12 Feature Films that Flopped as Saturday Morning Cartoons

by Jason Gross @SockofFleagulls

Beethoven and Free Willy

After pulling in $265 million worldwide at the box office over the course of two feature films in 1992-93, Beethoven was a lock to perform well in its transition to Saturday mornings. Likewise, Free Willy raked in over $150 million in 1993 with its theatrical release.

beethoven free willy cartoon

Both animal franchises would do a belly flop into the pool of mediocrity, each lasting a single season of 13 episodes in 1994. The main deviation from their animated counterparts in the feature films was that both could talk to their animal companions. It seemed audiences let out a collective “Shut Up!” as both franchises would never re-gained their box office success after flopping on Saturday mornings.

FLOP FIX: Have the animals use Looney Tunes-like violence.


Dumb and Dumber

The popularity of Jim Carrey was rampant in the mid 90s. Three animated adaptations of his films debuted in the fall of 1995.

dumb and dumber cartoon

Two shows would turn out to be relatively successful, with Ace Ventura lasting 3 seasons and The Mask: the Animated Series producing 2 seasons. Dumb and Dumber: The Series would be the odd film out and was cancelled after just one season of 13 episodes. It would be the last show that Hanna-Barbera would produce for ABC as it began its partnership with Disney.

FLOP FIX: Team up with Beavis & Butthead and Ren & Stimpy in a new series called “The Just-Us League.”


Little Shop of Horrors

With a history dating back to 1960, Little Shop of Horrors has been produced into two feature films and a successful off-Broadway musical. In 1991, Little Shop made its debut on Saturday mornings as an animated series on Fox Kids.

little shop cartoon

The show featured a very hungry (but not deadly) plant named Junior and teenage versions of main characters Seymour and Audrey. Each episode also featured two musical numbers usually in hip hop or rap style. What the episodes didn’t include was an audience as the series lasted just 13 episodes.

FLOP FIX: Celebrity hip hop and rap guests on the show. Just make sure they are not promoting a certain popular plant.


Planet of the Apes

By the time Return to Planet of the Apes was produced in 1975, the franchise had already produced 5 successful feature films, a live action TV show, and a series of comic books produced most notably by Marvel Comics.

planet of the apes cartoon

The animated series went a step beyond the storyline of the movies and TV show by depicting a technologically advanced ape society. Apes were viewed driving cars and watching television, which was more closely related to the original novel. Ironically, the major criticism of the cartoon was the low production quality, slow pace, and lack of movement. The show lasted just 13 episodes.

FLOP FIX: Increase budget and release to theaters. Up to that point, the films produced a total of $75 million at the box office on a budget of $14.4 million. (The two more recent movies did gangbusters at the box office as well.)


Swamp Thing and Toxic Avenger

Building off the popularity of other mutated creature heroes and the moderate success of R-rated crossovers like Rambo: The Force of Freedom, two horror movie anti-heroes broke onto the Saturday morning scene in 1990-91. The pilot for Swamp Thing debuted on Fox Kids in the fall of 1990 with four additional episodes airing in early ’91. About that same time, Toxic Crusaders made its official debut on the USA Network with 13 total episodes.

swamp thing toxic crusaders cartoon

The gross-out good guys Swampie and Toxie would meet a quick end to their animated lives as both shows wouldn’t make it past their first seasons.

FLOP FIX: “The Toxic Team”. Create a crime fighting team with the aforementioned characters, add some Ghoulies and Garbage Pail Kids and you’re all set (worked for Monsters vs. Aliens)!


jason gross profileJason Gross (@SockOfFleagulls) is the creator of Rediscover the 80s and loves to subject his two sons to cartoons, TV, movies, and music from the decade. Currently promoting a M.A.S.K. live-action movie script (co-writer), he enjoys freelance writing about 80s music & pop culture.


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