Monday, November 14, 2016

RR RoboCop: The Animated Series

How come someone ever thought making a violent brutal mature R-Rated Paul Verhoeven movie into a children cartoon was a good idea?

And worse of all... it wasn't even that bad!

Name: RoboCop: The Animated Series Vol. 1: Crime Wave, also known as the RoboCop Cartoon
Created by Michael Charles Hill & Michael Miner
Original run October – December 1988
Genre Science-fiction/Action Animated Series

The 1980s were a pretty strange time, when R-Rated proprieties were often turned into Saturday Morning Cartoons. Rambo received a G.I.Joe-esque cartoon, which surprisingly enough used the same musical score as the films. Aliens came short of a cartoon of its own, Operation: Aliens, only getting the cartoon-inspired toy line from Kenner. And let's not forget the various others random cartoon inspired by adult films, like the show adapted from the raunchy Police Academy film series...

Of course they also tried to adapt Paul Verhoeven's hyper-violent R-Rated film RoboCop into a kids' show...

RoboCop: The Animated Series roughly follows the original film

In the opening credits we have the plot of the film recapped for our younger audience. How police officer Alex Murphy was killed before being turned into RoboCop.

The show follows the adventures of RoboCop has he tried to serve and protect Old Detroit from weekly bad guys and other crazy machines gone wrong while fighting for his humanity. 

The main villain remains the "Old Man" chairman of OCP from the first film, who is set on disregarding RoboCop as a failed experiment or obsolete machine any day soon. RoboCop is still partnered with Detroit police officer Anne Lewis.

Various characters from the original film return in one way or another, such as the angry Sergeant Warren, this minor character from the film Lieutenant Roger Hedgecock who just wants the force to get rid of RoboCop and wants to beat Murphy, RoboCop creator Dr. Tyler and even Clarence Boddicker and his gang who originally gunned down Alex Murphy make all an appearance in the cartoon!

The series also introduces Dr. McNamara, the creator of the ED-209. And they upgrade the Enforcement Droid Series with the new and improved ED-260! He becomes a recurring foe, continually creating new robots to compete against RoboCop.

The RoboCop cartoon was a 30-minute episodes show.

It only ran for a one season of 12 episodes, from October to December 1988. It was a co-production between Marvel Productions (who had the comics rights) and the Orion Pictures Corporation. The show itself was animated by AKOM Productions

The animated series was made by the folks responsible for other popular 80s proprieties like The Smurfs and Muppet Babies

The show featured a pretty standard voice cast for the time, led by Dan Hennessey as RoboCop and Susan Roman as officer Anne Lewis in the main roles.

Despite this clearly being a cartoon aimed at kids, to sell toys, it did maintain close ties to the original film and even covered a lot of familiar grounds as the film.

They made a great job sticking to the elements of the films, using similar POV shots for RoboCop. Featuring mostly the same cast as the film (and somehow resurrecting Clarence Boddicker), using the same chair for RoboCop's repairs, even featuring him spinning his gun.

Of course they had to make a lot changes to make it suitable for kids, the obvious ones being how far less violent things are. And like a lot of 80s and 90s cartoons they ditched bullets for lasers.

On the plus side, this means going for more scifi plots. The show did surprisingly well playing around RoboCop's humanity, how much of the man remains inside the machine.

The mostly satirical tone from the film was left off, aside from the occasional fake ads and news reels. But on the surface it stick surprisingly close. 

The show had decent stories and dialogues. Great art actually, RoboCop looking pretty kickass and not suffering from a dumbed down goofy redesign for kids.

Even more surprising, the RoboCop: The Animated Series tried dealing with a lot of heavy themes such as racism, prejudice at work, terrorism, Middle East tension and even environmental messages! Sometimes it was pretty cheesy, but other times they did it much better than its contemporary like G.I. Joe or Transformers.

Compared to what was being done, they were able to make it more mature than some other cartoons from that same time.

While only aimed at kids, the cartoon was relatively decent. The tone was exactly what you'd expect from a RoboCop cartoon series. I would say that despite some cheesy episodes, they even had some tense atmosphere and scares for younger audiences.

The only thing really missing was RoboCop's iconic theme. But instead the show featured the usual music by Haim Saban and Shuki Levy.

Overall, RoboCop: The Animated Series was actually not that awful. It's watchable and enjoyable. And they even managed to pull off the style of the film - with some notable restrictions. The show is actually better than some other theatrical installments of the franchise.

You'd think a RoboCop cartoon would suck, but they actually managed to quite pull it off, with far lower violence and a broader rating.

There aren't that many episodes, what you can see pictured above is a DVD set of the first 5 episodes, which was followed by two other volumes. But there's also much better complete collections since then such as RoboCop: The Complete Animated Series (for the US) and RoboCop - Part Man, Part Machine (in the UK).

Oddly enough some elements explored in this cartoon would find their way into the 2014 reboot such as the rivalry with the Lieutenant who just wants to get rid of RoboCop short of turning into a bad guy.

This wouldn't be the last RoboCop cartoon, as Orion Pictures would produce another cartoon a few years later. RoboCop: Alpha Commando, from 1998 to 1999 for 40 episodes. This was a far more cartoony take on RoboCop with some "extreme" stylistic departures and a lot more humor, a "radical" tone and tongue in cheek approach. And a bit cheaper looking than this older series. Sadly I personally only caught a couple of episodes back then on TV. As of now none of that other show has ever been release on home media.

I give it:
2 / 3 Felixes!

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