The Essential Saturday Morning Cartoon Ads, 1979-1989

By Shawn Robare

So while I was spelunking though crap comic book bins at my local Book Nook looking for old Hostess ads, I kept running across other ads that I thought would be fun to share on the site. In particular I kept passing over some familiar Saturday Morning Cartoon ads, mostly for the later 80’s NBC lineup, and nothing I hadn’t seen before a million times while reading back issues of Ambush Bug and the Uncanny X-Men. Then I caught sight of an ad I’d never seen before, one for ABC in 1983, and I began to wonder if there were ads for all the big stations, ABC, CBS, and NBC, for every year.

So the search began anew, and I started digging for cartoon ads, year by year, and I managed to find a decent amount. Unfortunately I couldn’t find one for every station or for every year during the 80’s, but I’ll be damned if I can find them, and I’ve run out of cheap resources, so this’ll have to do for now. Without further ado I present the Essential Saturday Morning Cartoon Ads, Vol. 1 1979-1989.

This first ad is for ABC’s cartoon lineup form 1979. Though I was only two years old at the time, I do remember watching my fare share of both the Super Friends and the Plastic Man show. I also, of course, watched plenty of Scooby Doo, especially the Scrappy Doo episodes. I remember distinctly wanting to murderize Scrappy on many occasions. I don’t remember ever seeing any of the additional Plastic Man cartoons like Fang Face, Rickety Rocket or Mighty Man and Yukk, so I’m thinking maybe I caught Plas later when it was edited down or something. I’m dying to see some of the Spider Woman cartoon and have been since I used to stare at the one video copy my Blockbuster used to stock, though I never did rent it for some weird reason.

This CBS ad, also from 1979, is pretty much 50/50 in terms of what I remember seeing on TV as a kid. I definitely remember Mighty Mouse, Heckle and Jeckle, and, like Scooby Doo, obviously I remember watching the Looney Tunes. Scooby Doo and the Looney Tunes are pretty damn timeless though, and I think in one form or another have been playing since they were introduced in the 60’s and 30’s respectively.  That’s also the worst miss-coloring on Foghorn Leghorn I’ve ever seen.

The second half of this ad is pretty foreign to me though, at least for the time. The first Popeye show I remember watching was the Popeye and Son revamp that came a few years after this, though I’m sure I caught some of the really old stuff at one time or another. Though I do remember seeing an episode or two of Fat Albert, I want to say that it wasn’t on Saturday morning, but instead part of another show like Pinwheel, the Electric Company, or Kaptain Kangaroo or something. Bill Cosby was pretty much all over the place in the 80’s, especially on kids shows, what with Picture Pages and his appearances on the Electric Company, so I might be getting this mixed up. I didn’t discover Jason of Star Command until this past year from reading a bunch of other blogs like Bubblegum Fink. It’s definitely a show I’m dying to see because I want to see Sid Haig in a kid’s show; he’s got to be a pretty bad ass villain. As far as that bottom rung of shows, I’m completely baffled. I’ve never seen any of those and I’m surprised that there was a Batman show on ABC and CBS simultaneously.

Now in 1980, with this ABC ad, we’re getting into more familiar territory. Other than the crazy Fonz and the Happy Days Gang cartoon, I watched all of these shows. The introduction of Thundarr is pretty sweet, and goes to show that there was certainly precedent set before the Masters of the Universe toy line hit shelves 1983, much to Roger Sweet’s chagrin. Now, is that supposed to be Joni in the Happy Day’s cartoon? ‘Cause that’s a Joni that I could love like so many Chachis.

CBS’s lineup didn’t change much in 1980, but I’m really keen on some of the additions. Though I’ve never seen it, I’m really interested in the Drac Pack show. I’m curious if it’s in line with something like the Groovie Goolies? It sounds a lot more action packed, though I’m not sure how much, seeing as the rebirth of the “Action Cartoon” was still a couple years off. I also notice that Batman, Freedom Force, and Jason of Star Command were replaced by the Lone Ranger show. I don’t remember that one either, though I did have some of the toys that came out around then. I dug the hell out of the Lone Ranger toy because, if I remember correctly, his pistols would fit in his holsters, which was very uncommon for 3.75″ toys in the 80’s.

I wonder why they even bothered to throw in that bit about the 30 Minutes of news spot at 1:30. What self-respecting kid was watching news highlights on Saturday mornings?

Well, apparently NBC was in direct competition with CBS, as they both had variations on the Looney Tunes, and then NBC also introduced the Frankenstones, I assume to offset the Drac Pack. Their lineup was pretty heavily, classic Hanna Barbera laden, what with the Jetsons, the Flintstones, the Herculoids, and Space Ghost. Crazy, it was like a regular Boomerang on NBC in 1980.

Now, I couldn’t find an ABC ad for 1981, but I think the lineup stayed relatively the same, though I believe that Laverne and Shirley was added as a spin-off addition to the Happy Days cartoon much in the same way the original show was spun off of the live action Happy Days show.

CBS on the other hand dropped Heckle and Jeckle, the Drac Pack, and Tarzan in favor of some new blood including, Zorro, Blackstar (I assume to compete with ABC’s airings of Thundarr), the Trollkins, and the Kwicky Koala Show, none of which I’m all that familiar with. I had a few of the Blackstar toys, which I mentioned when I talked about the Blackstar puffy stickers, but other than that I don’t know much about these new shows. I know that Zorro, much like the Lone Ranger was at least strong enough to get one toy line release, but pretty much CBS is a mystery to me at age 4. I notice they’re still pimping the weekly news highlights though.

In 1981 NBC began to feel like more familiar ground in terms of my personal nostalgia for Saturday morning cartoons, what with the introduction of the Smurfs and Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends. I can recall associating the Spider-Man theme song, in particular, with waking up on the weekends.

Apparently, ABC was all about spinning off cartoon versions of their popular 70’s sitcoms as 1982 would see three shows, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Mork & Mindy all with animated counterparts. Mmmm, animated Pam Dawber. ABC also dove into programming based on video games with the introduction of Pac-Man. I wonder which station was playing Q*Bert and Donkey Kong in the 80’s? Well we’ll get to that.

Not to be outdone on the sitcom-to-cartoon-conversion front, CBS introduced a Gilligan’s Island cartoon in 1982. They also ditched half of the previous years lineup including all the news shows from 1981 like Zorro, the Trollkins, and that weird Koala show. I guess they were feeling boxed in by the other networks and were focusing on competition rather than sticking with new ideas, though they did introduce two new shows, the panda themed Pandamonium, and Meatballs and Spaghetti (not familiar with either.)

I didn’t find an ad for NBC for 1982, though I believe they added the Shirt Tales to the lineup as well as an Incredible Hulk cartoon. How do I know that? Context clues.

For 1983 ABC ditched all of it’s sitcom cartoon spin-offs in favor of some new material including a show based on the Rubik’s Cube, one on the Monchhichis, an awesome Littles cartoon, and the crazy Menudo show. Can you pick out Ricky Martin from this horribly printed ad?

For 1983 NBC ditched it’s classic Hanna Barbera lineup in favor of a half and half mix between action and cutsey. With the introduction of the Mr. T cartoon, added to their Spider-Man/Hulk hour and the Thundarr cartoon, they were going pretty strong with action. This was balanced by the introduction of Alvin and the Chipmunks, which joined by the Smurfs, the Shirt Tales and the Flintstones, whoch would fill out the more cute and cuddly earlier morning hours.

Though I didn’t find a CBS ad for 1983, I can tell by this 1984 ad, prominently featuring Richard Pryor, that they were picking up the slack on the video game-to-cartoon front with their Saturday Supercade shows including Q*Bert, Space Ace, Donkey Kong and Pole Position. I freaking loved the Pole Position cartoon. I’ve also noticed that there is a similar balancing act between cute and action packed shows this year on CBS, much like the 1983 NBC lineup, including the Supercade, and Dungeons and Dragons being offset by the Muppet Babies and the Get Along Gang. I’m pretty sure my eyes were glued to CBS on Saturday mornings during 1984 because I remember all of these shows very fondly.

Of course, just as soon as I say that I was only watching CBS, here comes the 1984 NBC AD, which has just as many shows that I remember watching as well, so maybe I would switch off week to week or something. Or maybe there was a clone Shawn that I was able to siphon off the memories of. Either way, 1984 was a great year for Saturday Morning cartoons with a few more of my favorite shows getting introduced including Kidd Video, which I’ve written about before, the Snorks and the Pink Panther and Sons. Oh, to have episodes of all these shows on DVD. Man, look at David Hasselhoff’s grinning mug in that One to Grow On segment…

After 1983 I couldn’t find anymore ABC ads.  I don’t know if they stopped running them, or if they’re just super rare.

This CBS ad from 1985 shows us that Cyndi Lauper was becoming so common place in pop culture that her popular song titles were being reworked into cartoon ads. That’s all right though, because also in this ad is the introduction of Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling, yet another of my favorite shows as a kid, which featured Capt’n Lou who was a Lauper friend and mainstay. Though I was never all that into the actual wrestling shows, I dug the hell out of the cartoon, the trading cards, and those giant rubber action figures. George “the Animal” Steele anyone? Capt’n Lou was pretty awesome as well.  Yes, they were favorites of mine. Any wrestler that would pierce their cheek with rubber bands or dye their tongue green and eat turnbuckles were okay in my book.


Who in the hell are those purple monsters filming the Muppet Babies though? I don’t remember anyone other than Bunsen, Beaker, and that damn rabbit making guest appearances. This was also the last CBS ad I found, so from here on out it’s all about NBC.

I think this 1985 NBC ad is probably my favorite so far because I remember every single bit of this lineup. We get the Punky Brewster cartoon added (and even with Glomer I loved it) as well as the Gummi Bears cartoon, probably one of the best 30 minute Disney cartoons ever (at least on par with Ducktales.) Add to that Mr. T, the Smurfs, the Snorks, Kidd Video, Spider-Man and Alvin and the Chipmunks and you have a recipe for Shawn’s perfect Saturday morning.

I think it was around this time in 1986 when I began missing Saturday morning cartoons. Though I’d like to see what was on ABC or CBS to confirm this, I think I was losing interest in waking up for TV when a lot of the shows I loved were no longer on. This year NBC ditched practically every action show in favor of more cutsey fair like Kissyfur and Foofur. I mean, put ‘fur’ in every title why don’t ya? Smurfyfur, Punkyfur, Chipmunk-fur, everything was fucking furry or cute on NBC in 1986.

I think by this time I had switched my cartoon watching habits almost entirely to the syndicated fare on the weekday afternoons, stuff like G.I. Joe, the Transformers, the Silverhawks, Bravestarr, M.A.S.K., He-Man, and Turboteen.  I think I also discovered the joy of sleeping in until noon around this time as well.

Now as well as not finding any ABC or CBS ads for the later 80’s I also didn’t find many for NBC either. The only other ad I could find for Saturday mornings was this one from 1989.

Though I remember watching the Alf cartoon, all the rest of these are pretty foreign to me. I knew of these shows, but didn’t watch them, even though I was heavily into Nintendo, John Candy and the Karate Kid.

Though this is far from complete, there are at least six ads missing that I’m pretty sure are out there somewhere (NBC for 1979, ABC for 1981, NBC for 1982, CBS for 1983, ABC for 1984-85), this gives a pretty good idea of what was on Saturday Mornings through the early to mid 1980’s. Now I want these on DVD more than ever…

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  • Tommy Retro

    the character Robert was searching for on 6-4-12 is WEB WOMAN and Spinner. She was a segment of Filmation’s TARZAN AND THE SUPER 7 (1977) which included: 1) TARZAN, 2) THE NEW ADVENTURES OF BATMAN, 3) THE FREEDOM FORCE, 4) WEB WOMAN, 5) MANTA AND MORAY, 6) SUPERSTRETCH AND MICROWOMAN, and the live-action serial – 7) JASON OF STAR COMMAND. This show was sued off the air and out of existence by both DC and Marvel Comics, citing obvious copyright infringement due to the remarkable similarities between several of Filmation’s “new” characters and their own licensed properties: Web Woman = Spider-Woman, Madame Web, Manta = Black Manta, Aquaman, Aqualad, Sub-Mariner, Triton, Moray = Mera, Aquagirl, Dolphin, Lady Dorma, Marrina, Super-Stretch = Plastic Man, Elongated Man, Elastic Lad, Reed Richards aka Mister Fantastic, Micro-Woman = Shrinking Violet, The Atom, The Wasp. These shows have never been repeated in syndication and have not been preserved (only a couple of segments exist in the hands of collectors whom have posted clips on YouTube), so a miraculous DVD release is not possible. I hope this information is useful! Here is a link to an episode of WEB WOMAN on You Tube:

  • Shawn Robare

    Robert – Yeah, I’ll be honest, it’s not ringing any bells. The only thing that’s coming to mind is this episode of Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends with a lunar lardy:! Have you tried the Big Cartoon Database?

  • Robert

    I can’t find anything on this toon I saw as a kid… A costumed female “hero” and her big spider companion travel in outer space in this high tech spider spaceship. Ring any bells?? I know it was a series because I watched it on different Saturdays. The connecting frames between situations of the storyline was the Spider spaceship flying into outer space away from the viewer. It’s not Spiderwoman or Spidergirl or…it’s not Marvel. I’ve researched fairly deep in Branded. I can’t believe I’m not seeing anything even remotely similar on Branded or carefully worded Google searches on the web AND/OR Images. It may be lost to the stars. Cool site!!

  • The Retropolitan

    I’m also working on a post about comicbook ads from my childhood (ETA: EVENTUALLY), and boy, just seeing these ads opens the nostalgia floodgates, doesn’t it? I’ll keep my eyes open for the missing cartoon ones. Do you remember those occasional Friday night cartoon/live-action specials, where some celebrity host would introduce the new line-up of cartoons that started the next day? I KNOW I remember at least one of these, because I was obsessed with the fact that there was a live-action Spider-Man in it. I think the host was Tony Danza, and I remember there being some dancing on staircases at the end. On the other hand, I might have done too many drugs in college.

  • Savage

    I saw your post with all the great pictures you put up and one of them reminded me of a previous post I did about vintage ads.

  • joe

    This is so great thank you. I have been collecting some of these pre 79 from around on line. In responce to the above comment about the Friday night specials that was the first thing I thought of when I saw these ads. I would kill to get my hands on some tapes of those.

  • Esteban

    What a great idea! In one post you have brought back memories of both comic collecting and cartoon watching. Some of those I remember watching but a lot of them I remember although I didn’t knew I watched them. I didn’t remember that I remembered. It’s like you’re a nostalgia superhero with the power to resurrect old memories in other people’s minds! You’re right about Shirt Tales debuting in 1982. I looked it up at the Chronology of Animation. They also list there the various Christmas specials that many of the more popular Saturday morning cartoon shows did. I remember Pandamonium was about three bears that could combine into a larger bear. Turbo Teen I thought was also aired Saturday morning, but I only have vague memories of it either because of an early slot time or it was up against a much more popular show. Meatballs and Spaghetti was about an indie rock band that traveled in a van. I remember because I had a crush on the girl. I think both shows revolved around fighting crime, which was a common theme in 80’s cartoons that didn’t have Smurfs in them. My comic book collection began in 1984 so I didn’t even know the earlier ads existed. I wasn’t aware of later ads like this after 1985. It’d be great if there was an ABC for 1984. It’d have Mighty Orbots in it. I really want to go through all my comics now.

  • Kerrytoons

    Man am I glad I googled across your site. Very cool to know I am not the only insane guy out there who misses his childhood and loved growing up in the 80’s! I too have all of the Saturday morning preview ads…and more that you did not show. I have some of the actual preview shows on video that they would air the night before the big start of the new fall season. In addition to these comic book ads, TV Guide would also have similar ads the Saturday before the new fall season and also the Saturday of the new fall season. I was a nut even then collecting the ads from TV Guides. One in particular was a “”Fun and Fitness”” campaign with Tony Danza and Mary Lou Retton for ABC around 1983. I have the TV Guide ad, but there was also a Toys R Us giveaway promo magazine, which I cut up and kepy with my favorites, such as Pac-Man and Rubik the Amazing Cube. I have searched for years on the internet and ebay to find that Toys R Us magazine…but no luck so far. I keep collecting more and enjoying the nostagia of the past. Thanks for your site, and if you ever want to see some of my stuff, let me know!

  • Room 34

    Wow, this post is incredible. Thanks for these scans! I am having childhood flashbacks. I used to watch Plastic Man religiously. (I find it interesting in the one ad where they refer to “”Plasticbaby”” — I’m 99% sure that on the actual show he was called “”Baby Plas””.) I also remember loving Kwiki Koala! Yes, it was stupid. But I was 7 at the time.

  • Pawel

    Nice site! Big thanx to webmaster!

  • Jay

    i’m glad you linked back to this…it’s possibly the greatest post of yours of all time. I’ve read it before but it was great to read it again.

  • Kurtis

    The Muppet Babies & Monsters show you refer to in the 1985 CBS ad is what the show was called for that season. Muppet Babies was given another season but this time it shared an hour long timeslot with a live action show called Little Muppet Monsters which featured three monsters and adult Muppet characters. The show only lasted three episodes before the show was pulled and the half hour was replaced with another episode of Muppet Babies.

  • Clanceyakker

    The 1987 NBC ad has ALF, Fraggle Rock and the New Archies pictured, looking very similar to 1985, giving the impression the characters are in the ‘NBC compound’. Also present are Smurfs, Chipmunks and Gummi Bears.

  • Clanceyakker

    There was an animation strike at Hanna-Barbera which greatly affected shows availability, the two biggest being that Flintstones comedy hour and the Space Stars. Neither show aired when they were supposed to and were replaced by reruns of other programs, among them, that Godzilla-Dynomutt Hour. Seems I also had the original Harlem Globetrotters in my area.

    • I know I was probably up and watching cartoons at the time in 1980, but that is right on the edge of my true memories (I was 3 years-old.) Wish I had more vivid memories of watching the Dynomutt/Godzilla show. At least I can revisit them on DVD…

  • Clanceyakker

    I am finding the ABC 1980 ad, the NBC 1980 ad, but the CBS 1981 ad, all in the same comic book!
    Can anyone pinpoint me toward a comic book with the 1980 CBS ad in it?

    • It’s been so long since I started digging through comics to find and scan these. I don’t remember which issues I pulled these out of :/

  • Emf219

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post.

    • No problem! I love sharing this kind of stuff :)

  • Raphael Elizalde

    Menudo on ABC was a series of quick 4-minute music spots that aired during the Fall 1983 season of Saturday morning cartoons. The group also sang the theme song to “Rubik: The Amazing Cube” cartoon. Ricky Martin joined Menudo in 1984 so that’s why he’s not in the pic.