Top Ten TV Cartoons That Would Make Great Live Action Movies
It’s been done a bunch – some might say too much a bunch: transforming a beloved animated TV series into a live action feature film. I’m not sure why they keep doing it; for every Transformers there are several Dudley Do-Rights (what were they thinking – or drinking or smoking?), Rocky and Bullwinkles (the less said about that movie the better) or Underdogs (this one we shall never speak of again).
With Mr. Peabody and Sherman in the pipeline, let’s hope the movie studios do right by Jay Ward this time, not to mention all the other TV toons waiting for their shot at the big screen. Now that integrating CGI (Computer Generated Indivduals) with live actors is commonplace, even the cartooniest cartoon character can take on a physical reality. With that thought in mind, here’s a personal-preference rundown of a few other Saturday morning superstars Hollywood should think about bringing to life:
1. Top Cat
There’s already a Top Cat feature film out there: Don Gato Y Su Pandilla, a Mexican-produced CGI/Flash-animated movie that, in its dubbed British release received scathingly negative reviews. (T.C. and his pandilla enjoy a popularity south of the border that has eluded them in the U.S.) Curious Hanna Barbera fans can view it in its entirety courtesy of YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMcOSrTsiWI
The dubbed voices do a respectable job of matching the original 1962 talents (particularly Jason Harris doing Arnold Stang doing Phil Silvers) and the new characters have that old-school H-B style. Still, the Flash animation often looks tacky and doesn’t sit all that well above the low budget CGI backgrounds (which more resemble Cleveland than Manhattan).
With a good script, updated character designs and actual New York City location shooting, a live-action/CGI combo Top Cat might be a lot of fun. (There is the slight problem of the absence of actual alleys in NYC, but that can easily be written around.) Of course they’ll find an A-list star to do T.C.’s voice and an up and coming comedy actor to play his nemesis Officer Dibble. (Who knows, someone’s probably screening Saturday Night Live episodes even as we speak.) Our Mayor Bloomberg could even make a cameo appearance – and since the felines in that particular cartoon universe are about half the height of humans, the diminutive Bloomberg would feel right at home.
2. The Jetsons
A big budget sci-fi comedy is long overdue; judging from Futurama’s success there’s already an audience out there waiting for one. In fact, according to IMDB a live-action Jetsons is currently in development and scheduled for a last day of 2014 release.
Then again they’ve been trying to get this one off the ground as far back as 1985 when Paramount plugged the project in a to-the-industry sizzle reel. (The film would have been produced by Gary Nardino of Star Trek III and Time Trax fame.) In 2007 Robert Rodriguez briefly considered but passed on making the film.
To date The Jetsons have returned only in animated form in a mid-80s series revival and an off-key 1990 feature. (George’s boss Mr. Spacely has outsourced sprocket production to an alien planet where they can be produced for 1/10 their Earth cost – and doesn’t care if he kills the planet’s inhabitants in the process. “But they’re useless,” he protests when discovered, a jaw-dropping confession of attempted genocide the film almost immediately shrugs off.) Let’s hope this one gets made, and made right – The Jetsons’ 1960’s retro-future production design (high-rise buildings on stilts, space platform drive-ins and George’s flying car) would be a CGI treat for the eyes.
The Jetsons, the first modern animated family.
3. Samurai Jack
This visually explosive Cartoon Network series is fondly remembered by almost all who’ve seen it. Genndy Tartakovsky’s story of a master samurai flung thousands of years into the future and finds the world controlled by the demon he sought to defeat in the past is sui generis – there was literally nothing like it before and very little like it since. (Tartakovsky’s 2003 2D Star Wars: Clone Wars series picked up some of Jack’s style but had nowhere near that show’s impact.) The highly stylized animation and production design, editing sharper than Jack’s sword and extended, dialog-free sequences occasionally took the show into the realm of experimental, non-narrative filmmaking – without once losing its ability to tell a coherent story.
Tartakovsky’s been trying for years to make an animated feature that will bring Jack’s story to a close; a live-action version might not have the same eye-dazzling power as the TV series or travel to as many magical realms, but the combination of samurai action, sci-fi settings and fantasy story-telling would be hard to beat in any medium.