The glitz. The glam. The hair. In a nutshell, the ’80s were a confused time. A decade completely oblivious to how absurd its fashion trends were. And the cartoons were no different. Prepare to be amazed by some of the most dated ’80s cartoons ever.
From sitcom spinoffs to glorified toy commercials to out-of-this-world premises, the 1980s has you covered. So grab yourself a can of New Coke and envelop yourself in some of the most heinous ’80s cartoon shows you totally forgot about. Vote up the most dated ’80s animated series.
One of the most popular eras of pro wrestling was the 1980s, with stars such as Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, and the Iron Sheik. As a result, the Hulkster and a number of wrestlers from the WWE (then WWF) roster were turned into cartoon characters. The “faces” and “heels” now fought over more than just championship gold: they raced cars, led troops of Boy Scouts, ran competing beauty salons, and traveled back in time to Sherwood Forest.
With his gold chains, mohawk, and tough-guy image, A-Team star Mr. T was one of the biggest names of the 1980s. So it comes as no surprise that Warner Bros. gave him his very own cartoon show. On Mister T, T leads a multicultural team of gymnasts on mystery-solving adventures around the world. The over-the-top adventures of Mr. T and his gang are partially the inspiration for Adult Swim’s Mike Tyson Mysteries.
The biggest arcade hero of all wasn’t relegated to Saturday Supercade‘s parade of nonsense but was instead awarded a show all his own. Pac-Man the animated series follows our spherical, yellow hero and his family in the world of Pac-Land. Together, Pac-Man, his wife Pepper (a.k.a. Ms. Pac-Man), their child Pac-Baby, and their equally round dog and cat traveled the land trying to protect their food source Power Pellets from their enemies, the Ghosts (Inky, Pinky, Blinky, Clyde, and Sue).
Cat-eating sitcom puppet Gordon Shumway (or as he’s known here on Earth, ALF) received his own cartoon show in 1987. ALF: The Animated Series served as a prequel to the sitcom ALF, showing what life was like for ol’ Gordo on his home planet of Melmac. The cartoon received its own line of comic books, a spinoff of its own (ALF Tales, where characters from the animated show would re-enact famous fairy tales), and landed ALF a sweet role in the now cult-classic PSA, Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue.
Years before Hannah Montana, Jerrica Benton struggled to keep her true identity separate from her rockstar alter ego in the animated series Jem. A collaboration between Hasbro and Marvel, Jem revolves around pop-rock group Jem and the Holograms. With their giant ’80s hairdos, Jem and the Holograms would regularly butt heads with their evil tour manager Eric and their rival band The Misfits, all while trying to manage and protect a foster home for girls, Starlight House. Every episode featured three truly outrageous Jem music videos.
Following the trend of giving popular sitcom stars/characters their own cartoon shows, It’s Punky Brewster follows the adventures of the mischievous but well-meaning orphan Punky Brewster… and her magical leprechaun gopher best friend, Glomer.
In the ’80s, few shows were more popular than Knight Rider, the story of Michael Knight and his self-driving, talking Pontiac Trans-Am, K.I.T.T. Well, the people at ABC decided to take it one step further, with the batsh*t crazy story of Turbo-Teen, a teenage boy who, after swerving off the road during a thunderstorm and crashing into a secret government laboratory, is given the ability to transform into a car!
A veritable bukkake of ’80s arcade characters (including Donkey Kong, Mario, Frogger, Pitfall Harry, and Q*Bert), Saturday Supercade had no qualms about brainwashing kids into unloading their piggy banks into any arcade machine they could. And on top of it all, Donkey Kong Jr. is simply a ripoff of Scrappy Doo. Can it get any lower?
In the world of ’80s cartoons, the best way to identify the “cool” character was if they played guitar, rode a skateboard, and wore a sweet pair of shades. Naturally, Denver does all those things (and a whole lot more). The show’s opening has everything you could possibly want in an ’80s theme song – neon colors, extreme stunts, lava pits, and lots and lots of prehistoric reptiles roaring to the heavens.
As Arnold Jackson on DIff’rent Strokes, the diminutive Gary Coleman was one of television’s most promising young child stars, so it came as no surprise when he received his very own cartoon show. What was surprising, however, was the show’s absurd, high-concept premise: Coleman voices an apprentice angel who can only earn his angel wings by helping others.
Now an iconic piece of pop culture history, no puzzle toy is more famous than the Rubik’s Cube. This six-sided wonder created by Hungarian sculptor and architect Ernõ Rubik took the ’80s by storm, fascinating toy lovers and mathematicians alike. In 1983, Warner Bros. Television took it one step too far: they granted the inanimate plaything its very own animated series. With a theme song performed by Puerto Rican boy band Menudo, Rubik was no longer a mere cube but an adorably personified thing of nightmares.
Is there a more archaic stereotype than the smartest kid in school being totally uncool? If the robotic voice in the opening theme didn’t tip you off, Galaxy High School and its absurd premise are pure, undiluted ’80s schlock.
If you were alive in the mid-’80s (or the early ’90s), you almost definitely had a t-shirt with the colorful Rude Dog plastered on it. Nobody can truly explain the mania surrounding short-sleeve tees featuring the stylized, skateboarding bull terrier, but somehow the fashion trend spun off into its own Saturday morning cartoon show, Rude Dog and the Dweebs. For 13 episodes in 1989, the punkish pooch and his crew of misfits (the eponymous Dweebs) rode around in a pink Cadillac, avoiding the dog catcher and getting into mischief.
Aiming to be “wholesome role models for kids,” Beverly Hills Teens was a more character-driven cartoon show, chock full of ’80s hairdos, bright colors, early computer technology, and “high fashion” outfits. Needless to say, the rich kids of Beverly Hills Teens would never survive outside 1980s Rodeo Drive.