?Cartoon spin-offs make good financial sense — hell, you can squeeze more merchandising and brand recognition if kids are watching your characters everyday after school than if they just see a movie once. But what sense is there in making a kid’s cartoon from a film that kids are never going to see? Would kids be clamoring for a Taxi Driver toon where Travis and Iris travel the world in their magical cab? Or would they adore one where Hannibal Lector, Clarice Starling and a talking lamb solve mysteries? Sure those are ridiculous, but is it any more crazy than expecting kids to want to watch animated stories about a gunned-down cop? And yet, back in the ’80s and ’90s, they cranked out a bunch of cartoons based on properties that never should’ve been expanded into kid’s shows. Here are the ones that we can’t believe ever made it to screens.
The original premise of Highlander is pretty cartoony. A bunch of immortals fight each other to get a mythical prize, which is either telepathy or phantom dragons or something? That’s actually pretty straightforward for an ’80s cartoon. But where you get into trouble is all the crazy head chopping. Now, to give this series credit, they didn’t change the premise too much: there are plenty of deaths in this, even if they take place in a crazy, distant future with some immortals refusing to kill and a whole new MacLeod. And it still makes more sense than most of the movie sequels.
7) Tales from the Crypt
Okay, so this technically isn’t based on a movie, but rather the unrated HBO series, but considering the number of c-list celebrities hacked to death in that series, it still wasn’t something kids should be watching. You’d bet kids would love a bit of gory fun, but this one overcompensated and made itself way too kid-friendly, as the type of horror stories you expected ended up being just being watered-down morality tales where everything came out alright by the end. So, instead of being about ghost stories where Bobcat Goldthwait get hacked to death, we got ones where kids learned the perils of lying. We’ll take a murdered Morton Downey Jr. of sugary sap any day.
6) Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
This one doesn’t make sense on any level. Why adapt a film that almost no one saw in the first place, especially when the original movie is a confusing mess featuring a beautiful girl made from a tomato who transformed back whenever Beethoven’s fifth was played? We’ve been on acid trips that made more sense than that. They sure as hell weren’t trying to appeal to all the kids that saw the original Attack of the Killer Tomatoes movies…did they think 6-year-olds were really into kitsch?
5) Rambo and the Forces of Freedom
The uber-patriotic ’80s were the perfect time for Rambo… or at least the U.S. soldier he became by the third Rambo film, which completely did away with the tortured vet aspects of the character from the first two films. Which explains the G.I. Joe makeover they gave him for this show, as Rambo fought the fictional terrorist organization S.A.V.A.G.E. all without actually shooting anyone. Maybe they thought kids wouldn’t be as interested in watching him shoot up a small country town week after week?
4) Little Shop of Horrors
Both the original Roger Corman Little Shop of Horrors and the ’80s musical remake featured a lot of death, and that’s without the musical’s original ending where every main character died. After all, it’s about a plant that eats people. So, it’s an odd choice to make a kid’s cartoon about it, even if you update the doo-wop sound to the type of generic hip-hop that was all over the place in 1990s. And while the plant didn’t kill too many people in the cartoon, it did have a habit of eating the show’s piano teacher, who turned up fine in the next episode. So, you got a little killing, but no consequences. That’s a great lesson for kids.
3) Police Academy
While most people remembering the later, watered-down post-Steve Gutenberg- sequels, it’s easy to forget just how bawdy the first film was. Hell, there was nudity, gay jokes and Leslie Easterbrook’s gigantic boobs. All of which explains why they had to add so much new stuff to the cartoon, including a bunch of talking dogs called the “K-9 Corps.” Heck, if you’re not going to put in a podium blowjob joke, it’s just not Police Academy.
2) Toxic Crusaders
If there’s one studio that’s least appropriate for children that isn’t doing porn, it’s gotta be Troma. Distributors of such classics as Rabid Grannies and Bloodsucking Freaks, they were able to take their best-known classic, The Toxic Avenger, and turn it into a cartoon of goofy misfits fighting for the environment. Which is pretty impressive, considering the Toxic Avenger movie features him jamming a mikshake stirrer into a guy’s throat.
While the Toxic Avenger was violent in a, well, cartoon-y way, Robocop is simply one of the most disturbingly violent films of the ’90s (I’m still having nightmares from Peter Weller’s arm being blown off by a shotgun.) More disturbingly, this toon tried to keep pretty close to the original film, with the opening credits even showing an animated version of Weller getting gunned down! And if you had any doubts that the makers of the show were expecting kids to have watched the original film, they brought back Clarence Boddicker into the show. That could only appeal to people who’d seen the film… unless they just thought that Saturday Morning cartoons needed a bunch more Kurtwood Smith.