Weekend Roundtable: Animation to Live-Action

Remaking animated properties into live-action is a big business in Hollywood these days. After ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Ghost in the Shell’, what will be the next cartoon to get turned into a major studio blockbuster?

Shannon Nutt

It’s such a good idea, I’m actually shocked it hasn’t been done yet. ‘The Iron Giant‘ needs to become a live-action movie. It already has all the qualities that will work in live-action: a giant metallic robot, lots of military participation (meaning tons of explosions and special effects), and a nice anti-war message that Hollywood would love. Heck, you could even bring back Brad Bird, the director of the original, who has directed a couple of big live-action movies in the meantime, including ‘Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol’.

Come on, Warner Bros. Make this happen!

M. Enois Duarte

Live-action remakes of popular anime films are really nothing new in Japan. But with the upcoming ‘Ghost in the Shell’ hitting theaters soon and the Netflix-exclusive ‘Death Note’ later this year, American audiences can expect more of these types of adaptations. Since Western moviegoers are largely unaware of many of these franchises, and younger anime fans, at least those I’ve met over the years, are unfamiliar with some classic properties outside of Studio Ghibli, I think it’s high time the mainstream is introduced to ‘Akira‘.

I’ve actually wondered what the cyberpunk classic would look like in the hands of a visually gifted filmmaker like Guillermo del Toro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet or Terry Gilliam. I could imagine some sort of phantasmagoric fantasy bathed in vibrant neon colors and dark, sinister shadows. With a good script, perhaps even Zack Snyder or the Wachowskis could churn out something pretty impressive. However, for my money, my top choice of directors for adapting ‘Akira’ would have to be David Fincher, Darren Aronofsky or Gaspar Noé. Any of them would give the plot the respect and seriousness it deserves while also immersing audiences into the dark, gloomy dystopia where technology has encompassed every aspect of modern life.

Brian Hoss

In a world where ‘Speed Racer’ just had to get made, few cartoons seem like they are for-sure safe from a live-action treatment. Thus, I think that ‘Captain Planet‘ ought to get the green light. It could start with a TV series that has a heavy focus on the power of heart, but eventually I want an R-rated feature full of grizzled, jaded and sad Planeteers.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

With the Giant Monster Movie genre roaring back to life in recent years, ‘Inhumanoids‘ could make for a really fun adaptation. This short-lived and largely forgotten ’80s animated series didn’t limit itself to just one monstrous behemoth; it piled on several. There’s Tendril, a colossal plant creature with whip-like, oversized vines instead of hands. Once severed, those limbs themselves grow into full-sized monsters. Metlar can summon balls of molten lava, breathe fire and, for whatever reason, animate statues (including Lady Liberty herself!). My favorite is D’Compose, a half-skeletal dinosaur whose exposed rib cage can be used as a jail cell. Keep your enemies closer and all that. D’Compose’s touch zombifies his prey, which could be especially ghoulish to see translated to the big screen.

Monsters! A sinister corporation! Governmental conspiracies! The heroic geologists fending them all of with their bleeding-edge tech! Now I’ve gone and gotten myself genuinely excited about the prospect.

Josh Zyber

I just mentioned ‘Neon Genesis Evangelion’ in last week’s Roundtable and it’s probably too soon to do so again. Nonetheless, I think it would be hilarious (from a schadenfreude perspective) to see a watered-down Hollywood version of the perplexing mind-screw that is the ‘End of Evangelion’ movie. Good luck with that one!

For something a little more mainstream-accessible, I might recommend the 1999 anime series ‘Blue Gender‘. The show is about a young guy who learns that he has a fatal illness and is put into cryogenic sleep until a cure can be found. Unfortunately, he wakes up a couple decades later to find that giant mutant insects have overrun the planet and most of humanity is extinct. It’s sort of like ‘Starship Troopers’ with a heavy dose of mech armor combat, played straight without the satire. With a decent budget, it could be a lot of fun.

What animated movies or TV shows do you think could work in live-action? Tell us in the Comments.


  1. NJScorpio

    I’d be interested in a live action version of the movie ‘Heavy Metal’.

    Most of the songs should be updated, with either covers of the original tracks, new versions, as well as new songs all together. It should retain the episodic structure of the first movie (I heard the 2nd one was a single story, and terrible). I don’t know if all the stories would hold up translated, but I’d buy a ticket!

    • Bolo

      Some big names were associated with a new ‘Heavy Metal’ movie that was supposed to get off the ground a few years ago but fell apart. It was going to be animated like the original though. If I remember correctly, I think Robert Rodriguez who shepherding the project and David Fincher and Zack Snyder were both interested in directing segments. I would love to see a new instalment. Like you, I would want it to be an anthology film. I’m indifferent as to whether it would be live action or animated. Both ways could work.

    • grewterd

      Which one? Lions or Planes, Trains and Automobiles? Awe, who am I kidding? It’s Hollywood, it would be both at the same time fighting against each other.

      • Csm101

        Preferably, Lion, but I wouldn’t hate the vehicle force Voltron either. Hopefully they wouldn’t fight each other, but a team up for an ultimate robeast smack down would be pretty cool. Not for a first movie, though.

  2. Bolo

    I don’t really get upset about films I love being remade, and I normally don’t care about one culture taking material from another and adapting it to their own. But a live action Hollywood version of ‘Akira’ is one of the few cases that would actually make me barf a little. Unless Hollywood wanted to commit a blockbuster budget to an R-rated film that centres around Japanese teenagers and has no franchise potential, all I can picture is this movie being a complete insult.

    • Josh Zyber

      Leonardo DiCaprio tried for a long time to get an Akira movie made, with himself starring. He finally gave up when it was too painfully clear that he’d aged out of it.

  3. Chris B

    Speaking of Guillermo Del Toro, he should adapt the classic anime “Vampire Hunter D” for live-action. It would be a match made in cinematic heaven.

  4. Bolo

    ‘Desert Punk’ was a post-apocalyptic spaghetti western sex comedy anime that I found pretty entertaining (until it got convoluted in its final episodes) and could see it being a good live action movie. It’s probably the type of thing Gore Verbinski could have fun with if he could get back into his ‘Rango’ mode and keep the film under two hours, which is a pretty big “if”.

  5. Mark B.

    I would like a live action version of Ninja Scroll. To me that movie has always been my favorite anime movie that really garnered my interests with anime.

  6. Nagara

    I would love/hate to see a live action version of Steins Gate. In the right hands it could be gold, but very easily could be trash.

    Also it would be interesting To see if a live action version of Clannad could pull of the same emotional gut punch as the anime does.

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