80s Cartoon Facts and Trivia

Published Sunday, November 1st, 2015
80s Cartoon Facts and Trivia
(Image source: Scott J. Campbell)

The 1980s was arguably the best decade for kids cartoons — so many huge franchises were created in those 10 years.  Weekend mornings and after-school hours were packed with cartoons.  Here are some 80s cartoon facts and trivia that you might not have known about your favorite cartoons from one of the greatest periods of children’s TV programming.

  1. The Smurfs began as a Belgian comic series in 1958.
  2. The first Smurfs movie was released in 1965 in black-and-white.
  3. There are a total 418 Smurfs cartoons (not including movies and specials) that ran from 1981-89.  Warner Home Video has NOT released the complete collection in North America on Blu-ray or DVD.
  4. The Smurfs had their own breakfast cereal called “Smurfberry Crunch” that turned your poop blue.  It was quickly taken off the market and the blue food coloring was changed.
  5. The Smurfs was named the 97th best animated series by IGN. They called it “kiddie cocaine” for kids growing up in the 1980s.
  6. Snorks was created to be a direct competition to The Smurfs after a business dispute between Peyo (creator of The Smurfs) and Freddy Monnickendam (owner of The Smurfs distribution rights).  Snorks is essentially underwater Smurfs.  Both shows were produced by Hannah-Barbara.  65 episodes of Snorks ran from 1984-88.
  7. Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears was inspired by then Disney CEO Michael Eisner when his son asked him for some gummy bear candy.
  8. Gummi Bears was the first Disney cartoon series created for TV.
  9. Gummi Bears is spelled with an “i”, whereas the gummy bear candy is spelled with a “y”.
  10. Grammi Gummi, the clan matriarch, was voiced by legendary voice actress June Foray.  She is considered to be the most prolific voice actor that ever lived due to the sheer number and variety of voices that she has performed in her long career. Some of June’s most recognizable cartoon voices are: Rocky the Squirrel and Natasha (Rocky and Bullwinkle), Magic de Spell and Ma Beagle (Duck Tales), Granny and Witch Hazel (Loony Toons), Betty Rubble (Flinstones), Jokey Smurf, and countless more.
  11. Heathcliff began as newspaper comic strip in 1973 and is still in print today.
  12. Heathcliff was voiced by legendary voice actor Mel Blanc.  Some of Mel’s most recognizable cartoon voices are: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Foghorn Leghorn, Yosemite Sam, Marvin the Martian, Pepe le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, Wile E. Coyote, Tasmanian Devil, Barney Rubble (Flinstones), Mr. Spacey (Jetsons), Woody Woodpecker, Wally Gator, Toucan Sam (Froot Loops commercials), and more.  He was known as “the male June Foray”.
  13. In the original script, Inspector Gadget was supposed to have a mustache and a British accent.
  14. In the pilot episode of Inspector Gadget, voice actor Gary Owens instead did an impersonation of Don Adams’ “Maxwell Smart” character from Get Smart (1965).  The producers of Inspector Gadget were so impressed with his impersonation of Don Adams that they decided to actually hire Don Adams to voice Gadget.
  15. Inspector Gadget is a bionic man who was surgically reconstructed after an accident.  He slipped on a banana peel, falling down several flights of stairs, while chasing Dr. Claw.
  16. Inspector Gadget was the first TV cartoon with stereo sound.
  17. Dr. Claw is based on the Blofeld character from James Bond, who was always seen petting his cat.  Dr. Evil, from Austin Powers, is also a caricature of Blofeld.
  18. Inspector Gadget was named the 54th best animated series by IGN.
  19. The Littles was based on a children’s book series of the same name.  29 episodes ran from 1983-85.  The Littles, along with Inspector Gadget and Heathcliff, was among the first shows created by DIC Entertainment, a French/Canadian/American animation studio.  DIC went on to became the largest producer of children’s TV programs.  DIC is an acronym for “Diffusion, Information et Communication”.
  20. Disney’s The Wuzzles was produced as a rival to The Care Bears and was released on the same day as The Gummi Bears: September 14, 1985.
  21. The Wuzzles only ran for 13 episodes and was canceled mostly due to the sudden death of Bill Scott, the voice of Moosel.  It’s the shortest running Disney cartoon show.
  22. Bill Scott was also the voice of Gruffi Gummi in the Gummi Bears, Bullwinkle in Rocky and Bullwinkle, and many others.
  23. The Dixie Chicks video for “Ready to Run” includes a person in a Moosel costume (Moosel, from The Wuzzels).
  24. DuckTales was based on the comic stips and books created by Carl Banks in the 1940s.  100 DuckTales episodes were created, but not all have been released on DVD in North America.
  25. In the comic books, Scrooge McDuck’s arch-rival Flintheart Glomgold is from South Africa.  In the cartoon he’s from Scotland, as is Scrooge.  His nationality was changed for the cartoon due to political issues in South Africa in the 80s.
  26. Ma Beagle and the Beagle Brothers from DuckTales were based on real people: Ma Barker and the Barker Gang from the 1930s.  As in the show, Ma Barker was the mother of the criminals and leader of the gang, although some historians claim that she had no leadership role in the gang.
  27. DuckTales was named the 18th best animated series by IGN.
  28. G.I. Joe began as a line of action figures in 1964.
  29. The term G.I. was originally used in reference to any military equipment made from “Galvanized Iron”.  Later the term became commonly used for “General Issue” or “Government Issue” referring to any military equipment (boots, tents, trucks, etc).   In WWII soldiers began referring to themselves as “G.I.”, implying that they are equally disposable as the equipment.
  30. In 1945 Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, General Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “the truly heroic figure of this war is G.I. Joe,” referring to the common American soldier.
  31. G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero was revived in 1982 as line of action figures, following the success of the Star Wars toys.  Like so many others, the toys came before the cartoon — the purpose of the show was to sell more toys.  The cartoon didn’t launch until 3 years later, in 1985.  95 episodes of G.I. Joe cartoon was produced by Marvel (the comic company).
  32. The President of Hasbro and the President of Marvel met while peeing in the men’s room of a charity event.  They decided to collaborate, which led to G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.  Marvel did all the creative work, creating the characters, stories, art, and design.
  33. Hasbro didn’t initially want to create villain toys for G.I. Joe, thinking that they wouldn’t sell.  Hasbro didn’t initially think that female character toys would sell either.
  34. Fourteen G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero characters were modeled after real people.
  35. The phrase “…and knowing is half the battle” concluded every episode of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, because government censors at that time heavily restricted violence in children’s cartoons.  Cartoons like G.I. Joe and He-Man incorporated a moral lesson in each episode as a means to pacify the censors.
  36. G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero was named the 19th best animated series by IGN.
  37. Following the success of G.I. Joe, Hasbro created Transformers in conjuction with Japanese toymaker Takara Tomy.  As with G.I. Joe, the The Transformers cartoon was created and produced by Marvel, including all the characters and stories.
  38. Hasbro initially rejected the name Megatron, thinking it would be too scary for kids.
  39. Optimus Prime is a combination of two Latin words: optimus meaning “best” and prime meaning “first”.
  40. Transformers was named the 22nd best animated series by IGN.
  41. In 1976 Mattel turned down the opportunity to produce the Star Wars toys.  After the huge success of Star Wars, Mattel wanted to come up with the next big toy success, and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was their answer.
  42. Like so many others, the He-Man toys came before the cartoon show — the purpose of the show was to sell more toys.  He-Man went on to make Mattel over a billion dollars.
  43. Rumors persist that He-Man was a copy of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Conan The Barbarian” movies, but it’s not true.  He-Man prototypes were created years before the first Conan movie.  In 1983 The Conan Licensing Company sued Mattel over the matter, but Mattel won.
  44. Original prototypes had He-Man with a dark-haired, brown-skinned, eastern European appearance.  Later, at the urging of Mattel executives, his hair was made blond and his skin lighter.
  45. Early He-Man comics had him as a superhuman barbarian with only half of the Power Sword, and Skeletor with the other half.  When the two halves were assembled it was the key to Castle Greyskill.  By the time the cartoon was released in 1983 He-Man’s backstory was changed to have his alter-ego as the prince of Eternia, he was given the entire Power Sword, and the sword was the source of his superpowers.
  46. In the cartoon series, He-Man never kills enemies and never strikes them with his sword.  His sword is only used to deflect objects.  He rarely even punches enemies, usually just throwing them, or throwing objects at them.  This was all due to the government censors’ strict restrictions on violence.
  47. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was named the 58th best animated series by IGN.
  48. Mattel, in an attempt to capture a portion of the female market, created She-Ra: Princess of Power in 1985.  She-Ra was the long lost sister of He-Man.  She was introduced in a made-for-TV-movie called Secret of the Sword.
  49. The California Raisins was a claymation musical group created by the California Raisin Advisory Board to promote the food in commercials.  The marketing team are reported to have said in frustration, “We’ve tried everything but dancing and singing raisins”, at which point they tried it and struck marketing gold.
  50. The California Raisins commercials were so popular they spawned a cartoon series, a Christmas special, a Nintendo video game, and four studio records.  Their signature song “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” made it to the Billboard 100 list.
  51. Dungeons & Dragons was produced by Marvel and was based on the popular game of the same name.  27 episodes ran from 1983-85.  The climactic conclusion was written as a final episode, but the network canceled the show before it was produced.
  52. To satisfy the many fans of the series who wanted to know the conclusion, a radio production was made using the script of the final episode “Requiem“.
  53. The level of violence in Dungeons & Dragons was unprecedented for its time.  An episode titled “The Dragon’s Graveyard” was almost not allowed to be shown because the heroes contemplated killing their evil nemesis Venger.
  54. In 1985 the US Government demanded that a label run at the beginning of each Dungeons & Dragons episode warning about its violence.
  55. Dungeons & Dragons was named the 64th best animated series by IGN.
  56. The Super Mario Bros Super Show cartoon series was launched in 1989 and ran for 52 episodes.  The beginning and end of each show featured live actors, including celebrity guests and athletes.  The live dialogue was improvised (unscripted).
  57. The popularity of Nintendo’s 1986 video game The Legend of Zelda spawned a 13-episode cartoon series that was incorporated as part of The Super Mario Bros Super Show.  The Zelda video game franchise has gone on to be Nintendo’s second most popular franchise; Mario is number one.
  58. Comedian Robin Williams named his daughter Zelda after the video game and cartoon’s princess.
  59. American Greetings (the greeting card company) created Strawberry Shortcake in 1977 for use on greeting cards.  In 1979 the toys were licensed through Hasbro.  The cartoon show was released in 1980.  Strawberry Shortcake became a huge fad through the early 80s, spawning merchandise and even an Atari video game.
  60. Following in the footsteps of Strawberry Shortcake’s success, American Greetings had the same creative team develop The Care Bears in 1981.  The Care Bears Movie (1985) was the highest grossing non-Disney animated film at that time.  The Care Bears cartoon show followed in 1986.  The franchise has been rebooted several times since then.  Most recently, in 2015 Netflix commission a new cartoon series.
  61. Not to be outdone by American Greetings, Hallmark Cards created the Shirt Tales characters in 1980 for use on greeting cards.  They were a collection of animals wearing t-shirts with messages written on them.  The card were such a success that Hallmark teamed with Hannah-Barbara to make a cartoon series which ran from 1982-84.
  62. After Shirt Tales was canceled, Hallmark went on to create Rainbow Brite (who’s real name is Wisp).  The cartoon was released in 1984 with just 13 episodes, but the concept has been rebooted several times since then.  The toys were licensed to Mattel.  The toy commercials frequently used the song “Over The Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz, but with altered lyrics.
  63. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began as a self-published comic book in 1984.  The creator took a loan from his uncle to get the comic made.
  64. Initially the turtles all wore the same colored headband, but they were changed to be distinct colors in order to tell the characters apart.  The cartoon was released in 1987 and went on to become one of the most popular cartoons in history.
  65. In Britain the show was called Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, again due to government censorship regarding violence (the word “ninja” being considered too violent).
  66. In Britain the turtle’s common catchphrases “lets kick some shell” and “bummer” were censored from the show.  “Bummer” is British slang for anal sex (“bum” being a British term for “butt”).
  67. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was named the 55th best animated series by IGN.
  68. In the 1980s there were two cartoons about ghost busting: Ghostbusters (1986) and The Real Ghostbusters (1984).  Filmation initially had a live-action TV show called Ghostbusters in 1975.  When the popular movie came out in 1984 starring Bill Murray and Dan Akroid, Columbia Pictures had to pay Filmation for rights to use the Ghostbuster name for the film.  But Columbia didn’t pay for rights to use the name as a cartoon.  After the film’s success the cartoon series was created in 1984 using the same characters as the movie, but they had to call it The Real Ghostbusters.  Filmation, having retained their TV rights to the name Ghostbusters, created their own cartoon in 1986 with entirely different characters and storyline from the movie.  Many kids at the time, including myself, were confused.
  69. The Real Ghostbusters was named the 22nd best animated series by IGN.
  70. The Simpsons originated as a series of shorts on The Tracy Ullman Show (a comedic  variety show) in 1987.  After 3 seasons The Simpson was given their own half-hour prime-time show.  It holds the record for the longest running prime-time cartoon in US history (formerly held by The Flinstones), and the longest running sitcom in history (formerly held by Ozzie and Harriet).
  71. The Simpsons was named the #1 best animated series by IGN.
  72. Thundercats finished production in 1983, but didn’t get released on TV until two years later, in 1985.
  73. When the Thundercats escape from their planet Thundera, they crash-land on Earth set in the future.
  74. Thundercats was named the 49th best animated series by IGN.
  75. Jem was created by Hasbro to compete with Barbie.  Like so many others, the cartoon show was created to promote the toys.  The show was created and produced by Marvel.
  76. The inclusion of music videos in the Jem shows was in response to the popularity of MTV.
  77. Jem contains a total of 187 music videos with 151 unique songs in 65 episodes.  No official soundtrack was ever released.
  78. In the Jem song/video “Who Is He Kissing”, the lyrics suggest that Jem is having sex with her boyfriend Rio.  In a decade of such tight government censorship, it’s surprising that this got past them.
  79. Jem became the #1 cartoon in it’s time slot.  In response, Mattel created Barbie and the Rockers toy line.
  80. Unlike most cartoon series’, Jem had a series finale where The Holograms and The Misfits declare a truce.
  81. Voltron: Defender of the Universe was the first authentic Japanese anime to achieve popular appeal in the USA in 1984.  There had been other anime shows prior, such as Speedracer (1966), but they had been heavily softened for American audiences.
  82. In the original Japanese edition, the Sven character dies early in the first season, but because of American censorship standards they modified the story so that Sven doesn’t die.  Instead he is wounded and leaves the show to go heal up.
  83. The series that was originally intended to be imported from Japan was an adaptation of Mirai robo Daltanias (1979), but Toei Animation accidentally sent the wrong tapes to World Events Productions in the USA.  Instead they sent tapes of Beast King GoLion (1981).  The US producers found that they liked GoLion better and adapted it into Voltron.
  84. Voltron: Defender of the Universe was named the 76th best animated series by IGN.
  85. M.A.S.K. is an acronym that stood for “Mobile Armored Strike Kommand” (command with a “k”).  Their enemies were V.E.N.O.M., an acronym for “Vicious Evil Network Of Mayhem”.  The show involved ordinary vehicles that could transform into powerful battle vehicles.
  86. M.A.S.K. was named the 99th best animated series by IGN.
  87. Mister T was an 80s icon, and the only real person to have a cartoon series and a breakfast cereal named for them.  His early jobs including bouncer and celebrity bodyguard.
  88. Mister T’s big break came when Sylvester Stallone cast him in Rocky III as the movie’s primary antagonist.  He was competing in “America’s Toughest Bouncer” competition when Stallone spotted him.
  89. Hulk Hogan was another 80s icon who had his own cartoon show: Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling (though no breakfast cereal).  Hogan’s character in the cartoon was voiced by Brad Garret, who went on to play Ray Barone’s brother Robert in Everybody Loves Raymond (1996).
  90. Dennis The Menace started as a newspaper comic strip in 1951, and has spawned countless spin-offs including the cartoon in 1986.
  91. Phil Hartman of Saturday Night Live fame was the voice of Dennis’ father Henry and of his tortured neighbor Mr. Wilson.
  92. Like so many others, the My Little Pony toys came before the cartoon — the purpose of the show was to sell more toys.  My Little Pony has been retooled several times since its original release in 1984.
  93. The popularity of the 2010 reboot My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is credited as generating a subculture of adult male (and boy) fans referred to as “bronies” (bro ponies).  BronyCon conventions have become common around the world.

Did we miss any?  Leave a comment below.

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