Classic Movies Reborn As Cartoon Series
You probably already know about ‘The Real Ghostbusters’ (1986-1991) and the animated ‘Beetlejuice’ series (1989-1991). They both had long runs fortified with heavy merchandising and source material that actually lends itself to Saturday-morning reinterpretation. It’s less likely you had any idea that some other classic movies were adapted, with mixed results, as kids’ shows. And you may be surprised to learn that nearly half of these movies were rated R.
‘Back to the Future’
‘Back to the Future’ (1991) is unique in that a big chunk of the original cast was successfully roped into providing the voices for their animated counterparts. (Another cartoon, discussed below, also managed to pull off the same trick.) Christopher Lloyd even does live-action bumper segments as Doc Brown. The stories follow the events of ‘Back to the Future III,’ and as far as these things go, the tone is fairly consistent with the movie franchise.
Michael J. Fox is probably the only actor to star in two movies that were later adapted as kids’ cartoons. ‘Teen Wolf’ (1986) doesn’t radically alter anything about the movie’s premise, and it does a decent job of translating the characters as cartoons. If it’s got nothing else going for it, it’s hell of a lot easier to watch than ‘Teen Wolf Too.’
‘Little Shop of Horrors’
‘Little Shop’ (1991) is based on the 1986 musical, which was based on the off-Broadway musical … which was based on the 1960 Roger Corman quickie movie. It’s got an interesting look and a rapping plant, but that’s about it.
‘Planet of the Apes’
‘Return to the Planet of the Apes’ (1975) is actually pretty good where stories are concerned. Despite some pretty stiff animation, it sticks to the ‘Apes’ franchise canon and occasionally makes references to scenes from the movies. A live-action ‘Planet of the Apes’ TV series was also attempted but got canceled before all 14 of its episodes aired. ‘Return’ only made it to 13 episodes.
‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’
‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’ (1995) is about what you’d expect. The animated Ace does kinda look and sound like Jim Carrey, but this ugly 39-episode show is most notable because ‘Family Guy’ creator Seth MacFarlane was one of the writers.
‘The Toxic Avenger’
If you’ve seen the cult anti-classic ‘The Toxic Avenger,’ you know how bizarre it is that this is even a real thing. ‘The Toxic Crusaders’ (1990, and pictured above), as the title implies, gives Toxie a team of chemically mutated pals. Imagine this scenario, because it had to have happened at least once: Some eight-year-old kid actually liked this cartoon and sent Mom to the video store to rent the cinematic source material. Said kid becomes scarred for life.
‘Police Academy: The Series’ (1997) is not quite as shockingly wrong as ‘The Toxic Crusaders,’ but imagine the above scenario, replacing ‘The Toxic Avenger’ with the first ‘Police Academy.’ You know, the one where the gun-crazy cop shoots a little old lady’s cat out of a tree and the bad guy flies headfirst into a horse’s ass and the old guy from ‘Punky Brewster’ gets … um … serviced by a hooker while standing at a podium. That one.
‘Rambo: First Blood Part II’
It was called ‘Rambo: Force of Freedom’ (1986), and it came out before there was even a ‘Rambo III.’ Again, does this sound like a movie franchise concept you want to sell to kids? Militant vigilantism? The cartoon Rambo is probably what Sylvester Stallone wished he looked like.
Robocop was reimagined and sold to kids not once, but twice! ‘Robocop’ (1988) and ‘Robocop: Alpha Commando’ (1998) are yet two more examples of what it looks like when you turn an R-rated movie into a show for kids. Rumor has it that the 1988 version (intro below) was actually decent in a ‘Transformers’-y, ‘Thundercats’-y kinda way. By comparison, the ‘Alpha Commando’ version was … ‘Inspector Gadget’-y.
‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’
It’s not so weird that a Bill and Ted cartoon was developed. What is weird is that ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures’ (1990) is like the ‘Back to the Future’ cartoon in that it also managed to convince its three primary movie actors that contributing their talents to a cartoon was a good idea. Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter and George freakin’ Carlin all stepped up to lend their entire likeness to Saturday morning TV … for the first season anyway. We’re guessing a few agents were fired before it was time to launch the show’s second season.