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Making an original idea into a movie is hard enough. Taking that original idea and then spinning it off into a multi-season television series is arguably harder. When you have a beloved film and attempt to move it to a medium with lower budgets and you have (previous to a few years ago) less access to A-list actors, you’re swimming in dangerous waters. However, when it’s done well, it’s a beautiful thing. Here are a few offshoots of some beloved movies from our childhood that actually managed to not fuck up the task they were given.
1. “Timon & Pumbaa”
You have to hand it to Disney–they’re the frontrunners when it comes to adapting their material to other mediums. Disney totally made the right decision with this one, too. If I’m being honest, while Simba’s mythological journey from arrogant prick to king was great for a feature film, I’m really not sure I’d want to see a whole TV series built around him and Nala having domestic issues. The fact that Disney took the two funniest characters from the movie and built the show around them is a testament to Disney’s savvy. I mean, it probably could have been a great show just on its own merits: two best friends–a warthog and a meerkat–roaming around the savannah trying to eat bugs and relax, but always somehow getting themselves into trouble. It’s a great premise. Plus, the slaptstick and scatological humor didn’t hurt. Hell, half the kids who watched “The Lion King” every day once it came out on VHS probably only did it to see Pumbaa fart over and over. Kids are dumb.
If you’re going to have the stones to bring back all of your main characters for a TV show, it really helps to not have to recast everyone. That’s why the TV show “Aladdin” was successful; everyone from the movie came back to voice his or her character for the series. Well, except for Robin Williams, which we could argue probably diminishes it by like, a thousand percent. Nevertheless, it was still a pretty good show. Aladdin’s world is way more interesting overall than, say, “The Lion King.” There’s magic, sorcerers, demons, mercenaries, swords, and thieves. It’s a mischievous kid’s dream TV show.
3. “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”
For many of us who grew up with the original trilogy first and then the prequels, “Star Wars” fever was almost more intense than for someone born maybe 10 years before since “Star Wars” media was actually released during our childhood. Talk as much shit as you want about the prequels, but when we were kids, EVERYONE loved them. They’re the movie version of Creed, bleached hair, or Dane Cook. The mass populous pretends they never liked them, except when they were at their peak, you couldn’t find a detractor in sight. Don’t lie to me, clown–you played the pod racing game on 64. YOU PLAYED IT! Anyway, “The Clone Wars” was something everyone was hungry for, filling in the gaps between movies. There was a lot of shit that went down between the second and third films that was expertly portrayed by the Tartakovsky version, and then, once “Revenge of the Sith” came out, we all realized that there were no “Star Wars” movies left (so we thought). The full-length, 3-D “Clone Wars” series was a breath of oxygen in a “Star Wars” deprived world. Well, other than Knights of the Old Republic, but that’s another column for another day.
The great thing about training montages is that you can convey a lot of of narrative time into not very much actual movie time. The downside of it is that you miss out on seeing a lot of key character moments, especially when your montage takes your hero from teenager to adult, like it did in Disney’s “Hercules.” So what do you do when you want to bank more money off your property and move it to TV? You go back and fill in the montage. Who didn’t want to see how Hercules came to be? They enroll him in Greek high school, keep the weird humor of the movie, and round it out by keeping Jimmy Woods as Hades. Smart move, Disney.
5. “The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles”
This is the crown jewel of TV adaptations. There are a lot of reasons why, but chief among them is just the sheer level of difficulty. The idea of taking an iconic movie figure played by an iconic actor, recasting him as a kid, and then putting it on TV in a time where there was not a lot of quality narrative programming was a risky bet at best. Add in the whole “we want to make it educational” part, and you’ve got a recipe for bad times on your hands. So how did it end up being so great? Well, for starters, George Lucas is a fucking creative genius. Once he set his mind on making an Indy TV series, he sat down and wrote out an entire timeline of Indiana Jones’s life, which made for 70 separate episode ideas. SEVENTY. That’s ridiculous. Then, even after it was canceled, Lucas made sure the home video release maintained the vision for the series, so he re-edited everything into chapters, keeping the continuity by shooting new scenes on his own. Then, if that wasn’t enough, for the DVD release, he paired the series with 94 original documentaries that could be shown along with the episodes in schools around the country.
And people say this man wrecked their childhoods. Idiots.