Go to any potluck and you’re bound to get a mixed spread ranging from a succulent pan of lasagne to a plate of half-wilted veggies complete with dip that has way too much of some exotic spice that is hard to pronounce. Like a potluck comes Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s, a mix tape of sorts dedicated to a largely insignificant decade in television animation. You’ve certainly got you wilted vegetables and the best of the party is probably on par with well-made but still terribly average marshmallow salad.
Growing up in the 80s, I was excited to check this collection out. I’m a sucker for nostalgia, especially when it comes in the form of a mohawk and gold chains (even in cartoon form). That being said, this two-disc set really reaches into the vaults. Despite watching way too much TV, several of the showcased programs I’d never heard of. Perhaps I watched them but after seeing them today I can certainly see why I wouldn’t remember them. But there’s also some classics that are so bad they’re good. I’m looking at you, Chuck Norris and the Karate Commandos and Mister T (note the formal spelling).
Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s could easily be divided into two categories: fluffy stuff and action stuff. The fluffy stuff is largely horrendous. The Biskitts are basically canine Smurfs. The Kwicky Koala Show might have the distinction of being Tex Avery’s final work, but that doesn’t give it a free pass. The Monchichis are both ugly and annoying. On a somewhat better note are a pair of retreads: The Flintstone Kids, which goes back in time in Bedrock, and Ed Grimley, based on Martin Short’s character he played on the classic sketch show SCTV.
I much prefer some of the more action-oriented offerings. Both Mister T and Chuck Norris and the Karate Commandos can be seen as spoofs today, further lending to the larger-than-life personas both have taken on in recent years. Chuck Norris, in particular, plays as a vanity project. But it has that wholesome message at the end and that should make it all better, shouldn’t it? Today, both of these shows are laughable but lots of fun. Both Galtar and the Golden Lance and Thundarr the Barbarian would be later one-upped when He-Man and the Masters of the Universe would take over. I do have to say that Thundarr’s Chewbacca-esque sidekick Ookla the Mok is the funnies thing in the set. He’s got about two different growls, no matter the situation, and no change in facial expression. Finally, there’s Dragon’s Lair, based on the classic video game. I liked it’s adapted style in which different scenarios are shown based on decisions hero Dirk has to make.
Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s offers a decade’s worth of samples. Some are still fun, intentional or not, while others are unbearable. But because it’s just a sample, it’s nice to get a reminded of the way things used to be. I know I’m going to think twice about lamenting my own personal golden age of cartoons when I reflect on this block of shows versus what my kids are watching today.
Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s DVD Review
Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s is a two-disc set containing almost four-and-a-half hours of shows. Each is presented in their original full screen format with English mono audio. There’s also a Spanish audio track and English and French subtitles. The only extra is “Lords of Light! Thundarr the Barbarian,” which tries to convince us that it’s an important work in cartoon history.