The 6 Most Inexplicable Cartoon Adaptations Ever
Sometimes it makes sense to spin-off a live-action property into a cartoon. Like ALF: The Animated Series, which let audiences learn about Alf's life on Planet Melmac and meet all of his friends before they are killed when the planet is destroyed. But sometimes a TV show or character is dumped into the laps of some cartoon writers who are told, "Just make up whatever shit pops into your head. Kids are stupid." And thus you wind up with ...
The video game character Q*Bert came from a time when games were designed to be less complicated than the mind of the average Nickelback fan, and yet somehow more addictive than a fictional drug we just made up that's 10 times more addictive than heroin. The game, like most games of the era, has no story to speak of. Q*Bert is a little orange monster thing who hops around on squares. It's basically a puzzle game.
There are also some villains, including snakes, balls and other random shapes, that Q*Bert has to avoid. But the game can be described simply as "a little orange guy jumps on some blocks to make them change color." Or cubes. Oh, we just got it. Q*Bert. Cube*bert.
The Baffling Cartoon:
The Q*Bert cartoon series was sandwiched into the Saturday Morning Supercade, a super-stuffed block of video game themed cartoons, in between comparatively normal cartoons like Donkey Kong, Frogger and Donkey Kong, Jr. But then came the whirlwind of non sequiturs that was Q*Bert. The 30 second theme song illustrates the insanity.
"Wait, didn't I see you in Zelda?"
The Q*Berts are aliens(?) apparently. They live in what looks like a planet trapped in the 1950s, what with the hot rods, Greasers and letterman jackets. Then, suddenly, it's the '80s. There are surfers. A mermaid Q*Bert. Suddenly, dinosaurs. Cave-Q*Berts.
Robots. A Frankenstein. Futuristic '80s musical instruments. And then another '50s soda shop, complete with sock hop. Finally, Q*Bert flies into frame on a flying disc.
He looks as stoned as the people who bought this show on DVD.
The series actually features everything the video game did: boxes, Q*Bert, evil snakes. It just adds 40 extra levels of insanity. The show takes place in the town of Q*Burg and features the mild-mannered Q*Bert and his Valspeak-talking girlfriend Q*Tee. The writers decided to take advantage of the '50s nostalgia that permeated the '80s, giving the characters a 1980s sensibility in a 1950s sci-fi city, which gives it a double-whammy of '80s/'50s nostalgia when viewed today.
This cartoon was made two years before Back to the Future combined the '50s and '80s.
Q*Bert goes to Q*Burg High School, hangs out at the Q*Burg mall, listens to Q*Wave music and is generally pretty boring considering he's a furry space alien. His adventures are as diverse as looking for a lost dog, dealing with a robot with low self-confidence or telling the story of a group of cave Q*Berts by reading their crude cave drawings. Like any normal teenager living in the '50s (?) would do.
The cartoon's villains are the snakes from the game, but instead of just being snakes, which are already impossibly terrifying and require no justification for being murderous sons of bitches, they are now a gang of leather jacket wearing, Fonzie-style greasers, who do evil things like compete against Q*Bert in races or brainwash Q*Bert's pal Q*Ball after he turns into a monster after drinking a potion.
It's like if Roger Waters wrote a version of Grease.
So if you've ever wondered what American Graffiti would be like if the characters listened to Duran Duran, Richard Dreyfuss was a fuzzy pint-sized alien and sometimes there were robots, then this is the cartoon series you've been waiting for.
Since Godzilla exploded into Japanese cinema in 1956, the lovable prehistoric terror-machine has become as much a symbol of Japanese culture as cherry blossoms, samurai and grown men buying the used panties of school girls out of vending machines. Godzilla has survived a number of different film interpretations, including that one in Manhattan with Hank Azaria and Ferris Bueller.
Godzilla just seems wrong without awful dubbing and confused Japanese extras.
The Baffling Cartoon:
In 1978, Hanna-Barbera produced an animated series starring the titular radioactive dinosaur. The series theme sums it up well:
The music swells up, with a bombastic singer proclaiming, "Up from the depths, 30 stories high!" as Godzilla, a terrifying prehistoric monster who can wreck untold destruction unto humanity, rises from the waves. He roars and then breathes fire so powerful that it incinerates the opening title. This is one dinosaur you don't want to fuck with.
"You DICK! That sign cost more than your car!
We then cut to Godzilla's sidekick and nephew, Godzooky. The music plays light and bouncy as the whimsical little lizard flies clumsily through the air and crash-lands in an adorable way onto the deck of the ship. As the music vaudevilles it up, Godzooky rolls around and looks into the camera with his doe eyes. This is one dinosaur you may want to fuck with.
We then cut back to a nightmarish hellscape of scorching flames. What the hell is this series? It seems pretty clear that the producers wanted to appeal to children at the same it was scaring the living shit out of them.
"No, mommy, I'll be good! Don't make me watch it!"
Although Godzilla's name is the title, the series actually stars the soft, squishy human crew of the Calico, a research vessel that runs into giant monsters every week for some reason. Let us reiterate: This is not a ship that is researching monsters, but a regular research ship that coincidentally runs into monsters every episode. Whenever this happens, they summon Godzilla, who is apparently their slave.
He rises from the ocean, kills the other monster and disappears, all while Godzooky flies around like someone who is blind, drunk and a moron, messing things up in his adorably dangerous way.
"Godzilla's word of the day is ... 'Bukkake.'"
We should also probably mention that the people look nothing like the people in any of the Godzilla movies, which is to say that there are no Asian people in the cartoon. It's also one of those scientific missions that seem to pop up in comics and cartoons shows all the time in the '70s, when it was OK to bring a young child onto a dangerous mission.
"You shut your mouth and do as you're told, and you might see your mother again."
In this case, it's a towheaded young moppet named Pete, who hangs around on all the missions, bossing around Godzooky and treating him like a dumb pet. Although it's really all just a matter of time until Godzooky realizes that he is a centuries-old reptilian monster and could easily kill and eat all of the other crew members with zero consequences.
"That's a good boy, Godzoo- OH MY GOD, HE'S GOT MY ARM!"
The Robonic Stooges
Ever since the first night they scrambled onto a vaudeville stage and started gouging each others' eyes out, The Three Stooges have proved the comedy constant that anytime three grown men have their heads banged together, it's going to be funny.
The Stooges have outlasted other comedy teams from the '30s and '40s because, even though people like the Marx Brothers or Laurel and Hardy have been more sophisticated, they lacked the blunt ultra-violence that makes the Three Stooges timeless. Although most of their success came with their series of theatrical shorts, the Stooges have appeared in a rich cornucopia of media, including feature-length films, stage shows, comic books and even cartoons.
And then things got weird.
The Baffling Cartoon:
In the late 1970s, the Stooges were revived for the Hanna-Barbera series The Robonic Stooges. The cartoon finally answered the demand for a cartoon series that featured the Three Stooges re-imagined as crime-fighting robots who are also superheroes. And since in real life, the Three Stooges had all been dead for at least two years, there was the added, creepy subtext that maybe the robots had been constructed from the Stooges' reanimated corpses.
Keep your fingers crossed for a gritty reboot.
According to the series' first episode, "Invasion of the Incredible Giant Chicken," the Stooges were "built from the world's finest electronic parts" and "designed to be the world's most perfect electronic robots," although if that's the case, it's never fully explained why they were designed to look and act like famous knockabout comedians best known for almost killing themselves for our entertainment. The Stooges also have secret identities and a day job working in a junkyard. Why robots would need secret identities and a source of income is unclear, since they are robots and could probably just be shut off when they aren't being used.
Anyway, in each episode the Stooges fight supervillians (usually giant ones) through a series of comic misfortunes and bunglings, which makes sense since they're the Three Stooges.
Their shenanigans get to be so unbearable that, for comedy purposes, the Stooges are a constant thorn in the side to their employers, the Superhero Employment Agency. They frequently come close to firing them, even though they are robots who have been designed to act like famous comedians and not superheroes.
THIS IS BULLSHIT!
In many ways, Gilligan's Island was the predecessor to Lost, in that they were both once on television. The successful sitcom starred a group of "lovable" misfits who found themselves shipwrecked and stranded on a desert island that may or may not have been purgatory. During the three seasons the show was on the air, the crew of the S.S. Minnow found themselves in a number of wacky misadventures, and never once resorted to cannibalism and/or sexual hijinks.
Poor Gilligan's boner.
Gilligan's Island was canceled before the characters were rescued, meaning that audiences were left wondering if the characters had all just died on that island sometime in the late '60s. They finally escaped/returned/escaped again in a series of TV movies called Rescue From Gilligan's Island, The Castaways on Gilligan's Island and The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island.
All of which serve only to make the cartoon that much more confusing.
The Baffling Cartoon:
Gilligan's Planet took the original series and made the inevitable leap into science fiction. Although clever observers since the 1960s have been wondering how could the Professor, who was knowledgeable enough to build a radio out of a coconut, not know how to plug a hole in a boat, Gilligan's Planet answers this question by having the crew design not just a boat, but a working, wooden spaceship that flies into outer space.
It seems a little rickety, but the theme song, which is strangely talk-sung, assures us "it's crude, but it could fly."
Sure, why the hell not?
Things seem to be going about as well as they can for the cursed castaways, until Gilligan fucks things up like usual. After finishing a banana, he decides not to throw away the peel like a person, but rather tosses it wildly in the air, like a chimpanzee with poor table manners.
"Surely fresh fruit will keep on our long space voyage!"
It lands on the Skipper's head and since he's been steering the wooden spaceship like a boat, spins the wheel wildly like a maniac and crash lands into a strange planet.
In Gilligan's defense, he probably could have just taken the peel off of his face.
Luckily, it appears to have oxygen and gravity equal to Earth, so none of the characters are faced with a crushing space-death. The rest of the series dealt with their adventures on the planet, as they cavort with space aliens and never fully understand the implications of intergalactic space travel.
The series is vague about why the crew had to fly all the way into outer space before they could return to civilization, but it may be for the best that they found themselves lost on a strange planet, since their wooden ship would probably have been immediately incinerated once it tried to re-enter Earth's atmosphere.
The Brady Kids
It was kind of a Modern Family for the flower power generation. The Brady Bunch was a groovy look at a blended family living in Southern California that ran from 1969 to 1974. Each week featured life lessons and a theme song catchier than the bubonic plague.
That's right, parents, look away from the boys. They bring you shame.
The Baffling Cartoon:
The Brady Kids actually begins with a shockingly logical premise: an animated spin-off series that focuses solely on the Brady children. Kids already loved the Brady Bunch, so it made sense to create a series that only features the characters that children could relate to. Without the parents or Alice to slow the action down, the series could be a look at the Brady Kids' lives, as we see them struggling with their schoolwork or learning to navigate awkward social situations. Or, they could have crossovers with Superman and the Lone Ranger.
Yeah, that's Wonder Woman. We'll come back to that.
Since this is a cartoon, the writers apparently felt that the series should follow the age-old adage "kids like stupid shit." So, during the course of the series, they were lost in a hot air balloon, met tiny spacemen from Venus and protected the crown jewels of Domania. Also, as was the unbreakable cartoon law in the '70s, the Brady Kids were paired with not one, not two, but four goofy animal sidekicks, one of which was also a wizard.
First off is Moptop the dog, who could dance as long as the animation was identical to dogs featured on every other Filmation cartoon in production at the time.
This scene is not crucial to the plot.
And of course, just for the sake of racism, the show also featured a pair of twin pandas named Ping and Pong, who speak, but don't speak English, favoring a vaguely Chinese-sounding jibberish, like a young child would speak when pretending they can speak another language.
And then there's Marlon, their pet mynah bird who talks like Peter Falk, may be immortal or something, and is also a wizard.
He has the power to make us very angry without a clear idea as to why.
So, for example, let's take the episode "It's All Greek to Me," the time travel Wonder Woman crossover episode.
Jan is researching a paper on Euclid, and Marcia is preparing for a track meet. In a logical conflict, they argue over what's more important: the mind or the body. Jan consults the local library's administrative assistant, Diana Prince, aka the secret identity of Wonder Woman. Then they all get sent back in time to Ancient Greece, because it seems that Marlon the wizard bird can send people back in time by accident just by talking near them.
The Brady Kids are unfazed by time travel (Marcia shrugs, "Marlon did it again.") when realistically, they would probably be sentenced to death by lion or be stuck in an unending nightmarish limbo from which they can never return. Also, they could probably have been using Marlon every week to solve crimes or end world hunger, instead of sitting on their asses and watching television.
"You know the rules. Girls sit on the floor with the dogs."
Anyway, while in Ancient Greece, Diana turns into Wonder Woman. When the Brady Kids run into her, they just assume she must have a found a way to time travel as well, instead of guessing that she is in fact the same dark haired, identically proportioned woman that they just traveled back in time with but can't seem to find.
What we're trying to say is, we're thinking this group was too stupid to be trusted with a bird wizard.
The Super Globetrotters
The Harlem Globetrotters are the reigning "Clown Princes" or basketball, the same way the Joker is the "Clown Prince of Crime" and "Clown Prince" is a clown version of the musician Prince that we just created who plays children's birthday parties.
Stop crying, honey, Prince can't hurt you in this dimension.
Founded in 1926 as the Chicago Globetrotters, the Globetrotters team has been spinning basketballs on their fingers and pulling down their opponents' pants since before it was cool. They helped turn professional basketball into a fun spectacle and are still at it today.
The Baffling Cartoon:
The Globetrotters have been no stranger to media adaptations. They've been featured in films, TV series, even tagging along with Scooby and the gang on at least one mystery busting occasion. In 1970, they even got their own relatively normal cartoon series, which featured only one anthropomorphic dog sidekick. But things got really weird almost a decade later, when Hanna-Barbera premiered The Super Globetrotters, a cartoon series that featured members of the Globetrotters as superheroes.
Let that image really sink in. It gets worse.
Let's be clear about this: The Harlem Globetrotters aren't fictional characters, in real life they are actual people, who in this cartoon are also superheroes. On the surface it's not that crazy an idea. Lots of children view professional athletes as superheroes already, as fans of "ProStars" can attest, so giving the Globetrotters superpowers could be a fun experience.
Or it could be a horrifying trek into the darkest corners of Hell.
The Super Globetrotters makes some noticeable missteps. For one thing, their "super" powers seem to run the gamut from "useful" (Hubert "Geese" Ausbie could create multiple clones of himself) to "fun party trick" (Louise "Sweet Lou" Dunbar could pull anything he needed out of his afro) to "super weakness" (James "Twiggy" Sanders could turn his body into spaghetti -- which apparently didn't instantly lead to his death).
The Globetrotters learn about crime from their "Globetrotter Crime Globe," a talking satellite shaped like a basketball that orbits the Earth from "above the stratosphere, scanning the globe for lawlessness" and uses phrases like "Right on." The voice-over tells us that the Globetrotters are "secret superheroes of crime fighting," implying they have secret identities, which is odd because their costumes are strangely similar to their warm-up uniforms, and their "Globetrotter Crime Globe" contacts them in the middle of their sold out game where all their fans can see them.
"Don't mind us. This is just another of our wacky tricks!"
The Globetrotters decide to "get truckin'," abandoning their game, running away without so much as giving the audiences a refund for their tickets. In the locker room, they change into their costumes and fly away. Because they can all fly. We probably should have mentioned that.
Kind of gives them an unfair advantage in the dunk department.
They fight villains like Whaleman (who is a pirate and not a whale), Tattoo Man (who animates his tattoos), and Robo and the Globots (who has the best name and an army of evil Globetrotter robots), and somehow find ways to use their ridiculous powers to fight crime.
It makes more sense if you have no context with this picture.
Even considering their appearances on Futurama, this is the strangest and most nonsensical thing the Globetrotters name has ever been associated with.
This might be racist, we can't even tell.
Anthony Scibelli is a handsome stand-up comedian and comedy writer. When he isn't wasting time on Twitter, he's wasting time on his blog "There's No Success Like Failure."
For more on baffling adaptations, check out The 7 Most Offensive Adaptations of Classic Comic Books and The 10 Most Disastrous Saturday Morning Cartoon Adaptations.