Today, it’s widely accepted that most toy lines are simply a marketing tool to promote movies and TV shows. However, back in the 1980s, the opposite was true: Movies and TV shows were quite often very hastily thrown together to promote upcoming toy lines. As ‘80s kids, that meant we got super cool toys, but often had to suffer through some really terrible Saturday morning cartoons.
And while the youngsters today are definitely missing out in the action figure department, new school remakes based on ‘80s toy lines like Thundercats and Voltron show that what were formerly kids shows can be made for a much broader set of demographics.
Here’s our list of six toy-based TV shows that deserve a 21st century Voltron-style makeover:
6. Bionic Six
Back in the mid-to-late ‘80s, the hot new battleground for Marvel and DC wasn’t the big screen, but rather the toy stores. Marvel’s Secret War series and DC’s Super Powers Collection looked to capitalize on the success of action-figure lines like He-Man and G.I. Joe. Other toy companies who weren’t willing to pony up Marvel-sized licensing fees, started to create their own comic-book style brands from scratch.
One of those groups of faux-comic book heroes were the Bionic Six. A cross between the Fantasic Four and the Six Million Dollar Man, this family of cyborg-enhanced do-gooders saved the world each week from a collection of aliens and mad scientists. Even though the original cartoons — featuring Osamu Dezaki (Astroboy, Golgo 13, Cobra) as chief supervising director — were probably the best quality out of all the entries on the list, Bionic Six was hugely slept-on at the time. It would be fitting to reintroduce the show to a new generation with a fresh anime-style remix (in either series or movie form).
Okay, so even at the height of their popularity, it was commonly accepted that Gobots were basically value-brand knockoffs of the Transformers. However, even though Gobots failed to gain the same popularity in the U.S. market as their taller, more articulated cousins, let the record show the Gobots were, in fact, the original robots in disguise.
In fairness, the Tonka-produced toys sold pretty well, but it was the accompanying Hanna-Barbera-produced cartoon series that really turned the Gobots into the also-ran in the 1980s talking robot race. Interestingly enough, while Japanese company Bandai still owns the original toy molds and character designs, Hasbro owns the trademarks, and thus the rights to the cartoons. Before they embark on yet another new envisioning of a Transformers animated series, Hasbro should flip the script and drop a Gobots redux for the culture and stuff.
What’s cooler than dinosaurs? How about riding around dinosaurs outfitted with pew-pew guns and rocket launchers? The Dino-Riders toys were so amazingly detailed, The Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History actually commissioned a line sans the motorized walking function (and pew-pew guns, obviously). However, as it has been pointed out by my esteemed colleague, while the toys were epic, Dino-Riders made for an absolutely God-awful cartoon.
In a truly just world, we’d get updated versions of the toys and a Dino-Riders cartoon made like someone actually gave a shit.
While He-Man got a remake in in the early ‘00s, it’s been almost 30 years since the Princess of Power has graced the small-screen. Given the frequency in which franchises with less of She-Ra’s pop culture bona fides are rebooted, the fact there has been three decades without at least an attempt at a remake is downright inexcusable.
While it looks like She-Ra might be included in a Masters of the Universe movie, the time is long past right for some sort of stand-alone animated project.
In the 29th century, members of an elite fighting force volunteer to have a good portion of their bodies replaced with bionic parts in order to help save the galaxy. The kicker is that these aren’t just any old surplus bionic parts, but rather bionic bird parts. And because the 29th century is so rad, most of the weapons are actually in the form of musical instruments. In fairness, SilverHawks was Rankin/Bass Productions’ follow up to Thundercats; instead of a team of feline humanoids, you get a team of avian cyborgs. Just trust me that this made a ton of sense in 1986.
Basically SilverHawks is about five cyborg space birds chasing around evil punk rockers firing laser beams out of keytars, and in spite of that — or because of it? — it was one of the most awesome cartoons ever made. The key to a good SilverHawks remake would be to dispel all notions that it’s a kid’s cartoon, and treat it like the full-blown, 23-minute acid trip it was designed to be.
M.A.S.K. was interesting cartoon in that it was a pretty unapologetic hybrid clone of the era’s two most successful toy-toon brands. The premise of the show was very similar to G.I. Joe: A covert special ops team (Mobile Armored Strike Kommand) is formed to fight an evil criminal organization (V.E.N.O.M. or Vicious Evil Network Of Mayhem) using a large multi-national corporation as a front.
However, instead of traditional weapons, each side fought with seemingly standard vehicles that transformed into Twisted Metal-esque war machines; a motorbike transformed into a helicopter, a Corvette into a fighter jet. On top of that, each combatant was given an actual mask that had some sort of destructive power.
So, yeah, it may have bitten Transformers, too, but who cares? We’ve had enough of those movies. The world demands to be covered in M.A.S.K.