Idiots Guide: Classic After School Cartoons (1980-1989)


#10. ThunderCats


From 1985 to 1989 you could find the quirky ‘ThunderCats’ show about cat-like humanoid aliens on the after school roster of shows. This Japanese program which was tailored for the United States, was considered excellent animation for it’s time. We agree.

#9. Jem & The Holograms


Amidst a programming line-up that was loaded with boy centric themes, ‘Jem and the Holograms’ was a uniquely feminine departure. Airing from 1985 to 1988, this show about a band’s lead singer adopted story lines that were reminiscent of modern soap operas, with a holographic twist.

#8. Fat Albert & Cosby Kids 


The recent revelation of Bill Cosby’s alleged felonious behavior notwithstanding, during the 1980’s his characters, and persona were hard to miss wether in human or cartoon form. Mr. Cosby  created, produced, and hosted the long running ‘Fat Albert & Cosby Kids’ show (1973-1985) that featured an educational life lesson in each episode. An ironic, yet noble contribution to society. Plus it was very entertaining.

#7. Duck Tales 

Duck Tales

‘Duck Tales’ was Disney Animation’s contribution to the 1980’s after school programing schedule. Premiering on September 18, 1987 it’s run lasted until November 28, 1990 at an even 100 episodes. We all share fond memories of Scrooge McDuck don’t we? Sure we do?

#6. Inspector Gadget


Did you know that Inspector Gadget is a French-Canadian cartoon? It’s true. Canada contributed to the after school cartoon schedule from 1983 to 1986, and then remained in syndication until the early 1990’s. The show followed the exploits of the clumsy, and often dim-witted cyborg detective. It was quirky, it was funny, and certainly memorable.

#5. He-Man 


He-Man and the Masters of the Universe only aired from  1983 to 1985, yet somehow it seemed to always be on our collective afternoon television sets. This show appealed to the adolescent macho-men of America, and it did so very effectively. It spawned the spin-off series ‘She-Ra’, which was good, but not nearly as compelling as the original, are they ever?

#4. The Smurfs


Did you know? ‘The Smurfs’ has been around since 1958? True story. This was a Belgian comic book franchise about a colony of tiny blue creatures who inhabit a community of mushroom-shaped houses in a mythical forest. From September 12, 1981 to December 2, 1989, this ironically cute, bordering on bizarre show graced American airwaves on weekday afternoons. Who can forget that ‘smurfy’ language? ‘Gargamel ‘? Yeah.

#3. The Jetsons

the jetsons

In truth, ‘The Jetsons’ were originally America’s favorite futuristic family from September 23, 1962 to September 22, 1963. How it ended up on this 1980’s list , were the ‘new’ episodes that aired from 1985 to 1988. Audiences loved the character’s futuristic lives, and hilarious use of advanced technological gadgets. The Jetsons’ sparked our collective imaginations on weekday afternoons throughout the mid 1980’s.

#2. The Transformers


The Transformers was the original animated television series in the wildly popular Transformers franchise. (1984-1987) It explores the stories about a war among giant alien robots that can transform into a variety of vehicles, land, sea, and air, as well as inanimate objects. A truly international program, it was originally written and produced in America, and animated in Japan. The Hasbro’s Transformers toy line inspired the live action cartoon, and subsequently the successful movie franchise.

#1. G.I. JOE


G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero started as a five-part mini-series that originally aired in 1983. The show was wildly popular, having had a built in audience from the toy line that started in the 1950’s. G.I. Joe has a special place in American pop culture as it elicits a strong sense of patriotism in it’s viewers young, and old alike. The ‘Joe’s’ spend their fictional days fighting the existential evil of ‘Cobra’ an empire bent on world domination. Without question G.I. Joe is the most iconic brands in American cartoon history, spawning a very successful movie franchise that has engaged audiences starting in 2003. The real American hero!