Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Pitch - Police Academy Babies

During the '80s and early '90s there was no shortage of animated spin-offs to live-action movies. Beetlejuice, Ghostbusters, Little Shop of Horrors, Rambo, Robocop, Teen Wolf, and The Toxic Avenger were a few of the many films that were questionably spun-off into animated programs targeting children. None of these were particularly successful, and most certainly none of these surpassed the original films on which they were based. In most cases, the original films were aimed at mature audiences and contained content not suitable for children, and often times it was that content that gave films like Rambo and Robocop their edge. So when translated into animated form, much of the essence of these films was clearly lost. Police Academy: The Animated Series was another such show that failed to gain an audience.

With all of the movie series' characters present, including Carey Mahoney who would not appear in subsequent films in the series, it seemed like a surefire hit. After all the movies themselves were little more than live-action cartoon comedies appealing to adolescents. The problem with Police Academy as with all those other films was the same: not enough differentiation toward the extreme. These series were all watered down versions of the original. Aside from being animated, they offered no novelty. But not all animated spin-offs fared poorly. One show that garnered a little more success while carving out a new audience for itself was Jim Henson's Muppet Babies.

Jim Henson's Muppet Babies took the lovable characters from The Muppet Show, and transplanted them, as babies, into a children's nursery. The characters, for the most part, retained their personalities, but they now had to navigate the world of children through their imagination. The idea was a creative breakthrough, as the animated format allowed the Muppet babies to have adventures they couldn't otherwise have had in the live-action world. By presenting the Muppets as babies, producers of the show were able to push hard for the youth demographic which was receptive to the show. Others shows attempted similar schemes, like The Flintstone Kids and A Pup Named Scooby Doo, but they didn't push it as far as Muppet Babies did to really differentiate themselves as their own properties apart from their parental sources.

So Muppet Babies succeeded where so many others failed. But second chances are still possible, and with the current news of a Police Academy reboot, perhaps it's time to rethink this animated spin-off approach with Muppet Babies in mind. Police Academy: The Animated Series might not have been a bad idea, but Police Academy Babies would have been a laugh riot. Just like Muppet Babies, transplant all of the characters from Police Academy into a nursery as babies, remove the nanny, and sit back as they maintain order amongst the rest of the unruly babies. They would retain most of their characteristic idiosyncrasies, such as Moses Hightower's superhuman strength, Larvell Jones gift of mimicry, and Eugene Tackleberry's gung-ho nature.

Typical crimes could include missing baby food. Laverne Hooks could drive her police cruiser Big Wheels recklessly as she followed a suspect on his tricycle. Then, with the thief hiding inside a playhouse, Hightower could show up to lift the house up singlehandedly thus exposing the culprit. Of course Captain Harris and Proctor would be up to their old habits of trying to undermine Commandant Lassard and obtain his position. The action and storylines would be absurd, which would not only follow in the spirit of the films, but could also make the animated show memorable in its own right. Or push the show beyond the nursery into a world filled with baby citizens. The adventures wouldn't have to stop there, as the next step would be Police Academy Babies in Space. The possibilities are limitless.

This formula need not apply only to Police Academy, but can be applied to virtually any other film out there. Baby Rambo. Baby Robocop. Baby Total Recall. Baby Men in Black. The titles alone conjure up images and the rest just writes itself. The series don't even have to have original storylines, they can just copy the films with all of the characters replaced by baby versions. So, Hollywood, if you plan on spinning off any animated kid shows in the near future, you might want to consider baby-fying them. After all, it did work for the Muppets.

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