Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Indulging my inner child

I was born in 1980, so I was a child during the golden age of Saturday morning cartoons. Say what you want about classic Disney and Looney Toons, but nothing beats G I Joe, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Thundercats. These were cartoons in the post-Star Wars era, so merchandising tie ins were standard. So my childhood friends and I had our favorite shows, and the massive collections of action figures that went along with loving those shows. I'm sure it was torture to our parents paying all that money for action figures, but we didn't care. We had guys with cool little guns, awesome vehicles, and karate chop action.

The coolest cartoon of the early 80s is without a doubt He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

I spent my preschool and early elementary years thinking that He-Man was the coolest thing ever. And thanks to my generation's never ending appetite for nostalgia and things that are ironically cool, the old He-Man episodes are now online at Hulu. Watching these episodes 25 years later I have concluded that, yes, He-Man is in fact the coolest thing ever.

I had all the action figures and the playsets, I dressed up as He-Man for Halloween one year (my little brother was Orko), and I would run around yelling "I have the power!" I even loved the live action move with Dolph Lundgren, which was so cheesy that only a true He-Man devotee could sit through it. 

(Total sidenote: How cool would it have been if there had been a scene where Lundgren, playing He-Man, had stared down Skeletor and said "I must break you" Ivan Drago style?)

Yes, some if it is cheesy and unintentionally funny. He-Man himself is interesting. He has a blonde "Prince Valiant" hairdo, red fur topped ugg-boots, so many muscles that Jose Canseco thinks he does too many 'roids, and an outfit that would only be appropriate in a European sex club.

My favorite thing about these 80s cartoons, though, was that at the end of the episode, one of the characters would show up on screen and give some kind of moral message. The best was on G I Joe, where some kids would be doing something stupid like swimming when it was lightning out or playing with firecrackers. Then one of the characters would show up out of nowhere (insert inappropriate child molester joke here) and explain why that was bad. The best part, of course, was the tag line (say it with me): "Now you know. And knowing is half the battle!"

Cartoons today don't do that kind of stuff. But then again, maybe that's a good thing. I mean, what moral message could Sponge Bob give kids other than "I'm a lot funnier when you're on drugs"?

Anyway, this post is totally non-theological, but I and my fellow children of the 80s are enjoying reliving our childhoods online. Hopefully they will post other shows, too. I'm going to go dig around in my parents' attic and see if they still have any of these action figures. My inner child is loving this.


Carl said...

I must beg to differ. As a child of the late 60's/early 70's I feel the quality of Saturday morning cartoons were far better than the ones from the 80's. For instance during that time, pressure was put on animators to remove violence in cartoons to the point of editing classic cartoons like the Roadrunner and Tom & Jerry which created gaps that made no sense whatsoever. Furthermore, the 80's was the era of message cartoons like Captain Planet (Ted Turner's little anti-capitalism project that made it appear all businesses were anti-environment). Someone even had the gall to try to make an updated, politically correct Jonny Quest cartoon which royally stunk. The original Jonny Quest was far, far superior. Admittedly my generation had some stinkers such as "Crash Cargo" and "Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp" (which was live-action chimpazees with voice-overs but stunk up the joint nonetheless) but overall I contend cartoons from the mid to late 60's plus the early 70's were overall much better than the watered-down cartoons of the 80's. In fact some of the best known, longest running Saturday morning cartoons originated in the late 60's/early 70's such as Scooby Doo, The Jetsons, etc. In fact if you'll recall, many of the cartoons aired on network TV in the 80's were ones that originally aired in the 60's and 70's such as Super Friends, Fat Albert, etc. and were just repackaged. The 80's gave us really watered down cartoons such as The Smurfs, Shirt Tales, Pac Man, the Gary Coleman Show, The Monchichis, Dungeons & Dragons, Rubik The Amazing Cube, The Little, Raibow Brite, and other cartoons that were nothing more that animated commercials for products or animated versions of prime-time sitcoms. Very few cartoons of the 80's have withstood the test of time.

So I will have to respectfully disagree with you when you consider the 80's to be the golden age of Saturday morning animation. I contend it was a very major declination of Saturday morning cartoons.

B Smith said...

Let me pose this question: What happen to Looney Tunes? There is no Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Marvin the Martian, Foghorn Leghorn, etc. Some of my happiest TV memories are watching Bugs Bunny and friends on Saturday morning. Also, the Hanna Barbara cartoons, Jabberjaw, Laugh Olympics, etc these are classics. What do kids have today? Dora the Explorer, Go Diego Go, Fairly Odd Parents. You got kids talking to the TV as if the cartoon can hear them. I used to talk at the TV but I never thought it could hear me. Kids never get a chance to use their imagination. All the cars and toys make their own noise. We had to make our own darn noises. Put your lips together and blow that was a car engine, a jet motor, and a spaceship. I fear for the next generation.

Carl said...

I have to admit...I was one of those kids that had loads of fun playing with the empty boxes after all the Christmas presents were opened.