The 80s represented a fun time for cartoons. From The Transformers, ThunderCats, DuckTales, G.I. Joe, The Smurfs, and the Rugrats.
Whenever I want to look back on my childhood, I go back to the 80s cartoons. I had a few favorite titles in this era for some absolute classics. 1980s cartoons were a lot braver than some of the later ones.
They often depicted superheroes battling villains and were flashier. It was simply a different time.
Some even ran beyond the 1980s to shape the early life of many people today and even gave us many pop culture references. If you’re still wondering what these cartoons are, let me share some that you can enjoy with your kids any time.
If you were a kid growing up in the 80s, there’s no doubt that cartoons were a HUGE part of your life. And while there were plenty of great 80s cartoons to choose from, there are definitely some standouts that have truly left an unforgettable mark on our childhoods.
These 80s cartoons may be from decades ago, but their impact on our lives will never be forgotten. What are some of YOUR favorite 80s cartoons?
First episode: September 28, 1981
It was a British series that was so popular it got a spinoff and appeared again in 1995. The series was about a British spy concept exhibited in movies like Get Smart. I used to love this cartoon for its clever character.
Danger Mouse was trendy back then and had a successful comeback a few years back. The iconic mouse is also in video games, comics, and vintage pop culture merchandise.
First episode: December 4, 1982
Final episode: February 1, 1986
Networks: Nickelodeon, CBS, Fox Kids, Jetix, Freeform, Vietnam Television, RAI, France 3, ITV
Inspector Gadget may be known for his catchy theme song and bumbling demeanor, but don’t let that fool you. He always manages to catch the villain with the help of an endless supply of gadgets (hence the name).
Alongside his niece Penny and trusty canine Brain, Inspector Gadget solves cases and protects his city from the evil mastermind, Dr. Claw. Who knows what crazy gadgets Inspector Gadget will whip out next?
One thing’s for sure – Inspector Gadget always gets the job done. So whether you’re fighting crime or just catching up on your favorite cartoon, Inspector Gadget is worth a watch.
28Rainbow Brite (1984–1986)
Rainbow Brite and her trusty sidekick, Twink, brought color and happiness to Rainbow Land with the help of the Color Kids and their magical Color Belt.
Together, they battled against the evil Murky Dismal and his sidekick Lurky to spread joy and positivity throughout the world. But Rainbow Brite’s adventures didn’t stop there – she also saved Christmas from the evil shade, King Kaleidoscope, and even journeyed to Rainbow Land’s dark sister planet, Spectra, to bring color back to its once drab landscapes.
Rainbow Brite may have been an ’80s cartoon icon, but her message of spreading happiness and color remains timeless.
27She-Ra: Princess of Power (1985–1987)
She-Ra: Princess of Power was the ultimate ’80s heroine. She kicked butt, had a talking unicorn as a sidekick, and rocked some seriously epic hairstyles (hello, double ponytails!).
She taught us that girls could be strong and that you didn’t need a man to save you.
She-Ra will always hold a special place as the OG female superhero. She may have only been on the air for two short years, but She-Ra’s impact lives on. So go ahead and break out those old VHS tapes because it’s time for a She-Ra marathon.
26My Little Pony (1986–1987)
My Little Pony first galloped into our lives in 1986, and it’s safe to say we were delighted. These colorful little horse toys quickly became a staple in childhood playtime. Fast forward to today, My Little Pony continues to charm both old and new generations with its whimsical world of friendship and magic.
It’s no wonder the franchise is still going strong, with a successful TV series and even a feature film. So saddle up because My Little Pony shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon. Who knows what exciting adventures await in this beloved franchise’s future?
25Pound Puppies (1985–1988)
Pound Puppies is a 1986 American animated series made by Hanna-Barbera Productions. It is based on Tonka’s toy line.
The special follows up on the 1985 television special. From September 1986 through December 1987, ABC broadcasted the show.
24Moon Dreamers (1986–1987)
My Little Pony ‘n Friends aired MoonDreamers in 1986 as part of the My Little Pony ‘n Friends series.
MoonDreamers, Potato Head Kids, and The Glo Friends rotated in the show’s second half.
Hasbro toys were promoted in all of these cartoons. CBN Family Channel broadcasted My Little Pony between 1989 and 1990 and Family Channel between 1990 and 1995.
23Adventures of the Gummi Bears (1985–1991)
Disney CEO Michael Eisner created Adventures of the Gummi Bears, produced by Walt Disney Television Animation and distributed by Buena Vista Television.
Gummi Bears, seven mystical beings living in a world of medieval lands and magic, take part in the series loosely based on the gummy bear candy.
Throughout the series, the main characters face various challenges, assist their human friends, and thwart the evil plans of multiple characters. An episode consisted of either a single story or two 11-minute stories.
22Chip ‘n’ Dale Rescue Rangers (1989–1990)
Disney’s fun-loving chipmunks are re-imagined as the leaders of a team of pint-sized crime fighters.
The dynamic duo Chip and Dale took on a new job as the Rescue Rangers, forming a team with Gadget Hackwrench, Monterey Jack, and Zipper to solve mysteries and fight crime. Together, they proved that even small critters could be big heroes. So grab some cheese and join the Rangers on their adventures!
Hanna-Barbera had a lot of cartons back then, but I really liked this one for being part of The Futuristic World of Hanna-Barbara. The mini-universe included shows such as Little Rascals, Scooby-Doo, and Scrappy-Doo.
I liked Richie regardless of his wealth, especially his adventures with friends. I enjoyed the various jokes in this series, such as Richie’s mother being a former “Van Dough.” These involved fighting criminals and foiling plans to tarnish his name.
20Dungeons & Dragons
This carton series was the best in the Dungeons & Dragons adaptations. It was a fantastic exhibition of Japanese animation and western style script and setting. Marvel produced this series, and Toei Animation drew it.
The production was about friends who got sucked into their RP module and were supposed to play to get out. It inspired various modern animations such as Sword Art Online and movies such as Jumanji.
During the wave of cute animals, I enjoyed Muppet Babies. It was based on the story of thrilling adventures of baby adaptations of famous muppets from other series such as Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. The series was top-rated because other series with animals, such aa Care Bears, were trending.
Marvel Productions teamed up with Jim Hensen Productions to produce 107 episodes of this carton series that aired on CBS. A reboot of it was made in 2018, and Walt Disney holds the rights.
Anyone who watched Avatar: The Last Airbender can relate easily to the odd but familiar crossover animals such as a bison looking like a flying insect and other weird creatures. Apart from being a fan theory, it may have been a callback to the Wuzzles.
The Disney cartoon had two animals in each Wuzzle. These were combined to form one with matching clever names such as Butterbear and Bumblelion. Their diet consisted of apple berries. Characters could communicate through the telephonograph.
17Jem and the Holograms
Apart from enjoying that during the show, I also enjoyed its science fiction twist. This was in the form of Synergy, a hologram computer. Popularly known as Jem, this was about Jem and the Holograms, a lead singer of The Holograms and her alter ego.
Jem’s father built this computer, and Jem could sync it using her earrings to change her appearance and project a different image of her. It took years for the IA pop star to come to life. This may explain why so many people easily forget about this gem.
One of my favorites from Canada, CBS produced this cartoon series and syndicated it to Disney. The setting of the series seems like a cottage country in Ontario. There’s an evergreen forest where Bert Raccoon and his animal friends live.
Various antagonists tried to ruin his fun, including Cyril Sneer, a dam builder, greedy tree dweller, and an eagle named Milton Mida. Whenever I remember the theme song in this cartoon series with an enduring environmental message, I get a good feeling.
15Willo the Wisp
I also enjoyed this BBC show for entertaining adults and children. It used to air between the after-school shows. This explains why it was very appealing with its witty humor. A French version of this cartoon series was released in Canada in the 1980s.
The characters in Willo the Wisp were from educational cartoons to promote national energy interests. This series was shot in Doyley Woods, near the director’s home. The charming story and excellent animations stayed in my memories. There was a remake of the series in 2005.
Rankin Bass produced this cartoon series to be different from productions by Hanna-Barbara or Disney. It was supposed to be an outer space version of ThunderCats which was widely popular. Marvel released a comic at the same time when it was running.
The series was set in a Galaxy of Limbo with unique planets and a white star in the middle. A galactic police force was the main character. These had bionic implants and metallic suits to augment their powers. The series’ science fiction and mecha themes stood the test of time.
This cartoon series was based on a Belgian comic by Peyo. I first saw animated characters in his wit in 1981, thanks to Hannah-Barbera Productions. Like regular comics, the story is about blue human-like creatures that live in mushrooms in a beautiful forest.
These tiny creatures were so cute and survived by repeatedly outwitting Gargamel, an evil sorcerer, his evil cat Azrael and apprentice Scruple. Many others liked this cartoon series, encouraging various spinoffs, merchandise, and feature movies.
If you enjoyed the movies, you would love the cartoon, as I did. The original series in the franchise first aired in 1984. Millions of other kids, including myself, were mesmerized by the giant robots that transformed into cars and other objects.
You can’t watch the series and fail to get hooked on the action. There’s a chance that you’ll become another die-hard fan of this franchise.
11The Real Ghostbusters
This one was released two years after the movie’s release in 1986. The story is about a group of paranormal investigators. The animated version was a great idea for the younger folks, leaving them delighted.
Ghostbusters became a wonderful example of animated series that became nostalgic. The original foursome in the movie was joined by Slimer, who wasn’t so human, and Janine, their human secretary. These go about their regular activity of searching for ghosts in New York City and worldwide.
Cute animals were trending in the 1980s. Care Bears was released in 1985 as a family animation. The story was based on magical bears that lived far away in the clouds, in a place known as Care-a-Lot.
With assistance from biddies and cousins, they could travel the world fixing everything using their magical powers. Each bear had a character attribute exhibited as an icon on the belly. This was among the most heartwarming cartoons during that time.
9 Alvin and the Chipmunks
Alvin and the Chipmunks was released in 1983. The leading characters formed a band known as Alvin and the Chipmunks that could sing hits at the time and a few original pieces. I had a wonderful time seeing the tiny heroes with unique voices try to get along with The Chipettes.
This series became so popular that the “Chipmunks Song” topped the charts in the US at some point. Nobody, including Uncle Dave, could believe these annoying creatures had voices that could produce megahits. The series inspired four movie adaptations, with the first one in 2007.
8Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends
Anyone who enjoys Spider-Man movies should watch this one. The animated series offers a chance to follow up on some movie characters, such as Firestar, the original female superhero.
Spider-Man and his friends Firestar and Iceman battled various villains in the Marvel series. This series is still entertaining today as I first watched it in the 1980s.
7G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero
Hasbro released the animated version of this action figurine in 1983. Before, GI Joe was a toy in background stores that supplied Marvel comics. Children had to come up with their plotlines to lay with them.
The animated version of GI Joe skyrocketed figurine sales. Furthermore, the war theme made the series extremely popular.
6Garfield And Friends
The 1988 animated series brought Jim Davis’ comic Garfield to life. I got to see Garfield talk and move for the first time. Watching Garfield send Nermal to Timbuktu as he ate all the lasagna was amusing.
Apart from Garfield and his friends, the series also portrayed characters in Adventures of Acres in various segments. A movie about Garfield was released in 2004 by Davis Entertainment, selling $203.2 million at the box office.
5The Bugs Bunny Show
This animated series is an anthology whose first appearance was in 1948 until its tenure ended in 2000. It was one of the longest-running cartoon series in the US after running for 52 years.
All show episodes would run for half an hour, segmented into three shorter parts since its inception. Watching the Bugs Bunny Show was my favorite every Saturday morning.
4Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The 1987 animated series was an adaptation of a comic with the same name. The main characters included four mutant turtles that would spend all their days in New York City sewers. Here, they could train in martial arts directed by a Master Splinter.
When not eating pizza, the ninja turtles fight villains, including Shredder and Krang. This series represented the first time the half-shell heroes appeared on TV. It would be quite a wonder if I didn’t include them on this list.
3Adventures Of the Gummi Bears
Gummy bear candies were the inspiration behind this animated series from Disney. The bears descended from the royal Gummi Bear family in the series. So, it’s difficult to tell what may inspire your next blockbuster.
The original Gummies were forced to flee the planet but left a scattered few among the humans. They used to live peacefully with humans the nasty side of the humans came to light. I enjoyed watching this cartoon series for being sweet and full of adventure.
The first Japanese entry on my list, this cartoon series, was an adaptation of a 1984 anime series. Its premise isn’t simple. The story was based on five pilots who commanded five robot lions to form Voltron, the ultimate robot.
Pilots would board these machines to save planet Uurus from King Zarkon, an evil warlord. Haggar was also difficult to deal with. He would form monsters that caused terror, including a world that Princess Allura was ruling. The action in this cartoon series was very mesmerizing.
This cartoon series was about a team of superheroes. It first aired in the 1970s but entered the 1980s. The adventures of these superheroes were presented in seven-minute episodes aired during the Saturday morning cartoon lineup on ABC. Superfriends became extremely popular and inspired various spinoffs, collectible toys, and video games.
When wondering what could give you some quick humor to brighten up your day, you should consider 1980s cartoons. I have made your selection easier by highlighting some of my favorites. The choices have different themes, but I have balanced them by including favorites with cute animals and superheroes.