By Jon Waterhouse
The recent announcement that Adult Swim is pimping an animated version of the 2009 blaxploitation send-up “Black Dynamite” stokes some nostalgic fires. We’re not just talking power ’fros and bellbottoms. It has us thinking of other flicks that were given the chromatic ’toon treatment.
“RETURN TO THE PLANET OF THE APES” (1975-1976)
This one swung through the Saturday morning cartoon jungle with stylish finesse. Its look seems to owe a bit to comic icon Jack Kirby, which makes sense. Storyboard director Doug Wildey worked on Marvel comics superhero shows in the ’60s, and he created “Jonny Quest.” The plot stays true to the movies as a trio of astronauts travel through time to find a population of intelligent apes. Yet unlike the films and the live-action TV show, this alterna-verse features more technologically advanced apes. This time they’re monkeying around with cars, movies, scientific equipment and more. It oozes with such campy cool that “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” fans may just beat their chests over it.
“RAMBO: THE FORCE OF FREEDOM” (1986)
Despite the over-the-top big screen body count found in the Rambo movies starring Sylvester Stallone, its cartoon counterpart is locked and loaded for family viewing. Rambo is part of a G.I. Joe-style universe and a member of good guy military faction the Force of Freedom. In order to save the world, the group dukes it out with terrorist faction S.A.V.A.G.E. Although guns and fisticuffs abound, no one ever dies. Rambo even dispenses safety tips to kiddies when he’s not busting heads.
“TOXIC CRUSADERS” (1991)
It’s hard to believe that Troma’s exploitative schlock fest “The Toxic Avenger” serves as inspiration for the short-lived kiddie show. The film’s title character begins life as a nerdy janitor who transforms into a mutated superhero once he takes a spill in toxic waste. While the original gurgles with adult comedy, sex and violence, the ’toon has an environmental slant. The cartoon Toxie still looks like Quasimodo on steroids, but this time he leads the Crusaders as they battle alien polluters.
“CLERKS: THE ANIMATED SERIES” (2000)
Based on director Kevin Smith’s 1994 cult hit “Clerks,” the show only had limited airings on ABC before it checked out for good. All six episodes, however, did eventually come to fruition on Comedy Central and live forever on DVD. The film’s super slackers Dante, Randal, Jay and Silent Bob continue their comedic adventures at the Quick Stop and skewer pop culture in the process.
Tim Burton’s 1988 afterlife comedy helped put the director on the map. Its animated spawn takes a decidedly different approach. Gone are the devilish hookers, the profanity and somewhat edgy black comedy. This time Beetlejuice is a good guy, and he and Lydia, the young girl he terrorizes in the film, are best buds. Together they bop around the parallel universe of Neitherworld rubbing elbows with creepy creatures.