Monday, January 15, 2007

Cartoons Come Alive

It’s on. We’re smack in the middle of a trend. No less than a dozen cartoon-to-live-action projects are in the works in Hollywood. Before you can object with “But have you forgotten Masters of the Universe?” the long-rumored Scooby Doo is being greenlit once again. (This time around, John Hurt will play Shaggy.)

Expectations ran high for Disney’s Inspector Gadget and Universal’s Dudley Do-Right, the latest big budget live-action adaptations of popular kid’s cartoons. But, alas, theatrically, they dudded. (However, in home video, Gadget is going wowsers and Dudley is doing alright.)

Matthew Broderick had some rather inept shoes to fill in personifying the bionic nitwit originally voiced by Don “Maxwell Smart” Adams. Fraser, on the other hand, has already enjoyed success portraying a famously bumbling cartoon hero, George of the Jungle in the surprise hit of the same name. Fraser plays another Jay Ward creation, Dudley Do-Right of Canada’s Royal Mounted finest.

Jay Ward’s brilliant cartoons haven’t always fared so well. Stepping into the Way Back Machine, the 1992 direct-to-cable Boris & Natasha was originally slated for a theatrical release, but, outside of a few funny moments from Johns Candy and Travolta, didn’t live up to the clever satire of The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle. The latest attempt, aptly titled The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, looks promising. Starring Jason Alexander and Rene Russo as Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale and the always-funny Randy Quaid as Cappy van Trappment, The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle was penned by Ken Logerman who wrote the story for Analyze This.

Universal’s The Flintstones, written by every single writer in Hollywood and starring John Goodman and Elizabeth Perkins as the Flintstones and Rick Moranis and Rosie O’Donnell as their prehistoric neighbors, The Rubbles, rocked at the box office, delivering over $358 million worldwide. Five years later and with a completely different cast -- Mark Addy as Fred, Stephen Baldwin as Barney -- Universal is finally releasing the greatly-anticipated sequel, The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas.

Universal scored again with Harvey Comics’ friendly ghost Casper. Brad Silberling’s outstanding live-action version starred Christina Ricci as Kat the lonely daughter of Dr. Harvey (Bill Pullman), professional ghost therapist. Father and daughter befriend a family of ghosts including Casper, the friendly one, and Stinky, Stretch and Fatso in this bittersweet fantasy with amazing visual effects. The hugely successful movie spawned a direct-to-video feature, Casper: A Spirited Beginning and a made-for-TV special with fellow Harvey Comics star, Wendy the Witch, Casper Meets Wendy. Casper 2 is now in development hell, with The Prince of Egypt’s Simon Wells attached to direct.

Finally, the ballyhooed How The Grinch Stole Christmas is on Ron Howard’s directorial plate for next year. The cartoonish Jim Carrey will play The Grinch involved in the thievery, while Saturday Night Live’s Molly Shannon will portray Cindy-Lou Who and Jeffrey Tambor is on board as The Mayor of Whoville. In Ron Howard’s capable hands it’s unlikely that How The Grinch Stole Christmas will make us hate the whole Christmas season, but, then again Robert Altman was responsible for Popeye.

No comments: