Whatever Happened to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Cartoon?

Buffy the Vampire Slayer lasted seven brilliant seasons and proved once and for all that female-led action series could work on television. The show was a ground-breaking cultural landmark, and paved the way for a spate of well-realized female protagonists that followed.

With its pop-culture soaked storylines. witty dialog and over-the-top action sequences, Buffy almost seemed like a live-action cartoon at times. That’s why it was no surprise when Joss Whedon took the show and converted into a comic book for season eight. It just seemed natural.

Buffy: The Animated Series
Buffy: The Animated Series

But what most people don’t know, was that in 2002, 20th Century Fox greenlit a Buffy animated series co-produced by Joss Whedon and Jeff Loeb.  The series was initially planned for the “Fox Kids” block of Saturday morning cartoons, possibly launching as early as 2003.

Buffy: The Animated Series ran into trouble almost immediately when Fox Kids stopped production, leaving the cartoon without a home. Fox shopped the show to other networks, but could find no takers and production halted.

In 2004, Fox decided to try developing the show a second time. Most of the cast from the original television show was available to reprise their voices. So a four-minute teaser pilot was created to shop the series to other networks. Once again it found no takers, a result Loeb attributed to the fact that it might be too adult to air with kids programming but animation for adults had only succeeded via slapstick comedy.

In a 2003, Whedon explained the difficulties and frustrations of trying to get the series developed in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter:

We just couldn’t find a home for (it). We had a great animation director, great visuals, six or seven hilarious scripts from our own staff—and nobody wanted it. I was completely baffled. I felt like I was sitting there with bags of money and nobody would take them from me. It was a question of people either not wanting it or not being able to put up the money because it was not a cheap show. One thing I was very hard-line about was, I didn’t want people to see it if it looked like crap. I wanted it to be on a level with Animaniacs or Batman: The Animated Series. And that’s a little pricier. But I just don’t think it’s worth doing unless it’s beautiful to look at as well as fun.

Although the show was never picked up, the designs are all finished and 13 scripts were completely written. Best of all, the four-minute teaser created to sell the show to other networks was leaked to the Internet.

This would have been cool enough, but 10 years later, cartoonist and animator Stephen Byrne took another stab at opening credits for a Buffy animated series as a passion project. No offense to the studio-backed version, I think his character designs might be even better.

Once again, it is clear that a Buffy cartoon would be absolutely awesome and there is no reason why the universe is keeping one from us other than malice and spite. Buffy is due for a revival, and this would be a great way to bring the show back without drawing direct comparisons to the cherished original.