The 1980’s was the decade where marketers really took off with cross-marketing; and no one was an easier or bigger mark then children. TV stations inundated kids with commercial after commercial of cool toys sandwiched in-between their favourite cartoons. But these toy ads were of the very same cartoons that the kids were watching! Perfect synchronicity! – The animated programs develop the story and the characters so when the kids do finally get the toys, they already have an incredible familiarity with the product. As I was a child that grew to teendom in the ’80s, I remember many of these toys fondly. I had some of these toys, and I watched the cartoons regularly. For this list, I’ve compiled the 12 most popular toy commercials (for boys), as well as the intros to their accompanying animated series. I have not included toys like Star Wars or Indiana Jones as they are based on film properties, and there are other toys like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that may be on a future list. The same goes for girls toys. For this entry, we’re looking strictly at “boys” toys based on cartoons / cartoons based on “boys” toys.
So here is…
The 12 Best ’80s Cartoons Based on Boy’s Toys! (In alphabetical order!)
#12. – BIONIC SIX
I always liked the concept of this toy – an adopted, blended family, each with specific bionic abilities (really just translucent body pieces that lit up). Sadly, I did not have this toy as a child, but my childhood friend Jordan did so I played with them when I was at his house. It has one of my favourite “80’s Flavoured Cartoon Theme Songs” too!
#11. – C.O.P.S.
Another toy that I was not privy to owning as a kid, but the cartoon ran in syndication FOREVER on Global TV in Canada. Neat back-to-basics “cops and robbers” concept with each figure having a special device attuned to their code names. I always found that the voices were off and didn’t really match the character, but hey what do kids know, right?
#10. – G.I. JOE
I owned some Joes but was never a diehard collector. Their size, poseability, and variety of characters certainly made for an enjoyable playtime (my Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes battles would last hours!). It was also perhaps one of the biggest cross-platform commodities to come out of the 1980’s having a cartoon, a toy line, a Marvel Comics series, and some of the coolest playsets and vehicles EVER! I HAD to watch the cartoon every day after school, if only for the cheesy public service announcement at the end of the episode. After watching them I felt confident that I could conquer what ever issue they were talking about, because now I know…and knowing is half the battle! G.I. Joe is a popular collection for nostalgic treasure hunters like myself.
#9. – GO BOTS
Go Bots were cheap Transformers knock-offs that could easily fit in your pocket and get lost at the park. I always considered them to be the welfare Transformers. It had a simple yet cool intro song for the cartoon, and the toys were fairly easy to transform back and forth.
#8. – HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE
Perhaps one of the most expansive toy lines that came out of the 1980’s. There are dozens upon dozens of figures, multiple play-sets and vehicles that make up the Masters of the Universe collection. It is also a very popular toy for collectors. My personal favourite figures were the ridiculous ones like Moss Man who was covered in a soft velvety outer covering that would get every single piece of dirt or fabric stuck to him, or Skunkor that smelt like a skunk (seriously, who thought that was a good idea?). The cartoon was very entertaining and spawned the spin-off for girls known as She-Ra Princess of Power.
#7. – M.A.S.K.
Vehicles that transform into other vehicles, have little tiny figures with cool code names like Condor that are fully poseable and fit right inside each of the vehicles. This was one of my faves growing up. I had quite a few of’em. My Dad ended up taking my Rhino rig because he loved how it looked and brought it up to our trailer to sit in the window ledge. Yeah, my dad was crazy like that…he used to claim my Lego too. But what he built with it was fricking awesome!
#6. – SUPER POWERS TEAM – GALACTIC GUARDIANS
There’s nothing I can say about the Kenner Super Powers Collection that I haven’t already fully expressed in great detail here. I still have each of these toys (except for 5 of em) and they are the pride of my collection. These power action figures kick started my life-long love affair with comic books and superheroes. One of the best toys ever created in my opinion.
#5. – THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS
I thought about adding this one to my list of toys inspired by Film Properties, but the cartoon and movie designs differ to such a degree that they can be categorized separately. All of the Monsters and Ghosts in the line came with neat little gimmicks which made them fun to play with over and over again. The cartoon was a syndicated early morning staple well into my teen years. I never did get used to the voice of Garfield the cat playing the voice of Peter Venkman, but I digress…
#4. – SILVERHAWKS
Partly Metal (not really…plastic), partly real (nope…still plastic) Silverhawks were really cool looking action figures. The cartoon was fun too. The toys weren’t anything fancy, but the cartoon gets a pop out of obscurity because it has a pretty cool theme song.
#3. – THUNDERCATS
One of my all time favourite cartoons ever! There was something about it that just really appealed to me. Unfortunately, I was not a proud recipient of any of the toys.
#2. – TRANSFORMERS
Next to Super Powers, the Transformers were my second favourite toy-line growing up. What wasn’t to love? Detailed vehicles that transform into bitchin’ looking robots! The ultimate battle of good vs evil with the Autobots vs the Decepticons. Loved the toys (even though they were pretty pricey) – loved the cartoon – loved the animated movie from 1986 – HATE the Michael Bay films. Of course, I seldom had an opportunity to really have any massive play with all the toys as I spent most of my time just transforming them back and forth from car to robot!
#1. – VOLTRON
I wasn’t a Voltron fan growing up, but there’s no denying how immensely popular the toy and the cartoon were. Five individual robot “cats” merge to form a gigantic super robot. Where else have we seen that concept? Transforemers, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, etc…