Five Hit 1980s Movies That Were Spun-Off Into Saturday Morning Kids Cartoons - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Five Hit 1980s Movies That Were Spun-Off Into Saturday Morning Kids Cartoons

How many of these did you watch?

Ghostbusters became The Real Ghostbusters
Released in 1984 and proving to be a massive hit, Ghostbusters was spun-off two years later into its own Saturday morning cartoon titled The Real Ghostbusters. In case you've always wondered why it was named as such, I will explain...

Ghostbusters had previously licenced the rights to the name because there had already been a completely unrelated live action children's TV show broadcast in 1975 and running for 15 episodes called The Ghost Busters about a team of bumbling detectives (one of which is an ape) who would investigate ghostly occurrences...

Unsurprisingly no one involved with the production of Ghostbusters the film had heard of this earlier TV series until Filmation, who produced the series, popped their little legal department heads out and Columbia Pictures paid them a hefty sum to use the name. The agreement simply covered the live action film, merchandising of such and any sequel(s). It did not cover animation, a loophole in the contract that Filmation took full advantage of when, in 1985, they rush released an animated version of their earlier live-action TV show into production, basically to cash in on the success of the film. To avoid confusion and further expensive legal action, Columbia Pictures Telelvion opted for the name The Real Ghostbusters for their also-in-production animated series.

Not The Real Ghostbusters

That Filmation series, titled "Ghostbusters" premiered September 8th 1986, five days before the official movie spin-off cartoon "The Real Ghostbusters". Even a youthful audience could sniff a quick cash in, and although Filmation's Ghostbusters lasted 65 episodes,The Real Ghostbusters ran for 140.

None of the cast of the film provided the character voices, but The Real Ghostbusters did feature a young Arsenio Hall as Winston Zeddemore in the earlier seasons. At the start of the fourth season in 1988, the show was retitled to Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters. It aired in a one-hour time slot, with the regular thirty-minute Real Ghostbusters episode, plus a half-hour Slimer sub-series that included 2–3 short animated segments focusing on the character popular character.

The Real Ghostbusters finished in 1991 after seven seasons but received its own sequel cartoon in the form of 1997s Extreme Ghostbusters.

First Blood/Rambo became Rambo: The Force Of Freedom 
In the days before the video recording act was passed, I'm talking early to mid 1980s, local video rental store owners seemed to see the movie rating system as an optional guideline. As long as they got their 75p they tended to be more than happy to rent you whatever movie you wanted, no matter how old you were. This loose with the rules attitude meant that many children could gain access to the kind of films they probably shouldn't have been watching, and the playground became full of talk about films and characters kids shouldn't really have known about. This meant that several films that were squarely aimed at adults were spun-off into Saturday morning cartoons.

Case in point - Rambo: The Force Of Freedom.

This 1986 American animated series based on the character of John Rambo from David Morrell's book First Blood and the subsequent films First Blood (1982) and Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985). Who the hell at Ruby-Spears Enterprises thought that a mentally unstable Vietnam veteran would make for a good Saturday morning cartoon I do not know, but they were right as that dodgy VHS access to First Blood had already made Rambo a playground hero.

Debuting on TV April 1986, the same time as Rambo: First Blood Part II was released on home video (co-incidental? I think not), the series ran for 65 episodes. Rambo: The Force Of Freedom was, perhaps unsurprisingly, the first R-Rated film property to be spun-off into a children's cartoon show, and in order to meet Federal Communications Commission decency standards the violence level was significantly reduced compared to the films. Meaning all those kids who'd already watched the movie were largely disappointed with the cartoon.

Case in point - Rambo: The Force Of Freedom was not renewed for a second season.

Police Academy became Police Academy: The Animated Series
Seven movies, five of which had arrived prior to this 1988 animated spin-off arrived in the Saturday morning schedules, Police Academy had begun life as an R rated comedy, with warnings of sex & nudity and bad language, before becoming the kid friendly slapstick nonsense presented in the sequels.

In many ways there are a lot of parallels between Police Academy: The Animated Series and the Rambo: The Force Of Freedom. Both were produced by Ruby-Spears Productions and both ran for 65 episodes.

Interestingly, some episodes feature a mob boss called Kingpin who is basically the same as the Marvel Comics character (recently seen in the Netflix Daredevil series). I have no idea how they got away with that.

Star Wars: Episode VI - Return Of The Jedi became The Ewoks
I personally didn't care for them so much in Return Of The Jedi, and I certainly didn't care for them in animated form. But an awful lot of children did and I guess the Ewoks helped George Lucas sell a lot of toys so a cute and cuddly animated Saturday morning cartoon was probably always on the cards for them.

The Ewoks had already had their own live-action made for TV movie with 1984s The Ewok Adventure, and its sequel Ewoks: The Battle for Endor was in production when this animated series began.

Set before ROTJ, and indeed before A New Hope, and first broadcast in 1985, 35 Episodes were made over 2 series. The story focused on the adventures of Wicket W. Warrick and his friends on the forest moon of Endor. Unlike the Ewok films, the characters speak English instead of their native Ewokese language.

The penultimate episode, "Battle for the Sunstar", shows the Ewok heroes leaving the forest moon's surface when they go aboard an Imperial Star Destroyer that has traveled to their system. An Imperial scientist attempts to destroy the Emperor, whose shuttle makes an appearance, which sorta forms a link with Return of the Jedi, which of course features the Empire using Endor as its base of operations for the second Death Star.

Beetlejuice became Beetlejuice 
Premiering in September 1989, a year after the original live action movie, and running for 94 episodes, the Beetlejuice animated series is only loosely based on the film of the same name, but it was developed and executive-produced by the film's director Tim Burton, and Danny Elfman's theme for the film was arranged for the cartoon by Elfman himself.

The animated series focused on the life of Goth girl Lydia Deetz and her undead friend Beetlejuice as they explore The Neitherworld, a wacky afterlife realm inhabited by monsters, ghosts, ghouls and zombies. The main difference between this and the film, though, is in Beetlejuice's character, here he is just a bit of a prankster.

Did you watch any of these Saturday morning cartoons based on hit 1980s movies? Let us know in the comments below...

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