I did this list of 10 of the best 90’s cartoons I can remember enjoying as a child (and beyond!), but realized there were many cartoons that didn’t make the list that could really compete for a slot on it. So this is a list of ten more great 90’s cartoons from what I believe might be the best era for witty and creative cartoons (but I guess we all believe that about the decade we grew up in):
‘Captain Planet and the Planeteers’ – How could I have forgotten Captain Planet and his Planeteers?! The show tried to integrate all different races by having characters from all over the world join together with rings that give them superpowers like earth (being able to move the ground), fire, wind, and water (which should all be obvious), and heart (I always felt sorry for the meek little guy who got that superpower). Captain Planet was blue guy with a rockin’ green mullet, and I always thought there was something going on between him and the beautiful goddess Gaia. But what makes ‘Captain Planet’ one of the best 90’s cartoons isn’t his cheesy way of talking, Wheeler constantly hitting on Linka, or the goofy, gross-looking bad guys that really love pollution, it’s the message that it sent to kids: our planet is important, and “the power is yours!”
‘Darkwing Duck’ – It seems like there were a lot of ducky 90’s cartoons featuring billed main characters, but this superhero spoof was my favorite. How can you not love Darkwing’s long, drawn-out introductions (that occasionally get him in trouble) every time he makes an appearance, and the play on his name that usually resulted in him getting whacked in the noggin (“Darkwing, duck!”)? His daughter Gosalyn may be the cause of many of his superhero escapades (he has to save her quite often), and his sidekick Launchpad (formerly from ‘DuckTales’) may be a bit clumsy, but they do manage to help Darkwing defeat the evil powers that be. My favorite of these was Quackerjack, a play on the Joker and the Riddler who was obsessed with toys. But there were plenty of other fun villain and superhero spoofs in this best of the 90’s cartoons, and I really miss this one.
‘Batman: The Animated Series’ – A lot of the characters spoofed in the above cartoon can be found in this one. This is one of the only “serious” 90’s cartoons I enjoyed as a girl, probably in part because of characters like Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Catwoman, and Batgirl. Stuffy Alfred, Two-Face, and the Joker were some of my other favorite characters, and I always looked forward to seeing what villain Batman was going to do battle with next and if any new ones would be introduced. This show isn’t just one of the best 90’s cartoons; in my opinion, it’s one of the best TV series based on a superhero, as well.
‘Pinky and the Brain’ – I loved ‘Animaniacs’, but since Pinky and the Brain were such popular characters from that show, their spinoff turned out just as good. The two laboratory mice whose genes had been spliced were one of the best comedic duos to star in 90’s cartoons, with their very different IQs causing them to clash big time. Brain’s dream of ruling the world may have not ever come to fruition, but it was fun to see him try, with Pinky narfing and causing him plenty of grief along the way.
‘Bobby’s World’ – Before Howie Mandel was fist-bumping contestants on ‘Deal or No Deal’, he was rockin’ a permed mullet and conversing with a cartoon tyke (that he voiced himself) on one of the best (but strangest) 90’s cartoons, ‘Bobby’s World’. I had a hard time liking the cartoon growing up, but that was probably because it came on right before I had to leave for school. However, I look back at it now and realize that Bobby’s imaginary world was pretty amazing; I miss his gross but funny uncle; and I almost find myself quoting his mother with her Fargo-esque accent sometimes, gee golly dontcha know.
‘The Magic School Bus’ – This was one of the best 90’s cartoons for younger children, and even though I was a little too old for it, I would watch it sometimes and wish that cartoons as imaginative as it was existed when I was a kid. It also would have been nice to have a teacher like Ms. Frizzle with a bus that could shrink and go all sorts of cool places. Ms. Frizzle definitely believed in hands-on learning, taking her students on trips in space, underwater, and even inside each other’s bodies. It was definitely a cartoon that taught kids a lot while still keeping them entertained.
‘Ren & Stimpy’ – I left this disgusting duo off of my first list because they were just a little too gross for me, however, these peculiar pups knew what kids like to watch: senseless cartoon violence and gross stuff. Plus all the cartoons I enjoy now on ‘Adult Swim’ might not exist if these two troublemakers hadn’t become badly-drawn 90’s cartoon legends.
‘Hey Arnold!’ – I rather enjoyed this cartoon about a football-headed boy, his classmates, and all of the colorful characters that lived in a boarding house with he and his grandfather. It’s one of the many imaginative 90’s cartoons made by Nickelodeon, and it’s about a level-headed young lad that helps his classmates and the boarding house residents solve their problems. My favorite character, however, was Helga, a girl with a mono-brow and a too-perfect older sister who was one of the few kids at school that acted like a big bully toward Arnold, while having a secret crush on him. She even started making a shrine to him out of his chewed gum in her closet! Sure it’s weird, but the little quirks thrown in are what make Nicktoons great.
‘The Tick’ – Like ‘Darkwing Duck’, this cartoon was another superhero spoof, but while I didn’t always get it as a child, I loved the Tick’s goofball antics and his poor, pot-bellied sidekick that was always having to keep him out of trouble. I have no idea where the Tick’s battle cry of “Spoon!” came from, but there was something that was just absolutely hilarious about it as a kid. I loved the reclusive self-absorbed superhero parody of Batman in Die Fledermaus, Wonder Woman/ Captain America noble superhero spoof American Maid, and a Rain Man-meets-Aquaman character called the Sewer Urchin. I kind of wish this most-smartly-written of the 90’s cartoons on this list still existed now that I’m older and could get more of the jokes, but one of my favorite Adult Swim cartoons, ‘The Venture Bros.’, is very similar to it and is written by one of the writers for ‘The Tick’.
‘Johnny Bravo’ – How can you make a cartoon about an adult man constantly hitting on adult women appeal to children? Well, I don’t know how they did it, but somehow the creators of Johnny Bravo, a perfectly-coifed, big-chested buffoon with an Elvis-like drawl, succeeded in making him a character that appealed to kids. Perhaps what made the show successful is that Johnny never succeeded in getting the girl, being just a little too obsessed with himself and too much of a momma’s boy to get beyond his pickup lines. But his ineptness is what makes his show one of the best 90’s cartoons, and while girls didn’t dig Johnny, viewers definitely did.
So from superhero 90’s cartoons to a wannabe Don Juan, these are some of the best 90’s cartoons I remember growing up with, many of which I would love to see make a comeback. But, then again, I guess reminiscing about them is part of what makes them remain so great in my mind.