Let’s face it, there have been some weird cartoons over the years, and none more so than those of the 80’s. Many of these odd cartoons are now long forgotten but make for interesting peculiarities when they do pop up! Often, they ran for just one season. Some of the extremely weird ones ran for even shorter stints, such as 13 or even only 5 episodes.
Naturally, no matter how short the run, almost every series was accompanied by a toy line. Toy companies developed ideas for toys and then turned them into cartoons that doubled as 30-minute advertisements. Ah, the 80’s! This worked extraordinarily well for shows like GI Joe, He-Man, and Transformers. However, I’d imagine the companies saw a loss on their toy sales when a show’s episode order was drastically cut short. Though, somehow, I still managed to end up with toys from some of the very weird examples on this list.
Many 80’s cartoons were heavily influenced by the success of the action movies of the 80’s from the likes of Stallone and Schwarzenegger. This is readily seen in the fact that Rambo was turned into a one season cartoon and Chuck Norris and His Karate Kommandos was created as a 5-episode mini-series. Every show had to be action-packed with battles performed using everything from lasers and guns to magic and swords.
Watching today’s cartoons with my kids, I’ve noticed the action-packed cartoons aren’t as prevalent anymore. Sure, you still have comic book themed cartoons, but then you have shows like The Amazing World of Gumball, Adventure Time, and Spongebob. These shows are amazingly hilarious and, I thought to myself as I was watching them, very weird. But, are they weirder than the 80’s cartoons? No way.
Before we get into the true oddities from that bygone pinnacle of cartoon time, let’s acknowledge how weird some things are that we accept as somewhat normal now. Batman is a dude that dresses up in bat-themed PJ’s and runs around fighting bad guys. I mean, who’s the crazy person in that scenario? Robot aliens that protect Earth meanwhile disguising themselves as Earth-style vehicles? I mean why were the Transformers disguising themselves anyway? They pretty much revealed themselves to every human they ever interacted with, so why still pretend to be cars and planes? How about ninja heroes that happen to be mutated teenage turtles? That has to be the weirdest of the decade, doesn’t it? However, no one thinks of those as strange anymore. The world’s acceptance of these concepts comes through the popularity of those shows, but at one time, people undoubtedly thought they were super strange.
Then, there are those shows that were extremely weird yet did not become household names. Decades later, they are but a distant, forgotten memory for most who ever saw them at all. So, today, they are cursed to forever have people look at them and wonder what the heck the creators were thinking.
This series ran only 13 episodes in 1984. It was about a boy who could transform into a living car any time he wanted. How did he get these powers? He ran his sports car off the road and right into a secret lab where he was hit by a laser that combined him and his car into one bizarre being. When hot, he’d morph into the car. When cold, he’d turn back into his human form. Naturally, he used this power to help him solve mysteries.
With a clearly phenomenal premise like that, how could the show go wrong? Spoiler, it did. Obviously, the makers of the show didn’t quite comprehend the coolness of The Transformers and simply wanted to cash in on that success without really trying to create anything new. A car transforming into a robot is fun and creative. A boy who morphs into a car? Not so much. The toy for this oddity looked as if someone put a GI Joe head on a Transformer body. The animation of the show wasn’t great, and the plots were pretty week. The end result: too goofy to last.
In 1986, Sectaurs ran as only a 5-episode cartoon mini-series. Actually, today, I remember the toys I had of the series much more than I do the series itself, and I barely remember those.
On the planet Symbion, a failed genetic experiment created abnormally large insects and spiders. The insect-like, yet humanoid beings of the planet performed a process called “tele-bonding” with the large creatures allowing them to ride the giant bugs like horses as the good and bad factions battled each other. Of course, the regular insects are the steeds of the good guys, while the arachnids are what the bad guys use to charge into battle.
If you could get past the outlandishness of the initial part of the premise, the rest of the show wasn’t bad. For the mini-series, since it was only 5 episodes, the story was kept tight and done fairly well. The accompanying toys were also done very well. The action figures were well constructed and very cool with more points of articulation that the He-Man line. They were also bigger than the 5.5 inch He-Man toys.
So, the giant bugs they rode had to be even bigger. The toys did this in a cool way. The saddles and heads of the bugs were made much like the figures, but the bodies were essentially hand puppets that looked like spider and insect legs!
I’m guessing Sectaurs was seen as too strange to get a full season order. However, that helped the story and over all production value as they told the story concisely and didn’t feel the need to stretch the premise farther than needed.
Inhumanoids is one of the strangest cartoons of all time. It’s very violent. There’s blood splatter. People die as they drown in acid. There’s even one villain who looks like a giant vulture-headed skeleton, named D’Compose, who traps victims inside his rib cage where they slowly decompose till they die. Perhaps it isn’t hard to see why the show caught flack from parents, scared kids, and only lasted 13 episodes in 1986.
The plot of the show follows the team of scientists known as the Earth Corps as they battle the three enormous Inhumanoids that were released from beneath the Earth’s surface. The Earth Corps had highly advanced suits with different powers per team member that allowed them to take on the beasts.
Those beasts included the aforementioned D’Compose as well as a giant Swamp Thing looking creature named Tendril and their leader, Metlar, who was a rock-skinned devil-looking character that melts people with lava. The heroes had help along the way, though, in the form of talking redwood trees. Because that makes sense.
Aside from the crazy setup, the artwork was fairly good for a cartoon from the 80’s. Also, the writing was decent as well. Once again, that’s likely because the short run of the series kept the show runners from stretching the premise until it was paper thin and silly.
When you think about it, there have been many freakishly strange cartoons over the years. However, the 80’s saw a definite uptick in that odd factor. I suppose it’s possible that, if given time to grow an audience, they could have become known well enough to no longer be considered strange, like Batman or TMNT. However, I doubt it.
While there are definitely very odd cartoons still out there today, they are most often done to be purposely silly. The action-themed shows of the 80’s, though, proved to be weird while trying for serious storytelling. This either resulted in comically bad shows or shows that received the disapproval of parents everywhere.
Weird and Forgotten Cartoons of the 80’s
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