TV Adaptations of Movies

Okay, so there are a lot of these. TV Adaptations of Movies, that is. And the quality varies quite a bit. Honestly (obviously), most are in the realm of “bad” and “lacking.” Perhaps even “uninspired.” Oooh, that’s right! I said it. Though worse can probably be said for movie adaptations of TV shows.

But… there are good ones. There are good TV shows derived from movies that bring something entirely new and exciting both to the world of the film and to the world of television. Are those the ones I’m going to talk about? Well, maybe just a little bit.

So, how am I going to approach this topic? Well, I’m really just going to talk about two specific shows that exemplify different elements of adaptation (ie, I happen to have been watching them recently and “just kinda decided”).

In a world where every other box office hit is a remake or reboot of something “classic,” (that’s the world we’re living in right now, for any not following along) it should be no surprise that shows pop up on the television every so often that are just derivative of popular film work already out there. But it does surprise me when shows like this get more mainstream attention. For every Voltron and Trollhunters that Dreamworks produces for Netflix, they produce a few cheaper shows: Dreamworks Dragons, The Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show, Dawn of the Croods, Home: Adventures with Tip & Oh… just to name a few. Spinoff series from their own movies.

But I am going to discuss Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (Cartoon Network) and Tangled: The Series (Disney, previewed with the TV special Tangled Before Ever After). There, I said it. These two.

I have not seen the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movie. I don’t know that I ever had an interest, especially now, since I’m getting a healthy (small) dose of the franchise without having to deal with the whole “raining food” plot that doesn’t quite appeal to me.

The TV show, though, has some perks. I’ll say that it has a few likable characters (Sam Sparks, Flint’s Dad, and the Mayor/Principal). They all have some level of fun, uniqueness, or depth to their characters and voices. (I’ll let you decide who has what.) But protagonist Flint Lockwood himself is lacking. He’s pretty one-dimensional; he has his one-note, childish obsession with “inventing,” a crippling emotional dependence on his relationship with Sam, and every plot of his involves a cliché “I was short-sighted and didn’t regard our friendship but now I do at the end of the episode.” And some of the other characters’ gimmicks are not quite up to the snuff of “entertaining.” Not to mention the town’s singular obsession with sardines getting a little old after the few episodes I’ve seen (probably worse if you watch more of the show; can’t promise that, though). Also note: none of the movies original voice actors return; though these voice actors are just fine. For Flint, I do like Mark Edwards better than Bill Hader.

The show’s animation is fine, though not great. Flint has that annoying thing where from any non-face-on perspective, his nose makes up half the silhouette of his face—a “side-nose”—being on the far side of his eye. I’ve seen this, or similar things, done just fine (reference: Matthieu Cousin, @InsideMatthieu; though usually side-mouth and not side-nose), but it lacks the charm here to be anything other than distracting and annoying or unsettling (b/c spatial discontinuity).

I sound a little harsh on the show. I’ve been mostly enjoying it. The plots are hit-or-miss, but the hits can be solid and give us some humor and characterization.

(Sony is also developing a Hotel Transylvania series in the same vein. It’s pre-Andy Samburg’s character. I’m kind of excited, since I enjoyed the movies.)

But onward:

Tangled. Tangled: Before Ever After. Tangled: the series. It’s Tangled. Tangled was good, right?

Here, we have many returners. The voice actors. Alan Mencken on music. Disney distribution (Disney Channel). And it shows. The production is phenomenal. The animation is clever, unique, and fluid. The music is solid and has a few highlights here and there, although I have little love for the opening theme. The acting is really quite dynamic and exciting, too. I don’t think I’ve ever been as convinced by Rapunzel as here.

And now we get to go beyond the linear plot of Tangled and beyond the figurative castle walls. We get Rapunzel, Eugene (Flynn Rider’s real name), Maximus (that really cool horse), Pascal (chameleon, definitely relevant), and newcomer Cassandra (lady-in-waiting and daughter of mustachioed guard captain), all put into fun, episodic situations around the kingdom for us to enjoy. There’s some over-arching plot, but it’s not important; though it does give us back Rapunzel’s golden locks.

Did I say “fun” episodic situations? Well, that’s only partially true. Despite all the good, the show seems to somehow be lacking in this one department. The plots aren’t always good. In fact the first regular episode of the series (post-TV special) is quite disappointing. The gang visits a random mad-scientist kid in another town to figure out what’s up with Rapunzel’s newly regrown hair. But there’s awkward secret-keeping, an unlikable mad-scientist kid, and very little happening, not to mention an uninformative conclusion. Of course, it’s an obvious segue from the TV special to go straight into pursuing the main plot. But it wasn’t interesting. A shame.

This problem does seem to be in remission, though, after a couple recent good scenarios. And I hope that this show’s successes (is it having these?) will get us more quality TV shows branching off of core Disney franchises. I’d be excited to see more adventures with Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde in Zootropolis/ Zootopia. Or Moana or Big Hero 6, or whatever. This is the type of media I enjoy, and I appreciate its presence in my time.

I know I skipped over countless other examples of TV adaptations of movies, as well as countless facets of production and execution and marketing. But that’s not the point. This is, effectively, a topical double-featurette, and I wanted to look at developing trends in media. TV animation especially is going through growth and appears to be reaching for ever-higher peaks. Look out, you ever-higher peaks! Animation’s pioneering flag of conquest is sharp.