Recently, I found myself in a discussion with my sister-in-law about 80’s and 90’s cartoons and how in retrospect, a good deal of them are really bad, but hell if they weren’t fun when I was a kid. And that in turn brought back memories of the Sky Dancers cartoon. After Sky Dancers was released, it rocketed its way to the number one spot on my list of favorite cartoons, where it remained until I discovered Batman: The Animated Series. That was all for the best, because looking back, I can say with all certainty that Sky Dancers did not deserve the pedestal I put it on. All the same, though, I still have fond memories of the story.
Sky Dancers originally started off as a toy that launched back in 1994. The toys consisted more or less of a faerie person with propeller wings that could be shot into the air. I had a lot of fun with this, at least until I accidentally smacked myself in the face a few times. I soon learned that the Sky Dancers toys were not so much faeries dancing in the sky, but more missiles that I could rocket at unfortunate people (whether purposefully or accidentally), including myself. My experience was not an uncommon one—the toys ended up injuring a lot of kids. You would think a faerie with foam propeller wings wouldn’t be too bad, but they were brutal. Somehow those foam wings managed to scratch corneas and knock out teeth.
Holding that much destructive power in my hands was both terrifying and exhilarating to my younger self. Sadly, I eventually had to stop playing with the dolls after I misused that power to attack my brother, dog, and parents one too many times. So when the dolls launched their own cartoon show, I greedily watched every episode I could of kickass faeries beating the shit out of people. Sky Dancers lasted only twenty-seven episodes, and I adored just about every minute of it.
Our story begins when the faerie kingdom, the Wingdom, is attacked by the evil Sky Clone who is younger brother to King Skyler. Skyler is killed in the attack, leaving Queen Skyla a widow. Later on, we see Skyla working as a dance instructor in the human world at High Hope Dance Academy. Five of her students eventually discover the Wingdom, and she enlists them as her Sky Dancers, giving them wings and magical powers so they can defend her kingdom from Sky Clone.
As a young girl, Sky Dancers was undoubtedly a fun experience and it filled a niche that I wasn’t getting from other shows. Our five main characters—three girls named Angelica, Jade, and Camille and two guys named Breeze and Slam—save the Wingdom with abilities typically seen as feminine. All five characters are dancers, and not only are their dancing abilities applauded by everyone who sees them perform, their wise old mentor figure is a woman. Camille’s character is African American, I think Jade might be Latina, and Breeze is of Native American descent. This was all awesome to watch, and I remember Breeze was the first time I ever really saw a Native American character on TV.
Unfortunately, it’s not too hard to recall some of Sky Dancers’s less well done traits. In case unoriginal names like Skyla, Sky Clone, and Slam didn’t give it away—seriously, who names their kid Slam?—the show lacked a certain amount of creativity with its characterization. Sky Clone, for instance, is the only ugly and fat character to exist in the whole story. It’s a pretty big blemish that Sky Dancers resorted to fatphobia and perpetuating negative stereotypes, but this wasn’t just limited to its villains. Although I don’t remember it all that well, I’m pretty sure Breeze was not the epitome of good representation. His ancestry and identity as a person of color did inform the way he danced and fought against Sky Clone, but I can’t say he ever became more than a token. First of all, I question the decision to name him Breeze, but if that weren’t bad enough, we never really learn about his tribe. His grandmother lives in Chicago, but that doesn’t narrow down his ancestry. There were numerous indigenous people who lived and still live in Illinois. Native Americans are not one homogenous group, and it would be really nice for them to stop being portrayed as one.
As I said, the cartoon was a dream come true for my younger self. Though I loved it with all my heart, Sky Dancers most definitely was not the best story to watch. I’m pretty sure that Sky Dancers falls into the same category as Star Wars: Ewoks. I may have loved it, but that love exists only through my rose-tinted nostalgia goggles. Looking back on the story with an older and more educated perspective, I find it lacking. I will confess that I didn’t actually rewatch Sky Dancers to write this review, and instead resorted to watching a few random clips on YouTube and reading the Wikipedia summary in order to jog my memory. I enjoy my rose-tinted perspective of my old fave, and that’s not something I want to readily give up.