The Top 10 Animated Films Based on TV Cartoons

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The greatest cinematic cartoon adaptations of all-time according to pure science!

You don’t have to have listened to our latest podcast to know that Laser Time LOVES cartoons, but hey, I’ll embed that show below anyway if you’d like to listen along. (And here’s an iTunes link!)

Seriously, you don’t have to poke around here long to see that animation is the unleaded gas that fuels the nostalgic filth we put out every week. And a while back, we did a semi-popular two-part episode based on the Best/Worst of Live-Action Movies based on Cartoons. So in honor of Spongebob Squarepants getting a second movie, I went looking for ANIMATED movies based on TV cartoons. Why? Because rather unjustly, that has actually happened a lot less than the aforementioned live-action cartoon adaptations. The hell?!

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In a bizarre Twilight Zone-esque method of wish fulfillment, it would seem Hollywood would rather dress up celebrities as popular cartoon characters than of pay animators to draw them into bigscreen life. To reiterate: This is stupidly rare. We set out to find the ABSOLUTE BEST and because of our unwavering commitment to ethics in cartoon journalism, we’re determining such using the stone cold heart of objective science. And yes, we’ve included Amazon links for those of you who care to revisit the films. Or, if you’re so inclined, you can just skip to THE WORST.

CARTOON CRITERIA!

Movie Must Be Animatedspongebob article
-Trash like The Smurfs, Yogi Bear, Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties are live-action movies featuring animated characters. Fuck them regardless.
Movie Must Be Based On A TV Show
-You’d be surprised how many people are forgetting this criteria. Anyone who mentions Toy Story again is getting punched.
Movie Must Have Premiered Theatrically
-Straight-to-video (Aladdin: The Return of Jafar), made-for-TV (Jetsons Meet The Flintstones), and compilation films (Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters) do not apply.
Movie Must Have A Rotten Tomatoes Review Score
-It’s not perfect, but it is an objective consensus. There’s a good chance your favorite movie is missing below because snooty-ass critics couldn’t be bothered to review it. Either way, this in not my/our opinion.
No Anime
-Due to the confusing number of remakes, rereleases, localization compilations, television premieres, and the fact that Japan often considers “The Movie” to be synonymous with “one-hour season finale”, this would’ve made the subject an impossible slog to research and convey. Nothing against anime, but animated movies of that type rarely rise above the quality of the shows they’re based on, so they probably would’ve have ranked in the Top 10 anyway. My apologies, weebs.

LET’S DO THIS!

10) Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie
2002
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 65%
Buy it on Amazon

Don’t try and fight this. Just accept it and it’ll be over soon. Christianity’s first foray into computer generated morality tales started as direct-to-video offerings in 1993, and have since been in bed with far too many companies than any respectable dick-shaped childrens characters ever should be. Dreamworks, Starz, Boomerang, and yes, eventually on NBC, albeit stripped of its overtly religious content for the heathen network airwaves. I’ll leave it up to you to guess if Veggie Tales fans were upset (holy fuck, YES!)

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But due to that criteria, Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie, the first of two theatrical films for the Bible-thumpin’ produce, earns a place on our stupid list. I’m as sad about it kicking off this article as you are, and I understand if most of you are probably tripping over yourselves on the way to the Back button. I don’t suppose you’ll want to watch the trailer either, but hey, just keep scollin’, lollipops.


9) The Spongebob Squarepants Movie
2004
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%
Buy it on Amazon

Yes, I think this movie deserves higher placement too. As a grown man officially in his mid 30s, try as I might, it cannot be denied: I’m a Goofy Goober at heart. Spongebob’s latest bigscreen adventure is basically what inspired this whole topic, and you’d think that it’s one of the few films of its type to get a theatrical sequel, you’d think this would rate higher. Especially because of the many lengths the filmmakers went to make this outing truly cinematic.

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THIS FUCKING SCENE!

A feature-length plot away from Bikini Bottom, a wonderfully long drunk sequence for the parents in the crowd, and some incredibly special performances by Jeffrey Tambor, an almost unrecognizable Alec Baldwin, and JESUS CHRIST David Hasselhoff! I’m betting the success of that whole bizarro finale partially inspired the IRL look of Mr. Squarepants’ latest opus, but damned if it doesn’t have a lot to live up to nonetheless.

8) Beavis and Butt-head Do America
1996
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 72%
Buy it on Amazon

I’m not sure how many of you remember Beavis & Butthead, but I sure as shit bet you don’t remember it being a critical darling. Much like movies bookending this entry, Beavis & Butt-head Do America sees its stars leaving their familiar comfort zone in search of greater cinematic adventure as the duo of dumbasses heads on a cross country trip to recover their stolen TV, and maybe, just maybe… their first taste of vagina.

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Of course, this meant many of the show’s characters didn’t make it into the movie, but we did at least receive the final onscreen appearance of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore as a married couple, as well as David Letterman’s last film role as anything other than himself. Strangely, Beavis and Butt-head Do America remains MTV Film’s only animated production, despite being far and away one of its most profitable (nothing beats the budget/reward ratio of a Jackass movie.) Creator Mike Judge even took MTV up on the standing offer to bring the characters back for one more season in 2011 and Judge still romances a nation with teases of bringing B&B Music Factory back to the big screen someday. Check out the film’s most unforgettable animated sequence below.

7) Rugrats in Paris
2002
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%
Buy it on Amazon

The spiritual prequel to that Jay-Z & Kanye West song, the Empire Strikes Back of the Rugrats’ trilogy brings Nickelodeon’s famously eternal babies to gay ass Paris. This is perhaps best known as the Rugrats movie with neither a Reptar-mobile nor  The Wild Thornberries. Or rather, the one you probably liked the least. However, it’s still the one critics liked considerably more. Shows what you know!

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The Rats of Rug were eight years into their Nicktoons dominance (whose record of production was only recently surpassed by Mr. Squarepants) so that also means I was 22 and had no friends who would see it with me and couldnt go alone for fear of being arrested. I didn’t see it, is what I’m trying to say. Perhaps you did? Good for you! I hear Chuckie gets a new mom or something? If you’d like a heaping helping of tragedy to go with your snark, perhaps you’ve heard about the recent passing of Christine Cavanaugh? Rugrats in Paris was actually her final film role as Chuckie Finster, as she retired from voice acting altogether shortly after that. Let’s move on because I don’t want to think about anyone who sounds like Chuckie, Babe, Oblina, Dexter, or Gosalyn Mallard, etc., suffering with an illness for more than a decade…

18 thoughts on “The Top 10 Animated Films Based on TV Cartoons

  1. Love, love, love this.
    reminds me I need to revisit the Spongebob and Simpsons movie. I enjoyed them in theaters, and I’m sure I’ll still enjoy them now.

    Fun fact – pretty sure Mr. Krabs whispers ‘mumble-mumble-jackass-mumble-mumble’ into Spongebob’s ear at the start of the movie.

  2. I am way more excited for this new Spongebob movie than a 20-year-old male should be, and this article, along with the newest Lasertime have only heightened my enthusiasm. I remember seeing the first Spongebob movie in the theater back in 2004, and still to this day, it’s way better than a Spongebob movie has any right to be (or the new seasons of the show for that matter). Here’s to hoping that this new movie can be just as enjoyable and not just a shameless Smurfification of the series.

  3. Recently watched Bevis and Butthead do America and it still holds up. Glad I wasnt alone in my love for it. I had a local video store in my hometown that would hang new release posters up in the windows but would allow customers to write there intials on the back to claim the poster once its time had past. I was a video renting fool durring this time but sadly this theatrical poster was one of the few to slip my grasp! And Selina….? What? Love this classic Antista style article and layout. Please excuse me while I look it over again like a kid with a new issue of Gamepro.

  4. What I love about this article is that I have memories of every one of these movies as a kid. From watching Veggie Tales as a kid with my sisters, watching the Rugrats movie when I was around or so and spending hours upon hours playing the N64 game based on it, seeing the Spongebob Movie in theatres and watching the Beavis and Butthead movie with my immature jackass friend who was my own personal Butthead.

    Very good article Chris. As a fan of animation myself I can’t wait for the corresponding article on shitty animated movies as i’m sure i’ve watched a few of those myself.

  5. Nothing against the late Don Lafontaine, but does it seem like movie trailers from the 80’s and 90’s are really, really bad? Anyways great article, can’t wait for part two.

  6. Great article. I really enjoys these older trailers. Also anyone else notice the ridiculous amount of upskirt shots in that Chipmonk clip?

  7. Homer pumping the double bird is one of the funniest things I’ve seen on the last 10 years. I know people make a deal out of him being extra mean and inconsiderate and all that, and they’re not wrong, but I’ll give him that one. always makes me smile

  8. So I’m watching that Chipmunks video and it occurs to me, the Chipettes don’t actually look like chipmunks.

    The Chipmunks, yeah, they look like anthromorphesized chupmunks. But the Chipettes just look like girls.

    I think it’s the fact that they have human hair.

  9. I love The Simpsons Movie. And like you mentioned on the podcast Chris, I hope there is a re-release of The Simpsons Movie that includes all the footage, deleted scenes, and guest stars that got cut. I always felt that the special features for The Simpsons Movie was a bit lackluster.

    Also, I might prefer another Simpsons movie over another Simpsons season.

  10. Man, I need to revisit some of these. Awesome article Chris.
    I can’t remember if parts of that Chipmunks clip actually made sense in the movie’s context, but it was brilliant. Where did they get those hot air balloons? And why can’t we have more bad guys with one gold tooth non-stealthily CRAWLING up stairs so intensely in more things?? I really love this shit. Thanks for reminding me of why I used to like the chipmunks.

  11. I groaned a little bit when I saw another cartoon episode, but I ended up enjoying this way more than I thought. Makes me want to go back and watch a bunch of these. Can’t wait for part 2!

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