Compared to the craze for cartoons inspired by toys in the 80s, the 90s were relatively calm. There were a whole bunch of cartoons made from video games, but the good ol’ fashioned “cartoon as toy commercial” was finally dying down.
Why is that? A more savvy audience might have been part of it. Parents were starting to be more aware that a big chunk of the Saturday Morning Cartoon block was designed to sell toys and little else.
Although the voice acting and writing were sometimes good, they were almost always far from the first concern of the show creators.
More likely was the growing popularity of video games. The 90s were a time when that industry started to skyrocket, and that’s where marketing dollars went.
We’ve had our time machine in overdrive this week, scouring history for cartoons based on toys. There are less of them in the 90s, for sure, but we managed to find 5 of the best. If you’re a 90s kid, enjoy this trip through your sordid past!
In Street Sharks, four humanoid sharks fight other mutant creatures in hand-to-hand combat. They make wisecracks and have a couple of human friends who aid them.
If that sounds a lot like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, that’s because it is a lot like it. Street Sharks was a pretty blatant TMNT “homage” that existed mainly to sell Mattel toys. The humor is much more front and center because, well, they’re sharks. They have giant shark heads and giant shark teeth. They don’t need ninjutsu.
The show ran for 40 episodes from 1994-1997. Near the end of the series, Mattel released a new line of toys called the Dino Vengers, which were best described as “Street Sharks, except dinosaurs”.
The Dino Vengers made their way onto the Street Sharks show, and soon spun off into their own series as the Street Sharks toy line was discontinued.
It was a beautiful, peaceful transition of power, the likes of which may never be seen again in toys or politics.
The cast of voice actors brought on for Street Sharks included Andrew Rannells, who has made a great career for himself voicing characters on cartoons like The Simpsons and Pokémon in between one-time roles on live action shows. Lee Tockar also appears, who is best known as Snips on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.