When I was growing up in Louisiana, Saturday mornings meant coffee milk (I guess to a kid that sounds more appealing than “cafe au lait”), a special breakfast (usually something like pancakes, French toast, or beignets), and a couple of hours of cartoons. Based on my perusal of the Saturday morning television schedule for every year of the ’80s on Wikipedia, it seems like my prime cartoon-watching years were 1983 to 1989. I have a lot of memories from those six years, but for this post I’m only listing my very favorite Saturday morning cartoons. It’s sad to me that there’s hardly such a thing as that anymore, but then I guess today’s kids have access to cartoons 24/7 on the various children’s cable networks. But the fact that these shows only came on once a week was what made watching them so special.
- Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies (1984-1990 on CBS) – I had actually forgotten about this show until today, when I was watching The Muppets Take Manhattan. There is a scene in the movie where Miss Piggy imagines what it would have been like to grow up with Kermit. In her daydream, we saw Piggy, Kermit, Gonzo, and a few of the other muppets as babies. These little muppet babies were so cute, that someone decided to loosely base a cartoon series on them, and so Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies was born. Watching this show as a child, there was something very fun about seeing these familiar characters with diapers and pacifiers. And my guess is that I’d enjoy watching the show as an adult, too. There’s just something fascinating about those muppets. Click here to view the Muppet Babies intro.
- The Littles (1983-1985 on ABC) – “Here come the Littles… always running to and fro…” I loved this show so much that my sister was easily able to convince me that Tom and Lucy lived in her bedroom walls. I loved the idea of little people living in elaborate passageways in the walls of a house, flying tiny airplanes and using common household objects as furniture. To this day, I still sometimes have dreams that I discover secret passageways in my house, which is kind of related to the idea of this show (but also related to books I read as a child). The catchy theme song, the cute characters, and the adventurous plots all caught my attention. Click here to view The Littles intro.
- The Real Ghostbusters (1986-1991 on ABC) – I watched all the cartoons based on live-action movies (including The Karate Kid, Star Wars, and Teen Wolf), but this was my favorite. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about the later versions of the show, which included some silly Slimer cartoons and eventually a new generation of ghostbusters. I remember being impressed that the cartoon characters actually resembled the characters from the Ghostbuster movies. My favorite character was probably Egon Spengler. He had cool white hair. Click here to view The Real Ghostbusters intro.
- Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (1986-1990 on CBS) – So technically this isn’t a cartoon, but it was at the heart of my Saturday morning tv viewing. I loved how all the furniture had names, and I liked the recurring segments, such as the Secret Word, Pen Pal Letters, and Penny cartoons.
- Captain N: The Game Master (1989-1991 on NBC) – I remember really enjoying this cartoon, which found high school student Kevin and his dog, Duke, being sucked through a vortex in his tv to another universe known as Videoland, where he had adventures with various Nintendo heroes and villains. As a fan of Nintendo games, it was fun to imagine what would happen if I were transported to these characters’ worlds. (Imagine how fun that would be now, to race around in Mario Kart, or explore new worlds in Mario Galaxy!) Click here to view the Captain N intro.
Other cartoons I watched, and think I liked, but don’t really remember much about:
- Beetlejuice (1989-1991 on ABC) – I recently watched the Tim Burton movie on which the cartoon was based, and I enjoyed the morbid quirkiness of it. The cartoon was, I’m sure, more kid friendly, but still with that same feel to it.
- Star Wars: Ewoks (1985-1986 on ABC) – I also remember the Star Wars: Droids show that came on after this one, but I usually didn’t stick around for that. I loved these furry little creatures! I suppose I was in the target demographic when Return of the Jedi was released in 1983.
- Mister T (1983-1986 on NBC) – You have to love any show in which Mr. T is the coach of a gymnastics team who travels the world solving mysteries!
- The Flintstone Kids (1986-1988 on ABC) – Hmmm, might this idea have been “borrowed” from Muppet Babies? Whatever the case, I and other kids flocked to any show about familiar characters as babies/children. I also enjoyed Captain Caveman and Son, which aired along with this show.
- ALF: The Animated Series (1987-1989 on NBC) – I watched the sitcom, so it was only natural that I would also watch this animated spin-off, which was actually a prequel about ALF’s (his actual name was Gordon) life on his home planet, Melmac, before he came to Earth.
It’s interesting how many cartoons in the ’80s were based on existing tv shows and movies.I wonder if that trend started in an earlier decade and continued into the ’90s, or if it was exclusive to the ’80s. I certainly enjoyed the trend, so I’m not complaining. What were your favorite Saturday morning cartoons? Did I leave out any that you loved? Keep in mind that I was thinking specifically of shows that aired on Saturday morning, which means I couldn’t include some of my favorite cartoons (He-Man and Scooby Doo come to mind). More to come on those later.
Hope you enjoyed the first installment of my Retro Weekend segment. Check back next weekend for more ’80s or ’90s goodness.
- From Sesame Street to 30 Rock: A TV Viewing Timeline – Chronicles what I was watching on tv over the past three decades
- Wikipedia’s Saturday Morning Television Schedule Pages
- 80s Cartoons Website