Old vs. New Teen Titans vs. Teen Titans Go
August 28, 2018
(The Channel Awesome logo is displayed, followed by NC title sequence)
NC: Hello, I'm the Nostalgia Critic. I remember it so you don't have to. And welcome to another installment of Old vs. New.
("Old vs. New" opening)
NC: While most of these I like to compare certain elements...
NC (vo): ...like Best Character, Best Villain, and so forth...
NC: ...this episode is gonna be more of a general comparison, because this one is...well, Teen Titans.
(Cut to a shot of a cover for a New Teen Titans comic)
NC (vo): Based on the constantly-canceled uncanceled comic book series...
(Footage of the Teen Titans cartoon series is shown)
NC (vo): ...Teen Titans found some of its biggest popularity in 2003 on Cartoon Network. It starred Batman's stoic sidekick Robin leading a team of super teens to fight evil on a weekly basis. These teens included a moody empath from a parallel universe named Raven; a half-human, half-robot football player named Cyborg; a curious, energy-zapping alien named Starfire; and a literal party animal who can change into any creature he wants, Beast Boy.
NC: They reside in their headquarters...
NC (vo): ...a phenomenally unsubtle T outside of Metropolis, and protect the city from all sorts of villains, like the Brotherhood of Evil, Mumbo, and their biggest threat, Slade. The best way I can describe this show is it's kinda like a mix between Avatar: The Last Airbender and Batman: The Animated Series.
NC: So, as you'd imagine, it had a pretty diehard following.
NC (vo): It had a lot of action and a lot of superpowers, but it also took time to flesh out their characters and focus on the dramatic weight each person is carrying.
NC: That's not to say it couldn't be phenomenally goofy, though, too.
NC (vo): Unlike other DC animations, Teen Titans had a heavy anime influence when it came to their comedy, often distorting their line work in unsolid extremes, changing sizes and screaming while colored lines flew behind them, and just being very...
NC: (shakes head around in frustration) ...anime.
NC (vo): It was an acquired taste, to say the least, as this comedy was used a lot, but its fanbase got into the way it smoothly transitioned from over-the-top comedy to well-written drama, lasting an impressive five seasons on Cartoon Network and wrapping up with (A shot of the poster for Teen Titans: Trouble in Tokyo) an impressive TV movie finale.
(Cut to a shot of the title for the follow-up series Teen Titans Go)
NC (vo): Ten years after the premiere of the original show, Cartoon Network announced that Teen Titans were coming back in an all-new series called Teen Titans Go.
NC: (grinning) Fans were ecstatic! (beat) That is a lie!
(Footage of Teen Titans Go! is shown)
NC (vo): Well, at least among the original fans. New fans, primarily young kids, were absolutely thrilled. Teen Titans Go starred the exact same characters in the exact same plot, but its tone and style were 100% different. This was silly, immature, childish, and relished every second of it.
(Footage now alternates between the original and newer shows)
NC (vo): Where the original show sprinkled its zany comedy among the intense drama, this was nothing but the zany comedy, feeling closer to SpongeBob rather than the original Teen Titans. Where the original might deal with Starfire's feelings of isolation or Raven's relationship with her demonic father...
(Footage of the infamous "Waffles" episode of the newer show is shown, in which Cyborg and Beast Boy say – and sing – nothing but the word "waffles")
NC (vo): ...this one focused on waffles.
NC: Yeah, that... that was a bit.
Cyborg and Beast Boy: (singing in unison) Waffles, waffles, waf-fles! Waffles, waffles, waf-fles!
NC (vo): They constantly broke the fourth wall, combined industry jokes with fart jokes, and kids seemed to laugh their heads off at it, so much so...
(Cut to footage of Teen Titans Go to the Movies, a movie, not a TV movie, but a theatrical one, based on the newer series)
NC (vo): ...that they even got a cinematic release. And it got surprisingly good reviews, with many critics saying it was not only funny, but they may actually go and watch the show, based on how much they enjoyed it. So it seems even adults can get into the wacky, childish humor, but the hatred this show received from the fans of the original is...
NC: (confused) I don't know if I want to use the words "impressive" or "scary", so I'll just say "impressively scary".
NC (vo): So many say this is a betrayal of what the original show was and constantly draw attention to how insultingly inferior it is to the original.
NC: Fear not, (A shot of the title for the upcoming Titans TV series appears in the corner) DC's totally fixing this problem as we speak! (nods)
NC (vo): I've seen both series enough times to get an idea of what they're about, what the characters are like, and what both shows' strengths and weaknesses are. I'll be honest, I feel like I'm the right type of compare and contrast these two, because...
NC: (shrugs) ...I don't really love either of them.
(Suddenly, he leans to the side as a gunshot is heard and a bullet leaves a hole in the wall behind him)
NC: (slightly hasty) Even though I know there's a lot to them.
NC (vo): Teen Titans is beautifully animated, written, and acted; it's just not a show that ever grabbed me like Batman or Avatar. Teen Titans Go is very energized, fast, and uses creatively wild humor. It just doesn't tickle me, though, like, say, Ren & Stimpy or Looney Tunes. So I feel like I can look at both of these shows in partially judging them on what they are and not what I want them to be. Because of the nature of the shows being so drastically different, it doesn't make sense for me to do element-by-element comparisons, like the other Old vs. News.
NC: It's like comparing (A shot of Adam West's Batman appears in the left corner) Adam West to (A shot of Michael Keaton's Batman appears in the right corner) Michael Keaton; they're such different genres, it doesn't really make sense.
NC (vo): This is a more a comparison of how well each show makes its impact, if they changed the genre they're in in any way, and how watchable they'll be years from now.
NC: With that said, what do these shows do that caught on with so many people?
(The footage focuses on the 2003 show)
NC (vo): Well, aside from being a dramatic and emotionally-driven show like so many other DC properties at the time, Teen Titans was one of the first dramatic cartoons to incorporate a sharp style change when it came to its sense of humor. As mentioned before, this is something that will be done often in anime and even in the show Avatar.
(A shot of Aang from the latter show is shown in the corner, clearly done in a similar anime influence for a Nickelodeon show)
NC (vo): So well that people even confuse Avatar for an anime. What makes Teen Titans so unique, though, is that while it's clearly anime-inspired, it's still Warner Bros. Animation, so it looks a little more like Animaniacs half the time, combining several different types of comedic visual styles that, as far as I know, has never really been replicated like this. The reason this is so important is that the audience can laugh harder, and thus we like these characters more, so we feel for them when they have to go through the tough emotional journey. Since then, a lot of other shows have used this over-the-top comedy to blend with their action. But Teen Titans was one of the first, if not the first, American show to implement it with such tireless consistency.
NC: (A shot of the Batman animated series appears in the upper-left corner) Batman could be funny, but it was still primarily serious. (A shot of Hey Arnold! appears in the upper-right corner) Hey Arnold! could be serious, but it was still primarily funny.
NC (vo): Teen Titans was a total 50-50 split. While the mixing of extreme drama and extreme silliness (A group shot of the entire cast of Adventure Time appears briefly) are very common now in modern kids shows, Teen Titans was one of the originators to go super ridiculous in one moment and then super depressing in another. And they somehow still fit in the environment and tone of the episode. While everything else about it is done very, very well, this is one of the main elements that separates it from other shows.
(Now cut to footage of the 2013 show)
NC (vo): Teen Titans Go, as said before, just goes solely for the laughs.
NC: But is there really anything really different it's doing for comedy or animation?
NC (vo): While the designs are colorful and energized, they're really nothing new compared to other shows on TV currently. Nor is the zany style of humor, as we've seen that in a lot of other shows, too.
NC: There is, however, one element that separates it from other shows of its kind: its self-aware self-abuse.
NC (vo): The writers are aware of the backlash many fans have, and they constantly work it into the show. Don't get me wrong, many shows and movies have attacked their viewers before, some successfully...
(The clip from the Animaniacs episode 73 is shown, showing a segment with a fat fanboy at the computer and revealing Yakko Warner showing it on the screen)
Yakko: There's the (these words are displayed...) Please, Please, Please Get a Life Foundation!
(Cut to a clip from Lady in the Water)
NC (vo): ...some not so successfully.
Harry Harper (Bob Balaban): There is no originality left in the world, Mr. Heep.
NC (vo): But Teen Titans Go constantly comes up with different ways, as well as attitudes, in addressing the hate they get. Sometimes, they go after the fans...
(Cut to a clip from the episode "The Return of Slade", which shows a clown in the Titans' HQ)
Raven: You're too old for clowns.
Beast Boy: No, it's him! When I was a kid, clowns were way cooler.
Cyborg: This clown is for kids.
Raven: (getting upset) Yes! Clowns are for kids!
NC (vo): Sometimes, they go after themselves...
(A clip from the episode "Wally T" is followed, which shows the Titans gleefully discovering their biggest fan)
Robin: Do you like (dramatically takes out a poster with the Titans and the Teen Titans Go! logo on it) the Teen Titans, or... (becoming disinterested, takes out another poster with the Titans' 2003 designs on it) ...the Teen Titans?
(Wally T points at the second poster)
Beast Boy: Makes sense.
Cyborg: I mean, animation-wise, there's really no comparison.
NC (vo): Sometimes, they even just celebrate the fans they have. There's one episode where they write in a real kid from the Make-a-Wish Foundation and not only poke fun of the fact that somebody actually really likes them, but also dedicate a song to him at the end, even flying him out for the recording of the episode.
(A screenshot of Tara Strong (voice of Raven on both shows)'s Twitter is shown, showing a photo of all five main actors in a recording room with William Walter Thompson)
NC (vo): Making fun of fanbase is something that can easily backfire, and if Teen Titans Go only did one way of poking fun of the fanbase, say, bitterly insulting them only, it probably wouldn't have worked. But because they mix it up every time: one minute, praising themselves, another minute, crapping on themselves...
Robin: I thought everyone considered us (air quotes) "an abomination".
Cyborg: They do! Everybody hates us.
NC (vo): ...and sometimes, combining so much, you're not even sure if they're making commentary or just telling the jokes needed for the story, it cleverly plays many sides.
NC: The same can be said for their shots at DC.
(Clips from the trailers of Teen Titans Go to the Movies are shown)
NC (vo): The movie was especially harsh on a lot of DC films, shows and comics. They even make fun of how overly serious a lot of the DC properties are becoming, to a point where they're almost not even recognizable. As said before, this kind of humor has been done in many other shows, but to do it so constantly with the company and people that allow you to do so, and in so many different ways, it really is kind of unique. I don't know if it's something that'll last for years...if anything, you could argue it kinda dates it...that's something that certainly makes it stand out now.
NC: How about what actually happens on the shows, though: the stories, the conflicts, etc.?
(The clips focus on the original TV show again)
NC (vo): The original did a pretty good job of combining episodic adventures with long-running stories. Sometimes, it was just a villain of the week, but other times, it was an ongoing battle with a villain that would evolve along with the Titans, and thus, give them new challenges. Mumbo usually has a new creative way to try and take them out that usually wraps up at the end of the episode. But other villains learn so much about the Titans that they can leave them, both figuratively and literally, torn apart. A villain named Katarou beats Robin so bad that he leaves the Titans to go figure out more about himself so he can become stronger both physically and mentally. Raven's father finds such effective ways to tighten his grip that it consumes her almost to her end. And, of course, the run-ins with Slade that always pose new challenges to both their willpower and their weaknesses usually leaves them slightly, if not majorly, different people. It has many episodes you can watch by itself, but rewards you if you've watched for a long time, and you can see them grow as characters.
NC: Teen Titans Go, again, is episodic madness.
(The footage once again focuses on the 2013 show and its theatrical movie)
NC (vo): But their challenges are also very enjoyable because...well, they're usually very selfish. True, they do save the city from various threats, but it's usually for the reason of just wanting to be famous. (A brief clip of Beast Boy and Cyborg singing about waffles is shown again) When not wasting time with things like...waffles, they, especially Robin, focus on how they can be the most popular superheroes around. The movie especially focuses on this by trying to go back in time and stop all the superheroes' origins, only to find they apparently suck so bad as heroes that the world is on fire and they couldn't save the day, so they put all their origins back to normal. I guess that does make me appreciate the challenges, because, for children's programming, they're all kind of awful. And they know it, and love it. It's a kind of ballsiness I have to appreciate on some level. So, again, for what both genres and demographics they're appealing to, they seem to do a pretty good job.
NC: But, okay, let's get to the tipping point. The one reason that one of these shows is better than the other. That's right. There's one specific reason, despite their different genres, that actually makes one far superior. Can you guess which one is the winner at the end of the day– (The 2003 show's poster pops up below) Well, of course it's that one!
NC (vo): Yeah, big surprise, Teen Titans is obviously the better show, even though Teen Titans Go is an entirely different genre.
NC: But what's the ultimate reason for this choice? (points to his right at the group shot of the main characters charging for battle in the original show) These characters were designed for this show. (points to his left at the group show of the Titans smiling goofily in the 2013 show) These characters were not.
NC (vo): You see, these characters were made to work off of each other more than just comedically. They were supportive of each other, angry with each other, in love with each other. Their unique personalities were so different that they could utilize them in both fighting enemies and their own inner struggles. They were a dynamic that added both conflict and togetherness with their personalities alone.
NC: Suddenly, you have to take those same characters and throw them in a self-absorbed...
NC (vo): ...world of absurdity, which can work maybe for an episode because you're seeing them as the exact opposite, but it's trickier when they had to have that last for a series. Because they weren't originally designed for a strictly comedic dynamic, you can't expect them to fully thrive as a comedic team. (The title screen for the 1920s The Three Stooges short films is shown) The Three Stooges work as a comedy team because that's what they're designed for. If they were suddenly thrown into an action series, (A Photoshopped poster for The Avengers: Age of Ultron is shown with the Stooges' heads replacing ones of Iron Man, Ultron and Captain America) that wouldn't make any sense.
NC: ...Okay, it'd be cool for a minute, but it would wear off very quickly.
NC (vo): Also, these characters suffer from a very similar problem the new Ninja Turtles suffer from.
NC: That being, once again, they're all essentially the same character.
(The footage continues alternating between both shows)
NC (vo): Look at this episode where they need to take down a clown. Raven is in a clown outfit. In the original Teen Titans, that would be funny, because it'd be so out of character. Even wearing a dress puts her in a bad mood.
NC: So wearing a goofy clown outfit should be hysterical, but it's not, because...she's already a clown. They all are!
NC (vo): In the same episode, Starfire is afraid of clowns. This is a quality you could give to any of them, and it would make no difference. It would be the same reactions, the same lines, the same impact. If it was Beast Boy, the reaction would be the same, if it was Cyborg, the reaction would be the same. (The screenshot from the 1951 Looney Tunes short "Rabbit Fire" is shown, showing Elmer Fudd aiming at Daffy Duck wearing a rabbit tail and paws) Even in Looney Tunes, the personalities of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd are so different that all you have to do is put them together, and the comedy writes itself. Here, there's too many times where they're all idiots, all blood-hungry, all party animals.
NC: Their differences are beyond minor. For example, Raven will usually...
NC (vo): ...have a frown, Beast Boy will usually have a smile, and Starfire will say "the" a lot. They even reference that in an episode. Aside from that, though, they usually just all act the same way. Even though the voice acting and the deliveries are still great, when the comedy works, it's 100% what's being said, not who said it.
NC: So, yes. The original Teen Titans is much better than Teen Titans Go; it's probably gonna last years and years and years. (Beat) But it's still kinda fascinating the hate Teen Titans Go gets.
NC (vo): Don't get me wrong, I can see why some people don't like the show, and I myself have made Teen Titans Go jokes before, but the outrage some fans have over it does make me wonder if it's not only worth it... but possibly fueling it. I always see people post how bad the show is and the latest atrocity that happened in the latest episode, but...
NC: ...if you don't like it, why are you watching it? How do you know about these atrocities?
NC (vo): The cruelest attention you can give any form of entertainment is no attention. If people don't watch it, they don't make it. So why do so many haters watch it, especially if it's clearly intended for younger kids? We got excited going from the '60s Batman to the Tim Burton Batman. In fact, if anything, it seemed really cool to go to something so different.
NC: (puts a hand on his cheek) But at the same time, we did go from the Tim Burton Batman to (Two photos of Joel Shumacher at the shooting of his films are shown) the Joel Schumacher Batman, and that was not as cool.
NC (vo): Especially because it was the same actors doing a more silly style that none of us wanted.
NC: It's hard not to see a comparison.
NC (vo): But those movies had little in terms of being clever. And even though Teen Titans Go can get a little annoying sometimes, it does have its clever moments.
NC: Maybe it's also because the original show was canceled, and nobody really knows the reason why.
NC (vo): So to have a new show replace it that not only portrays them as goofy characters, but also seems to be popular enough to get its own theatrical movie, and the other one just getting a TV movie, perhaps Teen Titans Go just happened too soon. I mean, it wasn't that many years since the last one stopped. I don't know if I would be ready for something so different so close to when the original aired. Whatever the reason, it still has a fanbase of both kids and surprisingly adults. DC has teased new versions of Teen Titans in the near future, maybe even a return to the original. (The shot of the post-credits scene of the 2018 theatrical movie is shown, featuring the Titans in their 2003 designs) Whatever is in store for them, there is no doubt that Teen Titans is a unique and powerful show that will last for years. Teen Titans Go is a waste of time that brings joy to a lot of kids and even some adults...
NC: ...and both are totally fine for doing so.
NC (vo): No matter what your thoughts are on Teen Titans or Teen Titans Go, they definitely both left a big impact, pleased a lot of people, angered a lot of people, confused a lot of people; either way, we watched. And maybe the power of these characters is, no matter what scenario they're put in, genre, or style, or whatever, they'll always last in one way or another, because there will always be a uniqueness that draws us to them.
(The end of the original show's intro is shown)
NC: (throws his hands) You know, and for all the talk of how bad Teen Titans Go, I was really let down. I want to see something amazingly bad, like, shockingly bad. You hear me, universe that just keeps me giving bad movies to watch?! I want something so bad, I can't believe it! A new kind of bad that'll blow me away!
(Cut to NC on his knees near the couch; he shivers in fear upon watching something on his TV, and his eyes are bleeding! As the dramatic chorus plays in the background, NC slowly turns his head to the camera)
(Smash cut to black and the caption "NEXT WEEK" that fades down. The credits roll, followed by the Channel Awesome logo)