The Young Astronauts (partially found unaired animated series; 1986)
Drawn ad from a magazine: this is the only confirmed visual evidence remaining to this day.
Status: Partially Found
The Young Astronauts was an animated series originally meant to air on Saturday mornings on CBS in February 1986.
The protagonists would have been a group of young astronauts, two males (one child & teenager), a teenage female and a robotic sidekick, whose space shuttle accidentally gets launched into deep space. Episodes would've revolved around the group having to survive the harshness of space while learning to adapt to life away from Earth. Possibly trying to discover a course that leads them back home.
Each episode would have "real astronauts" in an educational, live-action segment called "Astro Minute" talking about space-related science facts (including astronomy and gravity).
Because of its space travel theme, the series was cancelled after the real-life tragedy of the NASA space shuttle Challenger (that disintegrated and caused the death of its crew members) on January 28th, 1986. It was never shown again anywhere, and there are no known/confirmed copies of episodes, cels, images or audio available.
According to an anonymous commenter on a blog, the pilot episode was actually shown on January 26th, 1986 on CBS, two days before the Challenger tragedy. The anonymous commenter claims that they worked on the series at Marvel Productions and there were a total of 13 episodes made, with only the first one that aired.
Considering that other sources claim to have seen the lone aired episode (and provided the loose description of the young boy accidentally sent into space - fitting the character in the drawn ad), it is possible that at least this episode could have been recorded on VHS by someone.
An animation cel attributed to The Young Astronauts has resurfaced among a private collector's gallery; the character looks like an astronaut, and at least fits in the theme of the cartoon.
If it does indeed come from this animated series, then it would be confirmed that animation was done by Toei Animation as it did with other Marvel productions at the time (many western cartoons, especially serialized TV ones, were animated in Japan during the 1980s).
According to an online comment, an anonymous user claimed they discovered that someone who worked on The Young Astronauts series uploaded several of the "Astro Minute" segments to YouTube in 2013, but were shortly removed from the site. After much searching, that user finally located one of the segments on Vimeo called Astro Minute: Zero Gravity. Several sources describe it as being produced by Marvel Productions.
- Blog post talking about the cartoons in the ad, and an anonymous blogger's testimony about the one episode airing.
- NYT article describes the show.
- Source of the cel.
- Toei listed as animating one episode of the series for Marvel.
- Original artwork for scraped Marvel comic book by Rudy Nebres.