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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Forgotten Cartoons of the '80s (and early '90s)

Once upon a time, there was a time in which I absolutely loved getting up early on Saturday mornings just to watch the hottest new cartoons. But, these days I find myself feeling very sorry for the kids of today's generation who never knew the joys of watching Saturday Morning cartoons.

Okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating just a smidgen. There are quite a few cable channels that still air cartoons on Saturday mornings, as well as on Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, etc. But when I was a kid, the big three (well, okay, I guess I should say four as FOX was dedicated when I was a small fry) networks aired cartoons all morning long. Now instead of cartoons, we get “educational” shows that actually insult the intelligence of children as well as extended weekend morning shows which feature a bunch of boring adults talking about boring things.

In short...Saturday mornings are now boring. It has now become a day in which you don't have to set the alarm for anything special as there's not a whole lot to look forward to on the entertainment aspect.

But I think that's one of the reasons why I began this blog in the first place. It's a great way for me to show the children of this generation all of the fun that their parents had when they were kids. And, it's also a great way to re-introduce some of the classic television cartoons to my generation (and those before that) that we watched and loved.

Now, here's a question for all of you. What do you believe to be some of the most influential cartoons that you remember watching.

Depending on the time period in which you grew up, that answer could vary. Kids who grew up in the 1970s would list Scooby-Doo or Superfriends. The kids of the nineties would likely talk about how Rugrats and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles changed their lives. And for the children of today's generation, I would imagine that Spongebob Squarepants and the reboot of My Little Pony would be among their favourite shows.

As an eighties kid (and early nineties for that matter), I know I certainly had my list of must watch cartoons and kids shows. On CBS it was Muppet Babies and Pee-Wee's Playhouse. NBC was Captain N, Super Mario Brothers, and Alvin and the Chipmunks. ABC had Beetlejuice and The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show. And, don't even get me started on the cartoons that aired in syndication. Heck, the Disney Afternoon cartoon block could fill up half that discussion alone!

But this discussion isn't about the shows that almost everyone knows. Instead, this topic will be about the cartoons that I used to watch that almost nobody has ever heard of. Whether it was because they only lasted one season of thirteen episodes, or whether it was because they aired on one of the upper channels on the cable dial, or whether it was so horribly bad that you blocked it out of your memory banks forever, there are some instances in which I want to talk to someone about a cartoon and for whatever reason, they don't even remember it.

So for today, I've compiled a list of cartoons that I remember watching as a kid...and I've come to the conclusion that I might have very well have been the only one who watched them because nobody else seems to remember them.

Now, I must warn you. These are all cartoons that I have watched over the years, so the vast majority of them aired in the late eighties or early nineties. And for whatever reason, quite a few of these cartoons come from NBC (which admittedly was my favourite channel to watch Saturday Morning cartoons). A few of these cartoons I still enjoy today. Some I don't like as much. Some I wonder why I even watched them in the first place. But all of them had a very special place in my heart at one time, so why not have a topic about...

...THE FORGOTTEN CARTOONS OF THE '80S (and early '90s)

This list will be in chronological order, and to begin this list off right, here's a cartoon that actually began airing when I was a toddler and was introduced to via one of the cable channels when I was older.

PAC-MAN (1982-1984), ABC

I have to say, I had no idea that they made a Pac-Man cartoon until I was nine or ten. I mean, the idea of a Pac-Man cartoon was absolutely ridiculous! After all, the video game was nothing more than a hungry yellow circle gobbling up cherries and power pellets in a gigantic blue maze while avoiding ghosts in several different colours. But somehow, Hanna-Barbera came up with a way to take the world of Pac-Man and transform it into a rather interesting premise for a cartoon.

In the cartoon, Pac-Man is living a happy life in Pac-burbia in the world of Pac-Land. He is married to Pepper Pac-Man (Ms. Pac-Man, maybe?), they have a child named Pac-Baby (how in the world did they reproduce?!?), and two pets. The dog's name is Chomp-Chomp, and the cat's name is Sour Puss.

And, naturally your favourite ghosts (Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde) are back with a vengeance. Only this time, they're joined by a fifth ghost named Sue (who kind of resembles what a ghost would look like after Pac-Man eats a Power Pellet).

And in this cartoon, all five ghosts are under the control of an evil man named Mezmaron, a man who wishes to locate and control the source of the Power Pellets so he can assume full control of Pac-Land.

Amazingly enough, Pac-Man's cartoon ran for two seasons, and in both cases they were bundled with another cartoon. From 1982 to 1983, Pac-Man aired along with Richie Rich, and from 1983-1984, we have our next cartoon which I'm even more stunned they made a cartoon about!


Okay, I know what you're thinking. Rubik's Cubes were all the rage in 1983. Almost every single person owned one. I still have mine (though a couple of the stickers fell off). But how could a puzzle game be turned into a cartoon?

Well, when you fall out of the stagecoach of an evil magician and are found by the three Rodriguez siblings, that's when your real power is shown.

Turns out that when the puzzle of Rubik is solved, Rubik could prove to be a powerful ally. Using the power of illusion and magic, Rubik could thwart any enemy that dared cross the paths of Carlos, Lisa, and Reynaldo, whether it be a school bully or even the evil magician himself who was desperate to get Rubik back at all costs.

Of course, Rubik's power only worked when he was fully together. If his squares were ever rearranged, you would have to put him back together again in order for him to work...and anyone who ever tried to solve a Rubik's Cube knows just how difficult it can be.

(Well, okay...truth is that I know someone who can put a Rubik's Cube together in less than a minute. For most of us – myself included – well, it could be hard!)

FOOFUR (1986-1988), NBC

I don't care what anybody else says. I loved Foofur as a kid, and I still love Foofur now. But when I was a kid, it was a bittersweet kind of love. I loved watching Foofur, but because it was the final cartoon to air on NBC's cartoon block before sports coverage took over, I remember being sad because it meant that cartoons had ended for the day.

The show itself was great, and it had an interesting plot. You had Foofur, a big blue dog (voiced by Frank Welker) who actually has inherited an entire estate from his late master. For years, Foofur lived in the mansion alone, and although he enjoyed living there, he had several antagonists wanting him out, including Mrs. Escrow who wants to sell the estate, Pepe, Mrs. Escrow's annoying chihuahua, and a group of big bad dogcatchers known as the Bowser Busters.

Mind you, the Bowser Busters probably wouldn't have bothered with Foofur had Foofur and his niece not busted out a whole bunch of dogs – and one cat – from the dogcatchers van. Interestingly enough, Foofur decides that living life in the mansion alone is not all that it is cracked up to be, and he decides to let his niece and the group of animals they rescued to move in with him, leading to even more conflict.

I particularly liked this cartoon because it was funny, it had a great theme song, and the message was a good one. Under the circumstances, anybody can make a family. Foofur was one lucky dog.

COPS (1988-1989, 1993) Syndication, CBS

One thing that I found interesting about COPS (the cartoon, not the reality show) is that the tagline is “fighting crime in a future time”. It's especially hilarious when you consider that the series is set in the year 2020. Now, I realize that 2020 is seven years away, but you have to admit, watching the intro, I'm still waiting for cops to shoot out their arms like Inspector Gadget, shooting holes in the freeway with laser guns, and having the chief detective of a police force having a completely bulletproof body.

To set up the story, there's a crime wave going on in Empire City, and Special Agent Baldwin P. Vess has been dispatched to stop Brandon “Big Boss” Babel and his gang of crooks from terrorizing the innocent citizens of Empire City. But when Vess is critically injured in a car crash caused by Big Boss' henchmen, he is forced to go to the hospital and undergo a series of operations that transform his mangled body into a bulletproof torso that can withstand almost anything. The operation is a success, and “Bulletproof” P. Vess heads up the organization known as the Central Organization of Police Specialists.

Get it? C.O.P.S.!

Anyway, the show itself was largely forgettable, but apparently it was based on a line of action figures that came out known as C.O.P.S. and Crooks. And, hey, with characters named Longarm, Mainframe, and Bowser and Blitz, that alone was worth a look. In fact, the show holds one interesting feature. Initially shown in syndication as other toy lines had done (such as Jem and Transformers), the show was rebroadcast in 1993 on CBS.


Remember that really gnarly movie from that totally awesome year known as 1989 where the slammin' slackers known as Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Theodore “Ted” Hogan went back in time through Rufus' time machine to learn about history? That movie instantly became a favourite of mine, and admittedly, the cartoon was just as awesome – well, despite the bogus sounding theme song.

What made this cartoon absolutely stand out against other cartoons based on movies was the fact that during the first season, all three actors who played Bill, Ted, and Rufus came back to record their voices for the new cartoon! Yeah, Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves, and George Carlin were all a part of this cartoon project – which admittedly was a rehash of the plot of the movie in which Bill and Ted would go back in time to meet historical figures.

When the show was renewed for a second season, the voice actors had to be replaced for two reasons. One, all three actors were committed to the 1991 sequel “Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey”, and two, FOX was coming up with a live-action series that began in 1992, which required the talents of all three actors. But hey...that whole first season...brilliance.

PROSTARS (1991-1992), NBC

I only wish I could say the same about this absolute trainwreck of a cartoon which had hockey player Wayne Gretzky, basketball player Michael Jordan, and Bo Jackson – who I'm still trying to figure out if he played football, baseball, or both. Of course, none of these athletes voiced any of the characters in the cartoon – they were voiced by Townsend Coleman, Dorian Harewood, and Dave Fennoy respectively. But all three filmed pre-recorded live-action clips that aired at certain parts of the show.

I honestly don't even know what the show was about as I didn't really pay attention to what the plot was (or if there even WAS a plot). All I knew was that it was kind of an embarrassment to Saturday Morning cartoons...and likely spawned the creation of TNBC two years later in which cartoons were phased out in favour of “Saved By The Bell” and other live-action teen sitcoms.

There are many more cartoons that I could list, but I'm going to stop here for now. Have you got any other cartoons that you and only you remember? Feel free to share those memories below!

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