9 great retro cartoons that need a live-action reboot | Virgin Media

9 great retro cartoons that need a live-action reboot


Whether it's down to calculated gambling on a built-in fanbase or the influence of nostalgia-addled studio executives, Hollywood has a long history of turning kids cartoons into live-action movies. The results have been varied, ranging from smash hits like 2002's Scooby-Doo to box-office failures-turned-cult hits like Masters of the Universe (1987). The success of the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot (whose sequel, Out of the Shadows, hits Sky Cinema from Friday 24th February) proves that the practice is set to continue, so we've assembled a list of nine other kids cartoons we'd like to see turned into live-action movies, with some casting suggestions thrown in for good measure. Are you listening, Hollywood?

1. Battle of the Planets (1978) 

Re-dubbed and re-edited from a Japanese anime called Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (1972), this cult favourite features five orphaned teenagers with superpowers and their slightly camp robot 7-Zark-7 fighting alien forces and protecting the Earth, with the aid of a spaceship that, oh yes, can transmute into a fiery flame-beast called The Phoenix. The combination of cool, futuristic gadgetry, thrilling space battles, a dastardly villain (Voltar) and likeable heroes makes this an irresistible prospect. Frankly, we're surprised it hasn't happened already.

Casting suggestions: Josh Hutcherson as Mark, Emma Roberts as Princess, Jacob Tremblay as Keyop.


2.  Dungeons & Dragons (1983)

Based on the popular role-playing game, this '80s classic focused on six teenage friends who were transported into a mystical realm after entering a Dungeons and Dragons fairground ride. Assigned various roles from the game (including Ranger, Thief, Magician and Barbarian), the children try to find their way home with the aid of their guide, the Dungeon Master, while evading the clutches of the evil Venger, one of the all-time great cartoon villains. Foolishly, when the time came to make a Dungeons and Dragons movie, Hollywood completely ignored the cartoon and went with some generic fantasy nonsense starring Jeremy Irons instead. It's time to correct that mistake.

Casting suggestions: Miles Teller as grumpy Erik, the Cavalier, Bradley James as Hank, the Ranger, Wallace Shawn as Dungeon Master


3. Hong Kong Phooey (1974)

To be fair, Hollywood's already taken a stab at a Hong Kong Phooey movie back in 2012, with Eddie Murphy voicing the titular crime-fighting pooch and a CGI cat playing Spot. However, the resulting test footage (see above) was so disastrous that everyone involved decided against the idea.  Still, that's not to say it couldn't be a lot of fun if it was done properly, perhaps as a parody of the '70s kung fu films and TV shows that inspired the original Hanna-Barbera cartoon.

Casting suggestions: Samuel L. Jackson as the voice of Hong Kong Phooey, John Goodman as Sarge, Kaley Cuoco as Rosemary the telephone operator


4.  Wacky Races (1968)

There have been a number of movies featuring different characters competing in a giant race, including the 1965 slapstick comedy The Great Race, which probably inspired Hanna-Barbera's wacky cartoon in the first place. With that in mind, there's no reason why a live-action version of Wacky Races couldn't be a huge success, with its blend of crazy cars and kooky characters. It even has built-in spin-off prospects, as The Perils of Penelope Pitstop and Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines (aka Catch The Pigeon) were both inspired by their characters in Wacky Races. 

Casting suggestions: Steve Carell as Dick Dastardly, Reese Witherspoon as Penelope Pitstop, James Franco as Peter Perfect


5. Thundercats (1985) 

In concept and execution, Thundercats was almost identical to the Masters of the Universe, only instead of...whatever He-Man was meant to be, the Thundercats were cat-like humanoid aliens, who were engaged in constant battle with the villainous demon-priest Mumm-Ra (another one of the all-time great cartoon villains). A cult favourite to anyone who grew up in the 1980s, Thundercats would be guaranteed a huge opening weekend at the very least. You'd have to do it properly though, with state-of-the-art CGI enhancements on the characters, otherwise it would end up looking like the world's worst cosplay convention. Also, Snarf has to go. 

Casting suggestions: Liam Hemsworth as Lion-O, Rachel McAdams as Cheetara, Willem Dafoe as Mumm-Ra


6. The Mysterious Cities of Gold (1982)  

Airing on Children's BBC in 1986 and 1987, The Mysterious Cities of Gold was a re-dubbed Japanese cartoon set in 1532, about three young adventurers searching for one of The Seven Cities of Gold in the New World, with the aid of their morally suspect navigator Mendoza and his two comedy henchmen, Sancho and Pedro. Featuring ethnically diverse characters and a plot that cleverly blended South American history, science-fiction and swash-buckling thrills, Mysterious Cities of Gold is just crying out for the big budget, effects-driven children's adventure movie treatment. Someone send Spielberg the DVD box set.

Casting suggestions: Timothy Olyphant as Mendoza, Luis Guzman in a dual role as Sancho and Pedro.


7. Inch-High Private Eye (1973)

One of Hanna-Barbera's weirder offerings, this 1973 cartoon centred on a tiny private detective who solved crimes with the aid of his niece Lori, her muscle-bound friend Gator and their dog Braveheart. They also had one of the cooler cartoon cars, a streamlined, noise-free vehicle called the Hushmobile. Marvel's Ant-Man proved that there's a lot of comic mileage in tiny heroes and this would work well in a similar vein. It would be worth making just for the title sequence, where “Uncle Inch” jumps on giant phone buttons to make a call or tries to keep his balance on the rim of a steering wheel. 

Casting suggestions: Steve Carell (again) as Inch High, Jane Levy as Lori, Dave Franco as Gator. 


8.  Speed Buggy (1973)

One of several “meddling kids” mystery shows that Hanna-Barbera developed after the success of Scooby-Doo, Speed Buggy centred on an anthropomorphic dune buggy who solved crimes with the aid of his three friends, Mark, Debbie and Tinker (who looks so much like Shaggy that you wonder if they're related). Basically, it's a talking car movie and who doesn't love a talking car movie? He even has his own catchphrase: “Vroom-a-zoom-zoom!” Also, one of his enemies was a giant gorilla called Kingzilla, so it has to happen for that alone.

Casting suggestions: Matthew Lillard as Tinker, Freddie Prinze Jr as Mark, Sarah Michelle Gellar as Debbie.  


9.  Secret Squirrel (1965)

Hanna-Barbera's series about super-spy Secret Squirrel and his Peter Lorre-like assistant Morocco Mole was a direct spoof of the James Bond movies, with plenty of amusingly silly gadgets (collapsible car, hat cannon, machine gun cane, etc) and direct Bond jokes like their arch enemy being called Yellow Pinkie, or Secret Squirrel being known as Agent 000. The live-action version would be admittedly tricky to pull off, given the size issues involved (he was human-sized rather than squirrel-sized), but worth it for the merciless kicking you could give the Bond franchise in the process. Probably best not to have him driving around in a car with “SS” written on it though.

Casting suggestions: Bill Hader as the voice of Secret Squirrel, Steve Buscemi as Morocco Mole, Toby Jones as Yellow Pinkie