Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Coming Soon: The Glory Days or Gory Demise of '80s Cartoons?

First off, I want to thank everyone who has posted comments so far. Keep them coming! Now on to my rant...

It should be obvious to anyone that ‘80s cartoons are making a comeback in a big way. Everything from vinyl baseball caps with Autobot iron-on logos on teenagers who are way too young to remember to the recent CGI reincarnation of the ninja turtles. Yes, since the golden ‘80s, the faithful have grown up and kept the faith, hoarding action figures, creating comic books and TV series to keep their favorite cartoons in the collective consciousness. Recently, however, we have seen a surge in the hunger for our childhood heroes to return. Hollywood and the media machine have smelled that hunger and are licking their chops. What does this inevitable feeding frenzy bode for our favorite cartoon heroes?

Of course, most prominently, I am referring to the upcoming Transformers extravaganza from Spielberg and Michael Bay. I am also referring, though, to talk of upcoming live-action versions of GI Joe and He-Man (see links below). A while ago, there were even rumors of Voltron and the Smurfs making their big-screen debuts. Lesser known is the live-action Underdog feature releasing later this summer. ALERT!!! Hollywood has discovered the mythological, merchandising, and loyal fan base gold mine that is ‘80s cartoons!

Honestly, I am torn concerning this development. On one hand, I have been waiting to see big-screen, big budget treatments of these stories and characters since watching and playing with them as a child. I realize that only the big studios have the deep pockets to do justice to these characters. On the other hand, however, imagining the many ways in which the studios, in their paranoid scramble to make a movie that “everyone” can relate to, will completely desecrate my cherished childhood memories makes me cringe. Just seeing the Autobots mutated into a bunch of pimped out auto show entrants (Bumblebee as a muscle car?) worries me.

He-Man is a tragic example of this. On the eve of the Transformers' live-action debut, well do I remember what the Hollywood machine did to poor He-Man when they released Masters of the Universe. In an age when regular actors didn’t get buffed up, they picked Dolph Lundgren… DOLPH “IVAN DRAGO” LUNDGREN!!!... to play our beloved He-Man, complete with a very un-Eternia-ish Russian accent. That faithful Orko was nowhere to be seen, replaced by some dwarven wizard played by Billy Barty. Teela was nowhere near as hot as she was in the cartoon. To add insult to injury, a great deal of the story was taken away from He-Man’s crew and centered instead around a couple of angst-ridden earthling teenagers. Oh, the horror!

Note that this pattern has not seemed to affect cartoon incarnations of our favorite shows. For instance, the animated Transformers movie completely rocked. The animated GI Joe movie (released straight to video) also rocked. Where Hollywood has faltered, the true faithful at Cartoon Network and other great animation studios have kept the heart of our heroes alive.

At any rate, only time will tell how much of our beloved Transformers has survived when it releases July 4. I don’t think I can, now in my less tolerant, more crotchety stage, tolerate another Masters of the Universe. I love what I’ve seen so far of Transformers (except for those suspicious, angst-ridden teenagers… grrr). The most recent preview, I swear, was pulled straight from my wildest dreams. I hope they have respected the characters, honored the story, and picked the right players. If they can do for ‘80s cartoons what Jackson did for LOTR, they will have my loyalty. If they don’t, I’m afraid it will be war.

Which side do you fall on: optimistically hoping the studios will respect the territory or fearfully waiting for the inevitable sacrilege? Does anyone else out there remember the disgrace that was Masters of the Universe? Everybody weigh in! Let us know what you think!

Also, check out the links below to find out more about the upcoming He-Man and GI Joe films:


GI Joe:,,20014165,00.html

1 comment:

  1. I personally have very little faith in big budget Hollywood movies, and am frankly expecting the worst from most of those movies. That said, i don't like most Hollywood movies for the actual movie, and instead watch them for a laugh, for the action or for the CG. On that front, Transformers looks like it will be awesome(apart from the lips. WHY LIPS?).



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