Wax off, wax on. YouTube Red series Cobra Kai will bring original Karate Kid franchise star Ralph Macchio back to the iconic martial arts franchise along with actor William Zabka, who portrayed high-school bully Johnny Lawrence (of “Sweep the leg, Johnny!” fame) in the original 1984 film. The first full-length trailer for the series is now available, and it’s accompanied by confirmation of the series’ premiere date.
Zabka will co-star with Macchio in the series, playing the character who tormented Macchio’s Daniel LaRusso in the first, franchise-spawning film. The series is envisioned as a comedy set 34 years after the events of the first movie, and bringing the rivalry between Johnny and Daniel into the current time.
Scheduled to debut May 2 on YouTube Red, Cobra Kai will have its festival premiere April 24 at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. The first, full trailer for the series (see above) offers a hint at what Daniel and Johnny have been up to in the years following the events of the karate tournament chronicled in the 1984 film. The trailer also reveals the reasons behind Johnny’s decision to bring back the Cobra Kai.
In early March, YouTube released a teaser trailer for the series titled “Sensei Johnny” that focuses on the latter’s role as the leader of the reborn Cobra Kai in the new show.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Cobra Kai follows “a down-and out-Johnny, who, seeking redemption, reopens the infamous Cobra Kai dojo. It reignites his rivalry with a now-successful Daniel, who has been struggling to maintain balance in his life without the guidance of his mentor, Mr. Miyagi (deceased franchise actor Pat Morita). The half-hour comedy follows the duo addressing demons from their past and present frustrations — through (what else?) karate.”
Hot Tub Time Machine screenwriter Josh Heald penned the script for the series along with Harold and Kumar franchise writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. The Harold and Kumar duo directed most of the series, which will consist of 10 half-hour episodes. Macchio and Zabka are serving as executive producers, along with Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment production studio.
“Like everyone who grew up in the 1980s, the three of us are enormous fans of The Karate Kid,” said the trio of writers in a statement accompanying the announcement. “Cobra Kai will be a true continuation of the original films — packed with comedy, heart, and thrilling fight scenes. We can’t wait to reignite the LaRusso-Lawrence rivalry.”
The first teaser trailer for the series (see below) was released in February 2018.
Macchio’s last appearance as Daniel LaRusso was in 1989’s The Karate Kid Part III, while Zabka reprised his role as Johnny Lawrence for a brief scene in The Karate Kid Part II. Although Zabka’s character is generally perceived as the antagonist of the original 1984 film, some fans have argued that he’s actually the unsung hero of the story — so it will be interesting to see whether that interpretation of the character will inform the new series.
The Karate Kid and the two direct sequels it inspired, as well as the soft reboot in 1994 (The Next Karate Kid, which starred a young Hilary Swank) and the full 2010 reboot (The Karate Kid, which starred Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan) have earned $430.3 million in U.S. theaters across five films. The 2010 reboot leads the Karate Kid franchise with $176.5 million domestically and $359.1 million worldwide. The original trilogy didn’t receive an international release.
Updated on March 21: Added full trailer and premiere date.