x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Childhood memories ruined by CGI

With plans to remake the children's 1970s favourite RentaGhost into a CGI film, we look at other childhood memories ruined by Hollywood.

Warner Bros' adaptation of the 1970s BBC children's series RentaGhost has been described as a 'Beetle Juice-style afterlife feature comedy vehicle for Russell Brand'.
Warner Bros' adaptation of the 1970s BBC children's series RentaGhost has been described as a 'Beetle Juice-style afterlife feature comedy vehicle for Russell Brand'.

If everyone were to throw a tantrum each time their childhood memories took a beating from yet another all-star, all-action Hollywood remake, not much would ever get done in this world. Most of us have accepted the fact that, in the quest for cash, every possible creative corner must be carefully combed for potential, and if that involves smashing rose-tinted recollections of our much-loved TV shows with something animated on a computer and voiced by Will Ferrell (probably), then so be it.

Yogi Bear was the most recent recipient of a 21st-century reboot, transforming everyone's favourite 2D picnic thief into the critics' least favourite 3D live action/CGI Dan Aykroyd-voiced nonsense. It currently boasts a 14 per cent "rotten" score on the very trustworthy Rotten Tomatoes website, described as a "slap in the face to the fans of the original", which is probably not wise given their potential age.

Currently polluting cinema screens is Garfield's Pet Force, a full CGI affair which might not be anywhere near as bad as the sarcastic mog's first big-screen outing, but isn't likely to help numb the pain felt by fans who watched 2004's Garfield - The Movie (14 per cent), featuring the dubious acting talents of Jennifer Love Hewitt.

But most of us are used to this kind of TV nostalgia-bombing monstrosity. We saw it way back in 1994 with the abysmal The Flintstones, where producers went out of their way to destroy many first crushes by casting Rosie O'Donnell as Betty Rubble. We saw it in 2002's Scooby Doo (29 per cent), another mix of live action and animation that should never have been made. And as for Transformers, too much ink has already been spilled on this unfortunate abomination (Optimus Prime bellowing "Ebay" was the turning point for most fans).

These titles, however, along with countless other children's shows given an unscrupulous 21st-century remake, were all massive in their day, clearly something Hollywood executives were relying on to provide an automatic boost. Even if you vehemently oppose the end results, the financial side of things does seem to make sense.

But few would have expected one recent acquisition from television archives: according to reports, Warner Bros have acquired the rights to the British children's series RentaGhost.

For those unaware, RentaGhost was a rather camp, pantomime-like "comedy" series that ran on the BBC between 1976 and 1984.

Its basic plot surrounded the ongoing antics of a motley crew of ghosts who rent out their services for various tasks, often with "hilarious consequences". Characters included Fred Mumford, who ran the temping agency, Timothy Claypole, a ghostly jester, and a hayfever-suffering Scottish witch called Hazel, who teleports away whenever she sneezes.

It was ramshackle, cheap and silly. It featured a pantomime horse called Dobbin that looked as if it had been kidnapped from a school play. Signs on the set not nailed properly would regularly fall down. The script appeared to have been written simply on the basis of what had been found that morning in the costume department. The ghosts could "magic" themselves away with a pinch of their noses, but the cheap effects of the time simply meant that the film was cut to the point after they had run off the set, which required absolute stillness from the others to maintain continuity (something that was rarely achieved).

In other words, RentaGhost was a tremendously British show that looked set to remain in the libraries as a reminder of the sort of thing that passed for kids' entertainment in the 1970s.

But now, Warner Bros have bought the rights and, according to Deadline, will develop it into a "Beetle Juice-style afterlife feature comedy vehicle for Russell Brand".

While the idea of providing any sort of vehicle for Brand, aside from a clown car in a minefield, is too much for many, perhaps this is a sign of things to come. With almost all big-name children's shows snaffled up by the studios, perhaps it's the older, lesser-known ones that are next in line. Will we soon see an all-star ensemble for "Grange Hill: The Movie"? Or how about a big-budget Hollywood remake of the classic soap Neighbours, with the Australian cast replaced by Tinseltown's finest as Erinsborough comes under attack from Martians?

With international video libraries chock full of dubious children's programming from the past few decades, the possibilities are almost endless. If Brand's no-doubt foppish displays on RentaGhost pay off (financially, not creatively), this could well be a new dawn for studios in search of ideas. Bagpuss in 3D, anyone?