In the Geekstalgia series, I will be discussing the things in my past that influenced me as a young geekling and shaped me into the geek I am today. A majority of my posts in this series will be about the nineteen eighties which I believe to be the greatest decade to grow up as a young geek. I would like to begin this series by discussing the cartoons of the eighties. Let’s take a journey back in time, shall we?
I was flipping through the channels on a Saturday morning recently, and one thought kept popping into my mind as I was checking each channel, what ever happened to Saturday morning cartoons? Sure, there can still be cartoons found on some channels, but it’s just not the same now as it was back in the eighties when cartoons were such an important part of our childhood. When the FCC passed the Children’s Television Act in the nineties, the landscape of cartoons changed permanently. Cartoons are less prevalent today than they were in the eighties and the cartoons we have today just aren’t the same as when I was a geekling. I understand the FCC wanting to see more educational programming for children on television, and I remember being a child and hearing some adults in the media refer to my favorite cartoons as “half hour toy commercials”, but what they fail to realize is how much impact those half hour toy commercials had on the imaginations of the children of the eighties. My friends and I would watch our favorite cartoons like Transformers, G. I. Joe, He-man, and so many more, and then we would use our imaginations playing with our toys and adding to the storylines in the cartoons. In my opinion, it is as important for a child to exercise their imagination as it is to exercise their body and brain.
Saturday morning cartoons were such an important part of being a kid in the eighties that my friends and I would schedule our mornings according to which cartoon was on which channel at what time in the morning. As a geekling, my mornings would begin early enough to see the very first cartoons as soon as they began airing in the morning, and I would stay glued to the tv until the last cartoons aired int the early afternoon. There was always plenty of time to go outside and play after the cartoons were over. Saturday morning cartoons were such a large part of our lives in the eighties that the networks would even air programs dedicated to previewing the upcoming season of new cartoons at the end of every summer so that children could see what new cartoons they would have to look forward to every fall.
Saturday mornings were a magical place filled with fantastical blue creatures that lived in mushroom houses, anthropomorphic animals of all types interacting with each other, and young children having all sorts of adventures, and I loved every minute I got to spend in these worlds. Saturday morning cartoons were such an important part of our lives in the eighties that there was even a tribute album produces in 1995 that featured popular bands performing versions of the theme songs from some of the most popular cartoons.
As the evolution of cartoons progressed in the eighties, the worlds of our cartoons expanded to include things that may seem odd to consider now, but were loved just as much as classic characters like Bugs Bunny or Tom and Jerry. Cartoons based on comic books were very popular, giving us shows like Super Friends and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, as well as cartoons based on video games like Pac Man, Qbert, and Pole Position. There were cartoons based on action stars like Chuck Norris and Mr. T, as well as shows based on popular tv shows like Happy days, Gilligan’s Island, and Alf. Movies were also a popular area to create cartoons from, bringing us shows based on movies like Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid, Robocop, and even a cartoon based on the Police Academy movies. There were even cartoons based on Star wars and Godzilla and a cartoon based that came directly from the popularity of wrestling in the eighties.
Saturday mornings weren’t the only place to find cartoons either. As I young geekling, I would race home from school every afternoon to watch some of my favorite cartoons as well. Cartoons like M.A.S.K, , and Thundercats filled my afternoons with action and fun and fueled my imagination. The popularity of these “half hour commercials” led to toy companies and animation studios experimenting with a wide variety of properties which in turn brought us such cartoons as Silverhawks, Bionic Six, Inhumanoids, and the Centurions as well as many more that had varying degrees of success.
Even the girls of the eighties had their own cartoons geared specifically towards them. I remember my younger sister watching shows like Rainbow Bright, Strawberry Shortcake, and Jem. There was even a cartoon starring the long lost sister of He-Man, called She-Ra: Princess of power. With cartoons like Pound Puppies, Popples, and The Care Bears, girls growing up in the eighties had just as many cartoons to enjoy as the boys did.
Despite what the media and FCC would have you believe, there was some educational aspects of the cartoons we loved in the eighties. At the end of every episode of G. I. Joe, a brief public service announcement would be shown starring one member of the G. I. Joe team teaching children things ranging from household safety to what to do if they came across a downed power line. Every young fan of the Joes will tell you that “knowing is half the battle”. Schoolhouse Rock! was a popular series of musical, animated shorts that would air during the commercial breaks of cartoons shown on ABC. Bring up Schoolhouse Rock! to any child of the eighties, and they can tell you what their favorite lesson was, and many of them will probably still be able to sing the song from that lesson as well.
The cartoons of the eighties may have not been educational, and many of them may have been nothing more than attempts to sell the toys based on those cartoons, but they were a huge part of the childhood of most people that grew up in the eighties. The cartoons sparked our imaginations and made us happy. I miss the cartoons of the eighties, not just the cartoons themselves, but the impact they had on my childhood. I guess we’ll never see a time like that again, and that makes me a little sad. I hope you have enjoyed taking this trip back in time, and I hope that it brought back fond memories of your favorite cartoons. Feel free to share some of your favorite cartoons with me, I’d love to hear about them.
Here are a few more of my favorites: