10 1980s Cartoons Just Begging for a Movie Adaptation

Wednesday, September 9, 2009 at 3:15 pm
By Shane Rivers

When Hasbro launched their Transformers toy line back in 1984, it was supported by both a comic book and animated series. The enduring success of the franchise has led to the current Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen movie, but there are plenty of other cartoons from that era which are just as deserving. To prove my point, I’ve assembled this list of Ten 1980s cartoons just begging for a movie adaptation.

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Thundarr the Barbarian – While the animation on this show wasn’t anything to write home about, the storyline is perfect for a big screen adaptation. In 1994, a runaway planet passed between the moon and the Earth, splitting the former in two and causing massive climate and geographical changes in the latter. Two-thousand years later, the heroic Thundarr travels across the wasteland battling evil wizards who utilize dire magics and ancient technology. Cartoons Begging for Movie Adaptation: Thundarr the BarbarianHe’s aided in his journey by the fine-as-hell Princess Ariel and the bizarre creature known as Ookla the Mok. In addition to the wizards, our heroes also tangle with werewolves, an alien vampire, mutants, and giant lizards. Think of a combination between The Road Warrior, Conan the Barbarian, and Planet of the Apes, and you’ll get an idea of the potential this series has.

Jonny Quest – This adventure series originally appeared in the ‘60s, but new syndicated episodes were created starting in 1986. Jonny Quest was an eleven-year-old kid whose father, Dr. Benton C. Quest, was one of the top scientists in the world. Along with bodyguard “Race” Bannon, adopted son and skilled mystic Hadji, and the family’s pet bulldog named Bandit, the team could often be found traveling around the world fighting such menaces as dinosaurs, robots, mummies, and an Asian mastermind named Dr. Zin. A Hollywood version of this beloved cartoon seems like a no-brainer for the teen and tween crowd, and I’m happy to report that Zac Efron has signed to play Jonny in a feature film (although no word on when production is supposed to begin). By the way, if you want to see a masterful parody of the Jonny Quest series, try watching The Venture Bros. from the Cartoon Network.

Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon Movie AdaptationDungeons & Dragons – I was always a sucker for the fantasy stuff as a kid (still am), so I especially loved the animated Dungeons & Dragons cartoon series. A group of young friends ride a roller coaster and find themselves somehow transported to a mysterious realm filled with monsters and other perils (I smell a lawsuit coming against that theme park). Assisted by the mysterious Dungeon Master, the kids are each given some sort of magic item to aid them in their quest to return home (magic club, magic cloak, magic bow, etc.). Along the way, they rescue numerous people in need, especially those menaced by the sinister Venger, the primary antagonist of the series. A lot of great movie potential here, especially when you consider the makeup of the young group, plus their tiny unicorn sidekick. Besides, it couldn’t suck any worse than the previous D&D movies (sorry, Jeremy Irons).

ThunderCats – A race of cat-like humanoids are forced to flee their dying planet, but evil mutants from the planet of Plun-Darr attack the space caravan and destroy all but the flagship. This lone vessel lands on the planet of Third Earth, but the mutants soon follow. In addition, the ThunderCats must also deal with the continual plots of Mumm-Ra, a mummified sorcerer who rules over much of the land. The show featured a pretty cool cast of characters including: Lion-O, the leader of the ThunderCats and wielder of the powerful Sword of Omens, he’s a child inside the body of a man; Jaga, a deceased warrior who once wielded the Sword of Omens, his spirit offers advice and wisdom to the ThunderCats; Tygra, a scientist and architect who serves as second-in-command to Lion-O; Panthro, the strongest member of the group and their chief mechanic and engineer; WilyKat and WilyKit, a pair of troublemaking teens; Snarf, a jovial, cat-like creature who served as Lion-O’s nursemaid when he was a boy; and Cheetara, the resident feline hottie who fights using incredible speed and a battle staff.

Space Ghost Movie AdaptationSpace Ghost – Before he became a comical talk show host on the Cartoon Network, Space Ghost battled evil throughout the galaxy with the help of Jan, Jace and an intelligent monkey named Blip. Flying in the sleek Phantom Cruiser, Space Ghost and his pals fought such menaces as Creature King, Metallus, Brak, Spider Woman, Zorak and Space Spectre. If done properly, I could see the movie version of Space Ghost appealing to both kids and adults. There’s plenty of action to be had, but younger viewers could also identify with Jan and Jace. And who could pass up a space monkey, for God’s sake?

Voltron: Defender of the Universe – The Voltron Force was comprised of Keith, Lance, Pidge, Hunk and Sven. I realize it sounds like a gay boy band, but these brave youngsters were actually pilots of vehicles resembling lions. When the planet Arus was threatened by the evil King Zarkon and his henchman, Haggar, the lions could combine to create Voltron, a giant robot wielding a powerful sword. Each episode followed a fairly similar formula, but as a kid it was still fun to watch Voltron form up and kick all kinds of ass. Here’s hoping that Hollywood will eventually secure the movie rights from the Japanese and bring Voltron to a whole new generation of kids.

Battle of the Planets 80's CartoonBattle of the Planets – Known as Kagaku ninja tai Gatchaman in Japan, the popular cartoon series underwent some changes and popped up on American television as Battle of the Planets. Each week, the members of G-Force (Mark, Jason, Princess, Tiny and Keyop) would fight to protect the Earth from the planet of Spectra and the villainous Zoltar. If their fighting skills and maneuvers such as the whirlwind pyramid couldn’t get things done, the heroes always had the option of jumping into their ship known as the Phoenix and blowing the villains to hell by taking an unstoppable fiery form. From the bizarre chirping of Keyop to the strange gender neutrality of Zoltar, Battle of the Planets was one of the most entertaining of the 80’s cartoons.

Fangface – Picture four teens (Kim, Biff, Puggsy and Sherman “Fangs” Fangworth) driving around in a convertible named the Wolf-Buggy and solving mysteries. Then imagine that young Sherman also transforms into a werewolf named Fangface anytime he sees the real moon, a picture of the moon, or, in fact, anything slightly resembling the moon. While Fangface often helps the gang solve mysteries, he also seems fond of devouring Puggsy, usually just swallowing him whole and leaving him trapped in his lower jaw (until Biff or Kim intervene by rubbing Fangface’s foot). Unfortunately, things fell apart in the second season when some genius decided to bring Baby Fangs (aka Fangpuss) aboard. Much like Scrappy-Doo, this new character was about as welcome as a colon polyp.

Star Blazers CartoonStar Blazers – Awesome theme song? Check. Badass villains ranging from space princes to the Comet Empire? Check. A colorful cast of characters mixing crusty old veterans with youthful action heroes? Check. Yeah, this Japanese series had pretty much everything a kid could want in a cartoon. There was plenty of violence, with people dying left and right during desperate space battles. It also featured the greatest weapon ever in the Wave Motion Gun, a massive blast of energy capable of destroying a whole freakin’ planet. Still a pop culture phenomenon in Japan, I imagine it’ll be a cold day in hell before they sell the movie rights to some suit in Hollywood. Still, I remain an optimist.

Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels – Meant as something of a parody of Charlie’s Angels, the show featured three resourceful gals known as the Teen Angels (Dee Dee, Taffy and Brenda) who solved mysteries with the help of Captain Caveman, a prehistoric man they thawed from a block of ice. With his huge club and the ability to pull handy objects from his excessive body hair, Captain Caveman was a successful, if somewhat clueless, crimefighter. For my money, the premise would also make for a pretty entertaining porno. Unga bunga!

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