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Why Nobody Remembers Disney’s First Animated TV Series

Why Nobody Remembers Disney's First Animated TV Series


  • In the 1980s, Disney shifted to network TV with The Wuzzles, a mixed-animal show meant to engage and market to kids.
  • The Wuzzles, part of the Disney TV renaissance, set the stage for the brand’s future content creation like Disney+.
  • Despite only lasting a season, The Wuzzles brought top talent, vibrant designs, and a step away from Scooby-Doo aesthetics.

It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when Disney had almost no presence on network television. A company that was so well-known for its animated movies was not doing much with its properties in the 1980s. Sure, they had the Disney Channel, but they were ignoring what was, to them, an untapped resource.

At the time, Warner Bros. was going strong with its own crop of shows, many of them cartoons, on network television. But Disney had a plan for something new. They had something up their sleeve that other studios didn’t have. They had The Wuzzles.

The 1980s Cartoon Landscape

The ’80s were a great time for animated television. The airwaves were dominated by shows based on toys (Transformers, He-Man, G.I. Joe) and they were doing big business for every company involved. The big three networks, ABC, NBC, and CBS were embracing the Saturday morning cartoon lineup and the after-school hours-long show packages. Television was pulling in the children and everyone, including parents, was happy to let them watch.

Some of the biggest names in animation were running shows during the 1980s. Hannah-Barbera, Warner Bros., and DIC Entertainment had a lock on many different shows, such as Thundercats, Looney Tunes, Rainbow Brite, Inspector Gadget, and The Littles. These were franchise shows that were serialized, meaning that they had continuing plots that wove throughout the different seasons. However, shows like Heathcliff were more one-shot episodes with recurring characters but where everything essentially reset by the next episode.

Meanwhile, the Disney Channel had begun airing on cable in 1983 but had not made the leap to regular network TV shows. They would also be at least a decade away from acquiring ABC in 1996. However, they had an idea that would change the way they marketed themselves to people who might not be able to afford the Disney Channel. Their partner was CBS.

What Was Disney’s The Wuzzles?


In the early 1980s, under Michael Eisner, Disney developed the Disney Television animation studio. In 1984, Eisner proposed that the studio create two shows to run concurrently through a partnership with CBS. The shows were Gummi Bears and The Wuzzles. The idea was for them to air at 8:30 AM on Saturday mornings. They were also created to be very marketable animated fare. Eisner felt that the studio had been slipping away from its animated roots and needed to get back to basics. This path would lead to the 1989 release of The Little Mermaid, but Eisner felt that Disney needed to start a bit smaller to rebuild confidence in their animation branch.

Most people know about Gummi Bears, which ran first on CBS and then for six seasons with reruns on the Disney Channel. However, The Wuzzles was less successful, running for only a single season on CBS and then being rerun on ABC the following year.


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The concept was about creating cute characters to which kids would be drawn. This meant having a lot of bright colors and original characters that just begged kids to love them. The show followed the titular Wuzzles in their land of Wuz where everyone and everything was a mashup of two different things. This meant that the main characters, all animals, were mashups of two different animals. This meant you had characters like Bumblelion (bumblebee and lion), Eleroo (elephant and kangaroo), Butterbear (butterfly and bear), and Rhinokey (rhinoceros and monkey). There were also a few bad guys, though being a Saturday morning cartoon they weren’t quite that bad, which included characters such as Flizard (frog and lizard) and Crocosaurus (crocodile and dinosaur).

The show had some of the biggest names in Disney voiceover artists, including Frank Welker, Henry Gibson, Brian Cummings, and Stan Freberg. It was an attempt to make the show a prestige series that would live up to and continue the Disney brand. They also had a catchy theme song (a strangely common concept in 80s cartoons) which gave hints into their world.

“They got originality

Living with a split personality!


Two times the fun

Wrapped-up and rolled into one!”

The episodes included a narrator’s voice that would lead people through the world and guide viewers through the stories. These stories were almost as bizarrely different as the characters themselves. They included characters using a wishing well, dealing with ghosts, being conned out of money, and an episode where Moosel (moose and seal) deals with some pretty crazy hallucinations and delusions. It was a wild ride for thirteen episodes, but its stories may have been too disjointed for audiences.

The Wuzzles Was Short-Lived But the Start of Something Big

Although it only lasted a single season, the show did much better with European audiences. It also lent itself to ample amounts of merchandising, something that Disney has ramped up for decades ever since. Although people tend to remember Gummi Bears, it is important to know that the two shows were a package deal and that they began the Disney TV renaissance, setting the stage for The Disney Channel and the eventual creation of the sheer glut of content on Disney+. The Wuzzles also helped to usher in a new, higher-quality form of children’s cartoons that had top talent, and vibrant illustrations, and that did away with much of the Scooby-Doo-era looped backgrounds.


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The Wuzzles have their place in animation history but are often only vaguely remembered by hardcore animation fans. The 1980s produced a lot of cookie-cutter media aimed at children. The Wuzzles were anything but. The Wuzzles is currently unavailable to stream, but here’s hoping it gets added to Disney+.

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