If I’ve said it once, I must’ve said it a thousand times: Hollywood has completely run out of original ideas. And with seeming gay abandon, studios have started quarrying the beloved childhood memories of disaffected Generation X-ers and Y-ers like myself in the drive for something else to turn a profit.
The shows we grew up with in the 80s and 90s are being reworked by soulless Tinseltown demons in the great search for another buck, often with utterly terrible results. Transformers? Check. Ninja Turtles? Check. Power Rangers? Check. Hell, there’s even a Jem movie in the works, following hot on the heels of Josie & the Pussycats by… well, over a decade really.
But it’s not all bad, fortunately. The BBC are working on a new series of Danger Mouse, something that sets a part of my brain that is forever eight a-squee. The second series of Mysterious Cities of Gold wasn’t too bad, all things considered. And of course, we should never forget that Doctor Who was triumphantly brought back after a 15-year hiatus and is still one of the most-watched programmes on British television. So, the reboot can work. But if so, what Saturday morning cartoons of the youth of people now in our 30s should be reinvented for a modern audience? Well…
Honestly, I can’t believe Michael Bay isn’t all over this one. As part of the whole 80s obsession for stuff-that-can-transform-into-other-stuff like Transformers, Go-Bots and, erm, Popples, M.A.S.K featured a variety of vehicles that could change into fighter jets, tanks, submarines etc. Led by single father mechanical genius billionaire playboy philanthropist Matt Tracker, the Mobile Armoured Strike Kommand (cue grammar Nazis) were freelance good guys working for a UN-like organization to stop similarly-equipped criminal paramilitary group V.E.N.O.M (Vicious Evil Network Of Mayhem), led by the groovily-monickered Miles Mayhem. Oh, and both sides had ‘masks’ (helmets really) to protect their identities that could shoot laser beams, fire, you name it.
Yeah, it was mainly a way of flogging toys. But that didn’t stop the writers making the best of it. Over the course of several Saturday mornings we got to see attempts to steal radioactive meteorites and metal-eating insects, hold the Dutch government to ransom with a sonic dike-breaking machine, recover Julius Caesar’s sword and build a plutonium-powered earthquake machine. This has major movie potential. Just, please, get rid of the comedy sidekick robot…
Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors
Another cartoon that has ‘movie franchise’ stamped on it in huge letters, it told the story of Jayce, a teenager tasked with finding his scientist father Audric. Why? Well, in order to stop the Monster Minds, intelligent plant-men accidentally created by Audric who are hell-bent on galactic conquest. In order to stop the Monster Minds’ living plant armoured combat vehicles (no, seriously) Jayce has his own fleet of combat vehicles. Helped by wizard Gillian, genetically-engineered telepathic girl Flora and reluctantly-recruited freighter pilot Herc Stormsailor (Greatest. Name. Ever.), Jayce travelled the galaxy fighting evil plants and looking for a trace of his dad.
Again, it’s a glorified toy advert. But it’s a toy advert developed for TV by J Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5. Do away with Flora’s flying pet fish and Jayce’s robotic squire Oom and we’re on to a winner. Just need to work in the best theme tune of any 80s cartoon into the soundtrack.
From Cosgrove Hall, the people who brought you Danger Mouse, came a bonkers fantasy series about a kindly old wizard who made good dreams for people of his small planet. The Dream Maker was in a constant stand-off with the evil Zordrak, Lord of Nightmares who tried to send them bad dreams instead. The titular Dreamstone was a magic gem used to both transmit dreams and keep the nightmares at bay. The Dream Maker was helped in this fight by his apprentice Rufus, Rufus’s friend Amberley and a tall green bloke called Pildit, to fend off attacks by the Urpneys, Zordrak’s huge-nosed minions who were constantly trying to snatch the Dreamstone so nightmares could get through.
As befitting a cartoon from the Danger Mouse stables, this was predictably mental. As the Urpney’s plots to steal the Dreamstone degenerated into insanity (from a pedal-powered helicopter to jetpacks and invisibility potion within a few weeks), so did the hero’s responses to them. Magic walls that bad guys run through and find themselves in mid-air? Check. Banishing the bad guy into outer space? Naturally. Just slip the animators some mushrooms and watch the fun commence.
Yeah, this has had one reboot already, but that doesn’t count because it was crap.
So yeah, feline warriors the Thundercats escape their dying planet of Thundera. Following a series of incidents they lose the rest of their race, are marooned on another planet and have to fight off the same mutant enemies they faced before. Only this time they are led by evil mummified wizard Mum-Ra.
Again, this is something with movie potential stamped all over it. Any thoughts on who should play Lion-O? Just please, do something with Snarf. Seriously, what is it with 80s cartoons and painfully unfunny comedy sidekicks?
And what better way to finish than with Cosgrove Hall’s other famous creation? Originally a character in Danger Mouse obsessed with fame and fortune, Count Duckula was a violent, frequently angry vampire duck that was frequently thrown up against DM when Baron Greenback was having a week off. In his own series he had somehow died and was reincarnated in a ceremony where tomato ketchup is accidentally used instead of blood, resulting in a pacifistic, vegetarian vampire. Naturally.
Really, what more is there to say? Feature film, new series, it doesn’t matter. This is another idea whose time has come again. In these times of war, famine, pestilence and Strictly Come Dancing, the world needs a vegetarian vampire duck.