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Official Article

Kids VHS Tapes of the 80s and 90s


My journey back in time through the medium of VHS continues. In my previous VHS Odyssey article I shared a few home video oddities with you (many former rentals), but today it's all about kids stuff. Yep, I've found some real treasures of children's entertainment from the 80s and 90s that I can't wait to share with you. So let's press play on this video adventure.

The Disney Afternoon Trio


When I went to my friend's houses after school from 1st through 3rd grade our routine was always to grab a pack of Garfield fruit snacks and a Squeeze-It as we settled in to watch The Disney Afternoon cartoon block. Ducktales, Chip N' Dale's Rescue Rangers and Darkwing Duck were definitely top dogs (ducks?) during their run. Admit it, you know the theme songs by heart.


These classic shows aren't available on YouTube, so pretty much the only legal way to watch them is through these old home video releases. It should also be mentioned that Ducktales and Rescue Rangers inspired some of the best games ever on the original Nintendo Entertainment System, produced by Capcom who also made Street Fighter II.


My Darkwing Duck copy was extra special because it came with all the original inserts. Not only did it have a mini-catalog of Disney VHS Releases (which is worthy of it's own article someday), there were also 2 glow-in-the-dark trading cards! In case you were wondering, they still work, though I think Megavolt would have been more on brand with a glow around him than Taurus Bulba. Anybody? (crickets).

Too Smart For Strangers with Winnie The Pooh


Sticking with the Disney theme we have this unique clamshell relic from the 80s featuring the iconic characters from one of my favorite shows on The Disney Channel Cable network, Welcome To Pooh Corner. These cuddly costumed versions of Tigger, Owl and Eeyore ignited my imagination as a kid. "Winnie The Pooh is real?!" and so apparently is "Stranger Danger".


I actually showed this video to my 5 year old son after he opened the front door to let an adult neighbor in our house without my permission (they were just as concerned as me by the way). Soon Piglet was teaching him about not giving away personal information to strangers on the phone or getting into cars with dudes who look like extras from an episode of CHiPs. Nostalgic and informative, what a deal!

Kidsongs by View-Master Video


You probably had a dozen audio cassettes as a kid with happy people singing public domain folk tunes, but Kidsongs took it to the next level by making them into music videos featuring the peppiest 80's kids you'd ever seen. Personally what really endeared me to this show was the opening credits where a group of kids discovered a TV station and started running it themselves (what a dream!). This video in particular is fascinating because it's produced under the View-Master video label. I have never seen this brand before or since, but it's just more evidence that everyone was on the VHS train back in the day.

The Looney Tunes Video Show


More clamshell case fun with Bugs Bunny and the gang decked out in their tuxedos. Why did Sylvester even bother, isn't he pretty much always in a tux? Anyway, this is a curious release for the time because reruns of Looney Tunes were all over the place on TV in the 80s. I could do an impression of every one of these icons by the time I was 7, then the new era kicked in with Tiny Toon Adventures and Warner Bros ruled the boob tube.


I love the artistry of the case itself, Warner Home Video really treated these tapes like they were to be placed on a golden shelf behind a velvet rope. Just look at that logo pressed into the plastic. They didn't intend this, but a kid could have smashed some Play-Doh or Silly Putty on that thing and had a field day stretching out the impression. 

Rude Dog and The Dweebs


Check out the contrast in video design from the mid-80's release of that last VHS to this neon-splattered masterpiece from 1989. Rude Dog actually started as a surfwear clothing line, but since Spuds McKenzie wasn't likely to get the animated treatment due to parent groups, this canine mascot received his own cartoon. Again, just take a minute to appreciate the color scheme of this thing.


I'll admit, I didn't watch this show back in the day, but it did feature all your favorite voice talent from 80s cartoons like Rob Paulsen aka Raphael from TMNT, Jim Cummings aka Winnie The Pooh/Tigger, Peter Cullen aka Optimus Prime, Frank Welker aka Megatron and Dave Coulier aka the 2nd Peter Venkman on The Real Ghostbusters/Uncle Joey from Full House. I mean, WOW.

Pee-wee's Playhouse and Hey Vern, It's Ernest!


These 2 were the live action superstars of Saturday Mornings for me on CBS. Of course Pee-wee ruled the world from 1986-1991 on TV and had a decent showing at the movies as well. This episode features Pee-wee doing jokes with a pair of giant underpants, which is a gag that is played on TV in one of my favorite 80's movies, Troop Beverly Hills. Now I have a VHS, but I still long to own a Conky the Robot action figure from the Matchbox toy line someday.


Right on the platform heels of Mr. Herman in the minds of kids was Ernest P. Worrell who actually started in regional TV commercials, got his own movies, then moved back to television before being relegated to direct to video films. I was fascinated by this show as a kid and the off the wall characters who appeared in different skits, many played by Jim Varney in costume. It was like nothing else on TV, but that goes for both of these iconic figures in kids entertainment.

Ewoks


Most people probably remember the Droids cartoon that starred animated versions of C-3PO and R2-D2 in the 80s', but this Lucas style version of The Smurfs/Gummi Bears was released concurrently on Saturday Mornings during the final gasp of Star Wars media, a dark time that didn't end until the Special Edition theatrical re-releases in the 90s. 


In this version, the furry inhabitants of Endor were able to speak english, which was a vast improvement over the original Ewok Adventure TV movie. I still have an episode of this show recorded from TV in my personal VHS collection, but having an official copy is pretty neat. When I posted my find to Twitter, I instantly got offers to buy the tape. Must be something special.

Ren and Stimpy


Once the sugary sweet cartoon fare of the 80's was left in the dust, the veiny, crass, kitty litter laden antics of Ren & Stimpy burst on the scene like one of the hyper-active chihuahua's twitching blood vessels. This twisted animated world was a real favorite on the playground with heavily accented shouts of, "You eeeediot" echoing off the handball court walls. 


I always thought of it as a gateway to Beavis and Butt-Head in my junior high school days, both were absolutely hated by adults, yet these shows got toys, video games, CDs and even dolls that passed gas. To bring it back to Troop Beverly Hills (as I do), the creator of Ren & Stimpy, John K. actually produced the animated credits intro for that movie and now I can't get an animated crossover film out of my head.

G.I. Joe The Movie and Real American Hero Episode


OK, now we're getting into the real video treasures. I found this at a Goodwill store for 5 dollars. Let that sink in. Back in the day you could order these episode tapes from comic book ads for inflated VHS prices, but I more often encountered them sitting on the shelves of my local video store, enticing me with the colorful artistic presentation. That image of Duke in peril is just so dynamic. I applaud the F.H.E. promotional department on their package design.


I saw G.I. Joe The Movie for the first time during a vacation to visit my older sister one summer when I was 10. It was an odd day. She had to run an errand, so my my 2 year old niece and I were dropped off at a home daycare for a few hours. I saw this very video tape sitting on the shelf and rather than sing Barney songs with a bunch of toddlers I watched Cobra Commander inhale spores that turned him into a snake man, Duke take a seemingly fatal serpent stake to the heart and finally learned who Golobulous was after seeing his action figure years earlier.

Transformers 


Is there anything more glorious than this? Former rental tapes of Transformers in the giant boxes for 5 bucks a piece? As much as I enjoyed G.I. Joe, there was something just a little more special about transforming robots in disguise. Both series actually began as Marvel comic books before being translated to the cartoons, with the characters being named by those writers, so it's fitting that they would have comic book style art on the covers.


As mentioned, these boxes were oversized so as to stand out on rental store shelves. As you can see, the VHS tape fit inside a plastic shell that could slide in and out to prevent the precious tape from rattling around while kids took in ever inch of the illustrations printed on the box. These were holy grail items I never imagined I would find in the wild, let alone for such a reasonable price. Constant thrifting pays off my friends.

Well, there you have it, some of my favorite kids VHS tapes from the 80s and 90s. I have a lot more unique video finds to share with you in the future, so keep an eye out for the next installment.

Which of these was a childhood favorite for you?
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Hoju Koolander Posted on Jul 03, 2018 at 03:25 PM

@Vaporman87 Wow, now that I think about it, I can totally see the Teddy Ruxpin resemblance, especially the eyes on those costume.

@jkatz At least a hardbound book that collects the artwork, because that stuff is beautiful.

Vaporman87 Posted on Jun 30, 2018 at 01:00 AM

@jkatz: Interesting tidbit concerning that version of Pooh (from the show Welcome To Pooh Corner) - the company that developed the animatronics for the suits that actors wore belonged to Ken Forsse, the creator of Teddy Ruxpin. His work paved the way for Disney to start using such animatronic features in the suits of some "cast members" playing Mickey, Minnie, and others.

Man, some of these boxes are just amazing. I always loved the oddly sized/assembled VHS cases and boxes. They were incredible.

jkatz Posted on Jun 29, 2018 at 11:44 PM

That's awesome packaging for the GI Joe/Transformers tapes. Definitely would be cool if they re-released these somehow...maybe in a special commerative vhs edition, even.
Live Action Winnie the Pooh looks creepy.
Love the retro TV, too!

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