The ‘80s gave audiences timeless classic movies such as The Goonies, Back to the Future, and even E.T., but not every movie that came out of the decade was a hit. and as far as animation was concerned, the ‘80s weren’t always the best time for cartoon films. In fact, one animated movie from 1985 nearly killed off Disney’s entire animation department…
Thankfully, that didn’t happen. And today we can still enjoy an array of wonderfully animated films, from classics like The Lion King to more modern Turning Red. From the poorly drawn to the simply strange, the 1980s were a time for toy-centric cartoon fun and wacky plot lines, and Reddit users have some strong opinions about which are the weirdest of the era.
10 The Secret of Nimh
When The Secrets of NIMH came out, it was met with largely positive reviews and stands as the most popular animated film of its year according to Letterboxd rankings. Many people praised its beautiful animation style, which felt lively in a period of animation slump. The film was based on Robert C. O’Brien’s book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. It’s a tale about a mother, Mrs. Brisby (Elizabeth Hartman), who is willing to do whatever it takes to save her ailing son.
Unfortunately, not everyone views The Secrets of NIMH as a lovely trip into a fantastical world. In fact, for some people, this childhood classic was downright terrifying. “That s— can be traumatizing at a young age,” notes redditor EvilBobLoblaw.
9 The Brave Little Toaster
This ‘80s animated classic is based off a novella by the same name. The Brave Little Toaster follows a ragtag group of inanimate objects in a cabin. Every year, they eagerly await the return of a young boy they refer to as “The Master” (Wayne Kaatz). When he eventually stops coming back and they find out the cabin is going to be sold, they go in search of him.
Not everyone remembers the movie fondly. Redditor CharmingTuber notes, “This movie really messed with me as a kid. Probably why I have such a hard time throwing anything away.”
8 Christmas in Tattertown
Originally created by Ralph Bakshi as a pilot episode for an unaired show called Tattertown, Christmas in Tattertown was repurposed and used as a Christmas special. Tattertown is supposed to be a magical realm where discarded objects, like toys, come to life. When a young girl named Debbie (Sherry Lynn) is sucked into the universe along with her doll, Muffet (Jennifer Darling), things go awry.
But maybe there’s a reason Tattertown was a failed pilot. As one redditor, Kitkatthefrogisback, put it, “It was animated in a weird, mildly unpleasant way. I want to say it looked kind of ‘sleazy’. I’m not entirely sure it was really meant for kids.”
7 Pinocchio And the Emperor of The Night
Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night is presented as a sort of sequel to the Disney animated classic Pinocchio. In fact, Disney sued Filmation for making the movie, but the House of Mouse lost the case, and Emperor of the Night was released.
The plot is more or less an exploration of what would’ve happened to Pinocchio once he’s a real boy. But the overall movie was viewed as odd by critics, with subpar animation and uninteresting storytelling. And they aren’t alone. “It was very dark and kind of f—ed up, from what I can recall,” says GrenadineBombardier.
6 The Black Cauldron
Based loosely on Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain series and relying on some cutting-edge computer animation, The Black Cauldron was supposed to be a fantasy hit. Only it wasn’t. When it was released, it received middling reviews and was widely thought to be too dark for children. It ended up being a box office bomb and very nearly destroyed Disney’s animation department.
The sentiment that The Black Cauldron is, perhaps, too dark, strange, and far too disturbing for children doesn’t seem to have vanished. Redditor Majorlieg put it very succinctly when discussing the film, “Nightmare fuel right here as a kid.”
5 The Plague Dogs
Another movie based on a book by Richard Adams, the author of Watership Down, The Plague Dogs was written and directed by Martin Rosen, who also directed the gory, terrifying animated adaptation of Watership Down. The subject matter is intense, following the story of two dogs used for research at a laboratory.
The film didn’t land with audiences then, and doesn’t now. “I did not pay close attention to the cover image when I blind bought the movie. … Cut to me, a grown man, bawling my eyes out. … My fiancée, my partner of five years, perplexed that a movie for children made me more distraught than the loss of actual loved ones,” says habanerolime.
4 Bigfoot and the Muscle Machines
Originally, Bigfoot and the Muscle Machines was released as a small miniseries before being combined into a feature-length film. Like a lot of ‘80s cartoons, the characters were based on a Hasbro toy. The main character is monster truck driver Yank Justice (Lance Legault), and the plot unironically involves finding a map to the Fountain of Youth in the middle of a truck rally.
It aims to be a Transformers-style film, but misses. It’s the kind of corny, campy cartoon camp that was rampant in the ‘80s, minus all sense of real logical plot. As Captaineighttrack, “You can just smell the 80’s by watching this.”
3 Starchaser: The Legend or Orin
Starchaser: The Legend of Orin was a 3-D film, something that was a novelty at the time, but its creativity ends there. Not particularly well animated, full of perplexing moments, and featuring a plotline that The New York Times called “a brazen rip-off of George Lucas’ Star Wars”, it struggled to find an audience.
And it still hasn’t. As APeacefulWarrior put it, “I stumbled across this one a few months ago. … It’s not terrible, but it’s definitely not that good either, and the level of sexismexualization of the robot is really cringy these days. Especially for a movie that looks, on first glance, like it’s for kids.”
2 The Transformers: The Movie
The Transformers as a franchise has seemed to stand the test of time. A pop hit based on toys that continues to excite children to this day. But despite the overall success of the toys, television shows, and the most recent film franchise, Transformers movie’s box office receipts were less than impressive. Shockingly violent and featuring (super late spoiler alert?) the death of Optimus Prime, it tended to leave the children who had seen it upset more than delighted.
Redditor SeskaWildman shares, “One of my husband’s formative childhood memories. His parents took him and the entire theater of children burst into tears.”
1 Felix the Cat: The Movie
Technically, Felix the Cat: The Movie wasn’t released in the United States until the ‘90s, but it saw some release in the UK in the late ‘80s. When it did finally make it to the States, it was straight to VHS as opposed to theaters. The movie centers on the exploits of Felix the Cat, a cartoon cat created by Pat Sullivan and Ottos Messmer in the 1920s.
Poorly animated, strangely edited, and with a plot that doesn’t entirely make sense, there wasn’t a lot to love about this particular animated movie. As Kimonoko put it, “Dear god. I feel like Mesmer and Sullivan are rolling in their graves.”
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