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15 Things We Learned About Classic '80s Action Cartoons

Updated September 8, 2021 797 votes 118 voters 8k views15 items

List RulesVote up the classic cartoon facts you never knew before.

The 1980s was an amazing decade for cartoon lovers, a time when the world was gifted with the likes of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, He-Man, ThunderCats, The Transformers, and much more. Sure, they were made to sell toys to millions of children - but who cared when the toys and cartoons were so entertaining? After all, it's decades later, and just about every one of those beloved cartoons has made a comeback.

Whether you were a fan of Prince Adam, Duke, or any of the other hundreds of characters, you probably know a lot about them. Still, there's a good chance there are more than a few facts about 1980s action cartoons that even those who loved them don't know. This list highlights some of the more interesting tidbits from the glory days of after-school animated action. Take a look, and be sure to upvote your favorites!

  • If you ever happen to catch an episode of G.I. Joe: The Real American Hero as an adult, you may have noticed something you didn't pick up on when you were a kid. Destro is often tasked with delivering plot exposition, and he does so in a self-consciously literate manner (usually to the irritation of Cobra Commander, who bickers with Destro in the manner of an old married couple).

    Here's a sample: "The mass device is not a toy for your amusement! These repeated demonstrations of its power have almost exhausted our supply of catalytic elements!"

    Ron Friedman, the show's head writer, explained Destro's style in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter:

    When exposition was there, it was often with Destro. I tried to make it as Shakespearean and pretentious as possible. So you could just see Cobra Commander seething. It couldn’t just be bald exposition or the kids would tune it out. Kids hate to be pandered to. It didn’t need to be dumbed down.

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  • 2

    At Her Audition For ‘G.I. Joe,’ The Baroness Actress Screamed ‘CO-BRA!’ At The Top Of Her Lungs

    The character of the Baroness got her start in the Marvel Comics G.I. Joe series before making the leap to television. That debut coincided with the introduction of a new toy (as is common with these kinds of shows), and she quickly became a popular character.

    She was voiced by Morgan Lofting, who told an interesting story about her audition for the character in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter:

    In the audition, I screamed, “Co-bra!!!” at the top of my lungs. And I think they went, “Her. She looks like she’s willing to go to the wall.” When you walk into the audition, they usually have a picture of what the character is going to look like. And a script. There must have been something on that page that said the Baroness has a European accent because no country ever existed that sounds like the Baroness. She’s not Russian. She’s from somewhere in middle Europe that cannot be named or found. I just dreamed it up, and I don’t know how.

    The lesson to aspiring actors: Total commitment can work wonders.

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  • There's no denying that He-Man bears a striking resemblance to Conan the Barbarian. This fact was apparent to anyone familiar with both franchises; most importantly, it was evident to Conan Properties, Inc. (CPI), which held the rights to Robert E. Howard's beloved creation. The company sued Mattel in 1982 for copyright infringement.

    The lawsuit claimed that CPI and Mattel entered into negotiations in 1980 for licensing rights to allow the toy company to make products related to Conan the Barbarian, soon to be a major motion picture featuring rising star Arnold Schwarzenegger. The agreement was signed in July 1981, and it gave Mattel "the right to make and sell certain plastic action figures of CONAN and ancillary characters as depicted in the CONAN movie."

    Mattel wanted the agreement altered in 1982, and by April of that year, the license was terminated with the stipulation that all produced materials be delivered to CPI. The following year, Mattel introduced He-Man, and CPI took notice.

    Ultimately, the lawsuit was decided in Mattel's favor, letting the company retain its rights to the character. A number of factors went into the decision, but more than anything, it was proven that the two properties were essentially unrelated. He-Man was first conceptualized and pitched to Mattel in early 1980 before the two companies' licensing agreement was discussed.

    Though muscular barbarians were certainly in the cultural ether at that time (see also: Thundarr the Barbarian), it was difficult to prove a direct link between Conan and He-Man.

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  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and its associated toys appealed, by design, primarily to boys. Sure, girls were watching the show, but they weren't exactly the key demographic. The numbers came out to around 70% of the audience consisting of boys, so the marketing folks at Mattel got to work on something that might grab the attention of girls.

    Mattel owns Barbie, and while that toyline has always been popular, its sales at the time were dwarfed by He-Man. By 1984, more than $1 billion was made from He-Man licensed products. At the same time, Barbie sales were relatively flat, so the company decided it needed a new kind of Barbie doll... "a Sword-Slinger Barbie."

    Mattel came up with She-Ra: Princess of Power, and it worked. Mattel pulled in tons of cash via a wider demographic, but the character wasn't simply a female version of He-Man. While Prince Adam was living it up in Eternia, She-Ra came from Etheria, which was ruled by the "bad guys." Her life was more like those found in a young-adult dystopia, whereas her twin brother's was all about the glitz and glamor of castle life.

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