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Cobra Kai creator teases season 3 connection to Karate Kid cartoon

We take you now to a more innocent age: the late '80s and early '90s, when extended universes were still a twinkle in Robert Downey Jr.'s agent's eye. Back then, questions of fictional continuity were more recreational than life-consuming, and franchise spin-offs were treated to the same level of canonical care as the last half dozen X-Men movies — i.e., none at all. As a result of that laissez-faire attitude, any motion picture with enough brand recognition found itself with a Saturday morning cartoon adaptation. 

No, really — it happened to just about every movie from the period. Kid-friendly properties like Free Willy and Back to the Future were hastily adapted and lumped into the same television schedule as animated versions of Rambo, Robocop, and the Toxic Avenger. Even Little Shop of Horrors got a kids' cartoon. It was a different time. Kevin Feige was still young enough to technically be the target audience for Blossom.

So it should come as no surprise that The Karate Kid, the 1984 story of a young man from New Jersey learning to kick his problems in the face, received its own short-lived animated series. Helpfully also called The Karate Kid, it ran for 13 glorious episodes in the autumn and winter of 1989, and it was absolutely bonkers. Mr. Miyagi and Daniel LaRusso return as the series leads, but the All Valley Karate Tournament is now the last thing on their minds. 

Rather than chasing after personal growth through balance, the duo focuses on a rarely-explored facet of the Karate Kid universe — namely, the pursuit of a stolen magical idol with power beyond measure, sent skipping across the globe in a series of merry mishaps. Through the idol's mystical abilities, Daniel and Miyagi found themselves in an oversized barrel of pickles on a weekly basis, at various points being shrunk to miniature proportions, encountering a Himalayan fountain of youth, and stopping magically superpowered Soviet hockey players.

Cobra Kai references are digging deep

All of this, from a contemporary perspective, begs an important question: are the events of the Karate Kid cartoon canon in Cobra Kai? From a wider perspective, should showrunners be expected to take decades of tangential cash grabs into account when breathing new life into a franchise? And if so, when can we expect to see Johnny Lawrence team up with the Harlem Globetrotters?

On September 24, Cobra Kai executive producer and co-creator Jon Hurwitz took to Twitter to clear up the confusion. He was addressing a query from a fan, reading, "Hi. It's a weird question, but is the Karate Kid animated series official within the Karate Kid / Cobra Kai universe?" Hurwitz's answer was a little bit shocking: "The Karate Kid cartoon is not canon," he wrote. "But there is an Easter Egg from it in Season 3." While we don't yet know just what this will look like, just knowing that the reference is coming is enough to keep fans on the edge of their seats.

In just its first two seasons, Cobra Kai has already cemented itself as an Easter egg-heavy property. Season one featured a minigolf date montage between Samantha and Miguel that nearly mirrored a similar scene from Karate Kid. Daniel's car, gifted to him by Miyagi in the first movie, also makes an appearance, and other visual cues from the original motion pictures pop up with astonishing regularity. Still, any reference to the cartoon show represents a remarkably deep cut. Cobra Kai's third season is scheduled to wax onto Netflix in 2021.