7 Cartoons That Deserve Live-Action Adaptations

cartoon, live action, show, adaptation, movie, samurai jack, cartoon network, toonami, sailor moon, reboot, dino-riders, blackstar, freakazoid!, gargoyles, street sharks

Later this month, Jem and the Holograms‘ live-action film will hit theaters. With Transformers 4 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles making big bucks last year (and G.I. Joe: Retaliation the year before that), it’s clear that adaptations of animated shows are becoming a dominant trend of the 2010s. So here are 7 more animated shows that could really benefit from a live-action adaptation.

Street Sharks

cartoon, live action, show, adaptation, movie, samurai jack, cartoon network, toonami, sailor moon, reboot, dino-riders, blackstar, freakazoid!, gargoyles, street sharks

Street Sharks was a mid-90s show mostly known for being one of the last attempts to emulate the success of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The show was about a quartet of brothers whose father was involved in gene-slamming experiments; said experiments inevitably went wrong, and the boys ended up as human-shark mutants. It’s not a “great” show, but the uniquely monstrous visual style is so strikingly memorable it transcends its own limitations. If ever there was a questionable nostalgia property desperate for some tweaks and fixes in a modern retelling, it’s Street Sharks.

Gargoyles

cartoon, live action, show, adaptation, movie, samurai jack, cartoon network, toonami, sailor moon, reboot, dino-riders, blackstar, freakazoid!, gargoyles, street sharks

Another TMNT-esque franchise, Gargoyles decided to blend the heroic creature approach of the 80s with blossoming cyberpunk thrillers, Gothic urban fantasy, and gritty vigilantism that punctuated the dark age of comics. It was a great show, thoroughly ahead of its time in all the right ways — even if Disney’s limitations kept some of the most interesting ideas off screen. There was once word Marvel Studios was plotting a Gargoyles adaptation, but that seems to have unfortunately stalled. Here’s hoping the project gets rolling again.

Blackstar

cartoon, live action, show, adaptation, movie, samurai jack, cartoon network, toonami, sailor moon, reboot, dino-riders, blackstar, freakazoid!, gargoyles, street sharks

Blackstar was a 13-episode Filmation cartoon from 1981 that never really took off. Despite the lack of popularity, it was a really cool show about astronauts swept up in sword-and-planet adventures with a unique fantasy aesthetic that inspired another Filmation show: He-Man. Aside from being an excellent science fantasy show, Blackstar also holds distinction as one of the only mainstream genre series with a Native American lead, astronaut John Blackstar. That unique approach, combined with a very pre-He-Man (Pre-Man, if you will) aesthetic, helps Blackstar stand out as a good show that just needs a little polish to become great.

Freakazoid!

cartoon, live action, show, adaptation, movie, samurai jack, cartoon network, toonami, sailor moon, reboot, dino-riders, blackstar, freakazoid!, gargoyles, street sharks

Of all of Bruce Timm’s 90s cartoons, Freakazoid! is easily the most live-action ready. Even though it only lasted two seasons, the superhero comedy was so ahead of its time I’m surprised it hasn’t come up more often. The basic idea was that geek Dexter Douglass accidentally downloaded the entire internet into his head, which turns him into a raving, surrealist, pop culture-spouting lunatic. As the Internet slowly reveals itself to be less of an information super highway and more of a cesspool of all human knowledge, Freakazoid! is becoming more and more prophetic.

Dino-Riders

cartoon, live action, show, adaptation, movie, samurai jack, cartoon network, toonami, sailor moon, reboot, dino-riders, blackstar, freakazoid!, gargoyles, street sharks

Dino-Riders was a brief 80s animated show that existed primarily to promote a toy line of the same name. The concept of “weaponized dinosaurs” still has a lot of pull with audiences thanks Jurassic World, but Dino-Riders had depth beyond that. The central conflict involved an alien war with Earth as an incidental Transformers-style battlefield, but the clashing ideologies were better developed. The show also touched on hegemony through battle culture, cultural evolution through war, and industrialism versus ecological cohabitation. Also, aliens strap lasers to dinosaurs, so it’d look pretty cool.

Sailor Moon

cartoon, live action, show, adaptation, movie, samurai jack, cartoon network, toonami, sailor moon, reboot, dino-riders, blackstar, freakazoid!, gargoyles, street sharks

The fact there hasn’t been a live-action Sailor Moon film yet is baffling. There was a brief (and bizarre) live-action series for a while, so it’s not like the idea lacks merit — Disney even expressed interest in making it happen. The material, basically a fantasy superhero show that stars teen girls, seems perfectly suited to the modern film landscape. Superheroes are hugely popular now, and “girl power” is dominating the box office. Add all that together with the snowballing success of 90s nostalgia, and there’s no good reason not to make this movie.

Samurai Jack

cartoon, live action, show, adaptation, movie, samurai jack, cartoon network, toonami, sailor moon, reboot, dino-riders, blackstar, freakazoid!, gargoyles, street sharks

Samurai Jack is one of the greatest cartoons of all time, and it’s easily animator Genndy Tartakovsky’s magnum opus. Running for four seasons in the early 2000s, it’s the chronicle of a samurai from feudal Japan brought to a dystopian techno-future by his ancient demon nemesis, and it’s a bold rejection of standard story ideas for something grounded in 70s kung fu, 80s cyberpunk, and classical Japanese folklore. The visual design is like moving art, and the stories were minimally beautiful. In the hands of the right director, Samurai Jack could be the most fantastic action piece ever developed for the screen.

Article by contributor Lido Giovacchini.

12 thoughts on “7 Cartoons That Deserve Live-Action Adaptations

  1. My only comment is that I’d rather see Samurai Jack come to the big screen as an animated film instead of live action. I feel like out of all of these, and I admit I haven’t watched all of them, Samurai had the most distinctive style and that style is as much a part of the series as the the plot. Now this is not to say I WOULDN’T want a live action movie, just that I’d prefer it to be animated.

  2. hmm
    Freakazoid, Dinoriders and Samurai Jack I’m behind 100%. I would be worried that the Black star film would end up as weird as the HeMan movie. Maybe a Thundarr the barbarian film? the sailor Moon movie might be okay since they had a toku series for it already and it is a super sentai series. yah okay I could get behind a sailor Moon movie. I dunno about street sharks though. I never watched it. I wonder if gargoyles would translate well to live action? hmmm. CG live action mix or practical suits and animatronics?

  3. I am hoping for a list of live action remakes that shouldn’t happen, but probably will, as this good list brought to mind USA’s Saturday morning line-up including the Go-Bots, Dino-Saucers (I think?), and the worst of all, Denver, the Last Dinosaur. I hated that show, but with live action/CG comedy for kids returning, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was greenlit, especially if the Good Dinosaur does well.

  4. I’ve been plotting a Live-action adaption of Powerpuff Girls in my head since I started film school. It’s gone through multiple casting changes because I don’t know if I want the girls to be in their teens or 20’s.

    Emma Stone or Sophie Turner- Blossom
    Ariana Grande or Lia Marie Johnson- Bubbles
    Aubrey Plaza or Hailee Steinfeld- Buttercup
    Tom Hanks or Jon Hamm- Professor Utonium

  5. Freakazoid, man I miss that show and most of the kids WB stuff. I was always into TMNT, but one of my buddies loved anything Street Sharks. He was always trying to convince me that it was the better show of the two, I was always telling him how badly my turtles could kick his shark’s asses.

  6. I loved Street Sharks and Freakazoid. Street Sharks mostly for the idea of giant shark brothers and other mutants running around. A couple I would add to the list are The Pirates of Dark Water and SWAT Kats. I loved the premise of Pirates but they never found all of the gems or whatever they were looking for. SWAT Kats was kind of like Street Sharks in that I love the style of the show.

  7. I would most like to see a Samurai Jack live action adaptation, but I prefer it to be a Netflix series. How can you not want that after seeing how well Marvel has done? I would also welcome a Gargoyles or Freakazoid show/movie. I’d like to suggest two of my own; Darkwing Duck or Ducktales. With how good CG is nowadays, either of these could look AMAZING. They’re both owned by Disney, so atleast it would have a chance at being done well.

  8. Out of all of these, I really just want Freakazoid. I love him. He’s too entertaining not to get a live action film… and it sort of seems unfair that Deadpool got one and he didn’t.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *