The news that DreamWorks Animation may buy Classic Media, the company that owns media rights to Casper The Friendly Ghost, The Lone Ranger and the Masters of the Universe reminds us that, despite all the super-hero and fairy tale movies that we’ve already seen – not to mention the ones based on toys and boardgames (Oh, Battleship…), there’s still a whole range of nostalgia still to be mined by movie studios. Bearing this in mind, here’s an obvious question: Why haven’t we seen a slew of Saturday Morning Cartoon-inspired movie yet?
Maybe it’s my age, but I have fond memories of the high-concept cartoons that I grew up on from the likes of Hanna-Barbera and Ruby Spears Productions. Looking back at it now, they seemed to happily fill some strange middle ground in a spectrum between comic books (Many episodes were written by comic veterans), toys (which they were inevitably attached to, whether spinning out of the cartoons or, more likely, being “inspired” by) and “regular” television – all of which now seems like the sweet spot for source material for our summer blockbuster viewing. So where are the big budget recreations of this part of our childhood?
Perhaps the limited success of things like The Flintstones movie and Speed Racer have scared movie executives off (Will Ferrell’s Land of The Lost likely belongs in here, somewhere, I suspect) – but even if that’s true, I can’t imagine that they’ll stay away for too long. As the public’s hunger for genre-ish stories that come from their childhood continues oddly unabated, movies will continually need new material to recycle, and there are only so many Spider-Mans and Batmans around able to stand up to constant recreation and retelling; even something like Superman seems to suffer if it’s seen too often, with Superman Returns demonstrating ably how easily an audience can be bored by something that, in earlier times, it would’ve been enchanted by (Remember when it was enough to tell audiences that they’d believe a man could fly…?). With all of the Marvel properties sewn up either in existing deals or with Disney, and all the DC properties owned by a Warners that seems unsure what to do with them, the number of viable comic properties that people will recognize from their youth is tiny, and even toylines are spoken for, with Hasbro’s post-Transformers deal with Paramount Pictures. What else is left, if we’re not simply going to be recycling remakes of adaptations, like photocopies of photocopies, endlessly? Coming up with something new? Don’t be ridiculous.
(A possibility, of course, may be video games. We’ll have to wait and see how Wreck-It-Ralph does, later this year. If that’s a hit, perhaps we’ll get that high-profile reboot of the Super Mario Bros. franchise that we’ve all been waiting for.)
Saturday Morning Cartoons are an almost-untapped resource for movie executives looking to take advantage of those younger eyes and childhood sense of wonder. There are some great characters and strong ideas to be found in mining things like The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, say, or The Herculoids and Space Ghost. An all-out attempt to bring The Centurions back to life would be something I would eagerly await, and complain about the casting of (Seriously, George Clooney for Max Ray or this whole thing is dead to me). And don’t get me started on the need the world has for a Thundarr The Barbarian movie – preferably in 3D, and with awesome CGI Ookla the Mok action.
Surely, it can only be a matter of time before these things happen, right…? And when it does, while the critics and the snobs bemoan yet more crass commercialization and infantilization of the movie industry and its audience, you’ll be able to happily find me in the theater, happily paying my money for the chance to feel like I’m 10 years old again.
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