Clicking through my usual round of favorite websites, I came across an article on Blastr.com about Saturday morning cartoons. As I scrolled through the article, I was hit with my own wave of nostalgia and felt compelled to come up with my own list of my top favorites from those carefree, footie-pajama, breakfast cereal days. To be clear, this is not even close to being an exhaustive list of my favorites, nor is this in any particular order, but these are the ones that stuck with me even as I became an adult. Also, these are the cartoons that played on Saturdays, not during the week…that’s a whole other list.
Also, fair warning for those of you wanting to check some of these out, there are spoilers below. You’ve been warned. J
1.) Dungeons and Dragons
Based on the tabletop role-playing game system of the same name, what I liked about the show was their 1980s diversity. In addition to the usual cast of white males, there were also two girls and one of them was even black! As a little half-white, half-asian kid in a black neighborhood, the whitewashing of cartoons was also confusing to me. But it wasn’t until Diana the Acrobat and Sheila the Thief that I started thinking about, in my own little nine year old way, the ideas gender and racial inequality (although it wasn’t until high school and college that I gained the vocabulary for the confusion I was wrestling with). Honestly, I was just thrilled to have this little geeky gem on my screen.
2.) Challenge of the Super Friends
Two words: Wonder Woman. I mean, seriously, how do we not have a Wonder Woman live action movie already? Or a television reboot? Sorry, I get a little carried away sometimes…
This was my introduction into the world of DC comics and the Justice League. This show, more than any other, made me want to be a super hero, not because they had cool powers (although that was certainly a perk), but because they saved people and stopped the bad guys. For an out-of-place kid, who got bullied a lot, it was comforting to know that not everyone with power was a jerk. It gave me an ideal to aspire to, and provided an escape from the less than perfect world I lived in. Also, there was Wonder Woman. Once again, she was a welcome change from the white male monotony, but more than that she was accepted as an equal; not a girl playing dress up, not someone’s girlfriend or meddlesome sister, she was a hero in her own right. And that was pretty bad ass to me.
3.) Thundarr the Barbarian
Ok, so it’s heavy on the Conan the Barbarian like characterization, but the post-apocalyptic stuff was still pretty neat. Obviously my favorite character was Princess Ariel, not just for the girl power thing, but she was also the smartest person in the room most of the time. In many ways, she was the one explaining the science to our swordslinger, not to mention she was a sorceress in her own right. Smart women are cool.
4.) Princess Knight
One of the most obscure on my list, my memories of it are a bit fuzzy memories because I was only six years old when I saw it for the first time. It stuck with me for a few reasons; first, it was the first Japanese anime outside of Speed Racer that I had ever seen; second, the main character, Princess Sapphire, was masquerading as a Prince; third, the cross-dressing was by royal decree–that is, the King ordered that his daughter and only heir be raised as a boy so that she would be able inherit the throne. Personally, I thought it was the coolest shit ever! I mean, I wanted to be able to ride around on a horse, and carry a sword so that I could rescue people like she often did.
A few years ago, my best friend and I were talking about our favorite Saturday morning cartoons. She began to describe a show about a flying horse, that didn’t have wings but could still hop dimensions. When I asked if it also had an exiled princess, her eyes became huge in amazement because I was the first person who finally knew what she was talking about.
A campy short-lived show about a 12 year old girl named Sara who finds out that she is actually a princess who was hidden in our world to protect her from an evil sorceress. What I loved about the show was it appealed to my fantasies of being secret royalty; Sara and I were the same age and, most importantly, she was the hero of the story. Despite its campiness, it could still be a pretty dark show such as when you find out that the sorceress, Lady Diabolyn, is actually Sara’s aunt! Not only that, but Diabolyn is the one who killed her own sister, Queen Sarana. Process that for a second! Your aunt killed your mom and is now trying to actively kill you–talk about dysfunctional family dynamics. Another cool bit, when Sara was hidden away, she was left on the doorstep of a man who we later find out is her father. His memory of Sarana and Sara had been wiped away to protect them both. Voice acting footnote: Jessica Walter is the voice of Diabolyn, you might also know her as the voice of Malory Archer on the animated series Archer.
Finally, honorable mention to Schoolhouse Rock!
Their musical shorts do not exactly qualify as their own show, but it was definitely part of my Saturday morning experience and, as with the other cartoons listed, stuck with me well into my adult years.
I hope you enjoyed my mini-stroll down-memory lane as much as I did writing it.
So now, what about y’all? What old cartoons are you nostalgic for?