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Top 10: Weird Cartoon Adaptations

top ten logoDucktales. Tiny Toon Adventures. Eek! The Cat.

The above are just some of the shows that feature on a short list of animated TV shows that folks of “my generation” hold in high regard. Growing up in the ’80s or ’90s was a golden age for any fan of cartoons, and seemingly every channel on the tube was getting into the act. If you planned efficiently, a Saturday morning could be filed with hours of awesome cartoons (and then an episode of California Dreams), showcasing some of the most original comedy seen on television in decades.

Better yet, we saw a plethora of cartoon adaptations hit the airwaves, based on some of our favorite movies, comic books, TV shows, and video games. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego (which is a vastly underrated ‘toon, in my opinion),  The Tick, The Maxx, The Real Ghostbusters, all shining examples of cartoon adaptations gone right. (And speaking of cartoons we love, be sure to check out the Futurama finale tonight!)

However… just like in life, they can’t all be winners. Here is a top 10 list (in NO ranking order) of the strangest cartoon adaptations that probably should have never been.

Nostalgia is 20/20.


Mork & Mindy/Laverne & Shirley/Fonz Hour

In the late ’70s/early ’80s, Hanna-Barbera was cranking out cartoons like nobody’s business, but they should have stayed away from Garry Marshall adaptations. Sure, we all love the sitcoms these cartoons are based on, but other than Mork and Mindy, these shows are definitely not suited to cartoon adaptations. Be amazed at the animated hijinks of a guy in a leather jacket who hangs out at a diner! Regale in the adventures of two working women in their ’30s! And though Mork may not be the most graceful of cartoons, there’s nothing better than Robin Williams and a pink alien dog thing.

Back to the Future

Here’s the problem with adaptations of beloved properties; nostalgia kicks in and clouds the mind. Take this Back to the Future cartoon from the early ’90s: It’s got Doc Brown, The Delorean, and that kicking theme music. Your brain goes “wait, I like this!,” but I promise you that if you override that initial burst of childhood joy, what you’ll find is a pretty joyless and standard ’90s kids cartoon. This may be an odd complaint, but I also find this cartoon way too “cartoony” in its visual style. It’s lil’ Marty McFly! Pass.


“Kids love cartoons. Kids love sports. They should have a baby!” That’s an approximation of a sentence that was likely uttered in a Hollywood office, sometime back in 1990. Combine Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Bo Jackson, a wacky sci-fi crime fighting concept, and one of the worst theme songs I’ve ever heard, and you’ve got ProStars, a show that aired for a glorious 3 months back in 1991. If anything, this show taught a would-be generation of geeks to dislike sports from an early age… and I’m actually cool with that.


“He was given magical shoes, from a hip-hop Motown dude”. That sentence says it all. If you like ’80s superstar M.C Hammer and magical dancing shoes, have we got a show for you. Produced at the height of Hammer’s very short-lived fame, Hammerman was such a stretch that even as a small kid, you kind of figured out you were being pandered to. There is some alternate universe where Hammerman has been airing for 20 years, and I’m very glad I don’t live in said alternate Hammerverse.


Look, I LOVE Godzilla. Unapologetically. I’m all about the Kaiju. That being said, a show which could have been one of the more bad-ass cartoons to air, wound up being… not that. Godzilla? Awesome. A team of scientists who travel with him? Sure. A pretty awesome theme song? Yep. Just where does this show go wrong, then? One word: Godzuki. The Scrappy Doo of the monster set, Godzuki takes this show from one that could have been pretty damn cool, to… it’s Godzuki, you guys.

Gilligan’s Planet

It’s your age-old tale: a group of shipwrecked weirdos manage to build a rocket ship made out of bamboo, journey into outer space, and then inevitably crash-land onto a strange alien planet. If that sounds interesting to you, Gilligan’s Planet is your jump-off. And, look, the actual cast provides the voices, making the whole endeavor even that much more depressing. Space coconuts? I’m pretty sure.

It’s Punky Brewster

Like Gilligan’s Planet, the Punky Brewster cartoon takes a beloved sitcom and adds an “interesting” spin to it. This time, our titular orphan with the heart of gold doesn’t find herself dealing with bullies at school or feelings of inadequacy; no, in this show, Punky finds a magical secret village made up of “leprechaun gophers,” and then… look guys, it’s about an orphan and her magical gopher friend. ‘Nuff said.

Rambo: The Force of Freedom

Take one of American cinema’s most infamous killing machines, mix him with a mid ’80s animation style, remove the killing, and you’ve got Rambo: The Force of Freedom. While the show retains really none of the elements from the films on which it’s based (save the name and the headband), the truly crazy thing about this cartoon was the complete lack of death. Yes, it’s a kids’ cartoon, I get it; but why bring Rambo to Saturday mornings if you’re not going to have him do any Rambo stuff?

The Partridge Family: 2200 AD

Meet George, his wife Judy, daughter Jane, and Danny Bonaduce? Because things weren’t weird enough on this list already, meet Partridge Family: 2020 AD , or The Jetsons. From the theme song, to the visual style, to the fact that this is CLEARLY A JETSONS RIPOFF, this has to be one of the more misguided and head-shakingly wrong cartoon adaptations to ever air on American TV. Love the Jetsons but hate quality writing and concepts? Well, listen to this! (Back to the Future reference. NOT the cartoon version).

The Gary Coleman Show

Hey America! You loved Gary Coleman as the adorable and yet worldly-wise preteen on Diff’rent Strokes right? Then you’ll love him as a precocious angel sent to dispel wisdom to the youth of the nation! Right? No? Why not? He’s an angel! With LITERAL WINGS and a halo and the whole deal. It’s everything you loved about him to begin with, no? Seriously?


Remember any of these ill-fated cartoons? Got any you remember that deserve a spot on this list? Kindly leave a comment, email me , check out my YouTube channel, or hit me up on the Twitter machine.

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  1. Ray Kremer says:

    Hahahaha Pro Stars. The show played it totally straight but the concept was every bit as bizarre as it sounds. The thing about Punky Brewster is that at the age I was, I had no clue it was a spin-off of a live action show. I’m sure it didn’t matter.

    BTTF was okay for what it was, given that Doc rebuilt the Delorean for no apparent reason, it could turn into a suitcase, time travel also now included going whereever on earth you wanted, and there was always a Tannen ancestor there. The show was more about Jules and Vern than Doc and Marty. Nowhere else could you witness a boy go over Niagara Falls in a barrel equipped with a flux capacitor.

  2. earl says:

    I almost forgot donkey kong and the new adventures of pac-man

  3. Nathaniel H. says:

    If you do a “best” version of this list, I recommend the Bill & Ted animated series. Season 1 even featured all three main actors voicing themselves!

  4. michaelalexkawa says:

    I ,like Carrie in the above comment ,love the “Back To The Future ” cartoon . No not as good as the movies ,but it was a fun show .

  5. Ian says:

    What about Captain N: The Games Master? Featured characters from Nintendo games I’d never even heard about.

    Hammerman was pretty funny, the whole concept seemed bizarre even when I was a kid. My parents told me I loved the Godzilla cartoon, but I don’t remember it.

  6. Mellissalynn says:

    Well, now that you’ve donet he worst list, shouldn’t you do the best as well? You can start with my vote for #1, The Tick! A show that was well before its time… 🙂

  7. Earl says:

    you forgot to mention captain planet

  8. Charlie Stubblefield says:

    The Teen Wolf cartoon was classice! Love the theme song. “Teen Wolf…he’s going to howl today

  9. Tim says:

    Anyone remember the Rubik’s Cube show? All out around the same time. With HB putting out so many shows, they all started having the same plot points

  10. Austyn says:

    That Mork/L&S/Fonzie thing has to be the longest title I’ve ever seen for any TV show.

  11. jwc says:

    I think you got the year wrong in the partridge family cartoon…does the theme song not say 2200?

  12. CJ says:

    Some great choices from an epic time when anything pop culture related was syndicated into animation – hey nerdists fans, instead of complaining about an omitted cartoon – why not post the video an add to the list? A personal favorite of mine? Hanna Barbera’s early 70’s classic THE AMAZING CHAN & THE CHAN CLAN

  13. Collin says:

    In keeping with the animated Michael J. Fox theme, don’t forget the horrible cartoon version of “Teen Wolf”!

  14. JetpackBlues says:

    I fondly remember Hanna Barbara’s first Happy Days animated show “Fonz and the Happy Days Gang” with Mr. Cool, Fonzie’s anthropromorphic dog (ugh) (Frank Welker), Cupcake (Didi Conn) the time-travelling girl from the future and Wolfman Jack narrating.

  15. Peter Whitney says:

    I was hoping to see Godzilla and also Highlander on here. 1 out of 2 ain’t bad. Highlander is so amazingly weird though… Having it taking place in the future and no longer beheading others.

  16. Bill says:

    No Turbo Teen

  17. Carrie says:

    Hey, Back to the Future cartoon was awesome. I use to watch that show on CBS and then on Fox. Let’s not forget Bill Nye was on that show before his own show took off.

  18. Nathan Gifford says:

    What, no Hulk Hogan’s Rock-n-Wrestling? For shame!

  19. ArwenC says:

    Sarahlizzie I was thinking the same exact thing!!!
    I also like the back to the future cartoon:)

  20. Ferdinand Cesarano says:

    I don’t know how you missed the Three Stooges:

    Each episode opens with a live-action segment (with Joe DeRita, “Curly Joe”), and then goes into the cartoon segment. Moe actually addresses the audience directly in order to introduce the cartoon segment.

  21. Sarahlizzy says:

    What no mention of the New Kids on the Block show??? hehe

  22. joeyjoejoejr says:

    Nerdist, please stop the autoplay on all your YouTube embeds. To disable autoplay, just put &autoplay=0 after the video ID. Thanks.

  23. OhioPest says:

    If this was a top 11 list, I believe “Wish Kid” starring Macauly Caulkin would be on it.