Saturday Morning Cartoon memories

It’s been a few years since the major networks ceased doing their Saturday Morning Cartoons blocks on TV. As a child in the 80’s and into the 90’s the whole ritual of getting up early on Saturday morning and being glued to the TV wasn’t just something we did, it was pretty much all we did.

Everyone has different memories of the Saturday Morning cartoons. For me it was often fighting my three sisters for control over what we watched next. Fortunately we did have 2 TV sets, although the smaller one was in black and white and was mostly used for video games, it still caused many fights that often ended with someone getting hurt. My oldest sister is 3 years my senior so she always wanted to watch stuff like Soul Train and in later years MTV. My immediately younger sister was barely a year and a half younger than I was so she typically had similar tastes in cartoons as I did, except she had this weird obsession with puppets so he gravitated towards stuff like Eureka’s Castle, Fraggle Rock and things of the like. I could get her into Pound Puppies, Snorks and Muppet Babies just fine, but she protested watching Super Mario Bros. Super Show, Transformers, G.I. Joe or even Scooby Doo. I never could figure out what she didn’t like about Scooby and friends. Then there was my baby sister. She had no say, all she wanted to watch was Rugrats and Nicktoons, didn’t matter what day of the week. When they moved Doug and Recess and all that Nickelodeon crap over to my network TV slots I sort of moved on and let her have it.

Of course not all the cartoons we watched aired first on Saturday mornings. Often times they were re-runs of syndicated shows and shows that ran earlier in the week. To that end we never really knew what we were going to get. My earliest memories were watching the Heroic Autobots battle the Evil Decepticons for control of the world’s energy sources. You could argue that watching this show about robots running out of energy contributed to my interest in alternative energy sources, but let’s not give too much credit to the animators of a Japanese cartoon. Save some of the blame for Captain Planet and his Planeteers that would come much later.

Another thing I liked to do during the week was record episodes of cartoons, commercials, and other shows that interested me and play them back on the weekend. I didn’t do this often but it was something I would dabble in. Normally I would end up erasing one of my sisters’ boy band concert videos so when they found out I taped over their boy crush for a bunch of random commercials and crap they would usually go ballistic. Most of my memories were fighting my sisters over what to watch more than enjoying the actual program. Because of this what we typically did was landed on one channel, watched it until commercials then flipped as fast as we could to the next and so on and so forth. This meant we were only getting bits and pieces of each show, but it was better than sitting through an entire episode of that lame New Kids on the Block cartoon that, in my opinion, never should have existed. Those brief moments in between when I got a glimpse of M.A.S.K., or C.O.P.S (why did so many cartoons back then use acronyms?), that’s when I would get excited.

I did eventually get crafty in my ability to turn my sisters on each other. I found ways to get the baby to play with her toys while I would get my younger sister and older sister fighting over a hair brush or article of clothing or something sisters cared about then I would sit on the floor way too close to the tube and claim it for my own. Once my parents would see I was firmly engrossed in a show if one of my sisters tried to change the channel they would get scolded with a firm “You weren’t even watching it, he was let him finish his show.” This strategy worked more often than not. I can’t be sure if they ever caught on because the oldest sister moved on to chasing boys and the youngest sister was easy to manipulate leaving the one opponent, the middle child. Even at the tender age of 8 I quickly learned how to negotiate with the middle child. I would usually agree let me watch this show and the next one and you can have it after that while I play Super Mario Bros. Since I tended to hog the Nintendo and always force my sister to be Luigi, it was easy for me to casually hint that she could play as Mario while I watched my shows. Then all I had to do was enjoy my programs while she romped through the Mushroom Kingdom with player 1 controller in hand for a change. This strategy didn’t always work as my parents were slow to increase our catalog of Nintendo games and my sister was quick to lose interest in the three games we did own for the longest time.

Manipulating my sisters was only half the battle. I also had to find crafty ways to get my parents out of the house in order to prolong the part where dad would kick me out of the house to play outside while he napped on the couch with the TV tuned to some fishing show or NASCAR or whatever else it was adults watched to fall asleep. Normally by the time the parents told us to play outside I would casually, sometimes sneakily, make my way into whichever side room had the video games and try to get in as many rounds of Atari or Nintendo as I could. We still had both systems well into the 90’s so this usually worked out until my parents just decided to give me my own TV set and I ended up winning the war for the TV after all was said and done.

For me it was mostly fought on Saturday mornings. Everyone remembers those blocks. I didn’t have much preference either. I would sit through an episode of the Alf or Teen Wolf cartoon, flip it over to an episode of Care Bears or even sit through an episode of Rainbow Brite if that’s what it took to keep the cartoons going and the old westerns my parents enjoyed off the TV. The battle continued Monday through Friday as I would get up at 5 in the morning, turn the TV to a minimum volume and sit through episodes of The Odd Couple, Perfect Strangers, Mork and Mindy, even Kate and Allie, just so I could stake my claim to the TV set before school.

I had a set list of shows I couldn’t miss. Transformers was TOP priority. It didn’t matter if it was Saturday morning, before school, after school or a random tape I rented from the video store, if there was a chance I could get my buddy Optimus Prime on the TV set I was going to do whatever it took. Priority number 2 was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I would also watch this regularly whenever it aired as well as rent tapes from the video store. Priority 3 was X-Men the Animated series. This came alter but once I discovered it this show became a must watch. Fortunately for me both of my younger sisters developed an equally strong interest in X-Men characters (they each also collected the comics and trading cards as did I) so it was much easier to get them to call a truce when that show came on. Then down the list the priority was, shows with robots, shows with magic, shows with mutants, shows with cute girls that had purple or pink hair (yeah I was weird sue me) then at the bottom of the list was shows with talking animals. This, of course, only applied to cartoons.

Live-action shows was much different. I prioritized shows with a cute girl I crushed on, Saved by the Bell it was Kelly, Sabrina the Teenage Witch/Clarissa Explains it All it was, you guessed, the awesome Melissa Joan Heart, and okay well there wasn’t a cute girl on Boy Meets World, I just found that show funny as hell. And in case you are wondering, it was the red head with glasses on any show that had a red head with glasses. Or any girl with glasses. For some reason I was into chicks with glasses… Okay moving on…

By the time the 90’s rolled around I was shifting into more live-action stuff like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Super Human Samurai Cyber Squad, and CGI animated shows like Reboot and Beast Wars. I only gave Beast Wars casually passing as I was a die-hard TRUKK NOT MONKEE type. Still I eventually came around and became more interested in that show. The 90’s also saw my tastes briefly shift to anime. I got into Sailor Moon, Ronin Warriors, Dragon Ball Z, The Slayers, Patlabor, and even Digimon for a while. By the time my anime watching friends were getting into Powerpuff Girls I had snapped out of it and the anime spell was broken. I haven’t hardly looked back either. I do remember though, the Saturday Anime block that came on the Sci-Fi channel. We didn’t have cable when we were very young, so we didn’t have the Sci-Fi channel (as it was called back then) until mid-95. By that time I was pretty much over the Saturday Morning cartoon craze.

Those are some of my memories, please comment your thoughts, memories and stories plus favorite cartoons from the 80s and 90s, anime excluded if you can.

My G.I. Joe memories

In 2009 Paramount Pictures teamed up with Hasbro to make a live-action G.I. Joe film. It was loosely tied into the Michael Bay live-action Transformers film series. I personally enjoyed the film. I went into is expecting a science fiction action movie based on a cartoon, based on a toy, based on a generic Vietnam War soldier. Yeah, it was a complicated mess. I was never a big G.I. Joe collector. I was, however, very into the Transformers, Hasbro’s other popular action figure line.

This is just going to be me looking back on all of my memories of the G.I. Joe franchise.

As far as I can tell my earliest memories are sometime around 1987. I vaguely remember having a couple of random Joe action figures, to this day I couldn’t tell you any more about them, honestly even if I saw them in a catalog or on a collectors shelf I don’t think I could pick them out. What I do remember is the cartoon. Mostly because, at least where I lived, it aired immediately following the Transformers cartoon. I was such a huge Transformers nut that I didn’t want the show to end. I would keep watching G.I.Joe because it was close enough it almost had that Transformers feel to it. It had a good vs. evil plot, diabolical robots, a futuristic science fiction technology, and most importantly, many of the same voice actors. Even as a kid before IMDb or Wikipedia, I know that Starscream and Cobra Commander were voiced by the same guy. In a lot of ways the two shows were connected.

I continued watching G.I. Joe even after Transformers went off the air. My earliest memories, I think, were around 1987, I would have been 5 years old. I am not talking life memories, just these two shows. I do very distinctly remember watching Transformers episodes with a giant Optimus Prime robot and a little boy, I later learned this would have been the 1987-88 season, around the time the show was cancelled. I used to tune in to he same channel I thought Transformers had come on, never finding it but always looking. I kept watching the Joes in vain hoping that some day the Autobots would return to their war against the Decepticons. I remember watching the 3rd and 4th seasons of the cartoon with Cobra Commander becoming a real snake, then turning back into a man, and them introducing Serpentor, then the show got too weird for me, I didn’t recognize enough of the characters to stay interested, plus this was around the time I discovered the TMNT cartoon. This distracted me from the lack of Transformers, and was a satisfying alternative to G.I Joe: A Real American Hero, to the point I was able to finally stop tuning in. This was also around the time the Disney Afternoon cartoon block became popular so my interests had shifted. At this time I no longer had any connection to the Joes or Cobra. I would continue to pick up random action figures at flea markets, thrift stores and yard sales, always frantically looking for Transformers, or even Go-Bots figures, but I would pick up a Joe or a Cobra from time to time, if I came across them.

I wouldn’t come into full contact with G.I. Joe again until 1993. This was the time when Transformers Generation 2 launched on TV and just like before, Real American Hero was on immediately following. This time I watched the 5-part G.I. Joe: The Movie episodes, bought, or was gifted can’t really remember, one of those multiple puzzle murals featuring depictions of G.I Joe characters. It was one where if you had all 4 puzzles you could take off the edge piece and connect them into a large mural. I never complete the puzzle, let alone the set, but I did work on it day and night for a good couple of weeks or so. It was around this time I came across an original Sgt. Slaughter action figure for sale at a Good Will for like fifty cents or something, it was dirt cheap. I snatched it up, he was one of my favorite characters from the show, and wrestling too, which I was still sorta of into around this time.

Something else happened in 1993. I was introduced to the Mortal Kombat arcade game. I was immediately hooked and began playing that game obsessively for the next 2 decades. Yes I still re-play the original arcade games to this day. Mostly I switch back and forth between MAME and the collection on PS3, plus I also own Midways Arcade Treasures. Anyways, getting off topic. I also got into collecting comic books, trading cards and TMNT figures at this time. Plus I was just starting to get back into Transformers collecting full force with all of the G2 stuff coming out. In the summer of 1994 I started reading Wizard Magazine, and inside there were all of this kitbashed toys where someone would take one action figure and turn it into something else. I was super obsessed with Mortal Kombat. MKII was all the rage and Kung Lao was my favorite character. If you can’t guess where this is going let me assure you toy collectors, yes I kitbashed an original Sgt. Slaughter action figure to look like a Kung Lao action figure. Or at least, I tried. I ended up destroying the toy in the process. The ironic thing is, just months afterwards I was in K-Mart and there on the shelf was an actual MKII Kunk Lao toy, not surprisingly as they were made by Hasbro, they used the same style of figures as G.I.Joe toys, so needless to say I destroyed an 80’s classic trying to turn it into a $3 toy that was available for sale at K-Mart the whole damn time!

I skipped G.I. Joe Extreme or whatever it was called. I had grabbed a few Transformers comics along the way during my comic book collecting days, including some of those Transformers and G.I. Joe cross over comics. By 1997 I was pretty much done buying toys altogether. I lost interest in Transformers once Beast Wars came on the scene, TMNT had fallen into the toilet by this time, and I was never that into G.I. Joe to start off with so I was done with it for the next few years. It wouldn’t be until 2001 with the launch of the Robots in Disguise toy line before I would slowly start to get back into collecting Transformers. I was also discovering retro game collecting at this time, mostly NES, SNES, and SEGA, so my money was spread pretty thin. I 2003 my sister married a guy who told me about his G.I. Joe collecting day when he was a kid and I started to learn more about the toys from him, not much but more than I had ever known. This wasn’t enough to spark any interest in me or desire to collect but it was enough to read up on the newly popular internet about the history of the franchise and how it intersected with Transformers and Star Wars. Since I was already a huge fan of Star Wars also, this knowledge started to pique my curiosity so I began learning more about the history of the toy line.

I didn’t have any further connections or experience with the toys until sometime in 2004 or 2005. I remember buying one of my nephews one of the Joe figures for Christmas. He was kind of excited for it for a while, then, he wasn’t. I did end up picking up a copy of both Transformers: The Movie and G.I. Joe: The Movie, the original cartoons. This was around 2007 I think. This sparked some nostalgia within me and pretty soon I learned about the upcoming film. Since the Transformers movie just released that same year, and I actually enjoyed it quite a bit, in fact I bought an HD-DVD player and a copy of the movie to watch it in HD on my new HDTV in 2008. This was right around the time they announced they were discontinuing the format so I was able to get the player and movie very cheap. Actually free, because a guy bought it for me as payment, or thank you, for fixing his computer.

Then in the summer of 2009 I dragged a few of my unwilling friends to go see this new movie and, I loved it. I shouldn’t have,  didn’t have very strong ties to the series, I didn’t have much nostalgia for it, but I thought it was a fun movie. By this time I had also picked up a Blu Ray player so I was able to get the film on Blu Ray when it released. A few years later I watched the mess of a sequel, which I still can’t stand and refuse to re-watch.

Since this time the most I have connected with the series is reading the entire Transformers cross over comics, buying a couple random action figures for nephews over the years, and watching some Angry Video Game Nerd videos where he reviewed the old games based on the cartoon.

My most current tie was about three weeks ago when I picked up a sealed 25th anniversary figure of Storm Shadow, sealed, at a yard sale, for $5. Based on preliminary research on ebay/Amazon/craigslist, this would appear to be a fairly good deal. I am not going to sell the toy, but also I am not going to start a collection either. I just thought it was an interesting piece to add to my collection.

And there you have it, my 30+ year history with the Hasbro/Marvel/Sunbow/Paramount franchise known as G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.