Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Following bizarre blockbusters GoTG and TMNT, what other retro weirdness should Hollywood adapt?

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles both over-performed to become enormous hits at the August U.S box-office, so sequels were hastily ordered. Their success could also mean other studios take notice, and begin to order similar projects, as both are decidedly... well, weird. If huge audiences are ready to embrace sentient trees and talking raccoons, and still care about amphibians who know martial arts, what other crazy properties could, or should, be next?


1987-88 (65 episodes) - Filmation & Group W Productions

Bravestarr was a space-western set in a multinational 23rd-century desert planet called New Texas. Marshall BraveStarr is a Native American with the ability to call upon various "animal spirits" that endow himself with supernatural powers; such as Hawk (super vision), Wolf (super hearing), Bear (super strength) and Puma (super speed).

Could it work as a movie? Oh sure. Bravestarr would be a good role for Jason Mamoa (Game of Thrones), the concept mashes together popular elements from Star Wars, and who doesn't want to see a superhero cowboy movie? We'll overlook how the Weird West genre has faltered in recent time...

Biker Mice from Mars

1993-96 (65 episodes; 3 seasons); 2006-7 (28 episodes) - Brentwood Televised Funnies & Marvel Productions/New World Animation

A cynical attempt to replicate the late-1980s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles phenomenon, Biker Mice from Mars concerned three anthropomorphic rodents (Throttle, Modod and Vinnie) who came to Earth after their homeworld was destroyed by the alien Plutarkians.

Could it work as a movie? Perhaps not. Unless it took a decidedly weird Mars Attacks!-style approach to its own ludicrousness. My guess is people would identify it as a dumber-than-dumb Turtles rip-off, as most did the cartoon series, and Ghost Rider's failure suggests audiences dislike freaky motorcyclists

Bucky O'Hare

1991 (13 episodes) - Sunbow Productions & Marvel Productions

Bucky O'Hare was first the star of a short-lived 1978 comic-book, but only became briefly popular in 1991 (inspired by the success of TMNT) when a French-American cartoon was produced: Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Wars. The story takes place in a futuristic parallel universe (the "Aniverse"), where a war between the mammal-led United Animals Federation and the evil Toad Empire rages. Weirdly, the toads are actually just brainwashed by a supercomputer called KOMPLEX that has enslaved them. Bucky himself is a green hare, who pilots the 'Righteous Indignation' spaceship, with a crew that includes feline psychic first-mate Jenny, a human from our dimension called Willy DuWitt, a four-armed pirate duck called Deadeye Duck, a one-eyed android called Blinky, and a baboon called Bruisier.

Could it work as a movie? Well, it's Guardians of the Galaxy with almost every character needing performance capture work, so they'd never take the financial risk. Plus it's completely mad and not a cartoon too many people remember, beyond the catchy theme song. That's a no.

Battle of the Planets

1978-1985 (85 episodes) - Tatsunoko Productions & Sandy Frank Entertainment

A fondly-remembered U.S animation that was actually adapting Japanese anime Science Ninja Gatchaman from 1972. The U.S adapted 85 of the 105 original episodes, removing violence and profanity so it could appeal to American kids. Battle of the Planets concerned five young superheroes collectively known as "G-Force"—Mark (voiced by Casey Kasem from Scooby Doo), Jason, Princess, Keyop and Tiny. They protected Earth from inhabitants of the planet Spectra (led by a masked villain called Zoltar, acting on orders from disembodied head "The Luminous One"), and other intergalactic monsters. G-Force had a ship called the Phoenix, comprised of separate Thunderbirds-y vehicles each member could pilot (a racing car, motorcycle, a tank, a submersible, and a jet fighter).

Could it work as a movie? Absolutely. It's every summer blockbuster rolled into one! You have the in vogue superhero aspect (G-Force all fly and wear avian costumes), you have enormous Godzilla-style alien threats, and there's some Transformers-style vehicles. The very profitable Asian market's also there for the taking because of its Japanese origins. Indeed, if you want a taste of what a modern BotP movie would look like, the Japanese released a Gatchaman live-action film as recently as 2013 (see above).


1985-89 (130 episodes; 4 seasons) - Pacific Animation Corporation

A U.S series animated in Japan* (but with Americans voicing the characters), the beloved ThunderCats was a cartoon was about a group of humanoid cats who fled their destroyed planet Thundera, only for their flagship to crash-land on an alien world after an attack by mutants. Now on the so-called Third Earth, the surviving "Thundercats" (i.e. Thunderian nobles) were Lion-O (a teenage prince who aged into a man because of a faulty stasis booth), Tygra, Panthro, Cheetara, WilyKit and WilyKat, and servant Snarf. (* Many of the animators went on to work for the famous Studio Ghibli.)

Could it work as a movie? Sure! Once you sell people on the weird premise. A movie has been stuck in development hell for years and there are always rumours of it coming to fruition; the most recent when a CGI animated "proof of concept" was made by Gears of War art director Jerry O'Flaherty (see above). ThunderCats perhaps doesn't have the cultural cachet of, say, He-Man, but there's still a big fan-base and it helps there was an animated remake in 2011.

Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers

1986 (65 episodes) - Gaylord Entertainment Company & Tokyo Movie Shinsha

Battle of the Planets with a space western makeover Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers was set in a future after mankind was given "hyperdrive" technology by two aliens in exchange for help fighting the villainous Crown Empire. In the years since, humans colonised many alien world, so an organisation called BETA (Bureau for Extra-Terrestrial Affairs) was set-up to police any criminal activity. The show's heroes were five BETA "Rangers" with 'Series-5' implants that gave them super-abilities; Zachary Foxx (who had a bionic arm that could shoot energy blasts), Shane Gooseman (who could rapidly heal), Niko (who had psychokinetic abilities), and Walter Hartford (who could control any computer system).

Could it work as a movie? Maybe, but would any studio seriously risk it? It's Guardians of the Galaxy meets Green Lantern, but maybe the average of that wouldn't be much to shout about. It would be worth it just to see those mechanical horses the Rangers liked to ride around on, though.

Are there any other weird comic-book or cartoon series you think Hollywood should look to adapt next? Let me know in the comment below!