2015 has evidently been the year of the reboot in the world of movies and television. We’re getting a whole slew of live-action adaptations of classic animated Disney films, including Beauty and the Beast, Mulan, Dumbo, Pinocchio, The Junglebook, Winnie the Pooh and possibly Aladdin, to name only a few. We’ve got a new TV show for The Muppets on ABC in the form of a mockumentary, single-camera format à la The Office. We’re getting a reboot of the popular 90s’ family sitcom, Full House, in the form of Fuller House to be released on Netflix in 2016. We saw Charlie Brown and the whole Peanuts gang make their big screen debut in The Peanuts Movie (and, on a side note, the original TV special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, is celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year). We’re getting a new version of The Powerpuff Girls in 2016 (albeit with different animation and new voice actresses) and, as it was recently announced, a new Hey Arnold! TV movie is in the works (and, can I just say, I’m unabashedly excited about it. It’s currently still in the pre-production stage, but I’m sure we’ll find out more details soon enough).
Now, all of the above-mentioned movies and TV shows are barely a chip off the iceberg in terms of how many remakes and reboots are actually happening. Others include Ghostbusters, Gilmore Girls, Star Trek… Of course, let’s not also forget the upcoming Star Wars movie. (Okay, yes, that one isn’t a remake, but rather a completely new, seventh film in the franchise.) Regardless, you get the idea.
The news of all these reboots raises the following question for me: Why is the industry banking on people’s nostalgia instead of focusing its energy on developing new, original series for people to embrace? That’s the thing. Nostalgia is all part of the marketing.
When you think about it, nostalgia really is a powerful concept. It’s that wistful longing for the past, particularly those memories that bring warmth to your heart and a smile on your face. It’s a yearning for many things, for youth, for happier times, for a point in your life you can no longer go back to, except in your memory.
Specifically, when it comes to movies and television, the closest we can get to re-living those wonderful memories of our childhood is by re-watching cartoons and TV shows and movies we adored when we were younger. That being said, times have obviously changed over the years. For instance, the act of watching TV has become far less of a communal experience in recent years. Now that DVR exists (unlike years ago, when, if you wanted to record something on TV, you had to fire up the good old VCR and use a blank VHS tape to record it), and we have streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc., there’s really no need for us to have to sit in front of the TV at a designated time to watch a show. Instead, we’re able to indulge in our favorite shows on our own time, whether it’s by watching an episode on a weekly basis, or binge-watching an entire season in a single day.
The goal with all these reboots is to not only market to the generations of people who grew up on the original shows and movies, but also to get new generations of kids to watch and fall in love with the very same characters and storylines. However, the problem with catering to older generations is that a remake won’t live up to the original because we’re at a different point in our lives now than we were back then. We have fond memories of all the shows and movies we watched when we were younger because we associate them with a specific time in our life, like coming home from school and watching our favorite cartoons with our siblings, then discussing them with our friends the next day at school. It’s the magic of all those cherished childhood memories these remakes are attempting to re-create and sell to us. It’s important to remember, however, that instead of relying on the remakes to live up to expectations they simply cannot meet, we can still love the old stuff while enjoying the new stuff as a separate entity hoping to captivate audiences young and old.