Growing up, was there anything better than waking up late on the weekend, getting a big bowl of sugar cereal, and parking yourself in front of the TV to watch your favorite block of Saturday-morning cartoons?
Those magic hours between 9 a.m. to noon were pure bliss, filled with shows about super-charged crime fighters, giant robots, talking animals, and zany creatures that could only come from a child's imagination.
Isn't nostalgia a funny thing? We'd all like to believe that those early morning cartoons were a thing of beauty because that's how we remember them.
In some cases, like Batman: The Animated Series or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it's actually true, and we're able to capture a little piece of our childhood by revisiting these gems as adults.
However, for every kids show that aged terrifically, there are three or four that have become unwatchable dumpster fires.
Due to lazy animation, annoying characters, nonsensical plotting, and voice acting that makes you want to tear your hair out, some cartoons are better left in the dark corners of your memory where they belong.
It's time to take off those nostalgic kid glasses and revisit 15 Amazing Kids Cartoons That Have Aged Terribly.
15 G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero
Go Joe! He’s always there, fighting for freedom over land and air. It’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, the hit animated miniseries based on a Hasbro line of military-themed action figures.
Created at the height of the G.I. Joe craze, the show was a smash hit with kids who loved to watch things blow up. Though they might have been real American heroes, the Joes and Cobra Commander didn’t exactly stand the test of time.
This ‘80s cartoon is best remembered for its extremely dated public service announcements that capped off every episode and ended with the phrase “And knowing is half the battle!”
It doesn’t get cornier than watching the Joes teach us how to wash our hands or going over the importance of a well-balanced diet.
These days, the cartoon is best remembered as the butt of a joke on Family Guy or Robot Chicken.
14 Voltron: Defender of the Universe
If you’re a kid that grew up in the ‘80s, chances are you remember Voltron. This fun Saturday morning cartoon tells the story of a team of crack pilots who are chosen by the Galaxy Alliance to operate the secret weapon Voltron, a giant super robot.
It’s no secret why children loved Voltron. It has bright colors, ridiculous action, silly humor, and giant robots beating the snot out of giant monsters.
It’s the perfect recipe for a 12-year old with an attention deficit, but not the greatest thing for a 30-year old trying to recapture their childhood.
Heed our warning and stay clear of Voltron: Defender of the Universe, which has become increasingly dated thanks its limited animation, nonsensical plots, and voice acting so annoying that it makes Snarf from Thundercats look good.
If you must get your Voltron fix, we recommend Netflix’s reboot, which doesn’t feature voice acting that makes you want to tear your eardrums out.
Thunder, thunder, ThunderCats! This action series, which debuted in 1985, featured human-feline warriors led by the mighty Pantrho, Lion-O, and Cheetara as they do battle with the evil Mumm-Ra and his band of Mutants.
With roundhouse kicks and flying nunchakus, ThunderCats might have one of the coolest intros of the ‘80s; it’s just a shame that you don’t see any of that stuff in the show.
Watching ThunderCats today is one long snooze-fest. We get that animation in the ‘80s was expensive, but there’s hardly any of that cool action promised in the intro, and when we do finally get to see the ThunderCats in battle, it’s over just as quickly as it started.
When the show’s not being a huge bore, it’s being infuriatingly annoying, mostly because of Snarf, a pudgy cat-like coward who can’t go five seconds without saying his own name.
12 The Super Mario Bros. Super Show
Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. is probably the most influential video game ever created, so it only makes sense that a cartoon, The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, was made to cash in on the brand name.
Where to begin with this one? For starters, Mario Bros. is bookended by bizarre live-action segments where Mario and Luigi are visited by B-list guest stars. Then there are the blatant Italian-American stereotypes, like Luigi picking leftover spaghetti off of Mario’s shirt.
As far as animation goes for the ‘80s, you can actually do a lot worse than The Super Mario Bros. Super Show.
While not the worst thing to look at, you can count yourself lucky if you can sit through some really jarring voice acting, including the actor for Toad who might just be as annoying as the guy who played Snarf.
11 He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
It’s almost mind-blowing how He-Man and the Masters of the Universe has remained such a relevant part of pop culture. This popular children’s show from the ‘80s has spawned a live-action movie starring Dolph Lundgren, countless action figures, and even a string of car insurance commercials.
With bulging biceps, a magic sword, and a catchphrase to end all catchphrases (“I have the power!”), He-Man was a hit with any pre-pubescent boy with a television set.
However, watching the cartoon today makes you realize your love for Masters of the Universe is mostly due to nostalgia.
It’s almost impossible to sit through an episode today and not grind your teeth from the pure ‘80s cheese. With campy music, obvious stock footage, and goofy sound effects, it’s better to keep He-Man locked away in your memory rather than reliving it on your TV screen.
10 She-Ra: Princess of Power
Once the production company Filmation realized they had a bona fide hit on their hands with Masters of the Universe, they were quick to pump out a spin-off to capitalize on the success. Enter She-Ra: Princess of Power.
Focusing on Prince Adam’s sister, Princess Adora, She-Ra was blatantly aimed at young female viewers to counterbalance He-Man’s popularity with boys. And like Masters of the Universe, Princess of Power is best left alone as a fond childhood memory.
Nonsensical plots, lazy voice acting, and cheaper animation than its predecessor don’t do the show any favors, but nothing is worse than that ‘80s cheese factor.
The most embarrassing episode is hands down She-Ra’s Christmas crossover with He-Man, in which the two try to thwart Skeletor from ruining the holidays. It doesn’t get cornier than that.
9 The Smurfs
Long ago, deep in the forest, there was a hidden village where tiny creatures lived. They were called Smurfs, and they were the stars of this American-Belgian animated fantasy series that made its debut in 1981.
Anyone who grew up in the ‘80s probably enjoyed watching The Smurfs as a kid, and why not? With cute creatures and brightly-colored animation, this Saturday-morning cartoon was obviously aimed at children.
However, that was then and this is now. Watch The Smurfs today and the overt gender stereotyping becomes obvious. There’s only one female Smurf in the village, Smurfette, and she’s frequently excluded from going on adventures with the other Smurfs only interested in her good looks.
Add on top of that the crude animation and cheesy dialog and you get a show that has held up worse than parachute pants and Gobots.
8 Clutch Cargo
Debuting all the way back in 1959, chances are many of you have never heard of the animated “classic” Clutch Cargo. You’d probably best recognize it as that weird cartoon that young Bruce Willis was watching in Quinten Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.
It was a bizarre little kid’s show about traveling adventurers with very limited animation. That cheap animation really showed with the program's decision to use live-action mouths for characters' dialog. However, despite the show’s limitations, it ended up being a big hit when released in the ‘60s.
That popularity wasn't enough to keep the show relevant. Nowadays, Clutch Cargo looks like something a middle-school student would make for his class project.
If nothing else, we have this show to thank for inspiring a string of Adult Swim cartoons that parody this style of animation (Venture Bros., Aqua Teen Hunger Force).
7 Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!
Created in 1969 by the animation studio Hanna-Barbera, Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! was a groovy cartoon that featured a band of teenage mystery solvers and their talking Great Dane.
Each episode saw our heroes investigate a new supernatural occurrence, usually with the revelation that the creepy monster or ghoul was actually an ill-tempered curmudgeon in disguise.
Sure, Scooby-Doo had its moments as a kid, but looking back on it now you can really appreciate the sheer ridiculousness of it all. Every episode is as predictable as it is dated, and those cheesy laugh-tracks that play after every flat punchline certainly don’t do the show any favors.
Though it’s been rebooted more times than we can count, Scooby-Doo is really more a product of its time when shows like The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family ruled the airwaves.
6 Transformers: Beast Wars
Since the original series aired in 1984, Transformers has become a cultural phenomenon. It’s not difficult to figure out why – what’s cooler than giant, weaponized robots that transform into race cars and helicopters?
Over the years, the series has been retooled and rebooted until we ended up with Transformers: Beast Wars in 1996. It was the first Transformers series to feature computer-animated characters, and kids ate it up by the spoonful.
Sure, the graphics might have been jaw-dropping for the ‘90s, but by today’s standards they’re considered embarrassingly bad. The characters look like they came straight out of an N64 game, and the blocky spaceships and flat landscape only make matters worse.
Transformers are known for being more than meets the eye, but the animation in Beast Wars isn't eye-catching in the slightest.
Created as the space-adventure equivalent of ThunderCats, SilverHawks features galactic heroes, “partly metal, partly real,” who fight the evil MonStar, an alien overlord, and his intergalactic mob.
If that sounds like the plot of every other cartoon show from the 1980s, that’s because it is. SilverHawks is like one giant rip-off of everything that came before it, only not as good.
It’s the kind of cartoon that only the ‘80s could love, with a blaring soundtrack, makeshift animation, and goofy character names like Yes Man, Buzzsaw, Mumbo Jumbo, and Wind Hammer.
While SilverHawks is probably no worse or better than shows like He-Man or ThunderCats, it ranks lower on this list for the fact that most people, even the ones that grew up in its heyday, don’t remember it.
4 X-Men: Evolution
There are few superhero cartoons that are as iconic as X-Men: The Animated Series. Sadly, the same could not be said for X-Men: Evolution, the sequel series released in 2000.
The show took characters that audiences had become familiar with and gave them the millennial update. Most of the main cast had been switched into teenagers instead of adults, and even more jarring was the fact that they attended a regular high school along with Xavier’s Institute.
The creative decision worked against the show’s favor. With boring storylines and humor that falls flat on its face, Evolution is a show that only works when you’re a kid sitting in front of the television set on a Saturday morning. Today, you’re better off just revisiting the classic series, which can at least keep your attention.
3 The Flintstones
Yabba Dabba Doo! Everyone remembers The Flintstones. From the town of Bedrock, they’re the stars of this animated sitcom that aired from 1960 to 1966. Featuring characters like Fred, Wilma, Barney, Betty, and the dinosaur Dino, the show was a smash hit with audiences and became a pop-culture sensation.
We all like to remember The Flintstones with fond memories, but the truth is that the show has become more and more dated with each passing year.
There are only so many rock puns that one can tolerate, and the obvious ‘60s influences, from bowling to cigarettes, don’t exactly connect with modern audiences. Even more dated are the rather overt sexist overtones in Fred and Wilma’s relationship.
Today the Flintstones are more representative of the ancient stone-age family rather than the modern one.
2 Captain Planet and the Planeteers
The '90s was a strange time for superheroes, and Captain Planet was probably the strangest of them all. This blue-skinned hero was the title character of his own cartoon series, even though he rarely showed up in it.
When the eco-warrior wasn't on the screen, the show's runtime was taken up with teenagers who battled evildoers who polluted the Earth's environment. Only when they banded together were they able to summon the awesome power of Captain Planet.
Asking why Captain America is considered so lame is like asking why puppies are considered so cute. The cartoon is riddled with terrible puns, lame dialog, boring action scenes, and preachy lessons about saving the rain forest.
Even as kids, most of us ridiculed this green-haired superhero who dressed like an '80s aerobics instructor. Let's just be glad that the live-action reboot never came to fruition.
There are a bunch of shows on this list that became pop culture sensations, but none of them were as huge as Pokémon.
The series was a massive hit with children who loved the cute little pocket monsters and could relate to the message of working your hardest to achieve your dreams. However, once you hit a certain age you realize just what a headache you were putting your parents through all those years.
Watching Pokémon today will make your head spin from the amount of gibberish that comes out of characters' mouths, and the fact that Pokémon can only say their own names is more annoying than cute.
We recommend you avoid revisiting Pokémon and the fact that this beloved kids show was really just a shallow marketing device to get you to buy more worthless merchandise.
Can you think of any other kids cartoons that haven't aged well? Sound off in the comments!
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