Kids’ Cartoons Based on Rated-R Properties Ranked By How Inappropriate They Were to Adapt in the First Place

Rambo and The Smurfs should never be in the same programming block
Kids’ Cartoons Based on Rated-R Properties Ranked By How Inappropriate They Were to Adapt in the First Place

Adapting PG-13 properties into kids’ cartoons is pretty commonplace. Even if movies like Men in Black and Ace Ventura weren’t meant for kids to begin with, it’s not that hard to see how they could be sanitized into cuter adventures with aliens and/or animals. Hell, all the MCU movies are PG-13, and there are plenty of cartoons tied to those characters.

Much weirder though is when a strictly R-rated film becomes a kids’ property, which was a phenomenon that happened regularly in the 1980s and 1990s. And so, here’s every kids’ cartoon based on an R-rated movie ranked by how inappropriate they were to adapt in the first place. 

Police Academy (1988)

The first Police Academy movie was R-rated for lots of sex and some violence, but the franchise was being sanitized long before Officers Mahoney and Hightower were realized in two dimensions. The second film was rated PG-13, and every subsequent film was rated PG. When the Police Academy cartoon came along, they were already five movies deep, so it’s not that weird that it became a cartoon.

Conan the Adventurer (1992)

Conan the Barbarian was a character that originated in pulp magazines beginning in the 1930s, and he’s been adapted into all kinds of mediums. In 1982, Conan the Barbarian was an R-rated movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger that featured nudity and lots of violence, but two years later, the sequel, Conan the Destroyer, was toned down to be PG (as PG-13 didn’t exist yet). Given all that, it makes sense that such a storied character would get his own cartoon — it’s no different than giving Batman a cartoon, which, of course, has been done 50 or so times now.

Highlander: The Animated Series (1994)

The Highlander films were also gradually sanitized over time. While the first two movies held an R rating for tons of violent swordplay, the third film, which came out just a couple of months after the cartoon debuted, was rated PG-13. Still, to turn a dark fantasy series with beheadings as a central theme into a kids’ cartoon is a bit of a stretch. It’d be like if HBO released a children’s version of Game of Thrones.

RoboCop: The Animated Series (1988)

Given that RoboCop is a cybernetic police officer with a superhero-like origin story, it’s understandable that somebody might want to try it out on kids, but that doesn’t change the fact that the original film is packed with over-the-top gore. It quickly pivoted into children’s entertainment, too. The movie was released in July 1987, only to debut as a cartoon a little more than a year later in October 1988. Considering the fact that old-fashioned, hand-drawn cartoons could take almost a year to make, that must mean a RoboCop cartoon was conceived when RoboCop was still in theaters.

Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles (1999)

Like RoboCop, you can kind of understand how the subject matter of Starship Troopers could be adapted for children. It’s about a bunch of warriors fighting ugly aliens, which is precisely the kind of stuff Saturday mornings were full of back in the day. But Starship Troopers isn’t Star Wars. There are impalings and a whole bunch of naked people. It’s like if James Cameron decided, while making Aliens, “You know what this movie needs? Lots of blood and boobs.”

Rambo: The Force for Freedom (1986)

The Rambo films are about murder and PTSD, two things that hardly seem like they’re begging for the Saturday morning treatment. That said, G.I. Joe was a hit cartoon in the 1980s; hence, the cartoon version of John Rambo. It worked, too. The show ran for 65 episodes, which was the magic number cartoons had to hit back in the day to go into syndication. 

Toxic Crusaders (1990)

The Toxic Avenger is a schlocky horror film chock-full of sex and violence — it’s basically what the whole movie is about. Case in point: There’s a scene where a topless woman masturbates to a picture of a bloody corpse before she’s attacked by a monster who burns her on red-hot rocks. So it’s downright stunning that anyone could look at such source material and decide to make a fairly mediocre kids cartoon out of it (as well as a pretty great toyline).

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