By Molly Freeman
Photo courtesy of Mario Arruda.
What do Boy Meets World, The Magic School Bus, Reading Rainbow, and The Powerpuff Girls all have in common? In addition to retaining a space close to the hearts of many Millennials, all these ‘90s television series have returned (or will) to the silver screen in one way or another. They’re part of the overarching reboot trend in Hollywood, but are these series intended to be for their original audiences?
Hollywood has become saturated with rebooted properties. In 2015 alone, moviegoers will be treated to several series’ newest installments: Jurassic Park—Jurassic World–in June, Terminator—Terminator: Genisys–in July, and Star Wars—Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens–in December. Aside from these films, though, movie producers have spawned reboots of action franchises like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Godzilla, as well as planned for new versions of Ghostbusters and King Kong.
However, while some of these properties originated before the time of Millennials, many television shows and movies from the ‘80s/’90s/’00s are making their comeback in one form or another. Tim Burton recently mentioned moving forward with Beetlejuice 2, while a sequel/reboot to The Goonies is also floating around.
Millennials’ nostalgia for their childhood entertainment is a powerful force in Hollywood. Saturday morning cartoons from the 1990s and 2000s beloved by twenty-somethings became widely available on streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime in recent years. Certain animated treasures are even available on YouTube, like Disney’s critically acclaimed Gargoyles series.
For members of the Millennial generation who have cable (and don’t rely on the internet to watch television), the Nickelodeon-owned TV network TeenNick has a block of nostalgic programming called The ‘90s Are All That. First unveiled in 2011, the return of classic Nick shows like All That, Hey Arnold!, and Kenan and Kel was a hit among Millennials. The concept was so popular that the titles of shows like Doug and Clarissa Explains It All became trending topics on Twitter and Google right when TeenNick launched the programming block.
While Nickelodeon received a positive response by directly bringing back popular programming from Millennials’ childhood years, the television industry’s reboots seem to have less success–at least, with the Gen Yers. For instance, the Boy Meets World reboot/continuation, Disney’s Girl Meets World, seemed to receive less than favorable reviews from those that watched the original show.
However, Girl Meets World–as well as other ‘90s shows that are revived as children’s programming–wasn’t designed to appeal to Millennials. The Boy Meets World spinoff is intended for the new generation, Gen Z (some of whom may even be children of their Gen Y predecessors).
It’s possible that Millennials will enjoy Girl Meets World since the show brings back many cast members and characters from Boy Meets World. However, because Girl Meets World is first and foremost a children’s show, we have to consider that the landscape of contemporary children’s programming is considerably different from the culture of the ‘90s or early ‘00s.
On the movie side, twenty and even thirty-somethings may not have appreciated the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie that was released last year, but the film was still financially successful. The reason for this is that Nickelodeon Movies, the company that produced the summer blockbuster, primarily focused on children as their target audience. The film was successful enough that a sequel is already planned for release in 2016.
Like Girl Meets World, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may be based on a property dear to the hearts of Millennials, but was rebooted for a new generation. Like it or not, Millennials aren’t the dominant audience for children’s television or movies.
Time only moves forth, and the entertainment industry will exercise their interests in keeping things current and profitable. Even if an upcoming show or film is based on a theme Millennials recognize, they must realize that such reboots will be more in line with the current trends in the industry rather than appealing to older audiences’ nostalgia–or, if at all possible, producers will try to make a hybrid of the two.