Our Ten’s List: Cartoons That Deserve Live Adaptations.
Since Disney is intent on making all of their old cartoons into live movies, we pick ten cartoons worthy of the treatment.
Hollywood has found another bone to gnaw, and this time around adapting old cartoons is fashionable again. Sure, we’ve covered some pretty classic…and not so classic…examples of when this trend was hot in the 80’s, but this time Disney itself is leading the charge. Dumbo is the first of three live action adaptations planned for theaters this year. In coming years, we’re in for at least another half dozen more. Since studios are not going to buck the trend any time soon, we decided to find ten animated offerings that we feel would make great live-action films. While Disney properties are on the list, we’ve also gone a little farther afield, looking at classic Saturday morning cartoon fare, and even some lesser known gems.
Cartoons That Deserve Live Adaptations.
10. Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears.
After a falling out with humans, the mystical creatures known as Gummi Bears live in secluded enclaves, trying to protect their heritage and waiting for the time when they can peacefully live with people again. One warren of Gummis befriend an aspiring squire named Cavin, who having proven his noble intentions, they aid against the evil Duke Sigmund Igthorn.
Stay with me here. The Gummi Bears seem like a stretch, but it’s not as bad as the candy-themed name implies. This series was novel for many reasons: it wasn’t based on existing characters, it was an original property not taken from fairy tales, and it wasn’t aggressively marketed as a toy-based cash in. It’s a bit odd Disney even used the name Gummi Bears, as they didn’t own the right to the candy. All in all, it seems for once that Disney was just telling a great story, instead of eyeing the profits.
The series has plenty of action and adventure, scaled down to suitable to kids. There are knights and orcs, all manner of fairy-tale creatures, and a fairly robust world that drips inspiration from J.R.R. Tolkien. Heck, the Gummi Bears are essentially Tolkien’s elves, mixed with the mischievous good humor of Gaelic leprechauns. There’s a ton of directions you can take this one in, and the CG exists now to make the titular bears look and move like they did on paper. If Disney wants to strip-mine their vault, they could certainly do worse than this under-sung series.
9. Thundarr the Barbarian.
Thundarr is an escaped slave warrior who roams the post acopalyptic wastes of New Earth with is companions: the sorceress Princess Ariel, and a beast-man named Ookla. After an exo-planet’s passage violently rearranged the world, both magic and science came to coexist, with many evil forces intent on gaining the ancient power for themselves. Thundarr aids Ariel as she searches for this technology too, while also keeping an eye towards settling his debts with the evil Wizard who enslaved him.
I’m not sure I really have to unpack this one much. It’s Conan the Barbarian plus Star Wars, with a touch of Mad Max. Despite big budget action flicks being king of the box office, we’ve had a drought of sword and sorcery films. Hell, if Yor could get a live action movie, Thundarr sure as heck deserves one! To be honest, this one would work great as an adult oriented live-action series, blending some Game of Thrones elements with dystopian themes and a sprinkling of dark humor a la Preacher. This seems like a pretty easy lift.
8. Treasure Planet.
Space cabin boy Jim Hawkins stumbles upon the map to a whole planet of pirate’s treasure. Can he reach it before the space buccaneer Long John Silver?
Disney has show they can do big spectacle with live-action pirate movies, so this feels like a natural. Treasure Planet, a space-opera version of the classic Treasure Island, lends itself particularly well to the current moment. You could get your swashbuckling, while also delivering on the sci-fi trappings that people love about Guardians of the Galaxy or Star Wars. It makes a hell of a lot more sense than rebooting Dumbo and shoving in characters nobody knows or cares about.
7. The Powerpuff Girls.
A scientist trying to create the perfect little girls winds up creating three super-powered tweens. Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup use their powers to save the city of Townsville from a colorful rogues gallery of super criminals.
You could go either way with this one. If you wanted to pay out the older fans of the first series, you could do a darker, subversive take on the material, kind of like what David Yarovesky and the Gunn brothers are doing with their Superman analogue, Brightburn. You could also go campy and cutesy, perhaps using big googly eyes like Alita did. Heck, you could marry the two and get a really way-out there project where three over-the-top cute protagonists go around beating the bloody heck out of fan favorite villains. There’s a lot to play with in this sandbox.
6. Dragon’s Lair/Space Ace.
In Dragon’s Lair, Dirk the Daring is a capable but bumbling knight, searching for his lady love, Daphne, who is perpetually captured by a nasty dragon. In Space Ace, Dexter and Kimberly are two space cops after Commander Borf, who plans to use a ray that turns people into babies on all of Earth. Borg suprises the pair, turning Dexter into a teen and kidnapping Kimberly. Dexter gives chase, occasionally able to revert to his more dashing “Ace” adult form.
We may actually get this sooner rather than later. Don Bluth, the legendary creator of An American Tail and other, less family friendly animated films, has crowdfunded a movie adaptation. The film will be Dragon’s Lair, but begin with a Space Ace short. Given it’s Bluth, this most likely will be an animated outing. I think it would work just as well with the right goofball stars. Ryan Reynolds would be perfect for Space Ace, with Jack Black being a perfect Commander Borf. Given his chops at both action and comedy, Chris Hemsworth would be a nice fit for Dirk the Daring. See, Hollywood, I’ve done most of the heavy lifting for you.
5. Mister T.
Mister T goes around helping people in need with his bad ass bulldog with a Mohawk. A couple of kids help, too. But mostly its all about T and his Mohawk sporting pooch.
Listen, people. We all know that we’re entering an era of resource scarcity. The resource nobody wants to admit we’re running out of fastest is viable time to give Mister T another goddamn movie. Make this happen.
4. The Savage Dragon.
A space-faring race in search of a new home locates Earth. Despite their peaceful mission, their leader wants to destroy humanity. His people erase his memories instead, force feed him a day’s worth of TV, and exile him to Earth. With a season of Starsky and Hutch under his belt, the former emperor decides to become a police officer, protecting humanity with his tremendous physical powers.
OK. That’s sounds like a crazy-bananas story. Unless you read pretty far into the series, created by Spider-Man legend and Image Comic cofounder Erik Larsen, you never get any of this cock and bull story. What you do get is a cross between Superman and Lethal Weapon, which is a pretty great flavor combo. The best part of the story is that Savage Dragon, while wildly powerful, lives like a normal dude, and his villains are fully capable of putting him through the ringer. No Lex Luthor here – the first arch villain Dragon fights throws him off a building to be impaled on the street below. Bake this movie-cake right, and it could be a glorious 90’s style cop flick with super hero frosting.
3. She-Ra: Princess of Power.
Adora, the twin sister of He-Man, was stolen as a child from her royal home on Eternia. Raised by an evil empire as its most promising warrior, she eventually learns the truth of her identity. Taking up a mystical sword and the name She-Ra, she devoted herself to battling the forces of evil that brainwashed her, alongside a pantheon of valiant heroes and heroines.
Is there any better time than now to make this movie? Audiences have shown a hunger for female-led adventure stories, and She-Ra is undergoing a Renaissance of popularity thanks to a Netflix animated series. Studios have been perennially struggling to reboot Masters of the Universe with He-Man. Why not skip the dude in the fur speedos and go with She-Ra instead?
When their home planet of Thundera pulls a Krypton, a small band of ThunderCats – humanoid cats – flee in a space cruiser, guarding the sleeping form of the crown prince, Liono. Space Mutants attack, forcing them to crash on Third Earth, a sparsely inhabited, remote planet. As the remaining ThunderCats attempt to coexist on their new home, they run afoul of a terrible, undead wizard who wants their technology and power for himself.
It seems like talks of this film have floated around the rumor mill for decades. It has the allure of high adventure, a developed mythology, cool creatures, and plenty of sword-swinging action. The downside would be making any of the characters look like anything but CG monstrosities – especially the cat-like good guys. I think we’re at the point in CG techniques that you could finally pull this off and make it look good. If you could, you’d be sitting on a franchise spawning bed that would make Transformers look like a gimmick.
1. The Black Cauldron.
Taran, a pig keeper working for the kingdom’s version of Merlin, longs for adventure. When his charge, a magical porker named Hen Wen, runs off, Taran gets his first taste of adventuring. Along with a young enchantress princess, a self-aggrandizing bard, and a hungry mop of fur named Gurgi, he sets off on a journey that ultimately leads to stronghold of the vile Horned King – and the mythical Black Cauldron he uses to create his undead armies.
Let me get this straight. We have a 5 book series aimed at young adults. It features swords, wizards, monsters, and evil sorcerer kings. The protagonist is a peasant boy who becomes the kingdom’s hero. There’s a compelling and well written love interest. How exactly has Hollywood not fallen all over itself to make this movie?!
This series is Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and King Arthur all rolled into one. Sure, Disney threw up all over themselves trying to make a cartoon version of this story, but they were way ahead of the time. Back then, cute animals dressed like people was what everyone expected from them, and high fantasy adaptations of YA were barely a gleam in the eye of Peter Jackson. To be honest, the moment for this film is quickly passing, which is a shame. YA lit has fizzled, Robin Hood/King Arthur is on the outs, and Peter Jackson has soured the well with his ill-advised Hobbit trilogy. Had somebody with a brain grabbed this in 2010, The Black Cauldron would be Disney’s highest grossing adaptation, instead of the black sheep of its early animated features library.