Following the generally-accepted rule that nostalgia is strongest for whatever era was 20 years ago, we are currently still in the thick of 1990s nostalgia. For proof of this, look no further than how many TV shows and movies right now are reboots or revivals of '90s properties, or how many musical acts from the '90s are doing major reunion tours. With so-called “'90s kids” currently in their 20s and 30s, the cartoons and animated movies from that decade are dominating a lot of the reminiscing these days, especially on the internet. And what is one of the most common ways of expressing fondness for things we are nostalgic about? Fan art, of course. To that end, there is no shortage of fan art covering the characters that kids of the '90s zoned out to on TV and via VHS tapes played on repeat.
But, simply doing exact recreations of characters gets old, and most artists don't bother doing a piece about a character they love unless they are going to take it in a new and interesting direction. One of the most interesting directions is to imagine cartoon characters with more human-like features and proportions – whether it's characters that are technically meant to be human but don't really look it, or characters that are based on animals or other fantastical creatures. In a few cases, artists took the challenge to re-imagine a cartoon character as a “real person” rather literally, and the results, well, let's just say we wouldn't recommend looking at some of these right before you go to bed. Here are 25 '90s Cartoon Characters Redesigned As Real People.
25 SpongeBob SquarePants
Who lives in a pineapple under the sea and breaks hearts from reef to reef? This dreamy, blonde-haired, blue-eyed human reinterpretation of SpongeBob SquarePants by artist XiaozuoZ.
It's hard to imagine Spongebob's iconic voice and laugh coming out of this subdued anime kid, but somehow, pet snail Gary still seems right at home on his shoulder. XiaozuoZ gave this treatment to the whole Bikini Bottom gang, including a version of Sandy that would be right at home hanging on the wall of a mechanic's garage – and we mean that in the most respectful way possible.
24 Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny
What makes this piece different from all the others on this list is that it was found within the original work in which it was based, making it the most “official” re-imagining in this whole article.
The picture above, which features convincing versions of what the boys of South Park might look like as real kids, actually shows up during a season nine episode of the show in the form of a police artist sketch of Cartman and company. And who would know better than Trey Parker and Matt Stone how the boys might look in real life?
23 Yakko, Wakko, and Dot
It's a good thing that there's an Animaniacs reboot coming, because the cartoon properties under the Warner Bros. umbrella have been mostly left to collect dust since the '90s. It's a crime that shows like Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, and Freakazoid! aren't still actively running on repeats.
The centerpiece of the Steven Spielberg-ushered TV animation renaissance of the '90s was definitely Animaniacs, and the trio at the center of the show are some of the best cartoon characters of the last 30 years. It wasn't always completely clear what kind of animals they were supposed to be, but either way, their humanized versions (courtesy of artist EDThweatt) are every bit as lovable as the originals.
22 Beavis and Butt-head
Even though we warned you in the intro that some of these entries would be a bit spooky, you probably still jumped a but when you scrolled this picture onto your screen. To be fair, the actual work on these is amazing, and artist Kevin Kirkpatrick brought MTV's iconic slacker duo to life in the most authentic way possible, but that still doesn't make them look any less off-putting.
What's especially impressive about these fabrications is that they actually almost look like they could be real people, making Beavis and Butt-head's extremely exaggerated features somehow work in real life while sacrificing almost nothing about their original design.
21 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
What if the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” weren't literally anthropomorphic turtles and were just human teenagers that simply adopted a turtle-like persona vis-à-vis Batman? Artist NightLiight obviously wondered the same thing and decided to draw what that might look like.
While TMNT fans would probably revolt if things ever went this way, we wouldn't be completely opposed to seeing this approach attempted by a comic series, TV show, or maybe even animated film. After 30+ years, it wouldn't be so bad to take an interesting, but one-off, detour like that just for a change of pace. For the curious, NightLiight also did a second drawing that shows the “turtles” in regular street clothes.
20 Dexter and Dee Dee
Like Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network initially launched as a channel that mostly showed reruns of old cartoons and content imported from other places. Also like Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network eventually started making their own stuff, and continuing that parallel, it yielded some classic shows.
Among the first generation of great CN originals was Dexter's Laboratory, the tale of a mad scientist who also happened to be a little boy with a pesky older sister. This dreamy illustration from artist Magato98 takes Genndy Tartakovsky's iconic, but very simplistic, art style for Dexter and Dee Dee and re-imagines the siblings about five years older and more human-like, resembling the cover of a comic book we'd definitely read.
19 Baloo (TaleSpin version)
One of the fun things that the Disney Afternoon shows did was take classic Disney characters and transplant them into completely different situations, along with a related tweaking of their look and personality. For TaleSpin, The Jungle Book's Baloo was re-imagined as a scrappy pilot who shares many of the original Baloo's slacker tendencies, but also manages to be an ace at his job.
For the “Tale Spin Insanity” series, artist Kudoshido humanized several of TaleSpin's animal cast members. Her take on Baloo retains the scruffy look of the original, but with far less hair; then again, based on what we see poking out of the top of his shirt, it isn't that much less.
18 Homer Simpson
There are a few different versions floating around the internet of real-life, live-action Homer Simpsons, and all of them are at least a little unsettling as there isn't really a non-spooky way to bring a Simpsons character to life. But, we found one that isn't a total ordeal, and it actually manages to regain some of Homer's charm without feeling like it's going to haunt your dreams for the next three months.
This version of Homer Simpson was created by artist Adnan Saleem for his Destination Creation Studios. Saleem has won numerous awards for his work and counts on his fans and writer/director James Gunn.
Most similar lists go the obvious route of showing a humanized version of Pikachu (usually a female version), so we thought we'd switch things up a bit with Pokémon's token slot within this lineup.
The extremely ambitious artist tamtamdi has actually humanized well over 100 different Pokémon creatures, and it was a bit tough picking which one to use. But, since this list is specifically about '90s cartoon characters, we went with another one that had a prominent role on the '90s Pokémon animated series. This human Meowth definitely seems a little less dastardly than his cartoon counterpart, but maybe that's just what he wants you to think.
16 Courage the Cowardly Dog
Among the second batch of Cartoon Network originals was the hilarious Courage the Cowardly Dog, a show that tells you everything you need to know about its premise and main character from its title. That said, the show explored some dark territory as it went on, especially for a kids show.
What's fun about this humanizing of Courage by artist bebop-hacker is how it transfers Courage's pink coat to not only the shirt of the human version, but also the hair. Between the coloring and that worrisome expression, the character that the person is supposed to be based on would be immediately obvious even if the original Courage wasn't cowering at his feet.
15 Lola Bunny and Bugs Bunny
On the one hand, Space Jam did introduce a new generation of kids to classic characters like Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. On the other hand, it actually isn't all that great of a movie and it's sad that so many kids only know Bugs from Space Jam.
However, Space Jam did introduce us to a new character, the sassy and charming Lola Bunny. And if you want to know what people think about Lola, just Google some of her fan art. To that point, it took some work to find a humanized version of Lola that was appropriate to use, but we did it with this steamy piece by sakimichan, though just barely.
14 Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog has been the topic of much discussion in recent weeks, but the buzz hasn't been positive. The teasers that have been released thus far for the upcoming live-action Sonic movie have been met with almost unanimously disapproval and mockery, especially with the movie's weird, furry re-imagining of Sonic himself.
To cleanse our palette a bit from all that, we present you with a much more sensible alternate version of Sonic. Artist Sue Keruna goes the more obvious route of making Sonic a spunky human teenager straight out of a skateboarding video, complete with a subtle, but direct, shout-out to the original version.
13 Ashley Spinelli
Most humanized versions of classic cartoon characters are a direct translation of the character into what they would look like if they were a real person. But, that isn't the only approach to take, as proven by this drawing of Recess's Ashley Spinelli in what appears to be the likeness of an existing person.
Though this isn't confirmed by artist Tati Moons herself, we think it's safe to assume that her re-imagining of Spinelli is meant to evoke actress Fairuza Balk. And though Ms. Balk is a bit old for the part now, it would've been great to see her play Spinelli in a live-action adaptation of Recess had one been made in the mid-'90s.
12 Darkwing Duck
Now that we've gotten a Duck Tales reboot, it's pretty obvious which classic Disney Afternoon property should be revived next. And no, we're not talking about Bonkers – nobody wants a Bonkers reboot.
Instead, let's get dangerous and see a revival of Darkwing Duck. And although we don't necessarily want the reboot to humanize Darkwing, this awesome piece by RainDante imagining that Darkwing's alter ego is actually a man who just wears a duck mask (similar to the re-imagining we projected onto the TMNT picture) isn't something we'd be completely opposed to if it's handled the right way and looks this cool.
We're hoping you saw that the next entry on this list was CatDog, a show starring a bizarre animal hybrid that is a dog on one end, a cat on the other, and is connected in the middle – and wondered how in the world it could work as a real person/people.
It would've been easy to just re-imagine CatDog as two separate people, but artist Isaiah K. Stevens took a more literal approach and instead went the conjoined twins route. Or maybe, it is two different people and they are wearing some weird outfit that forces them together. No matter how you interpret it, it's a fun and completely unexpected redesign of unlikely source material.
10 Arthur, D.W., Buster, Francine, and Muffy
Arthur has had one of the most remarkable runs of any animated series in history. While many shows of its type only create new episodes for a handful of years and then just rerun those episodes for the ensuing 15-20 years, Arthur has been consistently on the air since 1996 and new episodes continue to be produced for it to this day.
What's great about this group shot of humanized versions of Arthur and the gang by artist hey-lady-wanderlust is that it hearkens back to Arthur's origins as a kids book series and looks like the cover of some book we all would've begged our parents to overpay for at our school book fair.
9 Jack Skellington and Sally
A lot of these redesigns of cartoon characters as real people take the approach of supposing that the characters have actually become their humanized versions. But, artist viria13 seems to have envisioned that these two people live in a world where The Nightmare Before Christmas is still just a movie and they simply wanted to cosplay them at what looks like the world's coolest dinner party.
Still, even with that in mind, the artist obviously still had fun stretching the rules of reality a bit, such as “Jack's” gravity-defying bow tie.
8 Pinky and The Brain
The critically-acclaimed Animaniacs prime time spin-off series Pinky and the Brain unfortunately struggled to find a large enough audience to last as long as it deserved to. Interestingly, the show actually already had its own version of its stars in “human form” by way of two people named Minton and Fitzgerald who were designed to be a fun play off of the titular lab rats.
But, artist danblog wanted to go another way with his humanized versions, opting not to go for the obvious Orson Welles route with Brain, but instead, envisioning him more as the cranky mad scientist he actually is. And making Pinky's human form resemble a surfer slacker also makes perfect sense.
7 Professor Farnsworth
Good news, everyone, Professor Farnsworth from Futurama has been transformed into how he would look in real life. And, surprisingly, it actually is neither especially spooky nor would it have any trouble passing as a real person.
Hollywood make-up and effects artist Frank Ippolito, who has worked on films such as The Force Awakens and the Pirates of the Caribbean series, took this on in conjunction with Adam Savage's Tested to show off at a few conventions. We never thought we'd say this, but maybe a live-action Futurama movie wouldn't be completely out of the question if it looked this good.
6 The Rugrats Gang
Technically, just taking the babies and toddlers from Rugrats and redesigning them as real people would just mean drawing a bunch of realistic-looking babies and toddlers, which would be both uninteresting and far too easy.
So, artist Isaiah K. Stephens took the challenge a step further by also imagining how Tommy, Chuckie, Angelica, and the rest of the gang would look like as adult humans. Given when the show originally aired, the grown-up Rugrats would definitely be squarely in the millennial category, and to that end, he absolutely captured their look. Chuckie in particular couldn't have possibly grown up any other way.
5 Rocko, Heffer, and Filburt
After the original three “Nicktoons” (Doug, Rugrats, and Ren & Stimpy) proved to be popular, Nickelodeon knew it was on to something and felt emboldened to make even more original animated shows. One of the standouts in the second generation of Nicktoons was Rocko's Modern Life, which featured the voice talents of Tom Kenny a few years before he'd start his remarkable run playing SpongeBob.
Artist AsCuteAsPuke decided to humanize the three main protagonists of Rocko, but unlike most others on this list, she opted to keep her redesigns in the same art style as the original show.
4 Chip, Dale, and Gadget
While Disney's mischievous chipmunk duo had already been around for decades by that point, Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers completely reinvented the characters while also introducing them to a whole new generation of kids. That show was also the debut of Gadget, which definitely had a... confusing effect on a lot of the young boys who watched it.
Here, we see Chip, Dale, and Gadget shed their fur and buck teeth for human features, courtesy of artist CatMoore, though they still remain as adorable as ever. Let's just hope that Chip and Dale are actually wearing pants in this form.
3 The Powerpuff Girls
The Powerpuff Girls were a welcome presence on television when they first debuted on Cartoon Network in the mid-'90s: non-objectified female superheroes at a time when such a notion was even more rare than it remains today. Such was the popularity of the show that it originally ran all the way to 2005, followed by several specials and then a 2016 reboot.
But, what happens when the Powerpuff Girls become the Powerpuff Women? Artist Li-Jean has her own interpretation, as represented in this piece that sees the girls college-aged and still inseparable.
2 Timon and Pumbaa
Even though the upcoming live-action remake of The Lion King is still going to feature the cast as animals, it's tough not to associate the characters with the new actors that have been cast to play them. With that in mind, the idea of Timon and Pumbaa as real people will likely conjure images of Billy Eichner and Seth Rogen to most people.
But, this piece by artist nandomendonssa (Fernando Mendonça) predated that casting announcement by a few years and takes its inspiration from the characters themselves, also maintaining the original art style of the film.
1 Buzz Lightyear
We've seen countless people dress up as Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear for Halloween costumes and cosplay, but for the most part, they tend to maintain Buzz's cartoony, fun kids movie vibe. But, what if Buzz Lightyear was instead some kind of space marine in the vain of a gritty sci-fi action movie?
We bet it would look a lot like this digital rendering by artist Raoni Nery, envisioning a more human-like Buzz Lightyear that no cowboy would try pushing around anytime soon. This must be how Jessie sees Buzz, which would explain a lot.
Are there any other characters from 90s cartoons that you would like to see redesigned as real people? Let us know in the comments below!