Ah, the 1980's. Many of the most recognizable franchises of all time debuted during the 1980's. “Transformers”, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, “He-Man and The Masters of the Universe”, “My Little Pony” and countless other properties came out during the 80’s. For many of us who grew up during that time, it was a golden age for collecting toy lines and watching their accompanying animated television shows. So many children rushed home after school to catch the latest episode of their favorite cartoon and then proceeded to beg their parents for the toy of whatever new character showed up. Talking about all the shows back then brings back such fond memories. So that means everything is just as great as we all remember, right?
I’m sorry to say this folks, but you need to take off the nostalgia glasses. These shows don’t really hold up well. Most of these shows were actually just half hour long commercials with other commercials spliced in. In fact, the creation both of “He-Man and The Masters of The Universe” and “Transformers” (And probably a few others) were directly related to a marketing scheme. New characters, vehicles, gimmicks, and playsets would get shoehorned into stories simply to sell a product. Scenes were animated cheaply to cut down productions costs. Reused scenes and sequences, and missing frames were commonplace.
But don’t worry, folks.
Despite all the negatives of these animated shows, the impact it has had on a generation is undeniable. The stories weren't great, but for some reason, they were the shows that got our imaginations going. Things were suddenly so different from all the Looney Toons and Hannah-Barbara shorts. More than before, there was action, drama, continuity and innovation in animation. The stories, even if they weren’t executed well, still had a structure that would keep people watching. The story structure coupled with the toys helped kids build worlds in their imaginations. To me at least, building imaginations makes up for all the marketing and scheming behind the scenes. Many of our favorite artists today were influenced by these shows.
My own taste and art style is still affected shows that began in the 80’s. And it isn’t just me that’s been affected. Major production studios are now pumping millions of dollars into reviving, revamping, and rebooting classic properties. The “Transformers” franchise has had three big budget movies (with a fourth on the way), and the 80’s version of “G.I. Joe” has had two. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” is about to have it’s own big reboot later this year. And now, the cast has just been announced for the “Jem” live-action film. Sure, studios are capitalizing on nostalgia, but at the same time, they see that they can do something with those properties.
Although 80’s cartoons may not be looked at with the same reverence as Mickey or Bugs, you can’t deny how important and influential they are. Tons of excellent ideas came out in the 80's, and we’re only seeing them executed better today (I know many of you will disagree with me, but that’s another article). Those shows were really just a first draft. Today, you're actually seeing better representations of those beloved properties. The fact the shows were just half hour long commercials doesn’t seem to be such a bad thing at all. Look what those shows have started. Countless artists have been inspired, and they have created more revenue for the entertainment industry. Let’s just hope that when people look at that era of animation, they recognize the impact of what was really accomplished and it was all more than just a commercial.