Originally written By Reis O’Brien
Link to the original post can be found here
The 1980s wrote the book on animated cartoons and action figure line tie-ins. In fact, thanks to the major relaxation of the FCC laws by the Regan administration, many cartoons became vertual 30 minute long commercials for toy lines; and those “commercials” worked like magic.
Kids everywhere spent hours in front of the tube on Saturday mornings and after school soaking up brightly colored, shimmering images of real American heroes and masters of universes, only to take that sense of adventure and wonder with them to the toy aisle on their next trip to the mall.
It eventually became commonplace for a cartoon to have its own toy line and when one didn’t, it was seen as an oddity.
In the decade that gave us everything we wanted, kids were occasionally dumbfounded when a beloved cartoon never showed up in the toy sections. With that thought in mind, we’ve compiled a list of cartoons that should have had action figure lines.
Join us for a little wistful pining.
The Cartoon Toys That Never Were
- Scooby Doo – Technically, Scooby Doo and his gang of “meddling kids” hit the scene in the 1969 and ruled the 1970s, but the sleuthing Great Dane was still top billing in the ‘80s, with several new shows and endless reruns of the classic Scooby Doo, Where Are You? And The Scooby Doo Movies, so it’s shocking that there were never fully articulated figures of the Mystery Inc. gang and their various ne’er-do-wells. Sure, we have Scooby figures now, but back then they would have been huge.
- Thundarr the Barbarian – A savage hero in a post-apocalyptic savage land, fighting the forces of evil with his mighty sun-sword! Thundarr, with his trusty friends, Ariel the magic user and Ookla the Mok, a hulking beast whose strength is equaled only by his loyalty, battle for a better future in a world ruled by a nefarious hybrid form of technology and sorcery! And why didn’t this cartoon ever have a toy line? The mystery has baffled us all.
- Danger Mouse – An odd little cartoon from Britain, Danger Mouse starred the very mouse himself, an all-white, eye-patched adventurer, pitted against the evil Baron Von Greenback. This toy line may not have been a huge hit, but Danger Mouse’s transforming car alone would have made one of the most legendary vehicle accessories in toy history.
- The Herculoids – Anyone who has ever seen The Herculoids has ached for a toy line of this adventuring family and their menagerie of fantastic beasts. Produced by Hanna-Barbara, this cartoon is another fugitive from the ‘70s that was still going strong, in reruns at least, enough to warrant a mention on this list. Oh what I would have given for a giant rock gorilla.
- Plasticman – The Plasticman show was one of the most hilarious cartoons to appear on Saturday mornings. The show revolved around the famous DC Comics character as he traveled the globe catching crooks and more often than not, rescuing his wife and kid (“Baby Plas”). The possibility for various Plasticman accessories made out of his stretched and deformed body could be endless. Of course, we have a beauty of a figure from DCUC now; But still no Baby Plas!
- Blue Falcon & Dynomutt – A crime-fighting pair of Hanna-Barbara characters, the Blue Falcon and Dynomutt were, in my eyes anyway, simply begging to be made into toys. Dynomutt, much like Inspector Gadget, could have been bristling with all kinds of tools of the hero’s trade, making for what could have been an astounding action figure.
- The Littles – This one may be a bit of surprise to many of you, but this show about tiny little elf-like people (living in the nooks and crannies of an old Victorian house was quite the exciting adventure. The main reason as to why this toy line would have made such a great toy line comes from all the cool accessories of regular household object, giant-sized to the Littles that could be co-opted into other useful items, like thimble helmets and sewing needle swords.
- Galtar & the Golden Lance – Only last one season in 1985 and part of The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbara, Galtar was pretty much like Thundarr, Blackstar and He-Man all rolled into one, with its mix of fantasy and sci-fi. But if Blackstar got toys, Galtar, deserved toys, too.
- Dungeons & Dragons – Thanks to toy-makers, LJN, we did indeed have a wonderful line of Dungeons & Dragons action figures, but what many fans of the brilliant Saturday morning cartoon were pining for were action figures of the show’s main characters; Hank, Sheila, Bobby, Diana, Eric, Presto & Dungeon Master, as well as the show’s baddies like Venger and his Shadow Demon. But it was not meant to be, and if you asked me, LJN failed a critical role in that decision.
- The Superfriends – Now, I know what you’re thinking; Sure, we had the Kenner Super Powers line and the very popular Mego World’s Greatest Super Heroes line, but what we’re talking about here is an action figure line specifically devoted to the Superfriends, sculpted in their very likenesses, and more importantly, released during the show’s heyday. Not just after, like the Super Powers line. It was really hard going through our childhood without Wendy and Marvin figures. And don’t get me started on the lack of Wonder Twins toys.
Making Up for Lost Time
Like many missed toy lines from the ‘70s and ‘80s, today we’re seeing a ton of figures being produced that somewhat make up for what we were lacking back in the day.
Mattel has released a Wonder Twins set of figure done in their beautiful DCUC style. We saw Thundarr figures a few years ago (which are now highly collectible). And even the Herculoids have been cast in plastic. So the kids who used to watch these cartoons have grown up to become toy designers themselves and we, as collectors, get to reap the rewards of their nostalgia.
But that still doesn’t stop us from looking back and imagining what it could have been like back then, when the plastic heroes in front of us were larger than life, and always there for us every Saturday morning.
My Note – Do you agree with this list created by Reis? Give me your thoughts. I am pretty sure we did get some of these figures during their 80’s hay day, but I am interested to see if they would be popular today?