Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Saturday Morning, 80s Style

I was recently paging through an old issue of Power Man & Iron Fist when I stumbled upon an advertisement for Go-Bots. This, in and of itself, isn’t very peculiar, but this particular advert was for Go-Bot MODELS. Yeah, who wants to play with the Go-Bots since, in all fairness, they are really lame toys, when you can put them together from scratch with your own two hands! I can only imagine it as truly rapturous, and hopefully I can find one that doesn’t figure this rare, transcendent experience in to the price tag.

But this isn’t about Go-Bots. No, not just yet. That’s a different article for a different time, after I’ve culled through about 20 more issues of “Master of Kung-Fu” for more entertaining ads. No, this is about Saturday Morning Cartoons.

It was while paging through some old comics I stumbled upon a plethora of Saturday Morning advertisements. And I believe they tell quite a tale. Here’s the ad from 83 for NBC. Oh, don't forget, dear reader, all these pics can be blown up with but a click.  Looks at this line-up! Shirt Tales, Mr. T, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Spider-Man (and his somewhat less amazing friends), and let’s not forget Saturday Morning stalwarts The Smurfs. I remember all of these, so I must have been glued to NBC when I was 6.

Because I also found this monstrosity from ABC…

Monchhichis? The Puppy’s Further Adventures? A cartoon based on the RUBIK’S CUBE?! That’s cool. If he hangs out with his buddies Slinky and Hungry Hungry Hippo. But from what I can gather from the intro, he escapes from a gypsy and befriends three Mexican children. Sounds like a formula for success. I can only assume he helps them solve the growing pains and cultural prejudices associated with being an adolescent in America. Or maybe he just speaks in riddles and makes them fly. I couldn’t bear watching a whole episode to find out.

Oh and, lest we forget, the theme was sung by non-other than MENUDO! Looks, their banner is right there at the bottom of the page! You know what I remember about Menudo? Absolutely nothing. Just like all the cartoons from this line-up.

The next ad is a CBS ad from 1984. The 84 ad from NBC is here, if you are so inclined to look at it, but with the exception of the first appearance of the Snorks, it’s wholly unincredible. But this fellow, boy howdy is he a gem:

Richard Pryor? Richard Pryor? That’s who you're gonna go with as a spokesperson for your Saturday Cartoon block? They couldn’t find another 80s comedian to do a half hour show he was probably only contractually obligated to appear in for 10 minutes per episode? I guess Dan Akroyd was too busy starring in gems like Dr. Detroit. Besides, he ain't hard enough to rep motherfucking POLE POSITION!

I guess it’s fine. Foul mouthed comedians can be for the kids too. Hell, everybody loves Daddy Day Care, right? It’s all fine and good until Little Jimmy wants to know who would win in a fight between Batman and this guy:

And who did they get for the theme song? Ray Parker Jr.! Now that’s classic.
It starts out with a close up of a little white boy shining someone’s shoes, then pans up ultra-dramatically to show *gasp* it’s a black man! Get in where you fit in whitey! I would say it’s not on purpose, and if the pan would have revealed, say, Lionel Richie or Michael Jackson or Luther Vandross or, hell, even Billy Ocean, you might just think it for surprise value. But when it’s Ray Parker Jr. nobody gives a shit, not even in 1984.

Regardless of socio-political overtones, that is some pretty damned smooth 1980s R&B. Outside of the “Ghostbusters” theme song, I know nothing about the man. Ray Parker Jr. may have just sold himself a copy of “Sex and the Single Man.” Or maybe I will just have him come to my house and perform it for me. Whichever is cheaper.

Also take notice of the Saturday Supercade. Donkey Kong, Q-Bert, Space Ace and……………..Kangaroo? I mean, look, I remember Kangaroo but……Kangaroo? Nobody was pumping quarters in to Kangaroo with Centipede sitting right next to it. And what about Space Invaders or Mario Bros. or Galaga or Frogger or Pooyan? Yeah, in my world Pooyan ranks higher than Kangaroo. Pigs with blowdarts who shoot wolves attached to helium-filled balloons? That pig is a lot more bad-ass than a boxing kangaroo.

Outside of Muppet Babies, which I remember fondly as my favorite Saturday Cartoon, I don’t remember viewing too much here. I probably watched Muppet Babies, then switched it back to NBC, where they had Snorks, Smurfs, and Spidey. The three Saturday S’s probably trumped the three R’s in my formative years way more than they should have. But watching cartoons also led to critical thinking. Like how did creatures three apples high live inside mushrooms? One word: Magic.

There was nothing interesting in the next few as far as I can tell, but here they are anyway.

I remember a few of them fondly (Gummy Bears, Alf) some vaguely (Kidd Video, Wuzzles)and some not at all (Kissy and Foo-fur?) but the ads themselves are fairly nondescript, with my favorite being the 85 ad, making use of both a Cyndi Lauper chorus and a balding Hulk Hogan. Geez, it’s a cartoon, they could have at least given the guy a LITTLE dignity….

Not only don’t I remember watching a good chunk of these, but I couldn’t even find ads after 87, and had to scour the interwebz, eventually stumbling along this beauty from 1989:

Smurfs and Chipmunks never died, but I find the two strangest entries here to be Camp Candy and the Karate Kid. I don’t remember either of these. According to Wikipedia, the Karate Kid only lasted 13 episodes, but Camp Candy had a 3-year 40-episode run! What the hell? I can’t even rewatch a 90-minute film with Candy in it, 3 years worth of episodes sounds tortuous.

I wanted to make a joke here about Candy’s filmography, but while perusing it I noticed Spaceballs came out in 1987. I watched it recently and wouldn’t have guessed its age to be two decades plus, but I also wouldn’t say it has aged too terribly well either. Pizza the Hut! Ha! What a gas.

I would assume somewhere around 86-87 is when my cartoon viewing started to lean a little more towards after school and a little less Saturday Morning. After school had He-man, GI Joe, Thundercats, and Transformers. Classics, each and every one, and way more adult than little blue misfits and obese camp counselors. John Candy, he ain’t no Jim Varney, and Jim Varney was king of the late 80s. By that time I was creeping up on early adulthood, I didn’t want to watch no stinking talking chipmunks! I wanted violence and talking robots and cats who wielded ninja-like weaponry!

And also young, adventurous ducks who adventured with their filthy-rich curmudgeonly uncle. You never outgrow that.

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