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The Forgotten Starship Troopers TV Series You Didn't Know Existed

There are few genres more easily dismissed than "'90s cash-grab Saturday morning cartoon adaptation." For a glorious stretch of pop culture history, they were everywhere — obvious candidates like Jumanji, Free Willy, and every single animated Disney movie overshadowed more questionable reimaginings like Rambo: The Force of Freedom, Conan the Adventurer, Highlander, and a swath of other animated weirdness. The overall oeuvre seemed to be less "let's expand on a colorful and beloved universe" and more "let's see if we can get kids to write 'Toxic Avenger action figure' on their Christmas lists."

So it's not the fact that Starship Troopers got an animated series that's surprising. It's that Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles was, by most metrics, shockingly alright. First released in 1999, it was a fully CGI television program, with an ambitious-for-the-time animation style somewhere between "Halo: Reach cutscene" and "episode of ReBoot" in terms of quality. That may be damning with faint praise — it really is one of those rare computer animated, non-Pixar productions that you can look back at 20 years later and go, "Wow, that really holds up." It was developed by Richard Raynis of The Simpsons and Duane Capizzi from Transformers Prime, and even executive produced by Paul Verhoeven, the director of the original Starship Troopers. The show had legs... even if you didn't know it existed.

Roughnecks was mayhem on and off the screen

Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles marched to the same basic plot beats as the 1997 Paul Verhoeven movie: bloodthirsty alien bugs were the enemies, human soldiers representing the word "hoo-rah" were the good guys. Thanks to its all-animated format, it even got to delve into some of the higher concept ideas from the original Robert A. Heinlein novels, like mech suits and other alien species.

If a Clinton-era futuristic CGI war drama — you know, for kids — sounds too good to last, you're one step ahead of the story. Roughnecks had a tragically short run for a bevy of unfortunate reasons. At the time of its original release, fans noticed that the show was airing out of order, which Ain't It Cool News reported was due to the series having been sold for syndication before it had a backlog of episodes meaty enough to support a schedule that saw Roughnecks airing five times a week. The immensely time consuming process of making a fully realized 3D cartoon in the late '90s meant a lengthy production cycle, and old stories being shown again and again to buy time only became more frustrating when the series dropped four clip shows in its first season.

In the end, Roughnecks lasted a total of 40 episodes before its panoply of production issues spelled the series' doom. What, you apes? You wanted it to live forever?