Ah, the ‘90s. It was an interesting time– when goth and grunge were in full swing, before social media connected us all for better or for worse, and when cartoons got really, really weird.
The ‘90s animated world was full of strange-looking creatures, often anthropomorphic animals with disturbing habits, as the audience for adult-oriented cartoons grew.
Beavis and Butthead challenged the idea that cartoons were for kids, with its famous teenage delinquent protagonists grunting and talking about how much everything sucked. Meanwhile, shows like Ren and Stimpy, about a freakishly drawn cat and chihuahua, launched a trend for animated animals on wacky adventures.
Fueled by huge audiences thanks to bored teens who didn’t have internet access, an impressive number of cartoons were released over this decade; from those aimed at teaching kids lessons to those aimed at stoners who had nothing better to do.
With so many bizarre offerings, it’s not surprising that quite a few have been forgotten in the nearly eighteen years since the ‘90s ended (yes, it’s been that long). From spin-offs of more popular cartoons and animated films, to talking invertebrates and space-faring bunny rabbits, we’ve rounded up a few of the best forgotten cartoons of the decade.
Here are the 15 ’90s Cartoons You Completely Forgot About.
15. Mighty Ducks
Another movie than spawned an animated series, Mighty Ducks is very (very) loosely based on the live-action film franchise that was such a huge hit in the ‘90s. The cartoon, however, is not about a plucky team of young hockey players, but humanoid, hockey-loving ducks from the ice planet of Puckworld.
These animated ducks must save their planet from the threat of the reptilian race called Saurians, using a legendary hockey mask. Running from 1996 to 1997, it’s just as bonkers as the premise suggests, and was a clear cash-grab to try and make money from the popularity of the films about the Anaheim Ducks.
14. Johnny Bravo
Johnny Bravo may have drifted into the early 2000s, but it still counts as a ‘90s show for us, thanks to the official premiere date of 1997– even though the majority of the episodes may have taken place from 1999 to 2004.
Unlike many other toons of the time, Johnny Bravo isn’t a superhero (except in his own mind), and he doesn’t go up against villains or teach children valuable lessons.
Instead, this bumbling buff blonde spends his episodes attempting to just get through life and pick up chicks. Occasionally the hero, the titular character is more often the comic relief, and despite being deeply unlikable, vain, and generally stupid, he’s still a whole lot of fun to watch.
13. Swat Kats
Cartoons in the ‘90s were all about animals kicking butt, and while the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are the most famous, the Swat Kats were pretty tubular themselves.
Set in the wonderfully named futuristic Megakat City, Swat Kats features two rogue “Enforcers,” banned from the city’s paramilitary organization for disobeying the orders of Commander Feral.
With a villain named Dark Kat, it’s clear that the great minds at Hanna Barbara were all about the feline-related monikers for this series. The cartoon was actually a reasonable hit, but was cancelled when it was deemed to be too violent by the owner of TBS.
A spin-off of another entirely forgotten ‘90s show, Raw Toonage, Bonkers was a short-lived cartoon about Bonkers D Bobcat (Bonkers the Bobcat, geddit?). That’s right, it’s a cartoon about an anthropomorphic Bobcat who used to be a celebrity (because of course he did), and when he ended up washed up and out of work, he turned to police investigation.
Bonkers lives in Toontown, a world of cartoons where out of work actors are able to become cops seemingly easily, and where many of his friends are actually human.
It’s entirely normal for half the town to be clothing-wearing, crime-solving creatures, however, so no-one bats an eye at Bonkers as he goes about doing some detective work. The show ran for 65 episodes between ‘93 and ‘94, and was inspired by Roger Rabbit.
11. Mighty Max
Not only is this series a spin-off, but it’s a spin-off of a toy line that is itself a spin-off of another toy line: Polly Pocket. The original Polly Pocket were tiny playsets that featured miniature dolls for girls. They became so popular that a separate line, Mighty Max, was released with a male character.
The TV series follows the pre-teen Max who is gifted with a hat that gives him superpowers. With his new ability to open portals across space and time, Max battles monsters and saves the day.
Polly Pocket also got some animated adventures, in the form of movies. Sadly, though, Polly never gained superpowers. Instead, she worries about her friends and her schoolwork… and helps a baby dolphin.
10. Bucky O’Hare
The full name of this series is, of course, Bucky O’Hare And The Toad Wars, but it’s not possible to blame the level of wonderful strangeness of this show on the ’90s, because it is actually based on a comic book that first came out in the ’80s.
It follows a green rabbit (Bucky O’Hare himself), captain of the Righteous Indignation. In a universe caught in an ongoing war between the United Animals Federation and the Toad Empire, it’s a galactic tale that just happens to be told through the eyes of a range of animal and human characters.
9. Timon & Pumbaa
The Lion King was such a massive success for Disney that it’s not too surprising to see the original film become a massive animated franchise. As well as The Lion King itself, there are two sequels to the film (Simba’s Pride and Hakuna Matata), as well as video games, a broadway musical, and no less than two animated series… both of which got their own feature length films.
The Lion Guard is the latest installment in the franchise and only launched in 2016, but there was an earlier animated series in the ‘90s: Timon and Pumbaa.
The continuing adventures of Simba’s friends ran from 1995 to 1999, and included several particularly zany scenarios. In ‘96, the series even spawned a particularly forgettable straight-to-DVD offering, Around The World With Timon And Pumbaa.
Superhero cartoons have long been a staple of the Saturday morning lineup, but there aren’t any quite like Freakazoid. A parody of the more typical super-fare, Freakzoid was the secret superhero name of nerdy teen Dexter Douglas who got powers from a computer bug.
Along with super-speed and super-strength, Freakazoid gained the power of total insanity, leading to Animaniacs style assaults on the supervillains that he met along the way.
A play on the mild-mannered-to-totally-out-there trope of the secret identity, Freakazoid was a far cry from the nerdy kid he would revert to. Zany satire that was all about mayhem and madness (and definitely appealed more to adults than to the kids it was ostensibly aimed at), Freakazoid isn’t just forgotten, but seriously underrated.
7. Space Ghost Coast To Coast
Space Ghost Coast To Coast may have made it out of the ‘90s, with a run that didn’t finish until 2001, but it is pure ‘90s style goodness. Space Ghost himself is actually a character from the Hanna Barbara of the ‘60s, but Space Ghost Coast To Coast took the character and popped him into a parody of a late night talk show, where Space Ghost is the host.
He interviews other characters from the Hanna Barbara vaults as well as real people in a brilliant satire of the genre, and one that never really gets the credit that it deserves.
One of the earliest animated series to premiere on Adult Swim, Space Ghost is at least partially responsible for the early success of the adult-oriented animation network. Surreal and totally unique, it’s a shame that Space Ghost has been so forgotten.
6. Widget The World Watcher
This little purple alien delighted kids from 1990 to 1991 with fun lessons on environmentalism. Unlike Captain Planet and the Planeteers, or even the Toxic Crusaders, though, Widget never became quite as famous as his environmental competitors.
Widget and his sidekick, Brain, are new to Earth, and wander the globe learning about issues like toxic waste, recycling, global warming, etc. Widget also has some evil, world-destroying villains like Dr Dante, Mega Slank, and even an evil twin named Ratchet.
This shapeshifting cutie did a great job of teaching kids important lessons about caring for the planet, before launching two video games to keep hammering those messages home.
5. Pinky, Elmyra And The Brain
No one has forgotten Pinky and the Brain, and their plans to take over the world… but how many remember the short-lived spin-off, Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain? Airing from 1998 to 1999, the series began with the destruction of Acme Labs, leaving the titular mice to fend for themselves.
Thanks to hitching a ride in the shell of a rescue turtle, they end up finding a new home as the pets of a little girl named Elmyra. Elmyra herself is something of a forerunner to Finding Nemo’s Darla — a kid obsessed with her pets, but a little bit overenthusiastic in terms of their care.
4. Earthworm Jim
The better known Earthworm Jim is a run-and-gun video game for the Sega Genesis, where the central character is a worm in a tech suit who fights evil. Because of course a literal worm is the most threatening and impressive character for a shooting game… and following that gloriously ‘90s logic, the game was turned into an animated series in 1995.
In the series, Earthworm Jim puts on his robotic suit to become a superhero (think Iron Man, if he were a worm, and not Robert Downey Jr). Earthworm Jim was hilarious, with side-plots about various galactic villains living their everyday lives, cold opens finding Jim and sidekick Peter Puppy in various forms of peril.
3. Super Dave
Based on the character created by comedian Bob Einstein, Super Dave first appeared in the ‘70s on The John Byner Comedy Hour, and has gone on to appear as a character on multiple other shows.
However, it was in 1992 that Super Dave got his own animated series. A bumbling daredevil who usually failed to actually do anything other than get hurt, his blue and white costume poked a little fun at superhero outfits while paying homage to the great daredevils of the past.
Along with his much more capable sidekick Fuji Hakayito, Dave attempts to pull off the greatest stunts… and fails with a great mix of comedy and action. Sadly, the show didn’t do any better than the stunts did, and Super Dave was quickly canceled.
2. Eek The Cat
Yet another anthropomorphic animal, Eek the Cat gets an extra layer of whimsy thanks to his signature purple color. He’s also got an adorably helpful attitude — to the point that it’s all he wants to do.
He’ll ignore any temptation in his attempts to do good. However, he’s not exactly good at doing good. His motto may be “it never hurts to help,” but in Eek’s case, it often does.
His attempts at do-gooding usually end up putting others in horribly painful situations, and rarely with him actually saving the day. However, this sweet optimistic cat is still hilariously adorable, nonetheless. Eek was accompanied by Sharky the Sharkdog and Elmo the Elk, as well as a whole crew of bizarre animal friends.
1. Cow & Chicken
Cow & Chicken was one of the bigger cartoon titles of the ‘90s aimed at adults, so this may ring some bells for a few super-fans of the ridiculous animation of that decade.
Despite the success, though, this was, in short, a totally ridiculous and pretty pointless concept. The titular characters, Cow and Chicken (named for their species), lived together with their human parents (because a cow and a chicken can be siblings).
Their “villain” was the Red Man, who popped up to scam them from time to time. However, for the most part, Cow and Chicken get into surreal yet strangely relatable adventures (like dealing with cooties).
The series blends the grotesque and surreal with the sweet and childish, and ends up as a phenomenally strange and wonderful animated mix. It was even nominated for two Primetime Emmys.
Can you remember any other ’90s cartoons that we forgot to mention? Sound off in the comments!
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