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by Noel Wood

Well, they finally went off and did it. The world of Computer Animation has finally gotten good enough to make a live-action Transformers movie. In the last few weeks or so, the announcement of such a movie has been made, and a lot of big name Hollywood folk have either been confirmed or rumored to be attached to it. Tom Desanto, the writer of the X-MEN movies, and Don Murphy, producer of LXG, have hopped on board, and some of the names the fan community has mentioned in hopes of a director include Robert Zemeckis and Kevin Reynolds. To this I say the following:

It's about goddamn time.

The fact that Hollywood would deliver on something that I've wanted to see since my childhood is so shocking that even though tons of reputable news sources are reporting it I still have trouble believing it's true. But the wave of people who grew up on these toys and cartoons reaching the age where they are currently in the buyer's market again has prompted a whole wave of '80s properties to be adapted to big screen live action versions over the next couple years or so. Shortly before the Transformers project was announced, rumors had started to fly about live-action features based on Thundercats and G.I.Joe (which, consequentially, also fulfills a lifelong dream that has been chronicled here on this site previously). But while these big dogs of the 1980's toy franchises are getting treated, what about those lesser lines? You know, those cartoons you watched back in the day with characters that maybe didn't quite grasp you like Optimus Prime did or have plots as grandiose as a bunch of cat people that tried to save Third Earth from a mummified dog-thing, but still managed to keep your attention? Well, I've gone through and looked at some of those very properties and found a few that are just dying to get the Hollywood treatment.

Now, most people would make some stupid joke about putting on your Swatch Watch and Members Only jacket before reading the rest of the article, but we here at MCFTR are well above that, because the idea of you putting on an article of clothing that you haven't worn since 1987 is not only ludicrous in that it likely won't fit you anymore, but also because you're not likely to go digging for such items just so you can read an article on a website. Most people would also learn to use more appropriate punctuation and not make such run-on sentences as I just did either, but that's just part of my charm. So anyway, here's the rest of the article. Reading while wearing Crimped hair and Jams™ is optional.

Back around '85 or so, two Hasbro-owned toy properties were ruling the roost for Kids in America (whoaoh): the aforementioned G.I.Joe and Transformers. Someone at Kenner decided to capitalize on this and created something in between: M.A.S.K., which was an acronym for Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, indicating that someone at Kenner was either illiterate or was just plain apathetic about teaching kids about spelling. M.A.S.K. featured guys who drove vehicles that turned into other vehicles. For instance, M.A.S.K. leader Matt Trakker drove a Camaro with gullwing doors that turned into a jet of sorts. There was an SUV that turned into a tank thingy, a motorcycle that turned into a helicopter, and a helicopter that turned into a jet. It was a great concept, but it just didn't catch on quite the way some had hoped. I remember being quite fond of the show, but for some reason I never owned a single toy. I guess not having an income of my own and having my entire collection of property being at the will of my parents has something to do with that, but I digress.

Anyway, a M.A.S.K. live-action movie would actually be a pretty cool concept. I can't remember most of the characters, but I think some clever casting on the main characters could make this thing a hit. Matt Trakker, the leader of the good guys, was your typical 80's hero: Handsome, strong-jawed, Aryan. I'm thinking someone like Paul Walker, but Wizard magazine already dream cast him as Lion-O for the Thundercats movie. Mark Wahlberg might work. Trakker had an annoying kid who rode around on a robot scooter named T-bob, so the Trakker guy has to be old enough to have a 10-or-so year old kid. For Miles Mayhem, the villain, I'd go with Jon Voight. Anyway, with CGI and lots of cool action scenes and explosions, I think this is one of the best properties you could work with. Too bad it'll never happen.

You're probably thinking right now, "Who the hell are the Bionic Six?". I tend to get that reaction from a lot of people when I mention this show and toy line, one of my favorites from the era. But I assure you, it did exist, and it was actually quite good. The premise was that there was this family who were cybernetically enhanced and fought the evil forces of Dr. Scarab. Think of The Six Million Dollar Man if he settled down and raised a family. They assumed the normal family life unless they were doing battle. Oh, and they consisted of a caucasian mom and dad, two lily-white kids, and then an asian guy and a black guy who were apparently supposed to pass for their kids as well. The show also had a catchy-as-chlamydia theme song that happens to be stuck in my head at this very moment. I remember that the action figures were actually made of die-cast metal, which was pretty cool and something that would never happen today. And the animation on the show was top-notch, using early CGI techniques blended with a cel-animation base.

With a variety of characters, I think this would translate well into a live-action format. It could also hold true to the original by being really family-friendly, pushing the whole family values thing and using a lot of moral lessons. I could see this becoming a breakout kiddie flick, but it'll never happen, because I'm one of twelve people remaining in the world that actually remember the Bionic Six, and that includes the people who actually worked on it.

Rankin-Bass, the production company responsible for the highly successful Thundercats, was also responsible for Silverhawks, a property that kind of fell short of its expectations. Using a similar formula as its feline cousin, Silverhawks is about a team of cyborgs (I'm guessing cyborgs were a hot property after THE TERMINATOR) who had wings and were covered in shiny metal (hence the name Silverhawks). They lived in a section of the galaxy called Limbo (how low can you go?) and were there to protect the galaxy from a villain named Mon-Star (get it? It's punny). Each of the cyborgs had a pet bird that they hung out with. Some of the birds had gimmicks, like this one that turned into a guitar. The action figures, produced by Kenner, also contained these bird accessories.

Okay, now that I think about it, Silverhawks was one of the stupidest cartoons I ever witnessed, and this is coming from a guy who had a sister who used to watch crap like Strawberry Shortcake and Rainbow Brite. I also just realized that one of the voice actors is the chick who plays the annoying Janice on Friends. Perhaps it's a good thing that there's no chance in Hell that a Silverhawks movie will ever be made. But just to spite me, one probably will. You can't win for losing.

Somebody had their fingers on the pulse of the American toy buyer when the Sectaurs were created. Or, at least, they thought so. I'll admit it, if I were some marketing expert at BigToyMaker Inc in 1986, I would have surely figured that the most successful toy possible would involve aliens who rode on giant bugs, and that the toys themselves would be interactive puppets. It's a good thing I didn't work at BigToyMaker in 1986. though, because I would have lost my job. Sectaurs was a colossal flop of a property and yielded only a handful of episodes.

The Sectaurs were a race of humanoid alien things assembled to save the planet Symbion from the evil insectoid mutants led by Spidrax. Like most of its more successful counterparts, it was a big fat toy commercial, but I recall the toys being so ungodly expensive that nobody had them. And for good reason: They were huge. Some friends of mine owned one of the giant horkin' bug things, and it was the size of one of my cats. In fact, my cats may well have been a primary factor in the reason that I never owned these things, because they probably would have been scared to death of them. Coleco produced the toys, and I've seen them on the aftermarket, and they still look huge, even though other toys I recall being large as a kid seem to have shrunk over the last 15-20 years.

But you tell me that this isn't just dying to get adapted into a big serious sci-fi epic a la DUNE. I mean, just look at the goddamn things. This could blow STARSHIP TROOPERS out of the water, not that that's any major accomplishment. I'm going to make it a personal goal to get a Sectaurs movie made. Of course, that doesn't mean I'll do anything to attain that goal, but I still will have the goal.

Inhumanoids was probably the best cartoon/toy series from the 80's that I never got in to. Everyone else seemed to love the buggers, and I really wanted to as well, but I just couldn't get in to it. Maybe it had something to do with the action figures having these tiny little pin heads, or maybe it was the really stupid names that some of the characters had, or maybe it was the annoying theme song that I used to hear all the time, but I just couldn't dig it. That seems a little strange considering that this was basically the third of the Hasbro/Sunbow series alongside my two favorites, G.I.Joe and Transformers, and some people (read: big fat dorks who probably smell like pork) have devoted countless hours trying to lend credence that Inhumanoids actually took place in the same universe as those two properties. There are Inhumanoids fan sites on the web, and there have even been DVDs released with what i believe to be every single episode ever made. Don't quote me on that, because I really don't care enough to verify it.

I'm guessing the latter-day following of this series has to do with the fact that the cartoon was violent and dark as hell. The premise was that a groups of scientists, the Earth Corps, accidentally unleashed disgusting creatures from inside the Earth while digging, and then had to stop them from destroying mankind. One of the villains was a rotting corpse who turned people into zombies, and there were often graphic depictions of dismemberment and the like. Perhaps this was also part of why I didn't get into it, either. I've never been one for blood and guts. But certainly, something that dark and gruesome could translate onto the big screen as a live-action film, maybe even like a horror movie?

You ever play "Paper/Rock/Scissors"? I'm sure you do. We all do. We do now, we did as kids. Right? Well, apparently around 1986 or so, Hasbro decided that just playing that game with your bare hands wasn't enough, and as a result, The Battle Beasts were born.

Hasbro were geniuses. Somehow they managed to sell a game that cost absolutely nothing to play to thousands of unwitting children for a big profit. However, they put a twist on the game. Instead of Rock breaking scissors, It was Fire burns Wood. Rather than Scissors cutting Paper, it was Wood floats on Water. Rather than Paper covers Rock, it was Water douses Fire. And the only way to know what affiliation your Battle Beast had was to rub a heat-sensitive sticker on his chest. It was a great concept, and the show was actually successful for a short while. In Japan, it was lumped in with the Transformers story, making it even bigger over there. But as fun as playing Paper/Rock/Scissors, well, er, Wood/Water/Fire is, you can only play it for so long. The Battle Beasts sank into obscurity. Still, can you imagine a live-action movie based on these characters? Think of the intrigue as characters approach one other. The suspense of whether or not they can defeat the other would be mesmerising!

Okay, maybe not. Maybe Battle Beasts are best left at flea markets and on eBay, and not on the big screen.

I know it might shock you, but when I write about things like semi-obscure 80's toys, I don't just pull this stuff off the top of my head. I actually go into Google and the IMDB and punch up the subject and get some refresher. I'm not doing hardcore research or anything, but It's nice to brush up on a few plot points or bits of trivia when you're writing a paragraph or two on a subject.

So I was shocked to find that a search on Google for "Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors" yields over 1300 results! For comparison, "Bionic Six" and "Sectaurs" pull up less than 1,000 matches each, and "Movie Criticism for the Retarded" pulls up 312. Whoa. i didn't even realize I had that much of a net presence. I'm well on my way to being a celebrity. Or something.

So anyway, Wheeled Warriors has amassed a pretty reputable cult following, and actually lasted for some time. The DIC-produced cartoon ran 65 episodes. That's over two-thirds the number of Transformers episodes, as a point of reference. It ran on syndication and then later as a fixture on the USA network, still getting airplay well into the '90s. And the show was pretty cool in an epic sort of way. There was a real historical feel with costumes and the like spliced with a whole lotta MAD MAX. The hero, Jayce, assembles the Lightning League, a bunch of guys who drive big wheeled weaponry. They battle Sawboss and the Monster Minds, evil plants that take the form of sinister weaponry. It actually sounds a lot sillier than it actually is, and yet, it's still a pretty lighthearted show. Of all the stuff I've talked about here, this is the best candidate for a live-action adaptation that I've seen so far. With the interesting hero characters, an intriguing storyline, and just as an overall cool fantasy type movie, this could really work. Splash it with some cool morphing effects done with CGI and you've got a winner. I'm all about it.

Well, that's about all the ones I'd like to cover here, but there are some other 80's toy properties that weren't quite so hot. Remember any of these?:

Uhm, they were sharks. And men. Who fought underwater. They were also made by LJN, makers of Thundercats. They sucked.

Aliens with stupid names who had to befriend dinosaurs so they could fight other aliens with stupid names. They also sucked.

They were warrior guys with Holograms on their chests. Some even held signs with Holograms on them. They were from some strange planet and they sucked.

They were from the future. They had holes in them. The bad guys were half-robot. And they sure did suck.

A bunch of ugly generic loking alien things tha tI think were based on a shitty video game (or vice versa) for the Odyssey2 Platform that also sucked.

Okay, if G.I.Joe, Transformers, He-Man, and Thundercats were "A"-level boys' toy properties from the 1980's, then the ones I mentioned earlier were the "B"-level properties. The five you see here are the "C"-level properties, and I just frankly ain't gonna go there. If you want an in-depth analysis on Centurions or Power Lords, go bug that guy from X-Entertainment, because he seems to have a much higher threshold for pain when it comes to these type things.


All Material Copyright © 1998-2006 Movie Criticism for the Retarded.

For questions, comments, or the occasional stalking letter, send mail to Noel Wood. Please give proper credit when using any materials found within this site.

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