Cartoon Network’s Teen Titans ran from 2003 to 2006 with five seasons and became beloved by fans. The animated series, based on the DC Comics superhero team, quickly became one of the network’s most popular shows, but was unfortunately canceled before receiving a proper ending. After years of fans clamoring for more Teen Titans, Cartoon Network decided to release a new series following the same characters (performed by the same voice actors) titled Teen Titans Go!.
While it does still follow the same members of the Teen Titans, Teen Titans Go! is very different from the original series. It’s such a deviation from what fans enjoyed from the original and begged for that it’s not very well-liked amongst them. Despite it being looked down on, it has surpassed Ed, Edd, and Eddy as the longest-running Cartoon Network series. Because of this, it’s worth comparing the two to see what works and which one is actually the better show.
The original Teen Titans was much more story-oriented. Sure, most episodes told standalone stories that came to a conclusion when the episode did. However, characters received arcs over the course of full seasons and there were subplots that built up to something big over time. Teen Titans Go!, though, is purely episodic. The story (if any) is told in the course of a single episode that’s half the length of time of an episode of the original series. On top of that, the story of the original series is written in a way for the audience to learn and understand subtext and subtle messages and character growth without being blatantly told what’s happening. The writing for Teen Titans Go! is unfortunately dumbed down.
One of the areas where the two differ the most is with their tone. The original series blended humor and heart with serious and grounded stories. There were laughs when appropriate, but it was never afraid to get dark. If a character was going through an emotional crisis, the audience felt it. In Teen Titans Go!, it’s all humor all the time. Every episode focuses on being happy and funny. There’s never any stakes to the conflicts because the silliness distracts from it.
The brand of humor differs as well. While the original series was a more serious show, it was never afraid of diving into great humor. There were villains who were used as comic relief. There were character interactions that led to big laughs. A lot of the dialogue included sarcasm and wit. Teen Titans Go! does actually have some great jokes throughout. However, a lot of it is very in-your-face and raunchy for raunchiness sake. Most of it isn’t very clever. Go! does do a surprisingly good job at parodying superhero media as a whole which is something the original series never attempted.
The two series have extraordinarily different art styles. The original series mixed the aesthetic of the DC comic books with an anime-inspired style to create something unique. It was a perfect style to blend the serious and humorous tones together in one show as well as showcase the characters in superhero action sequences. The characters, while being aliens, cyborgs, demons, and mutants, all had “normal” or “realistic” anatomies. None of that is the case with Go!. In Go!, everything is much brighter and more colorful, which matches their “all humor all the time” approach. The characters are designed with a big-headed chibi style. The design of the backgrounds are simplified as if less work is put into it.
Perhaps the biggest offense that Teen Titans Go! is guilty of is how out of character the team is. Originally, each character had depth. Robin bears the weight of responsibility so much that he forgets to enjoy life due to his wanting to be his own person outside of Batman’s shadow. Beast Boy is a comic relief who uses humor to distract from his unfortunate past. Cyborg struggles with feeling completely human. Starfire is naive due to her being from a different planet but is seeking knowledge of Earth and even feels like an outsider as a result. Raven remains serious all the time to keep her emotionally driven dark powers in check while she also fights to grow to become more than her destiny of becoming a world-consuming demon.
In Teen Titans Go!, though, every character assumes the role of comic relief. Beast Boy is the wacky comic relief. Cyborg is the comic relief who likes technology. Raven is the gothic comic relief. Robin is the stick-in-the-mud comic relief. Starfire is the dumb comic relief who randomly inserts the word “the” where it wouldn’t otherwise be used. These characters were originally written to stand out from and play off of each other and have interesting dynamics. Go! eliminates all of that by making them all the same. Five characters who are carbon copies of each other is boring and sometimes annoying to watch.
There is the argument that Teen Titans Go! is more geared toward kids, but the original Teen Titans was also aimed at young audiences. It’s okay for a series for young audiences to include serious and emotional moments. It’s okay for it to be darker at times and have relatable character arcs. It doesn’t need to just be something to distract kids for a few minutes; it can be something well-made that makes them think and have an impact on them. Teen Titans was a far superior series, and it’s truly unfortunate that it was replaced by something so low-effort.