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Dungeons & Dragons (1983)
Quite possible the best fantasy cartoon ever
It's hard *not* to love this show-so many nuances about it (a good number being spoilers, actually) that enrich the experience of watching this show. While the animation isn't always the best (as this is one of the last cartoons of the Stock Footage Era of US animation), it does its job very well on many occasion.
While all 27 episodes are enjoyable, the episodes to seek out (preferably as aired on CBS, as the Fox versions have edits of varying intrusiveness in order to fit in with the need for more commercials) include "The Dragon's Graveyard", "Treasure of Tardos", "Dungeon at the Heart of Dawn", "The Hall of Bones", "Servant of Evil", "The Girl Who Dreamed Tomorrow", and "Child of the Stargazer". Plus, once you see the 27 episodes, go to Michael Reaves' (writer of many of the best episodes) website and read the third season finale that CBS approved-but never allowed to enter production.
Dungeons & Dragons is a true classic, and is unfortunately forgotten by many, even though it aired on the dominant network (CBS) for Saturday mornings at the time. But those of us who remember, remember it with very fond memories.
Masters of the Universe (1987)
Skip this and hunt down Filmation's superior efforts
While He-Man was hurting in the sales (and other areas) in the time this was made, it can probably be said that this was the last bad move Mattel made before cancelling both the He-Man and She-Ra lines. First off, if you liked any of Filmation's created characters (Orko, the King and Queen, Adam, Cringer, etc.), you're out of luck. Also, if you want to see something that looks like the show or toys, you're also outta luck. If you want to see Skeletor take over Grayskull (and then disappear for nearly half of the film afterwards), by all means, go ahead. (Not a spoiler, seeing as how it happens so early on in the film.) The characters on Earth are totally unrelated, and don't help the story much. If anything, it smacks of cheapness (as it's easier to go film in some city, or city-like sets, than go and make Eternia). Filmation's prior feature, the limited-release "Secret of the Sword" is historic for its cheapness factor (as it is a condensed version of the first 5 episodes of the She-Ra TV show), but at least it's enjoyable. I truly can't believe that this is coming out on DVD before any of the Filmation shows.
Follow the adventures of Eternia's Champion....the mighty He-Man!
Unlike *some* people who've commented about He-Man, I have nothing but love for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Like its contemporary, G.I. Joe, He-Man was far more than a mere advertisement for for the toys (which were already quite successful by that fateful day of He-Man's premiere, September 12, 1983), and effectively altered how televised cartoons were made forever, to say nothing of the writing talent who first cut their teeth in the business on He-Man (Paul Dini, Larry DiTillio, Bob Forward, etc.).
If you need proof of how good He-Man can get, find a copy of the series' final episode, "The Problem With Power". Unfortunately, it was never released on video, but it's an amazing display of animation. Think about the one-sentence description: He-Man kills someone. A powerful episode, and a truly fitting end to one of the best series of the 1980s.
G.I. Joe (1985)
One of the greatest cartoons ever
More than just a "half-hour commercial", G.I. Joe was a cartoon that not only reflected the world, but mocked it with a keen wit. From episodes about subliminal messages to cloning to chases around the globe for rare elements, G.I. Joe present well-written stories that remained believable even as things got a little ridiculous. All in all, the best cartoon of the 80s, and a real treat for kids of all ages to enjoy.
The beginning of a great series
The first, and one of the best, adventures in the long saga of G.I. Joe. The first fully-animated cartoon in quite some time, and one of the best looking. If you need a quick primer on G.I. Joe, Duke, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Gung-Ho, Cobra Commander, Destro, the Baroness, or any of the other great elements of this show, start here first!
Now for the good stuff....
This is the miniseries that, for me, really defined G.I. Joe, with Flint, Lady Jaye, Zartan, the Dreadnoks, Roadblock, Shipwreck, Mutt, and Junkyard appearing for the first time. Excellently animated (as always), this series had all the action and humor of MASS Device, and then some. A great place to begin viewing the saga of G.I. Joe!