The Best 90s Cartoons
With the Netflix ReBoot reboot now available, there’s no shortage of cartoons getting a makeover for new generations. Even though the technology of the time has dated ReBoot, it is still one of the best, most original, and re-watchable action/adventure cartoons ever made. It bears another viewing. Started in 1994, the original ReBoot concerned a group of binomes in the world of Mainframe. Guardian Bob and his allies, Dot Matrix and Enzo, protected Mainframe from the evil viruses Megabyte and Hexadecimal, as well as attacks from the unnamed User in the form of game uploads, which Bob must beat in order to save his online city. Before we journey back to Mainframe this month, let’s take a look at the most re-watchable shows from the decade of “extreme”, “talk to the hand”, and… “weasel?” Guaranteed, if you watch these again, you’ll see something you missed. (Note: While The Simpsons‘ presence was certainly felt in the ’90s, it was technically a creation of the ’80s, and has been intentionally left off this list.)
Proof that this show is re-watchable, is the fact that people right now are re-watching it, and showing it to their own kids, while laughing at things only adults get. Running from ’93 to ’98, this show still holds up. What other kids cartoon parodies Apocalypse Now (complete with an animated Dennis Hopper), Goodfellas, and has two lab rats re-enacting a very specific set of Orson Welles’ commercial outtakes? Speaking of rats, even the spin-off Pinky and the Brain show won two Emmy awards. From an elderly squirrel mentioning Mickey Rooney, to making a joke about “busts,” this show has it all. In fact, Hulu and Steven Spielberg have mentioned they want to bring it back with new episodes in the future.
Batman: The Animated Series
The original run of this show was from ’92-’95 and may still be one of the best adaptations of a comic to date. Fresh after Tim Burton’s films, this show went on to set the groundwork for DC animation. Still eerie, drawn on black paper, and boasting voice talent who have since become legend, this show holds up. The show kept going under different names (The Adventures of Batman and Robin, The New Batman Adventures), and sometimes veered into the cheesy or silly, but the first four seasons are wonderful, dark, and exciting. People will always argue about their favorite live-action Batman and Joker, but nobody can deny the impact of the voices of Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, respectively.
Beavis and Butthead
The Jane Austen-esque majestic adventures of two fanciful youths in the fictional Highland, Texas (probably close to Arlen) set the bar for gross animation to follow. The show involves two teenagers doing stupid and dangerous things essentially because they’re bored. (Later, Jackass would do it for real.) Created by Mike Judge (Office Space, Silicon Valley) in 1993, this show not only was the thing that made your parents shake their heads, but it got away with making fun of its own audience: Snickering punks watching MTV. Going back for a revisit, the show is still a satirical masterpiece of the times, much like Judge’s own film, Idiocracy. One thing that can always be said about the two characters, is they’re at least happy and confident in themselves.
A spin-off of Beavis and Butthead, this show finds the dry and cynical high-schooler and her friend Jane interacting with the silly world around her in the new setting of Lawndale. Started in 1997, this show is still popular now as it ever was. Going back, it’s easy to see why. Daria Morgendorffer is the antithesis of the superficial material girl. She was the monotone voice of a generation which couldn’t care less, and much like B&B, it also poked fun at the trendy MTV crowd watching it. But, the show also has heart in between the subtle jokes, and the payoff for watching the entire series is truly heartfelt and well-written for an animated comedy. This show could apply to any generation of teens.
Sadly, too short lived (’95-’97). Some of the funniest writing in any of the Spielberg/Warner Brothers cartoons. While many other shows of the time were much more popular, this had the quality over quantity. “Moron” the alien, Fanboy, and a cat psychiatrist, just to name a few of the memorable characters. Featuring the voices of Ed Asner (Elf), Ricardo Montalban (Wrath of Khan), Elisabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale), and Kenneth Mars (Young Frankenstein) among many others, this two-season cartoon should still be going to this day, and will make you laugh out loud if you get a chance to re-watch it or visit it for the first time.
The Ren and Stimpy Show
Often terrifying and twisted, this cartoon showed us things we can’t unsee. Part of the original Nicktoons lineup (with Doug and Rugrats), this show was a reminder that the same company owned both Nickelodeon and MTV, as this cartoon found a home on both. It had a solid run from ’91 to ’96. Re-watching it as an adult, you’ll realize how truly brilliant and bizarre this show was, boasting every bodily fluid one could imagine. The ill-received 2003 reboot subtitled Adult Party Cartoon fizzled out with viewers after just a few episodes. The new series brought to light the fact that Ren and Stimpson were lovers, but the subtext from the original show is much more powerful. Especially in the episode, “Ren’s Pecs.”
Started in 1997 by the incomparable Trey Parker and Matt Stone, this show has never pandered, and never will. No celebrity or social movement is safe from this show. It continues to skewer everything and anything for a laugh. Considering they can make an episode in under a week, they can even make fun of things that happened days before an episode airs. The early seasons, while blocky in their animation, have plenty of classic jokes to laugh at. Twenty years strong, this show is still funny, whether you’re just finding out about Cartman’s anal probe, or re-meeting PC Principal. With no plans of stopping anytime soon, this show will continue to do what it wants, and make fun of anything in its way.
Created by Ben Edlund (Supernatural), the show ran from ’94 to ’96 and easily boasts the greatest rogue’s gallery of all time: Chairface Chippendale, Dinosaur Neil, and The Man- Eating Cow (who got her own spin-off comic book) are just the tip of the iceberg. The adventures of The Tick and Arthur in “The City” have been recreated twice now in live action format, most recently on Amazon, starring Peter Serafinowicz as the titular hero. This cartoon has some of the funniest moments and lines ever to grace a Saturday morning superhero show like, “Sanity, you’re a madman!”, “I hate broccoli, and yet, in a certain sense, I am broccoli.” Who can forget the nigh-invulnerable Tick’s battle cry, “SPOON!” Watching it again, you’ll be surprised at how much was missed the first time. The Human Bullet cameos.
Tiny Toon Adventures
This started it all for the Spielberg/Warner Brothers ‘toon trend. This wonderful re-imagining of the classic Looney Toons cartoons created child versions of the classics and set them at the ACME Looniversity, where the original Toons are now professors. Beginning in 1990, it’s hard to believe this show ran only three seasons! They poked fun at MTV (while introducing a whole generation to the band They Might Be Giants), skewered Saturday Night Live with their own version: Weekday Afternoon Live (along with making fun of The Simpsons in the same episode), and even made a feature film: How I Spent My Summer Vacation which is the stuff of VHS legend, and parodies Deliverance of all things. Watch it again, and relive the magic.
Mutants. People. People who hate mutants. A school. Most people are aware of the story at this point, but when this show premiered in 1992, it was something else. X-Men brought the thunder, plasma, and adamantium straight to your couch every Saturday morning. The school water fountain was always abuzz with talk on Monday. Truly faithful to its source material, it was like someone just threw the comics up on the TV. In many ways, this show was more faithful than some of the past live-action movies. Watch it again, and you’ll see. Especially the “Apocalypse” and “Dark Phoenix” story lines.
Do you agree with this list? Which cartoons do you think should be on it? Let us know in the comments section.