Thursday, July 29, 2010

Does every cartoon icon need to be adapted into live-action?

My favorite line in the folk song, "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?" is in the chorus. "When will they ever learn?", we're asked. Hollywood producers should be asked that particular question when going to the CGI well again and again to adapt cherished cartoon icons into mostly live-action feature films.

We've seen Alvin & the Chipmunks, Garfield, & Scooby-Doo romp across the silver screen in CGI form twice apiece, with mixed reviews and results at the box office. In fact, Garfield's current series on Cartoon Network is done entirely in CGI. The Christmas movie schedule this year and next promise more of the same.

We've already heard about the live-action/CGI hybrid adaptation of The Smurfs, who enjoyed a near-decade of ratings dominance on NBC in the 80's. This December, however, brings Yogi Bear to the big screen for the first time since his 1964 animated musical, "Hey There, It's Yogi Bear!". This time, Yogi & his sidekick, Boo-Boo, will be in CGI form, while old foe Ranger Smith will be played by a real person. To add to all the hand-wringing from fans, Warner Bros. has decided that Yogi will also be in 3D, which should be jumping the shark by then.

WB figures they can save money----sort of----by sticking with the hybrid format. They forget that both of Scooby-Doo's feature films were raked over the coals by critics, and weren't exactly big blockbusters at the box office. You have to consider the cost that comes with farming out the animation overseas, especially for feature films, nowadays. However, there is also the threat of alienating long time fans of Yogi & Boo-Boo, who have long passed the age of 50 (another example of ignorance at Cartoon Network & Boomerang).

And what of the Smurfs, who will mark the 30th anniversary of their American debut with their movie next year? Will there be a revival in terms of merchandising? Likely, but today's kids need to be acquainted with the little blue people well before the movie comes out.

Of course, there've been worse ideas, like casting Zak Efron (whose new film, "Charlie St. Cloud", opens this weekend) as Jonny Quest in a live-action movie, or wrestler-turned-action-hero Dwayne Johnson being attached to a rumored live-action version of the 1997 series, Johnny Bravo. That one, thankfully, never got past the rumor stage, and if we're lucky, WB will come to their senses with "Quest", unless they have it set with Jonny in college to justify casting Efron.

Indeed, Pete Seeger was right when he asked, "when will they ever learn?".

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