UNITED STATES—Millennials might be shocked to know that loads of of today’s violence-filled blockbuster action films were inspired by children’s cartoons. Films like Transformers: Age of Extinction staring street-hustler-turned-actor, Mark Walberg would not have been conceived if the idea hadn’t first been dreamt up to entertain elementary aged children after a tough day of ABCs. Yes, those were the days (back in the 1980s), when cartoons were cool, the days before the rise of the paranoid, overprotective parent.


Today we find ourselves in the midst of a mass-shooting epidemic. Most of these shootings leave us with more questions than answers, “Why?” being the question that seems to be the most difficult to answer. Being that nearly all shooters fall into the “troubled youth” demographic, fingers are often pointed at children’s entertainment as the cause of such violent tendencies. Whether video games or more passive forms of entertainment are accused, the only affect that any of these wild accusations have had is to create a world in which parents have to think long and hard before setting their little sweet peas down in front of the boob tube unattended.


And thanks to this knee jerk paranoia, today’s children’s cartoons absolutely stink. Sure, there are certainly cartoons created for the mature audience in mind, for those of us who miss being able to sit down and enjoy quality animation. But, these poor kids today are so sheltered and isolated from the realities of life, many of them completely lack a sense of humor or any sense of popular culture by the time they hit adolescence. Gee, I wonder. Could this overprotective treatment be having an unintended consequence? Could this “parenting” be engendering social awkwardness, the same social awkwardness that mass shooters tend to suffer from? This, of course, is a rhetorical question.


Anyway, back to cars. Here is a list of car-related cartoons that were hugely popular back in the 80s but would probably be banned for being too violent for today’s young viewers:


Transformers, screengrabs courtesy of Marvel Productions and Sunbow Productions

“More than meets the eye,” Transformers were aliens from the planet Cybertron who basically fell to earth during a galactic battle over control of their home planet. While this cartoon series tackled such mature themes as trust and betrayal (in between laser-filled battle scenes) the creators ventured into heavier circumstances such as death in the animated movie, which acted as a transition between different generations of characters. The series was certainly ahead of its time and many policy makers felt it was a little too liberal in its use of violence and adult oriented themes.



M.A.S.K., screengrabs courtesy of DIC Entertainment

Themes such as organized crime and terrorism took center stage in this animated action series. The characters were often placed in life or death situations although they typically pulled through in the end. Unlike Transformers, the vehicles were merely weapons utilized by both the heroic spy agency, M.A.S.K. and the villainous crime syndicate known as Venom. In an effort to make the show more appealing to parents, the creators included a teachable moment at the end of each episode of M.A.S.K. (not an original idea) in which the main character’s son and his trusty robot found themselves learning simple life lessons such as looking both ways before crossing the street.


Bigfoot and the Muscle Machines:

Bigfoot and the Muscle Machines
Bigfoot and the Muscle Machines, screengrabs courtesy of Marvel Productions, Sunbow Productions, and Toei Animation

In the 80s, it was not uncommon for studio execs to take celebrities in the world of sports and turn them into animated heroes. It was all an effort to “get them while they’re young” as the saying goes, the “them” referring to potential fans. Monster Truck rally’s were already appealing to the “daredevil teen” demographic that had been steadily growing throughout the 80s. Whether, Bigfoot and the Muscle Machines brought any new adrenaline junkies into the fold is questionable, as the show only lasted one season. Technically it is classified as a miniseries.


Pole Position:

Pole Position
Pole Position, screengrabs courtesy of DIC Entertainment

Loosely based (very loosely) on the popular video game of the same name, Pole Position was an action adventure series about siblings who are persuaded to continue their parents’ dangerous crime-fighting work after losing them in a fatal car crash. The series only lasted one season and therefore failed to gain much momentum. However, the mystery surrounding the devastating accident that took the lives of the main characters’ parents was often dangled as a carrot to maintain viewer interest.


Turbo Teen:

Turbo Teen
Turbo Teen, screengrabs courtesy of Ruby-Spears Productions

If the movie (and later animated series) Teen Wolf took a shot at dealing with the theme of adolescence and the difficulties faced by teens just trying to fit in, who knows what message Turbo Teen was trying to convey. After an accident during a science experiment, the main character discovers that he now is vexed with the problem of changing into his own sports car whenever he gets too hot. The only problem is that this dilemma is never really seen as a problem, but more of a special power that can be used to fight crime. Another cartoon that lasted only one season, Turbo Teen could not perpetuate viewer interest even with the introduction of a mysterious recurring villain known as the Dark Rider.


As always, if you feel this list is incomplete or seriously flawed in any way, feel free to contribute your thoughts in the comments section.