More Than Meets the Eye

We can all remember a time when we were young and sat glossy-eyed and transfixed in front of the television. OK, so maybe some of us still do that now, but back then, our short attention spans were completely diverted to our favorite cartoons. “”The Smurfs,”” “”Thundercats”” and “”Rainbow Bright”” were immensely popular with boys and girls when we were young, and we stared in awe as they passed off corny plotlines and cheesy dialogue as wholesome entertainment.

Cartoons have evolved a lot since then, but alas, it was too late for me. I personally blame the old cartoons of the ’80s for permanently destroying millions of my brain cells with such animated catastrophes as “”Superfriends”” and “”GoBots.”” Actually, the cartoons of today should also be held responsible for the idiocy of American youth with shows like “”Digimon: Digital Monsters”” and “”Sabrina: The Animated Series.”” These programs look and move a lot better than their older counterparts, but the premise of all cartoons remains the same: to provide kids with mindless entertainment “”robots in disguise;”” classic good-fighting-evil prototypes. It’s a concept still used today — automatons that have the ability to shoot lasers with the adaptability of disguising into an inconspicuous, common vehicle, such as a Lamborghini ambulance.

But beneath the Transformers’ adventures for peace on screen lay a corporate juggernaut bent on raking in cash with its subliminal half-hour toy commercial. For Hasbro, the producer of Transformers figures, it was a spectacular success.

My friends and I bought almost every robot so we could re-enact their television adventures without 1:100 scale models of the patriarchal leader Optimus Prime, the aggravating Starscream and the hilariously useless Bumblebee who, playing the perfect foil, constantly found himself in trouble. Of course, the show always gained new characters, like the “”Constructicons”” (five earth-moving robots that made one gigantic earth-moving robot) and thus, there were more toys to buy. When Transformers were introduced in 1984, there were perhaps 30 Transformers total. By the series’ end, the number grew to approximately 23,000 mechanized warriors.

Transformers episodes are being released on VHS and DVD by Kid Rhino.

But ultimately, we all know that it was the high cheese factor of these cartoons that won our hearts and brainwashed our minds. “”My Little Pony”” was a popular show aimed at girls that taught them how to be, well, girls.

Petite, saccharine horses that were either painfully shy or hopeless romantics — girls were suckers for these pastel-coated equines and bought stampedes’ worth of these totally immovable ponies that just posed there looking stomach-churningly cute. In the show, the ponies had three human friends — Megan, Molly and Danny — whom thanks to their opposable thumbs always saved the ponies from life-threatening danger, like being tied up in rope or being too far in the deep end.

The ponies always had celebrations and parties for no apparent reason, and incessantly preached for love and kindness until maple syrup poured from the viewers’ ears. But the toys’ popularity dwindled, and the ponies went straight to the glue factory.

Only “”My Little Pony: The Movie”” can be seen on the hard-to-find VHS by Vestron Video, and the episodes have not yet been released by Sunbow Productions.

Old cartoons have been rising in nostalgic popularity, as many series and movies are being re-released in some way or another. Oldies like “”SilverHawks”” (a spacy version of “”Thundercats””), “”Yogi Bear’s Treasure Hunt”” (in which all of Hanna Barbera’s characters are featured), and “”Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers”” are all on syndicated rerun on the Cartoon Network, Boomerang and the Disney Channel, respectively. “”G.I. J.O.E: The Movie”” is also now available on DVD.

It’s always good to take a break to stroll down memory lane. We’re older now, but we can always fondly reminisce about our young, stress-free lives when we sat too close to the television with a large bowl of Froot Loops and bathed in TV’s animated glow.

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