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Animorphs Is The Millennial Nostalgia Property That Hollywood Should Stop Ignoring

Think back to a simpler time — 1997. Mysterious lights are seen over Phoenix, Arizona. "The English Patient" wins best picture at the Academy Awards and then no one ever thinks about it ever again. But you're just a kid, getting out of class to go what's tantamount to Disneyland for a kid, other than, you know, Disneyland. We're talking about the Scholastic Book Fair.

With just a few dollars in your pocket, the world becomes your oyster. There's a plethora of books at your disposal, each one promising a portal to another realm. But how to decide which one to pick? Naturally, you go with the old standby: judging a book by its cover. And back in those days, no book series had cooler covers than "Animorphs" by K.A. Applegate. Images of teenagers transforming into animals before your very eyes demanded attention, and the series was a massive hit. Back in 2011, Applegate spoke with Scholastic and mentioned how the series had sold over 35 million copies. It was huge, and it turned that success into a two-season TV series that aired on Nickelodeon between 1998 and 1999 in what's one of the best science-fiction series of the 1990s.

There was talk of an "Animorphs" movie happening in 2020 with Applegate and her husband, Michael Grant, attached, but they exited the project shortly after it was announced. Not much else has been said of the film in the years since, so it kind of seems dead in the water. But there are some good reasons why an "Animorphs" project, whether it's a film or another TV series, live-action or animated at this point, should become a priority in Hollywood. 

Heavy themes in light packaging

On the surface, "Animorphs" seemed like typical YA fare. The basic plot follows a group of teenagers who receive the power to transform into any animal they come into physical contact with. They use their new powers in the fight against an alien menace that has made its way to Earth. So far, so good; it's a pretty basic "teenagers receive incredible powers"-type storyline. 

However, "Animorphs" differentiates itself from others of its ilk in some very important ways. First and foremost, the series takes the trauma of warfare seriously. The fights aren't just there for fodder; the kids actually experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder through their trials. The fact these are literally child soldiers isn't lost on K.A. Applegate as they go through the wringer throughout the franchise. 

It's an important distinction, because have you ever realized how many series are predicated on the use of child soldiers? Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Power Rangers. Spy Kids. X-Men. Dress them up in colorful costumes all you want — they're still waging wars on behalf of elders for a conflict that ultimately has nothing to do with them. And while those stories do occasionally touch on how messed up it is to use teenagers to fight wars, "Animorphs" really grabbed the bull by the horns, to the point where the series doesn't have a happy ending where the good guys emerge victorious. 

Without giving anything away, "Animorphs" ends the way all wars do — with both sides worse off. Honestly, Applegate says it better than we ever could: "I'm just a writer, and my main goal was always to entertain. But I've never let Animorphs turn into just another painless video game version of war, and I wasn't going to do it at the end." "Animorphs" is a story that sticks with you long after you finish the final chapter, and it could make for an incredible TV or film series.

It could fill a Stranger Things-sized hole in the zeitgeist

Remember that list earlier about all the properties that involve child soldiers in some capacity? We forgot to mention one — "Stranger Things." It's arguably the biggest phenomenon to come out of Netflix, and at the end of the day, it's about a bunch of kids (one of whom has magical powers) who are waging a war to prevent monsters from coming to their world. It's an insanely popular show that unfortunately only has one season left, assuming Netflix doesn't give the go-ahead to produce various spin-offs. 

The point is, when done well, people clearly connect with these stories of young people saving the world from an existential threat. "Animorphs" could easily follow in the same footsteps as "Stranger Things," centering on a young cast who, in addition to dealing with interpersonal issues, also have to defend the planet from aliens. And the same way "Stranger Things" launched the careers of Finn Wolfhard and Millie Bobby Brown, "Animorphs" could set the stage for numerous young actors to enter the cultural conversation. 

There have been attempts to mimic the success of "Stranger Things" in the past, notably with the "Paper Girls" adaptation on Amazon Prime Video. Granted, that masterpiece was canceled after a single season because we can't have nice things, but it's safe to say "Animorphs" probably has a larger fan base of both millennials and Gen Z who want to see another adaptation. And based on social media, it appears the fanbase is growing by the day.

People still rave about Animorphs on social media

"Animorphs" may have never risen to the prominence of other YA properties, but it's maintained a steady fanbase that appears to only be growing. Seriously, a quick search of "Animorphs" on Reddit or Twitter will present a plethora of comments and discussions, all almost universally positive. Not too long ago, Redditor u/Hexatona posted how they had just finished reading the series as an adult after ignoring it as a child. Hundreds of comments rolled in from people discussing the series, many of whom had also read the series as adults who could take in all of the more mature themes.

Twitter is similarly filled with fan art and memes of people singing the franchise's praises, such as a post from @deedeevertigo, who wrote, "Society if People got into animorphs instead" over an image of a utopian society. Not only that but there are many ways for prospective fans to get into the series; graphic novel adaptations have emerged, as well as audiobooks. There are more ways than ever before to enjoy "Animorphs," priming audiences for a film or television adaptation. 

It could follow the trend of darker takes on children's properties, like "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina" and "Riverdale." The source material is already plenty dark, so it wouldn't be much of a stretch to ramp it up a little, giving both an old and new generation of fans something to enjoy that takes the material seriously as opposed to the previous Nickelodeon iteration. 

Animorphs has an author you actually want to support

There are many ways to read the "Animorphs" series. It tackles war, freedom, and, ultimately, coming of age in a violent world. However, it's also a series about not feeling at home within your own body, especially when it comes to the character of Tobias. There's a rule that the teens can only stay in the body of an animal for two hours otherwise, they're stuck that way. This is precisely what happens to Tobias as he's trapped in the form of a hawk but maintains his human mind — his body no longer reflecting how he feels on the inside. It should come as no surprise that the trans community has really taken to the franchise, and author K.A. Applegate has no problem with those readings. 

Twitter users have reached out to Applegate online to let them know how much "Animorphs" meant to them. One such user discussed how they identified with Tobias and even got a tattoo of him, to which Applegate responded, "Well, this pretty much made my day. I'm so glad Tobias's story resonated with you—thanks for reading." Applegate also has a trans daughter and is vocal about her support of the trans community, which is a nice change of pace from other YA authors (who shall remain nameless because they can be rather litigious). 

During a time when trans people need more support and representation than ever, a TV or movie series based on "Animorphs" would be a game changer, and people could watch it without worrying about the author's politics. As studios scrounge for intellectual properties of yesteryear to adapt, there's an exceptional series staring at them right in the face that fans would freak out over if gone underway — provided they do it right and stay close to the source material.