10 Properties From the 80s and 90s That Should Never, Ever Be Movies
With 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' finally arriving in theaters this week, it's time to take a step back and take stock of what aspects of our childhood haven't been dragged kicking and screaming to the big screen. In addition to 'G.I. Joe,' we've seen film versions of 'Transformers,' 'Battleship,' 'The Smurfs,' 'Dragonball' and various other cartoons, toy lines and board games that have no business being movies. Hell, a new 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' movie is on the way. We're through the looking glass when it comes to blockbuster films based on things that we specifically designed to help sell toys, comics, cereal and greeting cards.
With many of the big names already active, it's only a matter of time before producers and studios look to other '80s and '90s franchises to find the next big thing. After all, nostalgia sells. However, there are some properties that shouldn't be touched. Ever. Not because they're sacred cows of any kind, but because they're embarrassing to think about and the world will be a worse place if someone actually tries to make them into movies. You'll only humiliate yourself and everyone who realizes that they actually liked this junk when they were kids.
Hollywood, here are ten things from our childhood that should never, ever be movies. Well, more like 18. We cheated a few times.
Nostalgia can be a powerful and blinding thing, transforming otherwise eloquent and intelligent adults into people who will actually defend 'ThunderCats.' An animated series that debuted in 1985, the show follows a group of cat/human alien hybrids who escape their home planet, crash land on Earth and do what every non-evil alien does in every '80s cartoon series: fight injustice. It's all so very dumb and all so very silly -- the hero's name is Lion-O. Lion-O. Say that with a straight face. Please try. While there's nothing wrong with a dumb and silly show becoming a dumb and silly movie, the now-grown 'ThunderCats' fanbase (the failure of a rebooted 2011 series proves that no modern kids actually like this thing) has made it clear that they want a potential big screen version to be grim and gritty and oh-so-serious...which gives us a case of the hives. You want a movie featuring a character named Lion-O to be serious? Lion-O.
The success of the 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' paved the way for all kinds of blatant, horrifying rip-offs, but none seem as bizarre or actively cynical as 'Street Sharks' and 'Biker Mice From Mars,' both products of the wasteland that was the early '90s. Both animated shows have titles that tell you exactly what to expect. 'Street Sharks' is about four teenagers who have an unfortunate encounter with a mad scientist named Dr. Piranoid and find themselves transformed into hamburger loving shark people who fight crime and say things like "Jawsome." 'Biker Mice From Mars' is even more explicit in its title: it's literally about anthropomorphic cyborg mice from the planet Mars who ride motorcycles and protect Chicago from alien incursions. Like the Ninja Turtles, both shows are defined by their gimmicky premise and characters that feel designed to sell toys rather than, you know, be characters. The Ninja Turtles themselves are already a thin concept coasting on nostalgia at this point, but they look like high art compared to the dredge they inspired.
What do the Stretch Armstrong and Max Steel toylines have in common? Both almost became films in the past few years...and both almost starred (the appropriately plastic) Taylor Lautner. Other than that (and the fact that they'd make for terrible movies), they're completely different breeds of awful. Stretch Armstrong was introduced in 1976 and was manufactured through the '90s (where he got a hip new mohawk), managing to disappoint several generations of children. Ostensibly a guy who could stretch in superhuman ways, he was actually a rubber toy that would break within five minutes and spill noxious goo all over your mom's carpet. On the other hand, Mattel's Max Steel toys are only guilty of being a late '90s G.I. Joe rip-off that continues to plague kid's animation with reboots and TV movies to this day, with each new incarnation built around whatever new toys are set to arrive in stores.
And here we approach the bottom of the barrel: two franchises that the world instantly forgot and will hopefully remain buried forever. The best thing we can say about Food Fighters is that it was the rare '80s toy line to not have an animated series to call its own, a good thing since the idea of anthropomorphic food items dressed in military garb fighting each other sounds about as appealing as, uh, wasting money on Food Fighters toys. 'The Wuzzles' was a slightly more high profile flop. Created by former Disney mastermind Michael Eisner for Disney's brand new television animation studio in 1985, the series' nonsensical concept involves the island of Wuz, home to creatures who are a combination of two animals. Despite a huge marketing push (including toys and games), 'The Wuzzles' quickly vanished...but a growing cult audience overseas has us afraid that Disney is going to unearth this rotting corpse. Stop. Don't do it.
There's nothing wrong with injecting broad, simplistic educational elements into a cartoon intended for children, but it's those bits that make us dread the concept of a 'Captain Planet' movie more than anything. A touch-feely environmentalist take on superheroes, the series saw five children from around the world given magic rings that let them summon Captain Planet, a mulleted superhero who stands against corporations and pollution and such. The show rarely rose above its well-intentioned but monotonous message: protect the environment and destroy your enemies with your personal superhero. Once you remove that moral, all you've got is the world's dorkiest looking superhero spouting platitudes at people who litter. In other words, perfect fodder for a great internet video, not so great fodder for an actual movie...but movie studios have a reputation for sinking pretty low. At least the similarly environmentally-minded 'Inhumanoids' had the good taste to be about mankind doing battle with giant monsters (coming soon: 'Pacific Rim').
The legions of 'Pokemon' fans around the world may think they want a live action version of their beloved video games/card game/animated series, but trust us: you don't. Despite its popularity, the inherent wrongness of 'Pokemon' grows increasingly clear the more you literalize what's going on. On your Gameboy screen, the simple, addictive game is a nice combination of light RPG gameplay and obsessive collecting. When you dramatize it, it's about people hunting down wild animals, capturing them against their will and forcing them to fight each other. An attempt to add any gravitas or storytelling to this series only transforms it into an ugly cockfight simulator. Let's not even tread in those waters.
The massive and ongoing success of the abysmal 'Transformers' series means that we will one day get a 'Voltron' movie and the world will be a little worse for it. Like 'ThunderCats,' it's possible to envision a light, goofy take on the material that could result in a tolerable film, but don't count on it. A leaked 'Voltron' script from a few years ago showcased a grim, pitch dark take on a team of people piloting a bunch of robot lions that can transform into one giant robot. Tonal dissonance, thy name is future 'Voltron' movie.
If there's one thing most of the items on this list have in common, it's that they are/were generally targeted toward a young male audience. What about the little girls who don't like mutants and robots? Well, that's where board games like Mall Madness and Pretty Pretty Princess come in, teaching young ladies that there's nothing more important than shopping at the mall and getting to put on all of the fancy plastic jewelry before your friends. Although you'd think that there's not a movie in either of these games, there wasn't a movie in 'Battleship' and that still happened. Since both games are still in print after several decades, expect some trailblazing producer to get a bright idea while perusing a list of untapped recognizable names.
There will come a time when the people who grew up in the '90s will be middle aged film producers with a certain amount of sway at movie studios. On that dark day, we'll get what we deserve: a rebooted 'Power Rangers' movie with a "realistic" Christopher Nolan bent. There is no show that better represents crass commercial television more than 'Power Rangers,' which combined (poorly dubbed) footage from nonsensical Japanese television shows with cheap stateside-shot segments starring the human equivalent of cardboard. The show was perfect for five year olds -- loud, dumb, colorful, stupid -- but it has continued to linger on the generation that grew up with it like some kind of nostalgic stain. It's not hard to imagine a 45-year-old man welcoming a dark and "badass" Power Rangers re-imagining as a way of validating his wasted childhood. Dark times lie ahead.
Here's the thing about movies and cartoons based on toys: when a kid plays with a toy, he is engaging in extremely limited storytelling, creating a tiny narrative on his bedroom floor. A movie version of a popular toy may seem dumb, but at least there's the semblance of a nugget of story there. So what can we say about the popular animated shows and movies that were based on greeting card characters? On the scale of things worthy of cinematic attention, there is literally nothing lower than that. And yet, the '80s gave birth to countless successful franchises that got their start on birthday and graduation cards, including the 'Care Bears,' 'Rainbow Brite,' 'Strawberry Shortcake,' 'Shirt Tales' and 'The Get Along Gang.' Generally recasting these card icons as superheroes or adventurers, these shows represent reverse-engineered storytelling and its worst. Most depressing is that some of those titles are still lingering around and still relatively popular. On most levels, there's little separating these franchises from everything else on the list (and everything on this list is a terrible idea), but there's something so uniquely odious about the concept of a big screen version of a 30-year-old marketing ploy for an industry that's been killed by the internet. Yuck.