Utne Blogs > Arts and Culture

Eighties Cartoon Characters Get Face Lifts, Lipo

by Kari Volkmann-Carlsen 


Tags: arts, visual arts, cartoon characters, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, Biskitts,

Care BearsFlipping through channels a while ago, I stopped on an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, revamped with menacing faces and mega muscles. Their newly designed image, devoid of the friendly smiles characteristic of the late-eighties version, made me question why 4Kids Entertainment, the owners of said turtles, felt the urge to modernize these much-loved reptiles with ‘tude.

The Ninja Turtles aren’t the only ones to get a makeover. American Greetings Co. has glammed up Strawberry Shortcake and the Care Bears. D.A. Kolodenko, writing for San Diego CityBeat, describes the new, slimmed-down, cell phone-toting Strawberry Shortcake as a “ripe and sexy little 21st-century confection.” The Care Bears were redesigned in 2007 with “less belly fat and longer eyelashes.” Sleek and sinister, slim and sexy—are these the characteristics that are emblematic of our modern culture? If anything, I think the eco-conscious Captain Planet deserves a comeback.

So why are companies reinventing old cartoon characters instead of designing new ones? According to Kolodenko, playing off of parents’ nostalgia has proven to be a safer investment than creating unknowns in our poorly functioning economy—Strawberry Shortcake has brought in $2.5 billion since 2003.

In an attempt to get ahead of the game, Kolodenko rounded up some lesser-known characters to see how their modern selves could lend some big bucks to corporations. Among forgotten favorites like the Wuzzles and the Herculoids, the heartrending story of the Biskitts comes to light:

Biskitts—Hanna-Barbera’s “smallest dogs in the world” guarded a treasure in a castle in a swamp on a tiny island. The island was swallowed up by Hurricane Katrina, and most of the Biskitts drowned. The only remaining Biskitt, Mooch, lives on the streets of New Orleans, mooching biscuits and mumbling to himself about the “g*ddamn Smurfs.”

Won't somebody give that sad mutt a makeover?

Image by johntrainor, licensed under Creative Commons.