The Top 10 Cartoons That Defined the 1980s

The Top 10 Cartoons That Defined the 1980s

The 1980s was an era most notable for its fashion, colorful clothing, and huge hairs that were in vogue. However, there was one other thing that was in vogue. It was the early Saturday morning cartoon shows. The ’80s saw the production of some of the best cartoon movies and television series ever produced. Growing up as a kid in the ‘80s was interesting. One of the reasons for that is that there were various cartoons and animated television series to look up to every Saturday.

Presenting: the top ten cartoons produced in the 1980s!

10. ThunderCats


Rankin/Bass Animated Entertainment and Leisure Concepts produced the action, adventure animated show, ThunderCats. The movie premiered in 1985. ThunderCats centers on a group of cat-like humanoids who had to leave their dying home planet, Thundera. In leaving the planet, enemy mutants attacked their spaceship, and it was damaged. Unfortunately, the damaged ship no longer could make the journey to its destination unless one of the ThunderCats must stay awake to pilot it while the rest hibernate in their capsule, immune to time and aging. Jaga volunteers to pilot the ship to Third Earth which he did, but he died of old age in the process.

Upon landing on their new planet, the leader of the ThunderCats, Lion-O, and his compatriots Cheetara, Panthro, Tygra, WilyKit, WilyKat, and Snarf all awoke from their sleep capsule to discover the inhabitants of their new planets are happy to have them. It did not take too long before enemies, who want to collect the “Eye of Thundera” tracked them to their new homes. This collectible is the source of the ThunderCats powers, Lion-O safely protects the Eye of Thundera within the hilt of his legendary sword.

9. Danger Mouse

Danger Mouse

Danger Mouse is an action, adventure, sci-fi, and animation television series produced by Cosgrove Hall Films for Thames Television. Its production took place on September 28, 1981. The animated television series depicts the adventures of Danger Mouse, the world’s most terrific secret agent. He has a lot of tricks and brilliant abilities up his sleeve, like speaking over 30 languages, the ability to shatter metallic materials with just his voice, performing military-grade push-ups with just two fingers, and being an incredible martial artist. Danger Mouse has a timid sidekick named Ernest Penfold, and they both answer to Colonel K, their boss.

8. Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears

The Adventures of Gummi Bears

Adventures of the Gummi Bears is a comedy, adventure, fantasy, and animated television series that Walt Disney Television produced and premiered on September 14, 1985. This animated series centers on a tribe of Gummi Bears called Gummi-Glen Gummis. They are part of a larger Gummi Bear population that lived freely and happily with humans until greed spread across the land. Greed began to grow in the human settlement when they started wishing for more of the bears’ magic and technological advances. Many Gummi bears traveled across the ocean for a safer settlement with the promise of returning once it is safe to co-habitat with humans again. While the rest left, they left a small tribe behind to safeguard what they left behind (the Gummi-Glen Gummis).

Now, generations have passed, and the Gummis have forgotten their purpose. Humans only believe the Gummi bears were fairy tales. Soon, a young boy appeared who possesses a medallion that can open the Great Book of Gummi. The book’s revelations then reminded both Gummis and humans of the world they used to live in.

7. G.I Joe

G.I. Joe

Hasbro made the G.I. Joe toy line then worked together with Marvel Products and Sunbow Productions to create the G.I Joe animated television series, an action, military, adventure. G.I Joe maintains its military-based influences, even as it tones down the voilence for television standards. It shows Joes’ never-ending battle against the evil terrorist organization called The Cobra Command. The G.I Joe is a counter-terrorism unit that consists of soldiers from all the military branches in the United States. This movie depicts their encounters with various villains and their appeasing victory through every challenge.

6. The Simpsons

The Simpsons

The Simpsons is an animated situational comedy television series created by Matt Groening for Fox Broadcasting Company. The show premiered on December 17, 1989. The television series depicts the everyday life of an awkwardly dysfunctional family named The Simpsons. The family’s head is Homer, the alcoholic and clumsy father who works as a safety inspector at the community’s Nuclear Plant. Marge, the mother, is a stay-at-home mom. This couple has three kids. Bart is their ten-year-old boy who acknowledges himself as an underachiever and sees himself as a prankster. Lisa is their eight-year-old genius who her family mostly ignores. Lastly is Maggie, their year-old toddler who sucks on her pacifier all day. The family has two pets: a cat and a dog.

5. The Smurfs

The Smurfs

The Smurfs is an adventure, comedy, and animated television series that Pierre Culliford for Hanna-Barbera Productions created. It aired on September 12, 1981. The Smurfs are little blue creatures that live in mushrooms inside the forest. They have a habit of naming each other according to their habits or personality. They are happy creatures with their leader and most old Smurf, Papa Smurf. The Smurf’s greatest antagonist is the notorious evil sorcerer Gargamel and his cat Azrael. Most episodes of this television series depict the Smurfs trying to escape this evil witch’s grasp and her pet cat, sometimes even saving the witch from her failed evil schemes.

4. Inspector Gadget

Inspector Gadget

Inspector Gadget is an action, adventure, comedy, crime, and animated television series. Andy Heyward, Bruno Bianchi, and Jean Chalopin created the series for DIC Audiovisuel and Lexington Broadcast Services Company on September 12, 1983. Inspector Gadget shows the life and trial of a cyborg police inspector by the name of Gadget. He is a dim-witted police inspector who works for a secret police organization fighting crime across the universe. Inspector Gadget has one duty: to destroy the criminal plans of a particular organization called Mean and Dirty (M.A.D). The evil Dr. Claw leads this organization. Despite the star of the show, Inspector Gadget’s niece, Penny, usually carries out these missions with the help of the family pet dog named Brian. This change in the plot is due to the Inspector’s incompetence. However, he receives credit for completing his mission by himself.

3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an action, adventure, comedy, crime, superhero animated series produced by Murakami-Wolf-Swenson. It aired on the 14th of December 1987. This television series was based on an original comic of the same title created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles centers on a Japanese martial arts master, Hamato Yoshi, who lived in exile from his clan. His exhalation was wrongfully punishment for a crime he did not commit. He found his way to New York City, where he lives in the sewer system.

Yoshi then adopted four turtles as pets before an unknown transformation chemical found its way to their dwellings. The turtles transformed into humanoids turtles while Yoshi transformed by the chemical into a humanoids rat. Yoshi raised the turtles like a human child and named them Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Raphael. He trained them in martial arts, and they named him Splinter. The movie depicts the Ninja Turtles as crime-fighting superheroes and their various encounters with many villains, including Yoshi’s old foe, who is responsible for his banishment.

2. Transformers


The Transformers is an action, adventure, sci-fi, and animated television series created based on the Transformers toy line by Hasbro. The movie aired initially on September 17, 1984. The Transformers animated series centers on the two conflicting factions of the Transformers. The forces of good, Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, and the evil Decepticons led by Megatron. The two factions landed on earth to recover a lost energy source. The Decepticons intend to use this energy source to destroy the earth. But the Autobots would prevent that from happening.

1. DuckTales


DuckTales is an action, adventure, comedy animated television series that Disney Television Animation produced. It aired on the 18th of September 1987. DuckTales depicts the adventures of a millionaire, Scrooge McDuck. He is the caretaker of his three nephews Dewey, Huey, and Louie while Donald Duck is away. Although Scrooge was reluctant to accept the kids initially, he became familiar with the kids when he discovers how smart and resourceful, they are.

The show also introduced some other characters like Mrs. Beakley, the nanny Scrooge employed to take care of the little boys, Webby, the nanny’s granddaughter, Launchpad McQuack, Scrooge’s pilot, and some others. The main villain of the story is Flintheart Glomgold, who wants to be the richest duck in the world, Beagle Boys, and Magica De Spell, who wants to steal from Scrooge.


The 1980s saw a lot of beautiful works produced, and it was not an easy task picking just ten from the vast arrays of fantastic, animated movies produced during this decade. Though ratings are subjective, the cartoons here will make a list of any ratings of cartoons in the 1980s.

About the author

Author: Chris Ingledue 


Bio: I am the founder and owner of Wheeljack’s Lab pop Culture and Toy Shop. My vision has always been to reunite customers with their favorite childhood toys and pop culture, triggering fond memories, and reigniting their imaginations. Every day, I work in the “lab” where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. I scour the internet, like when we had the Sears Catalog of yesteryear, for the next great treasure. Then, I await the arrival of the postman as if he were Santa Claus himself and helping collectors worldwide with their own versions of Christmas. Every day as a vintage toy buyer is an absolute joy!

The Top 10 Cartoons That Defined the 1980s
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The Top 10 Cartoons That Defined the 1980s
Do you remember watching ThunderCats and Transformers every Saturday Morning? Which are on our top 10 cartoons that defined the 1980s list?
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Wheeljack's Lab
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