6 Insane Versions of Famous Cartoons They Almost Made
In a business full of endless reboots and remakes, maybe nothing in Hollywood gets recycled more than animation. Since cartoon characters aren't associated with any one actor (in the audience's mind) studios feel even more free to come up with endless revamps starring the same characters.
But even with Hollywood's low, low standards, some shows wind up too ridiculous to see the light of day.
Way back in the year 2010, DC Comics began developing yet another new Batman cartoon series. Though Batman has already been reimagined from pretty much every possible angle, this series was set to be Batman's Smallville, exploring Bruce Wayne's formative years at Gotham High.
You know there would have been at least one episode where the Joker learned about the dangers of drug abuse.
Based on the concept, this isn't a bad idea. After all, Smallville was a huge hit for DC, and Marvel characters like Spider-Man and the X-Men have a history of using teen characters to explore hard-hitting teen issues such as what to do when a supervillain steals your girlfriend. So a series focused on a teenage Bruce Wayne, before Batboy became Batman, sounds like it could be a home run.
Or ... maybe not.
While we can ignore the fact that Bruce Wayne was set to attend a regular public high school despite his family's immense wealth (maybe the show takes place just before Wayne Sr. wins the lottery or something), it gets bizarre when you realize Bruce was set to share a class with every character in the franchise, including the entire extensive Batman rogues' gallery.
It's a brave gym coach who runs that detention hall.
Yeah, instead of just another Batman show rehashing the same old plots, the Gotham High concept would have given us Bane and Killer Croc dunking the Riddler's head in a toilet bowl while the Penguin acted as lookout.
Throwing out any semblance of continuity, the entire idea seems to be based on the observation that Batman villains can be categorized as goths, nerds, jocks and other high school stereotypes. According to the artwork, Batgirl is there too, so it's unclear whether they were also planning to include a preschool-age Robin.
Is it actually possible for him to be more of a whiny bastard?
We're suspicious of any high school that produces no fewer than 12 supervillains in one graduating class, but admittedly it does put an interesting spin on those Council of Doom meetings to think they're really just high school reunions.
As for the show, it didn't make it much further than the preliminary artwork and character design.
Roger Rabbit vs. the Nazis
Immediately after Who Framed Roger Rabbit became a hit, Hollywood decided to do what it does best: do the same thing all over again and hopefully make as much money. A sequel script was commissioned immediately, and written by Nat Mauldin, a sitcom writer who had written for Barney Miller and Night Court, two of the biggest hits of the 70s and 80s.
Truly, it was a Golden Age.
The finished script, titled Toon Platoon, actually ended up being a prequel, telling Roger's story from birth, including his rise in vaudeville and his experiences in World War II, all bookended by Roger's search to discover his biological parents. After learning he was adopted, Roger meets Ritchie, a struggling actor, and heads to Hollywood. But not before enlisting in the Army, since the shadow of WWII looms in the near future. You know, just the kind of zany, lighthearted kids entertainment that made the original such a success.
For the most part.
The film would have ended with Roger being reunited with his mother and his father, who, in a twist of Shyamalanian proportions, is revealed to be Bugs Bunny. The project was put aside temporarily when Steven Spielberg, who had just directed Schindler's List, realized that a movie that stars a slapstick cartoon rabbit might not be the most tasteful venue for exploring World War II.
He was also worried it might stir up troubling questions about Herr Bunny's wartime activities.
A new draft was written, this time titled Who Discovered Roger Rabbit. With the Nazis gone, the film was focused instead on Roger's rise in Broadway. They got as far as filming a CGI animation test, but Disney eventually pulled the plug on the whole project when it realized the budget for this would be astronomical. Rumors persist that a traditional 2-D version is back in the works, but no word on whether they brought back the Nazis.
Dexter's Laboratory: "Dexter's Rude Removal"
Throughout the course of the series, Dexter's Laboratory was no stranger to "adult humor," sneaking in sly references to things only Mom and Dad would understand. But there are subtle, racy allusions, and then there's the secret unaired episode, "Dexter's Rude Removal," in which Dexter's sister straight-up calls him a "skull-fucking douchebag."
No images exist of this episode, so here's a skull-fucking douchebag.
The episode was designed as a treat for adult fans of the show, reserved exclusively for comics conventions and other special occasions, and has never been (and will never be, according to series creator Genndy Tartakovsky) aired on television. As a result, only a few people claim to have seen it. The episode is so peppered with explicit profanity that South Park would blush, and Cartoon Network won't touch it even for a late-night time slot, when it can pretty much air an interspecies orgy with the cast of Madagascar and get away with it.
Hey human, wanna smush?
These kinds of in-house gags aren't exactly new. As far back as the 1930s, Warner Bros. was amusing itself by making Porky Pig swear. But what makes Dexter stand out is just how far they went. The plot involves Dexter inadvertently creating evil clones of himself and his sister Dee Dee, and for the rest of the episode, the clones unleash a torrent of profanity at each other while flipping off and mooning the audience. At one point, while eating dinner, clone Dexter tells his mother "this shit is fucking great," after which clone Dee Dee scolds him for "fucking cursing in front of fucking Mom."
At which point Dexter bopped her on the head.
So where can you find a copy of this? Well, it looks like you can't. Even with Cracked's powerful connections within the comedy industry, Genndy and Cartoon Network are keeping it pretty tightly under wraps. But really, it's only a matter of time until someone leaks it onto YouTube. After all, if the U.S. government can't suppress an alien autopsy video, what hope does Cartoon Network have?
The Original Shrek, Starring Chris Farley
Shrek was a surprise smash hit, leading to three (or maybe it's four? We kind of lost track) sequels, various spin-offs and minor depression in people who liked the first two and decided to see the others. But the Shrek we know is almost unrecognizable from its original inception many years earlier as a vehicle for Chris Farley.
And we all know how Chris Farley treated vehicles.
The film is actually loosely based on a children's book by William Steig called Shrek!, a title so exciting it demanded an exclamation point. The book detailed the coming-of-age story of a young ogre. After Steven Spielberg bought the rights, it was in development hell for years -- it was at one point intended to be a hand-drawn film, then stop-motion animation and finally, motion-capture like Avatar.
Farley was hired to play the lead, who at this point was a shy and sensitive ogre still living with his parents and being pressured into the family business of scaring people. The glowing review from DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg was, "It looked terrible, it didn't work, it wasn't funny and we didn't like it." That wasn't Farley's fault -- by all accounts he did an astounding job recording 95 percent of the film's dialogue before he passed away.
Instead of trying to patch up the remaining audio with a soundalike, the studio decided to let Farley's legacy lie and recast the role with fellow SNL alum Mike Myers. Myers had only one minor request -- a total Page 1 rewrite, radically changing the story and changing Shrek from shy, sensitive and Chris Farley-esque to an older, curmudgeonly misanthrope. It wasn't the last ridiculous demand that he would make -- after years of production and before Shrek hit cinemas, Myers changed his mind about the dialogue and asked if he could start all over again with a Scottish accent, a request we imagine was followed by five straight minutes of disbelieving stares.
"Also, Smashmouth songs. All over the goddamn place."
Luckily for DreamWorks, Myers really seemed to know what he was talking about. A film that Katzenberg admitted was 90 minutes of slow, agonizing train wreck became a smash hit at the box office and beat Pixar to the Oscar. But somewhere, deep in the vaults of DreamWorks Animation, there are locked away the Shrek recordings that Chris Farley made, presumably next to the Ark of the Covenant and all those novels J.D. Salinger wrote in New Hampshire when he wasn't drinking his own urine.
The Jim Henson Co. had one exceptional breakout hit, and you better believe they milked it for all it was worth. But for some reason, one of the company's greatest successes came after it took the actual Muppets out of the picture and forayed into animation. Muppet Babies was a surprise phenomenon, so much so that Henson soon started to think about how many stories he could squeeze out of the intermediate years between Muppet Babies and, well, regular Muppets.
You're crossing lines that shouldn't be crossed, Henson!
The words "Muppet" and "High" go together like peanut butter and lint. But Muppet High, the developed-but-never-completed TV series featuring everyone's favorite non-pornographic puppets, was not the Cheech-and-Chong inspired take on the franchise we've all been waiting for, but rather a series recasting the Muppets as high school students in the 1950s. Muppet High would have recast Kermit as a motorcycle-riding, leather-jacket-wearing, Fonzie-style greaser; Fozzie Bear as a soda jerk; Gonzo as a nerd; and Rowlf as a varsity football player. Because that all makes sense.
Unlike Gotham High, which had Batmanability on its side, it's questionable how seamlessly the Muppets could temper their genuine zaniness to accommodate for realistic teenage problems. Then again, the Muppet Babies didn't ever confront real "baby issues," focusing instead on however much stock footage from old movies they could cram into 30 minutes.
The answer was "a lot."
Also, why the 1950s? Would the series have been a nostalgia-infused look at a simpler time, or taken more of a Mad Men-style approach, viewing the underlying hypocrisies of the era through the prism of floppy animal puppets?
Nerdy Gonzo's life is a never-ending sea of alienation.
Unfortunately, we may never know how Kermit would have reacted to Sputnik, or Gonzo's take on rock 'n' roll. When Jim Henson died, Muppet High died with him, but the Henson company still managed to squeeze some money out of it in the form of merchandising, proving that no matter how nonsensical children's toys may appear, kids will buy whatever Kermit the Frog tells them to.
The Krusty the Clown Spinoff
The Simpsons is perhaps television's greatest aberration -- it's likely to carry on until the sun explodes, and not once have they tried to cash in on a spin-off series. What you may not know is that Matt Groening has bounced around a lot of spin-off pipe dreams over the years, including a live-action Troy McClure movie, the adventures of young Homer, and a full length feature film parody of Fantasia. None saw the light of day, but the one that came closest to actually appearing on your TV screen was a sitcom starring Krusty the Clown.
Oh, and here's the twist: It would have been live-action.
Nothing unsettling about that.
The show would have starred Dan Castellaneta, the actor who voices Krusty in the cartoon and who has the benefit of being an accomplished real-world actor as well. The show was going to be all about this guy, in Krusty makeup, moving to L.A. and hosting a talk show.
Proving once and for all that Matt Groening has been shithouse crazy for years.
It's unsure whether the show would have branched continuity or whether the Simpsons' Krusty would have dramatically left Springfield like Cleveland from Family Guy. And even though The Simpsons is pretty much inextricably bound with the zeitgeist, there's no guarantee that everything it spawned would have been up to the same high standards. After all, there's only a very thin line separating Frasier from The Tortellis.
Unfortunately, Groening's script called for Krusty's house to be held up by wooden stilts that were being slowly eaten away by beavers, which probably would have been hilarious, we guess, but Groening was told by the studio that either trained or animatronic beavers were prohibitively expensive commodities, and for some reason he preferred to shelve the idea rather than compromise on this plot point. Instead, he began developing some dopey series that takes place in the future or something.
Anthony Scibelli is a handsome stand-up comedian and comedy writer. You can find him at his blog, "There's No Success Like Failure."
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