#31 Watching old school ’80s Saturday morning cartoons

It’s the crack of dawn on Saturday.

You’re up before your parents so it’s time to tiptoe downstairs in your thin Spider-Man pajamas, sneak into the kitchen, and pour three servings of Corn Pops into a heavy ceramic bowl. Next, carefully carry it to the family room, slide onto your stomach on the carpet, and flick on the TV and let your eyes pop as the colorful reds and blues settle warmly on your face.

Yes, it’s time to spend the entire morning watching cartoons:

#15. Inspector Gadget. Who didn’t love bionic policeman Inspector Gadget? Although his own built-in extendable arms and pop-up roller skates often malfunctioned his faithful niece Penny and intelligent superdog Brain got him out of trouble. Go-Go-Gadget


#14. Beetlejuice. This was the eight-year-old equivalent of an acid trip. No parents + two bowls of Count Chocula = brain-swirly visit to the netherworld.


#13. Heathcliff. For years Heathcliff suffered as the poor man’s Garfield. But today we say: No more! Garfield and Friends gave the more popular fat cat a really weird deep voice and had too many skits with that bizarre Egg with Legs Guy. Heathcliff, today we bring you the legions of fans you always deserved. Heathcliff, today we bring you… redemption.


#12. Muppet Babies. We can all learn from Baby Kermit and Baby Miss Piggy in the opening theme song: “When your room looks kind of weird and you wish that you weren’t there… just close your eyes and make believe and you can be anywhere.” True fans will remember Animal screaming “Go bye-bye!” after the end credits while Gonzo gets shot to the moon.


#11 and #10. He-Man and She-Ra The best part about He-Man was that the entire show was about an average guy turning into the most powerful man in the universe and his shy cat turning into a ferocious tiger. Talk about perfect for setting up dramatic family room scenes. You can try getting your kid sister to voice the Castle Grayskull speaker but she’ll probably want to play She-Ra.



#9. Police Academy. I’m not sure if I was the only one watching this Police Academy but it filled a few hundred hours of my childhood. Like Beetlejuice, it was a classic movie turned into a children’s cartoon. I was always hoping the trend would continue but unfortunately both “The Color Purple Adventures” and “A Fish Called Wanda: The Animated Series” were killed in production.

#8. GI Joe. There was always that one kid who’s parents didn’t let them watch GI Joe because it was too violent. Poor kid had to watch Rainbow Brite.


#7. The Raccoons. This was a Canadian cartoon about a feisty group of animals battling aardvark industrialist Cyril Sneer for control of the forest. If you watched The Raccoons I’m guessing you like poutine, free health care, and hockey.


#6. The Real Ghostbusters. If you don’t have the theme song running through your head already you will in a second. Good luck getting it out.


#5. Jem and the Holograms. Jem single-handedly introduced young girls to the smoky club underworld scene. Raging jams against The Misfits and exotic globe-trotting adventures helped Jem protect her identify as Jerrica Benton and take care of the Starlight Girls. Man, I know way too much about this show. But I swear, I never watched it! I was too busy reading The Baby-sitters Club books.


#4. Alvin and the Chipmunks. You could tell a lot about a kid by his favorite chipmunk. If you liked Alvin, you were outgoing with great social skills and lots of friends. If you liked Simon, you were a fun-loving nerd who did well in school and maybe played a musical instrument. If you liked Theodore best, you had poor decision-making skills and things just didn’t end up well for you.


#3. Thundercats. Speaking of violence, my babysitter Jean didn’t let us watch Thundercats because she thought it made us too pepped-up and rowdy. “But Jean,” we pleaded, while balancing Superman-style on a playpen full of babies, “cat-like humanoid aliens fighting off Mumra for total control of space teaches us valuable life lessons.”

#2. Duck Tales. Woo-oo!


#1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I saw someone wearing a TMNT shirt last week and we got into a fifteen minute debate about which turtle was best. (He was a Raphael guy all the way but I said “Donatello’s just got a stick, man. Just a stick. Think about what he does with just a stick.”) My point is that any cartoon that starts furious debates 25 years later is the #1 cartoon of the decade.

Sure, over the years Saturday mornings smeared, our favorite shows got canned, and we grew up and grew into people that didn’t watch cartoons all the time. But those theme songs are still with us, even as our lives roll on, and those memories are in our brains forever, as we dream on and on and on…


Photo from: Ryan Grayson and here

90 thoughts on “#31 Watching old school ’80s Saturday morning cartoons

  1. Oh man, the nostalgia! My sister owns the complete series of Inspector Gadget, and now I really need to borrow it — I LOVED that show!

    I am a Garfield fan through and through, so Heathcliff does nothing for me, but TMNT? YES! :D

    (But was I the only one who found that the Heathcliff video played again under the Duck Tales heading?)

  2. I’m here to represent for those born in the 80s (1983!) but mostly remember the 90s.

    Tiny Toon Adventures. Animaniacs. Chip n Dale Rescue Rangers. Conan the Adventurer. Darkwing Duck (Let’s get dangerous ;D). Bonkers. Rugrats. Doug. Recess. Ren & Stimpy. Pinky and the Brain…I could go on.

    Take that 80s!

    1. Darkwing Duck was my all time favorite growing up. Non-lethal gas guns, awesome catchphrase, Launchpad was his sidekick …

    2. Nickelodeon plays the 90 shows just like that real late at night. I record it every now and then. Rocko’s Modern Life, All That, Clarissa Explains it All, Hey Arnold is on it.
      Angry Beavers, CatDog, Double Dare was a few more of my favs even though you mentioned most of them already.
      My little brothers grew up with Banana’s in Pajama’s, Recess, Ahhh Monsters.. which of all I watched too.

    3. I’m a kid of the 80’s – Neil’s list pretty much sums up my Saturday morning rituals – but Darkwing Duck was my absolute fave cartoon! I used to tape all the shows and watch them when I got home from school. “I am the terror that flaps in the night…” Thanks for brining that one up!

  3. I still enjoy those old cartoons…thanks, YouTube!

    #3. Thundercats. Speaking of violence, my babysitter Jean didn’t let us watch Thundercats because she thought it made us too pepped-up and rowdy. “But Jean,” we pleaded, while balancing Superman-style on a playpen full of babies, “cat-like humanoid aliens fighting off Mumra for total control of space teaches us valuable life lessons.””

    Have you seen the updated version of the show? It’s pretty interesting.

  4. I have seen all 15 of those cartoons listed and plus more: Maya The Bee, David the Gnome, Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics, Noozles, Gummy Bears, The Legend of Zelda, The Littl Bits, Swamp Thing, and a bunch of other old cartoons.

  5. THANK YOU for this! I had completely forgotten The Raccoons! I grew up in Buffalo and apparently had some Canadian channels in my viewing rotation. I don’t think I’ve thought of that show once since I last watched it…until today! Cyril Sneer…what a lovely, lovely, villainous name.

  6. A Fish Called Wanda: The Animated Series?? Bwaaaahaaaahaaaa!!

    I was in college during the 90’s so missed most of these, but I remember TMNT and Muppet Babies. I will always love Animal…

  7. This really brought back memories! You picked several of my favorites – I loved the Muppet Babies, Thundercats, He-Man and She-ra, Ducktails and TMNT. I wear a glitter Raphael shirt sometimes when I play with my band – I always liked the tough guy with a good heart. ;-)

    I also liked Kidd Video, Bravestar, Dungeons and Dragons (yes, it was a cartoon), and the WWF one with Hulk Hogan and friends. I know what I am doing this Saturday!

  8. I had no idea you were so much younger than me, Neil! I grew-up in the Smurf, Speed Racer, Looney Toons, Tom & Jerry era.

    1. Speed Racer! Kimba the White Lion, too! Looney Toons so rocked! You’ve gotta love the nonPC black & white ones with smoking characters, etc.

  9. I love the “list” posts! Being in the wrong demographic, I completely missed this whole phenomenon, but I completely agree with the sentiment “any cartoon that starts furious debates 25 years later is the #1 cartoon of the decade.”
    Also love the idea of eating a triple-serving of sugary cereal out of a large ceramic serving bowl. That’s just genius.

    1. I agree – the “list” posts always deliver! However, let me catch you up on one of my favorites from this list that no one has mentioned above.. Jem!

      1) She was outrageous.. truly, truly, truly, outrageous.

      2) In real life, she was a simple girl named Jerrica (note: that is note a typo of Jessica. Her name was Jerrica). However, she could put on special earrings, which somehow projects a holographic image of “Jem”, a rock superstar over her body, and assume this secret identity. (Note – these two people look identical, except for her hair and clothing, and yet no one can tell that they are the same person.. must be the same thing that makes Super Man and Clark Kent look so different except for glasses).

      3) The thing that always got me the most annoyed on the show was that Jerrica had a long-time boyfriend name Rio. It’s important to note that Rio didn’t know about Jerrica’s secret identiy. However, whenever Jem was around, Rio would go all ga-ga over her and try to put the moves on her. He completely forgot about Jerrica, and definitely would’ve cheater on her with Jem if given the chance. Well, Jerrica always seemed to find this endearing, without ever coming to the obvious realization that she was dating a cheating bastard!! It was the worst!

      I always hated Rio, and spent most of the time hoping that Jerrica would wise up that she was too good for that guy.

      1. I hated Rio too, for the same reason! She could totally do better than him.

        And don’t forget: Jem’s earrings were powered by Synergy!

  10. Is anybody here old enough to remember The Mighty Heroes? Strong Man, Rope Man, Tornado Man, Diaper Man, and Cuckoo Man!

  11. Does anyone remember the Shirt Tales?! Woodland creatures that had different colored shirts with messages that were always changing… Always on adventures or saving other animals. The 80’s (and 70’s) cartoons were the best! They were fantastical and imaginative, not cartoonish tales of what it’s like everyday at school.

  12. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Personally I’m more of a Scooby Doo and Magic School Bus person. How did kids learn science before that show?

  13. You took me straight back to my wee feet scampering down the hall in my favourite pair of pj’s to eat, “the only day it was permitted”, sugar cereal. I loved Captain Crunch and TRIX, (before they were banned from Canada!) I recollect Peacock blue carpet, the sound and texture of clicking the manual channel changer. Bunny ears for “if you were lucky” reception of 2 channels!! We had black and white b/c most people figured colour had radiation. Imaginations managed to colour in our Saturday morning cartoon highlights which were The Archies and Scooby Doo. American Bandstand was very colourful too!
    I remember most of these 80’s shows from our kids growing up. Everyone loved Inspector Gadget. To us he was cartoon Get Smart. I too was surprised Transformers never made the list but not surprised about TMNT since I still hear boys and girls of all ages paying tribute to their heroism! And my son-in-law has boxes of collectibles to pass to his children<3
    This walk took a lot out of me. If you will please excuse now while I go find my geritol, Ben Gay and have a morning nap on my gramma blueish-purple hair…..

    1. Yeah, Scooby Doo, The Archies, & Josie and the Pussycats were my Sat. AM routine along with some CornFlakes or Shredded Wheat (we NEVER had yummy sugared cereal). Bandstand was terrific! I remember dancing in front of the mirror and trying to emulate the featured dancers and thinking “Yeah, I could be a featured dancer, too, ’cause I’m good!” LMAO!
      We had no channel changer, so I simply lay on the floor with my nose practically pressed to the screen so I’d not have to get up to change channels. Oh, and remember between the ‘toons, the learning songs? I can’t remember what it was called, but there were snippets with songs about numbers and things like “Conjunction Junction”, “I’m just a Bill” etc. After AM cartoons, by lunchtime I’d head over to the corner store to spend my allowance (a quarter)on Archie comics or some penny candy.

      This was a fun stroll down memory lane, Wendy!

      P.S. I won’t mention those really cool records you could cut off the back of the creal box yet again.

      1. YOU, Kathy, and everything you wrote here-in…Totally Awesome!
        Records you could cut off the back of cereal boxes…OMGosh, they were SO groovy and way far out of sight! I got “Blast From The Past” dvd in a box of cheerios awhile back and it so reminded me of the little records *BIG score* and what better movie, of those days…hilariously Awesome!

  14. The Raccoons! Melissa and Ralph were such a sweet couple. And Bert so bumbly and funny, And it also had the best theme song ever!
    Donatello was my fave Ninja Turtle too. :)

  15. You know these cartoons are still on tv? There on the Teletoon Retro channel with the original Scooby Doo and Rocket Robinhood, and soooo much more!

  16. So nice. It’s remember me my childhood! I was just listen it las week too beacause, last month, with some friends we use to talk about and watch videos on youtube of 80’S cartoon! They are the best :D

  17. And the nice thing is you get to enjoy many of them all over again with your own kids! I was a child of the late 70s so my favourites were loony tunes, superman and the Beatles… and outside cartoons, the Wombles!

  18. Wrong decade, I know, but I still miss Scooby Doo and Looney Tunes. I’d *still* get up early for those two… *grin* (And yep, I’ve seen the others – watched them with MY son… *smile*)

  19. I loved Pink Panther, Rainbow Brite and Strawberry Shortcake when I was a kid. I remember reading Archie comics, Casper, Ritchie Rich and Hotstuff, too.

  20. For those of you who remember TMNT…
    My stepson was soooo into the turtles! He and my sister’s kids had a little club and they called themselves the Turtle Tech Spy Club. We even got them t-shirts with their logo on it! They were so freakin’ funny!!!

  21. My 12 and 7 year old nephews don’t get Thundercats and He-Man. I may sound old but this was the highlight of my week back when I was a kid.
    They dont make cartoons like they used to?

  22. EVERYONE misses these! Unfortunately, you have to have access to a specialty channel to enjoy them once more!
    This one was bittersweet… or “BITTER-AWESOME!” , if you will!

  23. I’m only sixteen so I don’t know most of these (I’m more a 90’s tv kinda gal) but I definitely remember watching The Raccoons! It was always one of my all time favorites!!!

  24. Jem is and was truly outrageous. I was a tragic nerd with two big puffy braids, but when Jem was on I was a pistol, a veritable diva. I worked it, I owned it, I was unstoppable. Until the credits rolled. Thanks for bringing up some cool memories.

  25. Thank you for the trip down memory lane :) I’m sitting at my office desk (its 9AM in Germany) and now i want to go home grab a bowl of cocopops and plonk myself in front of my tv and watch cartoons. Well its saturday tomorrow … I’ve gotta get some cocopops
    PS. my favs were He-Man and She-Ra :D “By the power of grayskull”

  26. All of those were awesome and brought back some great memories of my Saturday mornings as a kid. I completely forgot about HEATHCLIFFE. My all time favs were Gi Joe, He-man and do you remember Dungeons and Dragons?

  27. I was born in 96 so I remember all the 90’s and early oos cartoons, which my friends and I were only just talking and getting excited about yesterday at lunch!! Going ‘OMG I REMEMBER THAT SHOW!!!!’ and ‘YES!!! THAT WAS MY FAVOURITE!!’ Hahaha.
    Oh Arthur, Magic School Bus, Chalkzone, Cyberchase, Daria, Blinky Bill, Magic Mountain, Teletubbies, Postman Pat, Bear in the Big Blue House (we always always sing the end song when finishing a big school camp!), Fireman Sam, Babar, Archibald, George and Martha, Brum, Feral TV, Art Attack, Bill and Ben, I Spy, Bottletop Bill and his best friend Corky, Old Bear, Little Bear, Franklin, The Fifth Musketeer, Rocko and the Dodos, and so so so many more!!! I’ve been having a field day looking all these up on youtube again :D

    1. :O There’s so many I’ve forgotten!! How could I forget The Animal Shelf, Bananas in Pyjamas, Madeline, Miffy, The Busy World of Richard Scarry, Noddy, Spot, Modern Classics of Hans Christian Andersen, Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids, Pablo the Little Red Fox, BRAMBLY HEDGE, Bob the Builder, Beatrix Potter, Henry’s World, Girlstuff Boystuff, Rubbadubbers, Sailor Moon, George Shrinks, Country Mouse and City Mouse, The Land Before Time, The Neverending Story, Powerpuff Girls, The Wild Thornberrys, Tracey McBean, Sylvester and Tweety Bird
      You can tell I’ve had a field day finding and looking all these up again :D

      1. HELLZ YEAH EMMY! Remember Good Ol’ Okey Doke and Alex Mac! The Wimbles, Freaks and Geeks, Johnny Bravo, Mr Squiggle, Blinky Bill, Matilda, A Little Princess, Angela Anaconda, Paddington Bear, Aladdin TV Series, The Flintsones, Lil’ LuLu, Peanuts, Betty and Veronica (comics and crappy tv show), Sabrina, The Weekenders, Kim Possible, Zac’s Weird World (or something, supernatural things happened and he went to a private school), that weird one where UK students camped in the bush and witnessed aliens, Catdog, Babysitter’s Club, Fly Tales, The Goggs, that one with the anteater who drummed and his pants, Spot, Fern Gully… Hoh man so many! NOSTALGIAAAA

        1. I remember verrrrrrrrryyy vaguely Mr Squiggle, I said Blinky Bill, yay Matilda, A Little Princess was one of my favourite movies! That and The Secret Garden. I remember Angela Anaconda aha, and Lulu!! And Kim Possible, and I used to watch the Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show (not sure if it was called Peanuts where you are), Jeopardy was the one with the Scottish students in the Australian bush, I remember Catdog! And Fly Tales! And Spot! And that movie Fern Gully! Haha yay :DD This list could go on forever. But I honestly either haven’t heard of the other shows you mentioned or they didn’t play here. But yes NOSTALGIAAAA

          1. Woops! Must have missed Blinky Bill! My bad. OH YES A SECRET GARDEN – but how temperamental was that little girl! Yes! That’s it! Jeopardy! I couldn’t remember exactly where in the UK they were from aaand yes we call it Peanuts here in Aus. Aww you should check out the Wimbles and Okey Doke. Oh and just to let you know, I decided to become a member of WordPress – it’s Lizzie :)

            1. Hi Lizzie!! Haha Mary Lennox was so cool- yes selfish, but determined and strong willed in a good way in the end :)
              Huh, I’m in Aus too. Maybe we were watching different versions of Peanuts/Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show shown at different times??
              Annnnnd I’ve heard the Wimbles mentioned quite a bit on the British show Mock the Week, so I looked them up and they look funny :P

  28. you had me at heathcliff…but the she-ra video gave me goosebumps…thanks for the awesome post : )

  29. Oh Peter – I remember those days so well! I also remember how much cereal you and Monty got through! Quite brought a tear to my eye thinking of you in your spiderman pyjamas! This was the same era that you used to grab a Petit Filou from the fridge to guzzle in bed, and then post the empty(ish) pot and dirty teaspoon down the side of your racing car bed and the wall – to be discovered by me months later in various stages of mould, but so glad to find out what had happened to all my teaspoons!!

  30. Loved watching some Dungeons and Dragons. And the lightbulb “awesome” moment when I realized that Tommy and Nicholas from Eight Is Enough and Ralph from Happy Days did the voices for some of the characters. I still love it when I watch a commercial and realize “hey! that’s wanda sykes’ voice in that Gain ad!”

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