Did you know that October 28th is International Animation Day? Started in 2002 by the ASIFA to celebrate the art of animation worldwide, October 28th coincides with the date of the first publicly screened animated film in 1892 by Charles-Émile Reynaud.
In the present day, many of our favorite live-action movies, TV shows and comic books have found a renewed life through animation, extending their avenues for storytelling. In some cases, these cartoons were better equipped to expand on a universe in ways the original source material could only dream of.
In celebration of International Animation Day, we investigate four animated reimaginings of pop culture's greatest geek properties.
Star Trek: The Animated Series
Though its status in official Star Trek canon has been called into question over the years, Star Trek: The Animated Series is nevertheless notable for expanding the voyages of the original starship Enterprise in ways the Original Series couldn't. Thanks to the flexibility that animation provided, TAS was able to introduce exotic alien races and vast environments that TOS would've struggled to showcase in a live-action format. TAS was also responsible for introducing the Holodeck, which later featured prominently in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Featuring voice work from the majority of TOS' principal cast, Star Trek: The Animated Series enjoyed a two-season run from 1973-74 and even received a Daytime Emmy for the episode "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth."
The Real Ghostbusters
Two years after the first Ghostbusters film was released, The Real Ghostbusters premiered in 1986 to continue the adventures of Egon, Ray, Peter and Winston.
The series became an integral linchpin of the franchise by filling the gap between the live-action films, referencing events from the first film directly and bringing back characters such as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and Gozer throughout its run. Alternately, the series also expanded the Ghostbusters mythos - the series was responsible for bestowing the name "Slimer" on the Ghostbusters' paranormal foe-turned-friend, a character change that's explained in the RGB episode "Citizen Ghost." This change carried over to Ghostbusters II, where Slimer can be seen helping an ally of the Ghostbusters, Louis Tully.
The series was well-received and extremely popular, running for seven seasons between 1986 and 1991 and itself received a follow-up series in 1997 with Extreme Ghostbusters.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Yes, other Star Wars animated specials and series existed prior to it (Ewoks, anyone?), but 2008's Star Wars: The Clone Wars stands head and shoulders above the rest as an exemplary expansion of the Star Wars universe.
Taking place between Episodes II and III, Star Wars: The Clone Wars gave fans the opportunity to see the battles fought between the Jedi and Sith and their respective armies during the height of the Clone Wars. It also weaved in new characters like Anakin Skywalker's Jedi apprentice, Ahsoka Tano, who would later become an integral part of the Star Wars timeline. In fact, because of its tight synergy with film storylines, The Clone Wars holds the unique distinction of being one of the select few non-film works to be sanctioned as part of the official canon by George Lucas and Lucasfilm.
With action, intrigue, and humor as its hallmarks, The Clone Wars expertly crafted a narrative that was capable of entertaining a younger audience, while simultaneously tying in threads from the films that adult fans could enjoy.
Batman: The Animated Series
Often considered the crown jewel of the 90's animation renaissance, Batman: The Animated Series has stood the test of time, thanks to its excellent storytelling, superb voice acting, and unique visual approach. Still widely regarded as one of the best animated series ever made, Batman: TAS ushered in a new standard for cartoons that took a more serious, sophisticated tone, despite being aimed at kids.
While the show stayed faithful to storylines told in the comics, it also didn't shy away from creating new characters and plot lines. In fact, one of the Batman universe's most popular antagonists, Harley Quinn, was an original character created in Batman: The Animated Series. Since debuting in the episode "Joker's Favor," Quinn has subsequently been featured in countless comic books, TV shows, video games, and more in her own right.
The series is also celebrated for its brilliant voice work under the guidance of voice director Andrea Romano. Thanks to their work in Batman: TAS, many fans regard Kevin Conroy's Batman and Mark Hamill's Joker as the prototypical voices for their respective characters.
With four Emmys and universal praise under its belt, Batman: The Animated Series eventually proved to be the catalyst for a string of mature animated features spanning across the DC Comics universe - a legacy that continues to this day.
Honorable Mention: the work of Stephen Byrne
Since animated series for Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly don't actually exist, we couldn't include them in our round-up. However, Stephen Byrne's awesome animations for these shows are so good, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention them. (Seriously, the Firefly animation will make you cry in two seconds flat.)
Firefly (scene starts at 8:40)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Happy International Animation Day!
What's your favorite animated TV series or film? Tell us in the comments, or on Facebook!