Their Big Break

Moriah Hnath

By Moriah HnathPLAY Writer

You’re sitting through the previews before Ice Age: The Meltdown on opening night. The screen cuts to the image of a giant superhero, with Mr. Movie Announcer Guy saying, “Leaping his way onto the silver screen, the greatest hero in American history!” Is it Superman, Batman, Quailman?

Homer Simpson appears, sitting on a couch in his tightie whities.

“I forgot what I was supposed to say.”

The narrator goes on: “The Simpsons Movie, coming to the screen, July 27, 2007.”

Following in the footsteps of the makers of Charlie’s Angels and Mission: Impossible, the creators of TV shows like The Simpsons, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and possibly Arrested Development are transforming these classics into movies. Hollywood seems to be turning to TV shows as inspiration for blockbusters, reducing studios’ reliance on book-based movies.

President of Twentieth Century Fox Animation Chris Meledandri says Fox is excited about The Simpsons leaping onto the big screen.

“We have all watched The Simpsons evolve from a groundbreaking television series into a global cultural phenomenon,” he says.

Cartoon Network’s original Aqua Teen Hunger Force, which airs on the network’s late-night program Adult Swim, is an animated adult comedy series about fast food items living in New Jersey. Adult Swim has recently announced the production of the feature-length Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters, to be released in March 2007. Although each episode of the show is only 15 minutes long – including commercials – McCormick sophomore Travis Zupfer is confident that it will develop into a successful movie.

“It will probably turn out similar to the South Park movie, where they develop a certain issue or theme that can have a longer story to it,” he says.

Perhaps the most cult-fan-based TV show that may precede a movie is Arrested Development. The three-season Fox comedy won six Emmys and a Golden Globe, but got the axe from Fox in early 2006. Since then, the BBC and Bravo have been showing reruns, and Showtime is rumored to have offered to pick up the show.

And in a TV Guide interview about an upcoming Lifetime movie, Alia Shawkat, Maeby on Arrested Development, says creator Mitch Hurwitz “recently told us that there is a good possibility for a movie.”

In 2002, Joss Whedon’s pet-project Firefly started airing on Fox. Eleven episodes later, it was cancelled. Devastated fans wrote thousands of protest letters and raised thousands of dollars to buy ads in trade magazines like Variety in an attempt to convince another network to pick up the show midseason.

Fox later released the show in a DVD set -including three unaired episodes – that was snapped up by thousands of Whedonites. This led Universal Pictures to produce a film based on the series: Serenity. The film won numerous indie sci-fi awards, but failed to make it big at the box office, pulling in only $38.8 million worldwide. The movie’s budget was $39 million.

The trend in reverse, turning popular films into bite-sized, weekly-airing TV shows, has proved less than successful.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding, perhaps the highest grossing indie movie ever, convinced CBS to produce a TV series entitled My Big Fat Greek Life in 2003, which ran for a mere seven episodes before CBS decided to get lipo.

But there have been some films that have successfully made their way into the world of television. Most of these were movies that were less than popular in theaters.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer began as a 1992 horror film which had mixed audience reactions – its IMDb rating is a 5.2 out of 10 – and less-than-stellar box office numbers – it pulled in only $16.6 million in the U.S. Today, it is better known as the high school horror-dramedy series staring Sarah Michelle Gellar. Its success followed its seven-season life span through strong DVD sales and a spin-off, Angel.

Despite cast and crew difficulties, ABC recently announced their plans to turn Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s 2005 blockbuster Mr. & Mrs. Smith into a TV series about the life of the two married assassins-who tried to kill each other during the movie-six months after the movie takes place. Simon Kinberg, who wrote both the film and the show’s pilot, describes the show as “Married, With Children – with guns.”

Weinberg sophomore Mandi DeLong thinks the film would be lost without Brangelina, since their chemistry contributed to the appeal of the film. A TV show without them would similarly suffer.

“The story would be difficult to build off of,” she says. “The fast pace and resolution of the movie were part of what made it so good.”

But whether “Smith” becomes the next “Buffy” or fizzles out like “Firefly,” network execs can rest assured that at least someone is watching.

Weinberg freshman Moriah Hnath is a PLAY writer. She can be reached at [email protected]