There’s a theory that whatever decade that predominantly fell between the ages of 6 and 12 is the decade everyone considers to be the best. Those of us for whom this time frame is the 80s though know that this isn’t true, because the 80s was the best decade. Especially for 80s cartoons.
Whether it was Saturday morning, after school, or on some dodgy VHS that the American kids with cable TV recorded for us, me and my brother loved our 80s cartoons. So much so it was hard to whittle down to just 10. I think all things considered though, these were my favourites:
Me and my brother must have rented the video to this a million times from our local video shop in Belgium, we loved Groovie Goolies! Technically it was made and distributed in the 70s but I like to think it found it’s home with the 80s kids. The premise, such as it was, was a group of friendly monsters who lived together at Horrible Hall and got up to mischief, but it was all intercut with musical interludes. Super Ghoul being a favourite of mine, and a song that pops into my head on a startlingly regular basis:
Jem walked so Britney could run in my opinion. If ever there was a cartoon for young girls in the 80s it was Jem, who ran an orphanage by day (having been orphaned herself from an early age, obviously) but was a pop star by night. In a superman style twist though, very few people knew that Jerrika (Orphan entrepreneur) and Jem were exactly the same person despite being identical and never being in the same place at the same time. Add in rival band The Misfits (who’s music was actually better imho) it was everything I ever dreamed of for a cartoon.
What else was Saturday morning for whilst waiting for Going Live to start if not watching The Racoons (later replaced by Babar, which I also really liked). It’s basically about a thrupple of Racoons (Bert, who lives with married couple Melissa and Ralph – weird) who on a weekly basis try and thwart the evil plans for Cyril Sneer – and evil pink Aardvark. But wait, plot twist, Bert’s best friend is Cyril’s son Cedric – whaaaat? Hilarity ensues. Also. Best. Theme Tune. Ever.
Or, Dogtanian and the Three Muskerhounds to give it it’s full title. How bloody cute was this show?! Dogtanian was just so lush, le sigh. Anyway, obviously loosely based around the Alexander Dumas stories and when I say loosely I mean very loosely. It’s 17th-century France and a young Dogtanian makes friends with Porthos, Athos and Aramis in order to save Juliette for some kind of peril. I forget the ins and outs, it was good though. It does make me laugh that in the Wikipedia synopsis of the show it says:
A key difference between the Dogtanian adaptions and Dumas’ novel is that the character traits of Athos and Porthos were interchanged, making Athos the extrovert and Porthos the secretive noble of the group.
Not that that they were dogs.
Around the World with Willy Fog
There was something intrinsically 80s about adapting classic novels into cartoons but replacing the characters with animals wasn’t there? Perhaps it was the only way to get some literature into me. In this case Willy is an classic English gent of a lion who embarks on a round the world trip a la Jules Verne, with a cat, a panther and a stowaway hamster. As you do. The cartoon was later plagiarised by Michael Palin.
Having an older brother meant that if I had any chance of getting some cartoon time in, I would need to learn to like what he liked. Thankfully for Thundercats, there was something for everyone. Liono, beefcake leader of the gang, Panthro (good mornin’), Cheetara (for the dads, and a strong female character for the girls to look up to) plus the two annoying kids WilyKit and WilyKat. It’s a classic ‘Baddy wants to take over the world but the heroes want to stop them’ Mum-ra being the baddy in this case. Watching Thundercats did make me want to be good at gymnastics like Cheetara was. I never was though – I broke my collar bone doing a handstand in the garden when I was 10.
Dungeons and Dragons
Now, I know this has had many iterations over the years. They’re always talking about playing it on the Big Bang Theory and I’m never convinced it’s the same Dungeons and Dragons I remember from the 80s. Eric the Cavalier? Bobbie the Barbarian? The ginger lass who could turn herself invisible by putting her hood up? That’s what Sheldon et al are playing? I have my doubts. Anyway, all these misfit teenagers want to do is return home, but the Vengar has other ideas. Interestingly, Vengar was the Dungeon Master’s son, and the Dungeon Master was always on the side of our heroes. There’s a theme of family politics going on in these shows.
As if SuperTed couldn’t get any cuter, when I was researching this post I found out that he was originally created to help Mike Young’s son overcome his fear of the dark. How lush is that man? It actually has elements of Toy Story in it, as old Ted was deemed defective from the toy factory but is taken under Mother Nature’s wing, given special powers and is sent to kick ass every time trouble arises (usually thanks to that pesky Texas Pete). Shout out to unsung hero, lazily named Spotty Man, his trusty sidekick, who was like a robot/alien thing with a red mohawk.
This was a firm favourite in our house growing up (my dad particularly liked it) about bumbling idiot Inspector Gadget and how he managed the derail evil Claw’s mischievous plans by sheer buffoonery rather than any actual skill. His gadgets never actually worked, although he did have Penny (blonde female role model – woop woop) and their dog brains. We’re not going to talk about what Matthew Broderick did to the franchise. I’m still not over it.
Even just looking at a picture of this fills my heart with nostalgic joy. It was a close run thing for the number 10 spot between this, Raggy Dolls and Bertha, all of which I absolutely loved and filled the after school slot for me. But I think Long Distance Clara, the female lorry driver (progressive) just clinched it for me. Her theme something I still sing to this day if we go on a long car journey or hire a van! Set around the residents of Pigeon Street and tackled hard hitting topics such as everyone in the street having a cold (topical) and a little boy getting a football for his birthday. Ah, the 80s.
Come on then, tell me I’m wrong and what 80s cartoons are missing…