I spent the first half of my childhood in the 1980s, from 0 to 8, living a Totally 80’s lifestyle in the best way possible: with tons of toys and tons of television. Not that my parents plopped me in front of the TV and forgot about me but they saw that I liked it and there was nothing too harmful airing in those days. Even if there were, I just wanted to watch cartoons anyway.
Even though today there are networks that literally play children’s programming 24/7 and entire channels devoted to cartoons, back in the 80’s you really had to plan to catch your favorite toons on TV. Either you caught syndicated cartoons in the weekday afternoons after school or waited for the bonanza that was Saturday morning cartoons.
Outside of that, there’d be a few funky offerings on Sunday morning (usually of the religious bent or low-budget Hanna-Barbara fare) and, if you got up really early before school, they’d run old Three Stooges shorts along with some classic Looney Tunes. But there wasn’t any other way to watch other than watching it live at these time periods, and until VHS tapes came down in price it wasn’t economically feasible (and besides that, you were just a kid with no money anyway) to try and tape your cartoons to view at your convenience.
And something else happened in the 80’s, something both wonderful and horrible: in 1981, the deregulation of children’s television changed what programming aimed at kids could be. Mainly, they swept aside all that stupid educational programming like Schoolhouse Rock and instead replaced it with money-making half-hour commercials for toys like G.I. Joe, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and My Little Pony. Nothing could have fit in with the times better than kids’ cartoons that were just there to sell them stuff.
And boy, did it work: I remember Christmases where all my dreams came true as “Santa” brought me stacks and stacks of toys from my favorite cartoon shows. In one banner year, I got an Ecto-1, a bunch of Ghostbusters figures (Ray and Peter, of course, along with Stay Puft) and a plethora of He-Man figures. Another year I think my parents just bought me every Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figure and accessory they could find. It was glorious. It was materialistic as hell, but it was glorious and I was happy.
But cartoons weren’t just about selling the toys: they were also about expressly selling a whole bunch of other garbage to kids! Other toys would advertise on the commercial breaks, along with cereals, snacks, ephemeral knick-knacks like snap bracelets and a whole bunch of other crazy crap that was being mass-produced for kids to throw fits over until their parents bought them it. Yes, the 1980’s were a magical time where kids became targets for market research and learned how to become little consumers of their own.
Totally 80’s Afternoons!
There were two separate worlds of after-school cartoon shows: syndicated programs and the much-loved Disney Afternoon™. Syndicated fare were the first real break-outs that inspired the gigantic tidal wave of commercially appealing cartoon shows–your G.I. Joes and He-Mans and such–that would be bought in syndication bundles and air in different markets based on their own scheduling. The nature of syndicated cartoons was such that they would air for years after their production ended because heck, why not? Kids are still watching it, after all.
Meanwhile, the Disney Afternoon™ was its own brand, strictly Disney-only properties whose animation was a few notches better than the syndicated fare. However, since it wasn’t formally put together until 1990, it will be absent from this list; instead, let’s look at the far less-coherent world of cartoons before strict cartoon blocks were enforced by major companies and brands.
Syndicated Cartoon Shows
As the title suggests, these were cartoons that aired on varying schedules according to market; they didn’t exist on Saturday morning but aired in the afternoons on weekdays, or in the middle of the day, or whenever really. Since I was pretty young for a lot of these shows, they could have aired at noon or two in the afternoon and it didn’t make much a difference to me. What I’m trying to say is, memories may vary.
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
It’s no understatement in saying that He-Man and the Masters of the Universe had a huge influence on little boys across America in the 1980’s. But why? Probably because he was just some doofus most of the time with a cowardly pet to boot, but just by pulling out a sword and screaming, “I HAVE THE POWEEEER!” lightning shot all over the damn place and he became He-Man, muscly dude who was there to chew bubblegum and kick ass, and he’s all out of bubble-gum. Oh, and his cowardly talking(?) big cat into a ferocious armored warrior.
But there was a lot of other cool stuff little boys liked: he had his own posse that was in on his secret that would have his back, and his enemies were a bunch of crazy creatures that he beat every time, and they lived in a demented medieval world that also had futuristic weapons and flying vehicles.
And the art style was similarly awesome, to the point where now-artists emulate it to capture the nostalgic feel of He-Man’s animation. The show pretty much holds up–I mean, it’s pretty simple but for nostalgic purposes it really hits the spot. Sometimes I’ll throw on an episode with the sound off and just have it running in the background for atmosphere and because I enjoy the visuals so much. For the 80’s, it’s pretty darn rad indeed.
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero
I’m hitting the “big three” in terms of mid-80s shows little boys watched right up front because they are some of the most recognizable properties on this list. What to say about G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero? Great classic animation, the recognizable hallmarks of its formula (including never actually killing the enemy [unless they’re cyborgs], reused animation cycles, and a lot of action sequences that don’t really affect a permanent solution), and its animation style are synonymous with 80’s cartoons in a lot of people’s memories.
It wasn’t my favorite show but I watched it pretty much every day as a little kid. I think in my local market it came on after He-Man; I have lots of memories of having G.I. Joe playing in the background while playing with my toys. Switch this around a little with YouTube videos playing in the background while I write and I’m pretty much in the same situation today. It’s a fun, classic cartoon that you can throw on for a little nostalgic blast from the past. Yo, Joe!
Completing the Holy Trilogy of 80’s cartoons for boys, The Transformers is literally a show about vehicles that turn into giant robots who then fight other giant robots. Of course it was a big hit with little boys when it aired. And of course it’s still a big hit with little boys and adult boys today. I mean, did you read the part where giant robots fight other giant robots? And they turn into cars?? Whatever marketing genius came up with this idea hopefully still gets a percentage of the billions this concept still generates.
The original cartoon is still rather enjoyable, but it’s so difficult at this point to understand whether it’s because I have such strong associations with it and my own childhood or because the show itself is pretty good. The animation kicks ass, so I’ll give it that. I’m a real sucker for the 80’s animation style in these syndicated shows from this time period so I just like watching it. The transforming sound is also super-cool still; I wonder if any DJs have sampled it. Is there a subgenre of music that incorporates sounds and music cues from old 80’s cartoon shows? Because if there is, I’d really like to hear it. Anyway, The Transformers is a true classic from this totally rad decade.
Whooa Jem (Jem!) is truly outrageous, truly truly truly outrageous. This show is truly outrageous, as well: music company owner Jerrica Benton finds a supercomputer her late father built that can turn her into totally rad music superstar Jem. While taking care of her foster home, Jerrica/Jem also gets into high-fashion adventures with her band and uncovering various schemes to find out now-superstar Jem’s secret identity, among other things. Jem and The Holograms tour the world and fund the foster home while Jerrica handles the business off-stage, which must be exhausting. Meanwhile, The Misfits–the “bad girl” group that’s always scheming against The Holograms–are there to make trouble and mess up everyone’s well-laid plans.
Like many of these cartoons, Jem was initially created to sell toys but wasn’t a very big hit during its initial three-year run. But it is a memorable kids’ show centered around female protagonists who are doing admittedly cool things most of the time, and it’s since become a cult hit among my generation. It’s still a rather slick show with an astounding number of original songs (averaging something like two an episode) for a kids’ show–or any show, really. It’s also insanely 80’s in its style and sound and is one of the most distinctive animated shows reflecting the era.
I was surprised to find out that Inspector Gadget was a first-run syndicated show, but then again I didn’t know what that was when I was a kid–I just knew that this show was on TV and I watched it. One of the more formulaic shows on a list of unbelievably formulaic shows, and a show that I watched often but had no special fondness for, it’s a fodder show.
Why is it on this list? Because it was a ubiquitous show in my childhood and obviously a wildly successful syndicated show since it was on like 5 times a day on various channels when I was a kid. Or maybe it just seemed that way and a channel was just running it that often. Anyway.
The setup is simple: Inspector Gadget is a clumsy Clouseau-esque detective that has a ton of crazy gadgets and mechanics built inside of him. This involves a lot of hammerspace physics where somehow both a helicopter and umbrella can spring out of the top of his head, both roller skates and trigger-loaded foot springs that shoot out of his feet, a phone that comes out of his hand, and cuffs that come out of his forearms. I guess there wasn’t much room for his brain since he’s a walking disaster and overall idiot.
Fortunately, he has a smart niece with what looks like a tablet (a good 30 years before the actual invention of such a thing) to do the actual detective work and research and her dog Brain. Then there’s Dr. Claw, whom we never see but has a metal hand and is pretty metal himself. The theme song is wildly catchy but the show itself is pretty basic. If I could enjoy it at my age I’d throw it on for nostalgia purposes but it’s not really my speed anymore. It’s a fun show for kids but the gag wears thin–even my feeble child Spidey senses grew weary of the show back then.
Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats
Goddammit, Heathcliff. I hated this show when I was a kid. Did this stop me from watching it? Of course not. Didn’t mean I had to like it. And I didn’t: Heathcliff’s a jerk and I wasn’t sure what the appeal was supposed to be–a wisecracking cat who thinks he’s the king of the castle when he’s just a damn tabby cat? Yeah, that was already covered with Garfield. Seriously, what was the appeal of this show? Even the animation was sub-par.
Oh, and there were the Catillac Cats, who were part of this equation but I remember even less about them than I even do Heathcliff at this point. An unpleasant show filled with unpleasant characters, somebody must have thought either this was going to be a great success or else this show was literally so cheap to produce that when sold into syndication it couldn’t help but be profitable. Anyway, not good stuff. Avoid at all costs.
Here’s yet another kick-ass show: The ThunderCats was a relatively awesome show, produced in Japan and voice-acted in the USA (USA! USA!). Following the adventures of a bunch of catlike humanoids from the planet Thundera who have to flee due to the planet dying then resettle on Third Earth. There, they become friends with the natives of this planet who help the ThunderCats fight against the Mutants.
With top-notch animation and excellent animation sequences, it’s probably the first show many kids in America saw that had elements of Japanese anime. ThunderCats was a really enjoyable action-adventure show with cool characters and a memorable blend of sci-fi and fantasy. With solid storylines and a smarter-than-average tone that most kids’ shows didn’t have at the time, ThunderCats was a big hit and still well-regarded today. For fans of classic animation that aren’t familiar with this series, check out some Thunder, Thunder, ThunderCats!
The Care Bears
There was something wonderfully tranquil about The Care Bears. It acted like a heavy sedative for young viewers, as the series never got too heavy and it was about cuddly-cute animals that live in Heaven or something that fight hate with love by shooting lasers out of their chests. Someone must have written it after taking a lot of pills.
My childhood home had a lot of Care Bear stuffed animals (two sisters, folks), as the main purpose of the cartoon was to sell truckloads of them, so I now remember them as a rather pleasant thing that can take me away from this awful, rotten future we’re stuck in. If I ever lose my mind in some significant way and am put on Thorazine, I think I’ll have The Care Bears playing on a constant loop. Not much to say but sunshine and lollipops all around. And maybe a touch of morphine.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Holy smokes, did I watch a lot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In my market, it aired at 6:30 AM so I woke up every day that early to watch an episode. Every. Day. And I couldn’t have been happier: this show was, for me, the epitome of the fun madness that kids cartoons in the 80’s had to offer: an off-the-wall premise that somehow worked, likable protagonists, and lots of creative animation and villains, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was a big hit with kids for a reason.
For those that are somehow not aware of this show or its characters from either the original series, the original movies, the rebooted animated series, or the new reboot movies, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is exactly what it sounds like, as these four heroes in a half-shell (turtle power!) and their mentor, a giant rat named Splinter, fight against the villain Shredder, his boss from another dimension Kraang, and their horde of cyborg ninjas (that they can kick the heads off of and that’s fine because they’re cyborgs).
Is it nuts? Sure. Did it get crazier as it went along? Of course it did. Did I love it more than parts of my religious faith and most experiences in life as a child? You betcha! As stated elsewhere, the Ninja Turtles were great reflections of the materialist, consumer-driven kids market of the 80’s and damned if I didn’t enjoy every darn shred of turtle merch I could collect. There were hundreds of pieces of turtle-related merch and it was just the best. Oh, and the show was pretty fun, too. But still, maybe I enjoyed the toys more than I did the show: all I know is I wouldn’t watch an episode at my age but if I got my hands on some of the action figures, I’d be the happiest, most demented adult you’ve ever done seen.
Denver, the Last Dinosaur
♫ DENVER! THE LAST DINOSAUR! HE’S MY FRIEND AND A WHOLE LOT MORE!♬
I love this show. I love, love, love this show. I made sure I caught every episode I could and don’t think any cartoon ever captured the brainlessly positive and totally radical tone of the 1980’s than Denver, the Last Dinosaur.
This show gets a lot of guff but I will never understand why. Maybe because it’s so stupid that people who want to look back on their childhood want to think the shows that were produced for them actually had substance. But really, very few of them did. Maybe that’s why I liked it and still like it: the show is totally stupid and knows it and doesn’t really care.
Or maybe because it hits an idiot portion of my own brain that I wish I could plop an episode into my mind to blank out on actual thinking and just hang out with a radical dinosaur in Southern California in the late 80’s. Maybe that’s an ideal temperature (and temperament) I could keep in my mind. Or maybe I just wish I could be a totally rude dude with attitude from the late 80’s and that’s where my sensibilities of “cool” truly lay–after all, I seem to have taken my ideal of what “cool” is from the character of Chris Knight in Real Genius and never really developed further from there.
I don’t care: Denver, the Last Dinosaur is still the best. It’s 80’s brainlessness distilled into one cartoon show.
Totally 80’s Saturday Mornings!
Ah, Saturday mornings in the 1980’s: such memories of waking up bright and early (like, 5:30 AM), going down to the basement to play a little Atari while everyone else was still asleep, and then upstairs at 6:30 to start the grand adventure of the morning: watching cartoons. From then until around 11 when the cartoon shows petered out and they started airing either old sitcoms or kid-oriented movies, I would eat about 3 bowls of cereal, play with my toys, and only occasionally bother myself with interacting with the rest of my family. It was the best.
Cartoon Shows Based on Movies and TV Shows
Adapting a movie or TV show to a kid’s cartoon was a popular way of capitalizing on a property’s success in the 1980’s and the results were…weird.
Although the original live-action TV show is well-remembered by people of my generation (even if that one scary episode traumatized a lot of us), Punky Brewster was the continuing adventures of the little girl that turns our world around. The theme song to the cartoon wasn’t as memorable, but the last 10 seconds of it have been playing on a loop in my head for the past 28 years so that’s something.
It’s kind of like the original series, except in this one she has a magical friend named Glomer that she met at the end of a rainbow who’s been stranded on Earth/our plane of existence/it’s never really specified. Still, it being a familiar thing and me being a little kid, I watched every episode on Saturday mornings. Punky Power?
Stretching the boundaries of a live-action TV show when it was translated to cartoon form is something to be expected: after all, if it was just a rehash of the live-action show, what’s the point of the cartoon? ALF decided to go the opposite direction entirely from its TV inspiration and set everyone’s favorite wise-cracking alien back on his home planet of Melmac.
Here, he lives with his nuclear family and the culture of his planet sports a vaguely 50’s-ish aesthetic. It’s either the continuation of the comic book (which I would read in my school’s library) or was the inspiration for the comic book. Either way, I remember watching this show but don’t actually have any memories about 1) what the show was about, 2) any other character than Alf, or 3) any specific plotline. But it filled out a half-hour of my youth one episode at a time, where I would forget how to do division as I watched this show about fictional characters doing things that never were.
My Pet Monster
Based on a straight-to-video movie whose box art is perhaps burned into the memories of every child that grew up from the late 80’s to early 90’s that went to video rental stores often, My Pet Monster actually spawned a one-season cartoon series. But it was a plush doll for little boys first and my parents never got me one because I didn’t want one. Anyway, I was never a fan of this show mainly because I didn’t see any point to it: it’s a wacky little monster that came to life and started shit for the little boy that owned him to deal with. No thanks.
The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley
Of all the things that were inexplicably made into cartoons, Martin Short’s Ed Grimley character from the sketch comedy show SCTV, a show made for adults, is the most inexplicable. Well, it certainly appealed to me, since my parents practically raised me and my sisters on weird stuff like SCTV and Saturday Night Live. And to be honest, it’s a pretty great little show.
Ed Grimley’s completely out of his mind in the first place and placing him in a cartoon world turns that insanity up to 11. Already a very weird choice for a children’s cartoon character, the rest of the show would spin into surreal madness with Grimley at the center. Joe Flaherty would also show up in live-action segments playing his Count Floyd character from SCTV. Potentially, this show was narrowly targeted to just me and my sisters and a handful of other 6-year-olds whose parents had episodes of SCTV on tape they would watch with their kids. It only aired for one season for 13 episodes in 1988 on Saturday morning but it was memorable enough for me to include it on this list now nearly 30 years later.
The Real Ghostbusters
There are a few things that are damn near sacred to my generation: Back to the Future, The Goonies (or, if you had sisters like I did, The Princess Bride), and Ghostbusters. This naturally made the cartoon adaptation just as revered, although not as much as the toy line it spawned.
How many countless hours of my childhood did I have a great time playing with my Ghostbusters toys? How many flying adventures with the Ecto-1 (the Ecto-1 was granted the power of flight in my imagination) through my childhood home did it go on? How many times were Ray and Peter on the brink of my family’s laundry chute before falling into the bottomless chasm, where my mother would later find one of them lying perfectly unharmed on top of a laundry pile?
Oh yeah, the show was pretty solid, too. This is a big reason why the Ghostbusters franchise is still so loved by people of my age: I was 2 when the original movie came out but the right age to find the cartoon series one of the best things ever made. The concept is just fantastic and perfectly suited for a children’s cartoon, and this show was proof of that. As an adult I love the Ghostbusters live-action movies (yes, even the 2016 one, which I found unfairly maligned–in some ways it was much funnier than the first movie), but as a kid my biggest reference point to all things Ghostbusters was the cartoon series. I’m afraid to watch it now, even though it’s streaming on Netflix, because I don’t want it not to be as great as I remember it. And I still wish I had my Ecto-1 car.
Let’s talk about the movie Teen Wolf for a moment: it’s not exactly kid-friendly. It’s about a horned-up teenager who’s a goddamn dork and can’t do a thing right and one night while making out with a girl starts to turn into a werewolf. Instead of the townspeople rising up to murder the monster in their midst, he becomes the star of his school’s basketball team? And has sex with a popular girl while being the werewolf? What the fu…
Anyway, they decided to make it a cartoon show for Saturday mornings because kids really want to be teenagers and have some asshat friend named Shades and get into stupid adventures and whatnot. The show’s….not great. It’s better than the movie, so there’s that. Here’s the theme song in case you want to lose a few brain cells while not having any fun. It’s reflective of the “quality” of the cartoon series as a whole. Question: did I watch every single episode when it aired? You bet! Nothing like adult marketers suckering little kids with crap.
Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies
And then there’s one of the best cartoon shows for kids ever made: Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies. Literally based on the one sequence in The Muppets Take Manhattan where Miss Piggy has a fantasy about all of the Muppets as adorable babies in a nursery, here’s an entire series that answers the question: what if all of the Muppets were babies? The answer: something fantastic.
Literally the first memory I have in life is me walking through my parents’ first house on a rainy day, with all the rooms dim, heading towards the TV where an episode of this show was playing. I think it was the one where they were afraid of going to the dentist, which–thanks to my trusty friend, the internet–places this at September 29, 1984 when I was 2 years old. Kind of weird knowing the exact day of your first memory, but the future’s often an inexplicably weird place. Anyway.
Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies was an adorable show featuring everyone’s favorite Muppet characters as they live in a nursery and are taken care of by their unseen (except for her green kneesocks) nanny. Each show had some sort of central problem or issue they all help each other out to solve and involved the Muppet Babies going into imagined adventures that often mixed in live-action footage of various movies.
It was a great, inventive show that spoke to kids and made the Muppet characters much more approachable for young minds to understand. It had great original songs (including the mega-ear worm theme song that I can sing literally every word of now 30+ years later by memory), top-notch animation, and great original stories centered around the imagination of kids.
Unfortunately, this classic has never had an official release on DVD since many of the rights for the live-action footage it incorporated into the episodes cannot be secured and hacking these segments out of the episodes would ruin much of its appeal. Which is unfortunate, since it’s a show current and future generations of children would enjoy. I sure enjoyed it when I was a kid. Check it out on YouTube, however: there are a lot of episodes floating around there.
Original Cartoon Shows
If you thought the adapted properties made into cartoons were weird, here’s the original shows that were created for Saturday morning. These are also quite strange. I think it’s because there was little oversight in children’s television back then and they just kind of went with the first idea/best idea kind of philosophy.
OK: what the fuck were Snorks supposed to be, and was there any reason for this show? It was another one of those “I’m a kid so I like to imagine how cool life as a teenager is going to be” shows, but it’s just damn weird.
Well, they were supposed to be a kind of spin-off from The Smurfs (which I won’t cover in this article because we’ve all had just about enough of The Smurfs by now, haven’t we?), only they’re underwater, have snorkels on their heads that propel them through water, and live in a world much like our own. Besides that, who gives a shit? Well, this property’s parent company did and they spent 5 years trying to make a success out of this like The Smurfs was, to no avail. I guess it’s fun and nostalgic but honestly, if I catch myself watching an episode of Snorks at my age it might just be time to hang myself by my snorkel.
Talk about bizarre: what prompted the existence of Camp Candy? I love John Candy, and he was a genuinely hilarious and likable guy, but where did this come from? Wouldn’t the most appropriate adaptation for a cartoon be him starring as Uncle Buck? Apparently not: apparently, him being a camp counselor was the natural direction. Camp Candy has one of those obnoxiously catchy theme songs that still rattles around in my head. It’s like They Might Be Giants collaborated on a song with Tom Waits and got John Candy to sing it–who, from the sound of it, didn’t really understand what double-tracking your vocals entails.
Anyway, it’s John Candy as a big goofball camp counselor trying to keep a lid on the wacky shenanigans going on at a camp he runs. And that’s pretty much it. It began to air in 1989 and I was shocked to learn it ran for three seasons–but it makes more sense when you realize that was comprised of only 40 episodes over those three seasons. And 27 of them ran on Saturday mornings on NBC between 1989-1990 with the last 13 created for syndication. So.
I scarcely remember anything about this show but that it was goofy and featured rather shoddy animation and the kid characters were annoying. But John Candy was always a likable sort, just like he was in the movies. But still: what prompted this series? I am genuinely curious. And yes, I watched every single episode as a kid.
Captain N: The Game Master
Oof, this show. Look, I didn’t have an NES until I was 10 so a lot of 80s Nintendo culture passed by me and thus made me not interested in anything involving it. I was more of a Captain Power and the Soldiers of Fortune kid. But this show was on and in lieu of actually being able to play Nintendo, I watched this show–which even then I didn’t like because it was very stupid, even to my feeble mind.
It may hold some charm for people that were into it, but there’s not a lot of meat on this bone. Some standard 80’s Teenage Kid was transported into Nintendo-land or whatever, where he went on adventures with Princess Zelda, Mega-Man and Icarus, and it was obnoxious. I didn’t like it as a child and would not recommend it for nostalgic purposes
Pound Puppies was one of those shows I watched because my sister liked the Pound Puppies and had a bunch of them but it was frankly a little too young for me even when it aired, and I was only 4 at the time. It kind of bummed me out most of the time: these poor puppies just wanted to be adopted, and they were all on their own, and it made my tiny heart sad. The theme song is appropriately memorable but it’s just too aimed at little kids to enjoy as an adult–and this is the guy who a few paragraphs ago whole-heartedly admitted how much he still loves Muppet Babies in his mid-30s. Maybe I’d put this on for my young niece–but even she’s a little too savvy for this material.
C.O.P.S. was actually a syndicated show first that later aired on CBS Saturday Morning. I was way too young to remember it on syndication but certainly remember it from Saturday mornings. It was..not popular in my house. As is unavoidable when writing about things from your childhood, some biographical information slips in: I grew up with two sisters, a twin and a slightly older one, and neither of them liked the more guy-oriented stuff that I liked. They also outvoted me along gender lines so I usually didn’t win on what we watched.
And C.O.P.S. is one of the most boy-oriented shows maybe ever created: it was macho, tons of guns, lots of action sequences, and a mostly male cast of (what else?) police officers. Only they lived in an awesome cyberpunk future with cybernetic augmentation of humans, wildly violent weapons, and awesome graphics. Needless to say, my sisters hated it, but I relished the chance when they were distracted by…I don’t know, their My Little Ponies?
And honestly, it’s one of those Saturday morning cartoons that I’d probably enjoy a lot as an adult: it would never be aired today because it was crazy violent and probably a little too adult for little kids, but that was one of the charms of the 80’s–apparently nothing was off-limits for the youngins. Check it out and see for yourself. It’s pure 80’s craziness and actually pretty damn good.
Growing Up and Away
As you can tell from this article, nostalgia for the 1980’s and the pretty wonderful childhood American culture provided me still looms large in my mind, and I’m pretty sure it still holds a strong sway on my generation as a whole: after all, we grew up only to reboot and reintroduce many properties back into the culture to make them part of our own children’s childhoods.
And it may be silly for a grown man to look back at cartoon shows that aired 30+ years ago that he enjoyed as a 5-year-old and then write about them with sincerity and admiration. I’ve taught at the college level, for God’s sake, and am getting closer to 40 than 30 with each passing day.
In fact, writing this article brought a little sadness to my heart: I don’t have children of my own and understand that it’s one of the few ways adults can ever re-experience the magic of childhood once again–by sharing the things they loved with their own kids. I could buy back my childhood all I like back but it’s not the same. Some months ago, I watched as my nephew played with a small Robotix set I had bought for nostalgic purposes and as he started to put together something like I used to at his age, it brought a tear to my eye and a strange feeling I’ve never experienced before: a mixture of pride, sentimentality, and of witnessing a part of myself being passed along to a younger relative, my own flesh and blood. I’m sure this is a feeling that’s amplified times a million when it’s your own child.
Instead, I grew up and away from childhood, as everyone is destined to, and now look back at the shows and toys and time period that I spent my own childhood in with a mixture of fondness and sadness. As the years pass and I still don’t have a child of my own to share these things that gave my own childhood meaning–or even provide them the things that they will one day look back upon with a similar nostalgia (I tend to go overboard at Christmas with my niece and nephew for this reason)–the sadness is starting to overwhelm the fondness of my memories as they begin to fade and desaturate like the colors of the box art of an action figure that have never been taken out of their original packaging. After all, there’s no real purpose to preserve the past for posterity if there’s nobody in the future to appreciate it for themselves.