With The LEGO Movie totally dominating the President’s Day weekend box office, one thing is for certain: a ton of those tiny plastic blocks are about to go flying off the shelves. It makes me nostalgic for the days of my childhood, those halcyon days of the 80s when cartoons were just dressed up, 21-minute toy commercials occasionally interrupted with commercials for different toys and sugar-infused cereals. Let’s take a moment to remember some of the shameless merchandising.
Transformers – When it comes to TV/toy tie-ins, this is probably the top of the list. While the concept of cars and planes that turn into freakin’ robots (in disguise) is awesome enough on its own, the cartoon was pretty sweet, too, thanks to the usually well animated transformation sequences. Some folks have really gotten into the storyline, but for me, it was all about robots blasting each other.
He-Man/She-Ra – I might have actually liked Masters of the Universe the cartoon better than the toys. Transformers is credited with having a complex storyline, but He-Man had a storyline that a five-year-old could actually follow without being overly simplistic. I still have a soft-spot for Filmation animation to this day, functional and Spartan as it may be. And, of course, I had my He-Man figures, too.
excellent brand recognition. The hallmark of the cartoon series was that the opposing sides’ fire was distinguishable by color. And the hallmark of the action figures was that they were the same scale as the Star Wars figures, meaning that you could still have fun with latter even though you broke off your AT-AT’s legs.
M.A.S.K. – The Mobile Armored Strike Kommand was kind of like G.I. Joe meets Transformers. I don’t remember the cartoon much beyond the fact that the vehicles all converted to reveal hidden weapons and abilities. That was pretty much all there was to it. After all, the idea was to sell toys that did the same.
Care Bears – By day, I may have been storming the battle fields with He-Man and G.I. Joe, but by night, I had my trusty Care Bear to keep me cozy. (Bedtime Bear, if you must know.) Though my plush companion was indispensable, I can’t say I ever got on with the cartoons so much. Even as a child they hit me as too saccharine to bear. Pun most likely intended.
Strawberry Shortcake – Another one that didn’t come to me directly, Strawberry has had a number of cartoon iterations over the years, so I can’t be sure if the one from the 80s was even the first. (Fun fact: the voice work for the 2000s version of Strawberry Shortcake was recorded in Omaha.) Still, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t occasionally grab a whiff of her and her friends’ fruit scented locks.
In case anyone is upset that I overlooked something, this is just a list of the ones that I remember the best. (Yes, I admit it, I totally missed the Thundercats. Don’t ask me how.) So, tell me about your favorites.