Everyone has nostalgia for the shows they grew up with, and as 90s kids are the latest generation to reach adulthood, we’ve all probably heard our fair share about what was popular on Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network back in the day. Yes, many of us still remember Rocko’s Modern Life, Dexter’s Laboratory, and Hey Arnold! as well as the many other shows you remember so fondly. A few shows that debuted in the decade of the millennials are either still going today, like Spongebob Squarepants, or have even been rebooted for a new generation, like the new Powerpuff Girls.
Time hasn’t been so kind to all the shows of a 90s kid’s childhood. Whether they just didn’t click with kids, had too short of a series run, or were simply overshadowed by better shows, some 90s cartoons will even leave people born in that era with a blank stare. Your parents probably haven’t even heard of most of these shows, but for everyone else ready for a flashback to shows you might have forgotten about, here are 15 Cartoons Only 90s Kids Remember.
Of all the Looney Tunes characters to get their own show, Taz certainly sounds like one of the least obvious candidates to give a leading role to. You’ve got the clever, wise-cracking Bugs Bunny, the scheming, ill-tempered Daffy Duck, and so many others who have demonstrated their popularity in dozens of classic cartoons, but instead Taz got the spotlight this time around.
Anyone who knows the Tazmanian Devil knows he’s not the most articulate character, so Taz-Mania loaded up its show with more well-spoken characters for Taz to interact with. Following the formula of most sitcoms, the focus was on Taz’s home life with his family, which also introduced us to his surprisingly kind and even-tempered parents. It actually made for kind of a wonder where Taz’s wild streak came from when you see how normal the rest of his family was. The show lasted for four seasons, and did more to flesh out his character than his early years of trying to make a meal out of Bugs.
14 MIGHTY MAX
People often make fun of shows like the early Transformers or My Little Pony for being toy advertisements disguised as TV shows. While that was true, those franchises have done a lot to outgrow their status as glorified commercials and have become pretty legitimate franchises. Mighty Max didn’t have such good luck, and even today is basically remembered as a way to make Polly Pocket for boys.
While the toys were probably more popular than the cartoon, the show did provide lots of inspiration for kids to enjoy their playsets with. Max, his warrior friend Norman, and the sage-like bird Virgil would travel across the Earth and fight against a variety of monsters that were set on terrorizing people. It was a short-lived show, but it did its job in getting children to beg their parents for the toys, and the cartoon provided a nice Saturday morning diversion for a while.
One of the oddest shows on Nicktoons back in the ‘90s was maybe the world’s first literal sketch show. The cartoon featured the animated co-hosts Henry and June who spoke directly to the viewer, like something out of Saturday Night Live. The two would then throw to a variety of other cartoons that were unique to KaBlam!, usually filling out the timeslot by showing a variety of shorts from each of the recurring shows.
In retrospect, the shorts within KaBlam! were actually pretty creative, showing off a Claymation style in the Prometheus and Bob shorts, stop-motion with real action figures in Action League Now, and using puppets for Life with Loopy. It was a pretty inventive way for a cartoon to introduce a large cast of characters in a small time block. It’s one of the few ‘90s Nicktoons that isn’t mentioned as fondly these days, but it ran for four seasons and was able to showcase a lot of fun ideas.
12 LITTLE BEAR
Dora the Explorer seems to have pretty much locked up most people’s memories of what Nick Jr. was like to the exclusion of all other shows, but a friendly bear and his group of animal friends once also featured prominently on the channel. No, we’re not talking about Winnie the Pooh. This particular group of furry pals centered around Little Bear, and his descriptively named friends Cat, Duck, Hen, and Owl. Though like Pooh, Little Bear also had a human friend, a little girl named Emily.
This list might make you think about revisiting some of these shows, but Little Bear is one that probably won’t offer much to an adult you. Like most young children’s shows, the plots were often very low stakes, though the series did last a number of years and even get a movie. Looking back on Little Bear, the show does have a very peaceful soundtrack to it, but you’ll likely be too distracted with questions that sprout up about the show in retrospect. Like, how come Little Bear’s parents wore clothes but he was fine going around in just his fur?
11 LIFE WITH LOUIE
Remember that cartoon about Louie Anderson? Maybe a better question: do you still remember Louie Anderson? Stand-up comedians getting their own shows isn’t unusual at all. The likes of Ray Romano, Drew Carrey, and Tim Allen, just to name a few, all got their own comedy shows in the ‘90s. So if Louie Anderson had gotten the same thing, no one would have batted an eye. Whereas all those other comics got live-action sitcoms, Anderson got his cartoon.
Unlike something like Jackie Chan Adventures, where the animated format was used to dive into a lot of wild, fictional scenarios, Life with Louie was based around the reality of Anderson’s childhood. Episodes usually opened with live-action footage of Anderson setting the scene for what was going to happen in the episode as he reflected on his days as a kid. Animated Louie’s wisecracks about the exaggerated struggles of growing up in his family stuck around for less than forty episodes, but had a concept that set it apart from all the other stand-up comics transitioning into TV work.
10 MIGHTY DUCKS
Probably one of the oddest spin off ideas from a movie you’ll ever find was the Mighty Ducks cartoon, based on the movies of the same name. But whereas the movies focused on a children’s ice hockey team, the cartoon focused on literal ducks who just happened to be superheroes in addition to hockey players. Oh, and they were also aliens. The creators sure went to town with just a movie title to inspire them, didn’t they?
And if you thought duck-ifying everything stopped with the characters, you were mistaken. Duck puns were rampant in the series. The characters had such ridiculous names as Wildwing Flashblade, Mallory McMallard, and Canard Thunderbeak. Oddly enough, their enemies were all reptiles, which doesn’t seem bird-related, unless they were going for a pun on drakes and dragons. The series only lasted one season, but with its zany premise, if you saw the Mighty Ducks cartoon even once as a kid, it probably stuck with you.
9 EARTHWORM JIM
In a time when Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario were at their peak influence on the gaming world and getting crossover cartoons, a few other characters were trying to stake their own claim as a mascot. One such wannabe gaming mascot of the ‘90s was Earthworm Jim, a worm able to control a human-shaped body to combat enemies like a giant insect queen, and an astronaut crow named Psy-Crow. The games Jim got on the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo were actually both quite good, but suffice it to say, he didn’t prove to be an enduring character.
The cartoon gave a fair go of it, even utilizing well-known voice actor Dan Castellaneta who is best recognized as Homer Simpson, and Aladdin's Genie (after Robin Williams left the role). Despite positive reception for the cartoon’s humor and originality, it only wound up lasting two seasons. Maybe there just wasn’t room for another animated hero, with hedgehogs and plumbers drawing everyone’s focus at the time.
8 PEPPER ANN
A counterpart to Nickelodeon’s Doug, Disney’s Pepper Ann is much less remembered today. The show focused on the eponymous preteen, and her best friends: the quiet but overachieving Nicky, and the quirky artist Milo. Also like Doug Funny, Pepper Ann had an overactive imagination and would occasionally imagine her life as a superhero adventure. Though thankfully, she never pictured herself wearing anything as dorky as Doug’s Quailman.
Like most shows focusing on the tribulations of adolescence, Pepper Ann’s life was filled with the stress of school, and such riveting dramatic situations as whether or not the guy she was interested in was attracted to her as well. That’s not to sell Pepper Ann short as a show, since it actually could be pretty clever and humorous at times. It’s just an unfortunate fact that when talking about Disney cartoons, people’s immediate thoughts usually turn to a certain mouse and the dog and duck he was frequently seen with.
Probably the most well-known cartoon on this list, Daria was a girl who basically epitomized kids from the ‘90s. She was apathetic, moody, full of snarky comments, and thought everyone around her was stupid (admittedly, a lot of them really were). Basically, she was a teenager.
The show was a spinoff of Beavis and Butt-Head, which was also a very ‘90s-esque show. But Daria was especially emblematic of the time due to the cynicism she embodied, and the frequent incorporation of music conveying how much life sucks. The mixture of those two was huge in shaping bands like the hugely influential Nirvana, as well as the network that hosted Daria, MTV. Teenage Daria was never as impactful as someone like Kurt Cobain, and today you hardly hear her or her friends mentioned when kids of the ‘90s talk about their favorite cartoons. But for a while, at least, she was a voice for a generation. A voice that looked upon life and said, “meh.”
Animated comedies for adults are a dime a dozen nowadays, so it’s easy to forget how influential The Simpsons was in establishing the genre back in the ‘90s. It saw some well-known imitators emerge onto the scene, like King of the Hill, South Park, and Family Guy. There were also the shows that didn’t have that same amount of staying power. One such show was the short-lived Duckman.
Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander gave his voice to the titular character, who was the patriarch of his dysfunctional duck family, in-between his job as a detective. The cartoon was one of the early practitioners of the raunchy humor and satire that would become the standard for many later animated series. Duckman lasted for four critically well-received seasons, but before lamenting the show’s short lifespan, a look at the enormously dragged-out Simpsons is a good reminder that it can be good to leave your audience wanting more, as opposed to overstaying your welcome.
5 2 STUPID DOGS
After Ren & Stimpy hit the scene, a few copycat shows came along to try and mimic the formula of a buddy pair of animals pushing the boundaries of good taste. Cartoon Network’s answer to the Nickelodeon show was 2 Stupid Dogs, which pretty well encapsulates its premise in its title even if you’ve never seen it. Little Dog was the talkative schemer, while Big Dog was the slower but stronger accomplice in a lot of failed plans.
Something that made the show stand out was that it was also packaged with a side show that had its own characters and storylines. This was Super Secret Secret Squirrel, focusing on a secret agent squirrel and his partner in a James Bond sort of homage. But even with twice the shows packed into one cartoon timeslot, 2 Stupid Dogs was ultimately short-lived and eclipsed by Ren & Stimpy’s legacy of gross-out humor.
4 DARKWING DUCK
That’s right, another show about ducks, and it’s still not about Daffy or Donald. Darkwing Duck was Disney’s attempt at spoofing the superhero genre with a hero who took himself seriously, but was actually quite often inept in his abilities. Darkwing had elements parodying multiple superheroes, but characters like Batman and the Green Hornet are some of the most obvious targets in the series.
And if you remember anything from the Mighty Ducks cartoon, it should be obvious that Disney loves their duck puns. That’s something that absolutely carried over here, as evidenced by things like Darkwing’s secret identity being that of Drake Mallard. Though that’s not too surprising since the show was a spinoff set in the same world as Ducktales, even bringing in Launchpad McQuack as a recurring character. Sadly, characters like Scrooge McDuck weren’t part of that crossover as well.
If Disney ever wants to do a sequel to their live-action Jungle Book movie which proved to be such a success, they have another story featuring a lot of the same characters all lined up for them. In an odd development from his days hanging out in the forest and singing about the “bear necessities,” in TaleSpin, Baloo returns as an airplane pilot. He’s also joined by other members of the Jungle Book cast, like King Louie the orangutan, and even Shere Khan.
In all seriousness, it’s one of the Disney properties that is more unlikely to get a live-action adaption simply because it’s not a show that has anywhere near the popularity of the Jungle Book. TaleSpin was a fun show, and demonstrated a lot of creativity with the characters it reused, but it’s not one that fans are exactly champing at the bit to see a remake of.
2 THE PIRATES OF DARK WATER
Hanna-Barbera Productions is responsible for some of the greatest cartoons put to a screen, and has turned out numerous mascots over the years. They’ve given us The Jetsons, The Flintstones, and Scooby Doo as some of the most notables from their work. So you wouldn’t expect that one of their cartoons that came out later in their career would have received so little attention by comparison. But just try asking how many people know about Fred Flintstone compared to The Pirates of Dark Water.
Hanna-Barbera had dabbled in a few serious shows in the past, like Space Ghost, but they never caught on to the degree their comedic shows did. Nonetheless, Pirates of Dark Water showed a lot of creativity and originality for a younger audience. The space pirate adventure show saw a rag-tag crew embarking on a quest to save the world from the eponymous Dark Water. Kind of like a less dorky version of Captain Planet, and with some swashbuckling thrown in.
1 GOOF TROOP
Of course, everyone knows who Goofy is. He’s Mickey Mouse’s honest, yet bumbling friend. It’s safe to say Goofy is one of the biggest and most recognized icons Disney has. But how many people remember that Goofy also had a son named Max? In yet another example of a character getting their own show and suddenly having a family we never heard about, Goof Troop focused on the life of Goofy as a dad.
Unlike Taz-Mania, which was packed with side characters, Goof Troop stays pretty concise in its focus on Goofy and Max. There isn’t even a mother in this family, since Goofy was a widow in the show. But he did have Pete for a neighbor, along with Pete’s son PJ, who was Max’s best friend. It was a good fit for Goofy, showing off his caring side as a dad and a neighbor, while also giving him plenty of opportunity to screw things up for a few laughs. The show even proved popular enough to get two sequel movies, ending with Goofy dealing with Max’s departure for college in An Extremely Goofy Movie.
Have we jogged your memory about any other cartoons from the ‘90s? If you’ve got one that’s underrated, or that you just never hear about anymore, tell us about it in the comments!
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