No Right Explanation

No Right Explanation
Live-Action Cartoons and Why They Fail

Firefilm | 16 Apr 2012 16:00
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Last week the guys debated which was the worst adaptation from animation to live-action and now they continue that debate here on the latest installment of No Right Explanation. Enjoy!

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Chris: Now here's a debate I've wanted to do for a while, mostly because it gives me a chance to talk about two movies that really, really disappointed me. I'm a stupidly huge fan of Dragon Ball Z, and I quite enjoyed Avatar (I will say it's the superior series, though that's not today's debate). That's why I made sure to see the live-action adaptation at my soonest convenience, and both times I was horrified at the transition because there should have been no possible way to screw things up.

I can't really think of any arguments that Kyle should have made either for The Last Airbender or against Dragonball Evolution as there's not much more to say on the matter, though I was surprised he forgot to go into detail about how painfully M. Night mangled the names of all the characters. Rather than cut Kyle down, as is the norm, I figured I'd give a quick no-nonsense guide to transitioning an animated property into a live-action medium.

Step one: Find actors that look and sound similar to the animated characters.

Step two: Make said actors look exactly like the animated characters.

Step three: Copy/paste lines directly from the show.

Step four: Repeat step three until the script is finished.

Step five: Don't blow your one big "thing."

Step six: Movie.

It's all that simple. Fans just want to see what they've always seen, except in live-action. They don't want you to find a big name to fill the lead role or a hot girl to stand in as the love interest unless they look and sound as close to the originals as possible. They're not showing up because they want to see a new imagining of the base property; they just want another excuse to see the show again.

That's why the script should be the easiest thing ever to write as all you need to do is take the script exactly as it appeared in the show and shovel in lines of dialogue like they're raisins in cereal. No one cares how clever you can make Goku sound if he doesn't say some of the lines we all know and love or act anything like the character we grew up with. Producers are banking off the notion that fans will show up to a property that's otherwise unsellable to the mainstream, so why ensure the movie won't appeal to anyone at all?

Everything can always be forgiven if you remember to get that one big "thing" correct. Don't forget that golden rule about scriptwriting: "If you get the big lies right, you can get away with the small ones." All this means is that if the movie makes an effort to ensure the biggest aspects of the story are in line with the original, a lot is allowable. For instance, no one watched Dragonball Evolution for anything other than to see a live-action Kamehameha. Be honest there, if they hadn't blown it in the end, you'd be happy with the film, right? Getting that one "thing" right is the saving grace of so many movies, like the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles getting the outfits perfect even though April didn't look like we wanted and the whole movie is rather silly. It doesn't matter because the Turtles looked correct and we were happy.

But we can't always get what we want, and as a result live-action translations of animated shows are just going to continue disappointing, all because producers don't seem to get it. Oh well.

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