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Ten Deep 5.22.14: Top 10 1980s Cartoon Teams
Posted by Mike Gorman on 05.29.2014

" Top Ten 1980s Cartoon Teams"

I must first apologize. I am very sorry for anyone who is born after 1989 and missed out on the majesty that was the cartoons of the 1980s. In my opinion, this was the ultimate hay-day for the genre with afternoons after school and Saturday mornings jam packed with some pretty spectacular animated entertainment. This week's list actual began as an attempt to nail down the definitive list of the top ten cartoons from the 1980s. After several agonizing drafts I realized that getting the list down to ten would be impossible at the moment so I decided to put a tighter focus on the topic.

Throughout the 80s there was a special subset of cartoons that featured not just one leading character but a team of heroes, specifically. This week's Ten Deep ranks the best of this field. The main criteria had to be that it was a cartoon of the 80s, and not before. Also, all the cartoons featured ended their initial runs during the 1908s. Sadly this left out shows like Battle of the Planets, Scooby Doo and the Super Friends who got their starts in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of the shows will be immediately recognizable but I hope there might be a few surprises.

10. Bionic Six (1987-89)

The Bionic Six not only presented us with a family of bionic superheroes but broke some ground presenting an adopted, interracial family of bionic superheroes. They had some pretty awesome powers too including super speed, magnetism, telepathy, etc. The show was a mix between your typical superhero flair of the time and a family sitcom. And somehow, it worked. A live action version of this series would be awesome to see in prime time now.

9. M.A.S.K. (1985)

Like many great cartoons of the 80s, M.A.S.K. was basically a 30min episodic commercial for a toy. Specifically, action figures that came with vehicles and each had a different mask that had a particular ability. The members of the M.A.S.K. task force used their unique weapons to fight the villainous V.E.N.O.M.

8. He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983-87)

Yes, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was an awesome series that had many kids at the time constructing swords to try and harness the "Power of Greyskull!" for themselves, or at least I did, but please don't get upset at its low ranking on this list. The series followed Prince Adam as he discovered his role as He-Man. Adam was assisted by a variety of Masters of the Universe, who all oddly seemed to have the same exact body type. He-Man's battles against Skeletor and his evil forces always taught us that good would triumph, even when mistakes were made. The show often juxtaposed Adam's foibles against He-Man's victories.

7. Chip & Dale's Rescue Rangers (1988-89)

They could have chosen to simply spend their lives gathering nuts and living in their tree, but Chip and Dale decided instead to seek out adventure gathering a team around them to help them correct the wrong doings around them and around the world. Chip & Dale's Rescue Rangers also featured one of the decade's catchiest theme songs!

6. Dungeons and Dragons (1983-87)

I'll admit to being a bit wary of this one when I was a kid. I always found D&D the game quite confusing so I did not know what to expect of the series. Well it turns out the cartoon was pretty cool. Dungeons and Dragons featured a group of friends/schoolmates who fall into a magical dimension where they must fight multi-headed dragons and wizards with the weapons they discover. Each kid found a weapon that reflected their personality and wishes in one way or another.

5. Voltron, Defender of the Universe (1984-87)

I'll admit to an interest in 80s cartoons that involve robots combining into other robots (See Force Five for more of this!) and Voltron, Defender of the Universe was one of the best. Five lions piloted by five unlikely heroes join together to battle the forces of evil as they combine to create Voltron. This is yet another series with a toy-spinoff. I had the lions and forming Voltron in the real world was just as exciting as seeing it come to life on television!

4. ThunderCats (1985)

Here we have another series about young royal who is backed up by his court and gains power when he holds up a sword and yells, but this time around the team aspect of the series is a bit more focused as the ThunderCats work together to thrive on a new world they must call home. A huge focus of the series was getting young Lion-O (they were cats, the names were not the most creative!) to realize his responsibilities and to teach him how to work with a team.

3. G.I. Joe (1983-87)

There are two entries that I believe will come as no shock at all. The #1 spot is one, but G.I. Joe is the other. This series dominated the afterschool cartoon block for most kids in the 1980s and had us all wanting to get all of the associated action figures and toys. It is no overstatement to say G.I. Joe taught us all some lessons including one that stands to this day, you know it, and just by knowing half the battle is over! Go Joe!

2. Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (1981-83)

They may be the smallest team to make this week's list but Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends are one of the best. Spider-Man, Iceman, and Firestar came together in each adventure to use their complementary skills to defeat their foes. This series was one of the very first to start crossing over comic book properties bringing together Spidey and his mutant friends. The episodes where they faced Spidey's big bads and visited the X-Men were some of the series best. I also really enjoyed how this series attempted to start having heroes grow up as Spider-Man was in college here as were his allies.

And finally…

1. Transformers (1984-88)

When it comes to teams, there was none in the 1980s quite like the Autobots of the Transformers. They fought for good for all races, not just their own and did all they could to defend humanity against the sinister Decepticons. And let's be real, you could always tell if a robot was on the good team or not by their logo; that red smile meant Autobots and the purple frown meant Decepticon. Maybe this means they came from a simpler time but I can't fault them for that. They were also the team cartoon that lead to a kickass animated film spinoff that featured one of the best songs of the 80s, "The Touch." The current live action films haven't quite yet captured the magic of this series but they certainly keep trying!

And there we have the top animated teams of the 1980s! I have a feeling that we'll revisit the cartoons of the 1980s in a future column. I'd count on it!

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