He-Man, Beetlejuice, Care Bears & More: 80s Cartoons Were Pretty Weird

Did you grow up with 1980s cartoons? I'm talking about the ones that were basically created by toy companies as a cash grab with very little regard to story, art, or taste. Now, as someone who was not even considered until the mid-1990s, I lucked out and missed all the horrors of the saccharine Saturday morning lineup…however, I've recently fallen down this rabbit hole and am increasingly horrified at what some of y'all were subjected to as children. No wonder the 80s is known for its drug use because all of these are a trip. Seriously, did any good television happen in the 1980s?! So here, without further delay, is my list of 1980s cartoons ranked from least to most horrifying.

A look at 80's My Little Pony (Image: screencap)

"My Little Pony": Okay so this one I did grow-up with (at least a version of it) so maybe pastel talking ponies are just a little less creepy to me. But hey, the list has to start at least horrifying, so this still makes the list as "a little unsettling", but just barely.

"The Super Mario Bros. Super Show": If ever a show were wholesome and unsettling at once, it's this one. Now, it's like half-cartoon, half live-action, which certainly doesn't help it be any less terrifying, but get past that and it's fun, although it is super strange to hear Mario and Luigi talk with "super" Brooklyn accents.

"Beetlejuice": Okay, this one also has a very soft spot in my heart, but only because I love Beetlejuice. I mean, black and white stripes? Fashion icon. But this one for sure makes the list, mostly because it did not age well (I mean, the whole 'child bride of the netherworlds' bit? Not so kosher now), but also because it shows some pretty Lovecraftian horrors and some weird Netherworld shit for a kids cartoon show. Besides, they basically ripped off Dune with the sandworms.

"The Care Bears": Okay, all the talking animals are weird (it's a recurring theme in this list), but this one it's mostly weird because of the functionality of a society run entirely by happy pastel friendship bears and other various animals. And what is with the bad guys being normal colored rats who want to take over the rainbow utopia talking animal commune? I have so many questions, mostly starting with, "how many drugs were involved in this idea"?

"He-Man and the Masters of the Universe": Okay, I have to admit – my first exposure to He-Man was that fabulous meme video to "what's going on" – but even without that, this show is so silly, and yet, it takes itself so seriously. Plus, it was basically designed to push toxic masculinity and sometimes inappropriate action figures, so that for sure counts against it, no matter how much amusement I get from Skeletor's catchphrases.

"ThunderCats": And people like to act like furries are a new thing – I can see now how the Cats movie got greenlit, they're basically the same thing, except without that whole uncanny valley CGI. They have serious dramatic storylines…but they're giant talking humanoid cats fighting various space creatures. Does any of this make sense? Not in the least.

"Pac-Man": No, Mario was not the only video game legend who got his own show Pac-Man, friends- and even the colorful ghosties joined him in this very ball-centric show. Something about seeing Pac-Man again, talking and solving problems in his community is just a very odd thing.

"Garfield and Friends": I'm not sure if it's mostly just hearing these comic strip characters for the first time, but man is this a strange show. Garfield in this is kind of a jerk, and not in a funny way. It's just kind of a bummer. Besides, there are random personified farm animals and it is the strangest non-sequitur.

"The Smurfs": Again, I don't understand the mechanics of this: why are they blue? Why are they tiny? Why do the angry wizards hate them? I have zero answers to any of my questions. At any rate, they are all unsettling, horrifying, and creepy on all fronts. Besides, why don't they wear shirts? Is that because they live in a commune in the middle of the forest?

"Rainbow Brite": This is one of the clearest "this was created specifically to sell toys" shows to exist in my opinion; besides that, it doesn't really make any sense plot-wise and I constantly find myself wondering exactly how many uppers went into the creation of a little girl who fights sadness with color and rainbows and her magic color crystals. Aah yes, the totally innocent crystals that get crushed up and processed into star sprinkles. I'm very glad we've progressed away from the 1980s, if only for the fact we don't have blatant drug allegories in our kids' cartoons anymore.

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About Eden Arnold

Having spent far too much time in front of the television growing up, Eden has lots of opinions about television (as well as movies and everything else). She puts this to good use along with her journalism degree and writing experience with by-lines over the years in many print publications, books, and online media outlets. You can find her on Twitter at @Edenhasopinions
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