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The new "Velma" show and the future of childrens franchises

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So I watched the first episode of the new adult cartoon reimagining of the Scooby Doo universe, and in terms of content it wasn't anything special compared to a lot of other adult cartoon fare. But what I find a lot more interesting is the concept itself; this is Warner Bros (technically ultimately it's parent company AT&T) taking one of it's most prominent children's franchises and turning into something 100% not for children. Like, Family Guy levels of not for children. This is honestly pretty new within the media landscape. Sure a lot of kids franchises has had spin-offs aimed at older audiences before but most of the time this has happened when either: A ) The franchise in question was somewhat adult or at least all-ages oriented to begin with (as opposed to being purely a kids franchise) or B ) The adult spin-off in question is of sort of a low-key form in terms of visibility to general audiences and aimed primarily at a small group of adult fans; for instance being in the form of a comic book as opposed to a bigger budgeted audio-visual piece of media. An example of this less visible type of adults-only spin off of something aimed typically at young children are the grimdark ultra-serious comic books released by DC some years ago based on classic Hannah-Barbera cartoons ("We participated in a genocide Barney" - actual quote by Fred Flintstone). But this new Velma cartoon is somewhat unique in that it is a major animated production released on a major streaming service. The point is this: This is exactly the kind of "un-wholesome" usage of what are perceieved as childrens characters that up untill recently nearly ALL major American media companies were afraid of ever producing due to a fear of these childrens characters being "tainted" in the eyes of the public. It's unlikely that Warner Bros would have allowed something like this a mere 10 years ago, and almost unthinkable that they would have allowed 20 years ago.

Warner Bros obviously are no longer concerned about fostering a "safe for innocent minds" approach to the Scooby Doo franchise as a whole, even though obviously it goes without saying that most media within the franchise will continue to be child oriented. However, with that said, I honestly sorta suspect that part of the reason for the major redesigns of all the classic main characters in the Velma cartoon is so that Warner can still feel as if they aren't altering the "main" versions of those characters in any non-childfriendly way.

But even so, I'm wondering to what extent this new show speaks for the future in how American media companies will be willing to use their childrens franchises. Will other companies follow in the footsteps of Warner Bros? Will we see edgy, South Park esque versions of, I dunno, Woody Woodpecker or Sponegbob Squarepants? Like, again, not just "aimed at adults and kids alike" but "This is as far away from kids stuff as you can possibly come"-sort of content? I kinda suspect so. And personally I ascribe a lot of the reason for why companies might be more willing to do stuff like this than ever before in history due to the influence of the internet. We already live in a world where there is no way in practice to avoid childrens characters featuring in non-childfriendly content. Fan-created content exists whether the owners of the characters want it to or not. A kid these days can find humorous videos of Spongebob killing people or saying racist jokes without even trying to. Not to mention all the porn out there of every character ever imagined by man. Basically, adult content featuring even the most innocent characters EXISTS, so with that in mind I think a lot of the owners of these characters and the people who produce offical content with them accepts this, at the very least on a purely subconscious level, which in turn makes it easier for them to be open to the idea of also producing OFFICIAL edgy content with those characters.

On another note, I also kinda suspect that if Velma-esque type content will start to show up more often from various companies, then Disney will be one of the the very last to allow this sort of thing out of all the major American media companies. They've allways been the most protective of their major cartoon characters "wholesome" image, so I wont hold my breath for a new Mickey Mouse cartoon where Mickey is a meth addict, Goofy is a man-whore and Donald Duck is an antisemite. But in another 15 or 20 years? Maybe.

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I kinda like and respect how you perceived things behind the scenes.

I'm far too cynical and immediately assumed the industry is way too creatively bankrupt or scared to try making anything new, so they came up with a show premise and plastered an established franchise on top, in the hopes that the existing fanbase would follow to guarantee success and popularity.

Naturally, that is a double edged sword as continuing an existing franchise to pull in the fanbase, also brings with it a degree of expectations. The new Animaniacs series did a clever gag to reference this, I think.

I can't see Velma changing the industry unless it hits super, mega popularity. It's...doubtful that this will happen as many have expressed fatigue over meta-humour (Myself included.) while others will find the antagonistic writing and immature attempts at being adult themed, off putting.

As much as I dislike modern Disney, I can still get them credit for doing something years ago that was very different and still hasn't been attempted by many others. (Which is rather surprising.) That is, allowing itself to mix with Eastern IP through the Kingdom Hearts series.

Guess we'll have to wait and see what happens. But I also do question the exclusion of the most iconic character himself. Scooby Doo. An interview suggested that they kept him out as they felt his inclusion would make the show look "too kiddy." if I recall correctly. But I'm not sure I believe that. (Especially when you consider Brain Griffin.) I'm more willing to believe that Warner Bros simply wouldn't allow them to use him.

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First, respect for making a thoughtful topic about "Velma" rather than "Whaaa! This show sucks!".
(To be clear: I haven't watched a single episode, don't know if it's as bad as people say. Just points for, you know, trying to talk about something interesting.)

Anyway, in theory, the "itch" was always there. People love cartoons from their childhoods but wish the shows would grow up with them. My first instinct is to say this is a horrible idea: this is what leads to Bay Transformers. Kid shows can be still enjoyed by adults, even if they remain childish. Society just needs to stop laughing at adults enjoying cartoons.
Buuuut, after a longer consideration I know some good stories made from turning cartoons dark, ironically some examples being Scooby (anyone here read "Scoob and Shag" webcomic)? So yeah, there are some benefits in the "dark and edgy mature" spin-off.

And I agree with @MilesJFox that the industry just loves exploiting big IPs, so this was kinda inevitable. So my guess is this will start happening more and more. The terrible reception of Velma will slow down the process, but not for long.

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As a Scooby-Doo fan myself, I was not sold on this show when it was 1st announced for multiple reasons, on top of the fact that it's an adult cartoon. But now that it's out, I have even more reason to not watch it. All thanks to this little clip:

If this is supposed to be a joke, then it wasn't funny (nor some of the other things I've seen on Twitter). If anything, it's a slap in the face to the VERY demographic they marketed this towards! And even Scooby & animation fans in general!

This is like one of those "cartoons are for kids" or "your not a real gamer if your playing cartoony platformers. Play Call of Duty instead!" - type of comments you'd typically see on the internet. But scaled up to 11 because it's in an official project! It's annoying, 'cause clearly animation is for everyone.

I mean, there's been better attempts to make Scooby "edgier", which Mystery Incorporated did very well! And as far as I could remember, it did respect it's core demographic, while appealing to an older age range. Heck, even Invader Zim for how dark it got at points, was still genuinely funny while aiming for an older demographic compared to the rest of Nickelodeon's shows. And neither relied on this type of "humor".

I don't know, I honestly don't see the show going on for much longer with the way it's premiere was received. Because of that, I also don't see other studios like Nickelodeon pulling any similar stunts for their IP's....aside from that TMNT VS. Batman movie (heck that's even a good example of making TMNT more edgy in animated form, without "that" type of "humor"). Now if you excuse me, I'm gonna go watch Puss in Boots: The Last Wish & Sonic Prime again.

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Just to make things clear for everyone, I didn't mean to say that I think that this particular show will influence other IP owners to start doing edgy offical content with their childrens franchises. I'm well aware of the fact that this specific show already seem to be a flop. My point was more that "Vemla" might simly be one of the first notable examples of something that is "in the air", culturally speaking, and that we might be seeing more of this kind of stuff in the near future. Velma might not start a trend, but I think it might one day be looked back at as an early example of a trend that might soon come to be.

Then of course there is the upcoming Winnie the Pooh horror movie. That movie is of coure NOT actually an example of an IP owner using a childrens franchise as abase for adults-only entertainment, as the only reason why it exists is because Pooh has now entered the public domain and thus HAS NO IP owner. BUT, especially if it proves to be a hit, it might spur IP owners to start looking around their drawers of nostalgic childrens content and be like "Hmmm, what wholesome kids stuff do we own that we can make headlines about by turning it into either a splatter movie or a raunchy comedy?".

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Live action Transformers is more for teenagers, though the difference between teenagers and adults as a demographic in visual media is, debatable. I say streaming services/IP owners will continue to approve of these ideas, it's been going on for a while now and I think almost all of them aren't really that good quality(though half are seemingly good for business).

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I thought I'd throw in my two cents about the actual content of the Velma cartoon specifically. So personally, here is what I felt when watching the show:

I actually think it's halfway entertaining. I certainly wasn't bored. And putting aside for a moment that it's based on a children's franchise and also putting aside the discussion how appropriate (or rather inappropriate) it might be to turn that type of franchise into something as adult as this show... I have to admit that I actually kinda love how edgy the show is. Like, genuinly edgy, not Deadpool-esque "market yourself as edgy but then contain nothing that anyone could actually be offended by" (no, people these days are not offended by violence and swears alone). I'm not gonna state any specific examples from the show though because I know that then I'd risk turning this thread into a downright political discussion. But yeah, the show is pretty ballsy in terms of pointing out facets of media, society and just plain humanity that many people might take issue with. And again, not to turn this into a political discussion but I will say one thing; even within the first episode there was a bunch of stuff that is bound to piss of people on the right wing AND a bunch of stuff that is bound to piss of people on the left wing. That's neat to me. I love it when comedy takes the piss out of everything.

However, here is the other more negative thing; most of the jokes just aren't as funny as they should be. They're not terrible jokes by any stretch, they're decent enough, but rarely laugh out loud funny. I like the observations that the show makes (about media, society, ect) but it often times it seems to think that these observations are funny enough in themsleves that they don't need to be presented in a funny way. I character will often just be like "If this was a modern Hollywood movie then..."-insert observation. This sadly reminds me of a lot of jokes in modern Simpsons episodes. Classic Simpsons was so good as making it's points through a well constructed joke, while modern Simspons just makes the points by having a character state them verbally in a bland way.

Also it seems apparent to me that Velma is one of those adult cartoons that doesn't have any ambition to be anything more than a comedy, by which I mean that it doesn't even attempt to make us empathise with the characters. A lot of cartoons of this kind are really great anyway, such as Beavis and Butthead or South Park, because they're just that funny, but I'm not sure if Velma is funny enough to keep me interested for more than a few episodes when I also feel nothing for any of the characters.

Ultimately, I'd say that the show is decent enough, but not much more than that. I at the very least don't think it's the absolute shit show that the internet is currently treating it as.

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I admit I haven't read most of the posts fully, they are very long, I just wanted to say that while I haven't watched the show, the premise is very interesting to me, it literally appeals to me, it's a dark mystery show, with an interesting character, it's also funny, it's lgbt, so a nice mix of elements oddly enough, that is what made me curious about it.

Not sure if I will watch it, but I do prefer western animation over anime in terms of my tastes, I think it just gets a lot of hate because it is stereotyped, clichè as well as being a mature show changing the original show's tone which was foor younger audiences. I thought "animation is for everyone".

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On 1/14/2023 at 4:48 PM, batson said:

Then of course there is the upcoming Winnie the Pooh horror movie.


No, seriously. WHAT?! That's actually a thing?

Look, I'm pretty damn open-minded when it comes to new takes and ideas, but there are still things you really don't expect to see. Not that I was ever a fan of Winnie the Pooh to begin with, but...damn. Horror is not the kind of uncharted territory I figured it would go into.

That said, I don't really see too much of a problem with children's franchise growing with their audience. I remember watching the old GI Joe cartoon, which is your quintessential Saturday Morning Action Show that was still "kid-friendly," but then watching GI Joe Resolute which is basically GI Joe for adults.

Then there's DC characters--Batman the Animated Series, Superman, and the Justice League pushed a lot of limits back in the day of what it would show for kids, and now in the modern day they media that go far beyond the content they showed in the past...and then there's the Harley Quinn Show, which is practically Batman meets Family Guy (I think? That's the best way I could put it at least). I don't think it's the future than it was something that was already happening with shows before, and the Scooby Doo franchise is just the latest to hop aboard with the times. Whether it was any good about it is one thing--and from what I'm hearing, it wasn't, but I've never really been a fan of Scooby Doo even as a kid so my thoughts are negligible on that.

Basically, it's just franchises growing with their audiences, with varying degrees of success or failures. It's not really something that hasn't been done over the past ten years or so when you really look into it.

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7 hours ago, CrownSlayer’s Shadow said:


No, seriously. WHAT?! That's actually a thing?

Should I tell you about the Peter Pan, Bambi, and The Grinch horror movies?

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I haven’t heard great things about Velma (although I haven’t watched it so I won’t pass any judgement personally) but I think it’s great that you’ve found an interesting angle to discuss about this, @batson!

I am not sure we will see every kid’s IP turn into some kind of cynical “adult” (read: millennial ‘edgy’ humour) product, I think it will be a case by case thing.

The interesting thing about Scooby Doo in particular is that it has existed through several generations of kids. It’s also one of those shows that has tried to reinvent/update itself a number of times with every new generation of children. It kind of makes sense to me that one of those reinventions might be an attempt to appeal to adults in some way. 

Having said that, I do get the distinct feeling that Velma is trying waaaaaaayyyy too hard at what it’s trying to do.

I can’t think of many cartoons/kid shows that have run as long as Scooby Doo, that has stayed somewhat culturally relevant and has the potential/scope for reinvention (Flintstones died with the 90s movies, Tom and Jerry doesn’t really have anywhere to go beyond different animation styles…).

Also I think most contemporary kids shows are kind of designed for all audiences to enjoy, beyond just kids. Spongebob doesn’t need to really reinvent itself, as the original show is kind of crazy enough to be appealing to adults as well as kids. It’s already there.

So I don’t think we have to worry about too many kids shows going OTT in an ‘adult’ direction. Beyond some bizarre outliers like that Pooh horror movie (which hasn’t got a lot to do with Disney, I don’t think?).

But hey I could be wrong. Maybe tomorrow we’ll get a Sonic GTA game or something (or Shadow the Hedgehog 2)!

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11 hours ago, Dreadknux said:

Tom and Jerry doesn’t really have anywhere to go beyond different animation styles…).

It's funny you say that. It was only a couple of weeks back that a learned that Tom & Jerry had recently got the anime treatment.

It might look strange to some, but I grew up during the 'turn every cartoon into kid versions' era of the nineties. While they still look way cuter in this, they aren't that far from how they looked in the Tom & Jerry Kids Show.

11 hours ago, CrownSlayer’s Shadow said:

Those are less surprising than an official Winnie the Pooh horror. I can actually picture those more by comparison.

Don't worry. It's not official. Winnie The Pooh had recently passed the threshold into public domain territory is all. The slock vultures were quick to pounce. Still...it's something different at least.

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