10 Great Cartoons Based On Hit Movies

At this point in entertainment’s timeline, adaptations can be based on just about anything under the sun, and they can similarly be presented as just about anything under the sun. Marvel recently unveiled test footage from their Guardians of the Galaxy Disney XD animated series, whose existence is based more on people’s love of the movie than the film itself (and obviously the comic series). It’s also a good time to remind everyone about Jerry Bruckheimer’s upcoming event series based on a Carrie Underwood song.

Below are ten most excellent examples of how a film can successfully get animated and not turn into a complete disaster, even if the series’ time at its network was indeed disastrous, as it sometimes was. A few guilty pleasure goodies like Rambo admittedly got left out, and I had to semantically force myself to turn Tales from the Cryptkeeper down, even though there was technically a Tales from the Crypt movie that came between the comic origins and the HBO series. Anyway, the main question here is: why are we walking like this?


Clerks: The Animated Series

Well before Clerks II gave donkey shows their fifteen minutes of fame, Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier and Seinfeld writer David Mandel created a perfect TV comedy in Clerks: The Animated Series, which only got a measly six episodes produced at ABC. The experience is one of those Kevin Smith horror stories that makes it easy to understand why he has no more patience for major studios. (The network only aired two out-of-order episodes.) Regardless, these are still six expertly crafted half-hours of comedy, in which the second episode is flashback episode all about the first one. Most of the cast voiced their cartoon counterparts, with Alec Baldwin stepping in as Leonardo Leonardo, a forward-thinking businessman villain. There are an abundance of meta pop culture moments - including references to Stand by Me and Korean animation - and the series also toys with sitcom tropes and storytelling in general. Plus, Charles Barkley is constantly getting emotionally shafted.



The Ghost with the Most is one of Michael Keaton's most iconic performances, so it wouldn't seem likely that an animated version of Beetlejuice's Netherworld would be a success. Yet I'd easily argue that the cartoon series is more memorable than the film, and not only because there were 94 glorious episodes to choose from. Developed for TV by director Tim Burton himself in 1989, Beetlejuice exchanged dark gothic weirdness for brightly colored gothic weirdness and gave children one playfully nightmarish situation after another. Alyson Court and Stephen Ouimette were excellent as Lydia and Beetlejuice, respectively, but it's the extended cast of oddities - like French skeleton Jacques LaLean and hairy cowboy The Monster Across the Street - and a healthy dose of animated wordplay that cement this as one of the funniest and most imaginatively macabre cartoons ever.


Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures

This is an another example of networks ruining a good thing with stupidity. Created in 1990 by Alyson Court (whom we talked about already), Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventures cut out some of the stoner subtext and foul language to bring the two most non-non-heinous time travelers to the small screen in animated form. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter reprised their roles as the titular duo, and George Carlin also came back as Rufus. To be expected, the series took the guys all over history and humorously introduced them to everyone from the Wright brothers to William Tell to Harriet Tubman. (When's the last time she was in a cartoon?) After one season, the series switched from CBS to Fox, who already had a live-action series in the works. (A terrible, terrible live action series.) So they switched the film's voice actors to the sitcom's cast and took it from there; though the episodes got weirder and were conceptually solid, it just wasn't the same. And then it got cancelled after eight more episodes. Someone should go back in time to change that entire sequence of events.



Yes, this is based on a movie that had more bullets and uses of the word "fuck" than I have hairs on my body. Marvel Productions' RoboCop: The Animated Series drops all the cursing and replaces guns with lasers, but it was still a fairly adult cartoon that sadly only lasted for twelve episodes from October to December 1988. The animated future of Detroit is more tech-heavy than the film, and Clarence Boddicker is still alive and well and leading his gang around on a mission to destroy shit. It was pretty dry on the hilarity, even by "Haha, this 1980s thing is funny" standards, but it's still a damned good time watching Dr. McNamara continue to try and one-up RoboCop in true villainous style. Plus, you can just add in your own curses to the show wherever you want them.



Set during the same between-the-trilogies time span as the recent Star Wars Rebels, the animated Star Wars spinoff Droids came and left far more quickly than one would have imagined, lasting a mere 13 episodes from 1985-1986. In comparison, its far more insufferable (to me) counterpart Ewoks debuted around the same time and got 35 episodes. Droids stuck with C-3PO, voiced by Anthony Daniels, and R2-D2 as they were snatched up by different masters and given different tasks to do, with an awful lot of it involving saving their masters from getting killed. One episode features Boba Fett and Jabba the Hutt, but the series' characters were mostly created outside the cinematic universe. I could do with a complete update of this series at some point during the onslaught of Star Wars features over the next decade.


Little Shop

Okay, so ironic enjoyment definitely mixes in with unironic enjoyment where the short-lived 1991 series Little Shop is concerned. It's based on the stage musical Little Shop of Horrors, which was itself based on Roger Corman's 1960 horror film .(Frank Oz turned the musical into a 1986 movie, so it fits here.) The animated series obviously deals some major changes to this story, including making Junior, the plant, born of an ancient seedling and not at all as murderous as it was in the films. It was a pretty good cartoon, all in all, as the stories had more of a youthful approach and made Seymour deal with bullies and stuff. But the must-see factor for Little Shop comes from the drastic idea to make Junior a rapper who speaks using hip-hop vernacular while Casio boom bap plays in the background. That doesn't mean all the musical segments were lameass rap songs or anything, but it makes Junior's presence especially fun to watch in an early '90s way.


The Pink Panther

Based on the titular character from the animated openings of Blake Edwards' Pink Panther movies, these imaginative and largely silent animations followed an actual pink panther doing the normal 1960s thing and getting into a bunch of different situations, like tangling with burglars and aggravating a gardener by replacing all of his flowers with pink ones. It was developed by animator Friz Freling, whose production team soon brought in The Inspector, based more directly on Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau, though that connection was never directly brought up. He was generally the straight man for his sillier partner Deux-Deux, but he face danger clumsily enough for the Clouseau comparison to stick. The genuinely enjoyable jokes and experimental animation style make both of these cartoons endlessly rewatchable, not to mention both of their instant earworm theme songs.


The Real Ghostbusters

In another case of a cartoon series masterfully outdoing its cinematic source material, The Real Ghostbusters took the paranormal investigators to some relatively frightening places for a 1986 cartoon. (I remember having a nightmare as a kid where the pumpkin-headed Samhain showed up instead of Santa Claus for Christmas.) Not all of it was shapeshifters and demons, though; Slimer later got his own short-lived tie-in series that was more geared towards younger viewers but was still silly enough to please older audiences. (Or me at least.) If the next Ghostbusters movie took its plot from one of these episodes, I'd be fine with that. Fun fact: the show has the bullheaded "Real" in its name to distinguish itself from the Filmation series Ghostbusters, which was based on the 1975 live-action TV series The Ghost Busters.


The Mask

1995 was a big year for cartoons based on Jim Carrey movies, and though Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Dumb and Dumber were also on the air at this point, the best of the bunch was arguably The Mask, based on a movie that owed part of its appeal to the history of animation in the first place. The Mask was already 40% cartoon, so bringing the other 60% along was easy enough, and the Tex Avery style just sends it over the top. For 55 episodes, the writers did just about everything imaginable that one could do with the Mask - other than let Jamie Kennedy wear it - and introduced a ton of new and interesting characters, most memorably the villainous Pretorius, voiced by Tim Curry. Still waiting on a cartoon that accurately adapts John Arcudi and Doug Mahnke's comic book series.


Back to the Future

Unattached from the film universe canon - because such things are important when dealing with time travel - the animated Back to the Future series did the natural thing and pitched its two leads Marty McFly and Doc Brown with a couple of kids, Doc's sons Jules and Verne, and everyone got to go on heroic adventures through the annals of history. Sometimes they're invested in the Salem Witch Trials, and sometimes they're playing baseball in the 19th century; but it always involves getting into and out of trouble with futuristic grace. Oddly enough, Christopher Lloyd appeared in the show's live-action segments as Doc Brown, but the animated version was voiced by Dan "Homer SImpson" Castellaneta. Though altogether not as good as the first two films, these 26 episodes might go over well with those who despise Back to the Future III.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.