Top Ten 80s Cartoons

It’s been a long week. I don’t have another current events post in me, so I decided to turn my attention to something far more pressing. I’m speaking, of course, of 80s cartoons. Not the newer stuff from the 90s. Tiny Toons and Animaniacs? They’re not going to appear on this list. I’m talking about my tried and true go-to’s for when I was growing up. Prime “Kid Cartoon” fodder.

I watched my fair share of television in the 80s, and more than my fair share of cartoons. There might be a few on here that I’m missing (because the 80s is a long time ago now, people), but these are the ones that came to mind, so . . . they must be the ones that really matter, right?

Anyway. Enough with the preamble. That’s about as worthless as commercials. Let’s get to the good stuff!

10–The Smurfs: Yes, you can’t get any less cool than the Smurfs. Not really. They’re a bunch of tiny blue creatures running away from a cat. Plus, they showed a real lack of imagination when it came to their naming. Brainy Smurf. Papa Smurf. Smurfette. Everything was Smurfy. That said, it lasted a whole long time, and I watched a whole lot of the show, so in the end, I guess I was a Smurfed as the rest of them.

9–Inspector Gadget: Another of the highlight shows I enjoyed on the younger side of the 80s. A screwy detective who’s somehow part robot, and he fights crimes against the evil Dr. Claw? I mean, what’s not to like here? It was a bit too light hearted for my later bloodthirsty preferences in animation, but for a good long while, I looked forward to seeing the show any time it was on.

8–Garfield and Friends: If this were straight up Garfield, this would be higher ranked. But it had those “Friends.” Sort of like when you ask a cute girl out on a date, and she brings her cousin along that you don’t really like. This isn’t what you wanted out of the evening. That said, the Garfield specials that came on in the evening were always a highlight, so there’s that.

7–Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Yes, some people will undoubtably have this higher. I loved the turtles, but not to the point that I was buying their merchandise. I mean, I played a fair bit of the video games, but those came later, didn’t they? Maybe I just couldn’t connect with a bunch of amphibian martial arts specialists the same way I could relate to robots or scantily-clad barbarians. I don’t know. It’s not you, TMNT, it must be me.

6–DuckTales: You can jam this together with the other Disney block of shows. Talespin? Rescue Rangers? Gummy Bears? They were all high caliber viewing experiences. They didn’t quite have the impact on me as the higher shows on this list did, and they sort of blended into the 90s in many ways, so they just don’t stand out to me as the epitome of 80s cartoondom. But they were tons of fun anyway. DuckTales was the best, hands down. Who knew a show about an elderly billionaire duck living with his three nephews could be so captivating?

5–Voltron: I think I would have liked Voltron even more if I had ever been able to watch it all the way through. But I would always miss weeks and episodes, and so it never made complete sense. Plus, there was the vehicle version of Voltron, and the lion version of Voltron, and that really made a kid scratch his head and wonder what was up with that. Not too much, though, because sci-fi lion robots are cool.

4–GI Joe: Yeah, yeah. It should probably be higher, but in my day, you either liked GI Joe, or you liked Transformers. You had to choose. And I was a Transformers fan, through and through. So while I watched the show and had a great time, I never really embraced it. That was for my brother. Plus, who needs the constant PSAs after every episode? Yes, Duke. I know I shouldn’t play with fire. Just let me watch my cartoons in peace!

3–He-Man: The show had it all. Cringer. Castle Greyskull. Orko hiding out in each episode. Skeletor! Lady Teela. (It also had She-Ra, which I deeply resented for reasons that made sense at the time. Probably because I didn’t want girls getting anything cool. What can I say? They had cooties?) I had a load of He-Man merchandise. The Castle Greyskull was particularly awesome. Dungeons! Skulls! What’s not to like?

2–Thundercats: This isn’t a terribly complicated show to understand. There are people that look kind of like cats, and they fight a guy who looks like a mummy. Also, it’s science fiction. With swords! It also had Cheetara, which was a definite point in is favor. (Then again, it also had the twins. I didn’t like the twins at all. They were annoying. Kind of like Snarf.) But in the end, it’s that sword that really set it apart. Who doesn’t want an extending sword that will blast a Thundercats signal into the heavens? (We will not do a Freudian reading of this show today, folks. In fact, we will never do a Freudian reading of it . . . )

1–Transformers: The flat out most awesome cartoon for me back then had to be Transformers. I mean, giant robots that turned into everything from tanks to dinosaurs? What’s not to like about that? I was a huge transformers fan, and I had a ton of the toys. I would happily sit there switching them from robots into airplanes and back. Transformers was epic. (And it’s a shame what Michael Bay did to them. But I won’t go there.) When I think “watching cartoons in the 80s,” the first thing that always springs to mind is this show.


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