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The Karate Kid franchise is an American martial arts drama multimedia franchise, created by screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen. The franchise originally focused on Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio), a bullied new kid who forms a bond with his handyman Mr Miyagi (Pat Morita), who happens to be a decorated Okinawan war veteran and master of karate. The focus shifted in the spin-off sequel The Next Karate Kid, which centered around Julie Pierce (Hilary Swank) as she is taught to control her anger by Mr Miyagi (Pat Morita).

The success of the first two films spawned an animated television series that ran for thirteen episodes before its cancellation. In 2010, a remake of the first film was released starring Jaden Smith as the titular character Dre Parker, and Jackie Chan as kung-fu master, Mr. Han. In 2018, YouTube Premium announced a spinoff series of the franchise titled Cobra Kai, which reunites the original rivals Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). The series currently airs on Netflix. The franchise has also had a lasting influence on both karate culture and teen film narratives in America.

Films

The Karate Kid

Main article: The Karate Kid

The franchise began in 1984 with The Karate Kid, starring Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. The film was a success in box office and garnered a total of $100,000,000 despite only premiering in the United States and Canada. It was given an $8 million budget.

"Daniel (Ralph Macchio) moves to Southern California with his mother, Lucille (Randee Heller), but quickly finds himself the target of a group of bullies who study karate at the Cobra Kai dojo. Fortunately, Daniel befriends Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki "Pat" Morita), an unassuming repairman who just happens to be a martial arts master himself. Miyagi takes Daniel under his wing, training him in a more compassionate form of karate and preparing him to compete against the brutal Cobra Kai."

The Karate Kid Part II

Main article: The Karate Kid Part II

Building off the success of the first film, The Karate Kid Part II was released in 1986 and once again starred Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. It introduced new characters Yukie (Nobu McCarthy), Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomita), and Chozen Toguchi (Yuji Okumoto), among others. The film does not take place in Southern California, but rather, Okinawa, which differs from the first film. Despite negative reviews by critics, The Karate Kid Part II garnered $115,103,979 in box office. It was given a $13 million budget.

"After learning that his father is dying, karate master Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki "Pat" Morita) returns home to Okinawa, bringing his protege, Daniel (Ralph Macchio), with him. In Japan, Miyagi is surprised to discover that his old sweetheart, Yukie (Nobu McCarthy), has remained single. Meanwhile, Daniel is attracted to Yukie's niece, Kumiko (Tamlyn Tomita). But romance must be put on hold while Daniel and Miyagi deal with local bullies and long-harbored grudges."

The Karate Kid Part III

Main article: The Karate Kid Part III

The final film installment to include Ralph Macchio, The Karate Kid Part III was released in 1989, three years after the second film. It once more stars Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita in their now-iconic roles of Daniel LaRusso and Mr Miyagi respectively. The Karate Kid Part III also reunites the original films cast, bringing back fan favorites John Kreese (Martin Kove), Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), and introduces the cunning Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith). The film was received negatively by critics and made the smallest amount in box office of the three films, garnering only $38,956,288 and a $12.5 million budget.

"Cobra Kai karate instructor John Kreese (Martin Kove) is still brooding over the defeat handed to him by Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki "Pat" Morita). With his slimy partner, Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), Kreese plans an intricate payback that involves hiring a mean-spirited ringer (Sean Kanan) to rob Daniel of his championship title. When Mr. Miyagi refuses to train Daniel, even under threat, the boy makes the mistake of turning to Terry for guidance."

The Next Karate Kid

Main article: The Next Karate Kid

Capitalizing off the success of the original three films, The Next Karate Kid was released in 1994 and saw the final appearance of Pat Morita as Mr Miyagi. The film focused on Mr. Miyagi training a new female student, Julie Pierce (Hilary Swank). Upon its release, The Next Karate Kid became a commercial and critical failure, with many viewing the film as having good acting, but saw it as unneeded. The film saw little success in box office with $15,826,984 and a $12 million budget.

"Karate master Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki "Pat" Morita) goes to Boston to attend a military reunion. There, he visits with Louisa (Constance Towers), the widow of his former commander, and meets her granddaughter, Julie (Hilary Swank). Julie's parents were recently killed in a car accident, and she is still reeling from the loss. When Julie surprises Miyagi with her knowledge of karate, he takes her to a Buddhist monastery for training and to help her come to terms with her angst."

2010 Remake

Main article: The Karate Kid (2010)

In 2010, a remake of the first film was released, and starred Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan as Dre Parker and Mr. Han respectively. The film was the largest release financially for the franchise, garnering $359,126,022 with a $40 million budget. It also earned nine film nominations and four wins. A sequel was ordered to the film, though nothing seemed to come from the order as Sony Pictures ordered a television series spin-off of the original three films in 2017.

"When his mother's career results in a move to China, 12-year-old Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) finds that he is a stranger in a strange land. Though he knows a little karate, his fighting skills are no match for Cheng, the school bully. Dre finds a friend in Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), a maintenance man who is also a martial-arts master. Mr. Han teaches Dre all about kung fu in the hope that Dre will be able to face down Cheng and perhaps win the heart of a pretty classmate named Mei Ying."

Television Series

The Karate Kid

The success of the first two films spawned an animated television series that aired for thirteen episodes in 1989. While characters Daniel LaRusso and Mr Miyagi were centralized in the plot, they were not voiced by their film counterparts. Instead, the characters were voiced by Joey Dedio and Robert Ito respectively.Pat Morita reprised his role as Mr. Miyagi through a narration in which he explains the episode's plot from his character's point of view. The series was canceled after one season, and is not considered canon.

A miniature shrine with magic powers is taken from its resting place on Okinawa, and it is up to Miyagi and Daniel to recover it. Together with Okinawan girl Taki Tamurai (voiced by Janice Kawaye), the karatekas search the globe and, naturally, encounter several opportunities to fight their way out of trouble."

Cobra Kai

Main article: Cobra Kai

In 2017, it was announced that Sony Pictures had sold the rights of The Karate Kid franchise to YouTube Red for an action drama series that serves as a spin-off of the original three films. It stars Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, who reprise their 1980s roles of Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence. The series is set thirty-four years after the events of The Karate Kid, with the narrative being re-examined from Johnny's point of view. The series stars Mary Mouser as Daniel's daughter Samantha LaRusso, Xolo Maridueña as Johnny's apprentice Miguel Diaz, and Tanner Buchanan as Johnny's estranged son Robby Keene. The series also stars Jacob Bertrand as Hawk, Gianni Decenzo as Demetri, and Martin Kove as John Kreese. The series reunites several former Karate Kid alums, including the long-awaited return of Elisabeth Shue as Ali Mills.

The series launched on YouTube Red with the first two seasons being released in 2018 to 2019. In June 2020, Netflix acquired the series, and the third season released on January 1, 2021. As of January 2021, the show has been watched by 73 million Netflix member households between the three seasons.

"Thirty four years after events of the 1984 All Valley Karate Tournament, a down-and-out Johnny Lawrence seeks redemption by reopening the infamous Cobra Kai dojo, reigniting his rivalry with a now successful Daniel LaRusso."
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