Here’s a theory. In modern Hollywood, there’s a preponderance for refitting old brands. This much is obvious from the vast success of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films and the Daniel Craig-abetted jumpstart to the James Bond series. More pressingly, properties from the 1980s have proven particularly lucrative, for better or worse, especially in the last decade. We’ve seen reboots or sequels to the likes of Transformers, Indiana Jones and numerous horror franchises that have thankfully avoided deploying Shia LaBeouf.
It’s continuing into the 2010s with The A-Team and The Smurfs. Even an undercurrent of nostalgia for the 1980s has become a commodity, if the recent Hot Tub Time Machine is anything to go by. This is where my theory comes in. As the 2010s wear on, they will turn to the TV shows of the 1990s, just as the 2000s did to the 1980s. It’s already happening, with the umpteenth reboot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the way, and er… just go with it. The trouble is, the 1990s aren’t quite as rich in material. Some of these I genuinely think could be good if given an overhaul, and others I’m using more as cautionary tales about where nostalgia will get us. For better or worse, here are a collection of family-friendly 90s properties that could hit cinemas near you in the next decade…
Most of Disney’s TV output remained kind of childish through the 90s, except for this show. A bunch of warrior creatures are turned to stone in the Middle Ages, only to be resurrected in present-day New York to fight evil and kick arse? Obviously it’s not The Wire, but the writing and animation was gritty for a Disney show, dammit.
CGI/performance capture is pretty big these days, you may have noticed. Animate the titular gargoyles in whichever way is best and make it largely live-action outside of the titular beasties. Bring in some ‘name’ actors on the human side of things and get a credible director with a good track record. Someone like Jon Favreau, maybe, whose upcoming Cowboys & Aliens looks set to follow his Zathura and Iron Man films as a romping family blockbuster. Marketed as another such summer blockbuster, Gargoyles could be reinvented for a new audience. Big statue monsters flying around New York is something I’d happily see in the cinemas, but there would have to be something behind it story-wise too. I’d hate to see it just become another Transformers. Pokémon
You know the drill – lots of bizarre animals wandering around a slightly odd world, waiting to be poached by teenagers and put to use in vicious cock-fighting matches. Can I be the only one who’s astounded that no one has tried to pull this off already? Sure, we’re up to no less than the thirteenth feature-length animé spin-off, but nobody in Hollywood seems enthused by the idea of a live-action version. Maybe because it’s such a massive effort? I mean, you can do all the Pokémon in CGI, but they all largely look different from one another, and there were 150 of them when I was into it alone! It’s changed a lot since then – have you seen what passes for a Pokédex in the age of the iPhone?
There’s still a ripe cast of characters to be plundered by any brave writer or director though, even if it doesn’t seem likely anyone less determined or tech-savvy than say, James Cameron, could bring it to life. What’s that? No, strange solitary reader, I’m afraid Digimon does not exist in this dojo. Are You Afraid Of The Dark
Kids like being scared. What we don’t get enough of at the cinema these days are films that actively set out to replicate the family-friendly scares of older films, at least not in the way that new showrunner Steven Moffat believes his remit on Doctor Who is to actively terrify eight-year-olds.
Coraline and, to some extent, Where The Wild Things Are showed how viable this could be, but I struggle to think of many other recent films that are overtly meant to scare children (outside of perhaps Monster House). Are You Afraid Of The Dark? was a show about the Midnight Society, a group of kids who gathered round a camp fire to tell scary stories to each other. In a film format, a writer could just expand it so that there are a number of stories, brought to life in vignettes like a family friendly version of that Twilight Zone movie. It’d be very interesting indeed to see another properly family-oriented horror film after Coraline turned out so well. DuckTales
Sorry, I know you’re thinking of that theme tune already. It is a tenant inside everyone’s brain case once they’ve heard it. It does what it says on the tin, this one. They’re tales about ducks, centring around Huey, Dewey and Louie and their uncle, Scrooge McDuck.
McDuck is more or less my favourite fictional billionaire ever. He frequently dives into a vault filled with gold and swims in his wealth. Crazy duck bastard. If Disney isn’t making films based on theme park rides, video games, their own back-catalogue, or more pressingly, Gargoyles, they should really be looking at bringing this series back in some form or other. Think Indiana Jones, with ducks and, again, not Shia LaBeouf. And that theme tune! Get Fall Out Boy or someone to do a cover version, and the tie-in suddenly makes this much more viable. I worry that my enthusiasm about this is down to that tune having the similar effect on me as Hypnotoad from Futurama. DuckTales… good. Chicken Boo
Not so much a show as a segment, you should all remember this part of Animaniacs. An enterprising chicken wanders into a pop culture scenario, fairly transparently disguised as a man. He’s almost immediately decried as “a chicken, I tell you, a chicken!”
Whoever comes out with this is dismissed, and everyone else seems to be utterly taken in as the chicken generally goes on to save the day. Then his moustache falls off or something, revealing he is in fact, a chicken. He’s then ran out of town, or in one extreme case, sent into orbit. Yeah, it sounds kind of similar to Walter Melon, but this has a chicken in it.
It was also infinitely more popular, and is remembered by most people I’ve encountered who watched Animaniacs. Casting might be a difficult proposition, but I’d want to see Sharlto Copley realise the truth and get dismissed (“He’s a fokken’ chicken!”) and I would suggest that – yes! – reboot stalwart Shia LaeBeouf is put up for the title role. But to quote the theme tune- he’s not a man, he’s a chicken. Dr. Zitbag’s Transylvania Pet Shop
An English dubbed version of an international series, Transylvania Pet Shop aired in the UK for four years on CITV. It centred, as you might expect, around a Transylvanian pet shop, run by mad scientist Dr. Sidney Zitbag. The pet shop is located in a haunted castle, something that seems to put customers off in spite of the fact that they’re all variously monstrous and ghostly themselves, so Zitbag is constantly engineering Horrific Pets to make a profit. Whether you like his new direction or not, this is just the kind of film Tim Burton makes these days. After the financial success of reinventing Alice In Wonderland, he’s now, after all, attached to a stop-motion version of The Addams Family.
So even though this one is fairly obscure, it’s not completely out of the question to imagine Johnny Depp playing Zitbag and Helena Bonham Carter playing both of the Exorsisters if producers really want to plunder the 90s for material. Well, I remember it even if no one else does! If there weren’t sensible readers to consider, I’d be talking about Walter Melon and Fox’s Peter Pan And The Pirates! Next! The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air
Look at Will Smith’s upcoming film slate. Sequels to Men In Black and Bad Boys are both going forward, with rumours persisting about follow-ups to Independence Day, Hancock and I Am Legend. Short of a film called Eight Pounds, there’s really nowhere else to go but to a revival of his breakout role. For those unacquainted with Will Smith’s early career, this is a story all about how his life got flipped, turned upside down, and he’d like to take a minute – alright, stop throwing things! Like DuckTales, most will remember that theme tune if not the show itself, and I hope that’s not justification enough for some studio exec to go about reviving the series as a film. On balance, this is probably the one that shows the 90s shouldn’t really be strip-mined like the 80s – it’s hard to imagine even the most die-hard fans of the show wanting to see Uncle Phil, Carlton and the rest this far down the line. Dexter’s Laboratory
You can hear that little ginger genius’s voice in your head right now, can’t you? Dexter’s a young boy who conceals a massive laboratory in his bedroom, keeping it secret from his parents and generally closed to his life-ruining sister, Dee Dee. His inventions frequently get him into massive amounts of trouble and hilarity ensues. Omelette du fromage, Dial M For Monkey, Major Glory – surely every 90s kid remembers this one. Of the Cartoon Network canon, I’d say this was the most likely to be re-purposed for the 2010s. It has already been bastardised for a vastly inferior CG series and film, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, but it’s a decent prospect.
And if it doesn’t get made by 2020, we’ll always have last year’s Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, an excellent film in its own right and one of the few things I’ve ever seen that matches the sense of humour and tone of Dexter’s Laboratory. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers
Sneer all you want, but if you’re in your late teens or early 20s, you know you watched it when you were younger. You most likely loved it too! I very much remember, even from around the age of seven, saying that this was pants.
But I know in my heart of hearts I only took against it because my younger brother got into it (I was a very competitive child). Mostly because no one in my family will ever forget that five-year-old me got upset at Zordon’s Disney Death in the film version. An American re-tooling of footage from the Japanese Super Sentai series, Dinosaur Sentai Zyuranger, it can be seen in retrospect that the makers did a pretty solid job of getting it all to fit together coherently. It was cheesy, risible and looks cheap by today’s standards, but it at least succeeded in capturing kids’ imaginations. If you were a kid then, and I bet you bloody loved it too. It makes the list because it really feels like it’s the most likely to happen. Superheroes are in vogue, there are merchandising opportunities aplenty, and many viewers my age probably have fond(ish) memories of the original series.
Just like Transformers when that went into production, really. However, the aforementioned 1995 film version was made with better production values than the series and looked even worse at times.
It also caused massive teething troubles for the budding Sydney film industry and serves as a reminder of Paul ‘Belloq’ Freeman at his lowest ebb as Ivan Ooze.
Maybe they should leave it alone, rather than recruit a bunch of winsome teenagers and maybe Jonah Hill and Shia LaBeouf to play butt-headed bullies Bulk and Skull. But more than any other on the list, I would actually bet this film will happen in the next ten years, for better or worse…
Angry 90s kids (I know from being one that we gotta lotta rage in us), please don’t be mad that Ren & Stimpy is just too surreal to do justice to with my own ravings! I’ve left my own 90s favourite – Batman: The Animated Series – because clearly no one has ever heard of that character.
So instead, why not share your own suggestions below?