The Reboot Era : Comparing and Contrasting Remakes to Originals

Testing new characters and ideas is a risky proposition…Established characters come with background knowledge from a tried and tested universe

You may have noticed that there are a lot of reboots these days – remakes or updates of an older media property for a new audience. Lately, 80’s toy and cartoon properties like My Little Pony, Transformers, G.I. Joe, and most recently Jem, have all been updated decades later. Some are hip cartoons for kids and parents to watch together, like My Little Pony. Some are major blockbuster action movies like Transformers, G.I. Joe and TMNT. Some updates have a modern twist, like how the new movie Jem and the Holograms makes its protagonist an online viral media star.

What you may not know is why there are so many reboots. There are a lot of reasons for it. In another cool NuSkool lesson, we explore some of the social reasons for reboots. Sometimes as society changes and we share new values, old morals from stories like fairy tales no longer seem to fit the stories we tell. (It’s a big leap from Hansel and Gretel as naughty, meddling children to the wisecracking superheroes of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters!)

There are economical reasons for reboots. Testing new characters and ideas is a risky proposition for media producers who spend upwards of hundred of millions of dollars on popular media like Hollywood films, television programs, and video games. Established characters come with background knowledge from a tried and tested universe that producers can plug into and even change afterward, like when comic books that are adapted into movies or shows change based on its popularity.

There are also legal reasons for reboots. Popular media properties like superheroes, cartoons, toys, and other well-known characters are protected under copyright laws, which grant rights to the owners of these properties to control, to some degree, how the properties are used. If you wanted to make a Hollywood movie with a Marvel superhero like Iron Man, you would need to get permission from the person who owns the copyright. When you follow the chain of ownership, you end up at Disney, a major media institution that owns the rights to the Marvel universe, the Star Wars universe, and (of course) the Disney and Pixar animated franchises. (Remember, USERS like you also have certain rights to use copyrighted characters in a wide variety of ways, such as the critical analysis of this lesson or fan-made art projects, under US copyright law’s definition of fair use, which you can learn more about here.)

Comparing and contrasting original media properties to their rebooted versions tell us a lot about how different authors and producers tailor their media for different audiences. In this lesson, you will figure out how reboots are similar to or different from their originals and make some observations about what those differences tell us about the media property itself (including who owns it and how much it cost to make), different target audiences, and different techniques that rebooters use to tell the same story in a new way.


Some media may contain mature content. Discretion is advised when viewing with students.

Lesson Plan

LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Students will relate rebooted media properties to the economics of popular media production (TV, films, video games, comics, music, etc.) and to the target audiences for different audiences by role-playing a media institution responsible for pitching a NEW version of an OLD media property to a specific audience.

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Lesson tags: Comics, Eighth, English, Featured, Film, Pop Culture, reboots, Seventh, Sixth, TV


David Cooper Moore is a Philadelphia-based filmmaker and media educator. He has contributed curriculum, video resources, and scholarship to various schools, non-profits, academic centers, and media companies. He is a co-author of the book Discovering Media Literacy, a teacher's guide to elementary and middle-level digital and media literacy education. You can learn more about his work online and find him on Twitter at @dcoopermoore.