The recent announcement of a live-action Cowboy Bebop Netflix series and the release of the teaser trailer for the "live-action" The Lion King (in quotes because it doesn't seem the realistic CGI film contains much, if any, actual live-action footage) has prompted excitement for some, but for many a sense of annoyance. The annoyance isn't even necessarily with the adaptations themselves, but with the mindset that thinks every successful cartoon should be adapted into live-action. That mindset's just a part of a bigger problem wherein animation is treated as an inferior artform to live-action filmmaking, where the live-action versions are seen as more "legitimate" for adults to enjoy. If the artforms were treated more equally, shouldn't there be more major animated adaptations of live-action films and TV shows to balance things out?
There are, in fact, a number of recently announced counter-examples. These cases of live-action works getting the cartoon treatment might not be as prominent, but they're happening. While some of these animated adaptations are definitely skewing younger, others are impressively aiming at older viewers, challenging the American stigma against animation. This list includes six upcoming or recently released live-action-to-animation adaptations. But that's not enough. We demand more! In addition to the confirmed adaptations, this list offers up nine suggestions of beloved live-action films or series that would be perfectly suited to the animated medium. Hopefully some people in Hollywood are reading this and taking notes on what could be the next big things in the world of animation.
15 HAPPENING: STAR WARS: GALAXY OF ADVENTURE
Star Wars: Galaxy of Adventure is the one entry on this list to have already been released at the time of this writing. Seeing as its release coincided with its announcement, though, it feels relevant to talk about. Disney's created a "Star Wars Kids" YouTube channel with six animated shorts remaking scenes from the original Star Wars trilogy.
Disney's live-action remakes of its cartoons often get criticized for being overly faithful adaptations, but Galaxy of Adventure takes this even further. It literally uses the same audio from the old movies, just with the cartoon visuals. Cute as a way to introduce Star Wars to kids old enough to be interested but too young to sit through the movies, but not particularly exciting for adult viewers.
14 WANT: DEADPOOL
This should have been in the "happening" side of this list. FXX had ordered a 10-episode season for a Donald Glover-helmed Deadpool animated series. Following the success of the 2016 Deadpool movie, this seemed like a surefire hit. Ryan Reynolds himself was interested in seeing the scripts and might have reprised his role as the character.
Alas, "creative differences" (and possibly Taylor Swift) got this cartoon canceled before it could even air. Donald Glover knocked out a hilarious script within 24 hours of the cancelation. If this is what he could do in a hurry, imagine how funny the actual scripts were!
13 HAPPENING: BLADE RUNNER
Less than two days after Netflix announced its live-action Cowboy Bebop, Adult Swim and Crunchyroll made an announcement that excited Bebop fans even more! Shinichiro Watanabe, the creator of Bebop and director of the Blade Runner: Blackout short film, is producing a full Blade Runner anime series!
Kenji Kamiyama (Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex) and Shinji Aramaki (Appleseed) are directing the series, which will air on Toonami before streaming on Crunchyroll. Blade Runner has already inspired so many anime it seems like a natural fit for the medium. Allowing this collaboration to happen is one of the silver linings of the AT&T-Warner buyout.
12 WANT: HARRY POTTER
It's weird there hasn't been any sort of Harry Potter cartoon, isn't it? Yes, J.K. Rowling's protectiveness over her creation is a fair explanation for why it hasn't happened, but Warner Bros. has such a talented animation team and the magic of the wizarding world is such a natural fit for the freedom of animation.
Re-adapting the books might be too redundant, and the Fantastic Beasts movies have likely hurt excitement for more Potter spin-offs. Still, there's one work of Rowling's ready to adapt that seems a no-brainer for an anthology of animated shorts: The Tales of Beedle the Bard. The animated "Tale of the Three Brothers" segment was already a highlight of Deathly Hallows, so why not animate the rest of the tales?
11 WANT: MAD MAX
Like Blade Runner, the original Mad Max movies influenced a ton of anime. Mad Max almost got its own anime adaptation; a prequel to Fury Road called Mad Max: Furiosa was almost animated but ultimately abandoned. Some of Mahiro Maeda's designs for the anime actually made it into the live-action film!
Now, a big part of Fury Road's appeal was seeing these crazy anime-esque visuals done with real world practical effects, so ideally we'd get more live-action sequels. However, it seems everyone involved is exhausted from the experience of making Fury Road, so there won't be another live-action Mad Max for some time. In a choice between no Mad Max and anime Mad Max to tide us over between live-action films, give us the anime!
10 HAPPENING: PACIFIC RIM
This might be the most obvious answer of the bunch. Of course Pacific Rim, being a giant homage to mecha anime, would be one of the easiest movies to give an animated spin-off! Guillermo Del Toro has talked about overseeing a Pacific Rim animated series since 2014; Netflix officially picked it up in November 2018 with a release expected in 2019.
Netflix is promoting the series as "anime," though the extent of any Japanese creative involvement is unknown; Craig Kyle and Greg Johnson are showrunners. It's unclear how much this cartoon will diverge from Del Toro's vision. Originally it was supposed to connect the first and second movies, but the second movie changed drastically when Del Toro left the director's chair.
9 WANT: DJANGO UNCHAINED
This might seem like an unorthodox choice, but hear it out. Quentin Tarantino has said he wants to write more Django material (The Hateful Eight was almost a Django novel before evolving into something else). The character's already been put into illustrated mediums, both a Vertigo comic adaptation of the movie and a crossover with Dynamite's Zorro. An animated segment was already a highlight of a previous Tarantino work, Kill Bill.
Given all this, wouldn't it be neat to give Django Unchained an animated follow-up? This would allow Tarantino and his potential collaborators to tell a lot more stories with the character. Sci-fi Westerns like Bebop and Trigun have been hits in animation, so surely Tarantino's post-modernist Western could work.
8 HAPPENING: ROALD DAHL SERIES
While this project will also adapt some stories which haven't had previous live-action adaptations, Netflix's recently announced Roald Dahl event series fits the confines of this list as it will be animating several classic Roald Dahl stories previously given live-action movies.
Among the previously-filmed stories receiving the cartoon treatment are Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda and The BFG. One of the big selling points for these new adaptations is that the different stories could potentially end up overlapping. Basically Netflix and the Roald Dahl estate are creating their own "cinematic universe," just for streaming as opposed to in cinemas.
7 WANT: JOHN WICK
Speaking of cinematic universes, Lionsgate is trying to expand the John Wick series into one. In addition to John Wick 3: Parabellum, the spec script Ballerina is being retooled to fit the universe and Starz has greenlit a live-action TV spin-off titled The Continental. Where else could this universe go?
An animated spin-off is one direction that could be promising. The John Wick movies are already hyper-stylized, so imagine that stylization being pushed further in the style of Samurai Jack. Sounds pretty awesome, doesn't it? As Netflix and Toonami continue to invest more in action cartoons for adults, this is one franchise worth considering.
6 WANT: INDIANA JONES
Disney and LucasFilm have a pretty solid idea of what they want to do with Star Wars. When it comes to George Lucas' other iconic creation, however, they don't seem to be quite as sure what to do. Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford are attached to make Indiana Jones 5, but with the stench of Crystal Skull wafting around, it's far from a surefire bet.
There are a few directions the series can go: it can officially end, there could be a recasting, there could be a passing of the torch. For more adventures with the classic Indiana Jones character, though, animation seems the ideal way to keep the character around. Get the Clone Wars/Rebels crew on it and let the magic happen.
5 HAPPENING: STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS
Star Trek is soon to be getting its first cartoon since the 1970s Filmation Star Trek: The Animated Series. Rick and Morty writer Mike McMahan is producing Star Trek: Lower Decks, an adult-oriented animated comedy focusing on "the support crew serving on one of Starfleet’s least important ships."
The show will stream on CBS All Access. Between this, the continuation of Discovery and the launch of an as-of-yet untitled Jean-Luc Picard series, CBS is going all-in on using Star Trek to sell their streaming service. Despite taking a wackier tone, Lower Decks is said to be in-continuity with the other Star Trek series.
4 WANT: THE MATRIX
Yes, The Animatrix already exists. It's also one of the two best, if not the absolute best, piece of media in the whole Matrix franchise, only rivaled by the original film. As a franchise-hungry Warner Bros. is intent on bringing The Matrix back, perhaps it's time to bring The Matrix back to animation.
It would be really exciting if this new animated project could potentially bring the Wachowskis out of retirement. The sisters have closed down their studio, but working in animation might be just different enough from their typical productions to coax them out of retirement. Even if not, WB could at least try to reteam with some of The Animatrix's directors.
3 HAPPENING: ALTERED CARBON
Altered Carbon might not be the next Stranger Things, but it's done well enough for Netflix that the cyberpunk series is getting not only a second season, but a companion anime movie set in the same universe. Considering what a big deal cyberpunk is in anime, it's a spin-off idea that makes sense.
The writers attached to this project are Tsukasa Kondo, who's best known as an actor, and Dai Sato. The latter name might ring a few bells for anime fans. In the cyberpunk genre, he wrote many episodes of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and was the head writer on Ergo Proxy.
2 WANT: UNIVERSAL MONSTERS
The mostly-public domain menagerie of the Universal Monsters have been animated many times, but typically these cartoon monsters have either been parodic takes (e.g. Hotel Transylvania) or major reinterpretations (e.g. Castlevania). As Universal's live-action "Dark Universe" failed, perhaps animation might be the best way to bring the classic stories to life.
To imagine how cool this could be, think of the best parts of Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (based on a character in the Universal Monsters line-up, despite not really being a "monster"). Inconsistent as that movie was, its high points are astonishing. Think of how beautiful PG/PG-13 animated versions of Dracula or Frankenstein, done faithfully to the originals' Romantic horror, could be!
1 WANT: SORRY TO BOTHER YOU (MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!)
Seriously, if you haven't seen Sorry to Bother You yet, go stream it on Hulu and then come back to this list. You can't talk about why this movie would make a great cartoon without talking about its big bonkers twist. For those who have seen the film, read on...
So when do we get a cartoon about the Equisapiens? Somehow, among many other things, Boots Riley's socialist sci-fi satire is the perfect prequel to the best Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rip-off we never had. The adventures of these working-class humanoid horses and their quest for social justice in an all-too-realistic dystopia begs to be an animated series, whether on Adult Swim or online.