This is so true… GI Joe, Transformers, M.A.S.K., Inhumanoids, he-man and she-ra, and so many more. It reached a point where you eagerly awaited the first episode of the new season because it introduced you to the toys (characters) that would be released with the Christmas lineup.
As for today, there is no more real Saturday morning cartoons. Between Cartoon network, the various Disney/Nickelodeon channels and such, there are cartoons on 24/7 and for the most part they seem to be divorced from the toys. Yes there are toys for say Paw Patrol, Lego knights and Ninjago are tied to toy lines, but there are also ample that are not.
And the stable of characters in each show have shrunk drastically. Thinking back to transformers and gi Joe, we were always excited when our favorite obscure character was featured in an episode. Ooo… Soundwave ejected Frenzy instead of Rumble or it was an arctic episode on GI Joe and Snow Job was featured. But part of this was because there were so many characters. This does not seen to be the case now.
And of course this ties back to Toys’r’us because back then it was one of the few places that had the shelf space to feature all these toys for you too look at and drool over.