We’re still dazed and confused by the fact that the first Smurfs movie was such a success, they needed to churn out a sequel just two years later. For those of us who grew up on these three-apples tall Saturday morning cartoon characters, it’s Alvin and the Chipmunks all over again. If it isn’t a giant movie remake, it’s the scandalous life of the former child stars besmirching our precious memories. What beloved things from our childhood hasn’t Hollywood ruined yet? Actually, we came up with a list. Read on only if you aren’t a studio exec looking for an unoriginal idea to steal.
[Photos: NBC, Hasbro, Nickelodeon, Penguin, PBS]
1. The Cosby Show
Remember when sitcoms about African-American families didn’t have to exist only on cable? Bill Cosby’s obstetrician Cliff Huxtable, Phylicia Rashad’s lawyer Clair and their five kids were appointment viewing in homes of all races. Come to think of it, if someone wants to bring back this kind of quality — FUNNY — show, we will welcome it. In the meantime, you can watch reruns on TV Land.
2. The Secret World of Alex Mack
From 1994-1998, we followed the adventures of Alex (Larisa Oleynik) a regular girl who becomes very irregular when she’s accidentally drenched in a top-secret chemical. She can turn into Terminator-style metallic liquid, and zap or levitate objects, among other inconveniently unpredictable skills. We are especially grateful to see Oleynik grow up into a respectable TV actress (currently with small roles on Mad Men and Pretty Little Liars) rather than the kind of mess that’s ruined other Nickelodeon shows for us.
3. Clarissa Explains It All
Even back in 1991, we knew that seeing a smart, pretty, fashionable but totally independent heroine on TV was something rare and important for us. When Clarissa addressed the camera, she was like our favorite teen feminist blogger before there were blogs. After the show ended in 1994, Melissa Joan Hart went on to the slightly less fun Sabrina the Teenage Witch, but we’re still very happy that she’s grown up to be a totally normal mom and actress (now on Melissa and Joey). Meanwhile, we’ll let this show live in a happy ’90s time capsule — no updates necessary.
4. Mr. Snuffleupagus
Mitt Romney temporarily ruined Big Bird for us last year, and accused child molester Kevin Clash has forever made Tickle Me Elmo sound dirty, but there’s one character who maintains a childlike wonder in the world, despite the “Mr.” title: Mr. Snuffleupagus. Some of us old folks remember when everyone thought he was just Big Bird’s imaginary friend. The big-eyed, furry elephant-y muppet is out in the open now, but no less cute. If we ever hear of hanky panky going on under that costume, Sesame Street is dead to us for real.
5. The Magic Finger
Broadway, you can have Matilda. Hollywood, good job with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The BFG, James and the Giant Peach and Danny the Champion of the World. But there is no way you’re making Roald Dahl’s The Magic Finger — the story of a girl whose justifiable anger gives her the power to, say, turn a family of hunters into people with wings instead of arms — into anything better than what’s in my imagination.
6. A Wrinkle in Time
OK, so there was a Disney Channel movie based on Madeleine L’Engle’s 1962 novel made back in 2003, but that doesn’t count as ruination yet. Disney currently has plans for a big-screen adaptation of the story, about 14-year-old Meg, her 5-year-old brother Charles and her friend Calvin, who travel through space and time to save her father from a giant evil brain. We think this still goes under the category of concepts that work better in our imagination than in CGI.
[Photos: PBS, Penguin USA, Square Fish]
7. Jem and the Holograms
Before there was Hannah Montana, Jerrica Benton was a young heiress leading a double life as rock star Jem thanks to holographic projections from her earrings. On the cartoon, which ran from 1985-88, Jem/Jerrica and her bandmates help raise a group of girls in a foster home founded by Jerrica’s father, a record exec. They faced down rocker rivals, the Misfits and the Stingers, too. It was the best cartoon for the MTV generation. We hope its cheesetastic greatness is never ruined by a live-action remake.
8. She-Ra, Princess of Power
What’s more awesome than leading a secret life as a rock star? Maybe being a princess leading a secret life due to your magical sword that turns you into a fierce warrior with a winged unicorn. Would kids today even get how amazing this was to us? Her He-Man spinoff only ran from 1985-1986, which is surprising given her impact on grrl power pop culture today.
9. The Herculoids
OK, a friend just introduced us to this trippy Hanna Barbera cartoon, which had its original run from 1967-69 and then added 11 episodes in 1981, but we had to include it. It followed a family of three humanoids, their blobby friends Gloop and Gleep, and creatures Zok, Igoo and Tundra, who all defend their planet Amzot/Quasar from alien invaders and it featured a lot of explosions. Nope, our generation definitely didn’t rot our brains on television. Not. At. All.
On the other end of the cartoon spectrum, we have Doug, the shy banjo-playing, journaling 11 1/2-year-old. The original ran on Nickelodeon from 1991-94, and purists like to ignore his ’96-’99 run on ABC. Looking back, he really seems like the proto-Judd-Apatowian man-boy back when he was just a boy-boy. Coincidence?
OK, we know we’re missing a ton of your faves in this list, so chime in and share your own childhood memories. (But not you, movie remakers!)