Controversial Saturday Morning Cartoon That Never Saw The Light Of Day [Kicking Back With Jersey Joe]
They’re a part of 80s pop culture and are some of the creepiest trading cards, ever! The Garbage Pail Kids disgusted parents and delighted children. After a big run at the box office, CBS ordered a Saturday morning cartoon series, but pulled it days before the premiere. However, unseen in the US since then, it’s finally seeing the light of day.
The Garbage Pail Kids were released in 1985 as a series of trading cards with gum and stickers by The Topps Company. Topps is well known for their baseball cards, but also creates trading sets for everything else from basketball to Star Trek.
The Garbage Pail Kids were designed to parody The Cabbage Patch Kids dolls that every kid wanted at the time. While the Cabbage Patches were cute and cuddly, The Garbage Pail Kids featured some type of comical abnormality — usually suffering a horrible fate. The original idea came from cartoonist and Topps consultant, Art Speigelman.
Each kids name was a play on words to denote the situation depicted on the card. Interesting names such as Potty Scotty (a kid on a toilet pooping) to Nervous Rex (a kid chain smoking) were released in roughly 42 card sets.
Each card would also feature an “A” and “B” version. Several of the cards could be flipped over and connected to complete a puzzle of a larger Garbage Pail Kid in nine card sets.
Somehow, kids loved these things and more card sets were quickly put into production. Additional artists were hired and the quality of the names and drawings vastly improved with each new set.
The cards were a hot seller and seen as a boy’s alternative to The Cabbage Patch Kids.
In 1987, a live action movie was released to theatres to capitalize on the product lines success. The Garbage Pail Kids Movie was a live action film featuring dwarfs in costumes playing the roles of several of the kids.
The film starred Mackenzie Austin (who would later star in the last few seasons as the new kid on The Facts of Life.) He is joined by several of the kids including; Greaser Greg (wearing a leather jacket), Messy Tessie (with her constantly running nose), Windy Winston (who farts violently), Valerie Vomit (who throws up on command), Foul Phil (a baby with halitosis), Nat Nerd (pimple faced boy that constantly wets his pants), and Ali Gator (the group’s alligator leader who eats human toes.)
Check out the trailer and watch out for that 80’s hair!
In the film, we’re told that these characters are never to enter the real world, or they will be attacked by “normies,” or normal people. No spoiler here – they do.
The film did miserably at the box office, only earning $1.5 million on a $30 million budget. Many subplots were left open and the ending is a cliffhanger that was meant to set up a live action TV series that never happened.
A reviewer for The Sun-Sentinel, called the film “one of the worst ever made” and also went on to say it “has no value.”
The cards were still selling well, but parents were beginning to notice the questionable content. Some schools banned students from bringing the cards in and they were often confiscated by teachers. I attended a summer camp at a local elementary school as a child and I remember my teacher becoming horrified when several of the students were trying to assemble one of the nine card puzzles. They were banned from the rest of camp.
The cards were still earning a hefty profit for Topps and CBS was looking to cash in. Instead of going forward with the live action TV series, network executives ordered 13 animated episodes that could play to kids on Saturday mornings.
Saturday morning cartoons were a kid’s heaven in the 80s. All of the networks at the time were packed full of children’s programming that brought in big ratings.
CBS’s Saturday morning schedule at the time was already packed with solid hits including Muppet Babies, Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse. The Garbage Pail Kids were scheduled to air at either 8:30 or 9:30am, right next to Muppet Babies.
The network began to heavily promote the show during the summer and early fall months.
The animated version of the kids featured the characters Split Kit, Elliott Mess, Terri Cloth, Patty Putty, and Clogged Duane which had special abilities to help others. Originally, they were shown in their human cartoon counterparts, but that concept was dropped after episode 2 and the change is never explained.
Three CBS affiliates refused to air the show and notified the network weeks in advance of the premiere.
Several television watchdog groups began to call for the show’s removal from the fall schedule. The National Coalition on Television Violence, The Action for Children’s Television, and The Christian Leaders for Responsible Television protested the series use of handicapped children and violence. They also claimed the show was one big commercial to sell more trading cards.
CBS began to feel more pressure when several high profile sponsors including McDonald’s, Crayola, and Nabisco pulled their big ads from airing within the show.
CBS finally gave in and abruptly cancelled the show, just days before the premiere, even after weeks of promotion. The network expanded Muppet Babies to 90 minutes to fill the time.
Check out some of the episodes that have made their way online:
The theme song was kind of catchy! The show also seems to play very heavily on parodies of other films and TV series.
As I kid, I remember seeing all the promos, and hearing about the show… to suddenly, have it disappear.
While it was never aired in the United States, the series was broadcast in Spain, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Israel, and the Philippines. I’m sure CBS, paid a good bit for the rights and to produce the animations, so at least they aired – somewhere.
Not too long after, the popularity of the cards really began to fade, as more and more parents protested, and more schools banned the cards.
A final nail in the coffin was a high profile lawsuit from Coleco, the makes of The Cabbage Patch Kids, citing copyright infringement. The matter was settled out of court, but sales continued to decline and the cards were put to rest after series 15 in 1988.
The kids came back from the dead however, with the last cancelled (series 16) 80s printing, finally being released in 2003. A whole new series was released in 2004 and a special 25th anniversary edition in 2005. Topps has continued to release new sets, including unreleased kids, flashbacks, and new foil cards at about the rate of one set per year. The latest went on sale in November.
But, after sitting in the CBS vault for two decades, you can finally check out this controversial show! In 2006, all 13 episodes were released on DVD and are currently available for rental on Netflix. A few limited copies are still for sale on Amazon and other online retailers. Several additional episodes have also been uploaded to Youtube.
Title: The Garbage Pail Kids TV Series
What: unaired Saturday morning cartoon show for kids
Number of unaired episodes: 13
Website: Garbage Pail Kids
JERSEY JOE RECOMMENDS: Growing up, I never got into this, and always thought the whole idea was kind of dumb. It was offensive to kids then and certainly is not for kids now. Do you want to give your kids animated cards with kids smoking, drinking, fighting, vomiting, and dying?
However, after taking a look at the cartoon, it’s not as bad as some of the cartoons on the air now. The cards are vulgar, but that was toned way down for the animated series. You have to remember, this was years before The Simpsons and any other over the top animated show.
At least CBS brought this out of the vault for fans to finally get a look. Why not air a few episodes late night on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim for a while? These are, technically, all new episodes…
But at least, thanks to technology, we can relax for a few minutes and check out the cartoon series that almost was.