Prepare for the ultimate throwback, because it is time to go back to a place that made Britney and Justin household names, gave Hercules a prequel, and taught us that most kids can survive high school by wearing a brown wig and hiding their celebrity status. Of course, this is the Disney Channel and its eclectic roster of kids’ TV shows.
Whether you were ready to move into the House of Mouse or wish that you lived next to Lizzie McGuire, the acclaimed children’s studio kept the ‘90s and ‘00s alive with some of the best entertainment out there. However, what about those shows aren’t still rerunning in the depths of network television or gathering dust on your VHS shelf? You don’t need Phil of the Future’s time machine to relive the magic of these forgotten gems.
Some channels may have had Hey Arnold!, Rocko’s Modern Life, and Jumanji, but doesn’t that all pale in comparison to settling down in front of Goof Troop or Jungle Cubs. There was something about that Tinkerbell fairy dust that made Disney shows everyone’s favorite.
Here are 15 Disney Shows You Completely Forgot About.
Equal parts tragic and dark, Gargoyles took the most interesting part of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and made a cartoon that wasn’t just for kids. With possibly the best animation out of any Disney show, Gargoyles was set in a modern-day version of New York City. The daytime saw the city’s skyline adorned with the stony statues, but at night, they came to life to protect its inhabitants.
Everyone had their favorite member of the team. Whether it was the formidable Goliath, the hateful Demona, or the overweight Broadway, ‘90s kids probably have at least one of the toys still knocking around in the attic. With its brooding atmosphere, Gargoyles came across as Disney’s very own version of Batman: The Animated Series.
Did you know that Gargoyles had a strange affinity with Star Trek alumni and featured voice work from the likes of Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Nichelle Nichols, and Kate Mulgrew? Also, with references to Shakespeare and social issues of the ‘90s, Gargoyles went far beyond your typical “plonk them in front of the box” show.
14. Smart Guy
While some people would like to imagine a world where Smart Guy and Sister Sister had a proper crossover series – why was this never done? – fans may remember Smart Guy as that show that starred the younger brother of Tia and Tamera Mowry.
Tahj Mowry took to the spotlight as uber-nerd T.J. Henderson, the smart-mouthed kid with an even smarter brain. The series followed T.J. and his impressive IQ of 180 as he was fast-tracked through high school. T.J. struggled to fit in with the older kids -most notably, his older brother and sister, who were attending the same high school.
Smart Guy features the goofy shrugging and 4th wall schtick that Disney shows became known for, as well as that catchy theme song – everyone still knows the words. Remembered not only for the episode “Brother Brother” which featured Taj’s famous sisters, another amazing installment had T.J. actually audition as a backing dancer for Destiny’s Child. If you can find a better episode of a kid’s TV show, good luck!
13. PB&J Otter
Wow, naming a cartoon about otters after a sandwich – who thought of this culinary cartoon brainwave? The colorful world of PB&J Otter boasts possibly the coolest house ever in a cartoon. What fictional otter wouldn’t want to live in a house that had a slide from the bedroom to the kitchen? While the show never revealed why the titular kids were named after a sandwich, it didn’t really matter.
Snooty poodles, a loud-mouthed duck, and a great moral compass – what’s not to love? Created in conjunction with “Project Zero” from Harvard University’s Cognitive Skills Group, PB&J Otter was there to provide a positive and educational message to kids. Long before Playhouse Disney was bulldozed into Disney Jr., PB&J Otter was an addictive slice of colorful culture from the man who also brought Doug to screens.
PB&J’s best/most annoying trait was teaching children to dance around the house annoying their parents while using their “noodle.” You would be lying if you said you don’t remember the moves to the “Noodle Dance”!
12. Jungle Cubs
Who wouldn’t love a cartoon based on The Jungle Book – especially one with a ‘90s hip-hop version of “Bare Necessities” as its theme song? Enter Disney’s Jungle Cubs, running for two seasons and focusing on younger versions of everyone’s favorite talking animals – it was a bit like Muppet Babies, but with the cast of The Jungle Book.
Premiering nearly 30 years after Disney’s animated movie, Jungle Cubs featured pretty much the entire cast – other than the Man Cub himself. The show had the animals often convene at their “Cub House” – later Louie’s palace – and deal with various moral dilemmas as they grew up. Giving an expanded role to the likes of Winifred the Elephant, it fleshed out the character backstories far more than the animated movie.
Baloo was still a glutton, Bagheera was the stoic “sensible” one, and Shere Khan was still a bully. While the animals would obviously end up at odds with each other in their adult life, Jungle Cubs saw everyone live in relative harmony with this family-friendly cartoon caper.
11. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show
When the feature film Honey, I Shrunk the Kids became one of the highest-grossing live-action Disney films of the ‘80s, it only made sense that someone would make a TV show out of it eventually. However, replacing the popular film series with a small screen version wasn’t exactly the huge success it could’ve been.
The Szalinski family once again returned – headed up by madcap inventor Wayne – but this time favorites like Rick Moranis and Marcia Strassman were replaced by Peter Scolari and Barbara Alyn Woods. Given that each episode was an hour long, the premise of tiny tots wore thin over a run that lasted longer than it should have. Making it to 66 episodes, Disney canceled Honey, I Shrunk The Kids after a huge ratings drop in season 3.
10. Teacher’s Pet
With some seriously creepy animation, Teacher’s Pet was the zany idea of co-creator Gary Baseman. Baseman made the show after thinking what would his dog “Hubcaps” do when he wasn’t around.
The premise followed a young boy called Leonard – voiced by singer Shaun Fleming – who is ashamed by having his mother as a teacher. Unpopular and bullied at school, Leonard is something of an outcast until the arrival of newcomer Scott Leadready II. However, what Leonard doesn’t know is that Scott is actually his pet dog.
Nathan Lane starred as the blue-furred Spot, who was more than just your average man’s best friend by masquerading as a human boy. With Spot instantly becoming the most popular kid at school when pretending to be Scott, he and Leonard eventually decided to keep the secret. With guest stars like Patrick Warburton, Kelsey Grammer, and Tim Curry, Teacher’s Pet certainly had an impressive cast.
9. So Weird
Gracing our screens in the ‘90s, the X-Files-esque So Weird definitely lived up to its name. Cara DeLizia starred as Fiona – basically a Disney version of Fox Mulder – who was touring the country with her rock star mother and various family/friends. With each stop on her mom’s comeback tour, Fiona would conveniently run into some sort of supernatural occurrence.
The original premise had some complicated backstory about Fiona’s deceased father that tied into her connection to the supernatural realm. Wildly popular with preteens, So Weird also appealed to the tech-savvy as Fiona even had her own website (that you really could visit).
Season 1 and 2 were probably the darkest that Disney could take a show, while season 3 saw a sprinkling of fairy dust for a more child-friendly tone amidst Fiona’s departure. It is safe to say that season 3 was the final nail in the coffin; new lead Annie had nowhere near the pizazz of Fiona.
While many shows like Even Stevens and Lizzie McGuire have made it out of the Disney vault to be shown on our screens again, So Weird is still out there languishing somewhere in limbo.
It is time to take to the skies with TaleSpin. While not an official sequel to The Jungle Book, this show took the bumbling Baloo and put him behind the controls of a prop plane.
Teaming up with King Louie, working for a cargo company, and being chased by mobster gorillas – it was all in a day’s work for Baloo outside the confines of the jungle. While there were plenty of familiar faces to keep everyone entertained, TailSpin also introduced the uber-adorable Kit Cloudkicker. Ironically, the show’s co-creators were also inspired by Cheers – Rebecca Cunningham was a homage to Kirstie Alley’s Rebecca Howe.
There was also a decidedly Casablanca feel to the production, with King Louie loosely replacing the character of Rick. Randomly, Shere Khan also returned from his fiery farewell in The Jungle Book, but here he wore a suit and walked upright – how very ‘90s of him.
TaleSpin was lauded as one of Disney’s best cartoons and had probably the greatest theme tune – sorry DuckTales. While it would never happen, just imagine Jon Favreau directing a live-action version for theaters!
7. The Jersey
With an idea that sounds like it would eventually become The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants – but with sportswear – The Jersey was another daring Disney romp from the turn of the century. What is it about the concept of kids and clothes with magic powers?
Based on Gordon Korman’s Monday Night Football Club books, The Jersey followed four teens who discovered the mystical powers of the titular top. Forget talented voice stars like Teacher’s Pet, The Jersey had some major names from the world of sport, including Junior Seau, Laila Ali, and Tony Hawk.
It was also a bit like Quantum Leap, with the kids being transported to a sporting event and unable to return home until they contributed to the events. Good ol’ teamwork usually saved the day in these half-hour episodes.
Despite only clocking 65 episodes, The Jersey aired from 1999 – 2004 and became a staple of the Saturday morning kids TV scene. While it would seemingly be primed for some sort of modern revival, main actor Michael Galeota tragically passed away in 2016.
6. Bug Juice
Before the boom of reality TV with shows like Big Brother and Survivor, Bug Juice was an unforgettable memory of summer camp life. Disney’s first ever unscripted show, Bug Juice ran for three seasons from 1998 – 2001.
Set at Camp Waziyatah in Maine, Bug Juice followed 20 kids and their counselors as they took part in various fun-filled activities/conveniently timed drama. The seemingly strange title is apparently the nickname for the sweet sachet drinks that are mixed at summer camps – affectionately known as “bug juice.”
Effectively just a kid’s version of the loud-mouthed and dramatic reality shows audiences would come to love in the noughties, Bug Juice also inspired a fair few teens to become camp counselors.
The freedom of being away from home, struggling to fit in, or developing that first camp crush – Bug Juice had it all and more, leaving every kid watching wishing they had made it onto the show. Thankfully, for anyone feeling nostalgic, Disney is planning on bringing Bug Juice back with a revival in early 2018.
5. American Dragon: Jake Long
Forget Peter Parker, there was one much cooler high school kid residing in NYC during the noughties: Jake Long: American Dragon. As a Chinese-American teenager who could also transform into a fully-fledged dragon, Jake Long was the teenager everyone wanted to be.
Long before Daenerys Targaryen had her scaly flamethrowers flying across our screens, Jake Long learned that adding dragons makes any show instantly better. Even cooler, it had Rufio from Hook voicing the titular Jake and a crossover episode with Lilo & Stitch: The Series.
Alongside shows like Jackie Chan Adventures, Jake Long was an attempt to incorporate a more varied culture into the standard TV schedule. Just like Peter Parker, Jake had to learn that with great power comes great responsibility and that you can’t just fly around torching stuff.
Also similar to Spider-Man, Jake had to juggle his superhero persona with being the average lad about town. Also, who can forget that wicked twist where his secret crush is also a nifty dragonslayer? Talk about troublesome teens.
4. Phil Of The Future
Move over Back to the Future, all any ‘00s kid wanted to watch was Phil of the Future. Phil was part of a futuristic family from the 22nd Century. Picking a vacation through time, the Diffys’ time machine broke down and left them inadvertently trapped in the squalor of the 21st century.
It was a clever twist on the average teen/family sitcom. Sure, the CGI was a bit dodgy and not quite up there with other sci-fi shows, but did anyone really care?
Although Phil is a little more up to date on 21st century tech, the whole family unit was forced to cope with the almost prehistoric conditions of this time period. That being said, the Diffys managed to slip seamlessly into the era without revealing their secret – well, except to Phil’s love interest Keely.
Although creators Doug Tuber and Tim Maile were hired to write an original Disney movie as a finale, the studio pulled the plug before it could go much further. This meant that Phil of the Future ended on one hell of a cliffhanger and they didn’t even wrap it up with the movie. How dare you Disney!
3. In a Heartbeat
In a Heartbeat was Disney’s very own Grey’s Anatomy. A bunch of high-achieving kids volunteer as EMTs for an insight into the world of the medical drama. Best of all, it was inspired by real-life teen paramedics from Post 53 in Connecticut. For once, audiences got a show where the leads didn’t have some sort of glamorous celebrity lifestyle.
It was a little soapy as the cast of characters tried to juggle impossible tasks such as being a cheerleader and saving lives, but kids of a certain age lapped it up. Also featuring a pre-X-Men Shawn Ashmore, In a Heartbeat was one of his earliest performances.
With all the medical drama you would expect, this was one intense ride in the back of an ambulance. Although it only ran for a year, there is still a loyal fanbase who remember the flashing lights and the teen tantrums of In a Heartbeat. This was one show that was clearly aimed at older teens, and it reeled them in hook, line, and sinker.
2. Goof Troop
Easily entering the Disney hall of fame, who remembers Goof Troop? The slapstick Goofy starring alongside his own wayward son, there was something charming about this Saturday morning cartoon. Max was too cool for school, while Goofy perfectly portrayed the hapless dad trying to do right by his son.
Goof Troop actually was a lot like several of the early Goofy cartoons from the ‘50s that had Goofy caring for a red-headed son, but the show was also tragically sad in places. In this imagined reality, Goofy was a widow trying to care for his distant kid.
Most of the hilarious consequences came from the stark contrast between Goofy and the rest of the characters, especially when he faced off against his bullish neighbor Pete and his well-to-do family.
The show ran for 65 episodes and one Christmas special, before there were 13 more installments over on ABC. Fans could’ve probably gone on watching Goof Troop for another 65 episodes. Also, remember that if it wasn’t for Goof Troop, there would never have been A Goofy Movie or its slightly inferior direct-to-video sequel.
1. The Weekenders
Providing a healthy dose of multiculturalism, The Weekenders featured a quartet of kids from different backgrounds who came together every weekend. Whether it was oddball Toni, tomboy Lorraine, fashion-obsessed Carver, or the artistic Tish, everyone had their favorite character and their different style.
As the epitome of TGIF, The Weekenders stuck to its weekly formula of some sort of crisis coming toward the kids on Saturday and Sunday. Disney covered every base for the pre-pubescent viewer. Admittedly, it never seemed that your weekend was quite as good as these guys’, but give the show some credit.
At the end of the day, the gang always agreed that no matter what their differences, a steaming bowl of chili cheese fries could bring them together. Strangely, The Weekenders was one of the few shows where the outfits changed week to week – take that The Simpsons. This was one slice of the noughties that no one ready to say “Later Days” to!
Which is your favorite forgotten Disney show? Sound off in the comments below!
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