Entertainment & Arts

The live-action remakes that should have been left alone

Jetsons Image copyright YouTube/WarnerBros

Classic 1960s cartoon The Jetsons is set to return to screens, but as a live-action series rather than an animated reboot.

The futuristic Hanna-Barbera show, originally set in 2062, followed a family living in a space city.

But would audiences - and critics - appreciate an updated Jetsons with actual people?

Live-action cartoon adaptations on the big screen historically haven't been met with much praise, so perhaps a TV version will fare better.

Here's a look at some of the cartoon adaptations that were probably best left alone.

Scooby-Doo (2002) - $84m budget

Image copyright REX/Shutterstock
  • Opening weekend $54.1m
  • $153.3m US domestic takings
  • $275.6m worldwide takings

On paper, a Scooby-Doo movie is a great idea - mystery, suspense, a talking dog and those pesky kids.

Audiences flocked to see it in its opening weekend, but were mostly left underwhelmed.

Empire said: "Anyone looking for sophistication from a movie which features a two minute-long farting contest between man and CG dog is going to be sorely disappointed."

Its healthy box office receipts led studio bosses to make a critically panned sequel two years later.

Casper (1995) - $50m budget

Image copyright YouTube/Universal
  • Opening weekend $22m
  • $100.3m US domestic takings
  • $287.9m worldwide takings

Originally starting out as a comic, the live action film version was based on the 1950s and '60s cartoons about the friendly ghost.

"Duller than a dead man's eyes," was the Washington Post's appraisal of the film starring Christina Ricci.

While Entertainment Weekly concluded: "The movie version is like the cartoon without innocence - a fairy tale with the soul of a re-run."

The Flintstones (1994) - $46m budget

Image copyright REX/Shutterstock
  • Opening weekend $29.7m
  • $130.5m US domestic takings
  • $341.6m worldwide takings

Boasting a great cast including John Goodman, Rick Moranis and Elizabeth Taylor, The Flintstones was highly anticipated when it was released.

It performed reasonably well at the US box office and really flew internationally. But that didn't mean people liked it.

"It isn't just awful. It bombs itself into the Stone Age. As Fred Flintstone might have put it: Yabba-dabba-boo," the Washington Post said.

It also spawned a sequel - Viva Rock Vegas - which without the original cast no-one wanted to see, opening to a meagre $10.5m and taking $59.5m worldwide.

Smurfs (2011) - $110m budget

Image copyright YouTube/Sony
  • Opening weekend $35.6m
  • $142.6m US domestic takings
  • $563.7m worldwide

The little blue guys who stand three apples high had been a global hit in the 1980s so it was only a matter of time before they got the big screen treatment.

With a staggering $110m budget, you might have expected a cinematic masterpiece.

"103 minutes of utter tripe," was the Daily Mail's mauling, but that didn't stop a $105m sequel in 2013, which effectively bombed in the US, taking $71m.

Masters of the Universe (1987) - budget unknown

Image copyright YouTube/Warner Home Video
  • Opening weekend $4.9m
  • $17.3m US domestic takings

A movie version of He-Man! A hit cartoon with a massively popular toy range behind it. What could possibly go wrong?

"You couldn't get a more polyethylene performance than Dolph Lundgren gives," the LA Times scathed. "A misfiring, underdone epic."

Jem and the Holograms (2015) - $5m budget

Image copyright YouTube/Universal
  • Opening weekend $1.38m
  • $2.2m US domestic takings
  • $2.3m worldwide takings

Possibly the worst performing cartoon to live-action adaptation made, Jem had a hard time from the moment its trailer was released.

Fans were not happy with what they saw and voted with their feet at the box office. Another problem was the young female market it was targeted at were too young to actually know or care about who Jem was in the first place.

It was a disastrous flop, taking just $2.3m worldwide with the critics almost universally found no redeeming features.

"It takes a cartoon that was originally about a group of women who unquestionably held power and turns it into a tale of a meek and weak-willed young woman who is arbitrarily given fame and holds zero agency except for that which is granted to her by the men in her life," Forbes said.

Ouch.

Garfield (2004) - $50m budget

Image copyright YouTube/20th Century Fox
  • Opening $21.7m
  • $75.4m US domestic takings
  • $200.8m worldwide takings

You know a film is bad when even the actors start to distance themselves from it.

And that's what Bill Murray did, famously joking in Zombieland about his voice role in Garfield when asked of any regrets.

BBC Films called it "a misguided attempt to construct a feature-length vehicle around a cartoon creation who was barely tolerable over three panels - the result is not so much catnip as catnap".

Sadly a sequel followed, taking a meagre $7.3m in its opening weekend and $28.4m domestically in the US.

Inspector Gadget (1999) - $90m budget

Image copyright YouTube/Disney
  • Opening $21.9m
  • $97.4m US domestic takings
  • $134.4m worldwide takings

Loved by many in the 1980s, the bumbling Swiss Army knife detective seemed perfect for the big screen.

But the Matthew Broderick film was a box office flop which after costs, wouldn't have made back its budget.

Critics universally panned it, with The Guardian describing it as: "Mad and headache-inducing: boisterous kids will like it; adults might feel the need to lie down in a darkened room."

Yogi Bear (2010) - $80m budget

Image copyright YouTube/Warner Bros
  • Opening $16.4m
  • $100.2m US domestic takings
  • $201.6m worldwide takings

Another Hanna-Barbera cartoon to be given the live-action treatment, the picnic-stealing bear failed to set the world alight with USA Today proclaiming he "needs to go back into hibernation".

It took $16.4m in its first three days, compared to Tron Legacy's $44m the same weekend.

There were very few positive reviews; most were savage with Empire asking: "What drug did they use on Justin Timberlake to make him sign on as Boo-Boo?"

Transformers (2007) - $150m budget

Image copyright YouTube/Paramount
  • Opening $70.5m
  • $319.2m US domestic takings
  • $709.7m worldwide takings

The film that bucks the trend of failed cartoon/live-action adaptations is Transformers - a franchise which has so far spawned five movies.

Critics were generally split on the merits of the first film - "the script may have rubbery legs, but the action is rock-hard," Empire said.

As the films have gone on, the reviews have progressively got worse, but that hasn't stopped audiences going to cinemas in their droves to see Optimus Prime and his band of Autobots save the world.

The third and fourth Transformers movies both took more than $1bn at the global box office - a figure most movie studios can only dream of.


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