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All Aboard the USA Cartoon Express
5 years after the launch of the USA network a much-storied animated block of programming took to the airwaves, the USA Cartoon Express. Premiering in 1982, the Cartoon Express was home to some of the most popular syndicated cartoons of the last 30 years. The show was launched as afternoon filler and at first was mostly populated with b-rate material from the Hanna-Barbera library such as Inch High, Private Eye, Dynomutt and Dog Wonder.
The cartoons were strung together with cartoon shorts of an animated train conducted by Hudson the Bear. As the show gathered steam, they added better material like Scooby-Doo and The Smurfs.
In 1993 the Cartoon Express switch tracks and started broadcasting in the morning, instead of the afternoon. The show “host segments” also changed. They went from the classic train design to a sleek bullet train look. While the lineup of the show remained strong, especially with the addition of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, their attempt to introduce original programming failed — I guess the world just was not ready for an animated version of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Problem Child”.
I have been watching Problem Child on YouTube and can see why it did not catch on.
The massive media mergers of the 1990s brought USA under the umbrella of NBC Universal Cable. They eventually decided to pull all of the animation off their channels and on September 15, 1996, the Cartoon Express made its last stop.
The USA Cartoon Express has left a legacy in memories. For many years it was the only home to cartoons that would have otherwise been overlooked. Just check out this roster:
Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog
Battle of the Planets
Buford and the Galloping Ghost
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids
Cadillacs and Dinosaurs
Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels
Challenge of the GoBots
Dennis the Menace
Denver the Last Dinosaur
Dynomutt, Dog Wonder
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
Goober and the Ghost Chasers
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
Help!… It’s the Hair Bear Bunch!
Hong Kong Phooey
Huckleberry Hound and Friends
Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n’ Wrestling
In A Minute
Inch High, Private Eye
Jana of the Jungle
Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors
Loopy De Loop
Quick Draw McGraw
She-Ra: Princess of Power
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3
The Flintstone Comedy Hour
The Great Grape Ape Show
The Itsy Bitsy Spider
The New Fred and Barney Show
The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show
The Real Ghostbusters
The Roman Holidays
The Superman Batman Adventures
The Woody Woodpecker Show
Valley of the Dinosaurs
Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch
Young Sampson and Goliath
Pretty impressive, huh? Now how about some video memories.