It’s natural to speculate about movie sequels following huge box office numbers. Nowadays, you hear sequels being announced before a movie even makes it to theaters!
Twenty-five years ago, the speculation didn’t just involve sequels but also talk about converting movies to animated series. By the late 80s/early 90s, it seemed like producers would spawn a cartoon even if there was a remote shot it could be a moneymaker with the kids. I’m sure they saw the success of shows like The Real Ghostbusters and Beetlejuice.
Evidently, kids didn’t want just any old movie becoming a cartoon. Many blockbuster film adaptations never made it past the first season, proving it wasn’t easy to make the conversion from the big screen to the small.
Here’s a list of 14 feature films that rocked the box office but flopped as Saturday morning cartoons. I haven’t watched many of these shows in awhile and some I’ve never seen. However, that won’t prevent me from also adding a Flop Fix that could’ve prevented each show’s cancellation.
NOTE: We’re referring to a certain genre herewith as “Saturday Morning cartoons”, just as everyone calls all facial tissues “Kleenex”. Not all of these shows necessarily aired on Saturday mornings, but we’re using it as more of a descriptive term.
King Kong and Godzilla have battled for movie monster supremacy for over 50 years, so it was only natural when Godzilla: The Series debuted in 1998 following the movie remake, Kong would make an animated appearance as well.
Competing for viewers, Kong: The Animated Series turned out to be deadly for both shows, producing just one season of 40 episodes from 2000-01. Godzilla also produced just 40 episodes over two seasons, but the legacy of the Kong series extended farther with two direct-to-DVD movies released in 2005 & 2007.
FLOP FIX: Give the kids (and everyone) what they really want: King Kong vs. Godzilla!
Mel Brooks’ 1987 sci-fi parody film Spaceballs is a cult classic among fanboys. It made a modest $14 million profit at the box office but gained even more fandom upon its release to home video.
Twenty years passed among rumored sequels until G4 released Spaceballs: The Animated Series in the fall of 2008. Fans had to wait through two delays over the course of a year for the debut of the series. Apparently some of them didn’t wait, as 13 episodes was all it managed. Each episode parodied another popular franchise in pop culture.
FLOP FIX: Remove the Spaceballs name. Parodies of parodies don’t work.
The box office success of the Friday films motivated Ice Cube to bring an animated series to MTV2 in 2007. Friday: The Animated Series begins a new chapter in the lives of main characters Craig and Smokey.
The transition to animation was brief however, with the series producing only 8 episodes.
FLOP FIX: Debut on Adult Swim and continue the adult themes and adult language of the feature films. And you know this would work…MAN!
With the success of Star Wars in the late 70s/early 80s, you would’ve thought George Lucas could package Bantha fodder and people would buy it.
It turned out that an animated series based on the 8th and 46th most popular characters of the franchise severed the hand of Lucasfilm. How bad was Star Wars: Droids? The Ewoks cartoon produced 22 more episodes. Ouch! But even though Droids only lasted 13 total episodes in 1985-86, it still managed to produce its own toyline and comic book series.
FLOP FIX: Droids vs. Ewoks! 1st season, Droids attack Endor. 2nd season, Ewoks get revenge. 3rd season, Death Star blows up planet hosting the final Droid/Ewok war. Everybody wins.
You would think that merely attaching the Ghostbusters name to a cartoon would mean success.
The Real Ghostbusters animated series totaled 147 episodes over 7 seasons from 1986-91. Hell, even the Filmation series cranked out 65 episodes in its only season and had Tracy the Gorilla! But by the time 1997’s Extreme Ghostbusters debuted, the film itself had become a ghost among America’s youth. Seven years had passed since Ghostbusters 2 and even though it included a revamped theme and Egon Spengler, the series lasted just 40 episodes.
FLOP FIX: Release Ghostbusters 3 in 1995 (like it should’ve happened) and pass the torch to new characters. Extreme Ghostbusters reaps the benefits.
The combination of box office prosperity and a highly popular arcade game should have resulted in a successful animated adaptation for the RoboCop franchise, but after two failed attempts, Alex J Murphy was left for the Saturday morning dollar menu.
Keeping the same story line as the feature film, the dark overtones of RoboCop: The Animated Series is probably the reason why it only managed 13 episodes in its original run in 1989. After an unsuccessful live-action TV series, RoboCop is reactivated in 1998 to lead an Alpha Division for the feds in RoboCop: Alpha Commando with almost Iron Man-like abilities. The series would produce 40 episodes in its only season.
FLOP FIX: Seek the help of the Autobots and make RoboCop a Transformer.
The Karate Kid
In the fall of 1989, Saturday morning cartoons received a crane kick to the head with the cartoon debut of The Karate Kid.
As a highly successful movie franchise, Daniel-son and Mr. Miyagi were primed to make the transition as animated heroes. However, the series switched from its traditional tournament karate story to the retrieval of a mystical shrine in a worldwide adventure. The chase for the Miyagi MacGuffin would prove to be futile as the series lasted only 13 episodes.
FLOP FIX: Mystical shrine is the grand prize at the next All-Valley tournament.
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