One interesting way that storytellers play with the nostalgic feelings of their audiences is through the trope of seeing a retro version of a character interact with a modern version. This year alone sees modern Will Smith battling a computer generated Fresh Prince-era clone in Gemini Man, the grizzled fighters of Mortal Kombat 11 meeting their spry 90s selves, and the heroes of the occasionally serious and dramatic Teen Titans cartoon meeting their wilder, wackier versions from Teen Titans Go! Here are five of the strangest times that fictional characters met themselves.
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The 50s Chipmunks meet the 90s Chipmunks
In the Chipmunks Go to the Movies episode “Back to Our Future,” the Chipmunks of 1990 must travel back to 1957 to convince Alvin not to become a dry cleaner or else their future rock careers will be ruined. Seriously.
Not only is this the thinnest premise for time travel ever devised, but Alvin, Simon, and Theodore are apparently all over thirty years old. They very plainly treat the flat old-school cartoon designs as just the way things used to look. Also, all things considered, Dave Seville looks pretty good for a guy his age, which is… 50? 60? The modern Chipmunks try to spice up retro-Dave’s songs with Boyz II Men-style New Jack Swing, while the retro-Chipmunks marvel at the modern wonders of microwaves and synthesizers. This all culminates in a battle of the bands to see who gets to live in the present. It’s a very wild little piece of metafiction.
The 80s Ninja Turtles meet 21st century Ninja Turtles
In the TV special “Turtles Forever”, the kid friendly heroes and villains from the 1987 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon end up in the grittier world of the 2003 show, a cartoon so edgy that at one point Leonardo straight up decapitates Shredder. The modern Turtles are weirded out that the classic Turtles walk around in broad daylight breaking the fourth wall. The classic Turtles are weirded out that the modern Turtles fight competent villains and call Splinter “Father.” In a fun twist it’s revealed that all versions of TMNT from the original black and white comics to the live action movies to the Japanese anime versions exist in a giant multiverse. It’s fun fanservice for TMNT nerds.
“Turtles Forever” was unable to bring back the original voice actors or theme song from the 80s show, likely due to being a non-union production. After Nickelodeon outright purchased the entire TMNT franchise, a very similar episode of the 2012 cartoon called “Trans-Dimensional Turtles” brought the 80s turtles into the CG, along with their original voice cast.
90s Barry Allen meets 2010s Barry Allen
The Flash is one of the earliest pop culture examples of this phenomenon. Jay Garrick from the long-cancelled 1940s comic was eventually reintroduced as the Flash of another Earth, kicking off DC Comics’ long and convoluted history of multiverse shenanigans. The 2014 TV show The Flash follows suit, introducing several Earths, including one that is straight up the world of the 1990 Flash TV show.
Initially, actor John Wesley Shipp, the Barry Allen from the classic show, plays the new Barry Allen’s father. The CW super-soap goes on to cast essentially every actor from the 1990 series as new incarnations of their original characters, including Mark Hamill as the Trickster. Shipp himself goes on to portray not only Jay Garrick but the 90s Flash himself in full retro costume. Now if only someone can trick the Supergirl producers into making ABC’s Lois and Clark canon.
The Classic Enterprise meets JJ Abrams’ Enterprise
2009’s Star Trek uses the time travel and multiverse elements of the franchise to create a hipper, flashier version of the 1960s show with less philosophizing and more action scenes set to the Beastie Boys. There are probably an equal amount of fist fights. Leonard Nimoy’s Spock meets his younger counterpart played by Zachary Quinto in a literally “rebooted” timeline.
IDW Comics, which was moving from a comic based on the original series to a comic based on the new movies, decided to celebrate the occasion by having the two universes crossover more directly. A space anomaly rips a hole between dimensions and causes members of both crews to wake up in the bodies of their counterparts. Lots of fun hijinks ensue. Neo-Bones thinks the classic sickbay looks like a prison hospital. Classic Kirk is weirded out by the Apple Store aesthetic of the new bridge. Neo-Sulu thinks the helm controls look like a bunch of holiday lights. Classic Scotty is freaked out by the little alien dude who hangs out with Neo-Scotty. The old Spock and Uhura have to reckon with seeing another version of themselves in love. It’s all the weirdest gimmicks of Star Trek, done in a loving and compelling style.
The ReBoot reboot meets ReBoot
2018’s ReBoot: The Guardian Code is a sequel to the groundbreaking CG show from the 1990s. The modern show is live action and deals with a group of teens in the real world having TV teen problems and going into cyberspace Tron-style to fight an evil hacker called the Sourcerer. The Sourcerer eventually resurrects the virus Megabyte from the original series to wreak havoc.
In the first season finale, the teens find an old mainframe which turns out to be the Mainframe from the original show. Despite the visual style clash, neither group seems to be all that weirded out by the other. The whole city is creepily deserted and empty except Bob, Enzo, and Dot. Bob, whose intro to the old show was about searching for “the user,” meets three users and is just kind of chill about it. We even meet the guy who was inserting games the whole time and he’s just kind of wacky comic relief, somehow surrounded by actual classic ReBoot merchandise. I fully rebuke this and consider it non-canon. Just watch the old episode where Bob and Megabyte have a guitar battle if you need a ReBoot fix.