‘Cobra Kai’ Creators Say the ‘Karate Kid’ Show Is Like an Impossible Burger

Cobra Kai is pretty much the ultimate Karate Kid Part V. In fact, if you take each season as a movie, they’re up to Karate Kid VIII coming soon. Creators Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg had prior experience with sequels. Heald created Hot Tub Time Machine and its sequel. Hurwitz and Schlossberg created the Harold & Kumar trilogy and got to do American Reunion

Cobra Kai: Daniel and Kumiko reunite at an Okinawa bar
L-R: Ralph Macchio and Tamlyn Tomita | Tina Rowden/Netflix

Heald, Hurwitz, and Schlossberg spoke to Showbiz Cheat Sheet by Zoom on June 14. Heald and Schlossberg shared their philosophy on making sequels. This explains why Cobra Kai has captured the Karate Kid fans. 

The ‘Cobra Kai’ creators like sequels with a twist 

Cobra Kai isn’t only Karate Kid V. There are plenty of differences, beginning with anchoring the show on Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). Putting Johnny and Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) in the roles of teachers to a new generation is another twist. 

Karate Kid rivals Ralph Macchio and William Zabka
L-R: Ralph Macchio and William Zabka | Curtis Bonds Baker/Netflix

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“We like to say OK, if you like the cheeseburger, we have this new dish on the menu but it’s going to taste a little bit like the cheeseburger right at the beginning,” Heald said. “It might taste like the cheeseburger the whole way through. But, when you’re done, I’m going to tell you that it was an Impossible Burger.”

The food metaphors continue with Heald.

“We like to have our cake and eat it too in that way,” Heald said. “But, I respect that there’s different types of storytelling. Some stories are meant to have less nostalgia or different kinds of nostalgia. It really varies property to property for me.”

How ‘Cobra Kai’ builds on the ‘Karate Kid’ movies

Cobra Kai went to the trouble of getting the original actors back to continue the story of their characters. For people who just want to see a new cast do The Karate Kid, they made that movie in 2010.

“For me, when I see some piece of IP that I connected with in my childhood and the only difference is a new fresh face or new fresh talent or modern special effects, that is not enough to me,” Schlossberg said. “I understand why that movie gets made, because there’s a younger audience that wants to see something that worked in the past. For me, it’s just like OK, well, I’ve already seen that movie and the story itself that we care the most about.”

Cobra Kai Season 3: Miyagi-Do faces Cobra Kai in the LaRusso house
L-R: Xolo Maridueña, Mary Mouser, Jacob Bertrand | Netflix

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After four films, Schlossberg and his co-creators still wanted more Karate Kid.

“Whether it’s IP that is continuing the story like we’re doing, that’s inherently more interesting to me,” Schlossberg said. “Just like oh my God, this is a continuation of something that I fell in love with. It’s not over. That’s a real sequel. If you’re doing something that’s completely different with a different cast, it does need something new in the story that sucks me in.”

Other approaches to sequels are OK too

Heald, Hurwitz, and Schlossberg got to do Cobra Kai the way they wanted. When other creators approach sequels, they also accept different strokes. 

Cobra Kai: Johnny Lawrence in the garage fight
L-R: Ralph Macchio and William Zabka | Tina Rowden/Netflix

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“You bring your fandom to everything you watch,” Heald said. “So whenever I’d watch something that’s an extension of a universe I like, I bring my own expectations to it. It’s hard to separate those from the vision of the filmmaker. I’ve been more surprised, at times, with franchises that take bigger swings and do things completely unexpectedly that earn my confusion. And then I don’t know if I like it and then I really like it, but I had to eat the whole cake to get there. And then there’s franchises that right from the get-go, you are back in it and you love it. I think it’s just different ways of filmmakers approaching beloved IP. And it’s not an easy job.”