As children, we were lively, resilient little humans who enjoyed getting up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday in order to get our cartoon fix, showing true dedication and potential for strong adulthood commitments. Those days are long gone, but we can still look back to the good old days of pure enjoyment from the animated world. Here are the greatest cartoons from our childhood days.
The Bugs Bunny/Looney Tunes Comedy Hour
Dating back as early as the 1930s, every guy can get behind some classic Porky Pig, Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny. The Warner Bros. classic has been done and redone from black and white to color, from the living room to the movie cinema. The characters were moved around from CBS to ABC between the 1960s and 1980s, finally combining as one strong Bugs Bunny/Looney Tunes segment with episodes of Sylvester, Tweety and the gang appearing on air until 2000.
Although movie crowds rely heavily on high quality Pixar films for animated entertainment, these characters are not easily outdone, as anyone can see after watching “Space Jam.” Michael Jordan doesn’t just do movies with any old cartoon characters. It’s only a matter of time before they come back strong.
Tiny Toon Adventures
The 1990s “Looney Tunes” spin-off featuring Buster and Babs Bunny, along with a little extra flare was “Tiny Toon Adventures,” produced by Steven Spielberg as a type of reboot series. All of the characters (Plucky Duck, Hamton J. Pig and Dizzy Devil) were all based off original “Looney Tunes” icons (Daffy Duck, Pork the Pig and Tazmanian Devil respectively). The series ran through 1995 until more spin-offs were created based off the best received characters, as it became very clear that kids wanted more color, more action and more, more, more!
Jumping into a pit of gold coins will break your back and likely leave you paralyzed, which was a perfectly ironic reason for lounging on the couch back in your old after-school days to be comforted by the sounds of Uncle Scrooge and the boys. Maybe it was the theme song that hooked us, but Huey, Dewey and Louie always made not wearing pants and getting into trouble seem like acceptable things. Easily one of the most iconic series of its time, “DuckTales” surprisingly only lasted from 1987-1990, but it’s well-received style set the path for many more Disney characters to follow, as you will see.
Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers
For only having a year and a half run for Walt Disney (March 1989 - Nov. 1990), Chip and Dale sure did grab a bit of notoriety for themselves. Of course, who wouldn’t think two chipmunks with an adventurer friend named Monterey Jack and a sexy female mouse pilot friend named Gadget were cool?
The show kicked off with a movie special called “Rescue Rangers: To The Rescue.” Pretty catchy title, which leaves us wondering if the writing wasn’t keeping Disney entertained. Regardless, the ‘90s started off with a bang, most likely due to Chip, Dale and their cheese-loving buddy Monterey up against the most clever antagonist ever, Fat Cat, who of course was none other than a fat cat.
“TaleSpin” ran back-to-back with “Rescue Rangers” as another segment of Disney's afternoon block of shows that eventually included “Goof Troop” and “Bonkers.” The show’s title was an aviator’s play on words for the show’s lead character, Baloo, a friendly bear pilot based off the 1960’s “Jungle Book” film. His little navigator friend was named Kit Cloudkicker, and all fans of the show can agree they wanted to be a cool kid like Kit.
Riding the coattails of “Rescue Rangers” and spinning off of “DuckTales” in 1991 was the caped mallard Darkwing Duck, a masked crime fighter whose alter ego was Drake Mallard, and his trusty sidekick, Launchpad McQuack (God, I love these character names). It’s clear from its conception that the show was a combination of Disney’s favorable duck characters mixed with a little superhero action. Apparently ducks are very soothing characters to have in children’s lives, and “Darkwing Duck” held its own for four years before stopping in 1995.
The World of David the Gnome
Here’s a curveball. If you know this, you were definitely one of the cool kids growing up. Elves living in trees, riding around on rabbits and foxes with different colored hats and big, rosy cheeks; how could you miss that one?
There isn’t much to say about the gnomes, except they were wondering little people who also had the power of telepathy, which is impressive for six-inch tall vegetarians. The show started airing in the U.S. in 1987 on Nickelodeon and lasted there until 1995.
They truly were zany to the max. Steven Spielberg's mid-‘90s follow-up to “Tiny Toon Adventures” had all the kids glued to the TV; some adults, too. Hosted by Yakko, Wakko and Dot, the show featured them in songs and sketches along with clutch side characters like Pinky and the Brain and Godpigeon. There was also Ralph, the dim-witted security guard who may have been the inspiration for "Paul Blart: Mall Cop," and many more.
“Animaniacs” started up in 1993 on Fox Kids before switching to Warner Bros. in 1995 for its final three years. The show ended with a full-length movie, but was best recalled for its clever slapstick recurring segments, like “Dot’s Poetry Corner,” and fun educational tunes like this:
The Real Ghostbusters
It’s the closest thing to the best thing there ever was. After a successful run at the live action box office in 1984, the cartoon spin-off quickly took over for Ghostbusters in 1986 for a five-year run with Pete Venkman, Egon, Ray and Winston, along with Slimer, of course.
The core busters held their usual quirks and traits from the original film with a few adjustments along the way, like making them look fit, probably to teach children the health benefits of catching ghosts for a living. “Full House” star Dave Coulier played the voice of Peter Venkman for a short bit, and Arsenio Hall played Winston, the black guy.
In 1988, the show was renamed “Slimer and the Real Ghostbusters” as the evil green ghost from the movies quickly became a household name. After stealing the spotlight from the guys, Slimer would later go on to star in such films as “Pretty in Green” and “You’ve Lost That Slimey Feeling.”
The show “Extreme Ghostbusters” would follow the series, but apparently it was too “extreme” for audiences when they started busting more than just ghosts, like the time they busted the lady gym teacher for getting too frisky with the kids at the local high school.
Alvin and the Chipmunks
Most Saturday mornings made you want to scream “AL-VIN!” No? Just us? Okay. Well, before getting made into a number of box office CGI catastrophes, Alvin, Simon and Theodore were making their adoptive pop’s life a living hell on a weekly TV basis.
The chipmunks date back as far as 1958 as an animated music group created for a novelty record. The hit cartoon we're talking about, though, began in 1983 and featured the three furry pests picking on their owner, Dave. The show ended in 1990 after seven strong years and several show title variations, and The Chipmunks have continued to be a popular group since.
3-for-1: Doug, Rugrats and The Ren & Stimpy Show
Everybody’s favorite funny guy, Doug Funnie, who actually wasn’t funny at all, was more timid like a moving target back when bullies were in. Doug was the perfect portrayal of a shy, inexperienced adolescent getting picked on by token tough guys like Roger M. Klotz. But like most boys, he had his dog Porkchop and his pal Skeeter to help him out.
Along with “The Ren & Stimpy Show” and “Rugrats,” these three made Nickelodeon into a bit of a cartoon powerhouse. “Doug” ran for three years beginning in 1991, returning again for another three-year stint in 1996. "Rugrats" was on forever (1991-2004) and "The Ren & Stimpy Show" brought happy happy, joy joy from 1991-1996.
Scooby Doo, Where Are You!
Everybody loves a good mystery, and “Scooby Doo” was the base of a big mystery mountain for kids to play on every Saturday. The truth is, really, that guys who were just learning about girls for the first time couldn’t keep their eyes off Velma. Seriously, though Daphne was and is still pretty smokin’ for a redhead.
The show was first produced in the late ‘60s but really came into its own in the '80s under a variety of "Scooby Doo" titles, when the main characters were made more childlike for the series. The Scooby character has seen a number of rewrites and film scripts, including four full-length features in the past decade. The best adjustment made to the show was clearly the introduction of Scrappy Doo, a somehow cuter, smaller version of Scooby, adding more puppy love to the screen and less of Fred. So what’s next for Scooby Doo? Well, that’s a mystery, duh.
Another show from the Stone Age (literally) that we all grew up with was “The Flintstones,” a ‘60s comedic play on the idea of life before Internet cafes, sext messages and nuclear war. Fred Flintstone, his buddy Barney and their wives were just a yabba-dabba-dooing life the easy way in Bedrock with their pet pal, Dino. It wasn’t until Fred knocked up his wife Wilma and had Pebbles, and Barney and Betty adopted an abnormally strong boy named Bamm-Bamm, that things got really fun.
There have been rumors in the mill that Seth MacFarlane was going to reboot the franchise, but that’ll be a story for another yabba-dabba-day. A guy can really get used to saying that.
Meet the Jetsons, the lovable family of four with their dog, Astro, and Rosie the robot maid. If you look closely, the show isn’t too dissimilar from “Family Guy,” and we say that simply because the robot maid Rosie looks identical to the Hispanic cleaning lady from “Family Guy.” It was just your typical family residing in space dealing with normal space family issues.
The show was started up in the 1960s but returned for a second run in the late ‘80s, which gave it a lot of its syndication. All we know about both series is that George Jetson really had to put up with his wife, Jane.
Usually seeing a grown man in a trench coat yelling “go, go, magic…” is a sign that it’s a good time to grab your kids and run away, but in this case, Inspector Gadget is an exception. Funny enough, he doesn’t seem to have a first name for having been on the air for three years in the mid-1980s.
The cyborg detective with his mechanical everything was more of a comparison to modern day “Get Smart” funny man character, most recently played by Steve Carell. Without the help of his lovely niece, Penny, and dog pal, Brain, he wouldn’t have gotten much done on the job.
And any fan of the show who currently hates cats might blame that on Inspector Gadget’s nemesis, Doctor Claw, whose troublesome pet usually was in the way. It’s amazing that cat didn’t just run away when he left the door open after all the time he slammed his fists down. What a poor environment for a cat.
Next: The Confounding Nature of Cartoon Logic
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Who could forget the best part of everybody’s childhood? The lean, mean, green team is what taught every kid about pizza, hot news anchors and the dangers of men who wear sharp hats.
The turtles have been through a lot of changes over the years, beginning with a dark, gritty comic sketching in 1984 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird. By 1987, the comics grew into one of the biggest cartoons to hit TV, which lasted through 1996. In 1990, the green ninjas hit the silver screen for their first of three feature films (which was awesome), but arguably got worse with each sequel. The show was revamped in 2003 and again in 2009 for Nickelodeon, which released its first season in late 2012, taking a lighter, kid-like version to the TV set.
Currently in 2013, Michael Bay has lips wrapped around the dark reboot set for a CG/live action combo film release in summer of 2014. He’s working with the original comic creators Eastman and Laird, though, along with a heavy-duty visual effects team. Here’s hoping he doesn’t ruin our childhoods with one quick blow.