It doesn’t take half a brain to turn Robocop into a children’s franchise, it wasn’t the first robotic cop kid’s show after all. Rambo came along just the right time in right place to be able to get a kids’ cartoon in G.I. Joe’s wake, but how in the hell they though Aliens would make a great children’s franchise?
When Alien came out in 1979, it was almost an instant classic. Without a doubt it was a B-Class horror movie done right with almost A-class budget. It was a straight up science fiction horror that didn’t hold back on its themes or visuals. 20th Century Fox was partnered with Kenner at the time, and then they had Kenner to produce and release an Alien action figure.
I’ve heard this tale few times around, but it still boggles my mind. How did they think they’d get away with releasing Giger’s alien to store shelves? Soon after the toy hit the shelves, Kenner began to receive tons of complaints from parents. The toy was too terrifying for children to play with, and I’ve heard some rumours saying that kids were crying in the you isles when they saw the Xenomorph figure. There were plans to realise a full-scale action figure line of Alien toys, but the uproar from this 18″ toy doomed that idea.
I get the idea. Star Wars was a massive hit to Kenner and can be counted as the origin point of current toy tie-ins of games, movies and so on. It’s not hard to understand the line of reasoning Kenner and 20th Century Fox had at the time. They had a successful sci-fi piece under their belt from Lucas, and with Alien being similar sharing the genre, of course it would be a hit. This is one of the prime examples of people in charge not understanding their products or to whom they were aimed for. If Alien would be released nowadays, it would be pushed to have PG-13 or similar rating.
Supposedly, 20th Century Fox was planning to create an Alien TV-show in the early 1980’s, but that never went anywhere. The only mention it has can be found in a small newsbit in Fangoria #6 June 1980. Television version of Alien could work, if it was allowed to be its visceral itself. The series most likely never left writing board, and Aliens followed soon after.
Fast forward to 1992, and they were making a cartoon based on the franchise; Operation: Aliens.
The only thing that was pushed to the general audience were these toys. Operation: Aliens was based on the second movie with the shooting and action, but it’s only know that only a pilot was produced, and even that might not be. Plans obviously were made and series was mostly already largely budgeted, as Kenner’s released a toyline, a boardgame was produced based on the series’ concepts and a comic labelled with the same name with trading cards began to run in 1994 . As the series’ plug was pulled before it got properly off the ground, there’s not much to go on about it, and only a handful of screenshots exist.
One has to wonder what the hell were they thinking. It’s not too far removed that the success of G.I. Joe and Transformers were looming in people’s minds, and the success of The Real Ghostbusters, another horror movie turned kid’s cartoon, most likely boosted the idea of turning Aliens into an action packed Saturday morning cartoon. Imagine the face of some 20th Century Fox exec when he has commissioned the series, and the first footage he gets is filled with soldier littering dark hallways with bullets and ripping xenomorphs apart. Visceral violence is something you can’t separate from Alien no matter how much you try, that is in its very core idea.
Nevertheless, the early 1990’s was bad time to both Japan and toy companies. The toylines of 1980’s were essentially more or less dead and new ones were taking their place. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles became the hottest shit when the 1989 cartoon hit the airwaves, and Power Rangers would soon follow in suit. In general terms, large toylines that were supported by a cartoon had become passé.
Three main theories exist why Operation: Alien died before it even started. First being that Alien 3 bombed in the theatres and 20th Century Fox just cut their losses. Another is that when the exec’s saw whatever was done of the pilot, they saw that it was either far too violent for children, or had no edge to it as an Alien cartoon. The third is basically combination of both, which is most probable.
In 2007, there was supposed to be another Aliens cartoon called Aliens: War Games, but that went nowhere either. It was supposed to be similar to Tartavosky’s Clone Wars, but whether or not it would have been for children or adults is another thing altogether.
Alien doesn’t simply work as a children’s franchise. Its core is far too violent and gruesome, partly thanks to Giger’s biomechanical visual world and the fact that in Alien violence is met with violence. You can not remove these elements that build the Xenomorph as a creature, not to mention the sexual tones. The idea of a group of people being called to fight against a Xenomorph invasion under different situations sounds cool, but not for children. Ben-10 could do it, but not Alien.
With Deadpool’s massive success in the box office, I have hopes that some executives will realize that something that’s build for adults will do well when they’re not forced for children. The same goes the other way as well. However, I’m not confident enough to say Deadpool will have a huge effect, as Hollywood seems to lack common sense.
To add a bit more crafts to this, I recommend watching this 1979 documentary on Giger designing and creating props to the movie. Is shows a master craftsman at his best.