Every decade has its good points and its bad points. Growing up as a kid in the 80's I definitely had lots of good memories. From movies to music, fashion, toys and of course the best cartoons on TV on Saturday morning. I didn't need the Internet, a mobile phone or gaming console to have a great time. Back then kids created their own fun by actually playing outside, coming up with games, meeting friends in person, etc. The only thing that kept us inside were the cartoons shows on TV.
The cartoons in the 80s were so diverse that there was something likeable for every type of person. It also helped that several classics from the past were shown as re-runs, thus increasing the diversity.
One of the most defining elements about 80s cartoons was the multitude of toy based cartoons. Thanks to a change in US law it wasn’t prohibited anymore to make cartoons based on toys. According to some people the new cartoons that followed after the change in legislation were just 20 minutes commercials for toys. To kids however, these cartoons were awesome masterpieces. And sure we loved having the accompanying toy!
It all started with He-man and the Masters of the Universe, the bulky steroid heavy protagonist of the series. My first action figure ever was a He-man action figure from the 1st toy serie and it was awesome as hell. He-man was followed by several other toy based cartoons and was even eclipsed in terms of success by that other toyline: Transformers.
He-man and the Masters of the Universe, Transformers, G.I. Joe, My Little Pony, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Dino Riders, M.A.S.K. and the Care Bears are just some of the shows which started as a toy line.
One of the coolest things from the 1980s were the toys. Numerous cartoon shows were based on a toy serie. Below is a selection of books dedicated to those awesome toys.
Disney was always big in the field of animation, especially in regards to animation for the big screen. First with their shorts and after that with its animated features. But on the small screen Disney mainly focused on live action series. It wasn't until the 80's that Disney also started taking over the small screen with made for TV cartoon series something they surprisingly hadn’t done before.
It all started with Ducktales, the Gummi Bears and the Wuzzles. Ducktales featured on the Duck family, in this case Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck’s nephews Huey, Duey and Louis. Donald Duck actually wasn’t the main character is this series, though he occasionally made a guest appearance. Focusing on action the show quickly was a fan favourite.
The Gummi Bears and Wuzzles featured new characters and storylines developed especially for TV. Given Disney’s track record of striking a chord with families, it shouldn’t be a surprise that these two shows also struck a chord with children. In the years following Disney created more and more animated series designed specifically for the small screen. But it all started in the 80s. And my generation was there to witness it.
Several successfull movies, TV shows and personalities also got an animated version. It didn't even mattered if the source material was intended for children or not. If the original was successful enough, the Hollywood studios tried to milk it dry in every way possible. When Ghostbusters was hit, it didn't take long before a animated version was made. Beetlejuice the movie wasn't exactly a movie oriented at children, but somehow got made into an animated version. It didn’t matter that Rambo and RoboCop were R rated movies originally. With some rewriting and reimagining these hardcore violence protagonists were turned into kid friendly heroes.
Movies weren’t the only source for animated cartoons shows. Several TV series got remade into a cartoon. ALF for example even got two animated series, namely Alf and Alf Tales. The professional wrestlers from WWF made their appearance in the animated serie Hulk Hogan’s Rock ’n Wrestling. The Lone Ranger re-appeared on TV this time as animated version.
Superheroes have always been a great sources for adaptation to other media of which cartoons are the most obvious. DC ruled on the small screen in the 70's but in the 80's the majority of the cartoons were from rival comic book maker Marvel. I always liked the Marvel heroes more than the DC characters. The only cool superhero from DC was Batman, and he was nowhere to be seen on TV in the 80s - except for reruns of the classic Adam West Batman TV series.
Marvel’s most famous superhero, Spider-man, got his own shows starting with a show simply called Spider-man followed by the classic Spider-man and his Amazing Friends. Spider-man also made guest appearances in that other spider character from Marvel: Spider-Woman. Green monster Hulk got his share of Saturday morning fame in The Incredible Hulk. In my opinion the ultimate rendition of Hulk next to the Hulk in the Avengers movie.
The thing that introduced me to anime was Saturday morning cartoons. If there's one thing the Japanese are good at, then it's making cartoons about giant robots kicking ass. The Transformers for example originate from Japan.
But what about that other classic robot show Robotech? Giant transforming robots fighting aliens in space. How fucking cool is that! But the thing that set Robotech apart from American cartoons is its storyline that was more mature. No silly children, or childish villains, but serious characters that can actually die.
Another classic is Voltron. A giant robot made up of 5 separate robot lions. In each episode it fights against some giant demonic monster - and of course wins. The same plot was re-used in severa other giant robot shows like for example Macron One and copied in the 90's as for the Power Rangers.
Watch some clips about the 80s.