80s and 90s Cartoons: The Bad Babysitter

Ahhh, cartoons. The nostalgic comfort blanket, the technicolor dreamweaver, the idiot box babysitter. I wanted to say “I miss good cartoons”, but I don’t, because I watch them all the time. I watch Transformers, I watch Thundercats, I watch Doug, and sometimes I watch Recess, although I was already too old to watch that when it came out and don’t really know why I enjoy it so much, so that doesn’t need discussing here to be honest. What I’m saying is that, in 2017, as a grown up lady, I not only care very little about what people might think of me spending my Saturday mornings watching old cartoons, but that everything I ever want is right at my fingertips.

As youngbloods likely of the 70s, 80s, and 90s, I imagine you’re more than happy to stand behind me as I turn my grizzled grey mug up to the sky, and shake my fist yelling about how “KIDS TODAY DON’T KNOW THEY’RE BORN”. At last count, there are about 300 cartoon channels available to today’s youth. Nickleodeon, 6 different incantations of Cartoon Network, Disney, endless dreck available immediately on Netflix, Amazon Video, Apple TV. You couldn’t get through it all if you paused the clock for 6 months and never slept. It’s insane. Naked bears, pokemons, yu-gi-ohs, CGI chipmunks, nu-school Manga looking My Little Pony. I could go on, but I won’t.

The experience of watching cartoons as an 80s/90s kid was an altogether different experience. You had a time, a day, a tiny window where what you wanted was available to you, and if you weren’t sitting on your ass, wide eyed and full of sugar, 3 inches from the television screen when it appeared to you, there was no replay, no recording, no on demand. It was gone. The TV station didn’t buy the whole series? GONE. Some member of the Royal Family was getting married on a Saturday morning? GONE. Cricket? GONE. Olympics? GONE. They didn’t have it in the video shop? GONE. You didn’t have a mate with cable? GONE. It was life and death/you only got one shot/other reject hardcore lyrics. Aside from the fact that missing your favourite meant you had to wait another week, you also had to accept the fact that all this was going on in a time and location (lower school) where “spolier alert” was not a thing. No one else cared you didn’t see it, and everything was ruined.

It wasn’t just the way we watched cartoons that was different, it was the programmes themselves. Let me give you an example. When I was watching the Turtles in 199whateevr, they were the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Clearly at some point in the overly sensitive late 90s, some little shit took playtime too far, and tornado kicked his little bro down the stairs, or made nunchucks out of a pair of rolling pins (not me, although it sounds like something I might have done). In order to, I imagine, avoid a massive lawsuit or similar, all of a sudden, it was Teenage Mutant HERO Turtles. Nothing else that I noticed about the programme changed, just the name. That might not seem like too big a deal, but suddenly things like Captain Planet started appearing and before you knew it, we were saturated by nice cartoons where everyone helped each other, and loved each other and boring shit like that. Even Mummies Alive, which was about a reincarnated Pharoah being stalked by an Egyptian warlock and protected by some hench bodyguards that charged up their magic powers in tomb, was broken up by moments the ancient cat almost got them found out by his mum, and Arman the mummified version of Panthro asking if he could eat the chicken in the fridge.

But there was a time, before everything was ruined by political correctness and fear of the legal repercussions of children suplexing each other through the bay window, there was a time when everything was still weird and over the top and, when you look back on it as an adult; quite fucked up. Join me, Nathan and Swoz in a “nice” trip down memory lane, surrounded by awful things your parents put on to shut you up.

Gargoyles

Gargoyles was moody as fuck. I remember it being quite humourless, but a re-visit brought to my attention that in the first episode, a man the Gargoyles trust waits until the sun comes up and they all turn back into stone, and then he smashes the main monster Goliath’s girlfriend into gravel. That’s a lot for a kid’s tv show, just murdering his missus straight off the bat. It’s not so much the actual events of the show – pretty standard medieval conflict leading to modern day battles with no actual death, just men running away a lot. But the relationships. The deep exploration of BETRAYAL, of LOSS, of TRUST. Jesus guys, kids just want something to screech at whilst they eat their chocolate cereals on a Saturday, not grieving practice. To be fair, I will now watch this until I have seen every episode again. – SE

Bucky O’Hare

I get the Bucky O’Hare theme music stuck in my head about once every 3 weeks, and now you can have it too. A green rabbit who’s been tasked with leading the animal resistance against the evil Toad dictatorship. Not in our universe, no. In the ANIVERSE. Full of ANIMALS. Shades of everything – Star Wars, Flash Gordon, all films featuring a political argument in a space parliament. This sounds nice, doesn’t it? Some space justice? Well no, because there is a weird and overtly sexual tone to the whole thing, from the creepy toad security guards LICKING the TV at their workstation every time a female toad appears, to Bucky’s first mate being a pink cat woman with massive boobs, high heels built into her space suit, psionic powers, and a really deep voice, who spends loads of time trying to snog and rubbing herself on Willie DuWitt, an actual CHILD who binned off his life and left his parents a note to join Bucky’s space mission without thinking twice. It’s implied at one point that the grown ass cat lady gives him a teenage boner. Quite gross. – SE

 

Dungeons & Dragons

Hardly a big surprise that my contribution to this feature is the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon that aired on BBC from 1984 onwards. Never seen it? Get the fuck outta here, seriously this blog is not for you.

For the rest of you lets be real from the off. That intro sequence? Holy shit. Five kids of varying age, class and ethnicity discover a D&D themed roller coaster in an amusement park. I don’t know what wonderful version of 80’s America world these kids live in, but move me there immediately.

The gang hops on the rollercoaster and it’s all chill until they are sucked through a trippy magical portal and into the mystical realm of Dungeons & Dragons. Somehow during their rapid descent into Hell, their square mall clothes have been replaced by fantasy garb that verges on the fetishistic and yo they are dropped straight into the middle of a battle between a demonic antagonist (Venger) on a flying horse and a seven headed female dragon called Tiamat. Minimal twee intro, straight into the mosh part. In hardcore terms it’s comparable to the Earth Crisis song ‘All Out War’.

Anyway the cartoon is based around the side quests these youth’s engage in to clock up the XP whilst trying to find their way back to the mortal realm. As a child and also as a grown ass man I take great issue with this because why the actual fuck would you want to return to boring old Earth when you could crawl through dungeons, tangle with Shadow Demons and fight your way through episodes with names like City At The Edge Of Midnight? Seems crazy to me but some people are just soft I guess.

The show lasted three seasons and took some very dark turns throughout. One episode in particular entitled The Dragons Graveyard became a favourite of mine for one very specific reason. Tired of Venger thwarting their attempts to get home, Hank (the ranger and moral centre of the group) decides he’s done playing around, disregards the sideo and sets out to kill Venger once and for all. Wholesome heroes conspiring to kill their arch enemy? That was some next level character development. I won’t spoil the episode for you but reflecting as an adult upon the quality of writing for this cartoon reveals that there were some big issues being dealt with. At no point did the D&D cartoon dumb itself down or play it safe to condescend to it’s audience.

I think at some point in the future we’ll dig deeper into some of the heavier themes in this cartoon. I was supposed to write about a couple more shows for this article but we are already over our wordcount so instead I’m just going to leave you with the HARDEST cartoon intro of all time. No if’s no buts. You are fucking moshing. Try not to break the furniture. – NB

Swoz has chosen to introduce you to his old favourites and get DEEP in the form of an episode breakdown. Enjoy.

Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds series 1 episode 20: Dogtanian and the Blue Falcon

Dogtanian is the first cartoon I remember seeing. I was in my mum and I’s flat. It was bright out. I was probably four or five. I was barely used to humans let alone dogs stood upright and talking. Sophie, our Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, certainly didn’t do that shit. It freaked me out. Not only were they stood up but they were trying to kill each other with swords, swinging from the rafters, twirling their moustaches and trying to knock boots with cats. Nah.

I’ve chosen this episode completely based on the name and despite seeing the whole of these series a few times I don’t have any recollection of what happens. Let’s go. TO ANIMATED FRANCE!

We get a little recap, DT isn’t officially a Muskehound yet. Ok. This is episode 20, guys. Chop chop.

A Bear is selling bread to foxes.

A Jack Russell who owns a gun shop has had every last one of his guns pinched. In classic style the thief has left a note (pinned to the wall with a dagger, natch) that says “watch out tonight, danger is near – Blue Falcon”. That’s a cool name.

A soldier reports this to the townsfolk and everyone locks themselves in their homes and boards the windows up. Even our heroes. BF must be nails.

DT’s little mate, a gruff voiced mouse, scares him by making scary shadows. I can see why the ‘hounds are in no rush to accept his application.

BF is with his crew outside the city walls trying to think of ways to climb over and get to plundering. Dunno mate. Fly?

BF chucks a rope over.

Cardinal Richelieu’s top Cop, a bulldog with a ‘tache, is shitfaced and waddling round Paris like a baby full of scotch. An old woman beckons him over and tells his fortune (?). She promises him unlimited power if he gets in the Cardinal’s good books again (dunno what happened, sniffed his arse or something).

Now there’s something about a map hidden behind a mirror and now every mirror in Paris must be checked?

The Cardinals Guard are dressed as FUCKING KLANSMEN and are teefing all the mirrors.

The next morning all of Paris is dishevelled due to lack of reflective surfaces and the old woman now wants bulldog ‘tache to help her into the Queen’s chambers to steal HER mirror. Something fishy is going on. The Queen’s mirror has the map in it. The old woman is blatantly the Blue Falcon.

The dogs ride horses in this. I find that a little off. They’ll be mates with cheeky mice but the noble horse is relegated to what is basically a hairy BMX.

THE OLD WOMAN IS THE BLUE FALCON!! And digging where the map lead him. Dogtanian is on the trail and soon reaches BF. A chase ensues and then some swordplay. The treasure appears to be marbles. What a waste of fucking time.

I was hoping for more from this. It does have a general air of unease about it. Pirate birds, evil Count dogs that look like ‘Paid The Cost To Be The Boss’-era Snoop Dogg, slave horses. I put my infantile fear of it down to being a yellow bellied kid.

Ulysses 31 series 1 episode 1: Vengeance of the Gods

Now that’s a title.

I’ve never read Homer’s Odyssey. I watched a few episodes of Tony Robinson’s TV adaptation as a kid but found it boring.

Ulysses 31, however, is banging. Or at least I remember it being banging. It reminds me of salad as that’s what me and my mum would have for dinner on Tuesdays when Ulysses was on.

Let us begin.

That theme tune, man. Part Rush, part Hall & Oates.

This is very Star Wars. If Luke Skywalker was played by Noel Edmonds.

It’s Ulysses’ son’s birthday. A robot jumps out of his cake like Erika Eleniak in Under Siege. The robot is called NoNo. He has an annoying voice. He is the cheeky mouse of the piece it seems.

Ulysses and crew fly off in their spaceship that looks exactly like Unicron and are soon hit by a big ball of vapour. Vapor ball engulfs U’s son and flies off again. He is taken to a very creepy looking planet and imprisoned by the Cyclops.

Cyclops steals children and takes their energy. The NERVE.

Ulysses gives chase and is soon on Cyclops territory.

Cyclops is a 1000ft biomech beast and is the coolest thing in this by some margin.

He attacks Cyclops’ army of space monks with his off-brand lightsabre.

Cyclops starts firing huge red beams out of his eye and NoNo saves the day by deflecting the lasers back at it, shatters his eye and he dies in spectacular fashion.

It wasn’t as bleak as I remember. Maybe as the series goes on it gets a little more grim but I remember a lot of floating bodies and black holes.

Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors series 1 episode 2: The Vase of Xiang

J&tWW scared the absolute hell out of me as a kid. I could barely make it through the incredible title song as there were plant monsters with fucking buzzsaws on their tails and Sawboss was well gross looking.

I remember nothing of it other than the horrible plantbeasts and, you guessed it, a tiny wisecracking sidekick. This time it is a tiny robot armoured knight with a giant lance.

This episode isn’t very interesting so far. I’m keeping it together as the plant folk haven’t shown up.

Jayce found a vase and then some people took it to a market that is under Sawboss’ rule.

This is boring. Jayce’s lot are creeping around in robes looking for a vase. It’s like Bletchley market on a Saturday with less discarded doner meat.

Oh fuck, Sawboss’ face is on my telly and it’s far bigger than on our old 14″ portable. I don’t like it.

The plant cars are a bit shit and have goofy faces. Why was I so scared before?

This is crap, I’m putting the theme on repeat and putting sheets over our houseplants. Then watch more Ulysses. – JS

 

4 thoughts on “80s and 90s Cartoons: The Bad Babysitter

  1. Amazingly (or not) i had this conversation the other day…
    You can thank the british ninjitsu association for the change to hero turtles, it was ’91 i was 7 some dude with ninja weapons came to our school and gave a talk, it was the same bellend who got gloria hunifords dead daughter to punch a water fall on blue peter for some chod about mind over matter, we got to hold sai’s, bo’s and nunchucks but not katana’s, he then proceeded to brag about how they objected to the word ninja being used and got it changed to hero as it had nothing to do with ninjitsu then gave out leaflets to join his martial arts school, and we all lost interest when we found out that you didnt get weapons until you had years of training…

    i digress, bucky o hare was the shit, as was jayce and the wheeled warriors, i could go on for hours about mask, mysterious cities of gold and many more, the long and short of it i took it upon my self to find the best theme tune from my youth and every cartoon in the post was on my list, but why isnt biker mice from mars on it, (or xmen for that matter best thing about live and kicking that was)? that has a fucking solid theme tune for a kids show and it wasnt bad either in terms of story…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdSDuJu04xU

    other (dis)honourable mentions include street sharks, defenders of the earth, pole position (swear i had a mookska tape where someone covered that one…), samuri pizza cats and olly the ox

    And although it didnt really have a theme tune the robocop cartoon has possibly the best intro i have ever heard (well its given me a new thing to shout across the office anyway)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yp4Sqn0eX_Q
    bullet proof titanium farts!

    • how the crap did i forget bravestar as well?? i mean the only thing stopping me playing wild west exodus is a lack of a texhex mini and faction….

        • I never understood why the settlers were so shit scared of everything when they lived in transforming buildings with laser sentry guns sticking out of every orriface….

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