The Original Nicktoons

By the end of this week, you're going to overdose on cute here at The Nest...

By the end of this week, you’re going to overdose on cute here at The Nest…

Every good 80’s child whose parents had cable and didn’t lock them in the basement until they were 18 watched a ton of Nickelodeon back in the decade.  Television’s first network just for kids became insanely popular in its first years of existence, and is still chugging right along at over 30 years of age to this day… even though the programming is much shittier different now than it was during Nick’s “golden age” in the 1980’s.

Ummmm, didn't we used to know you guys when you didn't look like doucheturtles?

Ummmm, didn’t we used to know you guys when you didn’t look like doucheturtles?

The shows of the past 20 years or so on Nick all have a slightly different flavor to them flashback fridaythan the classic fare… probably largely due to the fact that the network had a huge role in creating and producing most of the series that have come and gone from the channel since about 1990.  Prior to the Doug/Rugrats/Ren & Stimpy era (aka the “Snick” era) of the early 90’s, almost all of what Nickelodeon aired was syndicated programming they merely paid for the rights to air.  Much of it was imported from other countries, and some had to be dubbed into English, which in a way, added to the appeal for us kiddies.

Nice try, Bob Esponga...

Nice try, Bob Esponga…

I could go on and on about Classic Nickelodeon until you wanted to slam an orange blimp through your screen you are reading this on, but for the purposes of today’s Flashback Friday, I’m going to limit this post to looking at some of my favorite cartoons that made classic Nick so enjoyable to watch, even if we were seeing the same episodes over and over and over again due to the fact that it usually only took a few weeks to run through an entire series of some of those early cartoons…

YAY!  Bananaman's on again!

YAY! Bananaman’s on again!

I’m going to concentrate this post on the classic Nick toons from the anime family, as my original idea ran too long, and I promise to profile more 80’s Nick cartoons in a future Flashback Friday post.  Anyway, let’s get started with one of the true cartoon classics…

Belle and Sebastian:

Is that a pooch in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Is that a pooch in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

If there was one thing Nick loved to show back in the 80’s, it was serialized anime.  Belle and Sebastian was one of at least three such cartoons the networked aired in the 80’s, and probably the most heartwarming of the bunch.  Sebastian is a 7 year old boy from a French village near the Pyrenees Mountains who is the laughingstock of his town simply because he doesn’t have a mother.  As could only happen in fucked up Japanese cartoons, Sebastian decides to run away at this tender age and crosses the border into Spain to find his real mother, where he befriends a big white dog named Belle.  Belle is a gentle pooch who suffers from the same stereotyping most huge dogs get, the nearby villagers believe she is a vicious child-eating beast who probably also shits on their lawns, and the local police spend a lot of time trying to capture and kill the poor thing since there is apparently no real crime taking place in Spain at the time…

I'd be wearing that White Monster as a coat were I not still dead.

I’d be wearing that White Monster as a coat were I not still dead.

The Little Prince:

Yeah, you can already tell this is going to end up being a fucked up mess of a cartoon...

Yeah, you can already tell this is going to end up being a fucked up mess of a cartoon…

The Little Prince from outer space can catch a shooting star and sail away.  Perhaps one day he’ll come your way.  Those two sentences seriously made up the entire introduction to this Japanese import that was originally made in the late 70’s, and sadly, they pretty much sum up what this cartoon was about.  This boy, who lives on a planet by himself, gets bored dealing with his rose girl and his annoying bird friend Swifty every single day, so for excitement, he rides comets using a butterfly net.  These comets usually end up crashing into earth, somehow not burning up our Little Prince upon his entry into our atmosphere.

It's probably safer than taking the bus...

It’s probably safer than taking the bus…

I would doubt 26 comets have even crashed into earth in the whole history of the universe, but somehow that’s how many episodes were made of this series.  And TLP ran on Nickelodeon for 4 whole years.  Yeah, with just 26 episodes, Nick still managed to squeeze four years of airtime out of it.  That would be unthinkable in these modern times, but the only network for kids was a master at milking a cheap show for all it was worth.  The Nick show Out of Control had even fewer original episodes, yet was run on the network for an amazing 7 years!

Hey Dave!  There's this chick on You Can't Do That On Television I think you should meet...

Hey Dave! There’s this chick on You Can’t Do That On Television I think you should meet…

The Adventures of The Little Koala:

Which way to Barwon Heads?

Which way to Barwon Heads?

Anime is supposed to look diabetes-inducingly cute, but The Little Koala set the bar when it came to entertaining kids without creeping them the fuck out like most shows geared towards the young set…

Yeah, I'm referring to creatures of your ilk...

Yeah, I’m referring to creatures of your ilk…

The Little Koala wasn’t just eye candy for kids, it also featured wholesome storylines that told a lesson.  Seriously, I don’t care how old you were when Nickelodeon aired this in the late 80’s, it was impossible to dislike it.  If you’re having a horrible case of The Sadz, just watch the intro to the show.  I dare you to go the whole 53 seconds without smiling…

The Mysterious Cities of Gold:

Now we're getting somewhere!

Now we’re getting somewhere!

Towards the end of Nick’s golden era in the late 80’s, the network introduced two new Japanese anime series that were picked up by the French and then redubbed for English audiences.  The first of these was The Mysterious Cities of Gold, which follows the adventures of children Esteban (no, not the dude with the guitar), Zia and Tao, along with their Spaniard company of Mendoza and his two flunkies Sancho and Pedro.  Along the way they meet even greedier and bloodthirstier Spanish assholes, a solar powered airplane in the form of a condor, and even some aliens!  Learning South American history around the time of the conquistadors was never so much fun!

"What does it say, Tao? "It's ancient Hivan for 'YOU ARE HERE.'"

“What does it say, Tao?”
“It’s ancient Hivan for ‘YOU ARE HERE.'”

Spartakus and the Sun Beneath The Sea:

It looks like Bac got captured by the Pirates...

It looks like Bac got captured by the Pirates…

The absolute gold standard of Nickelodeon’s 80’s cartoons was also one of the last it introduced during its 80’s heyday.  Spartakus was kind of a sister show to Cities of Gold, though it told a much different and much zanier story.  See if you can follow this….

sprots es sleeping (2)

There was a great cataclysm that destroyed most civilization on the earth.  A group of survivors set up a city deep beneath the earth called Arkadia that relies on a shitty artificial sun called the Terra (It was originally the Shagma in the pre-dubbed version, but we can’t go using terms with such blatant sexual innuendo in kids programming now, can we?) that’s about to go out on them.  Wanting to save their city, the children of Arkadia learn that there are people still living on the earth and build a messenger to recruit help from them… a woman named Arkana.  Arkana sets out to the surface of the earth, and finds the best help she can find to save a damaged sun…. two fucking kids.

We're in so much trouble when we get home...

We’re in so much trouble when we get home…

She also runs into Spartakus, who saves the kids from an attack by the undersea Pirates, who prove to be the major nemesis of our heroes during the entire show’s run.  The four of them come back to Arkana, then go out in search of the mysterious “auracite” that will save their flickering sun.  Naturally, being an anime where there is no such thing as logic, they go searching throughout the many underground “strata” under the earth.  You know, it seems like a lot of people are living just fine and dandy under the earth without that stupid sun, but if the Arakadians just moved instead of being stubborn asses like people living along the coastline during a hurricane, we wouldn’t have had this totally fucked up yet brilliant series!

What is that?  Why should be bother with a hard C when adding a K to everything looks so much kooler?

What is that? Why should be bother with a hard C when adding a K to everything looks so much kooler?

But the true star of this series was its composer Vladimir Cosma.  There were two little “music videos” that would air at random times over the course of the 52 episodes of Spartakus, one dedicated to the Pirates and the other to the odd creatures who accompanied our heroes, Bic and Bac.  The tunes are epic, and probably ingrained in the heads of anyone who even casually watched the series do to their constant replay…

If you can't get up and dance to those songs, I pity you!

If you can’t get up and dance to those songs, I pity you!

And thus ends The Nest’s look back at some of the best cartoons from Nickelodeon’s golden age of the 80’s.  We’ll revisit this theme at a later time since I’m sure you were all wondering how I could possibly forget great cartoons like Inspector Gadget and Danger Mouse.  But for now, we’d like to thank Nick for digging up some of the most obscure Japanese cartoons out there on the cheap and turning them into classic stories that kept us 80’s kids out of trouble.  Just because there was no run on Belle and Sebastian toys at Christmastime or a line of Little Koala shirts to make money off of doesn’t mean the quality of these toons was just as good, if not better than the licensed garbage you’ve been trotting out for over a decade now…

sandy spongebob wedding



About evilsquirrel13

Bored former 30-something who has nothing better to do with his life than draw cartoon squirrels.
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36 Responses to The Original Nicktoons

  1. merbear74 says:

    What, no Barth? No green slime, I don’t know?? 😉

  2. NotAPunkRocker says:

    I had forgotten about these shows. I just remember my younger brother watching “Pinwheel” (their version of Sesame Street), the stop-motion Paddington Bear show and Bill Cosby’s Picture Pages.

    I was more into “You Can’t Do That on Television” and the Degrassi-lite teen soap “Fifteen” (starring Ryan Reynolds!).

    • Pinwheel was great. Like Nickelodeon itself, it was pretty much a calliope of so much other stuff thrown into one show. Back in the day, Pinwheel was on the entire morning, essentially taking up the entire block that later came to be known as Nick Jr….

  3. PigLove says:

    Uh-oh Houston we have a problem. I think you’ve figured out mom’s childhood. She was locked in the basement or was it a dungeon without a television until she married daddy at 19. She didn’t watch Nickelodeon growing up – snorts. Daddy rescued her and killed the dragon and well that’s all they wrote. They bought a house and a television and now they are who they are today.. happily ever after.

  4. C.K. Hope says:

    OMG that stuff was on Nick? Somehow I didn’t know the channel name, I thought Nick came out when my kids were little in the early 90’s. My sister watched those shows, her and my cousins were addicted to that Kola one! Oh and never show teletubby pictures without a trigger warning. I need to go back to my therapist now …

    • Oops! I’m sorry if I triggered any bad Teletubby flashbacks! I wanted to use a picture with them AND Barney in it, but when I saw the blasphemy to Abbey Road, I had to use that one…

      • C.K. Hope says:

        Them AND Barney in the same picture? That should be illegal but then again so should Teletubbies defiling Abby Rd. I can’t believe Mer didn’t scream at the horror of that! 😉

  5. I remember that Belle and Sebastian show! Wow, and we think our parenting is messed up. There must have been a million other reasons to harass that kid besides not having a mom. Oh and I also remember the Cities of Gold one, that was good, I think. It’s been a while. I would have liked to see the Little Prince burn up on entering the atmosphere.

    I watched the Koalas and zomg there should be a Diabetic warning on this one. But it did make me smile, so thanks, ES.

    • YAY!!!! I was beginning to worry that I was the only one who remembered these cartoons! Cities of Gold was awesome! It took me years to really get the full story behind it though, because of the scattered bouts I saw the episodes in…

  6. Twindaddy says:

    I don’t remember any of these shows…

  7. The Cutter says:

    I didn’t have cable as a child, so I didn’t get to see most of these. Not sure if I missed out though.

    • Like with most kids shows, if you didn’t get to experience them the first time around, my guess is they probably wouldn’t rate well with you. I doubt I’d like any of them if I just happened to catch them for the first time today….

  8. Mental Mama says:

    I always preferred the live shows to the cartoons. Though now I get great satisfaction from knowing that one of the cable channels with our new fancy-schmancy shit carries Animaniacs. Love that show.

  9. draliman says:

    I’m afraid that apart from Mysterious Cities of Gold, I’ve never heard of these! Of course, by the time satellite TV and later digital terrestrial TV came along and I could actually watch Nickelodeon, it was way past the 80s and I was way too old to want to watch it.

    Dogtanian and the Three Muskahounds – now that was a cartoon 🙂

    • Ha, I never heard of that one. Are you familiar with Danger Mouse and Count Duckula? I was going to include those until I realized the post was going to be way too long, and cut them out to focus on the Japanese imports….

      • draliman says:

        Yes, I’ve seen both of those. Danger Mouse in particular was very big over here. In fact, whenever someone refers to me (DraliMan) as “DM” in a comment I always think “Danger Mouse”!

        Dogtanian was a Spanish/Japanese collaboration according to wikipedia (a surprise, I always assumed it was French).

  10. gentlestitches says:

    I loved the 80s cartoons although we had to wait for them here usually on a Saturday morning.
    Now I know what happened to to the Koalas of Jirrahlinga. Fortunately they found their way back. 🙂

  11. fransiweinstein says:

    You should do an online kids’ show

    • LOL! That would be great with the way my humor can sometimes… er oftentimes skew towards non-kiddie subjects! Actually, it may not be much different than most kids cartoons these days!

  12. I had totally forgotten about The Little Koala! I loved that show so much. Sigh. Thanks again for the memories.

  13. Dan says:

    Great now I have the koala theme stuck in my head again. Awesome show. Anime was kinda safe back then, knowing that one VA with the sexy voice wasn’t gonna be in any of them, because from 1992 onwards at least any anime dub will have his voice telling you via subliminals to “BOW DOWN TO THE DARK SIDE OF ANIMATION!” Of course I am referring to David Lucas (real name withheld, though you can easily search David Lucas on Google and find it out). I cannot resist his voice. He is my favorite VA of all time. Also I downloaded the teletubby picture.

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