One of the greatest joys I felt as a kid was waking up bright and early on a Saturday morning, getting a bowl of sugary cereal, sitting down in front of the television set, and surrounding myself with my toys as Transformers or M.A.S.K. came on. As the episode played out, I’d grab the figures and act out every action on the screen (which of course was limited to how many figures I had). There was that inexplicable feeling of holding a thing in your hand and seeing it flying around or jumping across the TV. Now imagine, you go through that whole routine, turn on the set, and your cartoon is nowhere in sight. You switch through the channels, trying to find your favorite action figure in cellulose form and… nada. You picked one of the few toylines that never got a tie-in cartoon. Maybe it didn’t last long enough to get a show or didn’t make enough money, but here are five of the best that sadly went without animation.
No, I’m not talking about that ridiculous Megaforce movie with the flying motorcycle. I’m talking Mega Force, a toyline made by Kenner that asked the question “What if Micro Machines were covered in guns?” Mega Force’s basic line was made up of minuscule die-cast tanks, jets, VTOL fighters, and the like, but it got real crazy when you went to the larger vehicles. These would act as massive transport vehicles for the smaller toys and included huge weapons like ICBM missiles or spinning arms to scoop up enemy tanks. The largest one, Goliath, changed from a mobile battle station to a command base as big as Metroplex.
The story posited by Mega Force is where the toyline fails. You have two warring factions, the Triax and the V-Rocs. And that’s about it; their commercials don’t even mention the factions’ names, only the tagline “Army of Hidden Forces.” There’s not much at all to go on, but I think they should latch onto the tagline and base the cartoon in a kid’s bedroom at their actual scale. It would be a lot of fun with them trying to fight while also hiding from the giants and maybe in an episode or two, the good guys (which ever faction that is) could get help from the child.
The Mad Scientist line encompassed so many different science experiment kits it’s mind-boggling. They ranged from small slime molds up to the awesome Dissect-an-Alien and Monster Lab kits, with every one of them revolving around one singular theme – GROSS. There’s not a single set throughout the whole line that didn’t make parents shiver from the mess they’d make. My own experience with the line was limited to the small Living Ice or Monster Flesh sets, but even those were a ton of fun to play with.
There was no narrative along the whole line, just the recurring Mad Scientist character. There’s so many different directions they can go with this line, but my idea would be the Mad Scientist (maybe just called Mad or The Scientist) is world-renowned and there’s a corporation after him to steal all his experiments. So, he’s always reanimating aliens or bringing Monster Flesh to life to keep them off his trail. They could even throw a kid assistant in there to get some Mr. Wizard vibes.
Battle Beasts was a toyline made up of a ton of anthropomorphized animals wearing armor, wielding big weapons, and with cool names like Pirate Lion and Platinum Tiger. The figures didn’t have much in the way of articulation due to their size (just two inches tall) but they had some incredible detail and a huge variety of designs. Each figure had a small rubsign on their chest that displayed their faction, indicated by a fire, some water, or a stick, which represented a rock-paper-scissor battle dynamic, though neither faction had any names.
At least, in America, that is! Along with using similar rubsigns to the Transformers, in Japan they were split into Autobots and Decepticons, and actually appeared in one episode of the Japanese Transformer series, the Headmasters. I imagine if it got a cartoon in the states, Hasbro would have created their own factions and story and not keep them aligned with the Transformers. Turning their rubsigns into elemental powers would be a pretty awesome addition as well.
One of the biggest trends in 80s toys was holograms and no other toyline really capitalized off it like the Visionaries, though they were far from the only one to use it. One series went even further than the Visionaries armor and totem holograms, practically giving the whole figure the hologram treatment. Super Naturals even double-downed on that, literally; each hologram was double-channeled, showing two images as you moved the toy side-to-side.
Super Naturals had your generic Heroic and Evil Warriors factions, with three main characters and four Ghostlings (half-sized figures without legs) on each side. The series did have a mini-comic that came with each figure, which told about their time in the “Tomb of Doom”, but without finding anything about it online, I have to assume the backstory of the series is still pretty minimal. A cartoon could have fleshed it out or possible gone in a completely different direction, or even adapting the UK-exclusive anthology comic series.
Now we come to the true outlier on this list – Air Raiders had a fully-written backstory that came with the toys and a limited-series comic from Marvel’s Star Comics imprint. The story took place on the planet Airlandia, where a massive disaster allowed Aerozar and his Tyrants of Wind to take over the globe, while the rebellion formed the titular Air Raiders. The toyline was made up of vehicles that used air-powered weapons and each one came with two or three tiny pilot figures.
Unfortunately, outside of Aerozar and Baron Jolt, who was only named in a send-away promotional offer, none of the other figures had any names. Instead, everyone was called Pilot or Soldier or part of generically named groups like the Battle Squad. The comic would no doubt have expanded on the cast, but the setting is already perfect Saturday morning cartoon fodder without any real changes. They even had animated commercials to give us that peek into what could have been. In fact, I’d have taken this cartoon over Ring Raiders any day.