Check out 10 Saturday morning TV series that inspired blockbuster movies

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Nov 10, 2020, 6:28 PM EST (Updated)

Land of the Lost, which opened today in theaters nationwide, isn't the first film to be based on a Saturday morning television series. Hollywood has been trying to mine gold for years from those sometimes classic, sometimes campy shows we watched back when Saturday meant grabbing a bowl of Lucky Charms and vegging out on the couch for hours.

Some movies have proven that it's possible to take yesterday's TV and successfully reinvent it for modern audiences. But without a decent script, a cast of skilled actors and a team of expert CGI experts, the final product can also end up as nothing more than the regurgitation of an old idea for the sake of merchandising.

With that in mind, here are 10 movies, produced over the course of nearly three decades, that have been adapted for the big screen from our childhood favorites. Some translated well, managing to capture the whimsy of the originals, while others ... didn't.

POPEYE (1980)

The TV Show: The animated series followed the life of Popeye, a sailor who gained superhuman strength from eating canned spinach, and his often supernatural adventures around the world battling such enemies as the Sea Hag and the pirate Bluto. Popeye the Sailor was adapted from the original 1929 comic strip Thimble Theatre.

The Film: The sailor Popeye arrives in the strange little seaside town of Sweet Haven, where he meets the soon-to-be love of his life, Olive Oyl, a hamburger-loving man named Wimpy and a brutish pirate named Bluto whose one desire is to punish Sweet Haven and its residents. With the power of a can of spinach, Popeye of course saves Sweet Haven from Bluto's wrath and even manages to find his long-lost Pappy and the abandoned baby Swee'Pea while he's at it.

Why we loved the original: The classic animation and simple themes made for an original and charming cartoon.

Did the adaptation work?: Yes. Thanks to the comedic powers and brilliant character-acting abilities of Robin Williams (Popeye), Shelley Duval (Olive Oyl) and Paul L. Smith (Bluto), the story of Popeye causes the film to come to life in a brilliant and endearing way. The film is quirky, sweet and slightly ridiculous, just like the original cartoons, carrying that odd campiness that is so distinct in humorous musical '80s films.


The TV Show: The 1980s cartoon series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles focused on four humanoid turtles trained in the arts of Ninjitsu by a sensei rat named Master Splinter. They live in the sewers below Manhattan and battle every type of assailant from petty thieves to alien invaders.

The Film: After coming into contact with a mysterious substance called Ooze, four normal turtles mutate into humanoid, pizza-loving turtle creatures in New York. Educated by a rat by the name of Splinter in the ways of Ninjitsu, they must unite in order to confront the Shredder and the Foot Clan.

Why we loved the original: Its pseudo-Japanime style and cute catchphrases certainly captured the imaginations of an entire generation. Cowabunga, dude!

Did the adaptation work?: No. The goofy, juvenile humor that underscored nearly every scene in the cartoon is lost in the live-action version, dissolving from campy to downright unbearable as it's delivered by the actors in rubber ninja turtle costumes. The entire film reeks of low-budget mass franchising that is soulless and spiritless, a blatant marketing gimmick to capitalize on the merchandising aspect of the cartoon.


The TV Show: Inspired by the work of cartoonist Charles Addams, The Addams Family satirizes the "ideal American family" by portraying an eccentric, macabre and extremely wealthy family who are clueless about how they differ from mainstream America.

The Film: An unscrupulous doctor discovers the fact that Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) has been missing for 25 years and attempts to insert his own son as a duplicate Fester in order to secure a portion of the Addams' wealth.

Why we loved the original: The Addams Family is still one of the most original television programs ever aired, especially for the time period in which it was conceived. The humor is pricelessly macabre, the comedic timing perfect and the characters so lovingly twisted that, perhaps, they remind us all a bit too much of members of our own family.

Did the adaptation work?: Yes. Due to how deeply ingrained the characters are in the international human psyche, casting was crucial, and with Anjelica Huston as Morticia, Raul Julia as Gomez and Christina Ricci as Wednesday, it was obvious that director Barry Sonnenfeld was well aware of this. The film stayed true to the original spirit of the television show, with campy, dark one-liner humor, near-identical duplication of original, unmistakable costumes and a masterful re-envisioning of The Addams Family's macabre manor.


The TV Show: The animated series The Flintstones follows a working-class Stone Age man named Fred Flintstone and his family as they lead a suburban existence in the community of Bedrock. The show originally aired in 1960 and was syndicated until the mid-1990s.

The Film: Due to a mixup in test scores, Fred Flintstone obtains an executive position at the Slate and Co. rock mining company, where he works with his friend Barney. He thinks this is his dream job until he realizes he is being manipulated by Cliff Vandercave to be the fall guy for an embezzlement scheme.

Why we loved the original: The concept was creative and original, with sassy but sweet humor and multilayered characters that made each episode memorable and timeless.

Did the adaptation work?: Yes. Not only was the cast expertly selected with such actors as Elizabeth Perkins (Wilma), Rick Moranis (Barney Rubble), Rosie O'Donnell (Betty Rubble) and Elizabeth Taylor (Pearl Slaghoople), but the movie stuck true to its original, sweet and simple artistic concept. The sets and props, populated with Muppet-esque dinosaurs, were larger than life and constructed with a plasticized texture that gave them an animated feel. The costumes were near-direct replicas of the original cartoon, down to Wilma's oversized white stone necklace. The end product was a film that could be enjoyed by both young and older audiences.


The TV Show: Originally aired in 1969, with several versions developed over the decades, the animated series follows the wild supernatural adventures of Mystery Inc., a group of teenage investigators, their hippie friend Shaggy and his goofy talking Great Dane, Scooby-Doo.

The Film: Mystery Inc. have been separated for two years when they receive invitations to meet up at Spooky Island. Not realizing all have been invited, they arrive and quickly discover that the amusement park on the island is affecting the visitors in very strange ways.

Why we loved the original: The mere mention of "Why, it's Old Man Witherspoon!" or "Scooby snacks" instantly conjures up fond memories of the cheesy, poorly animated series about a pack of mystery-investigating teenagers. While the animation was crude, the show itself was cute, predictable and always entertaining.

Did the adaptation work?: No. With the exception of Matthew Lillard, who played Shaggy, the casting was completely wrong, and it was painfully obvious that the actors had neither an enthusiasm for the show nor the remote capability of properly reinventing the classic characters. To make matters worse, the CGI animation style used to create Scooby-Doo was poorly executed, to the point where the lovable Great Dane took on a creepy, disturbing quality.


The TV Show: Inspired by the comic strip Garfield by Jim Davis, the animated series Garfield & Friends follows the interaction between a spoiled, sarcastic and gluttonous cat named Garfield, a goofy dog named Odie and their average, disillusioned owner, John. The animated series ran on Saturday mornings from 1988 until 1994.

The Film: In a desperate attempt to impress the local vet, John Arbuckle, Garfield's owner, adopts a dog, named Odie. When Odie is dog-napped, Garfield does something completely out of character and launches a search for his supposed canine rival.

Why we loved the original: Garfield, one of my all-time favorite cartoon characters, was sarcastic, rude, lazy, gluttonous and irreverent, a true cat of cats, so to speak. The humor was priceless and the animation sharp, causing it to appeal not only to the younger audience of the time but to older generations as well.

Did the adaptation work?: Mixed. This is not necessarily a film that most adults would enjoy, but it can be appreciated for the kid appeal. For a true fan of the comic strip, Garfield is not cranky, wry, belligerent or sarcastic enough. John is not desperate or despondent, like the comic or cartoon version; in the film he is goofy and lovable and rather clueless. However, all in all, it turned out to be a good family film.


The TV Show:: Created, produced and hosted by comedian Bill Cosby, the 1970s' animated series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids followed a group of kids called the Junkyard Gang living in the ghetto, and dealt with common youth issues such as stage fright, first loves and skipping school.

The Film: A rather large boy named Fat Albert and his friends Rudy, Mushmouth, Bill, Dumb Donald, Russell and Weird Harold "fall" out of their TV world into the real world. Fat Albert attempts to help a young girl, Doris, make friends. Everything appears normal until Doris' older sister, Lauri, talks Fat Albert's friends into believing that he may never want to return to his cartoon world again.

Why we loved the original: Fat Albert, with its fun, easygoing characters, tapped into the slapstick, laid-back attitude of the generation it was conceived in.

Did the adaptation work?: No. This movie is a prime example that what was hip and stylish two decades ago is not necessarily transferable to the modern era. The over-the-top exaggerated characters that worked perfectly in animation became tiresome and boring when produced in a live-action format.


The TV Show: Inspired by the 1970s' Japanese toy lines of Microman and Diaclone, and the later Transformers comic-book series, the animated show followed the story of the planet of Cybertron, where a war was being waged between the noble Autobots and the dangerous Decepticons for control over the Allspark, a mystical talisman that would grant unlimited power to whoever possessed it.

The Film: The first of the new Transformers feature films introduces us to to the human teenager Sam (Shia LaBeouf), who has been drawn into the center of an apocalyptic war between the Autobots and Decepticons as they return to Earth in search of the Allspark.

Why we loved the original: While the actual animation left something to be desired, just as many of the mainstream animations of the 1980s did, the concept of the series itself was designed around a clear good-versus-evil plotline that was easily digestible by its young audience. And big honking robots are cool!

Did the adaptation work?: Yes. With the keen directorial expertise of Michael Bay and the brilliant screenwriting of such creative talents as Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, it was destined to be a classic. While casting did play a key role in the success of the 2007 production, with such actors as Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox, who gave it a fresh, hip face, the true defining elements of Transformers were the clever screenwriting and awe-inspiring CGI animation that took the clunky, often cheesy, 1980s cartoon characters and breathed an unprecedented fierce life force into the Titan-like mechanized aliens we had grown up with. The end result was a movie that succeeded in captivating audiences and cultivating a whole new generation of Transformers fans.


The TV Show: Underdog follows the courageous and often ridiculous adventures of a beagle with superhero powers and the ability to speak. He battles such villains as Simon Bar Sinister and Riff Raff, fighting for his love interest Sweet Polly Purebred. The Underdog animated series ran from 1964 until it was syndicated in 1973.

The Film: Underdog is the tale of an ex-bomb-sniffing beagle named Shoeshine who is injected with an experimental elixir by a mad scientist, which incidentally gives him superpowers and the ability to speak. Shoeshine uses his powers to protect his human family and the citizens of Capitol City from the evil Simon Barsinister.

Why we loved the original: The cartoon employed a unique (for the time) animation style and a simple, moral-driven concept for each episode.

Did the adaptation work?: No. There are a few quasi-adorable moments. Even though the hilarious comedic talent of Jason Lee (Chasing Amy, My Name Is Earl) was employed as the voice of Underdog himself, the campy humor was unfortunately lost in the shadow of the often bizarrely animated movements of the actor-dog. Though it is not a complete disaster, there is something particularly creepy about blending CGI animation over an actual living creature, such as a dog, to make it appear that it is speaking or flying.


The TV Show: Speed Racer is the English adaptation of the Japanese manga Mach Go Go Go, and focuses on a teenage race-car driver named Speed Racer who wants to become a professional racer despite his father's disapproval.

The Film: Speed Racer is a young man with a keen ability to race cars. When Speed rejects an offer by Royalton Industries, he uncovers a secret that top corporate interests are fixing races and cheating to gain profit.

Why we loved the original: Speed Racer was simple, sharp anime at its best.

Did the adaptation work?: No. There was very little actual plot to the original Speed Racer animated series to begin with, and, thus, the feature film consisted of barely more than one flashy race scene after another. While it was a visually pretty movie, it was hardly a tolerable reinvention of the story, and it did little to inspire new enthusiasm in younger audiences or nostalgia in older ones.

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