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When I was growing up there were a number of popular cartoon shows that simply do not make sense now. They just milked the momentum a certain subject had and hoped to sell a lot of merchandise. Think ProStars, which featured animated versions of Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson and Wayne Gretzky. The trio were all superstars in their respective sports and appeared as superheroes on the show. It was all well and good at the time, but now the show just sounds like a bad idea.
The same goes with that MC Hammer cartoon that was also big in the 1990s. Granted, Hammer was once the epitome of cool, but then it hit someone that the kids who were missing out on the rapper’s music could experience him in an animated series.
Titled Hammerman, the show saw an animated version of MC Hammer help kids find solutions to their kiddie problems. He had shoes that were magical; they spoke and directed his exceptional dance moves. As you are reading this it’s okay to think that these two examples are bad ideas for a cartoon series.
But real-life figures are not the only place cartoon series producers look to for ideas. They also ride the tide of big Hollywood blockbusters whose momentum they hope to tap into and use for the cartoon version of the same project. Think Men in Black, the movie that brought Will Smith to a wider audience.
Paired with Tommy Lee Jones, in black suits, the technical gizmos and a satirical storyline, the MIB format worked very well for the film franchise.
Then came the idea for Men in Black, the cartoon (coming to you on Vuzu), which must have seemed a good idea at first. Just as with the ProStars and Hammerman titles, the animated MIB does not have the same pizzazz that Smith and Lee brought to the film.
But this should not come as a surprise because in most cases animated shows adapted from films rarely move mountains in TV land.
Think of Police Academy, which was undoubtedly one of the funniest action comedies of the 1980s.
Of course the film’s genre of comedy was modelled around the fundamentals of cartoon satire. This idea worked really well for the movie, but when it came to the cartoon it was a different story. It was almost as if without the real actors, it would be hard to take the drawn people seriously.
Another good example is Rambo. In 1982 the first Rambo film came out, starring Sylvester Stallone. Then some animation studio came up with a cartoon version of the film and called it Rambo: The Force of Freedom.
While in the film Rambo fights against an unjust American system when it comes to ex-combatants, the cartoon trivialises this and makes it seem as if the protagonist simply enjoyed blowing up things.
It remains to be seen if the cartoon version of Men in Black will be groundbreaking, but from past experience, it seems highly unlikely.
• Men in Black airs Thursdays at 5pm on Vuzu (DStv channel 116).