Highlander: The Adventure Begins: The Animated Movie

It’s the early ’90s. Less than a decade ago, HIGHLANDER became a cult hit. Producers William Panzer and Peter Davis managed to make an ambitious sequel, but it was received disastrously. They found more success by lowering their sights to syndicated television, while planning a course-correcting part III. Highlander was now officially a franchise. Time to get the kids involved.

From the dawn of 1986 they came…moving stylishly down through the decades. Movies, TV shows, cartoons, struggling to reach the time of the reviewing, when Vern will write about the franchise

In September of 1994, the USA Network debuted the Canadian/French/American cartoon Highlander: The Animated Series. Like with the live action series, I’m not dedicated enough to watch the whole series. Instead, I took a look at HIGHLANDER: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS: THE ANIMATED MOVIE, a feature length video release made from the early episodes.

It opens in a desertscape with a weird castle and an Ironside-y villain named Kortan (Lawrence Bayne, La Femme Nikita) who sits on a throne surrounded by statues, machines and weird toadies who he sends after “the Highlander.” Meanwhile, a Legend of Zelda looking dork named “Quentin of the Highlands” (Miklos Perlus, “New Kid,” IRON EAGLE ON THE ATTACK) and his little sister Clyde (Katie Zegers, “Kid,” IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS) remember the time when he was 7 and he and his six-legged mutant rabbit companion met a mysterious stranger (Ben Campbell) riding on a… dino guy.

Quentin refers to himself as “a Dundee” and has a boomerang, so maybe he’s supposed to be Australian, but he doesn’t do an accent. Which is in the grand tradition of this series’ portrayal of nationalities, so I approve.

Both the design and the Sean-Connery-imitation voice of the stranger tell us that this is Ramirez. And it becomes clear when Kortan’s “Hunters” attack Quentin’s village and his mom calls him “Quentin MacLeod” that Ramirez knows he’s some kind of chosen one.

First of all, I gotta say, I was convinced for a minute that this cartoon was doing what the live action series and the upcoming part III didn’t have the cajones to do: pick up on HIGHLANDER II: THE QUICKENING‘s “Planet Zeist” mythology. But soon I realized that this is the future on Earth, so the weird animals must be mutants or something.

Ramirez teaches that seven centuries ago the remaining Immortals, including Connor MacLeod, became something they call “Jettators” by putting on matching robes and vowing to lay down their swords and give up the quest to become the last one. But Kortan was the one fucking asshole who refused, perhaps because he had such a cool sword the size of a guitar with a black blade and green skull/lightning hilt.

Obviously it would be hard to lay down something that badass. Not held to the same code, he would’ve killed the other swordless Immortals and ruled the world, so MacLeod sacrificed himself by violating his vow, picking his sword back up out of the pile and fighting Kortan.

In the flashback we see him almost immediately lose, and he’s decapitated off screen. But not before he and the others very confidently explain that this means some day another Immortal will be born who doesn’t have to follow their vow and he’ll be a MacLeod and carry his sword and rise up against Kortan.

Not sure how they knew any of that, but let’s just go with it. Not a bad concept. And it’s cool to see animated Connor MacLeod with his trenchcoat, although he also has red hair with a ponytail, maybe to avoid having to pay likeness rights to Lambert. The one real huge fuck up though is he’s wearing brown shoes. White sneakers woulda done the trick.

(This also brings up the question of why, Connor MacLeod being Immortal, they couldn’t just have a cartoon about his adventures in the future? Cartoon makers always think kids only want to see wish fulfillment stories about kids like them having adventures. Do they know about Batman and shit?)

So now Ramirez has to convince Quentin that he’s The Highlander, and train him, like he once did his distant ancestor. He teaches him about feeling other Immortals’ presence and stuff. Quentin already wears a trenchcoat (admittedly too dark of a brown in most scenes) so he in some ways does fulfill the duties of his clan.

For Quentin’s first Highlander mission type deal they go blow up Kortan’s power plant or something. When they’re sneaking in there is what I assume is an accidental tribute to Russell Mulcahy: they have to jump through a giant fan to get in. They don’t animate any light beams coming through it, but it’s good enough.

A Jettator named Magnus sacrifices himself so they can get away. Then they stand on a hill discussing the lesson they’ve learned as a guitar noodles and it fades to black. Then…

And suddenly Ramirez is laying in a canoe where Quentin is doing balance training. The next little section has kind of a cool idea: some punk dudes attack Quentin’s pals the Dundees with “a terrible weapon.” When Ramirez tends to their wounds and removes a bullet from one of them he realizes that the punks have a machine gun, which they’ve never even heard of before. Ramirez tries to explain what it is with a flashback about war.

“A powerful weapon that could kill dozens of men in a matter of seconds so that a few men could control the lives of everyone else. The men who owned them became drunk with power, lost to reason, like madmen. That’s why this last remaining gun must be found.”

Quentin finds the punks doing a ceremony worshiping the gun and manages to steal it. He ends up running around firing it at things excitedly and then doesn’t want to put it down, telling Ramirez he doesn’t need him anymore. When Ramirez tells him he’s just going to become the next tyrant, he yells “Leave me alone! I can silence you and anyone who gets in my way!” Eventually he calms down and throws the gun in the water and then all the sudden they’re training in a cave and never mentioning any of that shit again, so I think it might be several hours later again.

Ramirez takes the kid to his friend Stevenson, who lives in an old dam full of books where they get poisoned and… I don’t know. Quentin meets a girl named Aria (Alyson Court, ROLLING VENGEANCE, voice of Lydia on the Beetlejuice cartoon). Ramirez gets to put on a metal mask and ride a cool motorcycle. They fall through a pipe, climb through an air vent, etc. Aria kisses Quentin goodbye and his sister gets jealous.

Then it’s later again and some stuff happens and Quentin has a duel with Kortan and their swords get struck by lightning and he wants to keep fighting so Ramirez punches him out and carries him off and then they fight again. At the end he admits to Ramirez that “You’re right, I’m not ready.” Then Ramirez makes some joke that I can’t understand and they all laugh and then it goes to credits.

I know this isn’t the first animated children’s show based on an R-rated movie series (Rambo: The Force of Freedom, RoboCop: The Animated Series and Toxic Crusaders all predated it) but it’s still kind of weird to make a children’s cartoon dependent on the premise of characters becoming more powerful by cutting off each other’s heads, something they’re not allowed to ever show. I suppose maybe these restrictions led to more creativity, like the Hayes Code. Or maybe not because jesus it was hard to get through this whole thing. We all know about the three act structure, but this has four acts, titled “The Chosen Highlander, “A Terrible Weapon,” “Stevenson,” and “A Trap,” according to the menu. I experienced some disappointment when I realized the third wasn’t the last. These story sections, or “episodes” if you will, don’t really add up to a feature film narrative, but I don’t think they’d be very exciting taken individually, either.

The animated series lasted for 2 seasons, with a total of 40 episodes. It ran on the USA Network before going into syndication. It also spawned a line of action figures and a 1995 Atari Jaguar CD game called Highlander: The Last of the MacLeods. I don’t know what this means, but IMDb says it was “done in the same vein as the first Alone in the Dark games.”

I guess there must be some people who grew up on this cartoon and have it as their primary idea of what the Highlander series is all about, kind of like the kids who got into Star Wars movies only after watching Clone Wars. Except not good.


Other U.S.-France cartoons that aired from 1994 to 1996:

Creepy Crawlers, Phantom 2040

Other cartoons debuting in 1994:

Bump in the Night, The Critic, Duckman, Gargoyles, Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Street Sharks, The Tick, Where On Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?

Other movie-based cartoons debuting in 1994:

Free Willy, Aladdin: The Series, Beethoven

(note: no others based on R-rated movies about chopping people’s heads off)

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 28th, 2019 at 11:31 am and is filed under Cartoons and Shit, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

37 Responses to “Highlander: The Adventure Begins: The Animated Movie”

  1. I remember this! Barely.

  2. Good time to bring up the other animated version


  3. I’ve learned a while ago that there are a ton of weird cartoons that I’ve never heard of and this is one of them. But everything you wrote about it makes me not want to watch it. Not even out of morbid curiosity.

  4. Holy shit, Atari Jaguar! Alone in the dark must mean a 3D puzzle game where you move the character around 3D environments. I suppose it’s what would become more popularly the Resident Evil Style. But before Alone in the Dark I’d say it was commonly Sierra or Lucasarts style.

  5. Troma signed a deal with New Line to make a Toxic Crusaders movie, but New Line only did it to pressure the Ninja Turtles creators into making part III. If you are curious what a Toxic Cruaders movie would have looked like then watch the trailer to Freaked.

  6. Wow! Some real good ones came out in 94!! Duckman and The Tick are all time classics, Bump in the Night is great stop motion and Space Ghost Coast to Coast is groundbreaking and the father of Adult Swim!!

    Never heard of this Highlander cartoon until just the other day when someone mentioned it on the talkback to one of the movies. Looks corny but might be funny. Probably a weird or cool episode buried in there!

  7. I don’t have much to contribute to the discussion of the cartoon, as I never watched it (too ugly looking). I will say that of the other cartoons listed at the end of the article, PHANTOM 2040 is an absolute sleeper series. It seemed to me like an unusual property to adapt in 1994, but I guess the Phantom comic strip is still running in newspapers. Maybe the purpose of the animated series was to prepare young moviegoers for evil to be slammed when the live-action Phantom feature film was released two years later.

  8. Damn. I really thought this was set on zeist!

    I just saw a YouTube video about the last of the MeClouds game and wow… it looks utterly unplayable. Like, you have to see it to believe it levels of bad.

    As for this series, the praying to the machine gun thing sounds like a fun sci-fi take on the heavy handed morality common in violence for the sake of violence cartoon shows of this era.

  9. I only learned of this thing years after it aired. I used to have the VHS of this ‘movie’. I do not miss it.

    The Jaguar CD game is super-infamous for its quality.

  10. I saw a couple of episodes and remember Quentin himself being about as entertaining as the protagonist from JAMES BOND JR. meaning not at all.

    There where other toons also syndicated at the time based on pulpy sci-fi fantasy concepts. PHANTOM 2040 which I did see mentioned up there and is just as good if not better than that Billy Zane movie Vern loves so much; and CONAN THE ADVENTURER based on our favorite cimmerian barbarian. That CONAN show had one of the most hilarious theme songs of all time but it was leaps and bounds ahead of HIGHLANDER: TAS.

  11. I vaguely remember catching a couple of episodes of this. Good to hear that it’s as strange as I remember. I also have vague memories of Phantom 2040 being pretty cool. I dug the anime-esque animation.

  12. >Cartoon makers always think kids only want to see wish fulfillment stories about kids like them having adventures. Do they know about Batman and shit?

    Are you not familiar with why Batman Beyond was made? Look it up, it’s fascinating.

  13. I had fond memories of this from when I was a kid, but I never really managed to keep up with it.

    I happened to run across a used copy of the complete series a few years ago and bought it because I always wondered where the story went. Turns out that would be nowhere. Watching it as an adult I realized it didn’t really have continuity. That lesson Quentin learns about not being ready to fight Kortan, he learns it more than once in the first several episodes.

    If anyone is curious they get around the decapitations in later episodes by the Jetattors being able to transfer their Quickening into Quentin which renders them mortal and thus finally able to die.

  14. ’90s cartoons really loved their blunt political messages aimed at the malleable minds of their children audience, the gun episode is a clear example of that, reminds me of CAPTAIN PLANET which even as a small child I thought was preachy horseshit.

    Now we live in a world where almost all media is as hamfisted with poltical messages as CAPTAIN PLANET was, it’s not just cartoons anymore.

  15. I thought you were gonna say “now we live in the world the Highlander and Captain Planet were trying to warn us about.” What is an example of the almost all media that’s as ham-fisted as Captain Planet?

  16. Say what you want about the lack of sublety in the messages of 80s and 90s kids shows, but without them, my sister and I would probably as shitty as our parents.

    Also He-Man taught me to stop, drop and roll in case I catch fire. Never had to use it, but man, was I glad that I knew it!

  17. Vern – I mean hey, they weren’t wrong I guess, but I simply dislike what feel like diatribes in my entertainment, even if it’s stuff I agree with, not to mention it’s kind of creepy to me to have blunt political messages in children’s media, it’s like brainwashing and clearly hoping the parents aren’t paying too much attention.

    I mean do you think it’s appropriate to have obvious political messaging in stuff aimed at unquestioning kids? I’m not talking about messages you may agree or disagree with, just the concept in general, which personally creeps me out.

    As for modern examples, well, CAPTAIN MARVEL for one, yeah, that old chestnut, which had a scene so mean spirited it actually wound up on the cutting room floor, what is it with Captains?

    Not trying to reopen any old wounds here, just stating my opinions.

  18. CJ- not to get too nerdy but I once played a D&D character that died after being set on fire specifically because we decided he probably wouldn’t know about “stop drop and roll”. If only he’d seen that He-Man episode.

  19. Waiting for Vern to explain the Captain Marvel deleted scene to Griff like

  20. Griff, I think it’s definitely justified to be annoyed by the sledgehammery way certain messages are and were spread in media (God, how annoying were those moral lesson tags at the end of pretty much every 80s cartoon and even I am incredibly pissed off how the new TWILIGHT ZONE seems to spell out its messages with crayons, because it believes the choir it is preaching to is too stupid to understand even the most hamfisted metaphor), but if you think stuff like “Save the environment”, “Eat healthy” or “Don’t judge other people by the colour of their skin” are “political messages” that kids shouldn’t be exposed to, instead of guidelines to being a decent human being, well…then I don’t know what to say to you.

    Also if a scene was actually removed from a movie, I don’t believe it actually counts as “spreading a message through the medium of film”, because nobody in the audience saw it.

  21. Griff

    Counterpoint: everything is political and silence is consent. So the earlier shows *were* political, they just agreed with and/or propped up right wing ideology.

  22. In my opinion cartoons graduating from a message of “Smoke Chesterfields!” in the ‘60s to “eat broccoli!” in the ‘80s was an improvement.

  23. I think postiive messages in cartoons is a great idea. Like maybe we should have had more cartoons about strong women who stood up for other minorities and LGBTQ people instead of white males when you were growing up, Griff. :)

  24. But somehow it’s only “political” if a character is a woman or Queer or in a wheelchair or what have you. It’s not political when it’s a straight white dude… oh, wait. That’s a choice too, isn’t it?

  25. CJ – That new TWILIGHT ZONE is a perfect example of what I’m talking about, so bluntly political that it ruins it, compare it with the original series which was political, but in a far better way.

    I’m not saying art can’t be political, but preachiness sucks, I’ve always hated that shit, there’s a difference between art that is political and propaganda.

    Corporate media bluntly tries us to brainwash us nowadays and it’s creepy, it only does more harm than good because it inspires pushback, people can tell that it’s happening and that only hurts progressive causes, you can’t brainwash people into being good people, that’s got to come from within, nothing can be forced.

    “Save the environment”, “Eat healthy” or “Don’t judge other people by the colour of their skin” wasn’t really what I was talking about regarding CAPTAIN PLANET though, but stuff like the episode about AIDS, is AIDS really something that should be referenced in a goofy children’s cartoon?

    To be clear, the message can be agreeable, but when it’s done in a blunt, hamfisted way, it’s off putting, I’m not always arguing against the message, just the methods.

    Environmentalism is absolutely political though, now it shouldn’t be that way, but the trouble is it provides the perfect excuse for governmental control of private businesses, which is of course something controversial that gets pushback, not to mention other things that get piggy backed on it like AOC’s Green New Deal not just being about stopping climate change but also equal wealth redistribution and the government raising everyone’s kids, alrighty then.

    Tawdry – I’m sorry, I’m going to have to disagree with the idea that “everything is political”, that is honestly the root of what’s wrong with the world today, we’ve overdosed on politics.

    Human beings are human beings, we’re not just pawns in some grand political game, which is what we’re increasingly being turned into.

  26. “environmentalism shouldn’t be political” is just about the funniest thing I’ve ever heard.

  27. I think you’re misunderstanding me, environmentalism should be a bipartisan issue that both the left and the right in American can tackle head on, Nixon started the EPA after all.

    But because the Democrats have tried to piggy back Socialist policies under the guise of environmentalism it’s gotten pushback, like again, I point you to AOC’s Green New Deal where she basically states that the government will seize all private property among other creepy things, all in the name of “saving muh Earth!”

    Before anyone gets too upset about me talking shit about AOC, lemme say that I think she’s a well intentioned person, I feel a weird sense of kinship with anyone who’s around my age and she’s my age, I see where she’s coming from, the trouble is she doesn’t know she’s talking about.

    She says a lot of stupid shit, like Cauliflower is “colonial” or whatever.

  28. “is AIDS really something that should be referenced in a goofy children’s cartoon”

    Why not? It’s not like AIDS implies that this episode is about sex. Actually it was about a kid that was HIV positive, but everybody thought he had AIDS and started to discriminate him, because they thought they might get it too when he touches them. So again: A great lesson to teach kids, especially if you consider how many people still think “HIV = AIDS also don’t touch me”.

    And yeah, like I said, when something gets too preachy, it’s definitely appropriate to criticize it for that, regardless of the message. But as corny and preachy as CAPTAIN PLANET was, I remember being entertained by it as a kid, because it was in the end a fun superhero cartoon and I actually learned a few things from it. So I guess it was okay. Especially for its time. A new Captain Planet cartoon should be a bit more subtle, if you ask me.

  29. Right, the point being it could get pretty heavy handed at times.

    I didn’t totally hate the show as a kid, but a lot of it was pretty groan worthy, it was definitely not a fav.

  30. Jesus Christ, Griff. You are younger than me. Climate change is gonna seriously fuck over your life. You’re gonna feel like such a dipshit for saying that “government control of private businesses” bullshit. And for being mad at AOC for promoting job creation! They really did a number on you, buddy. How much would we have to pay you to stay off Youtube for a year?

    I have to be hard on you because now I read your other post where you said that AOC doesn’t know what she’s talking about. This is what you need to learn, Griff. You have no idea what sexist garbage dumps out of your fingers. AOC is incredibly knowledgeable about all kinds of things. I learn from her Twitter feed every day. You clearly have no clue what her ideas are because you’re parroting some weird right wing propaganda that has no connection to reality. There is not one topic, possibly including video games, that you know better than her, but you’re telling me condescendingly that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. You need to apologize for that and you need to start thinking deeply about what it is that makes you feel superior to someone that so wildly outclasses you and I both. You gotta figure out just what it is that could lead you to be so far off the mark about something like that.

  31. I’m not apologizing for that, I’ve heard things she says and I disagree with a lot of it, I have a right to disagree with a politician don’t I? I gave her some respect as a person in the internet of fairness to show I’m not frothing at the mouth angry about her or anything, but some things she says leaves me scratching my head, like that Cauliflower comment, what is she talking about?

    What makes her “wildly outclass” me? That she’s not white and not male? Sorry friendo, homie don’t play that game, I don’t respect people based on their skin color and gender, nor do I disrespect them based on it either, but instead for my respect like John Houseman said: “They earrrrrrrn it.”

    You accusing of me criticizing her only due to sexism implies that, you’re acting like a Religious convert outraged at me criticizing a Religious leader, she has this cult of personality thing surrounding her, like a left wing mirror image of Trump.

    With all due respect Vern, you sound like every typical dipshit lefty stinking up Twitter nowadays, like a Body Snatchers scenario, it’s ironic you accuse me of “parroting some weird right wing propaganda that has no connection to reality.” because I could accuse you of also parroting weird left wing propaganda.

    Look, man to man here, you and I are two men from opposite spectrums, literally polar ends of the country, a liberal city like Seattle is as foreign to me as the Moon as I’m sure where I live would be to you, the one time you visited the south you were scandalized by a Duck Dynasty t shirt and a Styrofoam cup, lol, you ain’t seen nothing yet, try driving through this beautiful state of Georgia and seeing several Confederate flags flying.

    But despite being from two different walks of life we’ve managed to be friendly online acquaintances for a decade, but I feel a wedge being driven between us by the current political climate and it’s a damn shame, it’s happening a lot now these days.

    I am a flawed human being, same as anyone else, I will readily admit that, maybe everything I hear is not true, I actually have been trying to prune some of the shit I see on Youtube, fair enough.

    But left wing Twitter is just as toxic, Twitter is literally killing society, my advice to you would be to step away from the Twitter cult that has colonized your mind and it is a cult, how much would we have to pay you to stay off Twitter for a year?

    We are two men trying to navigate a profoundly toxic political and cultural climate and it’s not easy, we can both makes mistakes.

    My point is, I am interested in a discussion forum, I share my opinions, you share your’s, nobody has to agree with what I say, but I’m sick of the sheer outrage I always get hit with when I dare not to toe the left wing line.

  32. Read up on what AOC does. She is full of great ideas, is fantastic at communicating them and inspiring young (and old) people to believe in getting involved and making a better world. She has almost single-handedly shifted the discussion on environmental policy and taxing the super-wealthy, things that will improve your life, whether you like it or not. And she’s just getting started. Why would you see yourself as in a position to say that one of the best and brightest of your generation “means well” but “doesn’t know what she’s talking about”? And even after I ask you to reflect on it you still think I’m asking you to, what, handicap her because of her gender and race? No. I’m asking you to realize that you’re talking out of your ass about topics this woman is brilliant on! It’s like mansplaining but without even explaining the thing because you couldn’t.

    If it’s not because she’s a woman that you can’t see it, then why is it?

    p.s. I was not scandalized by a styrofoam cup. Mischaracterizing a story to the person who told it doesn’t really work. I don’t think Seattle would seem that weird to you, and the summers are even hot now, despite the Planeteers’ best efforts.

  33. Oh Lord, are you unironically using the term mansplaining or are you fucking with me?

    You’ll just have to forgive me I guess, I cannot wrap my head around the modern left wing mindset, I don’t mean anyone any harm, but a man’s gotta know his limitations and I guess that is mine.

    Try to understand how alienating and difficult it is to be someone who always considered themselves a liberal only to find one day it no longer made any sense to them.

  34. You all remember Ryan White and how he was descriminated against for having HIV? Remember how now we don’t hear about it as much because people learned what it actually is? Thanks cartoons and Mr Belvedere.

    Also, sorry this is not the safe space you thought it would be.

  35. Griff

    So, I was totally strawmanning when I said that it’s only political when the character isn’t straight white and male… and then you agreed wholeheartedly with my absurd overstatement. I picked a dumb point that you couldn’t possibly agree with because it’s so prima facie stupid…

    And maybe, just MAYBE, AOC knows more than you do about her job and life’s work. I mean, why are you the expert and the arbiter?

    That. That right there. That baseless entitlement. THAT’S MANSPLAINING.

  36. Wait, what? When did I agree that it’s only political when the character isn’t straight white and male? Where did I say that?

  37. “I’m sorry, I’m going to have to disagree with the idea that “everything is political”, ”

    this isnt an opinion man its just a fact, you cant just decide you disagree with reality.

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