Similar to Ant-Man and the Wasp, there are actually two Teen Titans Go to the Movies trailers to digest today, and again it’s because one of them is actually a trailer (or teaser, really) for the trailer. That’s just a thing we do now.
Here’s the Teen Titans doing their version of Mean Tweets to hype the trailer:
Here’s the actual trailer:
If you’re not in the right age group, this might be your first introduction to a TV series that has somehow aired 205 episodes in just 4 seasons. Granted, each episode is just 11 minutes long, but that’s still like making over 100 episodes of half-hour television, all at a breakneck pace, which is an increasingly rare feat in modern TV. I happen to know the series through my nephew, but if this is all new to you here’s a brief refresher:
Ever since its 2013 premiere, Teen Titans Go! has been on near-constant Cartoon Network rotation, but it’s also been an ongoing source of online ridicule and criticism. Animators Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic took the beloved, gritty, anime-inspired Teen Titans series which ran for 5 seasons and spawned a direct-to-DVD movie a decade earlier and turned it into something far more kid-friendly, over-the-top, and satirical all while using the same exact characters and voice actors. The two Teen Titans shows are technically connected, yet they could not be more different. Understandably, that’s going to cause some friction.
Even the voice actors struggled to adjust at first, especially when a season one episode ended with their characters dying and becoming ghosts. As Horvath recently told The Washington Post, “We thought we were being edgy. But it was also just a way to sort of let the audience know that this is a goofy cartoon now. So a character can die, but there’s no continuity in the series so the next episode they’ll be fine again. But [the voice cast was] very concerned that they were all dead at the end of each episode and they were like, is this what it’s going to be? Are we going to be ghost?”
That’s completely unlike anything the original Teen Titans series ever did, and it certainly has little to nothing in common with the Teen Titans comic book series which started in the 80s. Those earlier versions of Robin, Starfire, Beast Boy, Raven, and Cyborg would certainly never throw meatball parties, fall in love with waffles so much they decide to make it the only word they’ll say, or present surprisingly nuanced tips for real estate investment and lessons about the dangers of pyramid schemes.
Wait. What was that last part about real estate and pyramid schemes?
Yeah. Teen Titans Go! is impossibly silly, but also entirely unpredictable and increasingly given to AdultSwim-like turns toward the absurd. It’s largely because Horvath and Jelenic are operating under no orders from Cartoon Network other than to make something funny. Left to follow their own impulses, they frequently incorporate (rather dated) pop culture parodies (Jurassic Park, The Breakfast Club, Fantasy Island, Golden Girls, Oregon Trail, to name a few), frequently reuse old Teen Titans footage just with new, satirical dialogue replacing the old dialogue, ala Sealab 2021, occasionally throw in a more serious hardball like financial life lessons they think kids could use, and go very, very meta.
The characters, for example, have talked into the screen and at their critics on more than one occasion. In the 200th episode, the Titans actually met Jelenic and Horvath and wrote an entire episode on their own.
“A lot of comic book fans maybe look down at our show for not being so serious,” Jelenic said. “But at the same time it’s all these younger fans [of Teen Titans Go!] who are what’s going to keep comic books going for the next generation.”
Teen Titans Go! now wears its Dangerfield-esque “can’t get no respect” mentality like a blanket, and it’s the basic inspiration behind their movie. If you know the series, it’s perfectly fitting that the movie would be about them trying and struggling to get a movie made about them.
Will Arnett, who voices the villain Slade and also serves as a producer, came to the project after falling in love with the show while watching it with his kids. Last week, he told EW how exactly they came up with the premise for the movie: “I think that [executive producers and writers Aaron Horvath and Michael Jelenic] just had a really great concept of “look, we live in a world where you can’t avoid the fact that there are a lot of superhero movies out there.” I think the idea that “Oh my gosh, another superhero movie — where would that fit in?” just really made them laugh. When they came up with the concept and pitched it, it really resonated and is so in line with the sensibility of the show and these characters that it just seemed like such a winning concept.”
The danger with a project like this is exactly how meta is too meta, how big of an audience does Teen Titans Go! actually have, and how do they convince audiences this is a legit movie and not some glorified direct-to-video effort that just ended up in theaters to a fill a release slot.
Not a single one of those questions, of course, matters to the kids who have grown up on the show and will just want to watch the characters be big and silly on the biggest screen possible. From the looks of it, those kids should be plenty pleased. It would be a mistake, though, to dismiss Teen Titans Go! as being made for that audience alone. The show is packed with pop culture/comic book references and black humor that flies right over most kid’s heads, and the film looks to deliver more of the same.
We’ve seen DC go dark with its cinematic universe (Batman v Superman). We’ve seen DC go hopeful (Wonder Woman). Now, we’re about to see it go incredibly kid-friendly and meta, even more so than they did with The Lego Batman Movie. Your kids are probably going to love it, and you never know – you might find yourself laughing at its silliness as well.
As of this writing, Teen Titans Go to the Movies is due out in the U.S. and parts of Europe on July 27th and trickles to the rest of the world throughout August.