Tired of trying to talk Hollywood out of foolishly adapting animation into live action, Dr. Toon suggests some pitches of his own.
Where can one find the best comedies produced in Hollywood? Do they flow from the word processors of talented, funny scriptwriters? Are they the pet projects of hilarious comedians who pitched their great idea to studio execs? Might they be found in existing literary properties that have the potential to morph into side-splitting screenplays? No, no, my dear readers, not by a long shot. The greatest stimulators of our collective funny bones can -- once again -- be found in Hollywood's stupid and suicidal tendency to adapt cartoons into live-action features. Yes, my fellow animatophiles, it's time for yet another good LAAF.
Oh, those Live-Action Animated Features, those miserable, misbegotten mongrels whelped from the unholy marriage of incompatible visual/narrative styles and a lack of originality. How many more times must I explain this to the moguls before their stubborn skulls are finally penetrated? For how long must they lose millions by insisting that the public loves to see live actors (who look and act nothing like their cartoon namesakes) pretending to be made of pixels and digital paint? When will the disease finally be purged from executive boardrooms? Not anytime soon, friends. The latest affront to your intelligence and good taste is presently embroiled in a controversy so risible that it defies belief.
As is widely reported, director M. Night Shyamalan (who last made a good movie in 2002) will be helming the LAAF version of the Nickelodeon hit series Avatar: the Last Airbender. Oh, did I mention that Mr. Shyamalan, in the perfect spirit of LAFFs, has never directed an animated project in his life? Anyway, Shyamalan has reportedly offered the three lead roles in the film, those of Aang, Sokka and Katara, to three Caucasian actors. Umm... OK, is anyone reading this column familiar with Avatar? I'll bet that you and millions of others are, because the blogosphere is currently being inundated with angry animation fans protesting the casting decisions. Their bile may have something to do with the fact that all of the characters in Avatar are Asians.
Mr. Shyamalan has been accused of racism by many, but that's probably not the case. What has so many animation fans so incensed is simply de rigueur under the incomprehensible rules of LAAFs. Without a stunning level of idiocy involved, the picture simply isn't appropriate for the multiplexes. Shyamalan is just playing to form.
Once you cast lily-whites as Asians in the most important roles, well, you can pretty much mess with anything. What next? Relocating the setting from a fictional universe to Ponca City, Oklahoma? Maybe Zuko can get even with his daddy the Fire Lord Ozai by dropping out of the Fire Nation and joining a death metal band! Why not replace Appa with a flying Chihuahua; they're pretty popular in theaters these days. Hey -- how about renaming the film The Sixth Sensei? No, wait - Lady in the Waterbender!
Note: At this point, the combination of LAAFs, Shyamalan and the casting choices has Dr. Toon so incapacitated with laughter that he is unable to continue writing this column. It is being completed by Gabe, his typing Yorkshire terrier, who is working from Dr. Toon's notes.
I could go into details about the casting, the protests, and the continuing stupidity that in July 2010 should be the Mother of All LAAFs, but why bother? If this movie is really going to happen under the current dictates of Mr. Shyamalan, it's time to for me face the terrible truth: LAAFs are bigger, stronger, and meaner than I am. They have taken my best shots and shrugged them off like celluloid Terminators. My every effort to save Hollywood studios millions of dollars and countless embarrassments has met with utter and resounding defeat. I have failed yet again. I can't do this anymore. Therefore, the time has come to adopt an old adage that is hoary yet true: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
Yes, I'm going to be on the winning side from now on. Here with are my proposals and pitches for the next big LAAFs. I copyrighted ALL of them, so pilfer at your own risk and kindly remember that these flicks may very well be my next meal.
Now then, Hollywood... are... you... listening?!
Kim Possible (2011)
Directed by Tim Story
The super-cool, scarlet-tressed heroine Kim Possible will be played by none other than Britney Spears, who will also sing the title track "Call Me, Beep Me." Paired with Mark Wahlberg as comrade-in-arms Ron Stoppable, Ms. Possible takes on the evil Dr. Drakken (John Lithgow) and his sinister henchwoman Shego (Halle Berry), who plot to sell nuclear-irradiated garbanzo beans to an unnamed Middle Eastern nation that sort of, kind of might possibly be Iran. The plot thickens when Drakken is joined by Señor Senior Sr. and Senior Jr. (Antonio Banderas and Freddie Prinze Jr.), who hope to corner the hummus market in the deal. Even with the help of Wade the trusty computer geek (Kenan Thompson), can Kim and Ron stop their enemies and still get Kim to the cheerleading competition finals in time?
The Fairly OddParents (2011)
Directed by Gabriele Muccino
There's nothing odd about this reunion of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as the lively husband-and-wife OddParents Cosmo and Wanda! These frantic fairies are sworn to answer every wacky wish that young Timmy Turner (Angus T. Jones) cooks up. No one's laughing, though, when Denzel Crocker (Kevin Spacey) brainwashes the Crimson Chin (played by Jay Leno) into capturing Cosmo and Wanda for his own. Timmy has to enlist Jorgen von Strangle (The Rock) and Norm the Genie (Paul Rubens) to help free his captive OddParents. Things get even more complicated when Vicky (played by Corina Boettger) finally learns Timmy's secret. "Da Rules" are out the window in this hilarious free-for-all!
Directed by Steve Carr
CG imagery and today's top comic actors join forces in the live-action film that they said could never be done! Jim Carrey (Cat) and Adam Sandler (Dog) are double the fun as the freaky, joined-at-the-waist critter loved by millions. CatDog's comic foes, the Greaser Dogs (portrayed by Danny DeVito, Joe Pesci and Bjork) have it out with Rancid Rabbit (Billy Bob Thornton) to see who will get to sell CatDog to a big-time circus that's coming to town. Luckily for CatDog, their buddy Winslow the mouse (Nathan Lane) has a few tricks up his sleeve. Stealing the show, however, are the incredible visual effects that turn Sandler and Carrey into a two-headed, sausage-shaped combination of our most popular house pets. Sandler spars and spats with opposite end Carrey in the most unusual -- and funniest -- live-action to animation adaptation of the year.
Metalocalypse: Reign of the Klokateers (2013)
Directed by Mark Pellington
That murderous mega-group Dethklok will be portrayed by Dutch death metal group Legion of the Damned in this upcoming live-action extravaganza. Manager Charles Foster Ofdensen (Andy Richter) prepares an endorsement deal with computer giant Microhard which will make the company virtually omnipotent. This is too much for the Tribunal, whose mysterious leader Mr. Selatcia (Al Pacino) orders the final destruction of Dethklok. His newest lackey, the Metal-Masked Assassin (played by Jack Black), leads an army of Revengencers to intercept Dethklok at the filming site for the Microhard TV spot only to find that the band's fanatic bodyguards, the Klokateers, have been molded into a first-class fighting force by General Crozier (Gene Hackman) who has again freed himself from Selatcia's mindlock. But -- who comes out on top?
There, isn't that easy? And fun? All you need is a bad concept, ridiculous casting and a director unfamiliar with animation, an obscenely high budget, and the assumption that the film-going audience has the collective taste of a clam. In the end, you'll get a resounding flop that will keep the correspondents at Rotten Tomatoes busy for weeks on end. However, you'll also emerge with your reputation still intact, millions of dollars in your bank account, and the knowledge that however you mangle an animation-to-live-action-project, someone will clear your slate by doing a worse and more ignorant job. As long as Hollywood is determined to continue with that despicable genre known as LAFFs, you will never, ever, look stupid enough. Speed Racer, M. Night Shyamalan absolves thee; so let it be written, so let it be dumb.
Gabe the typing Yorkshire terrier would now like to announce Dr. Toon's first-ever reader's contest! Just pick one of his brilliant concepts from the four above, tell him why it should be produced, predict how much money it will make, and tell Dr. Toon what he ought to do with the money! The best entry wins a signed copy of this manuscript, a signed photo, and future mention in this column! You have until March 31, 2009 to win this special package from Hollywood's next famous producer of LAAFs! Think about it -- If you got the same items from Michael Eisner back in 1993, they would probably be worth dinner at any Taco Bell today!
Martin "Dr. Toon" Goodman is a longtime student and fan of animation. He lives in Anderson, Indiana.