Oh the 80’s. The decade that gave us the Wonder Years, Who’s the Boss, great video games and a flippant hairstyle as high as a skyriser. What else could the 80’s be known for? What about all the great cartoons that came out in the 80’s? In this list, we will go through what we think are the top 10 cartoons from the 80’s. These are the cartoons that we watched after school, before school, on weekends, and any time we had the privilege to tape the shows on our VCR (mostly after school though). We wanted to revisit these gems to let everyone remember how amazing cartoons were in their yesteryear. We thought about these cartoons in our sleep and talked about them at class during the day. Here then are our the greatest cartoons of the 80’s.
One female in the entire population. One red-hatted elder who holds no real power but is in charge of keeping the village work organized. Everyone has the same size house. Everyone has the same power and authority. Everyone has a unique skill that contributes to the harmony of the population. Everyone is blue. Smurf your smurfing communist conspiracies, this was a wholesome tale about being unique. While they all looked the same, dressed the same, and lived the same, they all had unique personality traits that helped to save the group from mean old Gargamel and that hungry, misunderstood Azrael. Coincidentally, there was a local band back in the mid-nineties called Liquid Azrael who did a mean cover of Sesame Street’s 1-2-3-5-6-7-8-9-10-11-12. SMURF YOU! I thought that was entirely smurfing relevant to the discussion (smurfing smurf-holes…).
9. Gummi Bears
Bouncing here and there and everywhere. You remember the show, don’t you? Disney animated Gummi Bears was a fun romp following the escapades of the furry little bears who drank magic Gummiberry Juice and bounced around the forest and outsmarted Duke Igthorn every week. The production quality of the show was great and would set the benchmark for all the other great Disney cartoons that would soon follow it. The show began the great Disney Afternoon timeslot run, which included many great shows such as DuckTales, Darkwing Duck, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin, and Gargoyles.
8. GI Joe
GI Joe: A Real American Hero was a half an hour of pure entertainment. Hawk and Sgt. Slaughter on operations with the significance on par with the biggest moments in history. Could Hasbro have any idea how successful GI Joe would be in the animation realm? These cartoons were flashy, loud, in your face, and all around dominating. GI Joe’s strength and rigor were consistently tested by Cobra who was always stealing shit like teleportation units and weapons that could manipulate weather. These were certainly large tasks for the GI Joe team all bundled up in half an hour segments. You got what you sat down for when watching GI Joe. You wanted these cartoon to last an hour instead.
He-Man was the strongest of the strong. The most powerful of the most powerful, and he embodied all these qualities in the 80’s cartoon that spoke to a generation of nerds who wanted to hold the power of He-Man. Maybe we also liked the fact that He-Man could probably get any women he wanted to, and we couldn’t. At least we were honest in our admiration of that which was better than us lonely nerds seeking solace in a fictional cartoon. Who else could blow a gust of wind so powerful that it could knock opponents off a cliff? Who else could rub their hands together fast enough to turn sand into glass? He-Man is the ubermanch of the modern cartoon world. If only it were real. If only we were able to be He-Man for one day.
Transformers Generation 1 was a firestorm for the cartoon market. It had everything a kid wanted. Robots destroying robots. Robots transforming into even bigger robots. Robots combining powers to destroy even bigger combining transforming robots. This show was huge and anyone who ever wanted to be a machine man would identify with Transformers austere disposition. Was there ever more of a recognizable robot in all of cartoon fiction that Optimus Prime? He is referenced everywhere in modern TV and for good reason. He was the first non-sentimental protagonist in robot history. He smashed buildings at will and dominated destructive bots at the drop of an oil spill from his energy tank. The transition from comic book to cartoon was flawless for Transformers, with the cartoon actually becoming more successful than the comic book. This certainly can be called a smooth transition.
5. Mario Brothers
Of course we had to include Mario Brothers on our list, not only because it’s Nintendo’s main protagonist, but because the show had such great storylines and ironic twists that it led to a pure entertainment experience. Luigi was being pulled down drains, Mario was rapping with Milli Vanilli up in the clouds, and the Princess was looking as good Natalie Portman in Closer. Their adventures would take them to the sea, the desert and to all the areas in the actual Mario Brothers game. Everyone who played the Mario games enjoyed this cartoon. Bowser was up to his old antics chasing the brothers around the world all the while contemplating world domination. The Mario Brothers can never do wrong, and they continued their successful streak with this fun cartoon.
4. Rescue Rangers
Rescue Rangers went side by side with Duck Tales with the title of greatest cartoon of the 80’s. The adventures of Chip and Dale would last in the viewers head for some time to come. They were always avoiding a fat cat who appropriately smoked a massive cigar signifying smoking negativity to an impressionable youth. Gadget came up with the best technological designs to ward off the fat cat while always looking stunning for a pale faced rat. Both Chip and Dale would fight over her throughout the series. Some of these conflicts became some of the best moments in the cartoon series. Some of the most memorable moments came from their adventures on their hot air balloon traversing the globe in search of their desires. Memorable characters, great inventions, great story lines, Rescue Rangers was a great cartoon.
The eighties were all about team work, and no cartoon exemplified this more than Thundercats. Generally speaking, cats are solitary creatures, except for lions of course, which is probably why Lion-o was the leader, since he was the only one who had experience working in groups. You never see packs of cheetahs or jaguars though, let alone a mixed pack of the feline species, or kingdom, or phylum, or whatever (I was never good at biology). Anyway Thundercats had a similar plot to Superman, their planet blew up and they had to flee so they ended up crashing on a planet called Third Earth. What happened to the first two we’ll never know since that was never addressed in the plot. They also fought a mummy and creatively enough his name was Mum-ra. This show was great, personally I loved the snarfs the most. Though I often wondered if the thundercats would eat them if times got bad. I also had a huge crush on Cheetara, she was such a babe.
2. Duck Tales
Everyone remembers the theme song to Duck Tales, and for good reason. Everyone watched every episode of this show. After school at 4:00, you knew where you were. You were on the couch eating an early dinner or snack watching Duck Tales. Scrooge McDuck and the boys were constantly getting into trouble or preventing trouble. The adventures that the three of them would go on would be epic. They went through Amazon rain forests, go back in time to ancient Greece, and even deep underwater looking for a fortune for their rapacious uncle. This show would never get dull, and the viewer was always on edge experiencing the tales of the young anthropomorphic ducks. Duck Tales was one of the best of the 80’s cartoons. You couldn’t watch just one episode.
This was the pinnacle of 80s cartoons. It combined all the genius of the previously listed cartoons, animals (specifically lions), robots, magic, monsters, space travel, swords, babely babes, and mean bitches. The five robot lines were each stored in the most awesome garages ever, needless to say they were perfectly suited for the elemental association each lion carried with it. Keith was the leader, he was your typical hero, quick on his feet and cool in command. Lance was the cool guy, he might have been French, I don’t know, either way I bet he got laid the most, he had that sort of troubled vibe. The princess was also a babe, I had a crush on her too. Imagine a threesome with her and Cheetara, now that would be freaky. Then there was the nerd pidge. He seemed like the type that might have installed a camera in the princess’s shower. Finally was the muscle, Hunk. He’s the guy you take to the bar so when you pick a fight he can beat everyone up.
The crew from Voltron fought a cadre of bad guys ruled by King Zarkon. His son, Prince Lothar, always seemed like the rich kid who would take daddies’ Benze and wreck it after a night at the clubs. I have a serious chip on my shoulder about rich kids, never liked ‘em. Basically in every episode the witch Haggar would make a Robeast and voltron would defeat it. Haggar worked for Zarkon on the contingent that when Zarkon finally defeats Voltron she would get the associated magic. I would have went for health insurance and a good pension but whatever. She’s also the reason that Voltron was broken up into five robot lions rather than the full robot. It never seemed like much of a disadvantage really, maybe she felt stupid after that, and that was why she was working for free. Much of my early childhood was spent pretending to be Voltron. It was great. This line still gives me chills: “Ready to form Voltron! Activate interlocks! Dyna-therms connected. Infra-cells up; mega-thrusters are go! Let’s go, Voltron Force! Form feet and legs; form arms and body; and I’ll form the head!” You always knew a Robeast was going to be slaughtered soon after, well usually right after the blazing sword was formed. The only thing the show left me questioning was what the hell are dyna-therms and infra cells and why are the essential to making a giant robot out of five smaller, though large in there own right, robot lions?