Ten ’80s Cartoons that Deserved More Than One Season

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)

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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.

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Preston Burt: Preston is a writer and graphic designer. He lives outside Atlanta, GA with his awesome wife and two amazing daughters (8 and 12). The host of the Gameroom Junkies Podcast, he has an affinity for VHS tapes and an obsession with arcade games and pinball machines. He has written for Paste and RETRO Magazines and is a founder of the Southern-Fried Gaming Expo.

View Comments (8)

  • I had a few toys from Sky Commanders. It was okay. Most of these shows that didn't make it I feel was because they were on Sunday mornings. What kid wakes up early on a Sunday morning? Also, I recall liking The Orbots. The them song is awesome.

  • I had forgotten about most of these, but just watching the theme song for Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors brought back so many memories!

    I loved Dino Riders back in the day and was lucky enough to have most of the toys. I also remember the holographic chests from the Visionaries

    great stuff!

  • Watched a lot of these as a kid--Dinosaurs among them. But Galaxy High has long been my favorite. It actually aired for two seasons, not one.

  • You keep using the term "Saturday Morning Cartoons" when in fact %75 of your list are actually First Run Syndication toons and there is a major difference between them. Most SMC were made by their respective networks for the express purpose of selling advertising (the dolls and cereal ads) whereas a First Run Syndicated toon would be "stripped" 5 days a week usually with the backing of a toy company. A SMC would average 13 to 20 episodes and a FRS toon would have to be 65 episodes. This created a major issue when it came to not just quality but to consistency, the network SMC were higher budgeted and had to produce fewer episodes and the FRS toons had to make much more product with smaller budgets yet these not being made for a network would also allow them much greater leeway when it came to slipping in more adult content (my interview with Buzz Dixon touches on this https://soundcloud.com/radiodromeshow/radiodrome-special-number-two-buzz-dixon).

    I just get annoyed when the FRS toons get lumped into the same category as the SMC do. It's a blanket statement that I feel does not do justice to the quality of the final product.

    TigerSharks-Not even technically it's own show, this was merely a segment of "The Comic Strip" which also featured Camp Mini-Mon, The Street Frogs and Karate Kat. 11 minute episodes which were usually 2-3 parters. First Run Syndication.

    Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors-First Run Syndication.

    Dinosaucers-First Run Syndication.

    Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light-First Run Syndication.

    DinoRiders-Not even technically it's own show, this was part of the "Marvel Action Hour" along with reruns of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Robocop and that fantastic "Pryde Of The X-men" pilot Sunbow did.

    Spiral Zone-First Run Syndication.

    Sky Commanders-First Run Syndication.

    I am kind of a nut about these things so pardon my stepping on any toes, I mean not to offend, simply readjust the perception.

  • I <3 Spiral Zone. It is favorite of the list. Visionaries is also good, I had an action figure of it once. Sky Commanders, Dinosaurcers, Dino Riders, Jayce, etc. were all kinda meh.

    TigerShark is not even the best toon in The Comic Strip. My favorite will always be The Street Frogs followed by Karate Kat. It's a toss-up between TigerSharks and Camp Minimon for the worst toon in that show.

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