ByKristy Anderson, writer at
Kristy Anderson

It is a fact of life that a great many animated series are made for the purpose of selling toys to children. However, the occasional nugget of cartoon gold can be found among them.

Here are some of the best 'Toy Commercial' cartoons:

1. Young Justice

Young Justice followed the adventures of a group of teen superheroes, usually former sidekicks of core Justice League members. Together, they undertake missions of their own, and hone their skills, hoping to impress their former mentors.

While not made specifically to sell toys like some of the following entries on this list, low toy sales were the key reason for Young Justice's cancellation. Many of its viewers, teens, young adults, girls, fell outside of the network's hoped for demographic of young, action-figure loving boys.

Fans were not happy about the show's demise, but recent whispers of a Netflix revival brings hope.

2. Care Bears

The Care Bears, originally created by the American Greetings corporation to appear on greeting cards, soon spun off into a toy line, and then, an animated series to promote the new toys.

Episodes of the original Care Bears and its sequel series, The Care Bears Family, usually contained some sort of moral within their stories. The first theatrical film, The Care Bears Movie, was the highest grossing non-Disney animated feature when it was released in 1985.

3. He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe

When he raises the fabled Sword Of Power aloft and shouting:

Prince Adam becomes He-Man, the protector of Eternia.

While the show was criticized by many as too violent, or a simple Toy Commercial, He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe has become a beloved cult classic, and remains the most successful cartoon ever produced by Filmation.

The series spawned one spin-off, She-Ra: Princess Of Power, one live-action film, the cult-classic Masters Of The Universe, and a 2002 reboot that ran for two seasons.

4. Winx Club

After rescuing Fairy Princess Stella, 16-year old human Bloom travels to the Magical Dimension to attend a fairy school, where, along with fellow fairies Flora, Musa, and Tecna, they form the Winx Club and battle various forms of evil.

While the Winx Club dolls have caused controversy for promoting an unnaturally thin body shape to young girls, the animated series remains popular, having run for 7 Seasons, with 3 CGI movies produced.

5. Biker Mice From Mars

Throttle, Modo, and Vinnie, three anthropomorphic Martian Mice, escape to Earth, protecting the Planet from the same evils that plagued Mars.

Fully aware of its seemingly ridiculous premise, Biker Mice From Mars was original, action-packed, and often funny. The series ran for 3 seasons, with a short-lived reboot in 2006.

6. The Smurfs

The Smurfs, magical blue elf-like creatures standing three apples tall, live in the hidden Smurf Village, under the leadership of wise Papa Smurf. They fend off constant attacks from the evil wizard Gargamel.

While it began as a way to boost the sales of Peyo's collectible Smurf figures, The Smurfs cartoon soon became a beloved classic, running for nine seasons, and inspiring three feature length films, The Smurfs, The Smurfs 2, and the upcoming Smurfs: The Lost Village.

7. Thundercats

After their home planet, Thundera, is destroyed, the Thundercats flee towards the planet of Third Earth. The evil Mutants destroy all the Thunderan ships on route, save for one, carrying future Thundercat leader Lion-O, a small band of loyal followers, and The Eye of Thundera, set within the fabled Sword Of Omens.

While it experienced many of the same complaints about violence that plagued He-Man, Thundercats too has become a classic. Produced by Rankin-Bass, the company best known for stop-motion Christmas specials such as Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, Thundercats often featured story lines that continued over multiple episodes, such as Lion-O's trials in Season One, or the search for the Book Of Omens which spanned most of Season 3.

An attempted reboot ran for a single season in 2011.

8. Transformers

The Autobots, robots who can transform into various vehicles, are led by Optimus Prime in a constant battle against Megatron and the evil Decepticons.

With 12 different animated series produced, the Transformers cartoons have become as beloved, if not more so, than the toy line that inspired them. Many of the casualties suffered by Generation 1 characters in Transformers: The Movie occurred mostly to make room for new toys on Hasbro's production lines. When fans were displeased by this, many characters, including Optimus Prime, were miraculously resurrected.

9. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic

Enlisted by Princess Celestia to study friendship, Twilight Sparkle travels to Ponyville and befriends four other ponies: Applejack, Pinkie-Pie, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, and Rarity. Together, they form the Elements of Harmony, and defeat any evils plaguing the land of Equestria.

While not the first MLP series produced, Friendship Is Magic is by far the most popular, bringing together fans from all walks of life. A theatrical film is on the way in 2017.

10. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

After being mutated by the mysterious Ooze, young turtles Donatello, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael are adopted and trained in Martial Arts by mutated rat Master Splinter.

The TMNT franchise spans comics, four cartoons, one live action series, and six feature films, with no signs of Turtle Power slowing down. The 2012 series is currently in its fourth season, with a fifth recently announced.

What is your favorite toy based cartoon?


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