With the live-action re-imagining of the retro ‘toon masterpiece Dragon Ball Evolution (Dragon Ball Z in its original form) hitting a cinema screen near you next week, this seems to be an apt moment to suggest some other cartoon-series-to-film-adaptations waiting to happen.
From Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen to G.I Joe, some of this year’s biggest movies once germinated life as made-for-kids TV cell-drawings. While Speed Racer, The Flintstones, Alvin And The Chipmunks, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and Aeon Flux (to name but a few) have all had that similar, Hollywood treatment in the past – hell, even the X-Men movies took a lot of ideas from the seminal TV series.
But what about the ’toons that have (so far) slipped through the net? Just like the graphic novel, TV animation has a back catalogue ripe for the plucking, with a veritable plethora of possible franchise-fodder loitering quietly in the wings. And it seems only a matter of time before some of these lost classics roll into production.
The list is presented in alphabetical order, and some casting suggestions have been added just to give it a twist.
Oh yeah, some of these movies could be smoking.
A space Western set on the planet of New Texas, BraveStar centred on the adventures of Galactic Marshal BraveStar and his cyborg horse sidekick, Thirty/Thirty, as they patrolled the frontier of New Texas foiling the schemes of a band of bandits called the Carrion Bunch. BraveStar’s big hook was his ability to call upon the powers of four ‘spirit animals’: the hawk, wolf, bear and puma.
As a cinematic concept, BraveStar could work quite well. The Marshall could be run out of town by the villainous Carrion Bunch, find his shaman mentor in the desert and be taught to harness the power of the spirit animals, then return to administer some serious justice.
BraveStar was originally Native American, but authenticity has never bothered casting agents, and I see the Marshall as a rugged, man’s man type with a jaw carved from solid granite. Here’s looking at you, Gerard Butler.
Captain Caveman And The Teen AngelsCaptain Caveman started life as a Scooby Doo clone – with the fairly generic teenage crimebusters and wacky comedy sidekick set-up – about a group of sassy sleuth chicks who find a very hyperactive and extraordinarily hairy prehistoric man frozen in a block of ice, who just happens to have some strange magical beard and club (imagine Cousin It from The Addams Family crossed with Inspector Gadget and you’ve got the idea). The series has quickly sunk into the gloop of derivative TV shows as little more than a footnote. But for me, this is a concept with loads of potential.
Just imagine it: combining the goofball slapstick shtick of Captain Caveman (or Cavey for short) with a trio of hot babes. What’s not to like? Throw in some fish-out-of-water jokes, some sort of pantomime villain and we’ve got a movie.
Jack Black would obviously be the perfect choice as the Captain, with Seth Rogan a good second option, while I could see Gemma Arterton as one of Teen Angels.
Not to be confused with the American documentary TV series of the same name, C.O.P.S. centred on the story of Baldwin ‘Bulletproof’ Vess, a sort of techno Elliot Ness, and his crusade to bring down Brandon ‘Big Boss’ Babel, the cat-loving, iron-fisted mafia godfather of Empire City.
Set in the year 2020, Agent Hess is seriously injured by Big Boss’ henchmen and has a bullet-resistant cybernetic torso implanted to save his life. While in hospital, Vess rounds up a posse of the toughest flatfoots he can find to aid him on his personal vendetta against Big Boss. And thus the C.O.P.S. (Central Organization of Police Specialists) are born.
Famous for the ‘It’s crime-fighting time’ catchphrase, C.O.P.S. is a set up that would translate perfectly to film. Each of the C.O.P.S. and crooks had special gadget or physical adaptation and codename, providing and easy hook, and dystopian future-megalopolises awash with corruption are classic narrative environments. I see C.O.P.S. as a hardboiled and noir-ish RoboCop meets Dick Tracy type affair.
Lawrence Fishburne would be great as Bulletproof. And while Alfred Molina (Doc Octopus in Spiderman 2) doesn’t quite have Big Boss’ famous girth, he is still a pretty big guy physically.
Dungeons & Dragons
Ok, lets get one thing straight here: that super crappy D&D film with Jeremy Irons does not count. I’m talking about a vanilla adaptation of the cartoon series, Dungeon Master, Venger, Tiamat and all.
To be honest, I’m slightly amazed this never went into production. The story of six young friends drawn into the magical Relam and becoming heroes could be mega. The series itself, which was famously never finished, was exciting, funny, touched on real human emotions, chock full of imaginative settings and monsters – and most of all, frecking scary.
In the right hands, and with a studio’s full backing, a ‘real’ Dungeons And Dragons movie could be superb.
Child/teen actors would probably be the way with most of the kids, so casting on this one would be secondary. But Sir Ben Kingsley was born to play Dungeon Master.
One for the ladies here. Jem told the story of ball breaking, corporate label boss Jerrica Benton, who, with the help of a mysterious hologram supercomputer called Syngery, transforms by night into the feisty front women of all girl electro band, Jem and the Holograms. By using the classic alternate identity enigma of conventional superhero stories, Jem upped the oestrogen levels by adding lots of sparkly make up and spangly outfits, huge amounts of hairspray and loads of bitchy rivalry with Jem’s nemesis band, The Misfits. In fact, the plot of each episode basically involved The Misfits trying to “upstage Jem and the Holograms’ latest glamorous escapade”.
The temptation here would be turn Jem into Disney-fied futuristic High School Musical, with tweeny stars like Miley Cyrus and Zach Efron singing their little hearts out. But I’d prefer to see a more grown up Jem, with someone like goth-punk Roxy Saint (from Zombie Strippers), taking the lead in a darker parable about the trappings of fame/being a secret glam rock superhero dichotomy. Kind of like Superman meets The Doors via the video for Daft Punk’s One More Time.
M.A.S.K.M.A.S.K. was an acronym-heavy show, where our heroes rocked around with performance enhancing super helmets (called masks) in semi-transformable vehicles against a similarly attired criminal organisation, V.E.N.O.M.
Lead by the valiant Matt Trakker, each of the M.A.S.K. (short for Mobile Armoured Strike Command) team’s masks gave them a unique super power, a sort of telekinesis in one case for example, and drove a wicked-cool ride that could switch between modes, like flying cars etc… V.E.N.O.M. (Vicious Evil Network Of Mayhem) were run by Trakker’s turncoat old compadre Miles Mayhem and had the same mask and transformo-mobile tech, but abused it by committing terrorist-esque crimes.
As a series, M.A.S.K. was absolutely brilliant, and with modern CGI effects so advanced nowadays, I have no doubts that justice could be done to this seminal ‘toon. Though due to its crossover with both Transformers and G.I. Joe, any development for this should be dealt with caution.
Mark Wahlberg and Eric Bana would be a great Trakker/Mayhem double act, IMO.
The Mysterious Cities Of Gold
I distinctly remember MCoG as kid being one those never ending cartoons, that, due to its sequential storyline, was constantly baffling – like an 80s anime version of Lost. That didn’t stop it from captivating me though, and watching the opening clip on YouTube a minute ago gave me goose bumps.
An amalgamation of South American history and sci-fi, MCoG tells the story of Esteban, a young Spanish stowaway in the New World, and his quest to find one of the Seven Lost Cities of Gold. Taking in the Mu and Atlantean legends, MCoG has the kind of premise Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull could only dream of. Oh, and a flying golden condor…cool!
Ship’s captain, Mendoza, would be the big cast ask here, as Esteban and his El Dorado-adventuring chums would most likely be child actors. Javier Bardem could be ace.
The plot of Ulysses 31 couldn’t be more cinematic if it tried. The updating of Homer’s Odysseus into a sweeping space opera is the very definition of the term. Ulysses has angered Zeus, the King of the Gods, by killing a giant Cyclops to save his enslaved son (nice first scene). Zeus punishes Ulysses by turning the crew of his ship to stone, and challenges him to find the Kingdom of Hades before he will be returned to Earth – now tell me that isn’t just gagging for a cinematic overall.
Another Franco-Japanese production, Ulysses 31 used the monsters and legends of Greek mythology as its base, but re-booted them with lasers, spaceships and robots. And if that ain’t bravura enough for you, you’ve got serious problems. Ulysses also had one of the coolest sidekick/mascots in entertainment history in Nono (just think of the merchandising dollar!), and the single greatest theme tune of all time. Ever.
Casting wise, I see this a major star vehicle, but it would need to be done seriously to work properly. So someone with a little gravitas would be needed to fill Ulysses’ Parthenon-sized rocket boots. Step forward, Mr Christian Bale.
Note:A special mention should go out to Battle Of The Planets, which only missed the cut because the original Japanese version, Gatchaman, is being developed as a CGI animation film.