Legends of Saturday Morning: the Top 5 Cartoons of the 1980s

By TK Kelly February 26, 2013 View all posts (145)
Image credit: Watchplayread.com
Children’s cartoons are a television juggernaut, and they may never have been better than they were in the 1980s. Saturday morning TV in the 80s spawned an unbelievable amount of hit shows that were plastered all over toys, thermoses, lunchboxes, backpacks, costumes, t-shirts, cereals, movies and we think even a few commemorative gold-plated coins. These are the top five kids’ cartoon shows from the 1980s

5 He-Man and the Masters of the Universe

The mark of a truly great 80s cartoon was whether or not it sold toys, and He-Man sold the crap out of some toys. Never mind the fact that the animation was terrible, the characters were really strange (there was a guy with a giant hand named “Fisto,” look it up), and the show gave an overall feeling of very suspect sexuality (see previous note about guy named “Fisto”), it still sold a whole bunch of toys. And they were honestly pretty cool. Battle Cat was a total badass green tiger and you know you all enjoyed caving in Skeletor’s squeezable rubber head.

4 DuckTales

Scrooge McDuck made a nation full of children believe that nothing would be more fun than diving head-first into pile of gold coins, so right there, you know how influential this show was. Chronicling the adventures of Scrooge (the Mr. Burns of water fowls), his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie, and his pilot/resident idiot Launchpad McQuack, Ducktales provided a ton of fun for kids, and yet another way for the Disney Corporation to suck the money out of the pockets of helpless American parents (those crafty mouse bastards).

3 ThunderCats

Long before the Jersey Shore ruined everything, Lion-O made orange people seem pretty damn awesome. The sword-wielding leader of the land of Thundera, home to a race of cat-like humanoid aliens, Lion-O led the ThunderCats into battle against a super-old mummy guy who humbly referred to himself as the “ever-living source of evil.” Lucky for Lion-O, he had the help of his faithful friends, including a fat cat-dragon thing called Snarf, a nunchuck-slinging elf-panther and a lady warrior named Cheetara who you know you found oddly attractive and weren’t sure if that was okay.

2 The Smurfs

Hey, do you remember that episode of the Smurfs where the tiny blue creatures were involved in a magical adventure while unbeknownst to them, Gargamel hatched a secret plan to finally capture and eat them? Of course you do, because that was every single episode of the Smurfs. It lasted 9 seasons on essentially one story and kids just kept tuning in because damn, those little blue things were entertaining. Some say it was it was a take on hallucinogenic mushrooms, while others claim it was essentially an animated ode to Communism, but whatever it was, we loved it.

1 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Oh to be a fly on the wall of the pitch meeting for this show. “Okay, so four turtles get slathered in radioactive ooze and they grow into upright, talking teenagers and learn karate from a giant rat. Oh, and yeah he used to be an old Japanese guy.” At its core Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sounds like possibly the most absurd and drug-induced idea ever conceived, but somehow it worked on every level. Kids just ate it up as it spawned three movies and enough merchandise to keep Chinese factories open year-round. Plus you know that at least once it made you consider ordering an anchovy and gumball pizza.

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