The tough guys returned in the ‘80s after a decade of “nice” cartoon characters inflicted upon America’s youth by anti-violence parental watchdogs. The networks no longer had to wimp up all their kiddie stars with the success of explosive afternoon animation such as He-Man, Transformers and G.I. Joe. The biggest tough guys woke up early on weekends in order to celebrate this return to brute force. Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s, Vol. 1 takes us back to the time when brawn flexed back.
Mr. T has always been a guilty pleasure because it’s just so weird. At the time he was flying high as the star of The A-Team. NBC came up with the genius idea to team him up with a bunch of teen gymnasts, a dog with his haircut and Danny Bonaduce look-alike that wants to be Mr. T. “Mystery of the Golden Medallions” brings the absurdity hard and fast. Bad guys steal and smash gold medals. Why? Does it matter? What matters is Mr. T has to stop them with his flexible crew. He even fights sharks with his bare hands before they eat his star athletes. Who put Mr. T in charge of these kids? Some creative genius sprinkled more than sugar on their Mr. T cereal to green light this concept. Mr. T does a live action intro and outro of the episode to remind us there’s a life lesson for the kiddies. Any one who doesn’t get educated by Mr. T is a fool worthy of pity. Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos is like Mr. T except it wasn’t really a Saturday morning staple. They only made five episodes to test as a weekday series like G.I. Joe. The show is so breathtakingly dumb that Chuck constructed the script out of the boards he’d break during his host segments. “Deadly Dolphin” has him defending a sealab with a giant Sumo wrestler.
Dragon’s Lair was a videogame that became a TV series. This was a natural transition since the arcade version was a choose your own adventure animated. This makes sense to turn into a real cartoon since they already had the character design. Although the Saturday morning version isn’t quite as exciting as chucking your own quarters into the machine. Thundarr the Barbarian takes us in the future when after a major disaster which busts up the moon, the Earth has descended to a world of swords and sorcery. In the midst of the rubble, the only hope for civilization in a barbarian named Thundarr, a Chewbecca rip-off and a female wizard. It’s kinda like Gamma World mixed with Dungeons and Dragons except you don’t have to keep up with your polyhedral dice to enjoy the action. Galtar and the Golden Lance is an intergalactic Conan-esque serial. Goldie Gold & Action Jack is a female Richie Rich that looks like an animated Dynasty character. This is over top action including her jet airplane with an Olympic swimming pool on the top. This woman’s carbon footprint is what killed the glaciers.
Not every star in the ‘80s was an action stud. Evidence provided on this boxset is The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley featuring the voice of Martin Short. He was a spastic man with a hairdo that looks like an iron handle. Unlike Pee-Wee Herman, Grimley is fully animated. There’s a lot of fluff from this period including The Monchhichis those furry dolls with the catchy commercial jingle. Kwicky Koala is worth mentioning since Tex Avery died while working on it. The Flinstone Kids drags out the once noble characters for another series.
After tasting off the sampler of Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s, Vol. 1, there are four cartoons that truly need to be released in complete boxsets: Mr. T, Chuck Norris, Ed Grimley and Thundarr the Barbarian. The other cartoons are fun for a nibble, but remind me why I preferred to sleep late on Weekend mornings during this era.
The Episodes Goldie Gold & Action Jack – “Night of the Crystal Skull” Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos – “Deadly Dolphin” The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley – “Tall, Dark & Hansom” The Flintstone Kids – “The Bad News Brontos,” “Invasion of the Mommy Snatchers,” “Dreamchip’s Car Wash” and “Princess Wilma.” Mr. T – “Mystery of the Golden Medallions” The Biskitts – “As The Worm Turns” and “Trouble in the Tunnel” The Monchhichis – “Tickle Pickle” Galtar and the Golden Lance – “Galtar and the Princess” Dragon’s Lair – “The Tale of the Enchanted Gift” Thundarr the Barbarian – “Secret of the Black Pearl” The Kwicky Koala Show – “Dry Run,” “Robinson Caruso,” “High Roller,” “The Claws Conspiracy,” “Hat Dance” and “Dirty’s Debut”
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfer quality varies from show to show. There are a few with more dirt and an obvious sourcing from a broadcast video master. Nothing it too irritating to watch. The audio is Dolby Digital mono. The levels are fine since they’re mostly soundtracks created in post production. The subtitles are in English.
Lords of Light! – Thundarr the Barbarian (18:29) is a light history of the show featuring plenty of people discussing how it combined Sci-Fi with Dungeons and Dragons. Joe Ruby and Ken Spears don’t give away too many secrets of how it was created since they don’t need to get sued by their influences.
Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s, Vol. 1 is the perfect compilation for those that wax nostalgic about waking up on a Saturday morning. The sight of animated Mr. T and Chuck Norris should be a rush for any action fan. Make sure you get a box of your favorite cereal when you pick up this DVD set.
Warner Home Video presents Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s, Vol. 1. Starring: Martin Short, Chuck Norris and Mr. T. Boxset contents: 11 episodes on 2 discs. Released on DVD: May 4, 2010. Available at Amazon.com.
Joe Corey is the writer and director of "Danger! Health Films" currently streaming on Night Flight and Amazon Prime. He's the author of "The Seven Secrets of Great Walmart People Greeters." This is the last how to get a job book you'll ever need. He was Associate Producer of the documentary "Moving Midway." He's worked as local crew on several reality shows including Candid Camera, American's Most Wanted, Extreme Makeover Home Edition and ESPN's Gaters. He's been featured on The Today Show and CBS's 48 Hours. Dom DeLuise once said, "Joe, you look like an axe murderer." He was in charge of research and programming at the Moving Image Archive.