Kids today, they don’t know they’re born. They run free, they got teeth nice and clean. They’re alright, I guess. But with some of the best family films in the last decade being based on IP’s of Saturday morning’s past that youngsters may be unfamiliar with, it’s safe to say there’s still a treasure trove of adaptations from kids cartoons and TV shows that are begging to be brought to the big screen. There are some iconic entries on the way already; He-Man’s getting a revamp, Transformers are still going strong, and when you’ve got the likes of Paddington petitioning for an Oscar nod (rightfully so, I might say), what else is worthy of a cinematic switcheroo? Well, this lot, for starters…
Suddenly, a smash-hit appears. Just like the marmalade-loving Peruvian bear, there’s an eternal charm under that iconic bowler hat that’s quick to hang on a changing room hook in place of just about any other headgear. For those that might not have visited the show during its opening hours, Mr Benn saw the titular gent as the regular and only apparent customer to a clothes store run by a mysterious shop keeper. Each instalment would see Mr Benn sized and suited with various outfits that would whisk him away to magic locations the second he tried it on. From fighting lions in the Coliseum in centurion gear to venturing into space as an astronaut, Mr Benn always appeared as the quintessential timid gent, dealing with massive adventures regularly.
Not only animated in a similar style to Paddington’s original form but also wielding the same polite and appropriately British heart that audiences have fallen in for with Paul King take. The difference between the bear and this apparent businessman is the possibilities of the fantastic are limited to the shopkeeper’s clothing rack. Add in the undeniable life lesson that clothes don’t make the individual, but the other way around, and there’s every chance that Mr Benn could be a perfect fit for the next big family hit.
Dream Pitch: Martin Freeman as the prim and proper businessman looking for a last minute fancy dress outfit, stumbles into Nick Frost’s magical shop and gets whisked away with every outfit he tries on.
Those that know this show are already humming the theme tune that may well have defined so many Saturday mornings. Those that don’t? Well, this is what was lacking in your childhood. Feeling like it was bred from Ridley Scott in his prime and Daft Punk, Ulysses 31 sent Homer’s Odyssey into space and saw the Greek hero as a futuristic captain of a giant space station who angered the gods. As punishment, all but his son, alien friend and standard robot pal were cast into an eternal slumber, forcing Ulysses to travel to planets unknown to find redemption and reawaken the passengers he was tasked to protect.
Besides being in that pitch-perfect 80s era of animation, there are a plethora of brilliantly stylised elements of the Ancient Greek tale that would make for eye-watering cinematic sequences. For starters, there’s the image of passengers aboard Ulysses’ ship floating lifelessly through its decks that any fan of the original can picture, as well as different alien species the hero encountered. Also, his spacesuit has a cape – ignore what Edna said, sometimes the world needs a cape.
Dream Pitch: A glimpse of Mads Mikkelsen in Rogue One was enough to certify him being the perfect fit for the role of Ulysses. Both family men that are forced to make the hard decisions for the good of those he loves, Mikkelsen, of course, has enough swagger and charm to take on the leading heroic role without any hassle. Also, I bet he loves the theme tune as much as anyone.
If there’s one thing worse than skeletons, it’s skeleton warriors. This was a message established by Ray Harryhausen back in the day, reiterated by Sam Raimi in Army of Darkness, and then used as a toyline in the early 90s for the younger generation. The first two iterations have planted themselves firmly in pop culture since their conception, while the 13-episode cartoon got nowhere enough attention, which is criminal given that it’s so woefully bad, it’s good.
Set on the distant planet of Litherium, three royal siblings are sworn to protect their city after its energy source, the Light Crystal (well, it can’t be dark now can it?) is broken in half, with one fragment of it falling into the hands of the aptly named, Baron Dark. The incident has different reactions to the good and bad bunches fighting for the mystical McGuffin, though. The Baron and his cronies turn to skeletons, while Prince Justin (long may he reign) shoots energy beams from his hands, his sister can fly (because she likes birds, so obviously), and the jealous brother on a mission of redemption turns undead and can transport himself through shadows. It’s all utterly bonkers, you lose count of how many props have skulls on them and the theme tune has a lot to be desired, but bloody hell it’s mad fun.
Dream Pitch: The trick here would make a straight-up mockery of this He-Man/Sam Raimi-resembling universe and aim directly for the funny bone. Chuck Richard Madden a glorious ponytail for the leading role of Prince Justin Steele aka Prince Lightstar, and Andy Samberg as the jealous undead brother, Joshua aka Grimskull. Have Karen Gillan play the mediator of the two and hovering hero Jennifer/Talyn with Jermaine Clement as the evil bony baddie, Bardon Dark. For an extra special touch, there’s a random eight-armed skeleton named Aracula that has Andy Serkis’ name all over it when it comes to live-action duties, Check out the intro and tell me you can’t feel this in your, well you know.
Are You Afraid of the Dark?
It turns out, the show that left many kids freaked out their minds via primetime Nickelodeon slot has already gained the attention of Hollywood and has been waiting its turn around the campfire for some time. For those that aren’t aware, ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark?’ was a pre-teen Twilight Zone-esque show in which a band of kids self-dubbed ‘The Midnight Society’ would gather in the woods to tell each a scary story in each episode. While the chances of that happening now and the incident not being reported to the police is unlikely, it made for quality evening viewing to ensure you barely slept through yours.
Everyone has their favourite episode of choices and the terrors that spawned from them; vampiric neighbours from next-door possessed cameras that had a Final Destination-like feature, creepy clowns and even a young Ryan Gosling (shivers). Given that anthology horror films have picked up over the past decade or so, and with the likes of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is just around the corner, this might be a project Hollywood should churn out the pipeline of nightmares very soon.
Dream Pitch: Bit confusing here. It turns out that the embers of the planned picture dating back from 2017 have died down with D.J. Caruso initially set to direct and then seemingly going up in smoke. Since then, Nickelodeon has got the wheels turning on a three-part reboot show that will feature hour-long episodes. Either attempt to redeliver this is perfectly fine, just as long as they honour the original Midnight Society, and don’t throw the water bucket on the fire too soon.
We don’t have enough westerns anymore. All you young’ ens and your comic books and your remakes of classic and beloved animations that don’t need to be touched. What you need is a good ol’ fashioned shoot out. In space. With a talking horse and a man that can run like a puma. What you need is Marshall Bravestarr. Originally made by Filmation (the folks behind He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and She-Ra: Princess of Power), the show was sci-fi with western elements that while having plenty of somewhat fantastical components, wasn’t afraid to send hard messages when it needed to.
Set on the planet of New Texas, the show followed the titular lawman who was blessed with special powers that he could activate on command, (eyes of a hawk, ears of a wolf, strength of a bear and speed of a puma). Fighting the bad guys alongside his short-tempered Equestroid deputy, Thirty-Thirty (a horse that could walk on two or four legs whenever he felt like it), Bravestarr fought for justice against some real wrong’ uns. The show’s most significant element though, was when it attempted to tackle serious topics, with the drug-focused episode, ‘The Price’ being one of its standouts. Given that we’re open more to fantastic voyages beyond the stars with the likes of Marvel taking things off world and Star Wars taking a brief break after Episode 9, this could be the perfect sweet spot for a stranger to come wandering into town.
Dream Pitch: Give me Jason Momoa and a talking horse voiced by Sam Elliot. That’s it. That’s the pitch.
See, Captain Planet – he’s a hero, with the full intention of taking pollution down to zero. Most recently brought to life by Don Cheadle who advised us not to pollute, lest we be turned into a fucking tree, the original animation was to promote environmental awareness. Focusing on a group of teenagers called the Planeteers, when they combined their special power rings based on various elements (earth, wind, water, fire) and some random one (heart), they called to their aid Captain Planet, a green-skinned superhero with a mullet to match Swayze’s in Dirty Dancing, and just as charming.
While some of the villains of the show may seem a tad dated now, the vocal talents that were drawn into Captain Planet to cause an ecological stir for the Planeteers were shockingly-top tier. Martin Sheen, Jeff Goldblum, Meg Ryan and Sting(!?) were just some of the names behind the shows bad guys and gals, with Whoopi Goldberg being the wise mentor and force for good, Gaia. Should this ever actually get the green light by Hollywood, giving any of these a ring and offering them roles for the live-action versions wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world.
Dream Pitch: Another one that still has a chance to get the go-ahead, Captain Planet actually caught the eye of Leonardo DiCaprio in 2016 with his studio Appian Way. Prior to that, attempts had been made as far back as 1996. Unfortunately, even one of the greatest actors of our time has struggled to call Captain Planet into action and there’s been very little activity ever since.
Now besides Don Cheadle doing a cracking job of taking the role, Chris Pine feels like a good fit for the title of Captain. As for the Planeteers, it might be worth picking some fresh up and comers like they did for the latest Power Rangers movie. Also, get Sting and Goldblum on the phone ASAP.
Dungeons & Dragons
It’s easily one of the most memorable cartoons of the 80’s and a recent ad for Renault proves it could work. The classic CBS show Dungeons & Dragons saw a group of teenagers whisked away to another dimension after having a go on an amusement park ride. Once there, the group were gifted with magical weapons and abilities to fight against the evil weirdly horned antagonist, Venger.
Spanning two years, but never actually getting a final episode, the show actually got caught in hot water for its level of violence. Even so, folks tuned in regularly to see teens turned Ranger, Barbarian, Magician, Thief, Cavalier, and Acrobat and their efforts to find their way home. You can get a taste of just how good it would look in live-action via the ad, now with added Renault (for some reason).
Dream Pitch: Feeling very much like the recent Jumanji reboot, Dungeons and Dragons would work great by adding just a little bit of meta to this medieval romp. Sticking present-day kids in a magical realm of real D&D under the watchful eye of Chris Miller and Phil Lord would work wonders, and for added oomph, get Mark Strong in as the villainous Venger.
Gaining a huge cult following over the years and being overall a lot better than I remember, Disney’s Gargoyles felt unlike anything its channel had produced and certifies that with its serious tone and exceptional writing that it’d be a great time to break free onto the big screen. Set in modern times, the show saw a billionaire transport ancient gargoyle statues from Scotland to New York. Turns out though, that this band of fearsome wall dressings were actually creatures bound by a curse that once lifted, leads them to fight the forces of evil, and just be pretty flipping’ awesome.
The show had some great vocal talent and some impressive story elements that put it above some of the other shows that were slotted in on weekends in the mid-90s. Add in the talent of Marina Sirtis, Jonathan Frakes and stupidly stoic sound of Keith David as towering protagonist, Goliath, and Gargoyles was a show that would even hold up today. But we don’t want it on our small screens, we want it on great big ginormous screens in a live-action adaptation, and so does Jordan Peele.
Dream Pitch: Given that the man behind Get Out and Us has had his eye on adapting this in the past, a dream come true would be to actually let him have a go at it. Dark in tone and epic in scale, this could be Peele’s biggest venture given the opportunity. Call in Winston Duke to take on the role of Goliath, opposite Joel Edgerton as smug squillionaire and baddie David Xanatos and get this ball rolling.
Omri Katz may be remembered mostly for classic Disney Halloween film, Hocus Pocus, but he also dabbled in the supernatural on TV as well, in the quaint little town of Eerie, Indiana. Absolutely bonkers and brilliant in equal amount, the show saw Katz as new arrival to the titular town where all manner of strange things happened, long before Stranger Things was even a thing.
Personally chronicling the numerous goings on along with his friend, Sam, the show saw the two young scamps deal with an array of odd occurrences from dogs planning to take over the world, to two twin boys who never aged due to sleeping in giant tuppaware provided by their mother who was shifting the stuff door-to-door. Leaning in towards that Twilight Zone/Goonie-like territory, the show was a blast and has just as much potential to make it big as any other show on this list.
Dream Pitch: What could work for old fans and new would be to have a kid move into the house of leading lad, Marshall Teller (Katz) and come across his old records of the towns goings on. Get Jon Favreau in the director’s chair while you’re at it.
Round the Twist
Everything is weirder down under but holy heck were they just as entertaining. Easily one of the staples of the most consumable exports of Australian television in the UK, after Neighbours and Home and Away (although, the latter are still going annoyingly), Round the Twist was the nuttiest show that while occasionally hilarious was downright freaky at the same time.
Focusing on three children who live in a lighthouse with their widowed father, the show saw them embark on numerous nutty adventures that had one of the best theme tunes ever written, perfectly keeping with the tone of the show. Episodes varied from the Twist’s outhouse being haunted by a ghost in the first episode, to the kids wandering into a magic forest overrun with toadstools that can imitate anyone they come in contact with. It was absolutely bonkers and utterly brilliant and would make for a great indie entry.
Dream Pitch: Get Ben Mendelsohn to lighten up a bit as much as he did in Captain Marvel and take on the mantle of Father Twist and keep things confined to the lighthouse that has had a whole host of mysteries. Also, keep the theme tune, and don’t let Pitbull anywhere near it.
Got any classic kids shows you think would work given the cinematic treatment? Sound off in the comments below.