The Seven Best Big Screen Jumps for Animated Series


Adapting a thirty minute TV series usually seems like a horrific mistake. The tidy length of most TV shows coupled with their episodic format allows a lot of writers to shore up issues that would spill out everywhere in feature length.

We’ve seen this happen, too. The X-Files movie was extremely vanilla as a feature-length film – although as a two part episode it would have been phenomenal. Most producers simply don’t understand the chops it takes to adjust to the new medium, so they try to stretch everything out. What ends up happening is a lot of puzzled audience members unfamiliar with the source materials and a lot of fan boys kind of wishing they were just watching the show on their own TV.

Considering all this, imagine the surprise when not just a TV show but an animated TV show – usually known for their low-brow sensibilities in any genre – actually turns out to be an entertaining and well-formulated movie.

So, since I’ve already talked about big games jumping to tiny screens, let’s look at the best animated TV show adaptations for the big screen.


The Powerpuff Girls Movie


I’ll be honest, this whole film felt like a weird experiment (no pun intended). At barely over an hour long, it fell short on the type of adventure we see in most films. The marketing for the movie also had a lot of people wondering what the hell they were supposed to be interested in seeing.

For fans of the show, though, the movie proved to be a rather well-thought-out origin story. The titular girls have a wonderful character arc from being steeped in total destructive naivety to realizing that, yes, violence is the answer.

Admittedly, the production values were spread a tad thin. Beautiful backgrounds and shading effects couldn’t save the fact that the overly-simplistic designs weren’t nearly as flattering when blown up to full size.

Nevertheless, the film still managed to carve a niche with the few people who actually went to see it. The general theme and idea was heartwarming, and the film clearly showed a labor of love.


The Simpsons Movie


This poor movie was stuck in development hell for decades. After a while, so much time had passed that people had begun to question the relevance of releasing a full-length feature film.

However, everyone was instantly shut up by the time the movie came out. A lot of people who had become slowly detached from the new episodes of the series were reminded why The Simpsons was great in the first place.

The reason that everything came together was that Matt Groening legitimately wanted the movie to work. He wrapped his head around the difficulties involved in moving into feature-length, and hired the best possible team to mitigate any disasters. Groening brought back many Simpsons veterans to make sure that the project was a high-quality effort.

And it paid off. The film hit all the right notes and dug deep to bring out some emotional content that hadn’t been seen on the series in quite some time. The production staff also took the time to plan out some really entertaining, large-scale sequences that they wouldn’t have had the time or the money for when producing an episode a week.

Overall, it wasn’t even close to the best film of the decade, but it was the best Simpsons episode in years, which says a lot.


The Chipmunk Adventure


No, not the stupid live-action lazy bullshit they’ve been spewing out into theaters recently. This film was based on the late ’80s cartoon, which honestly still seemed like a horrible idea at the time. The show was obnoxious, and despite being supremely popular it was lazy and dumb through and through.

For some reason, though, this film was actually quite artistic. The animation took a huge step up, and every scene was well staged and managed to be emotionally involving. No, it doesn’t compare to the movies Don Bluth was putting out around this time like All Dogs Go to Heaven, but The Chipmunk Adventure actually managed to use the film medium well and be supremely entertaining.

I recommend watching it just because of the film’s ability to dictate emotion and mood through the character’s animations and expressions alone.


The Spongebob Squarepants Movie


This movie seemed inevitable given the show’s popularity with a wide audience. In fact, show creator Steve Hillenburg had no desire to do a movie, but the studio execs kept pushing it because they all knew what a cash cow it would be.

Luckily, none of that reluctance shows through in the final product. The Spongebob writers if anything have shown through the years that you don’t need a strong concept or a good plot to execute something well. Spongebob’s inherent demented charm carries the film, and the crew made sure to stock up on the grotesque hyper-animated faces that the series has become known for.

The movie was written by long-time contributors to the show, who handily proved that they knew how to write a scene for film. At the end of the day, the movie was just pure stupid fun, which is all most people expect out Spongebob. Also, that scene with the Hoff was priceless.


Batman: Mask of the Phantasm


For a long time, I thought that this was direct-to-video. This was because Warner Brothers evidently completed mishandled the film’s marketing, and kept it from getting a wider release than it rightfully should have. It seems at the last second they recanted their decision that the film would have a broad appeal, despite the success of the show.

What a shame. Batman: The Animated Series had a loyal following for a reason. It gave kids much more mature content than they were used to handling without making anything gruesome or traumatic.

Mask of the Phantasm doubled down on everything that made the TV show great. Every scene was paced extremely well, and Bruce Timm’s uncanny art style translated beautifully to the silver screen.

The plot is also better than 90 percent of most Hollywood dreck that comes out today. Screenwriters can learn a thing or two from the screenplay that Paul Dini and crew crafted, and Bruce Timm’s directing chops should have landed him more jobs than he could handle.

Unfortunately, this movie is instead a hidden gem. No one wanted to take it seriously, even some fans of the show. If they had taken the time to watch it, though, they would have been engrossed and left afterward with a lingering mood hanging over their head. Most big-budget movies can’t say the same thing.


Beavis and Butthead Do America


I had no desire to see this movie when it came out. I liked the show, but how could you possibly stretch out what amounted to six minute shorts into an hour and a half?

Mike Judge showed us how by flexing his story-telling muscle. He and Joe Stillman probed the depths of their minds to come up with scenarios where two nearly braindead idiotic teenagers can get into entertaining hijinks.

If you think about it, the characters are pretty restricted in what their capable of, especially when it comes to getting off the couch. The solution was to lead them about their noses through a hair-brained plot chock full of espionage and action tropes. The film ended up feeling like an episode of Mr. Magoo except instead of being blind and senile they were horny and stupid.

The gag that all the other characters, especially the FBI, takes them completely seriously makes the dramatic irony all the better as the plot unfolds. Plus, the tripout peyote scene in the desert? Gorgeous.


South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut


Of every movie listed here, this one gets the most what makes a film work. Remember that at the time South Park was only in its third season, and it was still making surreal Pythonesque episodes more laden with fart jokes than actual satire.

Comedy Central had given Trey Parker and Matt Stone a seven-figure incentive to figure out how to adapt the series into a movie, and they took the idea and ran with it. The duo manged to produce the movie, write it and record most of the voices themselves. Demanding an R rating, they pushed the bounds of what they were allowed to do on cable television at the time. Trey Parker also crafted a movie score worthy of any Hollywood classic, except while making dick jokes and saying f***.

The factor that keeps this movie close to my heart is that it is infinitely rewatchable. Hearing any song or seeing a snippet of any scene makes me want to go back and see the whole thing over again. The sheer creativity and expressive love for the medium makes a movie that has a “What’s a buttfor?” joke in it one of the best I’ve ever seen.


Jarrod Lipshy is a UGA English alumni and freelance content writer. He collects old video games and likes his kids’ cartoons to some gravitas, dammit.

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  1. To be fair, if the Simpsons movie had come out between 1992-1998, saying “the best Simpsons episode of years” would have meant something. But in 2007? Simpson’s had already jumped the shark and was a husk of a once great show.

  2. I hated the Simpsons movie. I feel like I was kinda alone in that sometimes. It was genuinely boring to me. And had very little of the spirit I was wanting in a movie like that. Why bother with real jokes when political humor that had no place in that movie can be used!

    1. It wasn’t amazing or groundbreaking, but it exceeded my expectations and hit all the right notes, as I said. I do kinda agree that they threw in political commentary instead of more legitimate situational humor, but I still remember having plenty of laughs. Point being, it could have been way more disappointing.

      1. I agree – for me the Simpsons movie was funny and that’s all I wanted out of it. I could’ve cared less how they delivered jokes as long as I was laughing.

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