Mostly Everything

Why did cartoons go downhill after the 80’s?

In the 80’s, the animation industry was at a boom.
Western artists and storytellers collaborated with influences from Japan
To create the most memorable stories in western animation.
The recurring themes were
The exploration of the unknown frontier,
The synergy between man and machine,
And the study of the Institution.
This was the golden age of cartoons.

As most of the readers of this blog are children of the 80’s, I’d like to present an observation about how cartoons in the late 90’s till the present have degraded into a combination of the following formula:

1. slapstick humor
2. toilet humor
3. pop culture references to the 80’s (we’ve grown up, so we’re still the target market)

Here are my thoughts on why this has happened:

The dawn of CG in the mid 90’s put a refocus of the market to special effects rather than content. The toy industry, which kept the cartoons alive, dwindled as video games replaced die cast metal and plastic paraphernalia as the medium for entertainment. Great story still exists today, mostly in the form of Japanese animation that took over where Western cartoons died (Giant Robo, Ranma 1/2, Captain Harlock, Evangelion, and the like).

Let me take you on a trip back with the following intro links. I suggest you watch them in succession for maximum effect.

Spiral Zone
Tiger Sharks (showed on Mondays as part of Comic Strip)
Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors
Mighty Orbots (only ran for one season)
Sky Commanders
Bionic Six
Galaxy Rangers (this show had my ultimate favorite theme song)

So, can you name more? Which were your favorite 80’s cartoons? This fun 80’s flashback post is an example of how content will always be king. No amount of technology can compete with well-weaved stories. Either I have a point, or I’m just getting old. 🙂

P.S. Of course there were some really campy but otherwise entertaining shows like Captain N: Game Master (Nintendo’s marketing campaign) and … *snicker* Chuck Norris and the Karate Commandos. As for the latter, can you count the number of times the narrator says Chuck Norris’ name?

By Jayvee Fernandez

Jayvee Fernandez is a tech enthusiast, EAN certified SCUBA Diver and underwater photographer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. His photos and videos have appeared in various international and local publications including Random House Germany, Discovery Channel Canada, and CNN.

15 replies on “Why did cartoons go downhill after the 80’s?”

This takes me back and zee little grey cells have to work on overtime being a kid of the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and up to the present. I think cartoon in all genres have existed before. Present technology have made it easier to make really awful ones both visually and content but there are good ones and they shine through. Do not forget The Simpsons, The Critic, South Park, American Dad, Dexter, Invader Zim, Powerpuff Girls, The Evil Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Cow and Chicken, and Samurai Jack.

Anime has been with us and the Philippines was probably one of the first countries that embraced Anime fully. And it has a soft part in our heart. Astro Boy, Voltes V, Daimos, Mazinger Z, Space Cruiser Yamato aka Starblazers, and the rest. Plus they nearly all have good theme songs.

Yes and in the end Content is King.

By the way I think you forgot:

GI Joe
Gummy Bears
Buck Rogers (Animation)
Care Bears
The Smurfs

I know you guys are probably talking about TV shows only but if it’ cartoon in general, my argument against your statement is this: miyazaki

It’s a general sentiment among kids of the Eighties that there were never any other good Western animated shows after this decade. Maybe we’ll see a new trend next decade, when the kids of the 90s grow up? 🙂

I grew up in the Eighties but I’ve followed cartoons since. I disagree with the statement that shows of the late 90s onward have degraded in quality. As mentioned by Juned below, the 90s had several good shows, among them Batman: The Animated Series, and, of course, The Simpsons, while some shows of the 00s are shaping up to be classics, among them Samurai Jack and Avatar: The Last Airbender.

Just my two cents. 🙂

lio, i didn’t mean that there weren’t any good cartoons in the 90’s… there are quite a couple! theyre just harder to come by i guess.

and yes – im a follower of avatar: the last airbender. fantastic stuff 🙂

Fortunately the 90/00’s have Batman and Justice League. Much better than the 1970’s Superfriends. hehe.

And, some of our favorites date back to the 60’s. Super 6! (And not the non-animated Captain America and Doc Bruce Banner Belted by Gamma Rays.)

Smurf, Rainbow Brite, Care Bears, Transformers, Voltes 5 ! 🙂 I love love Justice League and X-Men ( Evolution ) nowadays 🙂 My baby sisters love Totally Spies, Mirmo de Pon and Cardcaptor Sakura ( well, it’s an excuse for me to like em 🙂 )

I fondly recall watching the Dungeons and Dragons animated series. Based on your article and the comments, I’m now wondering whether or not this is just a made-up recall made by my loony subconscious.

I also remember waiting for endless reruns of Looney Tunes (Old school at Channel 13!), Macross, Duck Tales, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Dennis the Menace.

It’s not a particular show, but a series of shows: Saturday Fun Machine 🙂 I particularly remember Captain Caveman 😀 then of course, you already mentioned MASK, Centurions, Silverhawks and Visionaires.
On the cute side of things, I also liked Shirt Tales and Gumy Bears 😀

Cartoons didn’t really go downhill in the 80s. It just so happened that there was one particularly bad series that made the 90s really, really bad.

Captain Planet.

just for the ultra-camp factor, i’d want to see a captain planet movie. 🙂

been a longtime reader of this blog, but it’s only now i’ve commented. it’s hard to resist not leaving a word or two when a post is about one’s job: watching cartoons like a little kid. haha!

I’ve been struggling with this for awhile now but I can’t seem to recall the title of that anime back in the 80’s where she had a doll or a clock that stops time. She then either enters a different dimension in time or something in that regard. Anyone remember the title of that anime? It was also shown around the time Voltes V ran.

I believe cartoons have gone downhill since 2004 before that cartoons were much better, in my opinion the best cartoons are from
a: the 60’s 70’s 80’s and early 90’s
b: Japan
and c: classic disney

I know people say that the Japanese took over after the American cartoons went downhill but even the anime these days is only marginally watchable. They are just repeating the same thing in slightly different forms, how many card playing anime shows are there? I tried watching even Bleach, Naruto and Fullmetal Alchemist, but aside from some beginning episodes they all just come down to nothing but explosions and fight scenes, very little content to feed your brain. Sure people like that, but they lost the main thread of the story to make it flashier. Not that I don’t like the big flashy fight scenes or even the occasional fan-service, but there’s got to be more than that to a show. Even Anime has lost some of it’s creativity to become a common denominator crowd pleaser.

Of course there have been a few exceptions (Cowboy bebop, Detective Conan and a few others) that keep focused on their main point (where explosions and destruction is not the main focus), and some are still playing.

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