All Aboard the USA Cartoon Express

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
  • C.O.P.S.
  • Cadillacs and Dinosaurs
  • Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels
  • Challenge of the GoBots
  • Clue Club
  • Dennis the Menace
  • Denver the Last Dinosaur
  • Devlin
  • Dinosaucers
  • Dragon’s Lair
  • Dynomutt, Dog Wonder
  • Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
  • G.I. Joe
  • 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
  • Jabberjaw
  • Jana of the Jungle
  • Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors
  • Jem
  • Laff-A-Lympics
  • Loopy De Loop
  • Magilla Gorilla
  • Mister T
  • Monster Bash
  • Pac-Man
  • Paw Paws
  • Problem Child
  • Quick Draw McGraw
  • Scooby-Doo
  • She-Ra: Princess of Power
  • Shirt Tales
  • Snorks
  • Space Ghost
  • Space Stars
  • Speed Buggy
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3
  • The Biskitts
  • The Flintstone Comedy Hour
  • The Flintstones
  • 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 Skatebirds
  • The Smurfs
  • The Superman Batman Adventures
  • The Woody Woodpecker Show
  • Turbo Teen
  • Valley of the Dinosaurs
  • Voltron
  • Wally Gator
  • Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch
  • Yogi’s Gang
  • Yogi’s Space Race
  • Young Sampson and Goliath

Pretty impressive huh? Now how about some video memories.

1980s Cartoon Express Commercial

1993 Closing and Commercial

1991 Cartoon Express Bumpers

USA Cartoon Express Move Intro

In A Minute

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Old School

    Love the old Hanna Barbera cartoons and the Laff-a-lympics were cool because all of the different characters were on the same show. Good stuff.

  2. Hobo1964

    Calliope was one of USA’s most acclaimed children’s programs ever – it featured an animated, gray-haired man and his dog introduced both live-action and animated segments.

  3. wishen it was still the 80,s

    wheelie and the chopper gang was my favorit toon besides transformers!Where can I download some shows guys,thanks!!??YyAa I,m hip I,m hip!!!!!!!!

  4. JR

    i used to watch this stuff all the time, in the morning before school i think i watched it, i watched some sort of cartoons in the morning before school and after school from the mid 80s to probably the early 90s…….the funniest things were the after school specials, if people actually listend to the messages they were trying to put out, then i guess we wouldn’t live in chaos today…….but when kids grow up they are like, i’m not going to let you tell me how to think….even if the message is positive, who raises tards anyhow

  5. christopher tupa

    I loved this block of animation. I watched it all the time. Great stuff, cartoons i couldn’t see anywhere else. Be great if they’d bring it back

  6. Tammy

    I want the Itsy Bitsy Spider cartoons! There were 26 episodes. THey were great! Where can I get them?!

  7. Patrick

    I fondly remember watching USA Cartoon Express, and also bits of Calliope that someone else mentioned. IIRC, Calliope was USA Network’s answer to Nickelodeon’s “Pinwheel”, but all of it was animated, instead of portions being live-action.

  8. Polly

    I remember watching Commander USA’s Groovy Movies after cartoons were over. I miss the cheesy horror and sci fi movies they dug up!

  9. thebill1979

    I think a Cartoon Express podcast is in order, Retroist.

  10. Doug

    No doubt. This is a sweet write-up. I had never seen the pre-bullet train Express.

  11. Jason K.

    If you do ever decide to do a Cartoon Express Podcast and need some inspiration, I have about 8 hours or so worth of original USA Cartoon Express transfered to DVD (from the 80’s with original commercials) in my collection…might help bring back some memories and might make some good audio bytes. Just let me know.

  12. Doug

    Wow Jason, a lot of people would like that.

  13. @Jason…I love watching old VHS with the original commercials and the old station ID’s and all pure nostalgic love. The Cartoon Express stockpile sounds amazing!

  14. CarlosTheDwarf

    Many, many an afternoon spent riding the Cartoon Express.

  15. Dice

    Hey any of you guys remember a show that was on during the Cartoon express that was an animated mini series about mars? I remember bits and pieces about it, but I can’t remember the name, I can remember the time frame is was around 90-93 roughly. Any knowledge would be greatly helpful.

  16. I learned about a lot of the older cartoons thanks to the Cartoon Express, and gained some favorites because of it.

  17. Drahken

    I watched the cartoon express every weekday at 6, and every sunday morning. I actually liked it better when they had the “B rated” stuff. Scooby, smurfs, etc were all “been there, done that”, but clue club, dynomutt, and some of the others were completely new to me.

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