In 1984, Daniel LaRusso had defeated Johnny Lawrence in the All Valley Karate Tournament. There is a lot of history between them, and when their paths cross thirty-four years later, they are forced to confront their differences once again, while also realizing that they might not have been so different in the first place. The show focuses on their personal struggles while also reflecting their own stories in that of the young people around them. But where does this story come from? What is ‘Cobra Kai’ based on? Let’s find out.
Is Cobra Kai a True Story?
No, ‘Cobra Kai’ is not based on a true story. It is created by Josh Heald, Hayden Schlossberg, and Jon Hurwitz, and it serves as a continuation of the story of the ‘Karate Kid’ series. The three of them have been friends since high school and it was their fandom for the world of ‘Karate Kid’ that brought them together.
“We have been friends for over 20 years and bonded in high school and college over things like ‘The Karate Kid’,” said Heald in an interview with CBS Local. “We all ended up having separate screenwriting careers. I did the Hot Tub Time Machine movies and they did the Harold & Kumar series. We always kept coming back to Karate Kid in our discussions and love of film.”
At first, they toyed with the idea of a follow-up film. However, this made things a little complicated as a remake, starring Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan, had already been made. Then came the revivals of popular shows like ‘Fuller House’ and ‘Will and Grace’, which gave them the idea of taking their story to streaming platforms. “Streaming has taken over this ability to tell this long, serialized story with any subject matter. It became more and more likely that something like this could hit,” Heald said.
While the idea of bringing back the beloved characters was enticing, the creators also had to consider the gaping absence of Mr. Miyagi, without whom there would have been no Karate Kid. (Pat Morita, the actor who portrayed Daniel LaRusso’s mentor, passed away in 2005.) They knew they would need his presence in the story in one way or another, but they also had to find a way to allow the characters as well as the audience to move beyond him. It didn’t turn out to be so problematic when they settled on the protagonist of their story.
One of the things about the original ‘Karate Kid’ that has divided the fans is the nature of Johnny Lawrence. He had been introduced as a typical bully whom Daniel has to vanquish, but the discussion into his character had led many to believe that he wasn’t really the villain of the story (declared most forcefully by Barney Stinson in ‘How I Met Your Mother’). The show focuses more on his side of the story, which not only gives it a fresh twist but also allows the viewers to see the original story in a different light.
“Everybody has somebody in their high school that they felt was a bully,” said Schlossberg. “When you get older, you look back and wonder what happened to that person and why were they that way. With Johnny, you understand where all that aggression came from. The show tries to empathize with him and it blows your whole world.”
While the characters of Johnny and Daniel are the threads to the ‘Karate Kid’ world, the show also treads new grounds with brand new characters. The creators wanted to add a link between the Karate Kid generation and the current generation, to make the story accessible even to those who might not have seen the film. “Another thing about the original Karate Kid that we connected to was that it was a teen 80s melodramatic love story,” said Schlossberg. “We see a ton of these shows for young types of audiences today that are different variations of the same thing in terms of love triangles and high school. We liked the idea of doing that and throwing the karate element into it.”
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