The 1980s probably produced more memorable cartoons than any other decade. I mean, it was the decade that gave us G.I. Joe, He-Man, Jem, Transformers, and so many more, that other decades just don’t stack up. But for every ’80s cartoon that is fondly remembered, there are just as many that have almost faded from memory. To hopefully keep some of them from totally fading away, here are five cartoons that need a little light shined on them again.
Astronaut John Blackstar was sucked through a black hole and awakened to find himself stranded on the planet Sagar. Since he had never heard of this planet, John figured he would never see earth again and settled into his new life on Sagar. Unfortunately, a major part of this new life was fighting evil.
The planet was ruled by the Overlord of the Underworld who had enslaved most of the inhabitants, ruling them with the might given to him by the Power Stone. Somehow, the same force that transported Blackstar to the planet had also split the stone in half, turning one half into the power sword (possessed by the Overlord) and the other half into the Star Sword (possessed by Blackstar). The displaced rocketman fought the Overlord and his armies with the help of his friends: a sorceress named Mara, a shapeshifter named Klone, and Blackstar’s steed, a dragon by the name of Warlock. Also ready to lend a hand was the Trobbits, a band of tree-dwelling dwarves who spoke in very high-pitched voices.
Unfortunately, Blackstar left the air after just one season.
The California Raisins Show (1989)
Pop quiz: How many lovable characters originated from a mandate by a farmers’ collective to boost sales of a floundering agricultural product? Under these highly uncommon circumstances, the California Raisins were born. In 1986, the California Raisin Advisory Board commissioned Claymation artist Will Vinton to create an advertising campaign. Vinton decided to give the wrinkled fruit a hipper image, creating bluesy raisin-men who snapped their fingers and danced to Motown’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.” Through a series of immensely popular commercials, the Raisins were elevated to celebrity status, complete with toys, restaurant tie-ins, keychains, specials, music albums, and all the other hallmarks of pop icon status.
In 1989, the producers of The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles gave the Raisins their own Saturday morning series, trading in the Claymation process for traditional cel animation. In the cartoon version, four raisins—singer A.C., drummer Beebop, bassist Stretch, and pianist Red—spar constantly with their manager, while either on tour or hanging out in the extravagant penthouse above their recording studio. “Mom” Raisin co-starred, along with other fruits, vegetables (Lick Broccoli, for one), and food products. Alas, the 2D Raisins lacked the devoted following their 3D clay counterparts had amassed, ending their run on the small screen after only one season.
Dragon’s Lair (1984)
Dirk the Daring was the star of this medieval-themed cartoon, and his nemesis was the fire-breathing dragon Cinge. In each episode, Cinge would find a new way to terrorize the kingdom of King Ethelred, usually involving the kidnapping of Princess Daphne, the resident damsel in distress. Atop his white horse Bertram, Dirk traveled to defeat the dragon, often forced to enter the “Dragon’s Lair” itself. In the end, Dirk would prevail, rescuing the princess and defeating Cinge, which seemed fairly unusual considering the dragon was so much smarter than the hero.
Dragon’s Lair was based on the popular video game of the same name. Unlike other games, the action of Dragon’s Lair was actually animated, just like a cartoon. The player had limited control over Dirk’s actions and was responsible for deciding which path to take and when to use Dirk’s sword. Due to the novelty of the game as well as the impressive animation by Don Bluth, it became a huge arcade hit, setting the stage for a foray into Saturday morning animation.
Unfortunately, the cartoon fared worse than the video game, and Dragon’s Lair was canceled after one season.
Turbo Teen (1984)
Not only was Brett Matthews a great sports car driver, but he was also a great sports car! Following an accident in which he crashed into a science lab where a top-secret transfer ray was being developed, Brett had the ability to turn himself into a car whenever his body temperature reached a certain level. Brett trusted no one—aside from his girlfriend Pattie, his buddy Alex, and the federal government—with his chrome-plated secret.
Always an altruistic automobile, the Turbo Teen used his powers for good. Most notably, he battled bad guy Dark Rider and his truck, Bigfoot.
Created during the short-lived 3-D resurgence of the early ’80s, some of the Turbo Teen’s segments were aired in 3-D. The show itself lasted about as long as the 3-D revival, closing shop after only 12 episodes.
Wolf Rock TV (1984)
Born with a face for cartoons, deejay icon Wolfman Jack stretched himself into two dimensions to portray a mentor to three teens—Sarah, Sunny, and Ricardo—and a bird named Bopper in this short-lived show.
The Wolfman, who built his reputation in the 50s and ’60s for playing banned songs over Mexican border radio stations, had slowly become more mainstream, especially with his cameo in the 1973 movie American Graffiti. Now, he was a cartoon station manager, overseeing the three kids as they ran a rock TV show featuring real live-action videos. Although the kids dug the super keen Wolfman, the station manager, Mr. Morris, was not exactly a fan.
The show, a Dick Clark production, also featured a segment known as “Wolf Rock News,” as well as “The Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum,” where live-action interviews took place.
In 1989, under the title Wolf Rock Power Hour, the show ran in syndication with the similarly themed Kidd Video.