THE TEN Kids Shows That Might Make Great Movies.
This month, Marcus asks what other kid favourites should hit our big screens?
We seem to be inundated with kids shows being updated for the big screen of late, what with the Transformers sequel proving to be one of the biggest hits of the year and G.I Joe: Rise of Cobra on the way. The shows of our youth are becoming big business. Hell, even the Chipmunks are raking in the cash.
In THE TEN this month, I’m taking a look at a few options that just might (and might being the key word here) be an old favourite that could prove successful with a big screen live action makeover. So get your fond childhood memories tuned in, get your Hollywood way of thinking switched on, and let’s looks at some kids TV shows that might make good movies.
Let’s start with one that (a) is already being developed and (b) has already had a bite of the big screen pie. As we all know, when Prince Adam raises his sword and proclaims ‘by the power of Grayskull... I have the power!’ he becomes the mighty He-Man, protecting Eternia from the forces of evil, which includes the evil Skeletor and hordes of henchmen.
With Eternia being a world that has as much technology as it does magic, He-Man lends itself to quite a good visual adventure. For example, He-man rides Battlecat, a chunky, green tiger, with armour, while a hovering little Wizard, Orco, follows reluctantly to the right and a hot warrior princess, Teela, is to his left, aided by tech and weapons guy Man-At-Arms, who’s riding a hovering ship that he’s designed. They are heading into battle against a bad guy with a skeleton’s head, who’s riding a big purple cat, with a furry orange Beastman to his left, a Tri-clops to his right, and an evil sorceress, Evil Lynne, throwing spells behind them all. Subtle this ain’t.
After having already having had one live-action movie, which was woefully unfaithful to the TV show (but hey it was the 80s, there wasn’t much they could have done), He-Man has been hovering around Hollywood as an idea for the next big thing, especially after the first Transformers was such a hit. So, thinking in true Hollywood fashion (and this rule applies to many on this list) the toy line/TV show was always popular, everyone knows the characters and Lord of the Rings was massive. That’s got magic and swords in it after all, so they’re almost the same thing, right?
Could it actually work?
I honestly think, if done right, He-Man could work wonders on the big screen. However that comes with a few provisos. He-man has to be on Eternia, not Earth (like in the original movie). So this means a CGI Battlecat, a goofy as all hell (but respectful to the original concept) Orco, a good actor to play Skeletor (who isn’t afraid to have his head CG replaced with yellow skull) and basically all of the weird and wonderful characters that appeared on the show. Of course, story wise it’ll have to be overhauled and not be quite so goofy and kid friendly as it was, but then if you look at the 2002 revamped TV show this is entirely possible.
Evil scientist, Doc Terror, is plotting to take over the world. With his cyborg sidekick, Hacker, and their evil drones they set out to terrorise us all. The only people capable of getting in his way are the Centurions, a team of men kitted out in their Exo-frames suits, who upon the call of ‘Power Extreme’ can have their requested weapon system transported to them, from an orbiting satellite, Sky Vault.
These power systems vary with land, sea and air attachments, depending on the user's expertise and with the three main dudes, Max Ray, Ace McCloud and Jake Rockwell ready for action, the world will be a safer place.
With the Iron Man movie proving to be a big hit, The Centurions seem a pretty valid property to be considered for the movie adaptation (there’s that Hollywood thinking again). With characters literally summoning armour and weapons from space that connect to their suits, allowing them to fly, drive, shoot, swim, etc, this could be some pretty exciting stuff for our big screens. In all honesty, I don’t really remember the ins and outs of the original show beyond loving the visuals of the suits attaching to the characters, being wowed by the numerous variations, watching the action unfold and like many on this list, the toys were pretty damn sweet, but hey, maybe that’s a good thing. It means there’s gonna be less they could leave out that would disappoint me.
Could it actually work?
In all fairness, this concept might be that step too far. While the idea is a pretty good one, the actual reality of (a) teleporting armour from space and (b) using it in the weird and wonderful ways that the Centurions do, may be too much for the older audience member to go with. Plus in a genre packed with goofy villains, Doc Terror is pushing the limits and I think this one is better left to a fond fading memory.
Mobile Armoured Strike Kommand or M.A.S.K. as they like to be known, are a secret group that protect the world from terrorist threats, mostly made by V.E.N.O.M (Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem). Led by Matt Tracker, he calls in his agents when needed and taking to their transforming vehicles and special powered masks they defeat V.E.N.O.M., who are also kitted out with the same sort of weaponry, and save the world from terror. Well they did in the beginning anyway.
M.A.S.K. is a weird one. What started as a simple good guys stop bad guys formula, in a G.I. Joe (or Action Force) meets the Transformers by the way of Mission Impossible set up, strangely just became about racing in later seasons (as well as a silly hologram phase, that's best to forget).
Now, I was a massive fan of M.A.S.K. as a kid. This was sort of my new Star Wars, when it came to toy collecting, mainly due to the cool vehicles and many characters. I read the comics, I read the kids novels and I generally loved everything about it but ask me to explain exactly what’s going on here and I’ll draw a blank. I don’t know what V.E.N.O.M.’s leader Mile Mayhem was out to achieve exactly; I don’t know who M.A.S.K. was representing or why they were in place. I have a vague recollection about Mayhem being part of M.A.S.K. and screwing them over for his own ends, but I don’t know what those ends were and I remember being as totally baffled with why M.A.S.K. were now racing V.E.N.O.M. in later seasons as a kid as I am right now. I mean, what were they fighting over? A gold cup?
Could it actually work?
Due to the extremely vague details of exactly what the hell was going here, M.A.S.K. might actually work as a movie, mainly due to the fact the film makers could come up with anything as long as the end result was everyday vehicles turning into other slightly more weapon-y vehicles. I for one would love to see Rhino, the big rig, armour up and smash into Jack Hammer, the Ford Bronco with the gun turret. I’d love to see Switchblade, the plane that turns into, a well, helicopter chasing down Condor the motorbike/helicopter vehicle piloted by Brad Turner. All this and every character in masks that fire things/ make things levitate/ make thing invisible etc. Okay, so this probably sounds a little twee by today’s standards but maybe the simplicity of a red Chevy Camero that simply opens its gull wing doors and flies is exactly what made M.A.S.K. so damn great and could make it great again (because it certainly wasn’t T-Bob and Scott).
A group of friends go to a theme park for a normal kid day out. Taking a ride on one of the rollercoasters the kids are transported to the realm of Dungeons and Dragons. There they meet the Dungeon Master and he bestows them with their different weapons. Hank becomes the Ranger, Eric, the Cavalier, Diana the Acrobat, Presto, the Magician, Shelia the thief and Bobby, the Barbarian. Together they must travel through the realm, avoiding the bad guy, Venger’s, constant attempts to get their powers and the general day to day inhabitants of the realm of Dungeons and Dragons.
This one really was a show I loved as a kid and while it didn’t have as much of an impact on me as Transformers or a few others on this list, these kids adventure in a world full of magic and weird and wonderful characters and more so the adventure they went through in order to hopefully get home one day really drew me in.
At the time of the TV show, this was obviously taking advantage of the ever growing popularity of the Dungeons and Dragons role playing games, so in a modern age where the likes of the World of Warcraft is a massive deal, might the adaptation of this kids classic cross over to big screen adventures?
Could it actually work?
I’m torn on this one. On one hand, I think this could be a fairly successful adventure series that ultimately leads to these kids getting home. Told in a kid friendly Lord of Rings style, with a decent effects budget and a good screenplay, this could be quite a fun ride, but on the other hand this would fall on the shoulders of a bunch of possibly whiney kids. Now, I’m not saying this can’t work, the like of City of Ember proves in spades that it can, but when I think about these characters from the TV show and how that might translate to a movie, I can’t help but think this is probably just a bad idea that would end up just being another Eragon.
Getting a whole lot more modern, the next consideration is Kim Possible, the teenage school cheerleader who has a double life as a worldwide adventurer. Backed up by sidekicks Ron Stoppable and naked Mole Rat Rufus, as well as Wade, the boy genius who sets Kim’s missions and provides all her tech, Kim sets out to rid the world of evil do-ers and all with a bit of fun and comedy thrown in for good measure.
Kim, Disney’s animated TV star that’s had a long running series and a couple of feature length animated DVDs under her belt is already prime pickings a movie upgrade. With her Buffy-esq dialogue and too cool for school attitude, she’s exactly the type of character Disney love throwing out for the currently massive teen market (except she doesn’t sing).
Generally a lot of the kid friendly programming of the last ten years has left me cold. Outside the likes of the DC Comics animated projects, Avatar and Samurai Jack, I don’t really get what many a kids show is going for, with their funky art, their OTT humour and out there characters, but somehow Kim Possible caught my attention and I thought it was a blast. Kim’s a bloody great character and makes for perfect Saturday morning TV. She’s got some great villains, some good supporting cast and just provides lots of fun, brain at the door adventures.
Could it actually work?
Don’t get me wrong I’m a massive fan of what Disney produces, I love their animation, I have quite a bit of affection for many of their big movies, but when it comes to their TV to movie upgrades, I’m not, as a thirty one year old man, an audience they cater for. Kim Possible works in the world of animation because for the most part animation is for everybody who wants to watch but the chances of live action adventure based on one of their TV shows being anymore than a generic, loosely plotted, unfunny snooze fest for anyone over fourteen years old seems highly unlikely.
The year is 2999 and Earth is attacked by an alien battleship, demanding that Earth delivers F-Zero-One (which they don’t have the first clue actually is). Panicking, Earth’s defence scrambles the early launch of the X-Project, which consists of the crew of the spaceship known as the X-Bomber.
The Japanese series (dubbed in English), made with puppets and models, follows the mission of the X-Bomber’s crew, Doctor Ben, Shiro Hagen, Barry Hercules, John Lee, PPA (Perfectly Programmed Android), Lamia and guardian Kiara as they protect the Earth and try to discover the whereabouts of F-Zero-One.
Watching Star Fleet in its entirety recently, thanks to the whole thing finally getting a DVD release, I’d probably go as far as saying this in the one I’d want to see movie-fied the most. With its mix of Star Wars and what was probably my first venture into Japanese Manga storytelling as a child, Star Fleet (or X-Bomber as it was originally called) just has it all and more. Amazing designs (The X-Bomber is up there with the likes of the Millennium Falcon and Slave One for me), great characters, and with a little trimming of its more repetitive elements a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding story, oh and it has Dai-X, (the result of three combing ships to make a giant robot type thing) as well, which frankly is worth taking a chance on a live action movie version alone.
Could it actually work?
Yes, yes, three times yes. Good space adventures seemingly fall solely on Star Wars and Star Trek’s shoulders of late so this would be the prime concept to take to the big screen. It has elements of both of the big space franchises, as well as touches of Transformers and good ol’ Japanese storytelling. Admittedly, it probably doesn’t have the world wide appeal or fan base that many of the others on this list have, but I think the story here is one that would have a broad appeal and who doesn’t want to see a giant red robot/ship smashing up a load of baddies?
Searching for the cities of gold, Spanish captain, Mendoza, sets sail with his crew and young boy Esteban to the new world. Joined by Zia, an Incan girl, and met by Tao, the last descendent of a lost empire, a grand adventure begins that covers history, archaeology and a nice bit of fantasy for good measure.
Told over thirty-nine episodes in the original TV run, this has a whole lot to cover if adapted into a movie, though in all honesty the TV show did have a knack of dragging things out. If done well The Mysterious Cities of Gold really deserves a trilogy and probably one in tune with the likes of The Pirates of the Caribbean (well at least the first one before they sidestepped adventure for incoherent nonsense).
For those who have seen the absolute classic, Mysterious Cities of Gold is really something that is hugely cinematic even within its limited animated TV show restraints. With lost civilisations, new worlds, giant golden condor ships and a grand adventure that focuses nicely on the characters without losing sight of the adventure at hand, Mysterious Cities of Gold could be something special.
Could it actually work?
Given the same sort of support Pirates of the Caribbean got from Disney, Mysterious Cities of Gold could really prove to be a grand adventure (however unlike the Pirates sequels they won’t be making up as they go along). If handled on this scale a few more fantasy elements would more than likely get thrown into the mix (after all what would ILM have to do otherwise?) and it could possibly lose the innocent magic of the original concept, so it’s a balancing act. I think this could work but then I’m a massive fan and am willing to see it given a shot, however the realist in me says it might not be as wildly appealing as it needs to be.
Giving mythology a sci-fi twist, Ulysses 31 has captain of the Odyssey, Ulysses, piss off the Gods when he kills a giant Cyclops (who in all fairness was being pretty mean to some kids). Freezing all of his crew, the Gods sentence Ulysses to travel the universe until he finds the Kingdom of Hades, in which time he’ll be released and be able to go home to earth.
Ulysses 31 was a great ongoing adventure that ran over twenty-six episodes and has Ulysses face off against countless reworks of mythological characters and presents the audience with a few fables every week and its fair share of personal dilemmas for characters. Ulysses, his son Telemachus, Yumi, a blue skinned little alien girl, and Nono, the small robotic companion (come on this was the eighties, small robot companions were a must have), come up against some weird and wonderful odds throughout the show and with that ever ominous imagery of their frozen and floating crew members aboard their ship, Ulysses 31 is one that always stuck with me as a kid. Oh and that theme tune is one of the best ever.
Could it actually work?
There’s very little about Ulysses 31 that's new, outside of its space setting. These types of mythological stories have been told a thousand times before and could be told again on our movie screens as a live action Ulysses adventure. Due to the nature of the long quest, I could see Ulysses 31 told over a few movies with plenty of mini adventures in each instalment and it all leading up to the characters getting home. Throw in a modern re-working of the theme tune, without leaving the original's greatness too far behind and this could make for quite an event.
Set with a medieval backdrop, the Gummi Bears is the Disney animated TV show that gives us the adventures of a bunch of bears, who live under a tree, go fruit picking and make gummi berry juice, which when gulped down enables the Gummi Bears to have superpowers (which mainly involves bouncing). When the evil Duke Igthorn finds out about the Gummi Bears and their powers, he uses his army of mentally challenged Trolls to hunt down the little bears in the hope that he can use their magic to make himself invincible.
In a movie climate where Garfield and The Chipmunks can make oodles of cash it really surprises me that Disney hasn’t taken advantage of their family of Gummis. Little brightly coloured bears bouncing around a movie screen, a couple of human kids that they can make friends with and a theme tune they could get any of their current musical stars to lay some pop beats over and they’ve got themselves a hit... right?
Could it actually work?
I totally think this one has potential. The Gummi Bears are a massive amount of fun and as long as it wasn’t modernised too much and kept the backdrop of castles, princesses and magicians, Disney could have a bit of a hit on their hands. All they need to do is make sure they don’t make one of the Gummis too modern (and more than likely with a hip hop attitude) and get a story with a real fun adventure and the Gummis could be bouncing their way back into the big time.
Here’s an old favourite, that recently had a resurgence of popularity and must be on a 'to do' list in Hollywood. Thundercats follows a group of Thunderians as they escape their home planet’s total destruction. Pursued by the Mutant Armies, the Thundercats crash-land on third earth and start making a new home. All this and they have the constant threat of ancient evil Third Earther, Mumm-Ra.
The Thundercats are a great bunch of characters, Lion-O their 'jump into any level of danger with the same wide eyed attitude' leader, Panthro the hard as nails engineer, Cheetara the super fast psychic, Tygra the... I was never sure what Tygra bought to the table outside of his cool whip, Wilykit and Wilykat, the twins with their hover boards and utility belts full of tricks, and of course good ol’ Snarf, the nanny of Lion-O.
I’m currently on my way through a re-watch of the Thundercats toons as I got the complete boxset a little while back and I’ve got to say, beyond a few filler episodes and the odd bit of dodgy animation, Thundercats holds up pretty damn well and has a story that has quite a lot of scope for live action movie adaptation. A group in a strange new land, a new leader trying to prove his status, some cool tech, villains prime for the modern CGI make over and enough potential third earth inhabitants to spawn plenty of sequels.
Could it actually work?
It saddens me to say, but in this case, I think Thundercats might be a little too much for the audience to swallow as a live action movie and its primary problem is its stars. The Thundercats are, well, cats. Granted they are cats in humanoid forms but the thought of a movie with all the stars in this sort of make up doesn’t quite work for me, even if a recent fan made trailer on Youtube was quite exciting to see as a hint of what could be done. I’m not saying this is a resounding no because with the right director and some good designs my opinion could change but until that happens Thundercats just seems to much of stretch to do justice to in live action (even if I'd love to see the thundertank rip up the big screen).
So there you have it, a few old favourites that might reach our big screens over the next few years. Are there any more you can think of, or do you have any thoughts on why the ones on the list might or might not work? If so, drop your opinions in the comments below and join in the fun.
Editorial by Marcus Doidge
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