We Want To Re-Watch These Unforgettable ’80s Cartoons Right This Second

Kids who grew up in the ’80s were fortunate enough to bear witness to some of the best cartoons to hit television. Most of the cartoons in the ’80s sparked a new generation of pop culture for kids, who grew up with toys and comic books to go along with their favorite shows. Take a trip down memory lane and revisit some of your favorites that took us to universes from outer space to one world that was completely underwater!


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Photo Credit: Hasbro

If you were a tween girl in the mid-’80s, then maybe Jem was your jam. Jem focused on the lead singer of the band “Jem and the Holograms.” Jem was the alter-ego of Jerrica Benton, the owner of Starlight Music who created her rockstar persona with Synergy, a holographic computer built by her father.

Jem ran for three seasons and had over two million viewers weekly, and was the number one cartoon on television from 1986 to 1987. Jem was co-created with Hasbro, who released a set of dolls that rivaled Mattel’s Barbie. In 2014, a live-action film was made based on the cartoon.

Rainbow Brite

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Photo Credit: DIC Entertainment

Rainbow Brite was about a girl named Wisp, whose friends included a white Sprite named Twink and Starlite, the “most magnificent horse in the universe.” With the help of her friends, Wisp defeats the King of Shadows to rescue the seven Color Kids. She then brings light and color back to the universe and becomes Rainbow Brite.

Rainbow Brite premiered in 1983 and was created by Hallmark Cards. The cartoon sparked a range of Rainbow Brite dolls and merchandise created by Mattel. By 1985, the cartoon was famous enough to spark a feature-length film called Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer.


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Photo Credit: USA Network

Remember Snorks? The colorful sea creatures hailed from the underwater world of Snorkland. Aside from the snorkels on their head, the Snorks were kind of like humans. They wore clothes and used much of the same technology despite being underwater. Snorks revolved around Allstar Seaworthy who went on adventures with friends Dimmy, Casey, and Daffney.

Snorks premiered on NBC in 1984 and ran for four seasons. The cartoon was co-created by Belgian businessman Freddy Monnickendam who went to Hanna-Barbera with the idea. Snorks was considered a counterpart to another Hanna-Barbera-produced cartoon featuring a similar cast of magical creatures.

Dungeons & Dragons

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Photo Credit: CBS

Dungeons & Dragons ran on CBS from 1983 to 1985. Based on the role-playing game of the same name, the cartoon centered on a group of friends who accidentally enter the “realm of Dungeons & Dragons” through a magical roller coaster. The rest of the series focused on the kids finding a way back home while going through the realm like they would in the game.

Marvel Productions and game company TSR produced Dungeons & Dragons. At the time, the cartoon was considered controversial for the amount of violence it featured. The FTC had to run a warning before each episode.

Duck Tales

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Photo Credit: Buena Vista Television

When Donald Duck enlisted in the U.S. Navy, his uncle Scrooge McDuck was left in charge of his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie. The result was DuckTales, a whirlwind series highlighting the adventures of the four ducks and the enemies they face along the way. Many of the experiences involved saving Scrooge’s fortune from being stolen or a race for hidden treasure.

Walt Disney Television Animation premiered the show in 1987. More than 100 episodes aired before the show ended in 1990. In 2017, a reboot of the series premiered on Disney XD.

The Smurfs

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Photo Credit: NBC

The Smurfs premiered on NBC in 1981 and remained on the air through 1989. The show became one of the longest running Saturday morning cartoons in the history of television. America loved the adventures of Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Brainy Smurf, and Gargamel.

The Smurfs originated from a Belgian comic series created by Pierre “Peyo” Culliford. After North America acquired rights to reproduce the characters, Peyo served as a story supervisor for the cartoon. The Smurfs won the Emmy Outstanding Children’s Entertainment Series for the 1982-83 season and continued to earn nominations for Daytime Emmys throughout the ’80s.

Coming Up: Do you remember the cartoon about the one man who was an American hero?

Muppet Babies

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Photo Credit: CBS

Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies aired on CBS from 1984 to 1991. The series featured infant versions of the Muppet characters including Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Scooter, Gonzo, Skeeter, and Rowlf. The Muppet babies lived in a nursery with a woman named “Nanny,” who was only shown from the shoulders down.

The idea for the cartoon came from The Muppets Take Manhattan in a dream sequence where Miss Piggy imagines what it would’ve been like to grow up with Kermit. Though Muppet Babies was a relic of the ’80s, the series has been rebooted and aired on Disney Junior in 2018.

Rescue Rangers

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Photo Credit: The Disney Channel

Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers premiered on The Disney Channel in 1989, so it still counts as an ’80s cartoon, right? Even though it was a big hit in the early ’90s, you can bet that there were still ’80s babies watching the show. Only three seasons of the series were made before the final episode aired in 1990.

The series revolves around Disney’s resident chipmunks Chip and Dale, who start the Rescue Rangers detective agency. Chip and Dale handle crimes and solve problems that are “too small” for the police and often involve other animals. They do this with the help of their friends Gadget, Monterey Jack, and Zipper.

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

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Photo Credit: Marvel Productions

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, the cartoon series, debuted in 1985. Three years prior, Hasbro and Marvel Comics respectively released a line of toys and comics series. The G.I. Joe toys and comics were so successful that Marvel Productions was commissioned to make a 30-minute animated television series.

The result was initially two five-part miniseries that were so successful, a full series with 55 episodes was made. Who else remembers G.I. Joe trying to stop Cobra from surrounding the Earth in “The Pyramid of Darkness”? G.I. Joe wasn’t the first series based on a toy, as you’ll soon see.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

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Photo Credit: CBS

Every Saturday morning, kids would tune in to CBS to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We loved watching the action-packed shenanigans that Donnie, Leo, Mikey, and Raph got themselves into! The series was based on the original comics created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.

The need for an animated television series came after a toy company was unsure about creating a line of toys for the comic series. The show that came out of this venture became an instant classic. There are ten seasons of this wildly successful cartoon, which went off the air in 1996.

Inspector Gadget

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Photo Credit: FR3

Inspector Gadget was like Get Smart or Pink Panther for children. We all remember the incompetent bionic inspector who would summon a weapon with his catchphrase, “Go-Go-Gadget.” Usually, this did little to help Inspector Gadget solve the crime or get himself out of a tricky situation.

He wouldn’t have been able to do it all without the help of his niece, Penny, and their dog, Brain. For all these insane situations that the gang found themselves in, there was always that public service announcement at the end of the episode warning kids about the real danger behind them.

He-Man And Masters Of The Universe

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Photo Credit: USA Network

On the planet of Eternia, King Randor and Queen Marlena’s youngest son Prince Adam proclaims “By the Power of Grayskull!” with the Sword of Power to become He-Man. He-Man is the most powerful man in the universe and is continually defending his planet from Skeletor.

He-Man originated as an action figure in 1982 as a part of Mattel’s Masters of the Universe action figures. Soon, a backstory for the characters was needed, and Filmation animation created He-Man and the Masters of the Universe in 1983. The show was known for being less conservative than cartoons in that came before it. He-Man has a cult following to this day.

Can you guess which cartoon is coming up soon? Hint: It was all about caring!


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Photo Credit: Filmation

Remember BraveStarr? The series revolved around Marshal BraveStarr, a superhuman Native American who helped fight evil forces with his cyborg horse Thirty/Thirty. This 1987 space western took place on the planet of New Texas, that was often ravaged by outlaws Stampede and Tex Hex.

The idea for BraveStarr actually came out of interest in the character Tex Hex, who was initially from the animated Ghostbusters series. BraveStarr is another animated series that was created in line with a new set of action figures created by Mattel. The show’s mild success only lasted for 65 episodes.

Defenders Of The Earth

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Photo Credit: Marvel Studios

Defenders of the Earth premiered in 1985 and was based on comic strips by King Features Syndicate. The Defenders included Flash Gordon, The Phantom, Mandrake the Magician, Lothar, and their primary villain, Ming the Merciless. Flash Gordon was their fearless leader and was often accompanied by his son, Rick Gordon.

The series lasted only one season, but it did spark a short-lived comic book series by Star Comics. Though it wasn’t as popular as Marvel Comics characters, the series did have a little help from Stan Lee. Lee wrote the lyrics for the series theme song to the show.

Care Bears

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Photo Credit: ABC

The Care Bears animated television series was based on the Care Bears franchise created by Claire Russell. The Care Bears were created by Russell for American Greetings in 1981, but have become so popular that other merchandise and entertainment was made.

The series focused on characters such as Tenderheart Bear, Birthday Bear, and Wish Bear who lived in Care-a-Lot. They went on Missions in Caring to prevent evil forces such as Professor Coldheart or Lord No Heart from taking over the Kingdom of Caring, which was located high up in the clouds. The Care Bears was wildly successful throughout the ’80s and sparked some movies.


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Photo Credit: Rankin/Bass Animated Entertainment

If you remember Thundercats, then you remember Lion-O, Cheetara, Panthro, WilyKit and WilyKat, and Snarf. The catlike humanoid aliens take refuge on the planet of Third Earth after their home planet of Thundera is destroyed by the Mutants of Plun-Darr, who are their enemies throughout the series.

ThunderCats was created in 1985. The first season was followed by a movie, ThunderCats – HO! Both of these were so successful that the series remained for another three seasons. This cartoon sparked a spin-off series which you will read about soon!


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Photo Credit: Marvel Productions

Transformers was based on the line of toys created by Hasbro and co-produced by Marvel Productions. Transformers revolved around the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons, alien robots that disguise themselves as cars on planet Earth.

Transformers initially started as a mini-series in 1984 which set the backstory for the full-length series. The show was so successful that it lasted for four seasons until ending in 1987. Transformers was inspired by Microman and Diaclone, Japanese action figures that could fit in scale model cars and would transform into humanoid robots.


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Photo Credit: Marvel Productions

Dino-Riders was created to promote a line of toys by Tyco. The show revolved around the superhuman Valorians and the humanoid Rulons, who get transported through time to the age of the dinosaurs. On prehistoric Earth, the Rulons brainwash the dinosaurs to continue their mission of destruction. The Valorians call themselves the Dino-Riders. They befriend the dinosaurs using telepathy to help defeat the Rulons.

Despite the success of the toys, Dino-Riders had a short time on television. Only 14 episodes of the series were made in 1988.


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Photo Credit: DIC Entertainment

If you remember M.A.S.K., then you remember Matt Trakker and his crew defending their world against the Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem, also known as V.E.N.O.M. The characters used the assistance of their transforming vehicles and their super-powered masks. Many of the crimes they stopped included robbery, kidnapping, and extortion.

M.A.S.K. was a French-American series that came out in 1985. It lasted for two seasons, and many critics say that it’s success matched that of G.I. Joe and Transformers, minus all the difficulties. The 30-minute show ended in 1986 after 75 action-packed episodes.


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Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

After ThunderCats went off the air, Rankin/Bass Productions wanted to create a new animated series that would be just as popular. They came up with SilverHawks. SilverHawks revolved around Commander Stargazer, a bionic policeman who gets recruited to a band of metal-clad heroes called the SilverHawks.

Like many cartoons out of this era, a line of toys and series of comics were produced to go along with the show. There were 65 episodes of SilverHawks before it went off the air in 1986.