When Classic Cartoons Get the Live-Action Treatment
‘The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water’ is just the latest example of a growing trend that finds popular cartoons being adapted into live-action movies. As we await SpongeBob's return to the big screen, let’s look back at a few more animated-to-live-action projects that made waves.
Masters of the Universe (1987)
Former ‘Rocky IV’ villain Dolph Lundgren was tapped to play the most powerful man in the universe, in this adaptation of the popular toy line/animated series. Unfortunately, He-Man's stock had fallen considerably by 1987, and the film wasn't as a big a hit at the box office. Still, Frank Langella's Skeletor alone makes this live-action He-Man flick worth watching.
The Flintstones (1994)
John Goodman and Rick Moranis were perfectly cast as Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, respectively. The film was a hit with moviegoers, though its belated prequel, ‘The Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas,’ was DOA in 2000.
Christina Ricci stars as Kat Harvey in this adaptation, while Malachi Pearson voiced the spectral hero. In addition to being an entertaining comedy, ‘Casper’ impressed with its use of CG ghost effects.
George of the Jungle (1997)
Brendan Fraser found the perfect vehicle for his charming looks and comedic talents with this adaptation of the Tarzan spoof. The film offered a good-natured, over-the-top take on the classic “fish out of water” formula, sort of like a more slapstick version of ‘Crocodile Dundee.’ Sadly, Fraser didn't return for the sequel.
Mr. Magoo (1997)
Disney followed up the release of ‘George of the Jungle’ with another live-action update of an old cartoon icon. Unfortunately, ‘Mr. Magoo’ was met with a far chillier reception. Even with master comedian Leslie Nielson in the titular role, the film failed to amuse critics or moviegoers.
Inspector Gadget (1999)
‘Inspector Gadget’ was mildly successful at the box office, but panned by both critics and Inspector Gadget purists (yes, there is such a thing). The film was criticized for the many changes it made to the cartoon, not least of which being that Dr. Claw's face is shown.
Scooby Doo (2002)
The Mystery Inc. gang have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity over the last decade, and their 2002 film played no small part in that. This live-action update picks up two years after the gang has split, forcing them to work together again to solve a new spooky mystery. Matthew Lillard's Shaggy and the CG Scooby were especially memorable – and quotable, too.
Alvin and the Chipmunks (2007)
Love them or hate them, the Chipmunks are bigger than ever thanks to their live-action revival. Jason Lee stars as Dave, struggling songwriter and father to three precocious chipmunks destined for pop stardom. The first ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ was so successful that it’s since spawned two sequels, with a third on the way.
Speed Racer (2008)
Emile Hirsch stars as Speed Racer, while Christina Ricci plays his girlfriend, Trixie, and ‘Lost’s’ Matthew Fox plays the mysterious Racer X. Though it initially received mixed reviews upon release, ‘Racer’ has developed a cult following thanks to its strong performances and bedazzling special effects.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)
Two decades after the ‘Masters of the Universe’ misfire, another iconic '80s franchise found much greater success in live-action. Channing Tatum and Marlon Wayans headline this origin story of the G.I. Joe/Cobra conflict. Dwayne Johnson enlisted for the 2013 sequel, ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation,’ and a third film is on the way.
The Last Airbender (2010)
Expectations were high for this adaptation, as it combined a wildly popular animated series with the director of ‘The Sixth Sense.’ Unfortunately, M. Night Shyamalan's take missed its intended bullseye with both audiences and critics.
The Smurfs (2011)
Like several films on this list, ‘The Smurfs’ combined computer-animated characters with real-world locales and actors -- including Hank Azaria as the evil Gargamel, and Neil Patrick Harris as a helpful New Yorker. A sequel followed in 2013.
The only thing bigger than the cartoon and toy line from Hasbro is Michael Bay’s film series based on everyone’s favorite “robots in disguise.” Four movies in – with a fifth on the way – Optimus Prime and friends are some of Hollywood’s most consistent earners at the box office.
Purchase ANY ticket with Fandango & receive a link for a free kids LEGOLAND® admission ticket (up to $134 value) with the purchase of a full-price adult admission ticket to LEGOLAND®.
Not a member? Join now or during checkout - it's free!