The Five Most Traumatizing 80s TV Toons

Searches for terrifying or shocking kids’ cartoons usually turn up the same old lists of cartoon conspiracy theories (which never make sense and always conclude that the cast of the show is actually dead) or “adult” scenes from old theatrical shorts (which are often taken out of context and come from cartoons that weren’t intend for kids in the first place.) But there’s no need to resort to crazy theories or cartoons that were really for adults to find ‘toons that can leave some permanent scars on young viewers. Even if you just check out one decade – the one I spent my formative years in – and limit yourself to television animation, you can find a treasure trove of shocking and disturbing animation aimed squarely at children. Here are just five of the most nightmare-inducing animated TV episodes of the 80s.

Inhumanoids

What’s it about? Good guy scientists battle bad guy subterranean monsters with occasional help from elemental creatures.

Why is it nightmare fuel? Inhumanoids is not a great cartoon, in part because the heroes were totally forgettable and wore terribly designed armor. What it had going for it was the monsters, and the creators of the brand knew it because the show is named after them. There was a lava spewing monster, a plant creature, and others. But the most terrifying member of the Inhumanoids is D’Compose. D’Compose had a weird reptilian skull for a head and an exposed ribcage. His power was turning people into monstrous undead creatures.

Zombie Optimus Prime from Dark Awakening

“Dark Awakening,” TransFormers

What’s it about? The heroic Autobot leader Optimus Prime has returned! But has he come back to save the Autobots or destroy them?

Why is it nightmare fuel? Plenty of kids who were shocked by Optimus dying in the original TransFormers movie were no doubt thrilled to see their hero back. Problem is, he’s a robot zombie, reawakened by enemies of the Autobots to do their bidding. Plus, Prime doesn’t just come knocking at the door to the Ark. The Autobots find him in the mausoleum that houses not only Prime, but all of the Autobots who died during the events of the movie. All of this adds up to a lot of robot corpses, one walking around and a lot of very dead ones, and a lot of kids with insomnia.

“Rescue at Midnight Castle”, My Little Pony

What’s it about? The very first animated Pony adventure, also called “Firefly’s Adventure” or simply the My Little Pony special had the rainbow colored ponies meeting their human friend Megan and battling the forces of darkness.

Why is it nightmare fuel? The 1980s My Little Pony cartoon was no masterpiece, but it did have some good villains now and then, such as Catrina the cat-witch and Grogan the centuries old ram. And then there were the bad guys in this special, who look like they wandered in from an episode of Dungeons & Dragons. There’s a bunch of dragons who capture the ponies and drag them off to the titular Midnight Castle. Scorpan is a kind of bat-winged, apelike monster and reluctant villain. And finally, there’s Tirek, the centaur demon who wields the Rainbow of Darkness and turns ponies into dragons to pull his chariot. They may not be the scariest villains out there, but the fact that they’re so unexpectedly present in a My Little Pony cartoon earns them a spot on the list.

Joe Skeletons from Worlds Without End

“Worlds Without End,” G.I. Joe

What’s it about? A small team of Joes is transported to an alternate universe where Cobra rules supreme.

Why is it nightmare fuel? Alternate worlds where the villains win are common, but few go quite as dark as this one does. The show that has guns shooting red and blue lasers instead of bullets and shows a pilot parachuting away from every downed aircraft got very frank about the fact that people – including good guys – had died in this world. By far, the most terrifying scene is when an already delirious Joe stumbles across the skeletal remains of three alternate universe Joes, including his own doppleganger’s remains. He understandably runs away screaming, as did many viewers.

“The Price,” Bravestarr

What’s it about? Marshall Bravestarr is trying to stop the spread of a new drug called “spin” on the planet of New Texas. Meanwhile, a young boy named Brad tries to decide whether to tell anyone about his friend Jay’s drug use or keep it a secret.

Why is it nightmare fuel? Normally, child endangerment is a big no-no for children’s TV. But if you’re doing an anti-drug episode, you can literally get away with murder. Of course Brad eventually decides that telling Bravestarr what Jay is up to is worth risking their friendship. But when he leads the marshall to their clubhouse, Brad discovers that Jay has died of a drug overdose. There’s no space Western magic that comes along to fix him; just the anguished wailing of his mother and a lifetime of guilt for Brad. I don’t know if this episode convinced any kids to Just Say No, but it almost certainly terrified a few of them.

Got a cartoon inspired childhood trauma of your own? Tell us about it in the comments!

Guardians of the Galaxy 101: Part 2

Remember about 4 weeks ago when I shared Part 1 of my primer on Guardians of the Galaxy…..well now it’s time for Part 2!

As before, I’m giving you comic-based info since I haven’t seen the movie yet, and am largely trying to stay away from information beyond the trailers.  And there have been some pretty fun trailers, with excellent soundtracks.  Check this extended trailer featuring The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb.”

Hopefully you checked out Part 1 already, so 3 guardians to go…

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He’s called The Destroyer, not the giver of hugs

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Son Of Summer Reading

As I pondered what topic to write about this month, I toyed with a few different options. Should I write about my weekly bread project? Try another recipe from The DC Super Heroes Super Healthy Cookbook? Nothing seemed quite right. Well, I thought, it’s the heart of summer…maybe I should make some summer reading recommendations…wait, did I do that last year?

As it turns out, not only did I write a summer reading post last year, I did it exactly this week last year. So it seems like the right way to go. I bring you – The Son of Summer Reading! (But hey, if you want me to write about either of those other things, let me know in the comments. I can’t tell if the bread thing is great or hideously dull.)

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Three Things: To Drink…Maybe?

 

This year, those of us who live in the Cambridge area got a beautiful shiny gift in the form of an H Mart in Central Square. While much smaller than the Burlington location, it’s a game changer for people who don’t drive or often find themselves in Central Square due to work and/or other appointments. I happily fall into that latter category.

The thing about H Mart is that it is super slick. Staff clear your trays at the food court once they notice you rising from your seat. On rainy days a person greets you at the door and helps you stuff your soaking umbrella into a plastic bag. This place is oddly classy for what is essentially a supermarket.

Since The Boy is not only my secret weapon when it comes to thinking of blog posts but is also a big fan of dishes that are essentially sauce and meat on rice, I promised him Go Go Curry (more on that another time), if he would join me on a mission to find a whole bunch of weird things and eat/drink for the enjoyment of our readers. 30 mins later, filled with equal amounts of excitement and dread, we left the gleaming H Mart palace of awesome, loaded down with drinks, scary/potentially deadly ramen, and snacks that were chosen purely on how cute the character on the bag was.

And so my friends, I give you round one: Smalerie and The Boy Drink Stuff!

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In order to keep with the theme of our three things post, The Boy (with a little help from me) picked out three drinks with various levels of appeal. And yes, I realize that there are four items described below, but that was because I kinda just wanted a milk tea, and I picked it out based on the fact that it was cute and came with its own straw, just like a Sip-it!

Ranking from Most to Least Delicious:

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Cartoon Sara Listens to Three Podcasts (That Aren’t Night Vale)

Before we start, let’s get one thing straight: I love Welcome to Night Vale. “A Story About Them”? Fiction podcasting at its finest. But you all know about Night Vale already because Tiny Doom talked about it nearly a year ago and you’re probably all listening to it already. And while I love Night Vale, I have been taking a break from it due to the current storyline feeling a little too close to real world events. So here’s what I’ve been listening to in the meantime and why I think you should be listening too.

The Thrilling Adventure Hour

The cast of The Thrilling Adventure Hour

Last I checked, none of my fellow Ladies were listening to The Thrilling Adventure Hour and I’m hoping I can change that. The Thrilling Adventure Hour is a series of stories in the style of old time radio plays, performed for a live audience and recorded for your listening pleasure. It’s kind of an anthology podcast featuring various recurring segments, most with continuing story lines, though it’s still pretty easy to dive in anywhere. With stories about superheroes, space cowboys, time travel, the occult, and a millionaire who takes up life as a Hobo in order to find and court the Hobo Princess, there’s sure to be a segment that fits your tastes. Or you can just do like I do and listen to everything.

Bonus: The podcast features an amazing array of brilliant comedic talents as both regulars and guest stars, but the two who will probably be most exciting to our readers are John DiMaggio and Nathan Fillion. DiMaggio can primarily be heard as the title character in “The Adventures of Captain Laserbeam” while Fillion plays Cactoid Jim, a recurring character from “Sparks Nevada, Marshall on Mars” who eventually got his own spinoff series.

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Guardians of the Galaxy 101: Part 1

Note: This post could be considered slightly spoilerly for some Marvel comic story lines involving the Guardians of the Galaxy.

If you’ve been to an action/sci-fi movie at the movie theater lately you have probably seen the trailer for the next Marvel Studios movie, The Guardians of the Galaxy.  Unless you are familiar with a deeper cut into Marvel’s cosmic world, you may be asking yourself the question asked in the trailer, “Who are these guys?” Well, like many comic book back stories (and some Facebook relationship statuses), it’s complicated.  My aim here is to give you enough to lay groundwork for the movie, and to hopefully pique your interest in reading some of the comic story lines. The Guardians were created back in 1969, I’m not going to focus too much on that team, mostly because I love the 2008 team.  But I think it’s interesting to note that this team has been around for a good while (and were NOT just created for a movie).  For the purpose of this post I’m going to go over the team member that are in the movie, but like many teams membership changes.

The Basics: 1-guardians-of-the-gal The Guardians of the Galaxy are a team of aliens and super-powered beings put together by Peter Quill (Star-Lord).  He puts this team together after the Phalanx/Kree war, with the goal of protecting the universe proactively rather than just coming together when the worst is happening.  Based on the movie trailers the movie origin seems to be a little more “rag-tag outlaws teaming together for a cause bigger than themselves.”  And there is a bit of that in the comics, but the war has already given them the motivation to know that a more proactive protective force is needed.  That said, forming a team takes time, and shortcuts are taken to push them together more quickly…which never ever back-fires, right? The Guardians establish their home base in a space station called “Knowhere”.  From Knowhere, the Guardians can go anywhere they are needed thanks to a teleportation system.
Bonus points:  Knowhere is the severed head of a Celestial, and the chief of security is a Cosmonaut dog named Cosmo who has telepathic abilities.

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Dispatch From the Gender Wars: Boardgames

It’s well-known among my friends that I have an affection for things that are old, kitschy, and weird, particularly when they relate to gender roles and pop culture. Heck, it’s well-known by the readers of this blog – I wrote about this topic just last month. What you might not know is that a semi-regular event at Comicazi is a board game night with the slightly unwieldy moniker “Super Happy Fun Game Night.” (Don’t ask.) And recently my friend Gary came across a board game that he knew would be right up my alley. He bought it for me, and when he presented it he had one stipulation – that we would play it at the next Super Happy Fun.

I readily agreed and true to my word, brought it along to the last game night. The name of this gem? “What Shall I Be? The Exciting Game for Career Girls.”

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It looked so innocent.

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Netflix Hidden Gem: Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated

Really, I have Cartoon Sara to thank for this one, especially since she spent such a long time trying to convince me to give this show a chance. But here we are, a year and an awful lot of resistance later, and it turns out she was right. Mystery Inc. is pretty darn great. The strange thing about it is that I don’t even like Scooby Doo. I grew out of it very fast, and it was always something I watched as a kid only if there wasn’t anything else on. It was too formulaic, and when they tried to update it for the nostalgia crowd by making live action movies, I found myself even more confused by its popularity. Well except Matthew Lillard. He was born to play Shaggy. It kinda creeps me out. Good on you, Hollywood Casting Person!
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Yard Salin’

In lieu of our regularly scheduled Cartoon Sara update, we’ve decided to post a super secret message to all you Ladies of Comicazi fans.

On Sunday, June 1, you can come meet the Ladies at Comicazi’s semi-annual charity yard sale!

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Last time we did this, there were snakes in hats.

We’ll be selling trinkets, baubles and toys to help keep bringing you great events and content. Word on the street is that The Red Menace might bring some baked goods for sale, too.

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Also, THIS happened.

It all goes down from 9-1 in back of Comicazi, 407 Highland Avenue, Somerville. You’ll be able to see us from the Davis Square T stop! We look forward to seeing you (and selling you our awesome, gently used goods.)

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This gopher had to bring a cart to take all of his amazing stuff home.

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And Tiny Doom rode off into the sunset.

Review: Lego Disney Princess Sets

Cartoon Sara and Tiny Doom have joined forces for total juggernaut of a post!  Lego+Disney+Princesses!  Will the blog survive?  Eh, probably.  Below we review 2 of the Lego Disney Princess sets (we skipped Cinderella’s Castle,Ariel’s Magical Kiss and Rapunzel’s Captivity, er…Creativity Tower).

Tiny Doom: My perspective on the Lego “Friends” line has been a long time coming.  And well, it’s complicated.  I was a lucky kid.  My dad was always very supportive of non-traditional toys for girls.  He never bought dolls.  Instead he brought home “Construx”, “Capsela”, and other toys in blue boxes (yes, I  made a motorized dinosaur for a school project).  The world continued to turn.

While I feel one could argue that Lego sets are largely gender neutral, Lego does have the “Friends” line that is specifically marketed to girls. The Friends themselves are shaped differently than the traditional Lego mini figures and the sets are a more gender-skewed in terms of subject matter and coloring.  The Lego Friends camp, shop, and play music in a magical pink and pastel colored world.  

This is the direction they went with  the Disney Princess sets.

Cartoon Sara: My relationship with Disney licensed toys is a tough one, particularly when it comes to the merchandising juggernaut that is the Disney Princesses. I’m a longtime Disney fan and the chance to have toy representations of some of my favorite characters is one that I jump at. Or I would, if there were more that met my standards. Admittedly, I am pickier than the average six year old girl at whom these toys are aimed. But you would think that, of all the various companies that create Disney Princess products, at least one would be interested in making figures or dolls that were as screen accurate as possible. Unfortunately, capturing the look of the characters seems to take a back seat to making minimal tweaks to the Barbie mold, or having the doll light up, or making collector-aimed dolls that look very fancy, but not very accurate. The biggest case of “so close and yet so far” for me was the “Animator’s Collection,” a series of high end dolls based on top Disney animators’ drawings of the characters…as toddlers.

With Lego, my expectations were different. Lego is not in the business of making faithful figural representations of licensed characters. Instead, they translate characters into their existing mini figure style, with the classic cylindrical yellow faces, c-grip hands, and block compatible feet. That’s part of the fun of licensed Lego characters: seeing how they look in the Lego style. So surely that was what we’d be getting with the Lego Disney Princesses, right?

The Sets

Tiny Doom: You would think so wouldn’t you CS?  Especially since Lego mini figures do come in the mermaid and red-headed archer variety.  But sadly, no, and this brings us to my first issue with these sets.  This is really my issues with the Friends line in general.  After all the mini-figures are a huge part of purchasing a Lego set.   So when it comes to Lego Friends, why not a traditional mini-figure?  Why the need to Barbie-ize the iconic shape of Lego Mini figures?   Friends figures are thinner and taller and therefore lack the feel of a Lego mini-figure. I don’t think it’s made them any cuter, just perhaps less interesting.  Functionally, the figures are not articulated so Merida can’t hold her bow properly.  The hair for these figures is also a bit more rubbery with matte-ish finish.  Perhaps that is supposed to be more realistic?  I can tell you one thing, it doesn’t snap on to the head as well, and that’s annoying.  Additionally, Ariel and Merida have the same faces.  That seems a bit lazy to me, or is the message here really that Disney Princesses are that interchangeable?

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I realize I am biased, but I think Wyldstyle and Lego me are much cuter.

Cartoon Sara: The sets themselves suffer from some of the same problems as the figures. Neither one is outright bad and if all you’re looking for is a set to build, you won’t be disappointed. This is the classic Lego building experience with the nice, clear instructions and bricks that snap together with ease (and require the strength of a thousand weight lifters to separate), plus a newer innovation: numbered bags separating the pieces into groups. But if you’re hoping for environments from the Disney Princess films faithfully replicated in brick form, you may be disappointed with Lego’s offerings. In part because each princess gets only one or two sets, as opposed to the more generous offerings for movie licenses such as the Harry Potter or Star Wars films, the sets aren’t so much sets for a single scene as hybrids of various parts of the films. Instead of an accurate Lego version of Ariel’s grotto, we get a weird small environment with an archway and Triton’s trident inexplicably mounted overhead. Merida’s Highland Games fares a little better by including part of the castle and some archery targets. But it also seems to borrow from other parts of the movie by bringing in a fish on a spit and Merida’s three brothers as bears. From a play standpoint, this set at least gives kids more options for what their minifigs can do in the play set. But from a Disney nerd standpoint, it’s not as exciting as seeing every last detail of a classic Disney scene remade in Lego. Continue reading