubbish into an old dark storeroom. Then from outer space…”
Another favourite of mine was The Raggy Dolls. It had a catchy theme tune: “It’s not much of a life when you’re just a pretty face, just to be whoever you are is no disgrace. Don’t be scared if you don’t fit in, look who’s in the reject bin! It’s the Raggy Dolls, Raggy Dolls, Dolls like you and me…” I think these characters within a modern context would work really well to include themes like image, value, physical and emotional wellbeing, sustainability and more.
Which led me to another hot topic: Artificial Intelligence. For all that is said about it, we have an opportunity to showcase what an awesome tool it can continue to be in partnership with the human spirit, our imagination and our challenges. So naturally, I thought of a beloved British children’s programme first aired in 1985…Bertha! It featured a lovable machine – and catchy theme tune! – with a talent for manufacturing all sorts of products in the bustling factory with a cast of quirky characters, all filmed in stop motion.
A modern take on the show could have Bertha’s AI upgraded to incorporate the latest technology, and the facility where they work could be expanded to include even more exciting products and projects. With the addition of new characters, updated animation, and contemporary pop culture references, a Bertha reboot could capture the hearts of kids and adults alike.
AI-powered Bertha could teach kids coding to solve challenges, work with young inventors and explorers to learn science and technology and new ways to express creativity. Bertha’s deep learning and AI could be accessed from anywhere to help kids solve mysteries, catch villains and spot fake products using recognition and authentication capabilities. And then there’s the schoolwork!
And let’s not forget the toy range! With Bertha’s iconic design updated and cheerful personality, there are so many possibilities for a line of collectible figures or an interactive playset where kids can design and manufacture their own products alongside real-life Bertha, inspiring a new generation of problem-solvers.
James Oddy, Co-Founder, Vize Creative
I love brands that relaunch, but as a creative I get really excited about seeing new brands with plenty of characters and storytelling. For me, The Boy, The Fox and the Horse told a story of love, hope, friendship and the courage of asking for help. It seemed to resonate with so many.
As a child growing up in the Eighties, we were very spoilt for content and there is tremendous vault of brands that could be relaunched. I’ll start with pre-school and work my way up!
Some of us will remember Button Moon, this was a Thames (ITV) production, so simple yet elegant, very iconic and unisex. The characters were fantastically effortless but still very captivating and the show also had a really good theme tune. I can see this going into publishing, homeware, wooden toys and would make an incredible immersive world on the Roblox platform today!
I’ll also slip The Trap Door into the pre-school category. Funny, Berk, Boni, Drutt, The Thing Upstairs… If Aardman could remake this, I don’t see why this wouldn’t be a commercial success. And it also had possibly the greatest theme song ever!
Aged up; Jayce and The Wheeled Warriors was just amazing. At the time it was following the footsteps of other strong toy affiliated animated series such as G.I Joe and Transformers. I see a fantastic toy line here, and an anime style reboot would be phenomenal.
The Wild Thornberries has a more unisex appeal and Darwin looks like The Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT’s, so very relevant. Maybe they could rerelease it as an adult animated series and make it kind of abstract like Rick and Morty?
Just for my own selfish reasons, I’d also like Bravestarr to make a comeback! I was obsessed and again a toy range would be a perfect comeback. I mean who doesn’t love a futuristic cowboy? Could go even live action ‘Mandalorian’ style!
In the Adult categories, how about a comeback for MTV Celebrity Deathmatch? Will Smith Vs Chris Rock?
We receive a lot of requests from our clients for branded anniversary style guides. If you saw our American Psycho anniversary guide we did for Evolution, that was so fun to work on! We love relaunching characters so let’s celebrate the amazing existing franchise brands the licensing industry already has to offer, but also use the quality nostalgia to jump start ideas for new innovative content.
PS: I’m cycling from London to Paris for The Royal Marsden Hospital. I’d be so grateful for any sponsorship to this amazing charity, please head to my Just Giving page here.
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