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'Girl Meets World' meets '90s nostalgia

By By Topher Gauk-Roger CNN
Published On: Jun 27 2014 12:24:23 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 27 2014 12:57:09 PM CDT

Eric McCandless/Disney Channel

(CNN) -

For those who grew up in the '90s, "Boy Meets World" was definitive pop culture.

From 1993-2000, the names Cory, Topanga, Shawn, Eric, and Feeny were synonymous with Friday night, and 14 years since Mr. Feeny uttered the words "class dismissed" on the series finale, nostalgia-addicts still miss the ABC sitcom.

Now, the Disney Channel is hoping to reach a new crop of kids who will feel that same attachment, as the spin-off series "Girl Meets World" premieres June 27.

Cory and Topanga are back, but don't expect the same couple we saw exiting the classroom all those years ago. They are surrounded by a new crew of comedic teens, and those behind the new series are hoping they've created a show that will please fans of the original, but also connect with a younger set looking for a program to call their own.

CNN recently caught up with the cast and creator of "Girl Meets World" in Los Angeles and discovered a whole new world.

The Matthews family of the original series has moved from Philadelphia to New York City in the new series -- which is in line with the series finale. On top of a new location, the teens of this modern sitcom are facing a different breed of angst-filled drama, chock full of social media insecurities.

"We're dealing with a lot of the same issues that we dealt with on the original series: themes of freedom from your parents and individuality and family support and relying on your friends," says Cory Matthews himself, Ben Savage.

"But it's in a lot more complicated framework because the world's a lot more complicated. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Internet -- these are issues we didn't have to deal with in the '90s, which is shocking, but it was a totally different world."

"Girls Meets World" stars Rowan Blanchard as 12-year-old Riley Matthews, the older of Cory and Topanga's two kids. Riley is trying to find her place amid the pressures of family, friends and junior high.

Savage returns as Cory, but now it's his turn to teach lessons. He's moved on from bumbling student to junior high school teacher, leading his own daughter's class. Topanga is now a full time lawyer and mother, remaining the voice of reason for the Matthews family -- though Danielle Fishel was nervous about stepping back into the character's shoes.

"I didn't know if it was going to be easy because it had been 14 years since I had done it consistently," Fishel says. "But, literally, the second Ben and I were in a room together, I was Topanga and he was Cory and it was like no time had passed at all."

Still, Fishel was taken aback when she saw where the pair had ended up.

"I'm a little surprised that their oldest child is as old as she is, just because when they left for New York, Topanga was so focused on becoming a lawyer," the actress admits. "I have a feeling it was Cory who was really ready to start a family and that was something they negotiated."

Savage and Fishel both confess they did not re-watch the series to get back into character, hoping to craft new versions of the pair we first met as seventh grade students. But the show's younger actors have each taken a crash course on the original series, despite the fact some of them were not born until after it wrapped.

In fact, the teen stars view their characters as updated versions of the originals. Blanchard sees Riley as the Cory of the new show, while Sabrina Carpenter, who plays rebellious best friend Maya Hart, doesn't hide the fact her character is the Shawn.

Riley's crush on new school transfer Lucas is noticeably similar to the dynamic of Cory and Topanga. But Carpenter is quick to point out this isn't the same show recycled.

"A lot has changed since the '90s," she says. "Technology is insane and the way that people dress, the way that people talk to each other, the way that people don't talk to each other."

Michael Jacobs is the creative mind behind both series, and wasn't initially interested in rebooting the brand. It wasn't until he considered creating a set of characters for a new generation that Jacobs saw the value in a spin-off. He is well aware of the high expectations "Boy Meets World" fans have for the new series, and has taken to heart concerns this could mess up their childhood memories of the show.

"I don't want the new show to be compared in its pilot episode to an entire series," Jacobs says. "The worst nightmare I have is that we've gotten all of this wonderful press and everyone is disappointed. I want the old audience to know if you stick with us, you will be extremely well rewarded with the growth of these characters."

For now, Cory and Topanga are the only returning characters, but that doesn't mean we won't see old friends over the course of the season. Rider Strong (Shawn Hunter) and William Daniels (Mr. Feeny) will reportedly both make appearances, and the writers promise nods to the old show. For Fishel, there is one aspect of "Boy Meets World" she hopes stays in the '90s -- the fashion.

"It's so nice to not have to worry about feathered bangs or chokers or oversized crop tops," the relieved actress says. "We did a flashback scene and I had to wear lace and a choker, the crimped hair and the bangs. I'm like, 'Oh my gosh! I'm so glad I don't look like this anymore.'"

Jacobs is certain the relatable characters of the original series are what stood out for fans, and believes he and the writers have struck gold a second time around.

"The fact that the lead of the show was not 6-feet, sandy-haired, blue-eyed. The lead of the show was us! We want to do it real. I want a stumbling, gawky, unsure of herself child to grow up in front of us again. We did it once and we were successful."

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