Okay, He-Man (in what was really a thinly-disguised New Gods movie released in 1987), G.I. Joe, Transformers, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and this summer – God help us all – the Smurfs have gotten the live-action treatment, for better or for worse.
Here’s a wish list of 5 cartoon/toy properties from the 1980s that would probably hold their own if adapted for the big screen and done right. Plus, can you imagine the reinvigoration of its respective merchandise lines?
A short-lived cartoon from Marvel/Sunbow and a toy line from Hasbro, the plot of Inhumanoids is pretty simple and straight-forward: giant monsters attack and a team of heroes called Earth Corps stands against them. For the 1980s, this cartoon was somewhat gory, given that the monsters had their limbs amputated (they grew back). Given the success – and the cool effects – of 2008’s Cloverfield, where a giant monster attacks New York City, this formula can be applied to Inhumanoids – especially if heavyweights like J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves are involved.
Extrapolating a Western into outer space is nothing new, and this cartoon was pretty edgy for the 1980s and has become a cult fave. Set after the year 2086, two aliens came to Earth to search for allies against the Crown Empire. In return, mankind is given blueprints for interstellar space travel, resulting in the colonization of distant planets. To deal with the rise of crime in these colonies and to fight the Crown Empire, the Galaxy Rangers, a team of lawmen, are founded. There was some romantic tension in the cartoon between the Clint Eastwood-esque Goose and the psychic Niko, both of whom are Rangers. Imagine how that can be explored in a big-budget movie that’s not worried about offending children? Imagine if someone like Joss Whedon, who has proven he can do outer space Westerns with another cult fave called Serenity, got involved?
There have been plans for a big-screen version of the ‘Cats, but they’ve since been put on hold for one reason or another. Given that the Thundercats are cat-like humanoids, to have actors in make-up would look absolutely silly, especially given the SFX technology out there today. If anything, the Thundercats should be given the Avatar treatment, which incorporated the use of photorealistic computer-generated characters that are superimposed over the actual actors.
Set in the distant future where Earth is a post-apocalyptic wasteland divided into territories in which the villains employ a dark marriage of sorcery and science, Thundarr is Conan meets Flash Gordon and Star Wars with a dash Marvel’s Thor thrown in. In fact, comic book legends Alex Toth and Jack Kirby designed the characters. If Star Wars auteur George Lucas got his hands on this (but had someone else write the dialogue), he could potentially have another successful movie franchise.
Based on Mattel’s failed Wheeled Warriors toy line, writer J. Michael Straczynski actually tried to add some legitimacy to what he called an otherwise “dopey” concept. This show lasted 65 episodes and had an ongoing, serialized plot (which was never resolved like many 1980s cartoons) as Jayce and the Lightning League battled the Monster Minds, vegetable-like creatures who could shape-shift. To defeat them, he had to reunite with his father Audric and unite the Magic Root, which never came to pass. JMS did write a script for an animated feature that would tie everything up but it never came to pass. In it, JMS planned on killing off Audric. It would be sight to behold if the entire concept was re-imagined the way Battlestar Galactica was as a serious and hard-hitting military sci-fi movie under the pen of JMS.