If, like me, you grew up in the 1980s and enjoyed this particular time period, you would know that in terms of popular entertainment, it was one of the best decades, ever.
From movies to television shows, to music and video games, the eighties is right up there with the best that the showbiz and entertainment world had to offer. Especially with most of it coming out of America. There was cheese, but it was still a fun era, way before we had the internet, technology and social media.
One of the best things about 80s television was the cartoons that came out; animation back then was the stuff of dreams. Yes, many of the shows were produced in Japan, yet the concept is originally from American creators. This was back in the day when cartoons were on every day of the week and were available to every child, and adult in the morning and afternoon on main channels, right before we had cable and satellite television. Not unlike today when Saturday morning cartoons have been sadly relegated to YouTube status at the very least.
Compiling this list and narrowing it down to 20 was incredibly difficult. With the exception of 5 of them - Alvin and the Chipmunks, Thundercats, Muppet Babies, Bravestarr and He-Man, it wasn't easy in deciding which order I should place each cartoon series that I have enjoyed.
But I couldn't deny that these cartoons resonated with me a great deal, and of which I have gotten the most enjoyment out of, in contrast to many other 80s animated shows. There were other cartoons that I liked as well, yet these series summed up some of the very best children's cartoons this generation had to offer.
*special mentions also goes out to Transformers, She-Ra, Shirt-Tales, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Real Ghostbusters and many more.
Alvin and the Chipmunks (Bagdasarian Productions, DIC Entertainment, 80s versions, 1983 -1990) - 3 chipmunk brothers named Alvin, Simon and Theodore are adopted by a man named Dave and they go on all sorts of adventures and experience and encounter many situations at the same time. Unfortunately, I don't think the 80s versions of the Alvin and the Chipmunks cartoons get enough credit or recognition. Which is a shame, because as much as The Alvin Show have been widely received by the older generation, I couldn't get over the way the chipmunks sounded at the time. Which was strange. When the show was later co -developed by Bagdasarian Productions with DiC Entertainment, the episodes were more interesting and the show got better. And the characters personalities were fleshed out properly.
Whenever I think of Alvin and the Chipmunks, I remember the 80s cartoon shows fondly and forget about those live-action movie versions of the mid to late 2000s when the characters looked like Chip 'N' Dale, rather than their original selves.
Thundercats (Rankin/Bass Productions, 1985) - ''feel the magic, hear the roar, Thundercats are loose!''. That tagline from Thundercats briefly sums up how badass this show was. Seen as an antithesis to Filmation's He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Rankin Bass's Thundercats was huge throughout the 80s. I like Thundercats more than He-Man: both shows were great, and had similar themes and plots. But Thundercats was arguably more hip and cooler. The newer (yet recently cancelled) version of Thundercats was all right, but it has nothing on the original series from 1985. Okay, it was at times corny, but this was the 80s after all, and many cartoons around at the time, were a little corny and offbeat. Thundercats had action, a bit of everything but romance. This was an action show, after all.
If you have never heard of or seen the original Thundercats, I suggest you buy the DVD set or watch the episodes on YouTube.
(Jim Henson's) Muppet Babies (Jim Henson Productions, 1984) - after the success of The Muppets franchise, Jim Henson decided to branch out into the animated world and created a cartoon version but with toddler versions that included Piggy, Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo. This show epitomized what Jim Henson's intentions were with this cartoon; as in using your imagination to have fun. We didn't get to see Nanny's face throughout the entire series however. I love the little parodies of Star Wars, Star Trek and Indiana Jones, and yet I couldn't stand Piggy. She was like a massive leech sucking on Kermit's neck and of whom wouldn't take no for an answer from Kermit. When he turns down her advances, she goes berserk. What a drama queen, and crazy too.
But anyhow, other than that, Muppet Babies was a cute and fun little series that is worth checking out.
Bravestarr (Filmation, 1987) - Filmation were an amazing animation company that created and produced the likes of He-Man, She-Ra and this show, Bravestarr. I enjoyed He-Man and She-Ra, but Bravestarr is my favourite cartoon from Filmation. I loved the blend of sci-fi and western. They took the old Wild West of Texas and added in the futuristic elements into it. The adventures of the Galaxy Rangers did this as well, but those settings worked better in Bravestarr, in my opinion. Bravestarr was an perfect example of how you should do a space spaghetti Western, and with flair and style.
And making the main protagonist a Native American Indian was a cool touch; Marshall Bravestarr with the powers of Wolf, Hawk, Puma (though it should have been Cheetah) and Bear & assisted by talking Horse Thirty-Thirty, was a man, bad guys would fear.
He is like the powerful version of Walker Texas Ranger, minus the martial arts moves.
I was disappointed when Bravestarr lasted just one season. It was good fun, all-round entertainment, and Thirty-Thirty was a total bad-ass.
He-Man and The Masters of the Universe (Filmation, 1983) - pretty cool action-adventure fantasy animated series. Wimpy and somewhat dull royal Prince Adam, transforms into alter-ego He-Man whilst raising his sword in the air and uttering those magical words, 'I Have The Power'. Together with Teela, her father Man-At-Arms, Orko, Battlecat and the Sorceress, He-Man battles against Skeletor and his crew for the power and keys to Greyskull.
It was a classic tale of good verses evil, whilst at the same time, there was a moral to each story at the end.
Filmation had a major hit on their hands, and with He-Man, it will be forever synonymous with the company's brand, as well as legacy in animation history, forever.
Monchichis (Hanna Barbera Productions, 1983) - cute, lovable creatures that resemble monkeys. They look like a cross between a rodent and a baby monkey. The Jamaican -type accent by the guy singing the theme song was weird though. Interestingly, this came from Hanna Barbera known for The Flintstones, Yogi Bear and Scooby Doo. But this is an adorable show throughout.
Pole Position (DIC Entertainment, 1984) - based on the Namco video game of the same name, Pole Position centres on a brother and sister in their dual roles as F1 racers/crime-fighters. Really good show.
Star Wars: Ewoks (Nelvana/Lucasfilm, 1985)
Chip 'N' Dale Rescue Rangers (Walt Disney Animation, 1989)
Defenders of the Earth (Marvel Productions, 1986)
Jem (Hasbro, Marvel Productions and Sunbow Productions, 1985)
M.A.S.K (DIC Entertainment, 1985)
(Action Force Intro - G.I Joe was renamed as Action Force in the UK)
G.I Joe: A Real American Hero /Action Force (Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, 1983)
Visionaries (Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, TMS Productions, 1987) - The sad thing about its cancellation was that the animated series of Visionaries ended abruptly shortly after the failed toyline by company, Hasbro. So therefore, when the toys weren't selling well, Hasbro and Sunbrow decided to scrap the cartoon altogether. It's a pity and tragic really, given it was such a good show. The first season only had 13 episodes but each one had really good storylines and the animation was great. I enjoyed Visionaries; interesting fusion of medieval knights and futuristic special effects, great characters, good plots and the dialogue was well-crafted.
The Super Mario Bros Super Show (DIC Entertainment, 1989) - Based on the popular hit video game series by Nintendo, this show was almost perfect but for the technical glitches that marred this series during the animation segments. But it was arguably better than Super Mario Bros 3 and The Adventures of Super Mario World cartoons.
The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo (Hanna Barbera, 1985) - Many Scooby Doo fans would place this at the bottom on their list of their favourite Scooby Doo shows of all-time. But I really liked how different it was compared to the previous outings. Yes Scrappy was still around (unfortunately), but everything else was refreshing. It was nice to see Hanna Barbera opt with a different approach for this rendition of Scooby Doo. HB shows, in the 80s in particular post -Yogi, Flintstones and Jetsons, may not have been appreciated by die-hard Hanna Barbera enthusiasts, as well as cartoon fans, but I liked most of them, apart from Challenge of the Gobots.
Yogi's Treasure Hunt (Hanna Barbera, 1985) - Yet another Hanna Barbera show that was overlooked in comparison to other Hanna Barbera cartoons, particularly those from the 1960s and 70s. The ensemble that included Yogi and Boo Boo, Huckleberry Hound and Snagglepuss was great to see.
Galaxy High (TMS Entertainment, 1985) - think 'Saved By The Bell' meets space and you'll get what this show is about. It's pretty much an animated teen sitcom set in the intergalactic universe revolving around 2 human teenagers named Doyle and Aimee. And from Chris Columbus, the man who later gave us Home Alone and Mrs Doubtfire. Funny, but also cool and original. Like many 1980s cartoons, the likes of Galaxy High were aimed at older audiences and when these shows were taken off the air or cancelled, the reason given was it wasn't what people wanted, especially during that decade. Which is disappointing, and ironic, given many of the older cartoons will still hold up today, and many of the cartoons aimed at children today, would not fare well in the 80s.
The Mysterious Cities of Gold (DIC, 1982) - wonderful blend of Japanese-style Anime with French writing. After all, this is a French production based on South American culture and history. Unlike many cartoons in the 80s, which were either action cartoons, or cartoons based on toys, The Mysterious Cities of Gold was a worthy alternative. The educational value you will get from watching this show is effective, without coming off as preachy and politically correct. And the remake isn't too bad either.
Dungeons and Dragons (Marvel Productions, TSR Entertainment) - 6 teenage kids are teleported to a world of sorcery and magic as they try to navigate their way back home. The only things I dislike about this show is Eric - the guy was a total whiner, and that there was no proper ending, nor was there an actual first episode. The kids didn't manage to return home, which was sad. There was no other animated show that captured the medieval fantasy realm and essence, as well as Dungeons and Dragons did. The characters were varied yet imaginative, and of whom you could identify with. This was and arguably still is, the best iteration of Dungeons and Dragons to date.