Let’s Adapt the Rest of NBC’s 1985 Saturday Morning Cartoon Lineup for the Big Screen

Surely the Smurfs are just the beginning

One of the big selling points for this week’s Smurfs: The Lost Village movie has been that it’s the first fully animated feature for the little blue elves. They’ve been on the big screen a couple of times in recent years, but always with human companions in a live-action/animation hybrid.

While the Smurfs have a long history that dates back to their beginnings as a Belgian comic in 1958, they really entered the U.S. pop culture in the early ’80s via the self-titled Saturday morning cartoon that aired on NBC.

For you millennials in the audience, “Saturday morning cartoons” were, in the days before Disney Channel and Netflix brought them to us 24/7, really the only place and time to watch cartoons. You’d head down to the living room in your pajamas and have total control of the TV for a few hours, a real treat in those days. Let’s move on.

Other networks did so as well, but NBC would regularly advertise their Saturday morning lineup in comic books of the time, again an indicator of an era when comics were actually meant for kids and not 40-year-old white guys. So, using this scan of just such an ad as a jumping-off point, let’s see what kind of marketing potential there might be for the rest of NBC’s 1985 Saturday morning lineup.


The pitch to audiences with a big-screen Snorks would be roughly equivalent to how the show must have been sold back in 1984: It’s Smurfs, but underwater. In fact, the characters are the result of a mid-’70s rights dispute around Smurfs licensing that resulted in the creation of these new characters. The underwater setting allows for some measure of SpongeBob SquarePants-like humor as well. Give them a faceless corporation looking to exploit their home area for oil to fight against, and you have a socially conscious story with plenty of opportunities for more kid-centric humor as well.

Adventures of the Gummi Bears

Disney is really the only company with the brass ones to create a cartoon (that ran for six years) based on the snacks you bugged your parents to get for you at the bulk candy store in the mall. A theatrical adventure is a bigger canvas, though, so there’s the opportunity to bring in other gummy variations, though, including worms, Coke bottles and more. The conceit that the Gummi Bears are always trying to hide from humans means you can keep this fully animated but allude to a bigger human world out there. The trailer should emphasize Cubbi Gummi, the youngest of the crew, and show him trying to be taken seriously as a member of society and become a man.

It’s Punky Brewster

This animated spin-off of the live-action series didn’t last very long, just one season, so it probably doesn’t warrant a film adaptation all its own. But looking at it here does provide an opportunity to be shocked that there hasn’t yet been a mixed-race, socially woke reboot of the original.

Alvin & the Chipmunks

This is a bit of a cheat since there have been four hybrid live-action/animated features starring these characters (with Jason Lee, looking like he can barely believe this is where his career has landed him, as Dave Seville) over the past 10 years. A fully animated feature, though, would strip out the embarrassing human performances, which would be welcome. Imagine it as a prequel to the 2007 movie that explores Alvin, Simon and Theodore’s adventures as young chipmunks who use their wits and singing skills to survive in the hardcore wilderness society they live in. Lots of potential for cute secondary characters of other species, as well as an eagle that acts as the villain.