I’ll be the first to admit it, many 80’s cartoons existed simply to sell toys. Shows like The Transformers and He-man entertained me, but let’s be honest, they existed for a sole purpose; so that when I went to Toy-s-R-Us, I would want Optimus Prime, He-man and Cringer. Unfortunately, they were not the worst offenders of the time period. During the early 80’s, someone got it in to their mind to simply whore out Saturday morning cartoons. With these cartoons, there was no worry of simple things like plot, conflict or storyline. Just product placement everywhere you look. In fact some of these offenders were created just to get product name out there. Here are three of the worst offenders.
Dungeons & Dragons
Now, I’ve never played the game (mainly because my mom said it might turn me to the devil), but I understand the basics of it. One uses their imagination and a multi-sided di to explore dungeons and fight off enemies. I realize that they may have been looking to get more people into their game, but this cartoon was not the way to do it. As you can see below they took the rich storied tradition of the game and metaphorically pissed all over it by having four kids transported into the world of Dungeons & Dragons via a fair ride. When they arrive, their appearance is changed and they are each given a class: ranger, magician, thief, barbarian, cavalier, and acrobat. Now, most of those classes are decently cool, but acrobat? How does this help you survive anything? And who is “gifted” with this wonderful power? The darkest skinned character. But I digress, the show was absolutely deplorable, and I hope that whoever pitched this wonderful idea for a show is chained to a rock and has their liver torn out by an eagle. (Don’t get it? Read your Greek mythology.)
The Saturday Morning Supercade
When I was growing up, video games were just becoming popular. Atari had had a successful run, Coleco Vision was doing well and Nintendo was up and coming. The good people over at CBS realized this and thought to themselves, “we can cash in on this fad.” So they came up with a Saturday morning lineup that consisted of cartoons featuring characters from five of the most popular games of the time: Donkey Kong, Donkey Jr, Q-bert, Pitfall and Frogger. Now keep in mind, none of these games have real plots, but CBS went ahead and just put them out there anyways. Not since the film The Wizard was such a shameless ploy made to get kids to play video games (if you don’t remember The Wizard, I talked about it in this article some time ago) Luckily the lineup did not last long, and the world was saved from more pain.
Rubik: The Amazing Cube
This cartoon may take the cake as the most ridiculous incarnation of an animated character to sell a product. At least with Dungeons and Dragons and the Saturday Morning Supercade, they were using products associated with actual characters, the tragedy that was the show Rubik: The Amazing Cube took a freaking inanimate object, a Rubik’s cube, and made it into a living thing. Well, kind of a living thing, it was a Rubik’s cube with a head sticking out of it, and some legs coming out the bottom of it. It’s as if they looked at the cube and said “What can we do to make this adorable?” then somebody (probably in the 12th hour) said “screw it, let’s just put a face and legs on it and go home.”
If that wasn’t bad enough, check out the opening to the show below. Apparently Rubik has an evil Russian master and one dark night, he escapes and three kids find him. For some inexplicable reason his face and legs appear and the kids aren’t terrified, they just accept the fact that this previously inanimate object has suddenly come to life and it’s perfectly ok. Then the evil Russian stereotype returns to find Rubik, and the damn cube starts flying and then in one of the more poorly animated moments from the 80’s makes the kids fly. And the whole thing closes with the now living and flying cube saying in a cute voice “I’m Ruuuuubik!”. Like we were supposed to excuse the ridiculousness of this whole concept, simply because this thing has a cute voice. For shame, for shame.