Three Retro Cartoons with a Message for Today’s Kids

by Staff & Contributors on September 4, 2014

in The 80s

Kids’ cartoons- they certainly don’t make them like they used to. Today’s hyper-realistic cartoons are full of visual effects that us ’80s kids could never have imagined were possible. But flashy appearances aren’t everything. A popular complaint is that today’s cartoons fail to delve deeply into stuff that truly matters, trying too hard to get into the minds of children and shying away from important issues. So, which old cartoons have messages that are so important that we should dust them off and share them with our kids? Here are some to consider:



Bravestarr was a rare enigma in those great memories of retro cartoons. He was a Native American who worked as a space marshall on a planet called New Texas. Bravestarr called on different spirit animals to help him in times of trouble, including the strength of the bear, the speed of the puma, the eyes of the hawk and the ears of the wolf.

He also had a trusty companion, Thirty-Thirty, who was a horse that could walk upright. How many other cartoons subverted the roles of history and empowered minorities? Definitely one to wheel out for today’s kids.


She-Ra, Princess of Power

If you grew up in the ’80s you’ll know that the female lead characters in cartoons were few and far between. However, the ones that did exist were pretty kick-ass, and that includes She-Ra. The twin sister of He-man had super human strength, and was regularly seen lifting men, robots and even buildings single-handedly.

Her skills with a sword were unrivalled and she also possessed more spiritual powers like communicating with animals and healing abilities. She outsmarted her enemies with the power of her wits and used her Sword of Protection to deflect energy bolts. Sure, she wore the odd skimpy outfit and had a tiny waist, but there’s no doubt that she was also ahead of her time in inspiring future feminists everywhere.


Captain Planet and The Planeteers

Captain Planet: he’s our hero. Gonna take pollution down to zero”. Who could resist an intro that told kids about Gaia, the spirit of the earth? This ’90s cartoon was the delight of budding eco warriors and ecologists everywhere. It taught us about all the greedy, unsavoury characters destroying our planet and its species.

Best of all, it gave us hope that these low-lifes could be defeated with the help of an international team of heroes who got their special powers from Gaia (voiced by Whoopi Goldberg). Those heroes were not only endearing; they were culturally inclusive: there was Kwame from Africa, Linka from Eastern Europe (called the Soviet Union at the time), Gi from Asia, and Ma-Ti from South America. In a cartoon landscape that was awash with white American characters, Captain Planet shone like a beacon from our TV screens.

When things got really bad, these characters could combine their powers to summon the green mulleted, blue skinned Captain Planet who defeated the earth’s enemies and ended things with the slogan “the power is yours!”. This taught us kids that we could help save the planet if we worked together. And let’s face it: there’s no one more in need of this message than today’s kids.

What are your favorite old cartoons with lessons to teach?

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