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Cartoons of the '80s and '90s that could make great movies

Ben Bussey
19 July 2013
Cartoons of the '80s and '90s that could make great movies
Cartoons of the '80s and '90s that could make great movies

'Transformers' has its fourth film in production; 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' is being brought to live action once again, this time dubbed simply 'Ninja Turtles;' John M. Chu, director of 'GI Joe: Retaliation,' is linked to the long-gestating big screen reboot of 'He-Man and the Masters of the Universe;' there have long been murmurs that 'Thundercats' might be on the cards somewhere; and most recently, there's even talk of a live-action 'Captain Planet and the Planeteers' movie. Call it what you will - rampant nostalgia, creativity deficit, desperation to make more money - but the TV cartoon shows and toy lines of the 1980s and early 1990s seem to be very much in demand in Hollywood right now.

The monumental box office success Marvel Studios have enjoyed in recent years makes it clear that loud, colourful, larger-than-life superhero action goes down a storm with audiences worldwide, as well as proving that intelligent, sophisticated movies can be made based around material commonly dismissed as being only for kids. And of course, the popularity of the aforementioned 'Transformers' and 'GI Joe' franchises demonstrates that cartoon adaptations can hit big (even if those films don't score so high on the intelligence scale).

So which other brightly-coloured Saturday morning extravaganzas of days gone by might be worth revisiting in live-action, feature length form? Here are some that this particular nostalgic child of the 80s wouldn't mind seeing on the big screen:

Defenders of the Earth

Honestly, I'm astonished this one hasn't been proposed as a movie yet. An all-star crossover of vintage pulp heroes, this adventure series pit Flash Gordon, The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician and co. against super-villain Ming the Merciless. 'The Avengers' proved such team-up movies can work; 'The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' showed how not to do it. Somewhere between the two lies a potentially great movie.

Ulysses 31

An epic adaptation of the Greek myth Odysseus for the Star Wars generation, this DiC Entertainment cartoon was surprisingly straight, sophisticated science fiction for something ostensibly aimed at children. With its blend of starships, gods and blue-skinned aliens, it might seem a little overfamiliar in live action now ('Star Wars'/'Avatar,' anyone?), but it could be stirring stuff nonetheless.

Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors

Another space-bound DiC production, this one pit the Lightning League, intergalactic hot-rodders in sleek, armoured space vehicles, against the Monster Minds, evil vegetable-based aliens. As if kids ever needed further persuasion that veggies are evil. Sure, it's a bit silly and over-the-top, but since when did that stop a Hollywood blockbuster?


The last cartoon produced by Filmation (studio behind 'He-Man' and 'She-Ra'), this western in space saw the lawman of the title mystically gifted with animal prairie powers - eyes of the hawk, ears of the wolf etc. - which he used to combat the evil Tex Hex. Studios today might have their doubts about a sci-fi western - look how 'Wild Wild West' and 'Cowboys and Aliens' turned out - but it must have seemed a great idea to 80s animators, as the similarly themed 'Galaxy Rangers' aired around the same time.

Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Wars

This series might have only lasted 13 episodes, but it remains a fond memory for many; after all, an anthropomorphic hare doing battle with militant toads isn't easily forgotten. And if that seems a bit much for modern audiences to take seriously, bear in mind Marvel's upcoming 'Guardians of the Galaxy' features a similar character named Rocket Racoon.

Also worth considering: 'Centurions,' 'MASK,' 'Visionaries,' 'Pole Position.'

Any old animated favourites you wouldn't mind seeing as a movie?

Ben Bussey is a lifelong film fan who made it official with an MA in Cult Film from Brunel University. An editor of horror website Brutal As Hell, and (as Benjamin Bussey) author of short horror fiction anthology From The Gut, available for Kindle on Amazon. But despite all this horror stuff, he's really not a scary guy, honest.

More from this contributor:

Can Marvel get mature?

Green Lantern - was it really all that bad?

Daniel Craig as James Bond - will his fourth movie be over-the-top?

Underrated family films for summer viewing

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