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8 Cartoons You Never Knew Were Made Solely To Advertise Products

When cartoons become prevalent, it makes sense that the studios behind them would want to capitalize on the show’s success with merchandising; the big ticket item being toys and action figures. However, in the 80s and early 90s, several cartoons were created to advertise an existing or upcoming toy line.



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This strategy proved a winning formula for many years and helped launch some of the most successful and iconic franchises of the time. Some adults may be surprised to discover that some of their favorite Saturday morning cartoons from childhood were designed to sell products.

8 Care Bears

Care Bears was a popular 80s cartoon that follows the adventures of the multicolored bears, with pictures on their stomachs that relates to that bear’s personality. While the show was a huge success that launched three featured films and the addition of the Care Bear Cousinsthe Care Bears cartoon was created to promote the line of plush toys.

Elena Kucharik first created Care Bears in 1981 for American Greetings for a line of greeting cards; 2 years later, the Care Bears plush toys were released. In 1985 the Care Bears cartoon premiered and lasted for four seasons (1985 – 1988). History repeated itself in 2015 when toy company Just Play released a new line of Care Bear toys and collectibles that coincided with the Netflix series Care Bears and Cousins.

7 G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero

Hasbro’s line of GI Joe action figures has been around since 1964. Still, in the early 80s, the famous toy company rebranded the military-themed toy line with new vehicles, characters, and a background story.

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Based on the line of Hasbro action figures, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero debuted in 1983; Hasbro initially intended for the Marvel Productions animation to be 30-second commercials to promote the new toy line and comics. The popularity of these commercials led to the 5-part miniseries and then the full-length series in 1985.

6 He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe

In 1981 Mattel released their Masters of the Universe toy line, which featured characters from the planet Eternia and the ongoing conflict between He-Man, aka Prince Adam, and Skeletor. A minicomics series was created to accompany the toy line; then, in 1983, Mattel teamed up with Filmation to make the animated series for their medieval/sci-fi toy line, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

The popularity of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe has spawned a full-fledged franchise that includes video games, comics, role-playing games, and various TV specials and spin-offs. In addition, in 2021, Kevin Smith produced a sequel series, Masters of the Universe: Revelationfor Netflix that explored unresolved plots from the original series.

5 my little Pony

When Hasbro first launched their My Little Pony toyline in 1981, it was labeled My Pretty Pony and was not the immediate success they had planned. A year later, Hasbro rebranded the line making the toys colorful and giving each pony a name and personality. The rebranding proved a success, and soon the toy company decided to cash in on the toy’s popularity. In 1986, My Little Pony: The Movie was released.

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This led to the creation of the TV series my little Pony soon after and followed a young girl who lives in Pony Land and all her adventures she has alongside the colorful ponies who live there.

4 Street Sharks

Following a similar gimmick as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Street Sharks is a group of humanoid shark hybrids and the ongoing conflict with their arch-nemesis Dr. Paradigm, while maintaining a level of astonishing young audiences came to expect from 90s cartoons. The show is based on the Mattel action figures of the same name and ran from 1994 to 1997.

The overall aesthetics of the show and toy line reflect popular clichés of the mid-90s; creative catchphrases (Jawsome!), bright colors, and over-the-top action sequences.

3 thundercats

thundercats is another 80s cartoon that gained and has kept a cult following nearly 40 years after its release. The action figure toy line from LJN features humanoid cat-like aliens such as Lion-O, Cheetara, Panthro, and Snarf. The Rankin-Bass-produced animated series was initially slated for release in 1983; however, due to production issues, thundercats wouldn’t premiere until 1985, followed by the launch of the Thundercats action figures.

Forced to flee their home planet, Lion-O and his people land on a planet known as Third Earth, and each episode centers on the feline aliens defending their new home from the same mutants that caused them to evacuate from their planet of origin.

two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was one of the most popular cartoons in the late 80s and featured four brothers, Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello, and Michelangelo, who just so happen to be anthropomorphic turtles raised and trained by Master Splinter, an anthropomorphic rat and ninjitsu master.

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began as comics created by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird in 1984 and already had a cult following. However, the comics had more mature overtones, and while Playmate Toys had the toy line set to go, they felt that a more kid-friendly cartoon would be a better way to advertise the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toy line.

1 transformers

transformers is one of the most iconic franchises that started as a line of toys from Japan and is now an international pop culture staple. In 1984 Hasbro bought the distribution rights from Japanese toy company Takara for their Diaclone and microman toys, which Hasbro rebranded as transformers for the western market.

To help sell the new line of transforming action figures, Hasbro created the animated series Transformers based on the toyline and follows the ongoing conflicts between waring robot alien cultures, the Autobots, and the Decepticons. Under the Transformers franchise, there are comic books, video games, and a live-action movie series directed by Michael Bay.

NEXT: 10 Most Nostalgic Cartoon Network Shows From The 90s

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