Ahhh…Saturday Morning Cartoons. Just thinking about them brings back many fond memories of waking up early, pouring a bowl of cereal, and gluing my eyes to the television during one of the biggest marketing ploys of the ’80s. Many of pop culture’s most fondly-remembered franchises were created for the sole purpose of selling toys (G.I. Joe, My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake, etc.), but for every Transformers that debuted on network television there was a Bravestarr or some other supremely inferior animated series.
The attempt to turn cartoons into glorified 30-minute advertisements meant that the competition for viewers was fierce and many entertaining shows were denied the spotlight. Though Saturday Morning Cartoons are now a thing of the past, let’s take a look down memory lane at ten animated series that were limited to only one season. See how many of these hidden gems that deserved a better fate you can remember.
1. TigerSharks (1987, 26 episodes)
If you think TigerSharks animation looks similar to ThunderCats or SilverHawks, then you have a good eye. Rankin/Bass looked to capitalize on their previous animated successes, but it just wasn’t meant to be. The not-so-cleverly titled world of Water-O was populated with main characters Dolph, Walro, Mako and other team members with sea creature names who were human, but transformed into their water-based forms to protect the planet against the evil T-ray. Add this mix to Kevin Costner’s failed Waterworld, and you’ve got yourself a winner! Maybe two wrongs do make a right!
2. The Get Along Gang (1984, 14 episodes)
Geared toward a younger audience, The Get Along Gang was and ’80s cartoon loosely based off of Hal Roach’s Our Gang comedies. While these anthropomorphic animals were nowhere near as endearing as those Little Rascals, the simple story concept of friendship and teamwork during neighborhood adventures remains timeless.
3. Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors (1985, 65 episodes)
While the basis of this show boils down to good guys vs. bad guys, you have to give this show credit on creativity. In Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, the humans have to battle plant-based villains dubbed the Monster Mind with the creepy Saw Boss as their leader. Unlike most other cartoons that had neatly self-contained story episodes, this one had a continuing story arc from infamous writer J. Michael Straczynski. Unfortunately, the finale was never aired and the 65-episode arc is unresolved.
4. Dinosaucers (1987, 65 episodes)
What’s happening? I don’t even know. Ok, call me crazy, but this one just looks fun. Admittedly the concept is a bit goofy, but sometimes you just need some lighthearted entertainment. Plus…dinosaurs. I can’t even begin to accurately retell the clunky description that involves “Dinovolving,” a “Fossilizer,” and a main villain named “Ghengis Rex.” Just watch the trailer above and try not to be intrigued. I dare you.
5. Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light ( 1987, 13 episodes)
In a land where science and technology have failed, heroes are reliant on magic. Each main character has a specific magical power such as wisdom, fire, and strength, but also can turn into a totem-specific animal (bonus!). I so distinctly remember the Visionaries toy line, complete with their hologram chest plates, that I was shocked to learn this series only lasted a mere 13 episodes. Despite the toy’s success, this one was canceled when Sunbow lost it’s contract and their animations came to an end.
6. The Wuzzles (1985, 13 episodes)
If Disney does one thing well, it’s theme songs. While the Wuzzles certainly provided viewers with an earworm, it surprisingly lasted only 13 episodes despite it’s bubbly cute characters. With an animation style most similar to Gummi Bears, these cute creatures were two different animals rolled into one. Main characters with names such as Bumblelion, Eleroo, and Butterbear it’s hard to fathom why it was so short-lived. Maybe distance makes the heart grow fonder, but I’m ready for this one to come out of the Disney vault.
7. DinoRiders (1988, 14 episodes)
Dinosaurs and humans. Are you noticing a recurring theme here? Hey, this may not have worked in the ’80s, but we’re in a post-Jurassic Park world. People riding dinosaurs with lasers? Totally believable.
8. Spiral Zone (1987, 65 episodes)
Dystopian Futures are all the rage now, but Spiral Zone was ahead of its time. The unusually dark storyline took place in the then-distant year of 2007 when a mad scientist dropped generators that turned exposed humans into “Zoners” with lifeless yellow eyes. Protective suits allowed five heroes to enter the Spiral Zone safely to battle bad guys and fight as the resistance. Mad scientists, a dystopian future, and zombies? Someone call AMC.
9. Sky Commanders (1987, 13 episodes)
Ok, it’s a little easy to see why this one was cancelled. I mean a series about soldiers and mountaineering experts with names like “Mike Summit?” I mean, c’mon! However, the series has some redeeming qualities. Mostly the cool Laser Cables used to traverse the “new continent” where this battle between the Raiders and Sky Commanders takes place. It may not be perfect, but it deserved more than its mere 13 episodes.
10. Galaxy High (1986, 13 episodes)
Autotune, anyone? The theme song may be futuristic, but the plot to this one is as basic as enduring high school. Although it was set in space, this fun cartoon was relatable to anyone who ever survived junior high. Everyone had bullies and the battle for popularity in their school, this one just had more aliens. This series from creative legend Chris Columbus is definitely worth another look.