The Top 90s Toys That Inspired Terrific 90s TV Shows
The 1980s was an era when cartoons became intentional vessels to sell toylines – and some of the biggest and most popular kid’s franchises emerged as a result.
Enormous franchises were born out of the 1980s including He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Transformers and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles which also boasted equally impressive lines of toys.
It was marketing genius, creating fictional worlds and characters and simultaneously releasing the cartoons and the toys for a double-dip at the register. Studio executives loved it, parents hated it.
The likes of Transformers and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles surged well into the 1990s as well and are both still popular franchises to this day, with live-action and CGI movies wowing a whole new generation.
So, of course, it stands to reason that this trend would continue into the 1990s. But while there were several successful 90s toys that would spawn from successful cartoon franchises, there were a handful of bold companies that would try to launch the toyline first.
Many of these efforts were direct ripoffs of the Transformers of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, does anyone remember GoBots, for example?
However, some of these toylines that spawned television shows and cartoons would become pop culture hits on their own and many of them are still remembered and loved to this very day.
Here are the most memorable 1990s toys that would ultimately spawn their own television show or cartoon:
While the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles may have been the team that started it all, they were certainly not the only game in town for long. In the wake of their success, dozens of other companies tried to cash in on the craze with their own teams of teenage anthropomorphic superheroes. Among the most blatant rip-offs was Mattel’s Street Sharks.
Though the figures were well-made and the cartoon was reasonably popular, the Street Sharks never managed to capture the public imagination in quite the same way as the Ninja Turtles.
In part, this was due to their lack of originality; in an already overcrowded market, the Street Sharks simply didn’t offer anything new or exciting. As a result, they quickly faded into obscurity, leaving only fond memories for those who played with them as children.
Stone Protectors was a short-lived cartoon series produced by ACE Entertainment in an attempt to cash in on the success of the Ninja Turtles. The series follows the adventures of five magical stones that can transform into humanoid warriors.
Despite its premise, the show was plagued by lackluster animation and poor writing. As a result, it failed to capture the imagination of its target audience and was cancelled after just 13 episodes. Nevertheless, the Stone Protectors toys remain popular collectors’ items among nostalgia buffs.
Mighty Max was a toy line and accompanying cartoon series that ran in the early 1990s. The toys were originally designed as a boy’s version of Polly Pocket, with compacts that opened up to reveal playsets with tiny figures.
However, the Mighty Max line quickly became popular in its own right, due in large part to the innovative storytelling of the cartoon series.
The show followed the adventures of Max, a young boy who found himself moving from one monster-filled adventure to the next. Though the monsters were always significantly larger than Max, he used his smarts and courage to defeat them time and again.
The show was a hit with kids, who loved following along with Max’s thrilling adventures. Thanks to its popularity, Mighty Max remains a fondly-remembered childhood favorite for many people today.
Skeleton Warriors never had a chance. The show was up against some stiff competition in the early ’90s, and it simply couldn’t keep up. It’s a shame, too, because the show is actually pretty good. The premise is unique, the characters are interesting, and the action sequences are well done.
It’s just a shame that more people didn’t give it a chance. Hopefully, someday, someone will rediscover this hidden gem and give it the attention it deserves. Until then, it remains one of the great forgotten TV shows of the ’90s.
Max Steel has been a popular character for over 20 years, appearing in various forms of media. He first appeared as an action figure from Mattel in 1997, and four years later he was given his own animated TV series. The series ran for three seasons and featured direct-to-video movies. In 2013, the TV series was rebooted by Disney, but it only lasted one season. In 2016, Max Steel made the jump to live-action with a movie of the same name. However, the movie was not well received by fans or critics.