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Attack of the 1980s Cartoons

26 Jul, 2009 By: John Latchem


In the 1980s, a loosening of restrictions on toy advertising opened the floodgates for cartoons based on popular toy lines. Many of these are still staples of toy shelves everywhere, such as Hasbro’s Transformers, G.I. Joe and My Little Pony lines.

While live-action film versions of 1980s cartoons have had mixed success before (the 1999 Inspector Gadget movie grossed $134.4 million worldwide), the enormous earnings of 2007’s Transformers ($708.3 million worldwide) may have started a cottage industry. Already this year we have a Transformers sequel and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, as well as reports of additional popular cartoon adaptations all over the Internet.

Given that today’s filmmakers grew up with these toys and cartoons, it’s not hard to see why such movies are taking root now.

“People latch onto what they grew up with,” says Matt Senreich, co-creator of “Robot Chicken,” which thrives on parodies of 1980s toys and cartoons. “It’s the same reason they’ll remake movies from the 1960s. That’s what filmmakers are comfortable with.”

Adds Brian Ward, DVD producer for Shout! Factory’s new “Transformers” and  “G.I. Joe” boxed sets: “We are not our parents’ generation. We didn’t need to ‘grow up’ immediately after college. We have a fond appreciation for these franchises, and now we have children, and we want to share the things we grew up on with them.”

In Development

According to IMDb.com, several live-action movies based on 1980s animated series, which are out on DVD, could be headed to a theater near you:


Toymaker: Matchbox, Toynami, among others
Original Run: 1984-86
DVD:  Media Blasters
The success of Transformers makes Voltron a no-brainer. A film version, about five robot lions that combine into a robot warrior, is slated for 2011.


Toymaker: Matchbox, Bandai, Toynami, among others
Original Run: 1985
Warner Bros. has a big-screen version slated for 2012, reportedly with Tobey Maguire as a producer and penned by “Smallville” scribes Alfred Gough and Miles Millar.


Toymaker: LJN
Original Run: 1985-86
DVD:  Warner
Though a movie is slated for 2010, a popular fan trailer pieced together from other movies (with deft editing and effects) is making the rounds on YouTube, with Brad Pitt as Lion-O.


He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Toymaker: Mattel
Original Run: 1983-84
Slated for 2011, Grayskull hopes for better results than the poorly received 1986 adaptation starring Dolph Lundgren.




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