Top Ten TV Cartoons That Would Make Great Live Action Movies
4. Bobby’s World
Howie Mandel created an imaginary, nasally-voiced kid version of himself for his raunchy stand-up routines, but when the newly-launched Fox Kids Saturday morning block was looking for programming, two of Mandel’s pals convinced the comic to lend his pre-school persona to an animated series.
Irrepressible four year-old Bobby Generic (pronounced GEN-eric and voiced by Mandel himself) had a curiosity and imagination that took him into one scrape and fantasy world after another, not unlike Chuck Jones’ Ralph Phillips. The show regularly composited a live-action Mandel over animation, conversing with his cartoon counterpart in brief episode intros or wrap-ups.
The show was a major success, lasting seven seasons on Fox Kids. A feature version could center on a live-action child, aged up a bit from Bobby’s four years to appeal to older kids. Unlike the TV series’ non-sequitur blackouts, Bobby’s animated flights of fancy would last substantially longer and counterpoint the film’s live-action narrative. And like any good Hollywood movie, Bobby’s character arc would find him facing and triumphing over a vexing problem that leaves him a better person at film’s end.
5. Lupin III
The international outlaw and adventurer has been around since 1967 when he was created by manga writer/artist “Monkey Punch.” The supposed grandson of turn of the century gentleman thief Arsène Lupin, Lupin III’s starred in four separate TV series, five animated features and yes, a 1974 live-action film, Strange Psychokinetic Strategy. (An exceedingly strange clip from this strange movie can be found on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZjuIui0LV9M)
The third of those animated features was Castle Cagliostro, Hayao Miyazaki’s first full length film after years of toiling on anime TV series. The film was reportedly praised by Steven Spielberg himself, who knows from great adventure films as “one of the great adventure films of all time.”
Perhaps it’s time for a westernized, live-action version of Lupin III to infiltrate that castle. Were this 15 or so years ago, Jim Carrey would’ve been perfect as the lanky, dark-haired character but he’s since aged out of contention. Let’s go with someone younger, say Jason Lee. He knows his way around physical comedy, and after years of playing straight man to the Chipmunks it’s time for him to kick some ass.
It’s a lot harder than it looks to translate cartoon physics and energy to live action. (Just ask John Goodman the next time he tries to slide down the back of an imaginary dinosaur.) It’ll be a challenge for the right director – or directors – to give Tex Avery his due, but here’s my suggestion: if there’s anyone who can breathe life into a CGI version of Avery’s laconic bloodhound, it would be the brothers who brought The Three Stooges into the 21st-century: Bobby and Peter Farrelly, your next laff riot awaits!
Jon Stewart once grumped to Steve Carrel that while Carrel’s voice work highlighted Despicable Me, Stewart’s only shot at animation was a villain “who shoots icicles out of his moustache” in a dubbed U.S. version of Doogal. Jon does a pretty good Droopy while riffing on Senator Joe Lieberman; this might be his chance to get top billing. And since we’re bringing Droopy into the real world, let’s replace that miscreant wolf Droop’s always several steps ahead of with an actual human being. My suggestion: a comedian who seems to specialize in masochistic characters – Ben Stiller.
7. Dexter’s Laboratory
Like Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Laboratory was also the creation of Genndy Tartakovsky and was Cartoon Network’s first original series. This animated Dexter, as far as one can tell bore no relation to Showtime’s good-guy serial killer.
There are similarities to a different a character on a different TV show, however: a child genius with a secret lab in his home right under the nose of his clueless parents – Dexter, meet Family Guy’s Stewie Griffin. (The fact that Seth MacFarlane was a writer on the Cartoon Network show might have something to do with this coincidence…)
Dexter’s advanced, high-tech lab and its creations would look great on the big screen rendered in photorealistic CGI; in fact, a live-action Dexter’s Laboratory practically screams to be made in 3D. (Then again, just about every sci-fi/fantasy/animated film seems be 3D these days.) The story could center on the ultimate showdown between Dexter and his evil arch rival, fellow child genius Mandark. The prize: Dexter’s older sister Dee Dee. (Dexter would be glad to be rid of his annoying sibling, but family loyalty would require him to come to her aid.) By the way, why are there so many annoying older sisters on kids’ animated series? (Phineas and Ferb’s older sister Candace, for one.) Can someone with an older sister, or maybe an older sister herself enlighten me?