Seventies kid shows make a comeback

Matthew Lillard, Freddie Prinze Jr., ...

The live action remake of the popular ’70s cartoon ”Josie and the Pussycats,” made a less than purrrrfect debut at the box office, taking in just $5.2 million. But the dismal box office of ”Josie” won’t deter Hollywood from preparing a new litter of projects based on kitschy TV series. Not only does DIC Entertainment have a new ”Josie” cartoon in the works, but the WB has revealed that Markie Post (”Night Court”) and Anne Stedman (”Space Cowboys”) will star in ”Electra Woman and Dyna Girl,” a remake of the ABC kids’ TV show that aired for just eight episodes during the 1976 – 77 season.

Like most of the other remakes and updates, ”Electra Woman and Dyna Girl” isn’t aimed at the Saturday morning cartoon viewer, but at the PG-13 audience, which may be familiar with the shows through reruns, Internet fan sites, and collectibles. A feminist takeoff on ”Batman,” ”Electra Woman” aired only eight episodes, but somehow its feisty journalist turned caped crusader heroine (Deidre Hall of “Days of Our Lives” fame) and her perky ponytailed assistant (Judy Strangis) has remained memorable enough to inspire a 21st century update. According to Randy Pope, a senior VP at Krofft Pictures, which produced the original series, the new version will steer clear of kid stuff: Electra Woman (Post) will be transformed into a ”disillusioned, foul mouthed, trailer park alcoholic” whose superheroine career has dried up since the original Dyna Girl (Stedman) left the biz to become a supermodel. ”It’s being completely revamped for a teen and adult audience,” says Pope. ”It’s more like ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ but funny.”

Movie versions of ”Scooby-Doo,” ”H.R. Pufnstuf,” and other kiddie faves of the bellbottom era are also in the pipeline. Read on for a preview of which ones are likely to score — and which might flop at the box office.

WHAT ”Scooby-Doo”
WHEN June 14, 2002
WHO Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Linda Cardellini (”Freaks and Geeks”), Matthew Lillard, Rowan Atkinson (”Bean”)
WHAT’S IT ABOUT Mystery solving teens Fred (Prinze), Velma (Cardellini), Daphne (Gellar), and Shaggy (Lillard) join their canine companion Scooby-Doo (a computer animated creation) in revealing Mondavarious (Atkinson) as a creepy bad guy.
VERDICT ”It’s still a popular show in reruns, and, especially with this cast, it’s perfect for a summer release,” says Mediaweek analyst Marc Berman. Don’t discount the drawing power of “Buffy” and her fiancé Prinze, either. ”It’s a title that remains hip, and with this cast you know the studio is going to use a fresh approach to the material,” says Robert Bucksbaum of ReelSource.

WHAT ”Land of the Lost”
WHEN In development
WHO No names yet
WHAT’S IT ABOUT Inspired by the 1974 series in which a forest ranger takes his two children river rafting, only for the unlucky trio to be thrown back to the dinosaur age when an earthquake creates a rift in the time space continuum. The stranded family must adapt to lovable dinosaurs, ape men, and hostile, hissing, green lizard men called Sleestaks.
VERDICT Promising. You may draw a blank on ”Land of the Lost,” but you remember ”Jurassic Park,” don’t you? Though Pope, who’s also producing ”Lost,” cautions that the movie will be more of a sci fi adventure than a dinosaur movie, don’t discount the power of a few CGI dinos. ”The dinosaurs will have personality,” says producer Marty Krofft. ”And I’m sure you’ll see Big Alice [one of the show’s pet dinosaurs] again.” But remaking ”Lost” as a straight adventure tale for families instead of a nostalgic comedy for older audiences is a risk. ”Just because their parents liked it in the ’70s doesn’t mean you can pay kids to go see a movie,” says Bucksbaum.

WHAT ”Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”
WHEN Estimated 2003
WHO No word yet, though last year Nicolas Cage was rumored as a possibility to play Willy Wonka (”Boogie Nights” star John C. Reilly also expressed interest). A recent report that rocker Marilyn Manson snagged the role was denied by Warner Bros.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT A remake of the 1971 movie ”Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” ”Charlie” is the tale of a poor boy, Charlie Bucket, who wins a chance to tour a bizarre candy factory and meet its eccentric owner.
VERDICT Delicious. Since ”Willy Wonka” is still a TV staple after 30 years, the movie could be a hit on par with Jim Carrey’s ”How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” which made $260 million in the U.S. alone. But that kind of box office will demand a star as major as Carrey to walk in Wonka’s shoes.

WHAT ”H.R. Pufnstuf”
WHEN In development
WHO Screenwriters Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer (”Scary Movie”) and producers Larry Karaszewski and Scott Alexander (”Man on the Moon,” ”The People vs. Larry Flynt”)
WHAT’S IT ABOUT Based on the 1969 – 71 TV series about a young boy kidnapped by an evil witch named Witchiepoo and forced to live on a fantasy island peopled with talking hats, dragons and a magic flute.
VERDICT Is this the right stuf? Though the powers behind the project promise a hip and possibly twisted take on the series, ”Pufnstuf” doesn’t have the massive fan following of a ”Willy Wonka” or a ”Scooby-Doo.” ”The difference between this and ‘Scooby-Doo’ is the difference between the first ‘Flintstones’ movie and ‘McHale’s Navy,”’ says Bucksbaum, who dismisses the show as ”lame.” Berman agrees, noting, ”This is strictly for ages 2 to 6. It’s kinda iffy, really.”

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

  • Movie
  • 116 minutes
  • Tim Burton