Modern times have changed many of the ways we live, from how we communicate and use the internet to the way we consume media. While some of you may remember the days of "Saturday morning cartoons", the switch from cable and satellite T.V. to streaming services has impacted the shows that kids have access to as well. We're going to examine a list of cartoon series from the 80s, 90s, and 2000s that many of us grew up with, which kids today may not be familiar with. Some popular shows such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, My Little Pony, and Ben 10 still enjoy fresh new series for kids. However, we're sticking to T.V. series that kids won't remember because they haven't had the same treatment. How many of these childhood T.V. shows would you want to share with your kids?
Popular 80s Cartoons
|Rescue Rangers [Source: wdwnt.com]||Jem and the Holograms [Source: jem.fandom.com]|
|The Wuzzles [Source: IMDb.com]||Rainbow Brite [Source: dailydot.com]|
Adventures of the Gummi Bears
Believe it or not, Disney made many cartoon series outside the realm of Disney princesses and their other mainstream movies. One such cartoon was the Adventures of the Gummi Bears. It first aired in 1985 and featured a magical land and walking, talking bears loosely based on gummy bear candies. While the Gummi Bears were once a peaceful race living among the humans, they fled their homeland and hid themselves away, fading into legend. However, the series finds a small group of bears discovered by humans once again. They decide to befriend the humans, who have an ancient Gummi artifact.
The Babar cartoon was based on a series of children's books of the same name. It focused on the life and adventures of Babar the elephant, who fled from hunters as a child. He ran to a city and was adopted by a kind older woman, who taught him about human life in the city. After he grew up with new knowledge and skills, he returned to the wild, where he became king of the elephants. The show chronicled his early life as well as his life after becoming king and starting a family.
Chip 'N' Dale Rescue Rangers
80s cartoons were filled with shows about anthropomorphic animals, and we're not about to stop now! Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers was another original Disney animated T.V. series. (With a great theme song!) While Chip and Dale were chipmunks who showed up in Disney animations with classic characters like Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, they finally got to be the stars of their own show! Chip and Dale ran a detective agency with Monterey Jack, Gadget, and Zipper. They focused on little crimes that police may overlook but were perfect for pint-sized detectives!
It's James Bond, but for kids! Danger Mouse aired in 1981, following the adventures of the world's greatest secret agent, Danger Mouse, along with his hamster sidekick, Penfold. They saved the world with several gadgets while arguing with the show's narrator. While Danger Mouse was a British TV series, it was the first cartoon to air on Nickelodeon!
Dungeons & Dragons
While the Dungeons & Dragons game has been experiencing a resurgence, the animated series from 1983 has not received the same recognition. The show follows a group of 6 friends who end up in a Dungeons & Dragons setting, where they have to navigate a fantasy land with the help of the Dungeon Master to find their way home. And there's an evil wizard they have to fight. However, the kids also assist people on their journey through a series of side quests, much like players experience when they play D&D.
Garfield and Friends
Garfield of comic strip fame enjoyed a 7 season run with the Garfield and Friends T.V. series, spanning 121 episodes. (That's quite ambitious for our favorite lazy cat!) The show was split into several segments, where you'd see the antics of John, Garfield, and Odie, but there would also be a segment at US Acres, with many farm animals and their daily lives.
Jem and the Holograms
When Jerrica Benton inherits her father's music production company and discovers a holographic computer, she uses her resources to make an all-female rock band, the Holograms. While leading the band as her alter-ego, Jem, and owning her father's company, she also runs an orphanage and stays ahead of two rival bands, the Misfits and the Stingers. As if this wasn't enough, Eric Raymond is constantly trying to become the owner of Starlight Music. As much as we wanted to be her as kids, her life sounds exhausting to us now!
If you ever wondered why you could hear little noises around the house, kids in the 80s might attribute that to the Littles living in their walls. It was one of the first television series produced by D.I.C. entertainment for viewing in America. The show follows the lives of the Littles, a family of tiny humanoid creatures who live in the walls of human homes. While they generally do their best to avoid contact with humans, this particular family makes friends with a boy, Henry Bigg, who also tries to keep the Littles a secret.
We're not sure why it was up to a child to brighten up an entire desolate landscape by herself, but Rainbow Brite had our young protagonist rescuing imprisoned Color Kids and essentially creating Rainbow Land. (At least she had some help from the Color Kids after their rescue!) With the land restored, she continues to spread joy across the land, and help out when needed against the forces of gloom and darkness.
Snorks were a race of creatures who lived under the sea and had plenty of underwater adventures. The Snorks lived in Snorkland, where they had to fend off the advances of villainous Dr. Strangesnork and Bigweed, among others. They're generally not allowed to leave Snorkland due to outside dangers, but they find themselves going on adventures in many episodes. You could say they're like the Smurfs in some ways, but underwater.
Yet another series about vaguely animal-like fantasy characters, the Wuzzles are all critters based on a mixture of two animals. Many of the objects on the Isle of Wuz are also combinations of two things, making for a weirdly familiar yet odd fantasy world. The series follows a small friend group of Wuzzles as they live their daily lives. However, there are often troubles from another Wuzzle, Crocosaurus, who would rather take things from the other Wuzzles instead of acquiring them on his own.
Popular 90s Cartoons
|Gargoyles [Source: Disney Television Animation/polygon.com]||Doug [Source: Nickelodeon/refinery29.com]|
|CatDog [Source: Paramount Television/Bustle.com]||The Powerpuff Girls [Source: Cartoon Network/theatlantic.com]|
Several popular 90s cartoons and T.V. series were subtly educational, but they were so much fun that kids (and adults) loved them! The Animaniacs is probably the best example, as it seamlessly blends wacky and comedic characters with colorful cartoons and music. You learned to sing about the U.S. states and capitals to the tune of "Turkey in the Straw", and there was even a song about multiplication. The episodes were a series of skits, so there never was any running plotline, but it made for great Saturday morning viewing in case you missed an episode. While there was a revival series, it felt like it was made for the people who remember the old Animaniacs cartoon rather than a new generation of kids.
Captain Planet and the Planeteers
Few shows brought environmentalism to the forefront in the same way as Captain Planet and the Planeteers. Five kids were chosen from different continents to help protect the planet with their elemental rings (and heart), under the guidance of Gaia and Captain Planet. They tackle environmental and social issues in a fun way, and encourage kids to take part in making the world a better place. Or, as they say, become part of the solution rather than the pollution!
While the 90s had its fair share of shows geared towards teaching kids, it was also the era of gross-out cartoons like The Ren & Stimpy Show, 2 Stupid Dogs, and CatDog. The animation was ugly and often gross, with zoomed-in shots of things you found uncomfortable to look at up close. CatDog centers around a half-cat, half-dog creature hybrid that is two front ends put together, with no back ends. They have opposite and often opposing personalities, and you watch them work through the struggles of their daily life.
Courage the Cowardly Dog
Coming in at the very end of the 90s in 1999, Courage the Cowardly Dog blends comedy and horror like no other. Courage and his owners, Muriel and Eustace, live in an isolated farmhouse, with the closest town being Nowhere. Being the most non-disabled of all of them, it usually falls on Courage to defend the elderly couple against the monster of the week. Muriel and Eustace hardly know the lengths Courage goes to to keep them safe, screaming at the top of his lungs through many of his ordeals. The cherry on top is the fact that Eustace likes to scare Courage with a scary mask, and it still works every time. (You'd think Courage would be a little more jaded after all the monsters and aliens.)
After the success of 1987's DuckTales, Disney added another duck-themed hero to their 90s cartoon lineup. He is the creature who flaps in the night—he is Darkwing Duck! He is a comedically conflicted superhero, whose desire to become a famous hero often clashes with his will to be a good adoptive parent and take care of the city. Ripped right from DuckTales, Darkwing's sidekick and pilot is Launchpad McQuack. The show is an action-comedy series that parodies pulp fiction and superhero shows such as Batman, the Green Hornet, and Zorro.
We're not sure how Dexter's parents never noticed irregular spikes in their electricity bill, but Dexter built a large, fully-functioning secret lab under the family home. In the show, Dexter is constantly at odds with another boy genius at his school, and his sister who always manages to foil his plans. While Dee Dee is depicted as less intelligent than her brother, she somehow manages to sneak into his secret lab and undermine his inventions. Yet, Dee Dee sometimes gives the boy genius some solid advice. As much as Dexter pretends to hate his sister, he does feel the need to come to her aid.
Few cartoons were as good as Doug when showing how people navigate social relationships in a school setting. Doug wanted so much to be just another ordinary kid who fits in well with his peers, but he can't help but stand out due to his vivid imagination and moral compass. Doug often enters daydream sequences where he comes up with some pretty wild solutions to everyday problems, with himself taking on the role of an alter-ego character. (The most famous is probably Doug's pretend alter-ego superhero, Quailman.) It's very much a slice-of-life series, where we follow along with Doug and his friends while they figure out school life with their classmates. No matter the situation, he's always doing his best to do the right thing!
What's not to love about the Gargoyles? The opening theme music was terrific, and so was the show! It found ways to teach kids about darker topics, including mishandling dangerous weapons and xenophobia, and their consequences. For a Disney show, they really took the kid gloves off on this one. (And they even sneaked some Shakespeare in there!) In Gargoyles, you follow a clan of Scottish Gargoyles who find themselves betrayed and used by humans, who end up aided by a tough-as-nails nighttime cop in their relocated home of New York City.
Goof Troop walked so A Goofy Movie could run. Goofy, a single parent, and his son, Max, move back to Goofy's hometown. They become neighbors with Goofy's high school friend, Pete, and his wife and two kids. Max and P.J. become best friends while their dads catch up with each other. Pre-teens and teens really felt a connection with Goof Troop, as much of the humor comes from Goofy's clumsy and often embarrassing antics while Max was trying desperately to fit into a new environment.
Another slice-of-life school show, Hey Arnold! focused more on urban life in an inner-city setting. Arnold lives with his grandparents and attends school with a colorful cast of kids, from the school bully to an awkward girl with a big crush on Arnold. While characters tend towards certain roles, such as the bully or the cool kid, they do get a chance to change and become more three-dimensional. The show tackles some complex issues, such as adoption, poverty, and the importance of mental health.
Pinky and the Brain
You might not have known it, but Pinky and the Brain were originally characters in short skits on Animaniacs. However, due to their popularity, they got their own show! Pinky and Brain are genetically-enhanced lab mice. Brain wants desperately to take over the world, and enlists the help of Pinky, a kind yet less-intelligent lab mouse. (Sadly, Brain doesn't have many options for available sidekicks.) They also face a rival in Snowball, a genetically-enhanced hamster who shares Brain's dreams of world domination, although his plans are far more menacing.
The Powerpuff Girls
What do you get when you mix sugar, spice, and everything nice with Chemical X? The Powerpuff Girls! The lab-grown girls are only kindergarteners, but their superpowers have them repeatedly saving Townsville. We follow along with their daily lives as they attempt to balance superhero life with regular life and all of its complications. It was fresh and filled with pop culture references adults could appreciate, all while bringing a trio of girls to the forefront as superheroes.
Another gem from the latter half of the 90s, Recess follows a group of friends in their daily lives and while they're at school. What sets it apart from other slice-of-life school shows is the fact that the show parodies human society in miniature form. They have a king and a set of unwritten rules that they follow. (And the king even has lackeys who help to enforce the rules.) They look forward to recess, a time of liberty set aside from the structured class day. However, they are also often at odds with Miss Finster, a strict teacher and monitor at recess.
A show about babies had no right to be this good, yet here we are. The show focuses on Tommy and his playmates but doesn't completely cut the adults out of the picture like some kid-focused content. However, they are usually depicted as being distracted so the kids can venture into the world. The babies practically have a secret society, where they communicate without the adults noticing. The show is from the perspective of the younger characters, who see the world and everyday activities as more exciting and adventurous than their older counterparts.
Disney really outdid itself in the 90s, and it all started with TaleSpin in 1990. The series starred Baloo and a handful of other Jungle Book characters from the earlier Disney movie. In the show, Baloo is a bush pilot with poor business sense. His business is bought by Rebecca, who becomes his boss. They are often at odds with a gang of sky pirates, as well as representatives of Thembria. (While it is not overtly mentioned, the show is roughly set in the late 1930s, and the Thembrians are presumed to be based on the Soviets.)
Tiny Toon Adventures
In an effort to bring Looney Tunes-style comedy and characters to a younger, more modern generation, Tiny Toon Adventures was born. The characters were all childlike versions similar to but not exactly like their adult counterparts, and like many other 90s shows, they were also attending school. (Acme Looniversity!) The teachers at the school are the familiar Looney Tunes faces, and they're trying their best to teach other cartoon characters how to be funny.
Popular 2000s Cartoons
|Codename: Kids Next Door [Source: IMDb.com]||Static Shock [Source: dcau.fandom.com]|
|Code Lyoko [Source: codelyoko.fandom.com]||Danny Phantom [Source: Nickelodeon Animation Studio/looper.com]|
The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius
Taking a step away from traditional animation, The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron was animated using CGI. While there were some CGI TV series in the 90s, several were only partially CGI rather than using the technique for the entire cartoon. The 2000s continued with some better-animated CGI shows, including The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron. Jimmy Neutron was a boy genius with two friends of average intelligence, and they get into hijinks with Jimmy's numerous inventions.
American Dragon: Jake Long
An original Disney animated series, American Dragon: Jake Long was about a Chinese-American teenager who could change into a dragon. He had to learn to balance school life with his dragon duties, which included protecting other mythical and fairytale creatures from the Huntsclan, a group of people looking to slay mythical creatures. While this was already stressful enough, Jake discovers that his crush is also a Huntsclan initiate, Huntsgirl.
Code Lyoko was a French animated T.V. series, which also had instances of CGI animation when the characters entered a computer world. Cartoon Network picked up the series, so there are also many American fans of the show! The cartoon revolves around boy genius Jeremy and his group of friends. After discovering a supercomputer in an abandoned building, they stumble upon a virtual world and a villainous program that is working to conquer the real world. Whenever they notice strange glitches in the real world, the students transport themselves into the computer world of Lyoko and disable X.A.N.A. temporarily. They aim to discover a way to shut down X.A.N.A. for good.
Codename: Kids Next Door
The Kids Next Door is a secret organization of pre-teen children who fight against teen and adult tyranny. (If you consider things like flossing and homework to be bad for kids!) Codename: Kids Next Door focuses on Sector V, a group of five children numbered 1-5. As they continue to fight for kids to be kids, they discover that agents get decommissioned when they turn 13, having their memories of all K.N.D. activities purged. (With a few exceptions.) They have an array of over-the-top gadgets, and their operations are equally ridiculous about some of the most mundane activities.
If you're familiar with the show, the opening theme song is probably running through your head already! After an accident with his parents' ghost portal, Danny becomes a half-ghost. He learns to use his ghost powers to protect his town from other malevolent entities. (They usually pass through his parents' ghost portal when it's on the fritz.) Tucker and Sam, Danny's two best friends, help him behind the scenes and go to great lengths to help him keep his alter-ego a secret.
The Fairly OddParents
The show revolves around Timmy Turner, an otherwise unremarkable boy with parents who are practically absent. Instead, he's often accompanied by a cranky and abusive babysitter, Vicky. Due to his circumstances, he's granted a pair of fairy godparents, Cosmo and Wanda. They grant his every wish, which he makes to improve his life, but the wishes often backfire. Timmy, Cosmo, and Wanda spend a lot of time fixing his naive wishes and keeping the fairy godparents' existence a secret from Vicky and Mr. Crocker, Timmy's fairy-obsessed teacher.
What do you get when you take a 70s cop drama and throw it into a modern school setting? Fillmore! The show follows Cornelius Fillmore and Ingrid Third, two safety patrol members at X Middle School. A reformed juvenile delinquent, Fillmore is presented with the chance to improve his life by joining the safety patrol. He does so in earnest, and is soon busting kiddie versions of crime drama cases, such as finding the stolen school mascot and tracking down missing students.
Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends
Did you ever grow up with an imaginary friend? Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends exists in a world where imaginary friends take on a physical form after their inception. However, it would seem they have no place to go after the children outgrow them. Cue Madam Foster and her imaginary friend orphanage, where they can stay until imaginary friends are adopted by other children. A boy named Mac is told by his parents that he's too old to have an imaginary friend, so he makes a deal with Madam Foster to visit his imaginary friend at the orphanage every day in exchange for him being ineligible for adoption while he stays there. Of course, shenanigans ensue while they're surrounded by discarded imaginary friends.
Zim, an alien and outcast citizen of the Irken Empire, wants to be just like the rest of the Irken invaders. However, due to his diminutive size and height-based hierarchy system, he is reluctantly given a "secret mission" to invade a "mystery planet", with the aid of a defective robot made from spare parts fished out of a trash can. (They were otherwise going to exile him, so this seemed to be roughly the same thing.) Zim speeds along on his merry way until he discovers planet Earth and immediately starts making plans for Earth's domination. However, complications arise when Dib, a geeky boy determined to find aliens, sees through his disguise. Dib spends most of the series trying to unmask Zim in front of his clueless peers while simultaneously foiling Zim's hair-brained plots for world domination.
Jackie Chan Adventures
Honestly the best-ever celebrity-based cartoon series, Jackie Chan Adventures brought together Asian mythology and Indiana Jones-style archaeologist action in the perfect union. Jackie works closely with his eccentric uncle and his niece, Jade. While working to collect artifacts, they discover a set of talismans that can grant special powers, which they need to find and keep out of the hands of Shendu, Valmont, and their henchmen. Episodes always ended with a short segment where Jackie Chan would share aspects of Chinese culture, history, and more.
What's the sitch? As soon as you heard the Kim Possible theme song, you knew you were in for a good time! Kim Possible is a highly-successful and skilled crime fighter and agent who is often accompanied by her bumbling best friend, Ron Stoppable. They receive missions from Wade, an originally online-only friend and computer genius who rarely leaves his room. Kim has a colorful cast of villains of the week, and she foils their plants all while balancing high school, cheerleading, and a social life.
The Life and Times of Juniper Lee
In The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, there is a thriving magical community that exists in the same space as the human realm. However, they are generally kept separate by "the Veil", which hides the existence of magical creatures from the humans. A person is appointed as the Te Xuan Ze, who keeps the peace between humans and mythical creatures. The task falls to Juniper Lee, who gains special powers to help her as the new Te Xuan Ze. She does her best to keep both realms in line, but being a pre-teen, she must balance her duties with her social and school life. Upon inheriting the Te Xuan Ze powers, some creatures attempted to drain Juniper's powers. She was aided by her little brother, Ray Ray, who helped and shared a few of her powers. He often tags along and gets into trouble while she's working to protect the balance between humans and creatures.
My Life as a Teenage Robot
An unconventionally unordinary girl, XJ-9 (or Jenny) was a robot girl created by an elderly scientist to help protect the Earth. She wants more than anything to live the life of a typical teenager, but she finds it difficult to do so when she's armed to the teeth and riddled with gadgets. Jenny is also hounded by Vexus, the Queen of the Cluster Empire, who wants her to join them in their all-robot world. Vexus is willing to go to unusual lengths to get Jenny to come to her planet, but Jenny simply wishes to be a regular citizen on Earth.
Prince and samurai, Samurai Jack is betrayed when settling terms to get his kingdom back from the demon Aku. Aku sends him forward in time to a dystopian future where Aku is entirely in charge. In this new setting, the samurai prince takes on the name "Jack", and makes it his mission to return to his own time and take down Aku before he has a chance to take over the world. The show did not initially end with Jack's goal fulfilled, but a final season was added in 2017 that gave Samurai Jack an ending.
Teenager Virgil Hawkins gets caught up in an event called "The Big Bang", which results in many people in the vicinity gaining various superpowers. Known as "Bang Babies", not everyone decides to use their powers for the greater good. Virgil acquires the powers of electricity manipulation and magnetism, and he takes on the alter-ego, Static Shock. He's aided by his nerdy and gadget-making best friend, Richie, who also feels some jealousy toward his crime-fighting cohort. Eventually, Richie uses his gift for gadgetry to create the superhero, Gear, and he fights crime with Virgil as his sidekick.
What if you took a show like Recess, but it ran from Friday to Sunday? That's a basic comparison for The Weekenders. A group of friends gets together every weekend after school ends, and they share plenty of time together. The plot involves a problem occurring early in their weekend together, and they take the rest of the time to find a solution. The best part about the show is the running gag about the exceedingly unusual pizza place they eat at. It seems to change themes every week, and we'd honestly love to eat at Mission Impizzable or Deep Dish 9.
Based on an Italian comic series, the animated show follows a group of five girls who gain elemental powers and use them to protect Meridian. The title of the series is also an acronym of the main characters' names—they are ironically not witches, just magical. The Guardians are at odds with Prince Phobos and Lord Cedric, two villains looking to take over Meridian. They're also searching for the long-lost princess and rightful ruler of Meridian, and have to keep her out of the villains' grasp.
We hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane! If you're a parent, which shows from your childhood do you plan to pass down? Are there any series you'd like to see available on current streaming services? Don't forget to feed your nostalgia with some of our favorite collectibles and apparel!