10 Obscure 80's Cartoons, You May Have Forgotten.


"Not Transformers"
With the exception of Pixar originals, modern animation is lost on me. Slick computer graphics, conservative plot-lines, and feeling too aware of themselves, they come across as bland and inoffensive. Of course, this could be age creeping up on me, but my childhood memory seems loaded with an endless stream of colourful, creative kids shows. 

Feeling retrospective, I decided to run through some of the more obscure titles to this list, and force myself to sit through one episode of each; suffering for the sake of art, as it were. In tribute to the wonderful commercial nature of 80’s cartoons, you can thank my effort by joining my Facebook fan page, on the left hand side; it's pretty darn awesome...

1. GOBOTS.
In an alternate reality, Gobots is the only cartoon ever made about living robots which masquerade as working machines; separated into factions of good and evil. In this same universe, it is also synonymous with syndication heaven, a live-action Hollywood movie franchise, and is the standard bearer for developing cartoons purely around multi-million dollar toy lines; inspiring He-Man, Thundercats, and all manner of shameless yet highly profitable corporate shills. In actual reality, Gobots is considered little more than an easily forgotten, piss-poor Transformers rip-off, even though it was in fact Transformers which ripped off Gobots; leaving it, ironically, crushed by an even greater machine.
I guess a young Steve Jobs needed to find inspiration somewhere.

2. BANANAMAN.
Ordinarily, Eric Wimp was just a weedy, instantly forgetable English schoolboy. Whenever he ate a Banana, however, he morphed into the dim-witted yet loveable muscular action hero, Bananaman; a secret only he knew – his mum, being a working-class northener and all, was never one for fruit. Bananaman was a five-minute comic book parody of serious superheroes such as Batman and Captain Marvel, where even his enemies; Doctor Gloom, The Weatherman, and Impossible Man as examples, were a veiled homage to genuine villains. As hilarious as it was ridiculous, the humour was very British, and remains a cult classic in the UK. The notion of sticking bananas in orifices, may have been lost globally.

3. GALAXY HIGH.
"Galaxy High"
Three decades before the enjoyable 21 Jump Street movie, worked around reversing the perception of jock and nerds in High School, Galaxy High had already stamped its authority on the formula. The story of two teens sent to an intergalactic education system, lasted a mere 13 episodes, but deserved better. Like all 80’s cartoons, it came complete with highly melodic theme tune, elaborate plotline, and finely hand drawn animation. However, the shows real strength is drawn from its scripts; unsurprisingly, written by the man behind Gremlins and The Goonies, Chris Columbus. An immensely credible work, which echoes elements of Futurama, this is the most likely on the list to be rediscovered somewhere down the line; and the least likely to rip-off Gobots.


4. MUPPET BABIES.

Whether the rhythmic tones of Ralph, the melancholic madness of Fozzy Bear, or Miss Piggy and her constant attempts to seduce Kermit; I never understood why a pig wanted to fornicate with a frog, I am certain just like myself, you too had a favourite Muppet Baby. How could anyone not? Each character was as awesome as they were creative; except for animal, who simply destroyed everything, and were unique in their own way. The manner in which Muppet Babies explored the imaginations of a group of infants in a playpen, left to their own devices – as well as the ideas they envisioned, is downplayed far too often, in favour of their more commonly known adult counterparts, but it was a fine breakfast time bonanza. Kids from the 70’s see the Muppets as living adult beings, kids from the 80’s see them as animated babies; a genuine classic, full of heart.

5. HULK HOGAN'S ROCK 'N' WRESTLING.
To the kids In 2013, Hulk Hogan is generally regarded as an ageing, balding, irresponsible father who can't act; reaching such a low, even a sex-tape couldn’t salvage his falling stock. However, in 1986, Terry Bollea’s alter-ego was such a bonafide global 80’s icon, that Rock ‘n’ Wresting was created solely as a vehicle to put over both the Hulkster as an even bigger superstar, and the booming World Wrestling Federation; now known as the WWE, as an even stronger business. The cartoon itself is threadbare; good guys live together in order to maintain harmony, bad guys live together in order to destroy it, and Hogan – even as an animation, refuses to job to anyone. The WWF went on the become a legitimate monster, and this cartoon was one of the many avenues they explored; much like WWF Ice-Cream bars, it is one for the scrapbook, or scrapheap. As for Hogan? In many ways, this cartoon; in which his voice was impersonated by an actor and head given a full mop of animated hair, was arguably his finest work. John Cena take note.

"Name these cats"

6. HEATHCLIFF.
On the subject of theme tunes, the intro to Heathcliff sticks in my head like a jack-hammer. The misadventures of a surly, streetwise American cat, watching Heathcliff is much like watching a less cynical Garfield without his Ritalin; and more entertaining for it. Joined by a large ensemble cast including Riff-Raff; a suave, sophisticated alley cat boss; imagine a feline version of Andy Garcia, and for those aroused by anthropomorphism, his smoking girlfriend, Cleo, the show was crude yet fun, and more refined than most 80’s cartoons; with its Japanese animation. The storylines made sense, and Heathcliff was well-received; even spawning its own movie. As far as Garfield is concerned? Rumours were he refused all invitations for the inevitable 90's spin-off, which never came to pass. Guess he grew too accustomed to the Ritalin - poor moggy.


7. MYSTERIOUS CITIES OF GOLD.

I have to admit, even though a highly regarded cartoon, with articulate dialogue, dignified characterisation, and being unique as one of the few cartoons - not just in the 80’s, but any era, to have a consistent storyline from beginning to end, I found Cities of Gold duller than a one man double act. There is little wrong with it, and by all means was an educational paradise in tackling real life issues in cartoon form – but that was the problem; it was too realistic. I preferred the stupidity in talking Gorilla brothers getting into mischief, chewable bears who possessed magical powers, and ducks with many tails to tell, over three white bread kids travelling the world to find hidden objects I couldn't care less about. I am sure had Paulo Coelho been a child of the decade, he'd have loved it. For me, I'd rather watch a full episode of Rock 'n' Wrestling.

8. SPIDERMAN AND HIS AMAZING FRIENDS.
What is it with superheroes and their ‘amazing friends’; usually a collection of young adults, also with special powers. Instead of creating clubs to hang out like normal people; where they get loaded, smoke the odd dooby, and watch a good Ron Jeremy porno now and again, all the amazing friends do is make plans to, and eventually, defeat bad guys; who I guess were not allowed to join the amazing friends, in lieu of being bad - and wanting to smoke the odd dooby. This early 80s cartoon was narrated by Spiderman supremo Stan Lee, where Peter Parker’s compatriots included cool as Ice man, Iceman, and the literally smoking hot, Firestar. I don’t know if Spidey felt inferior in a group containing two souls both conquerors of an element, but it was an enjoyable slice of superhero pie. I now wonder if Iceman and Firestar ever got it on; and if they did, how the hell that worked, exactly? Especially as they never got loaded.

"The drugs don't work"
9. SUPER MARIO BROTHERS SUPER SHOW.
Qualifying through its sole season run of 1989, this show was less memorable for the well animated, finely written cartoons, then it was the hilariously atrocious live-action skits between the kid-friendly bars. Based around former wrestler Captain Lou Albano and a jobbing actor, portraying the legendary plumbing duo; resembling older, drug addicted versions, living in an oversized public toilet, the lame jokes and canned audience laughter were based around a video game, still two decades from being a classic - and passed without fanfare. While the cartoon sections were pretty cool and still hold up, watching the live footage again, it is hard to decipher whether Lou Albano stole Ron Jeremy’s image, or the other way around. At least Cities of Gold taught me which continents hosted certain countires, all this taught me was how severely lacking in rhythm, Mario and Luigi's legs are.

10. SUPERTED.
Any cartoon involving a Superhero Teddy Bear with a spotty alien for a sidekick, whose main enemies are a clichéd rugged cowboy, a ridiculously camp skeleton, and a dumb chubby cockney who resembles an animated Timothy Spall is – even in this day in age, alright with me. Okay, so the reasons behind this threesome and their origins are never explained, but it's irrelevant when you're seven. What does matter, is Superted is equally funny as it is engaging, and while easily forgotten in the annals of 80s cartoon history, its origins are quite awesome. Creator Mike Young initially made up the character to help his son overcome his fear of the dark, and the rest grew from there. Funny, silly, and a missed marketing opportunity if there ever was one, Superted is perhaps the best Welsh export since Tom Jones, and the funniest since Shakin Stevens.

And there you are. Okay, perhaps some are not as obscure as the others, but nonetheless, 80’s cartoons were a special collection of animations, reserved for a very special decade. Feel free to rip into my points in the comments section, or just go on YouTube, sit back, and indulge in some good old classics instead. The next installment will be based around obscure 80's toys; I never even got around to Dungeons and Dragons....

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1 comment:

80s Forever said...

--> 80's Forever <--
Loved Hulk Hogan's Rock'n Wrestling. Brad Garret did an awesome job with Hogan's voice. And Muppet Babies always was a must see. Once again Lee, a great article!