7 Films Butchering Childhood Classics

by Alyssa Oursler | October 12, 2012 6:45 am

Lovers of Charles Schulz’s classic Peanuts comic strip are probably jumping with joy this week.

It was just announced that the comic — which debuted in 1950, then became a beloved TV special years later with A Charlie Brown Christmas — will be made into a movie in 2015, half a century after the holiday show aired.

Schulz’s son and grandson are teaming up with News Corp‘s (NASDAQ:NWSA[1]) 20th Century Fox for the animated film, which will be the fifth time on the big screen for Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Linus’ blankie and Lucy.

Unfortunately, while Hollywood films don’t have a great track record when it comes to remaking childhood characters to our idealistic standards, they do end up bringing in some dough. And as much as everyone loves Schulz’s creation, history says there’s a good chance we’ll leave the theater saying “Good grief!”

Just look at these seven beloved classics that the big screen has already butchered:

The Smurfs

Last summer, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony (NYSE:SNE[2]), released The Smurfs — a remake that was blue in more way than one.

The film was an odd combination of CG cartoon characters and live action, but apparently still was appealing enough to kids who didn’t know what the film was ruining.

Yes, the movie blunted unimpressed critics by breaking $30 million during its opening weekend — about $7 million more than was expected. In total, it made $563 million worldwide, in part thanks to the inflated ticket prices that came with seeing these little guys in 3D.

As a reward, we will be blessed with The Smurfs 2 in 2013. Mark your calendars, then go do something else that day.

Yogi Bear

Yogi Bear didn’t fare quite as well on the big screen. This remake came out a year earlier, courtesy of Time Warner‘s (NYSE:TWX[3]) Warner Bros., and even had Hanna-Barbera, creator of the original cartoon, on board as a producer.

The film under-performed opening weekend, bringing in $16 million and countless harsh reviews. Several critics, for example, referred to it as a “dumber-than-average” family film.

Over time, though, Yogi and Boo-Boo did manage to gross around $200 million worldwide, making it a success compared to the film’s $80 million budget.

Still, fans of the original The Yogi Bear Show couldn’t have been pleased. Voice actors Justin Timberlake and Anna Faris were a far cry from the good ol’ days in Jellystone Park.


Michael Bay doesn’t do anything halfway. So when he decided to make a film featuring Hasbro‘s (NASDAQ:HAS[4]) classic robot action figures, we should’ve known there would be over-the-top explosions and more than just one installation.

The first three Transformers films already have blasted their way through theaters, and a fourth is on the way. Lovers of the original Optimus Prime might not have been thrilled by the remake’s take on the characters, but audiences still flocked to its debut.

Transformers was the fifth-most successful film in 2007, grossing more than $700 million worldwide and winning several awards. The second movie — which critics tore apart — grossed even more. The third — fittingly in 3D — broke the $1 billion mark.

You’ll have to wait until 2014, though, to watch Bay again rework Autobots and Decepticons, replace Shia LeBouf, throw in some random hot girl … and, of course, blow stuff up.


Jim Davis’ Garfield — the world’s most syndicated comic strip — first hit the big screen with the slogan: “Get ready for frisky business.”

That was the first of many red flags.

The remake took the beloved cat, made him into a CGI Garfield, threw him in a live-action world and ended up being 5 Rotten Tomatoes points away from making the site’s “100 Worst Movies of All Time” list.

The film was unimpressive in U.S. box offices, but overseas popularity helped it gross more than $200 million worldwide … sadly giving 20th Century Fox enough reason to make a sequel (with the groaner title Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties).

The second film brought in around half as much — and Raspberry nominations for Worst Prequel or Sequel and Worst Excuse for Family Entertainment.

Even Bill Murray, the voice of Garfield, said he regretted doing the film.

Speed Racer

Take a popular Japanese anime series, hand it over to Warner Bros., and what do you get?

Flashy visual effects … and otherwise a flaming disappointment for loyal Speed Racer fans.

Despite being written and directed by the Wachowskis — directors of The Matrix franchise — Speed Racer was a critical and box office failure on the big screen back in 2008. Reviewers didn’t hate it quite as much as they did Garfield and The Smurfs, but fans didn’t like it as much as those travesties.

While bright colors and fast cars were enough to lure in some unknowing kids, they weren’t enough to do much else. The movie’s budget was estimated to be around $120 million, and its first weekend grossed around 15% of that — far below expectations. Total sales came in at just over $40 million domestically and $90 million worldwide.

Luckily, that means we won’t have to see Speed Racer 2: A Tail of Two Chim-Chims.

G.I. Joe

Viacom‘s (NASDAQ:VIAB[5]) Paramount Pictures made G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra, which attracted big Hollywood names — Channing Tatum, Dennis Quaid, Joseph Gordon-Levitt — and enough viewers for it to take the No. 1 box office spot opening weekend, grossing $55 million. In all, it made $300 million worldwide.

Of course, what those viewers watched didn’t resemble the timeless Hasbro G.I. Joe toys or cartoon series that inspired it. Fans complained that the film didn’t relate to the original franchise at all, with one claiming that the studios “actually went out of their way to butcher the G.I. Joe mythos in favor of derivative storyline devices.”

It was almost no surprise, then, that the film was nominated for six Razzie awards, including Worst Picture, Worst Supporting Actor and Worst Director.

The surprise instead came when news of a sequel — G.I. Joe: Retaliation — was announced.

The Lorax

How the Grinch Stole Christmas might still be the highest-grossing Dr. Seuss film, but The Lorax is a close second. Comcast‘s (NASDAQ:CMCSA[6]) Universal Pictures gathered the voices of Danny Devito, Zac Efron and Taylor Swift to remake the classic, whimsical, environmentalist book, and it was the first animated film in the year up to its release to gross more than $200 million in North America.

Despite its impressive numbers, not all fans were pleased with this take on the classic.

For starters, the film lacked the typical Dr. Seuss rhymes, and mocked them the few times they were used. On top of that, there were more than 70 product placements in the film, which viewers were especially critical of since they were aimed at children. Doing justice to any beloved children’s classic is naturally a challenge, but having it overflow with marketing definitely isn’t the path to success.

We hope the makers of Peanuts learn from these seven stumbling attempts at remakes, though, and that things go better when Snoopy & Co. hit the big screen.

As of this writing, Alyssa Oursler did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.

  1. NWSA: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=NWS
  2. SNE: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=SNE
  3. TWX: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=TWX
  4. HAS: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=HAS
  5. VIAB: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=VIAB
  6. CMCSA: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=CMCSA

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