Rich Douglas | @richdouglas4
Growing up, I bet you were like me and watched classic cartoons like Looney Tunes, and reruns of old Hanna-Barbera episodes. Why wouldn’t you? Cartoons were an essential part of childhood (that and scaring the cat who lived on Mrs. Bannister’s porch)! Plus, you learned so many valuable life lessons from cartoon. They taught you that quicksand was a real threat, and it would probably swallow you whole one day. You learned the best way to avoid ghosts and monsters was to dress up in silly costumes or go through a hallway full of unmarked doors. You learned when someone threatened you, the best response was, “Of course you know, this means war.”
If you’re also like me, you had parents who saw the “danger” in the cartoons of the late 80’s and early 90’s. The Simpsons was the only cartoon mom and dad would NEVER let you watch; unless you were over at a friend’s house and snuck one in. (Mmm... sacrelicious...)
My own wonderful, well-meaning parents tried to find other, more Christian options for my cartoon viewing. Mind you this was a little before the awesomeness that was, the Disney Afternoon (DuckTales, Darkwing Duck, TaleSpin, etc.) So we drove over to our local Christian bookstore (LifeWay, Family Christian, Joshua’s) and found VHS tapes of Christian shows to watch. Here are a few Christian cartoons from the ye olde 1980’s…
Psalty and Friends – 1980
You know what really gets kids’ attention? Inanimate objects that talk and sing. Thus Psalty, the singing songbook, was born. Debuting in 1980, Psalty first appeared on “The Kid’s Praise Album” through Maranatha Music. Psalty tied the fun, worship music for kids together on the debut album, which became a huge hit for kids and their parents. Many albums followed, and Psalty’s family grew to include his wife, Psaltina, and children, Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm. Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up. Although Psalty was never in an animated series, you saw his face all over Christian bookstores, with products that included music, videos, plush dolls, books, and even dinner ware. Psalty did appear LIVE and in person at concert venues all over the country. But time was not kind to Psalty, click HERE for his “behind the music” special.
SuperBook – 1981
Two children, Chris and Joy, along with their wind-up robot Gizmo, walk through Bible stories together, as part of the action. This became a pattern for pretty much every Christian cartoon from then on. Thanks SuperBook. In Season 2, the plot became that the Bible on their shelf fell on top of their computer, prompting a space/time rip in their bedroom that threw them back thousands of years. So remember kids, Bible + computer = time travel. Let’s move on.
Want to check out that sweet opening music? Click HERE.
Greatest Adventure Stories from the Bible – 1985
If the Jonny Quest cartoons and the Bible got clumped together, Greatest Adventure Stories would be the beautiful, animated result. Created by Joseph Barbera (of Hannah-Barbera fame), Greatest Adventures featured Derek and Margo, two young archaeologists, and their “nomad friend”, a young boy named Moki (aka “the comic relief”). One day at a dig, they fall into quicksand(!) and encounter an ancient temple that sends them through time to various stories from the Bible. The animation was superb, and even featured the voices of noted celebrities. You don’t want to miss Tim Curry (It, Rocky Horror Picture Show) as the Serpent in the first episode.
Adventures in Odyssey – 1987
Either you vaguely remember hearing this on the radio, or you have most of the episodes on cassette or CD. To date, over 780 episodes of Adventures in Odyssey have aired on Christian radio stations all over the country. John Avery Whitaker (or “Whit”) ran the town of Odyssey’s ice cream shop, Whit’s End. Whit, and the rest of the amazing cast, helped local kids and teenagers with life’s problems from a biblical perspective. Sometimes they would travel back in time through the “Imagination Station”, solve a problem in their community, or even tell a story of a great person of faith from Christian history. Now, technically, Adventures in Odyssey didn't make the jump from audio to video until 1991, but the series began years before. Although the video series ended, the audio series continues to this day! It made everyone who heard it want a Mr. Whitaker in their lives.
Here’s a clip from one of the first episodes…
McGee and Me – 1989
Nick Martin had two passions in life, creating overly complicated pencil sharpeners in his room, and drawing cartoon characters. Since Nick had no friends to speak of, he simply made one up. Besides, McGee was way cooler and had much better hair. McGee and Me followed the life of 11-year old Nick as he navigated life, with a little help from his animated friend, McGee. Nick learned valuable life lessons, and while an animated McGee would appear to help Nick in real life, McGee would also appear in special animated segments in the beginning of each episode to give a humorous and helpful lesson from the Bible.
To check out McGee and Me, as well as Nick Martin’s amazing pencil sharpener, click HERE.
Want to see an article featuring Christian cartoons from the 1990’s? Let me know in the comments below!
Rich Douglas is a Youth Pastor in northeast GA. He loves spending time with his beautiful wife and baby girl. He enjoys good stories, especially ones found in graphic novels and films. He also has an incredible amount of useless knowledge when it comes to superheroes (pushes up nerdy glasses). You can find him on Twitter @RichDouglas4.