There was a point in the 80's where writers were like... "you know what missing in cartoons? teams. Teams of mutant animals that know karate". And so brought on most of what we loved about cartoons of the 80's and 90's. Although to be fair, I guess not all of them are technically "animals" but most are mutated in some fashion.
Let's mutate an animal!
But let's be honest here for a second. Most, nay...all of these were not-so-slightly veiled attempts at selling us toys. And you know what? It worked. But why does it work? Just like everything else.
As you can see, I added one part exposition, two parts action...
Basically everything you see on TV is a product of a very strict set of guidelines. This isn't anything new. For instance, go back and watch any episode of your favorite show. And then watch another one. Chances are, it's the same thing with different characters. That's because story telling hasn't changed in about 1000 years and neither has character design.
True for the 1920s, true for the 2020s
Then we take a look at the characters. Obviously each show will have different "characters", but essentially they are all the same. In a four person group it's usually broken down into the following character types:
Usually the voice of reason. They are level headed and the "captain" of the group. They almost always opt for the moral high ground and is the glue that holds the group together.
You have to balance all that violence out, so what better way than to include someone smart. Usually they are seen trying find a solution to the problem rather than just knocking it down.
Important to ANY form of drama. You have to have something to laugh at or else you'd be watching the Bible.
The "lone wolf" of the pack. These types of characters usually have a short fuse and would probably be better off not being in the group in the first place. They create constant tension that in an odd way helps bring the group together.
You almost imagine a show with all of them in it right? But why is that? Well without conducting any studies I can only guess, but here is my theory. Even as kids we each have a little bit of those characters inside of us. Very few of us are just one type without at least a few parts of the others in us.
Does Barry Manilow know you raid his closet at night?
So these shows break down these qualities into easy to understand stereotypes. This happens all the time in movies, books, plays and pretty much anything else related to theater. It's no accident that the Avengers was the biggest movie of 2012. There is something there for everyone to like.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
What can I say that hasn't already been said about TMNT? This has been written about adnauseum on this site for years. It goes without saying TMNT is the best and first animal team up. They defined a generation and pretty much created the mold for anything to come after it.
But seriously, what can I post about TMNT that hasn't yet? We've covered the toys, movies, video games, cartoon show, cultural impact...etc etc. The only thing we haven't covered really would be the comic books.
I'm not going to introduce the characters like I will the other groups, because let's face it, we all know who they are.
Wild West Cowboys of Moo Mesa
When a "cow-met" strikes the western plains, a mesa is formed and everything on top of that mesa is "cow-metized" ( I wish I was making up these terms, because it only gets worse). So the 3 main characters are mutated and fight crime, they seriously didn't even try. It's almost like they just added in the wild west thing to make it different from modern day New York.
Let's introduce the characters...
Marshal Moo Montana
The Dakota Dude
The Cowlorado Kid
As you can see, they had loads of fun with the word "cow", it's basically in almost everything in the series.
For instance, let's look at one of their main villains...
And I'm sure I could keep going. There are all kinds of "cow" related words, names and places. It seems that every series that had something like this, took full advantage of every pun they could get their hands on. However,this series only lasted a few seasons and had a mildly successful toy line.
And in a fairly odd move, they produced an arcade game (as opposed to a home console version). So if you've played this, congrats because I doubt it lasted long.
Overall, this show was forgettable and an almost shameless cash in of TMNT fame. In fact, there is a TMNT and Moo Mesa tie in comic that was recently produced.
Biker Mice from Mars
This one is all in the title, Biker Mice from Mars. If you were to guess that they were...say...Biker Mice from Mars, you would be extremely correct. The back story to all this was that they were in fact mice from the planet next to us that enjoyed motorsports. Wouldn't you know it, the Plutarkian empire comes and destroys their home and they are the only 3 "Biker Mice" left. They somehow make it to Earth and crash land in Chicago along with some Plutarkians, only to find out that this lowlife business man is Plutarkian.
For some reason this guy has stuck with me through the years. I may not know anything else about the show or the main character's names. But I do remember that this guy was called Lawrence Limburger. Which after that, I always smelled the Limburger when I went to the grocery store with my mom, and yes, it does smell horrible.
Ok, so here are the heroes of the show. Like usual, they opted for the three man team with a fourth female human companion.
Throttle"In this wild and woolly universe, there are three things you can count on: your brains, your bros and your bike!"
Modo"RAT?!!" "My mama didn't raise no stinkin' rat! UNDERSTAND?!!"
Vinnie"What a rush!"
Something that they did with this group was make each one of them "damaged", probably from the crash onto Earth or maybe some biking accident, I don't know. Looking back on it, this was kind of unique in the fact that they were basically "disabled" and were each fitted with some kind of prosthesis. Of course these just made them fight harder and do more super powered things, but still, I think it's cool.
Charlene "Charley" Davidson
She was the "April O'Neil" of the group, as she was their only human companion throughout the show. She was also a mechanic and upgraded the bikes of the group. She was also more blatantly hit on by some of the biker mice but she usually just blew it off.
Of course there were toys of Biker Mice from Mars. I do remember seeing these quite frequently in the toy aisle. But honestly, I always felt it was inferior to TMNT. Don't get me wrong, it was a solid line of toys, but I just never felt the need to own my own Throttle or Limburger.
And yes, there was a SNES game of the same title. Which I never played so I can't really offer much in the way of an opinion.
Well I hoped you enjoyed part 1 of Cartoon Animal Teams. I originally planned to write about them all in this article, but I feel that this is already long enough. Plus Retrojunk needs another one of my articles now rather than later.