Have you ever watched a movie to its end and then said to yourself, “Man, I wonder what these characters are doing now?” Sometimes, movies get sequels or spinoffs, but they just don’t do the trick. But then there are those movies that we have the privilege of enjoying seeing continued as a weekly animated series. More often than not these shows take great liberties with the source material. Character designs get changed; key elements are missing or added to the story. Sometimes these shows will transcend the very movie they are based on.
Here are my top ten animated series adapted from movies.
10. Ozzy & Drix (Osmosis Jones, Warner Bros.)
Ozzy & Drix is a 2002 animated series based on the 2001 Warner Bros. hybrid film Osmosis Jones. It stars Phil Lamarr in the place of Chris Rock as Jones and Jeff Bennett in the place of David Hyde Pierce as Drix.
The show pretty much follows the same premise as the film, with some adjustments. The most obvious of these would be the series' departure from live action scenes and running as a completely animated show. Other major changes are the City/Body that the characters inhabit, the supporting characters being changed, and the overall tone of the show being much more light and kid friendly than the movie. Even though the film and show were both met with moderate success, the series only ran for two seasons.
9. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Four Square Productions)
In the year 1978 the world was introduced to the low budget B movie Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. The film itself is a parody of the famous Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds. Even though, at the time of its release, the film was a complete failure, it would garner a cult following. This would lead the movie into a franchise with three more films, merchandising, and, of course, a Saturday morning cartoon. The cartoon series, which uses more elements from Return of the Killer Tomatoes, aired on Fox Kids in 1990. For the first season, plot-wise it was essentially the same as the movies. Differences were the changing of characters' ages, looks, and backstories. The show only lasted for two seasons due to the drastic changes it made from the first season to the second.
8. RoboCop: The Animated Series (RoboCop, Orion Pictures)
This 1988 animated series was adapted from the highly regarded 1987 film of the same name. A lot of significant changes were made from the movie to the series to make the show more child-friendly. The violence of the movie was toned down while the science fiction aspect of it was amped up. The core of each episode, much like most animated shows during that time, were lessons in morality for young viewers. This show was followed up by RoboCop: Alpha Commando. This series made even more changes than the first did and was also known for many continuity errors, unfortunately.
7. Men in Black: The Series (Men in Black, Sony Pictures)
MIB: The Series, which originally aired on Kids WB in 1997, differs from its film predecessor. Most notable is K continuing his career as an agent rather than being neuralyzed and retired. There were also heavy character redesigns and a complete overhaul of plot points. Keith Diamond sat in as Agent J for Will Smith and Ed O’Ross took on Agent K for the first season while Gregg Berger voiced the role in the second season in the absence of Tommy Lee Jones. The series was met with much success lasting up to four seasons and even winning a Daytime Emmy in 2002.
6. The Mask: Animated Series (The Mask, New Line Cinema)
Even though this series took more story plots and characters from its Dark Horse comic book counterpart, a lot of the imagery and the main characters' characterizations were adapted from the 1994 Jim Carrey film. Rob Paulsen, who voiced Stanley Ipkiss/The Mask, did a spot-on impression of Carrey's performance. The show had a much lighter tone than the movie and comic book and was very successful with three seasons and syndication on multiple channels. One more interesting note to add would be the series finale, where the show crossed over with another Carrey film-inspired animated series Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
5. Clerks: The Animated Series (Clerks, Miramax Films)
In 1994, (then) amateur writer/director Kevin Smith produced the black and white film Clerks. The fIlm is a play on a segment in Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy (from Dante’s Inferno) told in a modern-day setting with the everyday worker's life being a living hell. The animated series, however, did not follow this same theme, but rather presented itself as more of a situational comedy-meets-Looney Tunes. The show was extremely short-lived, only airing two episodes in its initial run, but yet widely successful due to re-airings on various channels and a DVD release. This series is the only one on the list to star its original cast with Brian O'Halloran, Jeff Anderson, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith all reprising their roles from the film.
4. Beetlejuice (Beetlejuice, Warner Bros.)
This cartoon series made a major departure from its 1988 source material, the first being the shifting of its main character from an antagonist to an antihero. Other changes are Lydia’s relationships with Beetlejuice and her parents, the absence of the Maitland couple, The Deetz personalities, the addition of several new characters, and an expanded Netherworld. The series was highly successful, running for four seasons and winning a Daytime Emmy award in 1990 for Outstanding Animated Program. The show is also notable for its use of the same musical score, directed by Danny Elfman, that was used in the film.
3. Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Star Wars films , Twentieth Century Fox)
The Star Wars franchise has been a part of just about everyone's childhood and that’s just the movies alone. So it comes as no surprise that George Lucas would have wanted to create his own animated series based on the films.
The Clone Wars wasn’t the first attempt to bring Star Wars to the small screen. Lucasfilms made Star Wars: Droids followed by Star Wars: Ewoks in 1985, and then in 2003 they produced Star Wars: Clone Wars, a micro series that takes place after the 2008 series in the SWEU. The series was greeted with great success, running for six seasons, winning eight awards out of many nominations. Actor Matt Lanter, who stars as Anakin Skywalker, has been held in much more higher regard than Hayden Christensen, the character's live-action complement.
The story is truly operatic, to the point of consistently keeping its audience captivated for seven years. The series has also hosted a great roster of Sci-fi-related cameos by such actors like Jon Favreau, Seth Green, James Marsters, Simon Pegg, Ron Perlman, Greg Proops, Katee Sackhoff, George Takei, David Tennant and Michael York. The show is also famous for Star Wars veteran actors reprising their roles or playing a new character altogether like Liam Neeson, Ahmed Best, Peter Mayhew, Samuel Witwer, Anthony Daniels, Pernilla August, Adrienne Wilkinson, Daniel Logan, and Mark Hamill.
2. The Real Ghostbusters (Ghostbusters, Columbia Pictures)
1984 brought us many great movies that would be the inspiration for some memorable animated series: Conan the Destroyer, Gremlins, The Karate Kid, The Muppets Take Manhattan, The NeverEnding Story, Police Academy and Back to The Future (which was in post-production at the time). But none of the spinoff animated series would have as lasting a mark as did 1989’s The Real Ghostbusters, which was the animated continuation of the film Ghostbusters.
Every week, fans would go on another adventure with their favorite “deadhead” hunters. The show wasn’t very different from the movie, the only changes being the absence of Dana Barrett, Slimer’s characterization in the show and the more-often included Winston Zeddmore. The original idea was to separate the characters in the show from the actors who played them in the movie by changing their appearance and voices. Voice actors Lorenzo Music, Frank Welker and Arsenio Hall took on the roles of Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, and Zeddmore, respectively. However, Maurice LaMarche, Laura Summer, and Rodger Bumpass, who were cast as Egon Spengler, Janine Melnitz, and Louis Tully, were practically spot-on impressions of Harold Ramis, Annie Potts, and Rick Moranis. Also, from the third season on, Dave Coulier took over for Music to give Venkman a more Bill Murray-sounding voice. The show would go through many changes over the course of its run, like Janine’s look and voice, departing from the film's canon, focusing more on Slimer, and changing to a lighter, family-friendly tone. The show ran for seven seasons and had two spinoff series.
1. Batman: The Animated Series (Batman, Warner Bros.)
Even though Batman: The Animated Series is not a direct animated adaptation of the 1989 Tim Burton film, it takes a lot of elements and ideas from it. A good majority of Bruce Timm’s character designs were based off of the ones in both Batman and Batman Returns. Eric Radomski's background design is based off of Anton Furst’s “Dark Deco” design of Gotham City. The music composed by Shirley Walker was inspired by and collaborated upon by Danny Elfman; Walker was also the conductor for the ‘89 film itself. Another element adapted from the ‘89 film was the use of a timeless noir look and feel to the overall design.
The voice casting for the series, not only critically but also publicly acclaimed, has set the standard for voice acting in comic book-adapted series, shorts, games, and movies. Kevin Conroy (Bruce Wayne/Batman) has often said how he was inspired by Michael Keaton's use of different tones in his voice for the different alter-egos. Bob Hastings (Commissioner Gordon) reinvented his character for a whole generation from a stereotypical side police liaison to a character with depth and complexity. Mark Hamill (The Joker)... I don't even think I have to say anything about that.
The series is responsible for many important changes to the comic book world. It reimagined characters like Two Face, Clock King, Clay Face, and Mister Freeze, changes that would follow them to all adaptations from then on. The show was also the birthplace of famous and beloved comic book characters like Renée Montoya and Harley Quinn. And those two characters are part of the reshaping of how women are portrayed in comic books altogether.
Through the years the show would go through many changes story- and design-wise. Even its title changed a few times from The Animated Series to The Adventures of Batman and Robin to The New Batman Adventures and finally The New Batman/Superman Adventures. The show also created an expanded universe for DC comics in animation (The DCAU). It has been nominated for and won multiple awards. It's been syndicated and released on DVD in many regions.
Well, these are just my favorites, but there are many others. A fun fact is that exactly half the shows on this list were created by the same people who created their film counterparts.