The British animation industry was pulled back from the brink by subsidies, but now it faces a far bigger and more insurmountable challenge: Brexit.
Stuart Heritage recently wrote an opinion piece in The Guardian on the topic of a Danger Mouse reboot for the 21st century. Although slightly tongue in-cheek, Heritage manages to nail down the finer points of such an effort and why it just might work if done right:
And then there’s the question of the reboot itself. The word conjures up catastrophic images of a humourless, jerky CGI rodent, possibly in a baseball cap, possibly called Dangamouz, battling the forces of evil with the power of industrial dubstep. Sometimes this tactic can work – both He-Man and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have been the recipients of darker updates, and they were arguably better than the originals – but it almost definitely won’t with Danger Mouse.
The notion of rebooting an old kids cartoon from the 1980s is nothing new and past successes would surely embolden anyone looking to take it on. The question is though, do we even deserve a Danger Mouse reboot?
First of all, what do I mean by ‘deserve’. Surely that question was answered in the Simpsons episode “The Itchy, Scratchy and Poochie Show” when Bart confronted Comic Book Guy about being “owed” entertainment, right? Weeeeeell, no. As consumers, we do deserve to be entertained. That’s our demand, and plenty of times, producers do a great job of satisfying it. However, plenty of other times, they do not.
The risk involved in creating a new animated property (TV show, web series or otherwise) is immense. There is plenty of success to be had if you pull it off, sure. But what if it’s not?
Bad entertainment can leave a sour taste in your mouth for years, decades even, in the same way that great entertainment can bring back a flood of nostalgia many years after the last viewing.
Danger Mouse would play off of this. The original series is steeped in nostalgia for many many people who grew up with it but when viewed today, the show is rather crude compared to modern standards. A reboot would keep the characters and premise intact but would update them to appeal more to today’s tastes and hopefully bring a whole new generation into the fold of a great animated property.
Why don’t we deserve a Danger Mouse reboot? Well as much as consumers deserve to be entertained, they also deserve to be entertained in an innovative manner. Hollywood has been rehashing the same formulas for decades but every iteration is done so in such a way as to appear new. Think of Danger Mouse’s inspiration, James Bond. Practically every film is the same and yet they keep making more because they keep finding ways to innovate just enough to make it appear fresh.
In the context of Danger Mouse, it would be tantamount to admitting that the concept of a British mouse who’s a secret spy must depend on a property that is nigh-on 30 years old and that has had no significant activity since it ended production in 1992.
Are we, as consumers, deserving of such a situation? No! We should be deserving of new ideas or twists on the concept of a British spy. Throwing an old idea in new wrapping is insulting on many levels but it’s a situation that keeps on happening. Now yes, you could argue that many consumers are all too happy to lap reboots up but that misses the point. Plenty of the consumers that enjoy the reformulated content are the very same consumers who will drool at the thought of a new episode of Mad Men or become slaven devotees to whichever new show is on HBO.
Yes, Danger Mouse would be aimed at kids, but kids are voracious consumers of anything that’s sold to them as being ‘new’. Why should we, as adults, force our nostalgic memories on them? Why shouldn’t we create something that bestows its own nostalgia on them? I believe we should, and be all the better as an industry for it.
Would a Danger Mouse reboot ruin your childhood? Let us know with a comment!
Coming via The Belfast Telegraph, British animation legend Nick Park (of Wallace and Gromit fame) has this to say about his country’s animation output as of late:
The director of The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, the only British film to claim the Best Animated feature Oscar, told the Radio Times that filmmakers might need to up the “schmaltz” factor to earn better results. “We need to tell our own stories, rooted in our own culture, but do it with the equivalent emotion of Hollywood,” he said.
“Billy Elliot did it, and The Full Monty, but I don’t think we have it yet in animation.
He has a point. Recent theatrical successes have been mostly comedic and although they are British, only Wallace and Gromit could be said to truly represent British culture; Pirates was more international in scope.
Something along the lines of The Secret of Kells is what British animation needs. Something relatively dramatic but with a very strong relationship to the culture which it is based on. Something comparable to a 21st century Animal Farm if you will.
Where is Richard Williams when you need him?
Chris Sobiniek was kind enough to write in to fill in some background information on my recent post about 80s British cartoons that I thought never made it across the Pond. Lo and behold, some of them actually did! Below is what was sent over detailing where and when they made it on the air.
In the US, many of these shows aired first on cable TV. There wasn’t much of a chance for any of ‘em on regular TV much during that time, and the new cable TV market proved to be a great ‘dumping ground’ for foreign toons on channels like Nickelodeon (further picking up the interest of those of us who were tired on the domestic Saturday morning junk). Cable/satellite TV in those days wasn’t quite as proliferated as it was in the 90?s, so there was plenty of room for experimenting and trying different things than what was seen before from “The Big Three”.
Danger Mouse premiered as early as 1983 over here and lasted up to probably 1988 or ’89, but also made a faint appearance in the early 90’s I think too.
Count Duckula would premiere also on Nick in 1988 and lasted for a good number of years as I recall.
Bananaman on the other hand, aired on Nick in the 80’s as well, though I can recall it mostly coming on right after Dangermouse as I think they had 5 or so minutes to kill and just stuck it there anyway, in later years it showed up on a program called “Total Panic” as one of the cartoons shown Sunday mornings.
While Nickelodeon back then was part of the “basic tier” of cable channels one could get, The Disney Channel use to be a premium channel on the same platform as HBO or Showtime, and thus you had to beg your parents to get that so you could watch SuperTed they played too (I think it use to be on around 1984-86). Home Video releases of the SuperTed series also were made available from Walt Disney Home Video (which came in handy for those that didn’t get the channel).
Not sure if we ever got Postman Pat back then, though I do recall videos of it being released here anyway (home video often was the scapegoat for things that may see little or no airings on TV in those days). I’m certainly the later Postman Pat stuff when they got the puppets mouths moving probably did air here anyway.
I don’t remember The Raggy Dolls or The Family Ness showing up here (let alone “The Trap Door” for that matter, and that one surely could’ve hit it over big here too), I do recall this show popping up on Nick featuring Spike Milligan’s wit and narration…
Thomas The Tank Engine had a rather interesting history over here, as we didn’t get quite the same type of program you guys had. Instead, and probably as a means of testing the waters for this guy here, Britt Allcroft co-created a program as a springboard for Thomas that aired on PBS stations beginning in 1989 called “The Shining Time Station”. Thomas’ adventures were told from a little character the kids could see named “Mr. Conductor” (who was either played by Ringo Starr in the first season and George Carlin for the remainder of the show’s run).
Pretty much the way I view that show today is really just that, we had to get up to speed on this Thomas thing like the Brits and then go from there (such as with that movie)!
So yeah, we Americans weren’t too far behind, but we certainly did miss out on a few stuff now and then.
I suppose it’s a sign that I can safely say I remember a time when there wasn’t 24 hour cartoon channels. Yes, I am a child of the 1980s, and I have very fond memories of not only watching cartoons, but waiting for cartoons to come on.
Anyway, here’s a couple of my favourites that I don’t believe made the transition across the Atlantic, which is a shame. However, thanks to the wonder of YoutTube, you can (well, at least the openings anyway). Enjoy!
Count Duckula (which rocks a very thriller-esque theme)
Bonus! The end sequence, which in all likelihood has yet to be bettered in terms of effort.
The Family Ness
Thomas the Tank Engine
And my very favourite, Postman Pat