The 80s cartoons we need to preserve for future generations

Forget the rainforests, Rob says, we need to preserve the endangered species of slightly rubbish 80s Saturday morning cartoons...

I don’t know about you, but even considering humankind’s galactically insignificant residence on this planet, I don’t think enough words have been written about Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears. It’s almost as if people these days don’t want their descendants to know that they watched an animation based on something usually stuck to the bottom of a paper pick n’ mix bag. 

But shush, don’t worry. Your hoverboarding great granddaughter’s 8G brain implant won’t auto-Tweet a string of embarrassment emoticons to your Wi-Fi enabled iCoffin, or iUrn RetinAsh, when she discovers you once enjoyed a show about sentient confectionary (‘LOL, WTF gummi bears? #DeadEmbarrasing #NotSoGreatGrandparents #RoboKony2112’). Actually, by that point in the future, sentient confectionary will probably be something you can buy, in between the Bluetooth-enabled Hob Nobs and Cloud-E Lemonade that’s been wirelessly synced to the Flavour Cloud. 

No, our future Matrix batteries in training won’t care about the Gummi Bears at all; they’ll have never heard of the show. Just like they’ll have never heard of Count Duckula or Captain Planet or the South Pole. Isn’t that sad? They’ll be immersed in their nutrient pods, watching new shows. ‘The Disney Tween Replicant Song and Dance Hour Version 3.1’. ‘Pokemon Yachting: Kanto Surf Super-Go Boat Team!’. ‘Pensionable Ben 10: OctogenAlien’. That’s how it goes. History avalanches over history. The stuff we enjoyed as ruddy-cheeked young ‘uns is buried beneath what the next decade’s kids enjoy, in a mass of sound and lights. It’s why no one bangs on about The Woodentops (the show, not the London rock band) anymore. 

Mind you, some cartoons break the barriers of time and tense to become eternal cultural fixtures; the things you say ‘oh that’s brilliant!’ of, rather than ‘that was brilliant’!. Cartoons such as Tom & Jerry, Batman, Transformers, The Flintstones, and that episode of Ivor the Engine where Mr Dinwiddy argues with Jones the Steam over whether Bluebell the Donkey is classed as a passenger or if she has to stand at the end of the carriage with the commuters’ Schwinns and a mobility scooter. Those cartoons will live forever. Quite right too.

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Despite how great I and others think it is, or how many of us can still sing the song, Gummi Bears is not among that fortunate few. It’s been lost beneath new generations of cartoons and is now doomed to reside in the same well of fond nostalgia that we usually just reserve for remembering properly sized Wagon Wheels. So have many other cartoons from that era. The mid-80s/early 90s was a Golden Age of animated fluff, much of which now has been blown into dark corners where it will be forgotten. A part of your childhood will literally be unremembered away. What a shame. It wasn’t all great, but it was there and it was fun – a mindless after-school treat; a blue freezer pop for the soul. It’s melted now. The freezer pop I mean. Souls don’t melt, silly.

Ah, but there is hope, and it might just be you. Right now the slice of society who were watching that animated fluff in their pyjamas/school uniforms/homemade Ghostbuster boiler suits (thanks mum!) twenty-some years back are of an age where they can raise their own young. Old enough to already have their own sentient loinfruit sitting in front of the telly. Cripes. And are they going to deprive their little human-shaped blancmange of the joys they once sat, slack-jawed, in front of? For society’s sake, I hope not. Every child should be subjected to ThunderCats. And polio vaccinations. 

Thanks to the downloads, streaming, and even the ancient Aztec spinning entertainment coin of DVD it’s never been easier to indoctrinate your younglets into the world of mesmerising crap you were raised on. It’s a sly method of using your own offspring as a vessel for your nostalgia, and of keeping your favourite shows alive in the Public iConsciousness. Your childhood can live forever. 

What cartoons from the past would you want your children to watch? Would you introduce them to Gummi Bears? I picked five under-appreciated cartoons that are in danger of being forgotten but which deserve to be seen and kept alive and written about by future generations of kiddiewinks. Not simply because they’re entertaining enough to keep them drooling all your your iPad for a few hours, but because they might just help them survive in the nightmare future they’ll be facing. Have a look at my list and then loudly announce what cartoons you’d like to force on your children and/or future generations. You’re they’re only hope! 

M.A.S.K

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Transformers will live forever, thanks to Michael Bay’s crafty usage of 3D explosions to literally sear images of Hasbro’s toy line onto our retinas. When you’re old and on your deathbed and you close your eyes for the last time, all you’ll see is a purply-reddish shadow of Optimus Prime and those two racist jalopies from Revenge of the Fallen on your eyelids and you’ll be glad of the Reaper’s sweet embrace. 

Despite being just as brazen a toy commercial as Transformers, MASK is viewed as its poorer cousin, perhaps because the vehicles could only turn into other vehicles and not wise-cracking washing machine men. But when you’re 7 and you see a motorcycle turn into a helicopter? Well, your entire view of the world changes, my friend. Changes like a motorcycle into a helicopter. There’s no going back. 

MASK (Mobile Armoured Strike Kommand…oh that cheeky K!) saw handsome Matt Trakker and a group of racially diverse action figures hop in their Incredible-Change toys and take on Miles Mayhem’s crime-syndicate VENOM, who also had their own forecourt of morphing machines. Despite being armed to the teeth, VENOM often ended up doing rather curious menial work, such as training ravens to steal the Crown Jewels, ransoming panda cubs, or posing as the ghost of Julius Caesar. Hey, as the plumbed-in mammoth on The Flintstones would say, ‘it’s a living!’ 

And it’s not just mindlessly entertaining. Our children will need to have the imagination to cobble together their own weaponised vehicles from the smoking landscape of scrap metal if they’re to fight over that last barrel of oil, and what better than the crazy crafts of MASK to provide inspiration for their own composite death wagon? 

The Raccoons

When asked to name their favourite environmentally-themed cartoons, most would say Captain Planet. A bold few might even say Widget the World Watcher. But true connoisseurs of tree-hugging propagantoons will know the best of them all was Canadian TV’s The Raccoons

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Happily married Ralph and Melissa Raccoon lived with third-wheel and protagonist Bert Raccoon (no relation) in a very How I Met Your Mother kind of set up. I guess in that scenario Barney Stinson would be played by a sexually aggressive conifer. But instead of boring his future kids with pointless tales of failed romance, Bert was saving his forest from the grasp of industrialist Cyril Sneer, an aardvark who resembled a sun-ravaged chewing gum sculpture of Monty Burns. Thank god the Internet came along, because before it did I didn’t have a clue what he was. 

Starting in 1985, it ran for five seasons, which is impressive considering that most of its plots were entertaining anti-big business diatribes with a musical interlude. That’s okay – we’ll have done such a dandy job of thoroughly trashing the planet that our descendants will need a reminder of how to care for the environment. And The Raccoons‘ New Wave soundtrack will make trawling the North Sea of used nappies seem like merry work. 

Around the World with Willy Fog

Lions. Lazy bastards. For years they shiftlessly laid around Savannahs and British safari parks like carnivorous sofas, employed only as camera fodder for tourists or the odd Attenborough. But then in the 80s one posho from the pride, who looked suspiciously like a Disneyfied David Niven, put on his top hat and set out to travel the world. He was Willy Fog, and he was the star of an all-animal retelling of Jules Verne’s classic Around the World in 80 Days

It was actually a remarkably accurate reproduction of Phileas Fogg’s adventures, meaning it’ll be an invaluable geography lesson for future generations who only know our planet as a borderless radioactive wasteland. The show’s only massive deviation being the addition of the evil wolf Transfer; a master of disguise who would try to delay Fog in his journey before revealing his glittery left eye, making it look like the interior of his head was filled with a disco ball of pure funky malice. 

Created in Spain by BRB Internacional and animated in Japan, Willy Fog was already an international affair before it was translated into a number of other languages, including English, Finnish, and Japanese. In the English dub, the combination of accents and lyrics often lead to people mistaking the line ‘Here I am, I’m Rigadon! I’m Tico the mascot!’ for the unfortunate but hilarious ‘Here I am, I’m Rigadon! I’m a big old dumbass bastard!’. But don’t take my word for it – it’s on YouTube, floating on a sea of bewildered ‘what did he say?!?!’ comments. 

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Ulysses 31

From a Spanish cartoon to a French one: Ulysses 31, an animation which is strangely terrifying but also visually compelling enough to hold your gaze. Like watching a clown die on the toilet. 

Set in outer space, the series of twenty-six episodes began when Ulysses, bearded wonder of the cosmos, killed the Cyclops in order to save his own son Telemachus and group of space kidets. Fair enough. But Zeus, in an act of godly dickishness of the kind that Donald Trump aspires to, decided to sentence Ulysses and his frozen crew to roam the universe searching for the lost Kingdom of Hades. Thus a space age update of the Greek myths was born, swapping the togas for jetpacks and dramatic irony for pew-pew laser guns. 

It’s hard enough to get kids to learn anything these days, but Ulysses 31 is a good way to slip the Greek tragedies into their diet without them realising, in much the same way you get your cat to eat its flea tablet by mixing it in the Whiskas. You’ll essentially be drugging your children with knowledge. 

Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears

You’re already thinking of the theme song aren’t you? It’s bouncing around your brain. You want to sing it. Don’t worry, just bite on your fist and think of your mortgage until the urge subsides. Phew. That better? 

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Gummi Bears followed the adventures of a clan of anthropomorphic ursine who lived so deep in the Gummi-Glen that – rather like those Vietcong who emerge from the jungle decades later and still think the Agent Orange is dropping – they hadn’t heard that the letter ‘Y’ had been added to the alphabet: Gruffi, Grammi, Zummi, Tummi, Cubbi, Sunni, and Doc Augustus. 

At the first sign of trouble they’d Hulk-out on Gummiberry Juice, giving them the jaunty powers of both a wrecking ball and a Space-Hopper. Or in relative terms of destruction, that of your average toddler. This all came in very handy in helping with the Game of Thrones goings on between Castle Dunwyn and Castle Drekmore, home of the Medieval Borat lookalike and troll fetishist, Evil Duke Igthorne. That’s right, Evil with a capital ‘E’. He was that Eeeevil. 

It’s the most successful animation based on the name of a confectionary product since the ‘John Cadbury Bourneville Bar Temperance & Sobriety Action Squad’ in the early 1850s, and yes, like Transformers, it represents a level of synergy so shameless that you’d expect 30 Rock‘s Jack Donaghy to have orchestrated it, but it is what is: a lot of bouncy nonsense. Bouncy nonsense you can be sure your progeny will enjoy while you stream Breaking Bad to your iCoffin. The future’s looking bright folks!

Please, if you can, buy our charity horror stories ebook, Den Of Eek!, raising money for Geeks Vs Cancer. Details here.