8 Children's Movies Studios Don't Have the Balls to Make
For my day job, I work for a major feature animation studio, and one of their coolest and most dangerous policies is that any employee can submit a pitch for a movie idea. They're looking for what they call in the biz four-quadrant movies, or what you would think of as "family" movies: Something with enough wit or thrills to keep adults interested, but doesn't involve penis jokes or disembowelment.
I've come up with quite a few ideas that were all unfortunately rejected. Not by management, technically, as I wasn't able to get as far as submitting them, but by my co-workers, who physically prevented me from hitting the "submit" button on the computer. They said something about "career suicide" and how they were "saving me from myself."
They are watching me like a hawk at work, so I'm going to put these up on Cracked and hopefully one of you guys can help me bypass these so-called gatekeepers of taste and get them in front of some studio heads. I will split the profits with you 50-50.
Hostel (For Kids)
Hostel made a decent box office profit for a torture porn movie and got a massive amount of buzz. However, being a gratuitously gory horror movie really limits its target demographic. Imagine how many people it could reach if they remade it for a wider audience.
All you have to do is take out everything that made the movie inappropriate for kids, and you're left with, um ... people being negative to other people, and some form of red liquid.
My proposal is that we have a very mischievous young child who goes around and asks other kids if they want to look at his plastic chainsaw. While they are distracted by the brightly colored toy and its moving parts, he squirts ketchup on them, getting their clothes dirty and -- this is the scary part -- causing their parents to be mad at them. I can tone this down if it's still too horrifying.
One of the tragic victims.
Office Space (For Kids)
"Are you just going to attach the phrase 'for kids' to the end of well-known movie titles?" you might be asking right now. Everyone keeps asking that. Is that some kind of no-no? I find that creativity goes much faster when you do the exact same thing for each project, like that time I had assignments in creative writing, American history, molecular biology and physics 8B due at the same time and I turned in a biography of Abraham Lincoln for each one.
Anyway, while Office Space didn't do so well at the box office, it took on a new life as a cult classic, and anyone would love their kids' movies to be worshiped and imitated and made into memes that get old as soon as they come into existence. I find that the themes of Office Space translate perfectly into the world of, say, a preschool, where existential ennui from the drudgery and bureaucracy of the daily routine is common. I haven't been in preschool for decades, but I think I am remembering it correctly.
So many TPS reports to finish before nap time.
I think toddlers will really be able to identify with being bored of life. What 3-year-old hasn't complained about how repetitive and mind-numbing it is to wake up in the morning every day, identify some shapes and colors, make mud pies, chase their sister around the house, color Spider-Man, play with bulldozers in the sandbox and practice pooping? It's a wonder they don't kill themselves.
Brian De Palma's masterpiece about the resonating themes of, um, cocaine and shooting a lot of people, or something, is renowned amongst both movie critics and hip-hop artists, and how many things can you say that about?
One audience, however, has been barred from appreciating Scarface until now, and that is elementary-school-aged children. Now, through the magic of talking animals and a massive amount of censorship, they too can enjoy this cultural milestone.
Since the cocaine and violence need to go, according to my prudish co-workers, the Colombians are instead angry at Tony because they are flamingos and he called them pelicans, which is really insulting.
This is what we in the business call an homage.
And it would be unthinkable to remove his iconic line, "Say hello to my little friend," but since we can't have guns, he is actually introducing them to his young nephew, who is visiting.
Then he sends the boy off to play, and they have a big shootout with Nerf guns. One of them hits him in the eye, just like his mom always warned him would happen, and he learns a valuable lesson and changes his ways.
Really just a few minor changes, while preserving the essence of the film.
One surefire way to make a hit these days is to base a movie on an amusement park ride, like the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean series, or The Haunted Mansion, or Indiana Jones.
Disney will never give up one of its properties, so I'm going somewhere it'll be easier to buy the rights -- temporary carnivals and deteriorating children's parks and zoos in my local area.
The old merry-go-round in particular has a lot of potential to become a fleshed-out story because merry-go-rounds have so much character. And by character, I mean creepiness. Ever wonder why so many merry-go-round horses look terrified?
Perhaps it is because they've all been impaled with giant poles.
I mean, that expression makes perfect sense to me when you notice that he has been stabbed right through the torso. My idea was that the merry-go-round could come to life at night, a la Night at the Museum, and a bunch of kids could have adventures with the horses before they had to go back to the merry-go-round at dawn and be impaled once more by the cruel poles.
In addition to the obvious thematic connection, there should be some great potential for visual tie-ins to the Buddhist wheel of life, representing the concept of samsara, the inescapable cycle of birth, life and death that all are destined to repeat.
Kids love nothing more than contemplating ancient philosophy.
I hear a lot of parents complaining about how Hollywood needs to make more films with strong religious content for children, so I think this ought to make some parents' groups really happy.
Sure, I've gotten an earful from naysayers who say that children don't enjoy a fatalistic exploration of the futility of man's struggles culminating in resignation to a low-key existential dread, but I think these people are just party poopers who have forgotten the joy of childhood.
Victor the Proactive Vulture
One of the most common winning formulas for animated kids' movies is when you take an animal normally known for one trait and have his dream be to do the opposite of that. Like an ant who wants to be an individual (Antz, A Bug's Life), or a fat lazy animal who wants to do martial arts (Kung Fu Panda), or a filthy rodent who wants to cook haute cuisine (Ratatouille).
I had a couple of false starts along this vein -- a cat who wants to work hard in a reliable 9-5 factory shift, a fish who wants to go into space, an elephant who wants to forget his horrific upbringing -- but I think I've finally struck gold with Victor the Proactive Vulture, a vulture who is tired of the passive ways of his species and bravely pursues his dream of killing his own prey.
All the other vultures are like, "Come on, Victor, this is the way it's always been. Why go out there and risk your neck, your nasty, leathery neck, when we can wait for our meal to just fall over? You're crazy! It's too dangerous!" and Victor is like, "No, man, I'm going to make my own destiny!" and he stabs the shit out of some hiker.
Kids are going to dig it.
Fully Clothed Showgirls
Prudence Dressup goes to Las Vegas to fulfill her dream of being a dancer and runs up against the city's culture of sleaze and loose morals. Her act, which involves starting out in a leotard and putting on more and more clothes until she is completely covered, as a modest woman should be, turns out to be a hard sell.
When one unscrupulous director asks her to show her ankles at an audition, she walks straight out and goes home to her parents, who told her so the whole time.
I think it would be too much to show her actually getting cooties, but every moment she spends around boys, kids will be kept on the edge of their seats in fear that she could get them at any time.
Requiem for a Kid's Dream
Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream consistently tops "Most Depressing Movie" lists all over the Internet, which makes it ideal to adapt into wholesome family entertainment for bright-eyed youngsters.
I think it's important to keep the strong anti-drug message while removing things kids shouldn't see, like drug use, or the consequences of drug use. Mostly it'll be a series of musical set pieces where the kids dance and sing about what they want to be when they grow up (a fireman, a doctor, a bird), and then at the very end of the movie you have Morgan Freeman say, "And they never became any of those things because drugs. Stay off drugs, kids."
I mean really, in my expert opinion, just telling people moral lessons is way more effective than showing them.
David Lynch's Eraserhead: The Anime
One thing we can take away from the younger generation's love of anime is that apparently kids like things that don't make any sense. Like take the whole Macross saga or whatever that got chopped up into Robotech and I think maybe got remade again or something, which is all confusing enough already. The one plot element most of the versions (remakes?) seem to have in common is that people pilot giant robots to fight giants from space and then at one point a pop singer starts singing and the whole fleet can hear her for some reason and then this makes them win.
Why would you show this to kids who are used to watching The Smurfs or He-Man or something? Is it funny to confuse 10-year-olds?
I mean, I liked Robotech when I was a kid, but to this day I can't explain why, nor who the Robotech Masters were or what they wanted, or why singing wins fights. Maybe I'm just slow. I did think the main villain of Star Wars was named "Dark Vader." But the point is that kids love things they don't understand, like anime. And what is understood by fewer people than a David Lynch movie?
Take Eraserhead, one of his most confusing movies, and pair it with the most extreme tropes of anime, by which I mean put a guy with an eraser for a head in a schoolgirl uniform, and I think this is something kids will be dragging their parents to see all across the country.