Cartoons Millennials Watched Growing Up

We were all children once and like all all children, we grew up on cartoons. Every single one of us have fond memories of ourselves plopped in front of the television in the wee hours on the morning chomping down on cereal or rushing home from school to watch animated characters light up our screens. Whether it was Saturday morning, weekday morning, weekday afternoon, or Sunday night, these fictional worlds gave us a sense of adventure and imagination. It also made the companies that produced them rich due to unlimited merchandising and marketing ploys. Now, I’ve written about Nickelodeon produced cartoons, Nicktoons, in the past and yes we all watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe, Transformers, and others (wrote about them too!) Now I want to shift the focus on some of the other cartoons I watched growing up. Some I admit, were cheaply produced and pretty disposable but who the hell thinks about that stuff in adolescence? While these animated series’ were not nearly as successful as the above, they all have a special place in my heart.

Now Some of these you’ve heard of and some you haven’t. Keep in mind that I discovered most of these shows in syndication as I was either not born yet or still in infancy during their original runs.

Denver, The Last Dinosaur (1988)

This was one of the very first cartoons I can remember watching as a child. What kid doesn’t love dinosaurs? And this show had a catchy as hell theme that I’d constantly hum, which drove my siblings and even my parents nuts. Denver is about a gang of California teens who unearth a giant egg in their hometown containing a friendly dinosaur whom they name Denver. Not suspecting this to be the scariest thing in the world, the kids take a liking to the creature and teach him how to be “cool.” The group run into numerous hurdles throughout the series mainly having to do with evading the people who want to exploit Denver and keeping him a secret from their families which they excel at every time. Yes, no one can see the huge freakin’ green dinosaur hiding in a teenager’s home.

I guess the visual of a dinosaur in pink shades suckered me in early on.

Dinosaucers (1987)

More dinosaucers! Even better, dinosaurs in outer space! Yes, that pretty much describes Dinosaucers. While one of my favorites growing up, Dinosaucers seemed to steal aspects from other popular cartoons at the time. The story here is that the Dinosaucers, the good-natured, prehistoric species, are at war with the evil reptilian Tyrannos. Seeking help in their battle, the Dinosaucers recruit four human teenagers called the Secret Scouts (no relation to Sailor Moon’s Sailor Scouts) who gain powers with rings that the Dinosaucers give them. While not the most original of cartoons, this one always kept my interest.

Bionic Six (1986-1987)

The original superhero family in my opinion were the Bionic Six. Equipped with his x-ray vision, Bionic-1 and his telepathic wife, Mother-1 lead a clan of bionic-infused children who all possess their own distinct superpowers. These include: Sport-1 (who bares a striking resemblance to Terry Bogard of the Fatal Fury video game series), who can manipulate metal objects and electric energy, his sister, Rock-1, who can run at super speeds, adopted son, I.Q., who is blessed with super strength and intelligence, and other adopted son, Karate-1, who is…really, really good at karate?

While learning to all get along as one big happy unit, they often comes to odds with Dr. Scarab and his henchmen. At the end of the day though, the Bionic Six were a normal American family where the parents worked, the children went to school, and family dinners were a regular event.

Ewoks (1985-1986)

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a big Star Wars fan. I respect its popularity and how it innovated filmmaking but it was just never a concept I could really get into. That didn’t stop me from watching not one, but two spin-off cartoons featuring characters from the movies. The first was Ewoks, which was about a gang of little furry creatures from the planet of Endor who try to get along in the forest and battle other evil creatures threatening their society. Hell, I didn’t even know the Ewoks were characters from The Return of the Jedi until recently. Did I mention I’m not a Star Wars guy?

Jem (1985-1988)

Growing up with two older sisters, I was constantly subjected to Jem. Whether that was a good or bad thing is up to you to decide. The show centered around Jerrica Benton, a young music label owner who moonlights as Jem, the glitzy, charismatic lead singer of the Holograms. Jem routinely tangles with evil record executives and rival band, the Misfits (shocked that Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only never pressed charged for that one). Songs were often performed by both groups on the program which set it apart from most other animated programs at the time. I didn’t have a lot of memories of the show other than knowing I watch it until the creation of YouTube where I was able to relive some clips. The entire series was eventually uploaded to Netflix and I can honestly say that show is a piece of garbage. Nothing about it holds up at all.

That hasn’t stopped filmmaker John M. Chu from directing a live-action film adaptation of the cartoon due out in 2015. Get ready folks; Jem is excitement!

The Pirates of Dark Water (1991-1993)

Before Johnny Depp donned eye-shadow for the role of Jack Sparrow in the film series, Pirates of the Caribbean, Pirates were popular amongst me and my grade school pals due to Pirates of Dark Water. This animated series centered around Ren, a young warrior, who sails the seas in search for the 13 Treasures of Rule so he can overtake the toxic substance, or “dark water,” that’s flooded his land. Joining him on the journey are comrades, Tula, Ioz, and Niddler, who help him fend off rival pirate, Bloth, and his gang who are also seeking the prize.

A recurring theme throughout the series was Ren’s weapon of choice, the lower half of a sword, which he attempts to seek the other half for.

When I first watched Pirates, it ran weekday afternoons on Cartoon Network. I stormed to my room every day after third grade just to catch the latest swashbuckling adventures of Ren and his crew. Hell, one day my mother surprised me with the Sega Genesis video game adaptation of the cartoon! It was pretty addicting though I could never get past the final stage. Where were those videos of video game walkthroughs when I was growing up?!

ProStars (1991)

In addition to Star Wars, I’ll also admit to not loving sports. What kind of man am I? The reality is that basketball is really the only sport I follow (NBA related article coming to CXF soon, I promise!) Like any basketball fan growing up in the 80s and 90s, Michael Jordan was the biggest sports star on the planet. He was so popular that he even had his own Saturday morning cartoon co-starring hockey legend, Wayne Gretzky, and iconic football and baseball star, Bo Jackson. The three athletes protect children and their neighborhood by fighting crime in caricatured versions of themselves. None of the actual stars voiced their characters but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t excited to see MJ’s immortalized in animated form. I had my 23’s strapped on my during every viewing!

Little Shop (1991)
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After the popular 80s remake of Little Shop of Horrors starring Rick Moranis and Steve Martin, a cartoon sequel series aired on Fox Kids in the early 1990s. The plot was a kid who kept a talking venus flytrap as a pet. While I didn’t watch it during its original run, the Sci-Fi channel (now SyFy) oddly enough aired cartoons on their network every morning so that’s how I remember watching it. I actually couldn’t remember the title until I did some heavy research. Worth it!

Star Wars: Droids (1985-1986)

This was the second cartoon I watched growing up that was spun-off from the Star Wars films. This one primarily focuses on the exploits of R2-D2 and C-3PO as they fend off evil. These two machines made for some pretty entertaining comedy and it was pretty sick to watch them kick ass on their own without the help of the humans of the Star Wars universe such as Luke Skywalker. I will say this about the show, it had an excellent theme song!

I really hope you had fun reading this. I sure had fun writing it but I think I’m officially done with writing about cartoons. Click on my name at the bottom of the page and look for my Nicktoons article. You’ll never want to read about another cartoon between these two articles again!


Written by Matthew Reine

is a New Yorker with a strong passion for film and television. Also the biggest Keanu Reeves fan you know.

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