80 s CARTOONS We couldnâ€™t fit them all in, but the month of Transformers is the best time to pick some of everyoneâ€™s favourite animated shows from the Eighties...
Fluent in over 37 languages (some extraterrestrial) and so secret that his codename has a codename, Danger Mouse (1981-1992) is the greatest secret agent in the world. With the help of his cowardly hamster sidekick Ernest Penfold, DM not only stopped super-villians like the toady Baron Silas Greenback, but he also conquered America, becoming the first British animation series to be syndicated there. Not bad for a show that often used blacked-out scenes with floating eyeballs to help cut costs.
HE-MAN Fact: if you didn’t recognise this picture, you weren’t around in the Eighties. Adored by kids and scorned by parents and church groups, He-Man and The Masters of the Universe (1983-1985) was the definitive Eighties cartoon show – even though it simply started as a way for Mattel to advertise its new toy line. Every week Skeletor would hatch some plan to take over Castle Grayskull. Every week Prince Adam would turn into He-Man and beat him up. Occasionally another villian would show up and He-Man would beat them up too. For the girls there was Adam’s twin, Princess Adora, who would turn into SheRa. She-Ra would also beat up bad people. One thing that never became clear was why Skeletor wanted to get Castle Grayskull. The original toyline comics revealed that: Skeletor was from another dimension and he needed the power to get an army through and invade. But the show didn’t bother with this technicality.
If a criminal case had to be made for Filmation’s repeat use of animation frames, Bravestarr (1987-1988) would be a prime witness. It actually spun off from another of the studio’s classic shows, Ghostbusters (far older than and not related to the film), where villian Tex Hex first appeared. He became the baddy here (along with the demonic Stampede), but they had to go up against the Indian American Mashall Bravestarr, his horse/sidekick Thirtythirty and (say it with us) Eyes of the Hawk! Ears of the Wolf! Strength of the Bear! Speed of the Puma! 34
The Spanish set about to retell Alexandre Dumas’ classic Three Musketeer by teaming up with Japan’s Nippon studio and changed most of the cast into dogs. The story of Dogtanian (1981) only ran for three months and completed its story arch, but it was a huge hit and translated into numerous languages. A young pup and his ancient yellow horse arrive in Paris to become a musketeer, but he soon becomes embroiled in a power struggle between the king, queen, the power-hungry Cardinal Richelieu and his dangerous right-hand dog Count Rochefort. Eventually it all became epic, including special jewels, midnight trials, and pirates! A mediocre sequel series emerged ten years later, but that could not sully a show that still makes us weepy with nostalgia.
Ducktails – Woohoo! Yes, in all fairness this should have been the Gummi Bears, those bouncy bears that kickstarted Disney Television Animation. Boy, what a legacy: Darkwing Duck, Gargoyles, Rescue Rangers, Talespin... But Ducktails (1987-1990) had the broadest adventures (from safeguarding Scrooge McDuck’s vault to discovering ancient lost cities) and the catchiest theme song. Admit it: you’re hearing it in your head right now.
These unnervingly cute cuddly bears had three (three!) movies, not to mention a TV series. At one point the Care Bears (1985-1988) were everywhere, streaming their goody-goody powers from their ‘tummy symbols’ – like so many shows of this era the TV series was made to promote toys: in this case teddy bears and greeting cards. Once a manufacturing error swapped the colours of two bears and the ‘swap’ was later explained away in a children’s story! Custodians of the Forest of Feelings, the Care Bears resolved problems by making people happy. So usually the villians were the cranky, heartless types. Maybe they just needed hugs...
cities of gold
Of all these shows, the strangest, best, spookiest and definitely most timeless had to be The Mysterious Cities of Gold (1982-1983). A French/Japanese collaboration, it told about Esteban, the cild of the sun, who ends up in Spanish-era South America, searching for the legendary golden cities with his friend Zia and Tao. Despite its juvenile moments the story was well ahead of its time, weaving in mysteries of lost civilizations (like Mu or Atlantis), Amazons, giants, golden flying machines. Then it gets strange. The soundtrack didn’t ease our little minds either, but it is the best an animated show has ever had in forever times infinity. The funny thing about this show: the British, American, French and Japanese versions are all cut slightly differently, with different scenes missing from different versions. A new box-set released this year aims to be the most complete version and there are talks of a new animated movie.
Rewatching Thundercats (1985-1990), the show comes across as a bit supremist: a handful of Thundercats flee when their planet is destroyed by the inferior mutants. How the mutants even managed this is beyond us, but there you go. The survivors have the Sword of Omens, with the Eye of Thundera in its hilt, and Lion-O becomes its holder. The mutants track them down on the new planet, but the Thundercats kick ass. Seriously, you tend to feel sorry for the mutants. But they do get a powerful ally: the demon mummy sorcerer Mumm-Ra. Picking up where He-Man left off, Lion-O’s sword could grow longer when he shouted “Thunder, thunder, thundercats - Hooooooooo!’. What this did was... create a beacon that alerted other Thundercats he was in trouble, so they rushed over to help him. Okay, on paper this looks stupid, but we were kids. WE LOVED THE THUNDERCATS!