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'80s cartoon movies that should have been made instead of 'The Smurfs'

What the Smurf? 

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that the endless promos for the upcoming “Smurfs” movie have been painful. I mean, even Neil Patrick Harris can’t save the day here.

But the relaunch of “The Smurfs” got me thinking — which other 1980s cartoons should have been made into films before the wee blue folks?

Here are my top five picks.

•••• “Muppet Babies”


Why it’s better than “The Smurfs”: As the theme song states, these babies make their dreams come true. Inspiring.

Movie potential: Classic fish-out-of-water tale. The babies break out of the nursery (and stop whining about fearful stuff like going to the dentist) and head out into the real world (i.e.: the outdoors). Time for these kiddies to grow up ... and grow up fast. Jason Segel, who’s heading up the upcoming “Muppets” film reboot, should consider this as a heart-warming prequel.

•••• “Gummi Bears”

Aired: 1985-1991

Why it’s better than “The Smurfs”: Reminds us that ogres are bad. And there’s the important cautionary tale — humans force the Gummi Bears into exile because they’re jealous of their Gummi skills. Can’t we all just get along with candy creatures?

Movie potential: Intense “Avatar”-style drama. Heavy-handed  live-and-let-live lesson + a war between Gummi Glen denizens and a human/ogre alliance = good popcorn flick with a message. Plus, we hear David Faustino, who voiced good human Calvin in Season 3, is available.

•••• “Denver, the Last Dinosaur”

Aired: 1988-1990

Why it’s better than “The Smurfs”: Um, a dinosaur. Who skateboards. Rad! In this unforgettable  series, a group of interracial Cali teens (tolerance lesson!) take in a friendly dino and protect it from evil promoter Morton Fizzback. Plus, I’ve always had  a soft spot for the character Shades. He wears sunglasses. See what they did there?

Movie potential: Big-budget summer flick. Let’s get Steven Spielberg on board to render an awesome Denver, Christoph Waltz to play the evil Fizzback and Keanu Reeves signed on as Shades. Plus, 3-D skateboarding? Unfortunately, yes.

•••• “Jem”

Aired: 1985-1988

Why it’s better than “The Smurfs”: Jem can do it all. And be two people. She’s not only music company owner Jerrica Benton, but also her singing alter-ego Jem, a persona she morphs into with help of a holographic computer called Synergy. Still with me? This somehow made sense to children.

Movie potential: Singing! Dancing! Holograms! Plus rival music groups the Misfits and the Stingers add much-needed dramatic situations. Jerrica even finds time to not only run foster program the Starlight Foundation for Girls, but house the girls in a mansion. Cameron Crowe, work your music-movie magic on this one (“Truly Outrageous” theme song by Adele).

•••• “ThunderCats”

Aired: 1985-1990

Why it’s better than “The Smurfs”: Where do I begin? First, there’s its general
badassery. There’s no question about that. Then there’s the refuses-to-die, awesomely named bad guy Mumm-Ra. Finally, is there anyone who didn’t want to be young hero Lion-O or Cheetara? This series was so cool I even overlooked countless lines from annoying sidekick Snarf.

Movie potential: This one has “X-Men”-esque written all over it (imagine the casting call for Cheetara alone). Hopefully, Cartoon Network’s relaunch of the series (brand new episodes start Friday) could fast-track a feature film since one has been discussed for some time. Michael Bay is salivating in the wings.

Jordan Bartel is assistant editor at b. Email him at or follow him on Twitter, @jordanbartel

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