Animated Atrocities: 15 (Mostly) Ridiculous Cartoons Based on ’80s Movies

Over the last few years we’ve seen a lot of classic ’80s cartoons being brought to the big screen in order to cash in on nostalgia such as Transformers, G.I. Joe and Alvin and the Chipmunks. While the resulting movies have often been questionable, recently, I got to thinking about the reverse scenario: movies that have been turned into cartoons. This doesn’t happen that often nowadays, but back in the ’80s they would make a cartoon out of just about anything, and the results were equally as questionable.

With that in mind, let’s take a wacky little trip down memory lane and examine 15 movies and/or movie stars from the 1980s that were “fortunate” enough to receive their very own animated adaptations. While some of these movies were pretty kid-friendly to begin with, a surprisingly large number of the cartoons listed here were actually based on R-rated films. Some were quite successful, but I bet even children of the ’80s will be shocked to learn that many of these ever existed.

The Real Ghostbusters (1986)

This animated version of Ghostbusters was pretty popular and surprisingly well-made, although as many people will remember they turned Slimer into a cute sidekick and arguably the star of the show (later the series was renamed to Slimer! And the Real Ghostbusters). It was called The Real Ghostbusters because of the unrelated Filmation cartoon that came out around the same time that was also called Ghostbusters. In the late ’90s, they launched a forgettable spin-off called Extreme Ghostbusters.

Droids and Ewoks (1985)

These two Star Wars-themed Saturday morning cartoons go hand in hand as I seem to remember them airing back to back once upon a time. I always thought Droids was the cooler cartoon (partially because Anthony Daniels actually voiced C-3PO) but clearly Ewoks had the catchier theme song. I’m guessing that’s why it lasted one season longer.

The Karate Kid (1989)

A few months after the release of The Karate Kid, Part III, Sony also put out a short-lived animated series based on the movie franchise. If it wasn’t foolish enough to launch a cartoon just as the movie franchise was on its way out, the show also had them chasing a stolen Japanese talisman with mystical healing powers.

Chuck Norris and the Karate Kommandos (1986)

Speaking of karate, here’s a cartoon that wasn’t based on a specific movie, but rather a movie star. Before Chuck Norris was known as Walker, Texas Ranger, he was leading a team of “radically diverse” warriors against The Claw and Super Ninja in this five-episode series. Much like the Mr. T animated series, each episode started with live action footage of Chuck Norris himself offering valuable life lessons. Pretty classic stuff.

Rambo: Force of Freedom (1986)

It may seem hard to believe that an R-rated action hero like Rambo could be turned into a family-friendly cartoon, but back in the ’80s, anything was possible! Riding on the popularity of G.I. Joe, John Rambo was part of a team that fought a neo-Nazi organization called S.A.V.A.G.E. (Secret Administrators of Vengeance, Anarchy and Global Extortion). No one ever died in this cartoon, nor was there ever any mention of Vietnam, although in one episode apparently Rambo breaks his arm.

RoboCop: The Animated Series (1988)

Well I guess if they can do a Rambo cartoon, there’s no reason why Robocop should be any more surprising. Yes, one of the most violent movies of all time was indeed sanitized and made safe for youngsters in RoboCop: The Animated Series, a show produced by Marvel. In order to avoid gunshot wounds, the guns were upgraded to laser weapons. In the late ’90s they also attempted a second animated series called RoboCop: Alpha Commando, which was even less connected to the source material, and gave him a number of useful upgrades including roller blades!

Teen Wolf (1986)

With Teen Wolf currently about to get a live action remake courtesy of MTV, it’s worth taking a trip back to see what Teen Wolf looked like on TV back in 1986. In this instance, it wasn’t just Michael J. Fox who could transform into a werewolf, it was his entire family! Yes, even grandpa. Strangely, the town they lived in was also called Wolverton… coincidence?

Back to the Future: The Animated Series (1991)

The second Michael J. Fox movie to be honoured with a cartoon, Back to the Future: The Animated Series didn’t come until one year after Back to the Future: Part III hit theatres. Despite the fact that I was a huge fan of the movies, I remember almost nothing about this cartoon. It revolved around Marty, Doc Brown, his wife Clara, and their two sons Jules and Verne, with Biff Tannen as the recurring villain. The DeLorean could now fold up into a suitcase a la Jetsons, and the episodes concluded with live-action segments starring Bill Nye The Science Guy. Weird.

Beetlejuice (1989)

This adaptation of the 1988 Tim Burton movie was actually a pretty decent show and surprisingly successful too. It ran for three seasons on Saturday mornings on ABC before moving to weekdays on Fox Kids. They managed to capture the zany humour and the gruesome imagery of the film and create something that appealed to both kids and adults alike. Although the cartoon has never been released on DVD, they did include three episodes on the 20th Anniversary Edition release of the movie.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures (1990)

Clearly this is a movie that provided the perfect premise for an animated series, and in the first season they even managed to recruit Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, George Carlin, and Bernie Casey to provide the voices of their characters. In the second season, however, the cast was replaced with the stars of the short-lived Fox live action series. After struggling to come up with story ideas, they introduced a phone booth that could also transport the characters into literature, TV shows and inside the human body.

Toxic Crusaders (1991)

No, we’re not making this up. In the early ’90s, Troma’s cult classic film The Toxic Avenger was actually tamed down and turned into an animated series called Toxic Crusaders, with Toxie and his mutant buddies NoZone, Junkyard, Headbanger and Major Disaster fighting baddies from the planet Smogula. It came out at a time when environmental heroes like Captain Planet were in vogue, but it was more of a thinly veiled attempt to recreate the success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Conan The Adventurer (1992)

Here’s another violent action movie that was turned into a cartoon, although I suppose this series drew inspiration from the Robert E. Howard stories and comics more than the movie franchise. I remember at the time thinking it was pretty lame that Conan had this bad ass sword but all he ever used it for was to banish Serpent Men to the Abyss by touching them with it. Some of the stories were decent, but the character came off as more of a He-Man clone than anything else.

Police Academy: The Series (1997)

After the death of the popular R-rated movie franchise with Police Academy: Mission to Moscow in 1994, Police Academy was re-invented as a fairly successful Saturday morning cartoon. Although the cartoon featured a lot less T&A (okay, none at all), most of the main characters were well represented. They also introduced a group of talking police dogs called the K-9 Corps, and the theme song was written and performed by The Fat Boys (who also appear as recurring characters).

Highlander: The Animated Series (1994)

With its low quality animation and a story that is only vaguely connected to the film franchise, Highlander: The Animated Series is seen by many fans as being just as bad, if not worse, than most of the sequels to the original film — which is really saying something. The main character is Quentin MacLeod, the descendant of Connor MacLeod, and the story is set 700 years in the future. After a meteorite nearly wipes out the planet, the Immortals agree to call off The Game and focus on rebuilding and gathering knowledge — except for one guy named Kortan. What an ass. The one thing people seem to appreciate about the show is that it did have a bit of violence in it, even though it was still aimed at kids.

Camp Candy (1989)

Perhaps the weirdest of all the titles on this list, the late John Candy starred in his own Saturday morning cartoon where he ran a summer camp for kids. Candy narrated the episodes and voiced his own character in addition to singing the theme song. He also did live action segments that were added to the episodes in 1990, usually explaining some sort of environmental lesson. The show’s villains included Rex DeForest III, a greedy developer trying to tear down the camp so he can build condos, and Hob Nayles, the disciplinarian leader of a rival camp.

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  • jackson

    Beetlejuice, Droids and Ewoks were those mid Saturday afternoon Global TV mainstays that you could watch when you were bored. I thought they were fun shows when I was 10, I disagree with them being atrocious. I also was a big Camp Candy, Police Academy most certainly Real Ghostbusters fan. This was all before Batman the animated series blew everyone’s heads off.

  • Sean

    I definitely watched a lot of these and agree that some of them are actually decent shows. “Atrocities” just made for a good title. ;)

  • Itchy-Finger

    This was a memory jogger, man, I watched just about all of these. I had completely forgotten about most of them.
    Beetlejuice I remember liking a lot. Of course when you are 10 dirt is pretty thrilling too.

  • Ed

    How can you say The Real Ghostbusters was bad? That cartoon lasted longer than most and was a great representation to the movies! I agree that when Slimer took over it was worse, but come on!

  • bryan

    @ Ed. I don’t think he said it was bad. Definitely my favorite show as a kid. And, it launched the best toy line ever. I agree that it sucked once Slimer took over (and when Dave Coulier started to voice Peter), but the best show ever sucking is still better than most of the garbage out there at the time.

  • Theman

    I remember beetlejuice, Camp Candy, Ghost buster, Back to the future, Bill and ted, Robocop.

    But the only one I actually watched was beetle Juice.

  • nekowrites

    It should be noted that he-man was in fact a rip-off of Conan. Hasbro, created a toy line for the movie and after seeing the final cut decided it was violent. They then turned around and used the molds to create a new line of toys ‘he-man’ and in turn commished a commerical I mean TV show to sell the product.

  • Henrik

    Conan The Adventurer is a good fucking show yo.

  • David

    I was going to come down to the comment section and tell you how wrong you are, but it looks like that’s covered. Sure, I watched these shows when I was 6 – 10 years old and have fond Saturday morning or after school memories of them, so my opinion isn’t actually that of a refined adult looking for a “great” show. But come on man! What’s the deal? Specifically I LOVED “The Real Ghostbusters,” “Conan The Adventurer,” “Toxic Crusaders” and “Beetlejuice” (oh my god Beetlejuice was amazing when I was kid).

  • Byron

    I watched a lot of these shows…. i remember the conan cartoon more than the movie…..time for a rewatch…

  • Henrik

    Just re-watching some of these I actually remember that I had the main Toxic guy as a toy, and I also had his main villain. Four-armed villains will always be a hit I think. Why is it like TMNT though? I guess the color green dominates the good guys, and the villain is purple… Yeah I can see it. If only they’d do a cross-over and have a four-armed Shredder.

  • Rian

    When I was a kid, Ghostbusters was my life. I still have fond memories of the cartoon, so I refuse to try re-watching it now in fear of have that pretty big childhood bubble burst. I am collecting the new screen-accurate toys being released on Mattel’s MattyCollector website, though. Ah, nostalgia…

    I never even knew there was a Rambo cartoon, but I somehow ended up with an entire set of action figures and vehicles based on the show when I was a kid. Years later I saw the movies and couldn’t understand why they’d made an action figure of a bad guy with a purple vest and a pink mohawk named Mad Dog if he wasn’t in any of the films. However, that action figure did inspire me to get my hair cut into a mohawk when I was in 3rd or 4th grade. My parents were too embarrassed to take me to a barber to have it done, so my dad cut it himself and it was all crooked.

    I watched the Toxic Crusaders when I was a kid and still have a bunch of the action figures and the Sega Genesis game. The first time I saw the original Toxic Avenger movie was about a year ago, and I was completely blown away by how violent, vulgar, and morally reprehensible it was.

  • Frank

    Oh come on! You didn’t include James Bond, Jr!!!!

  • Ryan M.

    That Beetlejuice one was actually good and I had Toxic Crusader action figures…kinda wanna see an episode or two of those Robocop and Rambo series.

  • Duke Togo

    You picked the wrong Conan series, CBS did a much lamer Conan series a year or two after the ‘Adventurer’ series, it had like no violence at all, no snakemen either to vanquish.

  • Lynx

    Beetlejuice cartoon totally holds up to this day – and even though much of it is Beetlejuice learning how to stop behaving like a 4 year old with super powers on crack, it’s still got tons of hilarious innuendo, gothic touches, gore, puns, and a very similar feeling to the movie – if one can forget that Beetlejuice was trying to bang Lydia in the movie. (animated by Nelvana too – that’s Disney North, home of the original Carebears and Inspector Gadget)

    Ewoks and Droids are still fantastic, the animation is a little weak, but worth it for the storylines.

    I nejoyed The Real Ghostbusters, but found that Slimer made them jump the Shark – with my boxset of GB1&2, I got two episodes of the old cartoon and it is still a funny, intelligent show before that time.

    I remember loving Toxic Avengers to PIECES. and I was horrified when I saw the original R-rated movie. I had a very similar experience with Robocop. I loved the Cartoon, saw the movie (I was 8?) and just about lost my mind with grief!

  • Alex

    Half of the shows on this list were actually amazing and I still re-watch select few episodes here and there.

    Real Ghostbusters were awesome. There was really never anything wrong with it and it improved on source material ten-fold.

    Conan was too mild for me to take him seriously. No one ever really died and his lame sidekicks sucked too. But the opening intro kicked ass.

  • Cronkite Moonshot

    @ nekowrites #7 That story about the He-man toys being originally created as Conan toys is total BS. For one thing it was Mattel that created the Masters of the Universe toys, not Hasbro. For another thing the Conan movie came out in 1982, but the first Masters of the Universe toys came out in 1981, which would mean that they had developed Conan toys like two years before the release of the film, and then saw a supposed “rough cut” of the film two years before it’s release (when it probably hadn’t even been shot yet), and then quickly
    completely redeveloped the line into Masters of the Universe and got them in stores a year before the Conan movie was released. That’s all totally ludicrous. And for another another thing Mattel lost the Conan license long before they even started working on MOTU.

    No doubt MOTU was inspired by Conan in many ways (mostly the look of Frank Frazetta’s Conan artwork), but the idea that they actually made Conan toys and then decided they didn’t like the movie that didn’t exist yet, and changed them into He-man is ridiculous, and just plain not true.

  • Fantomex

    @Frank: The James Bond Jr. cartoon is truly shit, and is the only one that should be called an ‘Animated Atrocity’-it was one.

    The show was the stupidest thing ever made besides being incorrect (Bond was/is an only child) and the idea and characters stank. If they want to make a James Bond cartoon, make one based on the current novels set during his schoolboy days (written by Charlie Higgnson, I believe.) That would work.

    Even better, an anime show of the adult James Bond, written realistically and drawn so, or an American one done in the same manner similar to the style of Invasion America.

  • Valerie

    James Bond Jr chases scum… around the world!!

  • Rasheed

    Getting the cartoon Police Academy mixed up with the live action series (yes that exists!), the cartoon came out in ’88. And if you think Camp Candy is weird, you completely missed Gravedale High with Rick Moranis.

  • Ed Force2

    Dude these Cartoons Rock There is absolutely Nothing Bad with Chuck Norris – all of these cartoon rock and you can buy most of them off the WB Archive site.

    These cartoons Absoltuly rock, They are way better the crap that pollutes the airwaves now. All of these cartoons are better then the Number on offender POKEMON!

  • Chrmani

    Anyone else rememeber the cartoon version of “Revenge of the Killer Tomatoes”? I remember that being weird… Ghostbusters was the best though.

  • trlkly

    For both Beetlejuice and Ghostbusters, these were the original to me as a kid. When I saw the real Ghostbusters movie, I thought Egon dyed his hair, and when I saw Beetlejuice at some theme park, I thought he was a bad cosplayer. (Not that I knew that term at the time, but you get the idea.)

  • http://TheHollywoodNews Rob Burch

    I recently acquired Extreme Ghostbusters on DVD and I gotta say for a kid’s cartoon of its time, It’s surprisingly dark, with some real grim storylines.
    Not to mention migraine-inducing “busting” effects.

    A few others I’m trying to round up for nostalgia’s sake, like Highlander and RoboCop.

  • LunaBaby89

    Even though I was born in ’89, I still remember some of these. Especially Beetle Juice which us kids weren’t allowed to watch. A year back I remembered this show and wanted to view it. I had such fond memories sneaking it behind my super religious parents’ backs and I found it online. Unlike Casper, I still found myself enjoying this cartoon. ^^

    Back to the future was a weird one. We taped an episode of it though it was cut short and I found it to be really bizarre. It had this ugly octopus skull monster and for a long time I wondered what show it came from
    Ahh now I want to go further down memory lane and watch all of these shows. ^^

    Oh God Chuck Norris as a cartoon. Back when men with mustaches were seen as masculine sexy and not pedophilic and gay. (Yus I like men with ‘starches) xD

  • Sarah

    Beetlejuice was awesome and Camp Candy Rocked!

  • timelord70

    Regarding The Real Ghostbusters vs Ghostbusters idea, the first Ghostbusters cartoon was actually a spinoff of the original live action Ghostbusters series from the 70’s starring Forest Tucker and Larry Storch (both probably best remembered from F-troop). Yes, they did have a gorilla called Tracy (Tucker played Spencer, Storch played Kong… or vice versa… I can’t remember :-)). Their characters appeared in the first episode of the cartoon series to pass the torch to their sons… or nephews… again can’t remember :-)

  • fsdf

    Moving a bit further, 3 of Jim Carrey’s movies were adapted to cartoons; The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, Ace Ventura

  • Jay McHue

    And now, quite ironically, exactly the opposite is happening: ridiculous movies are being based upon ’80s cartoons. It’s a vicious, vicious cycle being birthed, I tell you!

  • Matthew

    Camp Candy was merely one in a series of short lived animated programs produced by NBC for their Saturday Morning line up. (Yes, kids, there was a time when we didn’t have Cartoon Network, the Internet, or complete seasons/series on DVD.) They also built series around Rick Moranis, Macauly Caulkin, and Soleil Moon Frye, to name a few.

  • Sargonarhes

    Hey, what was wrong with the Real Ghostbusters? That was a great animated adaption.

    Truthfully the Mask was based on a comic book character long before Jim Carey was picked for the role in the movie.
    You have been
    ( ) not told
    ( ) told
    ( ) F*bomb TOLD

  • Jaden Levi

    I agree with everything EXCEPT the Real Ghostbusters and Conan. WTF is wrong with you!

  • Josh Bellamy

    i remember when beetlejuice first aired. it came on at night as a sampler to show off their new saturday morning line up. ghost busters was one of my favorites.

  • John Taylor

    I think you’re given the animated Ghostbusters a bad rap.

  • Pan Man

    Some of these were the best cartoons of my childhood.
    I even had the Chuck Norris car, it was AWESOME!

  • Nathan Forester

    How can you say that the Beetlejuice cartoon, Real Ghostbusters and Camp Candy were bad? I loved all of those shows. I remember there being a Blues Brothers cartoon that never got picked up.

  • Iva

    The first season of Ewoks is one of the best cartoons that ever existed. Check the characterization, story lines etc…

  • Keldon McFarland

    The last Saturday morning cartoons stopped airing on basic TV in late 2014. The major Big Three and FOX ended their Saturday morning cartoon runs years ago.
    But in the 1980s, one of the great honors and fun projects for actors to do was to have a Saturday morning cartoon. Most only lasted for two or three seasons at most, but it they could be reaired as new to the kids who hadn’t seen them yet. Besides, how fun would it be to have your own cartoon?