With the Toy Story spin-off Lightyear hitting screens this week, we’re looking at five more celluloid offshoots that no one saw coming.
Nearly 30 years after the first Toy Story movie hit – and three years since the last sequel – we’re now getting an unexpected spin-off. One that it’s quite hard to wrap your head around.
According to Disney, the concept is as follows: “The definitive origin story of Buzz Lightyear, the hero who inspired the toy, Lightyear follows the legendary Space Ranger after he’s marooned on a hostile planet 4.2 million light-years from Earth alongside his commander and their crew.
“As Buzz tries to find a way back home through space and time, he’s joined by a group of ambitious recruits and his charming robot companion cat, Sox. Complicating matters and threatening the mission is the arrival of Zurg, an imposing presence with an army of ruthless robots and a mysterious agenda.”
Captain America himself – Chris Evans – plays this iteration of Buzz, while Keke Palmer and Josh Brolin also lend their vocal skills to the animated feature.
It’s an unusual start point for a story, but early word is good on Lightyear, and the concept got us thinking about other unexpected movie spin-offs. With the following being five of the strangest…
U.S. Marshals (1998)
The Original: The Fugitive was based on a 1960s TV show of the same name. This updated version was released in 1993, and starred Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble, a doctor framed for his wife’s murder.
Kimble escapes custody and goes on the run, trying to clear his name while at the same time endeavouring to find his wife’s actual killer. And the film was a smash-hit, grossing $369 million from a $44 million budget.
The Spin-Off: Good as Harrison Ford was in the movie, Tommy Lee Jones stole several scenes as U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard, winning himself an Academy Award in the process. And with Kimble’s mystery wrapped up in the first movie, Warner Bros. decided to continue Gerard’s story instead.
However, Tommy Lee Hones hadn’t carried a film of that magnitude before, so the studio was taking a gamble. They surrounded him with star-power in the shape of Wesley Snipes and Robert Downey Jr., but audiences ultimately weren’t interested in the result, with U.S. Marshals costing the same as The Fugitive, but making back just $102 million.
Evan Almighty (2007)
The Original: In 2003, Jim Carrey was pretty much the biggest comedy star on the planet thanks to the likes of Ace Ventura, Dumb and Dumber, and Liar, Liar. So a film in which Carrey’s news reporter is given god-like powers seemed like an easy-win, which is what it proved to be.
Audiences flocked to see the star perform ridiculous and hilarious miracles, with the movie making more than five times its budget at the box office. And lots of reviews singled out up-and-coming funnyman Steve Carell for praise as Bruce’s TV rival Evan Baxter.
The Spin-Off: Did the world like Baxter enough for a spin-off however? Universal certainly hoped so, as they spent more than twice the original’s budget giving him a spin-off.
Evan Almighty turned the character into a modern-day Noah, who builds an ark and assembles pairs of animals in preparation for the big flood. Unfortunately, although the film’s effects were spectacular, actual jokes were thin on the ground, and the film was a monumental flop.
Get Him to the Greek (2010)
The Original: Forgetting Sarah Marshall revolved around Jason Segal’s character heading to Hawaii to get over a recent break-up, only to run into his ex and her new boyfriend while there.
The new boyfriend in question is a rockstar played by British comedian Russell Brand, and the hit comedy helped launch his brief Hollywood career.
The Spin-Off: Audiences responded to Brand’s rocker Aldous Snow, so Universal gave him his own movie, with Get Him to the Greek revolving around efforts to transport the singer to a gig when all he wants to do is party.
The spin-off made a bit less than its predecessor however, and cost a bit more, so once again it was a case of diminishing returns. But that isn’t always the case with these offshoots…
The Original: The tale of a supervillain who adopts three orphans and then tries to steal the moon, Despicable Me was a hit for Universal in 2010, so-much-so that they immediately green-lit a sequel that was an even bigger hit in 2013.
But although kids liked the protagonist Gru, the characters they responded to most were the Minions – small, yellow creatures who communicate in gibberish and act like kids themselves.
- Read More: Chris Evans on replacing Tim Allen as Buzz
The Spin-Off: The Minions movie charted the history of the minion race, from the beginning of time, right up to the 1960s, where they become embroiled in a plot to steal the State Crown of England.
It’s a deeply silly movie, and also one of the most successful animated movies of all-time, grossing over $1 billion, and spawning a sequel of its own that hits screens this summer. So chalk this one up as a win.
The Original: Rocky needs no introduction, but we’ll give him one anyway. The original 1975 film was a gritty boxing story that introduced one of the greatest characters in movie history. The film was both a critical and commercial hit, and won star Sylvester Stallone a screenwriting Oscar.
Several sequels followed – of varying quality – then Rocky V arrived, and was so bad that it killed the franchise stone-dead. Until the director and star of 2013 indie Fruitvale Station approached Stallone.
The Spin-Off: A film about Apollo Creed’s son doesn’t sound like the stuff of celluloid magic, but writer-director Ryan Coogler and actor Michael B. Jordan pitched a tale that captured Sly’s imagination.
The resulting film retained Rocky’s gritty tone and visuals, but gave them a very contemporary spin. Jordan infused Adonis Creed with anger and pathos, while Stallone returned as Balboa, and delivered maybe the greatest performance of his career. Much like the original, it was acclaimed critically, did well commercially, and spawned sequels of its own, with Jordan himself currently directing Creed III.
And that’s your five crazy spin-offs. Though there were also plans to include Big Lebowski offshoot The Jesus Rolls on this list, but having just seen the film, we’re simply going to pretend it never happened.