"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" has been many things -- so much so that creator Joss Whedon jokes, "I got to make a comic book out of the TV show out of the movie out of the T-shirt out of the opera of the song of the bumper sticker of the shoe line that I love." One of the things he left out in the absurdly long list is an animated series -- which was actually in the pipeline once upon a time, and looks to find new life once again.
Back in 2002, Whedon and Jeph Loeb came up with the idea of doing an animated version of Buffy that would take place somewhere in season one. "We liked to call it episode seven-and-a-half," Loeb joked. "It was a much simpler time. Angel had been introduced, but he was not yet Angelus. We could retrofit Dawn as a ten-year-old, so you can really play the older sister gag. Their mom is alive." And because it was animated, "no one has to grow up."
"Buffy the Animated Series" was meant for a more general audience than just regular Buffy fans -- you didn't need to follow the show religiously to get what was going on. "It was a very simple entry point," Loeb said. "There is a girl in high school who has been chosen to fight evil, and there's a great deal of it in her town. Here are her friends, and here is her watcher."
With special effects costs no longer a concern, they were able to do in the animated series what they couldn't on the regular TV show (and what they do now in the comics). "We could have thousands of vampires," Loeb said. "They could fight an army of the undead. In the pilot, the vampires raised a dragon, a 120-foot wingspan dragon, and Buffy ends up riding it across Sunnydale, and as it's shooting fire, she looks down and says, 'Hey, I can see my house from here!'"
With many original cast members such as Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendan, and Anthony Stewart Head aboard to do voiceovers, and Eric Wight aboard to do the animation, you might have thought this would be an easy sell. "We had an opportunity to do something about how animation changes and affects how things look," Loeb said. "For me, 'Batman the Animated Series' drew a line where everything that came after would be compared to this particular show. 'Buffy' would have been the next generation of that."
But despite taking it to "every outlet in television" -- including MTV -- Loeb said, they had little luck. "We'd take to one network, and they'd say, 'How can we make this more mature?' Well, do you want more violence? To have the language like it is in the show? To have the actors do the voices so it sounds like the show? We had all that. We would say, 'This is what we have: big piles of money and gold, and it's sitting in the street and you can come out and take it.' They would ask, 'But you do have copper pans?' No, we have money, and gold! But they would want copper pans."
Eventually, Fox Family signed on to air the show on Fox Kids -- but when that collapsed in a Disney buyout, the show went nowhere. And yet, for some inexplicable reason, a three-minute version of the pilot just leaked to YouTube earlier this month. An online petition just started to get it on the air. Somehow, there's fresh hope that this project may find a home after all -- just as Buffy has found new success as a comic book series.
"The best Buffy stories are ones of resurrection," Joeb said. "Everything still exists -- the designs, the scripts. It's such a 'no-duh' project, so why the hell not? All you need is to draw it. Eight years ago, there was no fascination with 'Family Guy' or 'Robot Chicken,' but there's an audience now that could drive to it. You can't stand in the way of pop culture."
Do you want an animated Buffy? What network should it be on? And what would it take to get it on the air?