This site’s called 80s Kids for a reason: most of us here – like many of you reading, we expect – were born into that decade. Amongst the wealth of cultural delights that came with growing up in the 80s, it was a heck of a time for cartoons.

As much as movies and live-action TV may have shaped the imaginations of children, in many ways the relationship between the younger audience and TV cartoons was an even stronger one. In most instances, these were shows which kids sat down to watch understanding that they really were the primary intended audience, and the colourful (in all senses of the word) characters on display were specifically designed to appeal to young minds.

This bond with our animated heroes was strengthened by the fact that, in a great many instances, we could literally play with those characters ourselves at home, in toy form. The link between TV animation and the toy industry was never more prominent than in the 80s, as the decade saw a slew of cartoon shows designed first and foremost to sell action figures, vehicles and playsets.

Still, kids wouldn’t want to play with those toys if they hadn’t formed a real connection with the characters beforehand, and all the best 80s cartoons (even those without tie-in toy lines!) succeeded in forging that bond. Whether they gave us courageous heroes, loveable pals or laughable goofballs, these animated delights really made their mark on us as children, and in their own way still inspire us today.

Scroll on down to vote up your favourites from our list of the greatest 80s cartoon shows – and if you can think of any we’ve missed, go ahead and add them at the bottom of the page.

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Count Duckula

After the success of Danger Mouse, UK animation house Cosgrove Hall Films took a villain from that popular cartoon and made him the title character in a series of his own. That character was Count Duckula, an extremely loose reworking of Bram Stoker’s notorious vampire – in mallard form. Where the Count Duckula of Danger Mouse had been an outright bad guy, the writers hit on a novel way of making the character more loveable in the Count Duckula series. As the show’s title sequence explained, our hero is the latest incarnation of an evil vampire duck who is periodically resurrected by his minion Igor. However, in this instance the resurrection goes wrong, as the dim-witted Nanny inadvertently uses tomato ketchup where the ritual called for blood. As a result, Count Duckula is reborn as a vegetarian. Rising at sunset, Count Duckula, Igor and Nanny proceed to embark on globe-trotting adventures, taken to far-off places every episode by Duckula’s castle, which has the magical ability to teleport anywhere in the world but always returns to Transylvania at dawn. Much to Igor’s annoyance, the carrot-loving Count cares more about pursuing fame and fortune than the more traditional vampiric evil-doing. Premiering in 1988, Count Duckula became a huge success in its own right. David Jason, who also voiced both Duckula and the title character in Danger Mouse, returned to voice the Count, giving him a goofy American accent. The series ran until 1993, and spawned a spin-off series of its own in Victor and Hugo: Bunglers in Crime, which was based around occasional Count Duckula baddies Gaston and Pierre.

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Danger Mouse

The United Kingdom has a long and proud tradition of screen adventures centred on secret agents, and beloved animated series Danger Mouse delighted in both continuing this tradition and royally sending it up. Created by Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall (whose previous cartoon work included 70s hits Chorlton and the Wheelies and Jamie and the Magic Torch), Danger Mouse was launched in 1981. The title character - a rodent variation on Patrick McGoohan’s 60s TV hero Danger Man - is a white furred, eyepatch-wearing secret agent who lives in a secret hideout under a Central London pillar box. Alongside his timid hamster sidekick Penfold, DM embarks on all manner of perilous missions to save the world, under orders of the hirsute Colonel K. Invariably these missions involve thwarting the villainous schemes of the toad Baron Greenback, and his crow henchman Stiletto. Danger Mouse announced Cosgrove Hall Films as arguably the dominant force in British 2D animation at the time. As well as its charming animation, the series had an ace up its sleeve in David Jason, who voiced the title character. 1981 was a big year for the actor, as it also saw him debut his signature role of Del Boy in sitcom Only Fools and Horses. Jason would work with Cosgrove Hall on many of their other shows, including The Wind in the Willows and Danger Mouse spin-off Count Duckula. The original series Danger Mouse ran until 1992, with 161 episodes made. In 2015 it was rebooted by CBBC.

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Dogtanian And The Three Muskehounds

Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds was one of the few popular 80s cartoons to be directly modelled on a literary classic – but as it was designed to appeal to children, the show retold the time-honoured tale with anthropomorphic animals. The story in question was, of course, Alexandre Dumas’ epic adventure The Three Musketeers, which had been put to film many times, but never until that point with dogs in the central roles. Beyond the canine element, the essentials are much the same. Set in 17th century France, the story follows the young and inexperienced Dogtanian (a reworking of the novel’s central character d'Artagnan) as he comes to Paris to become one of the musketeers of King Louis XIII. Here, he makes friends with seasoned musketeers Porthos, Athos and Aramis, and joins them in their mission to protect king and country. (Despite the show’s title, the characters are always referred to as musketeers, not 'muskehounds.') Given its French setting and English dub, viewers may not have realised that Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds is actually a Japanese cartoon, and can therefore be classed as anime.  The studio Nippon Animation produced a number of shows based on literary classics; their most popular outside of Dogtanian was Around the World with Willy Fog. Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds ran for only 26 episodes, which first aired in Japan between October 1981 and March 1982. In 1989 it spawned a sequel series, The Return of Dogtanian. A CGI animated movie based on the series is currently in production.

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DuckTales

In 1928, Disney announced themselves as the reigning kings of animation with Steamboat Willie. Almost 60 years later, the studio won over a new generation of youngsters with DuckTales, an animated adventure series based around characters who, up to that point, had been somewhat second-tier figures within the Disney pantheon. DuckTales sees Donald Duck’s nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie sent to live with their great uncle, Scrooge McDuck. The massively wealthy and grumpy Uncle Scrooge is also a bit of a daredevil, regularly taking his grand-nephews on hair-raising, Indiana Jones-esque adventures to exotic locations in search of long lost treasure. Frequently accompanying them on these audacious outings is the heroic but slightly dim-witted pilot Launchpad McQuack. Launched in 1987, DuckTales proved a massive success with audiences, ushering in a new era for Disney on the small screen at a time when the studio’s big screen releases weren’t doing quite so well. Similarly successful Disney cartoons that came in the wake of DuckTales included Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin and Darkwing Duck. As enjoyable as the adventures of Scrooge and his grand-nephews were, DuckTales is perhaps most memorable for its incredibly catchy theme song. To this day, is it possible to say the title "DuckTales" without someone replying, “a-woohoo”? DuckTales ended in 1990 with 100 episodes to its name. Earlier that year, spin-off movie DuckTales: Treasure of the Lost Lamp made it to cinemas. The show was rebooted by Disney XD in 2017, with ex-Doctor Who actor David Tennant voicing Scrooge McDuck.

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Dungeons And Dragons

While Dungeons and Dragons was the most celebrated role-playing game to emerge in the late 70s/early 80s, many still associate the title primarily with the cartoon the game inspired. First hitting screens in 1983, the series captured the imaginations of kids everywhere. Tie-in cartoons based on existing properties were commonplace in the 80s, but Dungeons and Dragons was unusual for how loosely it was connected to the source material. Never directly referencing the game, the cartoon finds six young friends transported to a world of sword and sorcery by an enchanted fairground ride. Here, the six of them take on the form of various heroic archetypes, and under the guidance of the enigmatic Dungeon Master, they must embark on adventures in this strange new world – often coming into conflict with the villainous Venger – in the hopes of finding their way back home. Dungeons and Dragons was co-produced by Marvel. It sported an impressive cast including noted cartoon voice actors Peter Cullen and Frank Welker, plus Don Most (Ralph from Happy Days) as the grumpy Eric. The game was controversial at the time over fears that it was corrupting the young, and unsurprisingly the cartoon also attracted its share of controversy, with complaints that it was too violent and sinister for children. After 27 episodes, Dungeons and Dragons was cancelled unexpectedly early in 1985, with its story left unresolved. A script was written for a series finale that finally took the kids back home, but this episode was never made.

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Garfield And Friends

Jim Davis’ comic strip creation Garfield proved popular following the character's introduction in 1976, and his profile grew further with several animated TV specials. However, it wasn’t until 1988 that the character really took the spotlight with a TV series of his own. Garfield and Friends didn’t deviate far from the existing format established by the strips and the TV specials. The titular cat is a lazy, dry-witted cynic who hates Mondays, loves lasagne, and lives with his hapless human owner Jon. Completing the household are dimwit dog Odie and cute kitten Nermal. Of course, as the “-and Friends” of the title makes clear, the show wasn’t just about Garfield. While each episode typically began and ended with a Garfield story, between the two there’d be another story featuring the characters of another Davis strip, US Acres (known as Orson’s Farm in the UK). These rural episodes followed Orson the pig, Roy the rooster and other talking farmyard animals. Garfield was already well established as an 80s icon – who can forget the Garfield telephone, whose eyes opened when you lifted the receiver? – but Garfield and Friends really made him a part of daily life for audiences worldwide. It proved an enduring hit, ending in 1994 after 121 episodes. 2004 saw the release of a live-action Garfield movie, which was followed by 2006 sequel Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties. These were followed by three direct-to-DVD movies and two cartoon shows (one CG, one 2D). A further Garfield TV show is said to be in the pipeline.

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He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe (1983-1985)

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe exploded onto TV screens in 1983, and cartoons were never the same again. Produced in association with Mattel's toy line, the show introduced audiences to the faraway world of Eternia, where the hapless Prince Adam magically transforms into the heroic He-Man to battle his arch nemesis, Skeletor. Mattel’s Masters of the Universe was originally a fairly dark concept, taking inspiration from such sword-swinging heroes as Conan the Barbarian. However, animation house Filmation toned things down for a family-friendly romp more reliant on slapstick humour than violence. Even so, the show's focus on a nearly-naked muscleman who regularly punches villains was an eye-opener at the time. To fend off concerns about glamorising violence, the show made a point of ending each episode with He-Man and other characters directly addressing the audience to highlight the moral of the story. These corny scenes helped appease anxious parents, but whether they really stopped kids wanting to hit each other He-Man style is another matter. 131 episodes were made before He-Man and the Masters of the Universe ceased production in 1985, by which time it had spawned spin-off series She-Ra: Princess of Power. A live-action Masters of the Universe movie followed in 1987, and two reboot cartoons followed: 1990’s The New Adventures of He-Man and 2002’s Masters of the Universe vs. the Snake Men. A further live action film is in the pipeline, along with animated series Masters of the Universe: Revelation, due on Netflix in 2021.

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Inspector Gadget

Ask anyone to name a cybernetic police officer from the 1980s, and odds are the first name that comes to mind will be RoboCop. However, for kids of that era, the part-man part-machine police officer who was best loved - and, of course, infinitely more suitable for children - was Inspector Gadget. Introduced in 1983, the title character of the DIC Entertainment cartoon is an old-school gumshoe in hat and trench coat, but with the unusual gift of cybernetically enhanced body parts. All he has to do is yell, “Go-go gadget -” and name a body part, and this triggers one of the innumerable gadgets built into his body: expanding neck and limbs, a helicopter propeller that sprouts out of his head, and many more besides. However, whilst Gadget may be a dedicated and proud police officer, in truth he’s very bad at his job, and the bulk of his investigative work is surreptitiously handled by his considerably brighter young niece Penny, and her pet dog Brain. Together, the three of them battle the evil crime syndicate M.A.D., headed by the gravel-voiced, perpetually unseen Dr Claw. The original Inspector Gadget series ended in 1986, after 86 episodes. Four spin-off shows followed, before the property was rebooted as a computer-animated series from 2015 to 2018. Matthew Broderick took the title role in a 1999 live action film, which spawned a direct-to-video sequel in 2003. Another big screen take on the franchise is reported to be in development.

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SuperTed

Every child loves their teddy bear, and most children also love superheroes – so it’s a wonder it took until 1978 for someone to combine the two. Created by animator Mike Young, who originally launched the character in a series of books, SuperTed became a popular sensation on his small screen debut in 1983. One of the few popular TV animations to originate in Wales, SuperTed centres on the bear of the title, who was an ordinary child’s plaything until brought to life by the magical spaceman Spotty (voiced in the English dub by Doctor Who and Worzel Gummidge actor Jon Pertwee). The bear is then given special powers by Mother Nature, allowing him to transform into a mighty superhero whenever he says his magic word – which, try as they might, viewers were never able to hear. Touchingly, Mike Young came up with SuperTed as a way of helping his own son overcome his fear of the dark, so it was only natural that SuperTed’s animated adventures saw him and Spotty helping other youngsters in need. Of course, every hero also needs an arch enemy; SuperTed’s was Texas Pete, a mean-spirited cowboy with two bumbling henchman, the rather camp Skeleton and the very dim-witted Bulk. Originally running for 36 episodes between 1983 and 1986, SuperTed was later revived in the 1989 US production The Further Adventures of SuperTed, made by famed animation house Hanna-Barbera. Fittingly, the character also became a popular stuffed toy.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

It has one of the weirdest, silliest concepts imaginable, yet Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of the most enduring franchises to emerge from the 80s. After starting life as an independent comic book, the Heroes in Half-Shell first made it to TV screens in 1987. As was common at the time, this tied in with the launch of a toy line. Four turtles, pets of Hamato Yoshi – an exiled Japanese ninja living in New York - are transformed into intelligent humanoids by a mysterious toxic ooze, which also transforms Yoshi into a humanoid rat. Taking the name Splinter, Yoshi names the turtles after his favourite Renaissance painters – Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael – and trains them in Ninjutsu. This training proves vital as Yoshi’s old enemy The Shredder comes to New York, in alliance with the technologically advanced alien Krang. Although the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon was considerably lighter in tone than Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s gritty and gruesome comic book, the show still proved controversial for promoting martial arts-based violence to kids. When first aired in the UK and some European countries, it was renamed Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, and episodes were re-edited to reduce the emphasis on their central quartet's weapons, as well as removing any use of the word 'ninja.' This controversy did nothing to impede the audience appetite for all things Turtle. The initial series ran all the way to 1996, by which time 196 episodes had been made. A live-action series and three further cartoon shows followed, as well as five live-action movies and an animated feature.

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The Real Ghostbusters

1984 blockbuster Ghostbusters wowed audiences young and old alike, and left viewers anxious to see New York’s paranormal heroes go on further adventures. 1986 saw them do just that on the small screen, with the launch of cartoon series The Real Ghostbusters. The amendment of the title was down to a legal dispute with Filmation, who had produced a live-action series called Ghost Busters in 1975, and made an animated remake a decade later, hoping to cash in on the title’s sudden marketability. However, audiences weren’t fooled: Filmation’s cartoon didn’t last long, but The Real Ghostbusters was a smash. Picking up where the movie left off, the show followed the continuing supernatural shenanigans of Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler and Winston Zeddemore, along with their long-suffering secretary Janine. A new central character was made of the previously unnamed green blob that the Ghostbusters caught on their first case in the movie: here, he was officially dubbed Slimer, and became a Scooby-Doo-esque mascot to the team. The character proved popular enough for the show to be officially renamed Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters in 1988. The series ended in 1991 after 140 episodes, and was followed by short-lived 1997 series Extreme Ghostbusters. A further series began development in 2016, but was halted following the poor reception of that year’s big screen Ghostbusters reboot. It remains to be seen whether things might change with the release of upcoming fourth film Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

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The Simpsons

When The Simpsons started life in 1987 as a series of animated shorts featured on The Tracey Ullman Show, no one could have anticipated the cultural juggernaut that sketch would grow into. Given their own series in December 1989, the yellow-skinned, four-fingered family became the most talked-about thing on television, challenging the long-held notion that cartoons are just for kids. Essentially a family-based sitcom, The Simpsons centres on the classic American family unit: Homer Simpson, a lazy nuclear power plant worker; his wife Marge, an over-worked housewife; eldest child Bart, a rebellious under-achiever; intellectually gifted middle child Lisa; and baby Maggie, who simply sucks her pacifier and falls over a lot. It’s a simple enough set-up, but The Simpsons took advantage of its animated format to feature many things which would be impractical on a live-action sitcom, with reality-bending goings-on and a vast supporting cast of colourful characters. Moreover, The Simpsons took a sardonic look at contemporary America and popular culture, joyfully slaughtering sacred cows by the herd. In its earliest days, when much of the audience was comprised of children enamoured with the badly-behaved Bart, the show's barbed humour prompted widespread criticism; President George HW Bush was among its most high-profile detractors. However, this didn’t keep The Simpsons from becoming a ratings sensation – and over three decades on, it’s still going strong. With 684 episodes to date, it’s the longest-running prime time scripted TV series in American history. The show’s popularity spawned a wealth of merchandise, several records including 1990 chart-topper Do the Bartman, and 2007’s The Simpsons Movie.

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The Transformers

Who could have predicted that a franchise built around toy vehicles and weapons that transform into robots would prove to have such longevity? The 21st century has seen the Transformers become one of the most profitable franchises around, and it all began with the 1984 cartoon. Marvel and Sunbow Productions collaborated on the first animated series based on Hasbro's toy line. These initial episodes set up the core Transformers mythology, showing how the valiant Autobots and the dastardly Decepticons, caught in a seemingly endless war, fled their homeworld Cybertron millions of years ago, only to crash-land on prehistoric Earth. Awakening in the present day, the metallic lifeforms use their powers of transformation to disguise themselves as earthly vehicles, and search for precious Energon cubes to replenish their power and get them back home. After the first two seasons of The Transformers proved a hit and helped sell truckloads of toys, 1986’s The Transformers: The Movie took the story to the big screen – and shocked young and old alike by killing off more or less all the existing characters in order to promote the next wave of toys. One further season of The Transformers followed before the plug was pulled in 1987. However, with more than 20 further Transformers cartoons produced in the years since, the property has barely been off the small screen. That's to say nothing of its big screen success: the six live action Transformers movies have grossed over $4.8 billion at the box office.

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ThunderCats (1985)

After He-Man and the Masters of the Universe established the 80s appetite for musclebound warrior heroes in otherworldly environments, a high-energy rival franchise arrived in 1985. ThunderCats played on a similar blend of sword and sorcery with space opera, but with a distinctly feline twist. The ThunderCats were a small crew of survivors from the doomed planet Thundera. The feline humanoids escape into space and are sent into suspended animation, crash-landing a decade later on the mysterious planet of Third Earth. Here they learn that a malfunction on young Lion-O’s pod has seen the pre-pubescent prince age to adulthood. Reluctantly, Lion-O takes his place as rightful leader of the ThunderCats, fending off against their new enemies the Mutants, who have forged an alliance with the dreaded sorcerer Mumm-Ra. Where He-Man provided a compelling concept but ultimately quite pedestrian storytelling and animation, ThunderCats took things into a higher gear. The storytelling was more sophisticated, and the animation was considerably more kinetic and exciting. Adding to that excitement was the rockin’ ThunderCats theme tune, heavy on Van Halen-esque guitar solos. The kids kept coming back for more – and, of course, their parents were inundated with requests for ThunderCats toys. Four seasons were produced before ThunderCats ended in 1989. Despite rumours and fan speculation, no live action movie has been made to date. Cartoon Network produced a hard-edged reboot series in 2011, but this fared poorly. More recently, CN outraged many old fans with ThunderCats Roar!, a tongue-in-cheek take on the franchise aimed at younger viewers.

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