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The Most Unlikely Cartoons Based on Live-Action Movies

Updated December 10, 2019 10.0k votes 1.5k voters 432.8k views22 items

Hollywood today makes movies based on comics and cartoons, where it used to be the other way around. Many popular live-action films have led to cartoon spinoffs that are now more or less forgotten. Couldn't afford a sequel? No problem. Get to animating and cast cheaper actors. The stories could continue a lot longer and introduce a bunch more potentially profitable characters - a hypothetical Man of Steel cartoon, for instance, could have been far less clunky in introducing the other superheroes than Batman v. Superman was.

Animated shows based on blockbuster movies used to be a dime a dozen. This kind of thing used to happen a lot, but nobody has gotten too good at preserving the results (which, admittedly, are not always great). Still, no true franchise fan can complete their knowledge without seeking out these cel-bound spin-offs, and odds are you've forgotten at least a few of these existed. That's why this list is here. Journey now into the past,and find continuations of stories you never knew you needed...and maybe still don't.
  • Little Shop of Horrors
    Video: YouTube

    Suddenly Seymour is dealing with acne? Turning Roger Corman's four-day-filmed horror-comedy into a big-budget musical was an odd creative choice, but one that paid off. But turning that version into an animated series in which the main characters are in high school and the meat-eating plant raps embarrassingly in the way so many TV characters always did back in 1991? That might have been a mistake.

    Still, it helped launch the career of Jennie Kwan, who played young Audrey and would go on to voice Suki in Avatar: The Last Airbender.
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  • Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
    Video: YouTube

    Part of the appeal of Jim Carrey as Ace Ventura in the live-action movies was his ability to achieve a cartoon-like physicality. That effect was lost in the translation to animation, but it also makes him a natural in the medium. The cartoons were also kid-friendlier than the movies - if you haven't seen them in a while, they appeal to younger audiences with the slapstick while having some wildly inappropriate sex jokes, one of which was considered transphobic even at the time.

    In an animated Jim Carrey doubleheader, the Ace cartoon often ran back-to-back with a cartoon based on The Mask, and eventually both characters met each other in a two-part crossover. And while the darker comic book iteration of The Mask would probably shove a live animal up Ace's butt, he came away relatively unscathed this time. One of the writers on the show, a fellow by the name of Seth MacFarlane, would go on to make much grosser jokes in the years to come.
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  • Napoleon Dynamite
    Video: YouTube

    Unlike many other entries on this list, the Napoleon Dynamite cartoon included the entire principal cast and creative team behind the movie, who all saw it as a way to make a sequel without having to age the main characters out of high school to match the actors.

    Alas, like everything else directors Jared and Jerusha Hess have done since Napoleon Dynamite, this series failed to attract much of an audience, lasting a whopping six episodes. Maybe it should have debuted on the similarly offbeat Adult Swim instead of in primetime on Fox, gosh!
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  • Dumb and Dumber
    Video: YouTube

    The straightforward slapstick of Dumb and Dumber naturally appealed to children, so it didn't take long for Hanna-Barbera to produce this 1995 animated series for ABC. While the movie took place in a more or less "realistic" world, the show was characterized by the kind of craziness that would later come to define Cartoon Network. How so? Well, the cartoon Harry and Lloyd were joined on all their ridiculous adventures by a sentient purple beaver named Kitty, for starters.

    Unsurprisingly, neither Jim Carrey nor Jeff Daniels contributed to the show's single season, but Lloyd Christmas was voiced by character actor and erstwhile Max Headroom star Matt Frewer. Tom Kenny, who would eventually voice SpongeBob SquarePants, played supporting characters alongside future Futurama ringer Maurice LaMarche.
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