For a long time in the 80s and 90s there was a marriage between film, television, and video games that overlapped one another so drastically that it was shocking. In the 90s if it was a movie, it was turned in to a video game. In the same vein, kids were given adult movies transformed into a Saturday morning cartoons and, in spite of these inexplicable adaptations, they became classics… for better or for worse.
For instance, Kid and Play got their own cartoon in spite of the sexual content and graphic language of House Party. Then there was Rambo, an R-rated action film turned kid-friendly cartoon. Hell, even the Toxic Avenger franchise became a kids show in spite of the fact the original films consist of gore, rape, mutilations, and over the top splatter. Examining this odd phenomenon, we’ve selected the following as our Top 5 nominees for Greatest Animated Series Based On A Feature Film.
The Real Ghostbusters (1986)
Not to be confused with Filmation’s Ghostbusters (like, ever), The Real Ghostbusters focused on the foursome of NYC ghost hunters from the film as they battled a slew of demons, ogres, and specters in the big city. It also explored their sudden friendship with the iconic mascot, Slimer. Aside from an amazing action figure line, the series eventually spun off into Slimer! And the Real Ghostbusters in the late 80s and was even rebooted in the mid-90s with mixed reaction as The Extreme Ghostbusters.
In a great bit of trivia, the late Lorenzo Music voiced Peter Venkman for a few seasons due to his shocking resemblance to the voice of Bill Murray. Years later when Garfield was turned in to a movie, Bill Murray voiced Garfield due to his voice resemblance to the original voice of Garfield, the late Lorenzo Music. In later seasons of the series, Dave Coulier (Full House) went on to voice Venkman.
Back to the Barnyard (2007)
Inspired by the mediocre animated film Barnyard, Nickelodeon gave fans the short-lived Back to the Barnyard where we followed the gang of the barnyard in their more daily, wacky adventures trying to engage in fulfilling lives while hiding their ability to walk and talk around humans. The animated series is infinitely funnier than the original movie with the hilarious Chris Hardwick of Nerdist replacing original voice Kevin James as the head holstein cow, Otis.
Back the Barnyard was filled with a slew of rapid fire jokes, hilarious one-liners, and insanely brilliant meta-humor, which didn’t just break the fourth wall, but smashed every essence of the concept in favor of some genius gags. My favorite non-sequitor included “Ask Dr. Pig” where Pig would engage in his own (brief) instructional segments during the middle of the action. The series lasted four seasons.
Toxic Crusaders (1991)
Only lasting thirteen episodes, I fondly remember loving Toxic Crusaders while having absolutely no idea who Lloyd Kaufman was, or what the heck Troma was. I didn’t care, really, since the series was a fun, and often very funny, superhero show about the Toxic Avenger and his misadventures in Tromaville with his gang of mutants.
Of course, the very gory and gruesome films were watered down to a hard G rating for the show, with Toxie turned in to a more naive and valiant superhero. It was basically the same wacky humor sans the violence. I loved this series, and I loved owning all of the action figures. Now that I have an affectionate knowledge of Mr. Kaufman and Troma, I think I enjoy Toxic Crusaders even more now!
Muppet Babies (1984)
The Muppet Babies actually originated in The Muppets Take Manhattan, where the gang thought back to their days as children in nursery school. Apparently the idea had such cache the Henson company created a – now very beloved – animated series. A pre-cursor to Nickelodeon’s Rugrats (which I insist was a rip-off of this show), Muppet Babies focused on a small group of the Muppets (including Kermit, Ms. Piggy, and Fozzy) as toddlers who used their imaginations to get in to all sorts of wonderful and happy adventures.
Looked after by their half-seen caretaker, Nanny (Barbara Billingsley), these adventures would range from space missions to wild west romps and all sorts of journeys in to far off worlds as they learned the basics of being children. In many ways, Muppet Babies is a wonderful relic of late 80s television and influenced many other future shows including Rugrats and Baby Looney Tunes.
James Bond Jr. (1991)
Some Bond fans absolutely loathe this animated series, but others (like me) really appreciate it for what it is. As a man who’s never seen a single James Bond film, I consider James Bond Jr. a wonderful memory of the early 90s. Every day I’d wake up for school and watch an episode of this show during breakfast and appreciated how it attempted to build a new hero from an admittedly adult source.
Rather than focus on a young James Bond, James Bond Jr. instead focuses on his nephew who engaged in many of the same action-packed adventures as his Uncle James, while wooing the ladies in about as much of a G-rated manner as possible. Overall, the series lasted 65 episodes and was even spun off in to a comic series, a few novelizations for kids, garnered its own line of action figures and was given an NES and SNES game. Personally, I consider it very under appreciated and deserves at least a few viewings from Bond buffs.