The success of the latest DreamWorks animation, The Boss Baby a weird yet surprisingly touching comedy, is already making us wonder if there will be a sequel… but more than a sequel, we want a TV spin-off.
The Boss Baby has been one of the biggest shocks at the box office this month. Grossing over $300 million worldwide, it surpassed even the expectations of its own creators. Was it Alec Baldwin’s success on SNL that did it? Or the oddly adult-oriented references that permeated the movie? Or perhaps something about a baby in a suit just fills seats in theatres?
No one expected a movie about a suit-wearing infant working for Baby Corp to become such a success, but DreamWorks suddenly finds itself with a potential franchise in its hands… and maybe it should be taken to the TV next.
Why ‘The Boss Baby’?
This isn’t the first movie to give us a unique glimpse into childhood’s realities — or its make-believe. Most notable among its predecessors is Rugrats, which ran for 13 years and produced multiple spin-offs and crossovers. Smart babies like Maggie from The Simpsons and Stewie from Family Guy have also become instant classics, but The Boss Baby is the first movie to really put the baby at the center of the show — and create an entire corporate universe around him.
The Boss Baby as a movie is a fun adventure about where babies come from (a company), and despite the extremes the comedy goes to, it never runs out of jokes. In fact, the universe that the film creates has enough potential to span many more stories — stories that might actually be told better as short episodes, rather than sequels attempting to pack a punch at the box office.
While the plot would have to change somewhat from the conclusion of the film to allow the Boss Baby to take charge again, the change would hardly feel like an intrusion into the already wild storyline.
A variety of entertaining characters
More than anything, The Boss Baby’s richness in characters makes it a memorable movie that keeps you constantly surprised into laughter. Whether the characters are adorable, funny, or just weird, it’s easy to see their potential for a TV show.
The Boss Baby’s team of neighborhood helpers are particularly adorable. It would be amazing to see Staci spur the team on to action, as she pursues her degree in kindergarten and uses her toddler intelligence to become an expertly trained baby agent. The triplets have proved their skill at making anything the Boss Baby says happen — and it would be fun to see what else they can achieve besides attacking enemies with a series of acrobatic jumps. Even Jimbo, somehow simultaneously disturbing and cute, could expand the reach of his antics and character growth through further adventures with the gang, becoming the innocent and pure heart of a Boss-Baby-led group.
And what about the paintings of the retired Babies showcased at Baby Corp? There are clearly stories to be told there. What are the retired Babies like, and what did they do to deserve such an honor? What are the Boss Baby’s coworkers like?
And as a side character, Wizzie, the almost-offensively-similar-to-Gandalf wizard clock, could add some welcome punchlines to the show. It would be funny to see The Elvises make a reappearance, too, though only occasionally and for short periods of time. Somehow, the flashy impersonators make for instant hilarity, while providing something fresh to a plot that might otherwise become stale.
Wild story potential
And this is where a show can do what the movie could not. While The Boss Baby’s story arc is unique and undeniably funny, it still can’t venture too far from the traditional family animation plot. A TV show could go beyond that and mix things up, not having to rely on continuity or heavy emotion in the same way that the movie had to.
A show, for example, could take on a fun action/espionage genre, by taking us on different Baby Corp missions in which the Boss Baby enlists Tim as his partner again to take down a different, all while keeping their mission secret from their oblivious parents. It could also become a fantasy adventure, through a make-believe quest of the brothers’. And of course, it could delve into the more touching aspects of the Boss Baby and Tim’s relationship, as they learn more about family, love and loyalty towards one another.
The inherent unpredictability of the entire The Boss Baby universe makes it possible to venture far and wide and still keep to the original themes of the movie. They could even bring in guest stars… and how funny would it be to hear famous actors voice different babies?
Turning a movie into a television show is always a risk, and in The Boss Baby’s case, there are specific challenges that would have to be immediately addressed: the fact that Miles Bakshi, who played Tim, is now too old to pull off a child’s voice and would have to be recast, and tweaking the ending of the film to make way for a story continuation. Beyond that, a TV spin-off still poses a great challenge.
Part of the hilarity of The Boss Baby is how clearly targeted towards an older audience it is, with its jokes that are much too snarky and its references that are too old for children. The emotional focus of the film is even often shifted to make way for complex jokes that are nevertheless hilarious. Whether or not children were able to understand The Boss Baby, adults certainly did — and we want more of that brand of humor. But how would a show like that do in ratings, if the material is too dense for the entire family to enjoy? How could a television show reach a larger audience without watering down the content?
Madagascar, coincidentally also co-directed by McGrath, was a movie franchise that spun off into television. But Madagascar’s strengths were somewhat lost in The Penguins of Madagascar; while the occasional penguin scenes in the original movies were hilarious because of their juxtaposition with the rest of the story, the television show centered on them often feels lacking in substance. And with The Penguins of Madagascar being broadcasted on Nickelodeon, its main viewership remains under 10 years old, not quite managing to keep older audiences engaged.
But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. Shows like Adventure Time and Steven Universe have proved that a show can be family-oriented, and truly tap into both the adult and the children demographic.
And even if The Boss Baby chose to focus on its older audience, The Simpsons is a longtime example of an animation meant for grown-ups (although they tend to be much more explicit in their stories); adults are willing to watch an animated show, if they can be persuaded that it’ll be worth their time.
Netflix could also play a big role in making animation accessible and ‘cool’ for all audiences. After all, All Hail King Julien was released on Netflix in 2014 and is approaching its fifth season, and while not wildly popular, it proves that DreamWorks and Netflix are already open to collaborating on movie spin-offs. With the right timing, Netflix could boost a Boss Baby show towards a much wider viewership.
It’s obvious that at this point, people are ready to watch anything Alec Baldwin does… and his voice has become so synonymous with SNL’s caricature of Trump, that The Boss Baby is a rich mine for memes. DreamWorks just needs to take advantage of this unique opportunity, and surprise us yet again with a weird adventure we didn’t know we wanted.