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If It Exists Then It Can Be Animated: 10 More Zany Animated Adaptations


Last weekend, I listed 10 rather surprising animated series that were based off movies (that you can read by clicking the link). Oh okay. Karate Kid and Back to the Future seemed perfect for the Saturday morning market, since they were hit movies for kids that opened themselves up for more stories, but the surprise was more they existed since both were childhood favourites that I was unaware had cartoon series versions. 

It was fun being surprised what network executive greenlit as series that would be marketed to kids, and if successful, set-up a whole new toy line. Because in 1980s, if you animated it, then it would be recreated in plastic figure form to be sold at K-Mart and Toys 'R' Us. 

But if it was the least bit popular or marketable in the 1980s and 1990s, even if not geared towards kids, then some executive would try to find a way to turn into a weekly or even daily cartoon for kids. They did it so often that I could write a War & Peace size tome about them all. 

For now, I thought it would be fun to look at 10 more rather surprising animation adaptations. Like my previous list, this is done in no particular order.

10. Robocop: The Animated Series (1988): Some executive probably thought that kids love robots and they crime fighters, so this has to be animated gold. They also probably based this entirely off the poster since the violent and at times satirical Paul Verhoeven directed action picture was a very adult and not kid friendly picture. But not only did we get a cartoon, but the series had a toyline too, which likely is what led to the infamous toned-down Robocop 3 as more kids were bugging their parents to see the movies.

9. Rambo: The Force of Freedom (1986): This may be the first attempt to adapt a very R-rated but popular movie series into a more kid-friendly animated series. The cartoon drastically alters the PTSD suffering, small-town destroying, and killing-machine Rambo from the movies into a more positive, nature-loving, and friendly muscled superhero type. Also, the one-man army warrior loner is traded in to be a leader of an actual army in order to capitalize on the popularity of GI Joe. Almost as if they were using a recognizable name to knock-off the hit series, but they would never do that, right?

8. Little Shop (1991): There has been a few different adaptations of the B-movie icon Roger Corman directed 1960 horror comedy The Little Shop of Horrors. It was made into a much more well-known stage musical that was adapted into the Frank Oz directed 1986 picture starring Rick Moranis. In order to make it Saturday morning appropriate, the key characters suddenly got aged down to young teenagers and the sentient plant traded in its lust for human flesh for a love of rap and hip hop.

7. The Mask: Animated Series (1995- 1997): Networks were all about adapting the Jim Carrey movies into animated series, but unlike Ace Ventura and Dumb and Dumber from my previous list, this one makes much more sense as a series targeted at kids as the main character was essentially a comedic superhero. Plus, there was the lesser known comic book available to provide extra source material and inspiration, and as well, the character was already a giant cartoon, so a perfect fit. I assume I have no memory of this due to it being way past the phase where I bothered getting up early on a Saturday in the 1990s.

6. Rubik, the Amazing Cube (1983): Obviously not a movie, but this may be the best example of how studios in the 1980s tried to turn anything popular into a Saturday morning cartoon. Rubik's Cube was an immensely popular toy in the 1980s and my son loves solving them today, but it doesn't quite scream for a fantasy adventure story. But this series asks, what if you solve the puzzle and it turn into a magic alien? Well, my son can solve it in minutes now, so I call shenanigans. This also may have just been slightly influenced by the popularity of E.T, which somehow survived becoming a Saturday Morning Cartoon.

5. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1990-1991): Similar to Toxic Crusaders, someone thought a B-movie, cult hit was perfect idea for kids on a Saturday morning. To be fair, the very wacky 1988 sequel has a crazy cast of characters that were perfect for what worked as Saturday morning characters, and this leaned far heavier on comedy and adventure than any real horror elements. 

4. Tales from the Cryptkeeper (1993 -1994, 1999): This is a case of creative going full circled as the very adult HBO Tales from the Crypt series was based on the 1950s EC Comics series that was marketed towards kids. Though it was one of the things that triggered various groups to push against comics as corrupting the youth and led to the Comic Code Authority in 1954, and drastically changed the type of stories told in the medium. This version was significantly altered to be more appropriate for kids, or maybe more importantly for adults to consent for kids to watch it. This is one of the few series on both these lists that could be considered a hit, and proof that the dark and scary has always been fascinating to many kids, who want a safe way to explore their fears.

3. Fonz and the Happy Days Gang (1980 -1981): What the famous sitcom really needed was the Fonz, Richie and Ralph to travel through time in an attempt to return home, and luckily, the animated series finally delivered on that. Plus, because it was a 1980s animated series there had to be a talking dog and a girl from the future with magic powers. So, yeah, nothing like the live-action series at all, but I guess, kids just wouldn't accept a Saturday morning without the Fonz.

2. Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventures (1990 - 1991): Speaking of travelling through time, the hit 1989 movie got an animated adaption only a year later, which is pretty quick compared to some of the other ones that seemed to be slow in development. I would have been at the tail-end of my mandatory Saturday morning cartoon watching, but I don't remember catching this one, which is odd since I watched the movie countless time by the time 1990 rolled around. The significant thing about this series is that the first season was actually voiced by the film stars in Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, and George Carlin, which really would have upped the series prestige, but they were replaced by the second season likely for cost reasons.

1. Teen Wolf (1986 - 1987): Michael J. Fox was the 1980s version of Jim Carrey when it comes to his movies getting the animated treatment. Surprisingly, studios passed on an animated adaptation of The Secret of My Success, because you know kids love romances between nephews and their Aunt. I vaguely remember this one compared to the Back to the Future cartoon that I don't remember at all, and apparently, this one used his turning to a wolfman as a way to explore the rights for those with disabilities. This also may not be all that surprising to be adapted into an animated series, because I know that I couldn't have been the only kids that desperately wished he could turn into a cool basketball playing wolfkid after seeing the movie.

What are some of your favourite animated adaptation that you watched in the 1980s or 1990s?

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