Hello and welcome to a special article. Sabrina The Teenage Witch was one of my favorite shows from the TGIF line up back in the day. So, today, I’ve decided to take a look at the different adaptions of Sabrina including the two upcoming adaptions. First, some background on the character. Sabrina first made her debut as an Archie Comics character created by George Gladir & Dan DeCarlo. And Gladir admitted, that he was surprised by the success of the character.
“I think we both envisioned it as a one-shot and were surprised when fans asked for more. We continued to do Sabrina stories off and on in Mad House until 1969 when we were flabbergasted to hear it was to become an animated [TV series]. When it came to naming Sabrina I decided to name her after a woman I recalled from my junior high school days … who was very active in school affairs, and who assigned a number of us to interview prominent people in the media. In addition, the woman’s name had a New England ring to it. Some years later I recalled the woman’s name was not Sabrina, but actually Sabra Holbrook”.
With that out of the way, let’s begin.
Sabrina The Teenage Witch (1970)
I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with Sabrina’s first foray into televison. It was an animated series done by Filmnation. And it lasted for a short while. And I think what amazed me the most was the fact that Jane Webb, the voice of Sabrina, also voiced Hilda and Zelda. And Harvey in this series was voiced by veteran voice actor, Don Messick. So, I can’t say I know too much about this but does anyone else think they based Sabrina’s design off of Bewitched in the still. Sabrina The Teenage Witch, did have one spinoff, the Groovie Goolies.
The New Archie and Sabrina Hour (1977)
In 1977, Filmnation animated Sabrina once more with The New Archie and Sabrina Hour. It featured old segments from their previous Archie cartoons and new Sabrina segments. According to my research, this show suffered low ratings because of the change in music taste and people were just worn out with the Archie franchise by this point. And there was also apparently some behind the scenes turmoil going on at NBC, the channel which this cartoon aired on. This would be the last time Filmnation would animate a cartoon series based on any of the Archie Comics characters.
Sabrina The Teenage Witch (1996)
Ah, here we are. This was my introduction to Sabrina. And if I’m to be honest, it wasn’t a very good one.Also, it’s odd but according to the film’s Wiki page, this aired on Showtime. Yet, I distinctly remember watching it on The Wonderful World of Disney. Anyways, as I was saying this film to me was not a good movie because, it was just really boring. Don’t get me wrong, Melissa Joan Hart was good in the role but the rest of the cast were just underwhelming and the only characters, that appeared both in the film and the sitcom, were Sabrina, Hilda, Zelda, & Salem. One of the oddest things about this film was the fact that Sabrina’s last name was changed to Sawyer. I wonder why, it was eventually changed back to Spellman in the sitcom. Speaking of which…
Sabrina The Teenage Witch ( 1996 – 2000 (ABC) 2000 – 2003 (The WB))
Ah, here we are. This is the show, where I fell in love with the character. This show can be broken up into three categories, The High School Years, The College Years, and The After College Years. I think part of the thing that made this show so much fun in it’s early days was that sure, it was silly and fun but it wasn’t afraid to do story arcs that lasted an entire season. Such as early on, Sabrina having to figure out the Family Secret in order to get her Witch’s License. I recall watching the Family Secret episodes and trying to figure out the secret myself. I think that’s one of the big things, I liked about the show, especially the early seasons, it wasn’t afraid to challenge it’s main character and show her fail. Because Sabrina at first fails her exam figuring the secret and is sent to a witch’s boot camp. Besides that though, the early seasons had great characters like Hilda and Zelda, who were very caring but also very funny. Salem, who is one of the funniest felines ever. Especially considering that he was turned into a cat for trying to take over the world. Harvey, who was just a really sweet guy and it was clear that he loved Sabrina. Now this show did have two TV films, Sabrina In Rome and Sabrina Down Under. They are better then the pilot film by a long mile because they feel like the show. Now let’s move onto The WB Era. The first seasons on The WB are The College Years are still pretty good. It was nice to see Sabrina in a new element trying to make it on her own and making new friends and not relying on her aunts so much for help. But then we come to Season 7 and I hate the 7th season with a burning passion. It is easily the worst season of the entire series. Let me put this way, so many of the classic cast were gone by this point, that the only characters that remained from the show’s original ABC run were Sabrina and Salem. And Zelda’s farewell of being turned into a child was bad. The only good thing from this was the series finale. And even then, they only brought back one aunt because they could only afford Well, Harvey came back for the final season. I have quite a few issues with this season, first off, Sabrina’s new boyfriend was so boring and bland. Secondly, this season introduced one of my most loathed characters, Annie who was complete and total jerk to Sabrina, the entire time, Sabrina worked for her. The only good thing that came out of this character was Sabrina quitting her job and telling Annie off. You have no idea, how long I waited for that moment. Lastly, the other issue I have with the final season is that after living on her own for so long and out of the Spellman house, in the final season, Sabrina along with her college roomates, Roxie and Morgan move back into the Spellman house. My issue with this is it just seems desperate to go back to a location that we had Sabrina move away from. It almost felt as though, the creators knew, this was the final season and wanted to do something to please the fans and they thought this would work. Well for me, it didn’t . I truly think this show lasted longer then it should’ve. It probably should’ve ended after the final ABC season or at the least after Sabrina graduated college. Now there were two attempts at a spinoff for Sabrina, that would’ve been her cousin, Amanda and her family. The first one was Sabrina, The Matchmaker which was a backdoor pilot for a series called Spells Trouble. Which would’ve been about Sabrina’s cousin, Marigold and her two daughters adapting to life in the Mortal Realm. This was in season three. The second attempt was Witchright Hall, which would’ve featured Sabrina’s cousin Amanda living in a magical boarding school for misbehaved and troublesome young witches. However, she was at first rejected for being too nice. Which is ironic considering her character as she was first introduced as a brat but she developed over time into a mature young woman. Amanda was played Melissa Joan Hart’s younger sister, Emily Hart.
Sabrina: The Animated Series (1999 – 2000)
I remember when this cartoon was coming out, that ABC was promoting it as a spin off/prequel series to the live action sitcom. And that doesn’t work because it goes against so much of what was set up in the sitcom. The first issue is that Sabrina is a pre-teen and already knows about being a witch. Whereas in the sitcom, she didn’t find out until she turned 16. The Archie comic book from my research handled this better as to tie into the cartoon, Sabrina was sent back to relive her preteen years by one of her foes. Explaining why she already knew about being a witch. The other issues in the sitcom, Hilda and Zelda were about in their ’30s but in the cartoon, they were teenagers, living with another adult, Uncle Quigley. But the biggest issue, I had with this show, was that in the first episode, one of Sabrina’s friends already knew that she was a witch. And this was during the time in the sitcom, when Sabrina had not yet revealed this to any of her friends. I saw this and I thought “No!” Taking this out of the equation, it’s not a bad cartoon but it shouldn’t have been promoted as a spin off/prequel to the sitcom because it doesn’t try to tie into the sitcom and it contradicts so much of what was set up in the sitcom. So instead, it’s better to look at this DIC cartoon as it’s own take on Sabrina and in that regard, it’s not bad. It is very fun and while yes, does do the cliche of making the cast younger, it works well. Sabrina is still quite likable in the cartoon. But I think the only reason, this was promoted the way it was is because it aired on ABC and Nick Bakay reprised his role of Salem for the cartoon and Melissa Joan Hart voiced Hilda and Zelda. While her younger sister, Emily voiced Sabrina.
Sabrina: Friends Forever (2002)
DIC continued to animate Sabrina, even after The Animated Series stopped airing on ABC and also UPN. Their first foray at going solo was Sabrina: Friends Forever. Now, I have seen this because it aired on Nick and from what I recall, it’s not bad. But it did seem to be playing off of the success of Harry Potter with Sabrina going to a Witch’s School. The plot is a wee bit cliche in that Sabrina meets a new girl and her her so called friends at the Witch’s Academy make fun of her and Sabrina joins in until, she finds out said girl is also a half-witch like herself. And because of that Sabrina and Nicole (the new girl) become friends and go on a journey to find a Wishing Tree to wish to be full witches. For what it is, it’s okay. Now something of notice is that this is the first time since the sitcom, that we have all new actors for the roles of Sabrina and Salem. As Sabrina is now voiced by Britt McKillip, who would later go on to voice Princess Cadance. Okay, that’s cool. And Salem is now voiced by Louis Chirillo, which the only other thing I recnogized his name from was Johnny Test. Well, ya can’t wim ’em all. But to be honest, when watching this, I didn’t even notice the new voice actors.
Sabrina’s Secret Life (2003)
Sabrina’s Secret Life was a spin off of Friends Forever and Britt McKillip did return to voice Sabrina. However, Salem was once again given a new voice actor. This time, he was voiced by Maurice LaMarche. Okay, does anyone else find it funny that he’s played both a mouse and a cat. Out of all the series, this is the one I’ve seen the least of. Not counting the ’70s cartoons. In this one, Sabrina was a high schooler and one of the oddest changes was that now she had to use a wand to perform magic. Whereas in every incarnation of the character, magic was done with her hand. From what I’ve seen, this cartoon wasn’t that bad. Actually, I think it was better then The Animated Series. Funnily enough in Germany, this was aired as a third season of The Animated Series. It was enjoyable and I may have to track down the rest of this show because I’ve liked what I’ve seen of it. Now these are all of the adaptions that have aired thus far but there are two upcoming Sabrina adaptions. First up, the new cartoon.
Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch (Coming Fall 2013)
Okay, how do I put this lightly? Huh, Sabrina is ugly. Really, that’s the design your going with. Okay, good luck with that. WOW WOW WOW, does this look bad? This show will be airing on The Hub. Which doesn’t give me much hope because unless your show is MLP, most of the shows on The Hub are terrible. And I’m talking original programming. But wow, I can’t past the design. My problem is that it looks fake. Go back and look at the DIC Sabrina, she looks like a real girl. This one screams to me “Merchandise”. She looks like a doll. And I don’t think Sabrina has ever looked this girly or this skinny. There is is a glimmer of hope as Ashley Tisdale is voicing Sabrina. She’s proved that she can do voice work as she plays Candace on Phineas and Ferb. But it is going to take a miracle for this show to work. And why I do feel as though this show is ditching the lighthearted comedy aspect and going for more of an action series. Here’s the basic plot synopsis for this show from it’s Wikipedia page.
The series tells the story of a young teenager named Sabrina. Since she was born half-witch and half-human, she lives a dual life as a normal high school student and the other as a sorcery student in the magical world. Once her two worlds collide, Sabrina is the one who has the ability to battle her enemies, while attempting to maintain her secret identity as a witch from all the humans around her.
Okay, that really doesn’t sound like Sabrina. Maybe an action oriented take on Sabrina can work but I just don’t think so. Now, I also read Cartoon Brew’s article for this show and confirmed the action spin with this paragraph.
In the upcoming series Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch, Sabrina is half-witch and half-human, and all super hero as she leads two vastly different lives; one disguised as a normal, klutzy high school student and the other as the top sorcery student in the magical world. When her two worlds collide, Sabrina is the only one who has the power to battle her foes, while managing to keep her magical identity a secret from humankind.
Something intrigiuing to note that is one of the writers for this upcoming Sabrina cartoon worked on Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
Before we move on, I also want to talk about Salem’s design for this show.
Gah, he looks worse then Sabrina. Big heads on tiny bodies are just creepy. And those eyes, it’s like, he’s staring into your soul.
And these designs are not giving me hope. Well, there’s one more to go over and let’s say, I have even less hope for this.
The Upcoming Sabrina The Teenage Witch Film from Sony
Sony Pictures is working on the first ever theatrical Sabrina film and instead of being excited, I’m asking “Why?” Now this was announced in April of last year and not much has been said on it but from what I’ve read, it would be a superhero re-imaging of Sabrina, where she’d be learning to come to terms with her powers a la Peter Parker. No, just No! Sabrina IS NOT a superhero. She is just a young girl that happens to be a witch. There is no need for a superhero spin on the character. That is just dumb. And according to what I’ve read, it’s going to be dark and edgy. Oh sure, when I think of Sabrina, I think dark and edgy. Ah no, I don’t! But that’s not even the worst part. Just read it for yourself.
Salem, here is a transformed prince creating unique love stories for Sabrina.
Ah no, Salem is not her love interest! He is her for a lack of better sidekick or better yet, comic relief. Did you guys take this idea from Twilight? Dear lord, I hope the answer is no. Her love is Harvey Kinkle. Do you, even know why Salem was turned into a cat in the first place? It was because he attempted to take over the world. If your not even going to stay true to the character and her world, why even call it Sabrina. You know how people were upset at the announcement of the Turtles being aliens in the Bay film until he recanted on that. That’s how I feel about this film times 10 because I like Sabrina more then the Turtles. This is just dumb! Again, it has nothing in common with any other version of the character. So to me, I can’t call this Sabrina. It just doesn’t ring true to any version of the character, I know. And to be fair, I don’t know anything about the original Archie Comics Sabrina but I highly doubt this is true to that verison and the same can be said for The Hub cartoon. I just don’t have high hopes for these two.
So, there you have it, my look at the many adaptions of Sabrina The Teenage Witch. Perhaps because I grew up with it, the Melissa Joan Hart sitcom is my favorite. And the new film and cartoon have a good shot at being the worst Sabrina things, I’ve ever seen. What are your thoughts on the character? Let me know in the comments. Peace!