This weekend, the third Transformers film comes out, and it’ll make a billion dollars, despite it probably being a load of incomprehensible bollocks. Transformers was one of my favorite cartoons when I was a kid and it hurts my inner child that they’re exploiting the nostalgia of a generation of nerds to make a quick (several million) buck(s). This is, of course, until I remember that the cartoon Transformers only existed in the first place as a means of selling more toys.
That’s right, friends; the toys came first. Same with GI Joe, Masters of the Universe, and Dungeons and Dragons (remember that shit?). In fact, some of my favorite cartoons as a kid were only the result of toy marketers wanting to increase sales. Later on, knowing the cartoons were so integral to the sales, both the toys and the toons were developed simultaneously. But even so, some of the best animation was a result of this. As such, here are five ideas of toy-based cartoons that’d be pretty cool to see as a feature film.
V – BIKER MICE FROM MARS
This show was one of the myriad of toytoons in which anthropomorphic animals (usually created by a genetic experiment) were hip cool guys who fought crime or something. Biker Mice From Mars was the weird example where they were just from outer space. It’s just such a ridiculous concept. Grown men-mice who come from Mars and ride motorcycles. It writes itself.
IV – STONE PROTECTORS
I had honestly completely forgotten about this short-lived phenomenon until just now when I was trolling YouTube (pun intended). This toytoon added an extra level to the commodity-mongering. In the early-90s, there was a resurgence of Troll Dolls — you know, the weird little plastic things with crazy hair, except they started putting little gemstones in their belly. Well, Stone Protectors tried to make these gemstone Trolls accessible to little boys by making them superheroes. And the cartoon intro puts them all into a band. Seriously, what the fuck? This doesn’t work in context, really, because I think this would make a crap movie, but I had to include it for the sheer cojones it took to think of this idea in the first place.
III – SILVERHAWKS
There’s no two ways about it: Silverhawks was created to be a space-themed version of Thundercats. It’s nearly identical in its setup and execution, but what set Silverhawks apart for me is how kind of weird and dark the cartoon was, though you’d never know it from the toy advert. Plus, I always loved the assertion that they were “Partly Metal, Partly Real,” implying that metal is somehow fictitious or imaginary.
II – EXO SQUAD
This was an idea to make an American Anime, and I think it more or less worked. It basically told the story of Battlestar Galactica, where a federation of humans is being overthrown by beings originally created to be servants, in this case the genetically superior Neosapiens instead of Cylons. But what made it different, and easier to market for toy purposes, was that everybody flew around in mech suits, sort of looking like the loader Ripley drives in Aliens. I remember the toys being particularly expensive, and I was only able to get a couple, for which I’m apparently still bitter. There are so many characters that it’s nice that the intro let us know who everybody was.
I – MIGHTY MAX
This was such a cool innovative series, it’s hard to believe it started as Polly Pockets for boys. The toys were little, self-contained playsets where a boy hero named Mighty Max would fight various horror or sci-fi bad guys. And that was it. Later, though, they developed this series and spun a whole mythology out of it, complete with a prophecy, a barbarian bodyguard, and a guide who a was a talking chicken from the future. Sorry, he was a fowl, actually. The idea was that Max’s cap opened various portals throughout the universe, kind of making it a TARDIS you can wear on your head.
I hope everybody enjoyed this trip down memory lane, and if any Hollywood-types read this, I could probably have treatments for these done in a week. Except Stone Protectors, because that’s just a stupid idea.
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