'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 jordan@bthesite.com or follow him on Twitter, @jordanbartel

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