6 Movies Based on Popular 80s Cartoon Shows

In a time before streaming and ‘on-demand’ television, Saturday mornings were spent, almost exclusively, by children binge-watching the plethora of cartoon TV shows. From iconic Marvel heroes to Hanna Barbera and Disney Classics, everyone had a favorite. Like most things, as popularity increased as did the opportunity to develop franchises and increase revenue. Soon characters that originated from 80s cartoon shows were adorning T-shirts, posters and lunch boxes and were soon releasing music singles and lending their likeness to action figures and becoming a part of the developing world of video games.

Naturally, Hollywood and the movie industry wanted a piece of the pie, and soon it would seem that almost every popular cartoon series from the 80s was being developed into a big screen movie adaptation from Disney’s attempts at bringing Inspector Gadget into a live-action setting to the multiple Alvin and the Chipmunks or Smurfs movies that have been released over the years. Many were considered to be quick cash grabs and have been forgotten over time. A number, though, have left an indelible mark on Hollywood. Below are 6 of the most noteworthy movies based on popular 80s cartoon shows.

Related: Best Movies Expanded From TV Shows, Ranked

6 Garfield

Garfield, 20th Century
20th Century

Garfield is notorious for being named by Bill Murray as being his biggest regret right before he was killed off in Zombieland. He has also explained that he only agreed to voice the titular character because he believed the script to have been written by Joel Coen of the highly lauded Coen Brothers, but later found out it was Joel Cohen (of no relation, whatsoever). Despite these attempts to distance himself from the movie, he did reprise his role for a sequel a few years later.

Garfield, the slovenly, lasagne loving, Monday hating tubby cat, first made his appearance in the Garfield comic strips in the late 70s. It was later adapted into the mega popular Saturday morning cartoon series Garfield and Friends in the late 80s, whose success led to production of the aforementioned live action / animation hybrid movies.

5 Masters of the Universe

He Man, Cannon Group
Cannon Group

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, the animated television series was originally based on Mattel’s toy line Masters of the Universe. The show, often referred to as simply He-Man, was one of the most popular animated shows of the 1980s, and, despite a number of reboot attempts in recent years, has never reached the same heights. Its huge popularity in the 80s ensured that a feature length movie was inevitable. This came in the form of Masters of the Universe: The Motion Picture starring Dolph Lundgren as He-Man. Unfortunately, despite achieving a cult following over the years, the film was criticized for being uneven in tone, predictable and derivative, and it failed to create a splash at the box office.

4 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema

Even more so than He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, the heroes in a half shell – Leonardo, Donatello, Michelangelo and Raphael – became peak 80s pop culture icons. What started off as a popular comic strip quickly became an uber popular animated TV series. From then on the world was treated to everything from countless action figures, lunch boxes, video games and of course movie adaptations. There’s been many of these over the years, and depending on the era you were raised in, there will be a different movie which resonates with you the most. There was the big budget reboot of 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and its sequel Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (2016) and before that the 2007 CGI animated TMNT. Before all of these, though, was the first move adaptation, the 1990 live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The movie received mixed reviews from critics, and a lot of people felt a little uneasy at the sight of the live action re-imagined Ninja Turtles, but despite this, the movie was a huge commercial success and went on to spawn two sequels, released in the 90s.

3 Transformers

Transformers, Paramount
Paramount Pictures

Like He-Man, the Transformers animated TV show was actually based on a toy range (this time it was warring intergalactic robots that can transform into vehicles and other objects). And like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Transformers were everywhere in the 80s and 90s. The series became so popular that an animated feature length movie was released in 1986, which went on to achieve cult status. The franchise received a huge resurgence in popularity when renowned director Michael Bay helmed the blockbuster live-action reboot Transformers in 2007 starring Shia LaBeouf. The movie went on to gross over $ 700 million prompting Bay to direct four sequels. There’s also a spin off, Bumblebee, that was released in 2018, as well as a seventh installment Transformers: Rise of the Beasts which is scheduled to be released in 2023.

Related: These Are the Top 10 Strongest G1 Transformers, Ranked

2 DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp

DucktTales Movie, Walt Disney
Walt Disney

This 1990 American animated adventure fantasy was based on the animated television series DuckTales, which was a Saturday morning staple of a whole generation of kids. Based on the Middle Eastern folklore of Aladdin and the magical lamp, the movie follows the treasure hunting adventures of Disney favorites Huey, Dewey, Louie and Webby and their miserly but lovable uncle Scrooge. The movie received overwhelmingly positive reception from critics and was praised for its lush animation and engaging script, but unfortunately it underperformed at the box office resulting in the cancellation of future proposed sequels. The movie is, however, receiving a new lease of life, streaming on Disney +.

1 The Simpsons Movie

the-simpsons-movie-20th Century
20th Century

Starting out as a collection of animated shorts that became a part of The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987, after three seasons the sketch was developed into a half-hour prime-time show and the rest is history. Still going strong today, Time named it the 20th century’s best television series and the Simpson family has even been awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It has won countless awards since its inception in the late 80s including 34 Primetime Emmy Awards, 34 Annie Awards, and 2 Peabody Awards. After nearly 20 years of the TV series, a movie adaptation featuring Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie was finally brought to the big screen in The Simpsons Movie. The movie was a critical and commercial success being praised in particular for its voice work, use of political satire and development of supporting characters from the show

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