The 13 Worst Movies Based on Cartoons

The TV-cartoon-to-feature-film transition is rarely a successful one

Sometimes TV cartoons become the worst movies. For decades TV cartoons have been adapted into movies using both live-action and animation, sometimes with a combination of both. History has taught us that it's difficult for filmmakers to successfully pull off feature films that are based on small screen characters. These stinkers are the worst attempts at turning TV cartoons into movies.

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'The Flintstones'

John Goodman as Fred Flintstone
Photo by Universal/Getty Images

The Flintstones live-action movie was one of the first movies based on a TV cartoon that I remember seeing. When I watched it, I had the same feeling I had when I was five years-old and my mother took us to see a live-action superhero show in town: baffled and deflated. The only casting choice that made sense was having John Goodman as Fred Flintstone. The joy of seeing the quirks of the Stone Age was lost in updated storylines. Moreover, the heightened acting style, that the director no doubt called for, made it seem as if the actors were merely imitating the cartoon, which grates very quickly. (1994)

Critic's quote: Roger Ebert said in his review of The Flintstones, "Just watching it is fun. Following the plot is not so much fun."

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'The Last Airbender'

The Last Airbender
Paramount Pictures

M. Night Shyamalan's live-action The Last Airbender was an attempt to turn Aang the Avatar into a real boy. Based on Avatar: The Last Airbender, the movie was an origin story, showing Aang trying to bring harmony to the four nations — Water, Earth, Fire, Air — who are at war, thanks to Fire Lord Ozai. Somehow the Oscar-nominated director failed to relay the message and magic of the TV cartoon, leaning too heavily upon bad special effects and the wooden performance of the lead actor, newcomer Noah Ringer. (2010)

Critic's quote: A.O. Scott said in his The Last Airbender review, "An astute industry analyst of my acquaintance, who is 9 and an admirer of the Nickelodeon animated series on which the movie is based, offered a two-word diagnosis of its commercial prospects on the way out of the theater: 'They’re screwed.'"

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'Mr. Magoo'

Mr. Magoo
Walt Disney Pictures

The live-action version of classic cartoon Mr. Magoo didn't stand a chance at the movie theater. Mr. Magoo stars Leslie Nielsen as the titular blind millionaire who, through his bumbling antics, defeats would-be jewel thieves. The movie was uninspired, stumbling from one bad joke, about being blind and/or stupid, to the next. (1997)

Critic's quote: Roger Ebert said in his Mr. Magoo review, "Perhaps this project was simply a bad idea from the beginning, and no script, no director, no actor could have saved it."

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'Yogi Bear'

Yogi Bear
Warner Bros. Pictures

Yogi Bear, the classic cartoon character, would have been confused by his CGI twin in the Yogi Bear feature film. In Yogi Bear, Yogi and his little pal, Boo Boo, joined forces with Ranger Smith to save Jellystone from being sold to loggers. Yogi Bear was a live-action movie, with CGI-animated animals, so I'm guessing that studio suits and scriptwriters laughed at their own ingenuity when they imagined what could happen when you inject reality into a world where bears wear clothes and talk. However, the physical comedy, the bread ​and butter of classic Yogi Bear cartoons, fell flat because the marriage of the two styles just didn't work. (2010)

Critic's quote: Michael Phillips said in his Yogi Bear review, "Yogi Bear gives cheap hackwork a bad name." Ouch.

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20th Century Fox

Garfield, the cat, began life as a comic strip character. In the late '80s he leapt from the newspaper to the small screen in Garfield and Friends. But not even the prodigious talent of Bill Murray could save the movie version of Garfield. Garfield, the character, was animated using CGI against a live-action movie, in which our favorite fat cat must save his dog pal, Odie, who has been kidnapped. Watching Garfield made me wonder how much better our world would be if the money spent making it would have been donated to a worthy charity instead. (2004)

Critic's quote: Ann Hornaday said in her Garfield review, "Bland, workmanlike and instantly forgettable."

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'The Super Mario Bros.'

Super Mario Bros.
Second Sight

One of the worst TV-cartoon-to-movies of all time is The Super Mario Bros. The Super Mario Bros. had a far-out plot, even for a movie based an incredibly popular Nintendo game. Mario and Luigi, two brothers who are plumbers in New York City, must rescue Princess Daisy from the evil King Koopa, a descendant of dinosaurs. Even more unbelievable was that The Super Mario Bros. was able to attract top-notch talent, like Bob Hoskins as Mario (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?), Dennis Hopper as King Koopa (Speed) and John Leguizamo as Luigi (Moulin Rouge!). Having two directors just muddled the movie even more. (2013)

Critic's quote: Jeff Shannon said in his The Super Mario Bros. review, "Unfortunately, the highlights are sporadic."

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'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Paramount Pictures

Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo have been re-imagined over and over again on the big and small screens. The live-action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, starring Megan Fox, tells their origin story — again — about how four turtles were mutated into talking, pizza-loving ninjas. Guided by Splinter, their rat sensei, they work to take down the evil Shredder and his Foot Clan. Although some audiences enjoyed this big screen take on TMNT, critics trounced it in their reviews, saying it was little more than a commercial, with paper thin characterizations and an even thinner plot. Regardless, a sequel is was released in 2016. (2014)

Critic's quote: Claudia Puig said in her review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, "Is there a word that means the opposite of Cowabunga?"

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'Transformers: Age of Extinction'

Transformers: Age of Extinction
Paramount Pictures

No one expects a Transformers movie to raise awareness about the atrocities in Africa, or shed light on homelessness or world hunger. But Transformers: Age of Extinction devolved even more than its prequels into nothing more than a string of explosions strung together. In Transformers: Age of Extinction, the world has survived an epic battle. When an ancient evil rears its head, the Transformers roll out for another showdown between good and evil. All of the characters sounded alike, and I cared very little whether any of them died. The Transformers, as usual, stole the show, but even they weren't enough to keep me from regretting paying full price at the theater. (2014)

Critic's quote: Chris Nashawaty said in his review of Transformers: Age of Extinction, "Then you realize there’s almost two hours left to go, and the movie becomes numbing, exhausting, and migraine-inducing."

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'The Jetsons'

The Jetsons
Universal Studios

Many years ago the original animators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, attempted to bring the Jetsons to the big screen. What could have been a fun family movie, The Jetsons feature film was a lazy attempt to cash in on the cartoon's popularity. When a TV cartoon becomes a movie, there's always a chance that the longer length will be a problem. The Jetsons fell into that trap, crafting what was essentially a TV episode, then adding slow action sequences and lame dialogue to increase its length to movie standards. Plus, The Jetsons made no attempt to update their characters, their values, or its setting to modern times, so it felt as dated as its TV episodes. (1990)

Critic's quote: Chris Hicks said in his review of The Jetsons, "The Jetsons have hardly moved into the '90s, much less the 21st century."

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'Inspector Gadget'

Matthew Broderick as Inspector Gadget
Photo By Getty Images

The live-action movie Inspector Gadget failed to find favor with audiences. Based on the TV cartoon, Inspector Gadget, starring Matthew Broderick, followed the titular security guard as he tried to take down criminals using all the gadgets and gizmos created for him by Dr. Brenda Bradford. But not even his helpful niece, Penny, could save this movie from a thin storyline and a joyless characterization of a beloved cartoon character. Inspector Gadget focused too much on gadgets and product placement, and not enough on crafting a tighter story and smarter dialogue. (1999)

Critic's quote: Owen Gleiberman said in his Inspector Gadget review, "Inspector Gadget demonstrates how a movie with little more on its mind than tickling the eyeballs of 7-year-olds can feature spiffy, jack-in-the-box special effects and still end up a dud."

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'The Smurfs'

The Smurfs
Columbia Pictures

One of the reasons The Smurfs TV cartoon was so funny and endearing was that the Smurfs themselves lived in a medieval forest full of magical creatures. The Smurfs movie, a mash-up of live-action and CGI, was so obviously a product of studio boardroom meetings that all the fun and magic was sucked right out of it. In The Smurfs, our favorite tiny blue creatures wind up in New York City, depending on the kindness of strangers to defeat Gargamel and get back home. It's a "fish out of water" story that's just too stupid to be good. (2011)

Critic's quote: Alonso Duralde said in his review of The Smurfs, "Does for children's entertainment what lead paint does for children's toys."

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'Fat Albert'

Shedrack Anderson, Keith Robinson, Jermaine Williams, Aaron Frazier, Marques Houston and Alphonso McAuley
Photo by Jesse Grant/WireImage

Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids was a sweet, funny and very popular TV cartoon in the '70s. It was also one of the few TV shows that represented a culture that was different from the Caucasian middle-class families that dominated the TV schedule. Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids' sweetness and, sometimes, edgy humor was missing from the Fat Albert live-action movie. Rather than tell a story that was organic to the characters, we got another "fish out of water" storyline that transformed the cartoon characters into real-life people, who eventually tried to get back to their animated world. Bor-ing. (2004)

Critic's quote: Richard Roeper said in his Fat Albert movie review, "Squeaky-clean but uninspired."

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Warner Bros.

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? is another beloved '70s cartoon that was adapted for the big screen. However, the live-action Scooby-Doo couldn't decide what it wanted to be when it grew up. Tongue-in-cheek comedy? Horror-lite? Genuine re-imagining of a favorite TV cartoon? Sadly, Scooby-Doo tried to be all of the above at the same time. The cast did an adequate job of representing those meddling kids, but the CGI version of Scooby looked far too out of place for me to take the movie seriously. Plus, a thin plot that plays just fine in a twenty-two minute episode becomes laborious at feature film length. (2002)

Critic's quote: Peter Travers said in his Rolling Stone review of Scooby-Doo, "Get out your pooper-scoopers."