If you haven’t read our last article on the subject of the forgotten cartoons of the 1980s, go ahead and do that now and then come meet back up with us.
Now that you’ve done that (and we know you did), let’s continue!
A lot of articles of this nature are more about revisiting the nostalgic shows that made a huge impact on our childhoods. It’s fun to talk about He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra, ThunderCats, and Transformers. Everybody knows what you’re talking about, the Internet probably provides some wild (and adult) fan theories about them, and some of them have still more or less stayed into production to this day. You can walk into any remaining mall in the country and you’ll probably find a ThunderCats shirt.
ThunderCats are cool and all, but what about the Catillac Cats? Where’s the love for Popeye and Son? What exactly does it look like inside of a Popple’s pouch? The real gems of the 1980s cartoon landscape are the ones that nobody really remembers.
Actually, not everything on the list is a gem. Some of them were downright awful. Read on and let us know if there’s anything we’ve forgotten. Maybe your favorite forgotten childhood cartoon will make its way on a third instalment!
15. The Mysterious Cities of Gold
Outside of Saturday morning cartoons, your best place for a daily cartoon fix was Nickelodeon. Few of us are probably familiar with this series from that network back in it’s days of being beholden to the color orange and covering kids in slime. The Mysterious Cities of Gold aired in a number of countries in several languages. The animated adventures of Esteban and his friends searching for Esteban’s father and searching for El Dorado and the Seven Cities of Gold, were a glorious mixture of South American history and legend, archaeological finds, and a drop of science fiction. Their ship, the Solaris, was probably one of the greatest pieces of time-worn technology in the entire world of fiction.
14. The Adventures of the Little Prince
Based on one of the greatest children’s books ever written (many would argue that it isn’t a children’s book and it’s possibly one of the greatest books ever written in general), The Adventures of the Little Prince focused on the travels of the titular character across the universe, exploring new planets and meeting new people and creatures. Apparently the book, narrated by a pilot who crash landed in the desert, had only covered just a few of the Little Prince’s travels. The series was technically a product of the ’70s, but North American audiences weren’t privy to it until 1985 when it was aired by Nickelodeon and in 1989 by TVOntario.
COPS, standing for Central Organization of Police Specialists, was centered around a group of cybernetically enhanced police officers (and a robot dog) assembled by Baldwin “Bulletproof” Vess. Get it? Bulletproof VESS sounds like Bulletproof VEST.
The namesake comes from the fact that after injury in the line of duty, Baldwin Vess is outfitted with a bulletproof torso that allows him to walk again. What are the odds? This injury and subsequent operation is what inspires Vess to assemble others like him to join C.O.P.S so they can take down the vile Big Boss and his similarly enhanced gang known as C.R.O.O.K.S. Although we’re not sure what C.R.O.O.K.S stands for. In fact, the action figure line that the show was based on didn’t use the acronym and simply called itself “C.O.P.S. ‘N’ Crooks”.
Dinosaurs and outer space are to the brain what peanut butter and jelly are to the stomach. Something about that combination of childhood interests just works. If you don’t remember this series, all you really need to do is think of Transformers.
The Dinosaucers (Autobots) and their adversaries, the Tyrannos (Decepticons), were fighting their interstellar battle on Earth. The Dinosaucers even had a group of human associates known as The Secret Scouts. There was even a transformation aspect to the series known as “Dinovolving”. This allowed the Dinosaucers to revert back to their massive, prehistoric state while retaining their intelligence and memories. The twist to this transforming ability is it’s not innate. It’s a piece of technology developed by the Dinosaucers and some episodes of the series centered on the Tyrannos trying to steal that tech for themselves.
11. Camp Candy
If you read our previous article on this subject, you might remember we mentioned that a number of comedians were given their own Saturday Morning cartoon shows where they were featured as the voice of a main character. John Candy received this honor in the form of Camp Candy, where he more or less played himself if he had become the head of a summer camp.
The show only had a single 27 episode season and then for some reason a 13 episode season went into syndication almost two years later. Despite this lack in popularity, Marvel Comics gave the series its own comic book. Of course, everyone had a comic book in those days and that’s a whole other story all together.
10. The Littles
This animated series that first aired in 1985 was based on a cherished series of books of the same name that were first published in 1967. There were some differences between the books and the television series. For example, the animated series gave The Littles rodent-like facial features in addition to their tails. The books presented the characters as still being incredibly small and living in the walls of homes, but they only had their tails.
9. Pac-Man: The Animated Series
You might be familiar with the CGI series Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures on Disney XD, but if you’re a child of the 1980s you’re probably more familiar with Pac-Man: The Animated Series. The show saw some success at first and it inspired CBS to make a rival show called Saturday Supercade. Supercade also featured classic video game characters like Q*Bert and Donkey Kong Jr. Ultimately, neither video game inspired series would last for very long.
An interesting side note about this series is the fact that while it was based on classic games, it actually inspired later instalments in the series. Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures on SNES and the Sega Genesis draw heavy inspiration from this series for its setting, plot, and character designs.
Who remembers The Smurfs!?
Wow. A lot of you. Makes sense. They’re still starring in movies.
Who remembers The Snorks?
Oh. Just a few of you. That’s not too surprising.
The Snorks was essentially an underwater version of The Smurfs. Unlike the Smurfs, the Snorks didn’t really stand the test of time despite having a three year run and remaining in syndication a few years more. The similarities between the two shows are actually no coincidence. The Snorks were born out of a deal to adapt the original Smurfs comic strip that went south.
It seems like every year after ThunderCats first debuted, some kind of clone was making its way onto the television airwaves. Granted, one could probably argue that the ThunderCats were a clone of He-Man, but there were a few animated series that came out just after ThunderCats that specifically featured futuristic/intergalactic warriors that were some sort of humanoids that harbored the traits of an animal. ThunderCats obviously had cats, but the following year we had the SilverHawks, space warriors with the traits of hawks. They also hung out with a creepy little kid made of copper that could only speak in electronic warbles. Just after SilverHawks we were given TigerSharks.
To be fair, these were all created by Rankin/Bass. Talk about your one-trick ponies.
6. Captain N: The Game Master
The 1980s supported a whole slew of cartoons based on video games. Why not? Home consoles went from being a high-end toy for the rich kids to being a pretty normal fixture in most homes. Heck, home consoles themselves were still pretty new in addition to their surge in accessibility. Nobody really knew how popular these video game properties could grow. It only made sense to give them all television shows.
Captain N was the most bang for your buck when it came to cartoons based on video games. This is because they had a little bit of everything. It featured Simon Belmont from Castlevania, Mega Man, Kid Icarus, a flying Game Boy, King Hippo from Punch-Out, Mother Brain from Metroid, and so many others.
5. Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats
Which segment did you like more on the Heathcliff cartoon from 1984? Were you more inclined to follow the adventures of Heathcliff himself, or did you just put up with his segment until they aired The Catillac Cats (also known as Cats and Co.) in the second segment?
While both shows featured cats, each segment was wildly different. The real shame to the show is the two segments rarely crossed over. Aside from the credits, Riff Raff from Catillac Cats never met Heathcliff in an actual episodes. Occasionally, Riff Raff’s cronies would appear in an episode of Heathcliff here and there. It’s not strange for two real-life actors to avoid working together, but how does that work with cartoons?
4. The Legend of Zelda
Many of us remember a number of cartoons based on the Super Mario Bros. series of video games, but the animated series based on The Legend of Zelda just seems to hang on the peripherals of our memories. This might be due to the fact that more Mario inspired series aired after the cancellation of The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. It might have more to do with the fact that Zelda aired as part of the Super Mario Bros. Super Show as opposed to running under its own banner. It might have even more to do with the fact that it only aired one day out of the five days a week that Super Show aired.
3. Denver the Last Dinosaur
There were a lot of shows about dinosaurs in the 1980s but no one could touch Denver the Last Dinosaur. Denver was found by a group of extremely hip teenagers with a rock band who had to keep Denver a secret. The reasons for keeping Denver a secret were pretty standard – to keep others from experimenting on him or putting him in some kind of zoo that only had one feature. A single dinosaur.
Denver was obsessed with potato chips and that love sometimes led to his capture at the climax of the episodes. Yes. Dinosaurs ate potato chips.
2. Dragon’s Lair
Dragon’s Lair was a pretty cool series and with today’s technology, it would be interesting to see them give the concept another go.
If you grew up in the ’80s, you might remember a laser-disc arcade machine that featured a fully animated game that rivalled the quality of any animated film. The animation was done by Don Bluth, a major film animator at the time. The game required you to perfectly send the hero, Dirk the Daring, in the right direction so you could view the animated masterpiece in its entirety. This choose your own adventure aspect made its way into the less beautifully animated cartoon.
At each commercial break, the audience was asked which path Dirk should take. When the show returned you would see which choice ended in Dirk’s demise, and then the right path would continue. Instead of just being told you were wrong, the path that led to death was fully animated as well.
1. Mister T
Seriously. We talk about how there are no original ideas anymore. For every original cartoon in the 1980s, there was a whole slew of clones and shows based on already existing material. If something existed, it probably had an animated series. As we pointed out in our last article, even the Rubik’s cube had its own series.
Mr. T was pretty freakin’ weird when you think about it. It was essentially Scooby-Doo. Mr. T, who for some reason was the coach of a gymnastics squad (what a strange market to tap), piled the team into a van and went around the country solving mysteries.
To be fair, this show always had a clear and concise moral lesson, prefaced at the beginning of each episode and summarized at the end of each episode by Mr. T in the flesh. At a time when most shows were attempts to sell toys, it was the exception to the rule.
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