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Celebrating Cartoons from the 80's and 90's

I am the author of three middle-grade children's books, and I blog on the side. My favorite topics are movies, writing, and pop culture.

Tiny Toon Adventures

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Nostalgic Cartoons

Don’t you hate when an older generation goes on and about how much greater things were when they were younger? I don’t want to be that person, but I would like to reminisce about the great cartoons that I watched in late 80’s and early 90’s. Call me biased, but this was the golden age of cartoons in my opinion, and they are shows that I still enjoy watching when I can find them. Here are the reasons why 80's and 90's cartoons were so great.

Beetlejuice

Watching the cartoon version of Beetlejuice wasn't nearly as "frightening" as watching the movie.

Watching the cartoon version of Beetlejuice wasn't nearly as "frightening" as watching the movie.

They Were Inspired By Popular Movies, Games, and Characters.

The Disney Channel had access to an arsenal of characters that they used to turn into animated TV shows. Back in the day (if your parents were “rich” enough to subscribe to The Disney Channel or you had a free preview weekend), this station was loaded with TV shows based on its famous films, both animated and live action (remember Adventures in Wonderland and The Super Mario Bros. Show?).

Other stations followed, developing kid-friendly, animated story lines surrounding some famous movies of the day. I already knew these characters, and it was interesting to watch them go on 30 minute, kid-friendly adventures each week.

Talespin

They Had Great Animation

When I see a new cartoon on Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network, I can’t stand the stiff, bland 2D animation or worse, 3D CGI. Though not every older cartoon was a work of art, they didn’t feature a group of simply drawn characters on flat, uninteresting backgrounds. They also didn't rely on CG animation or stills colored by a computer. These were unique, detailed worlds that became iconic and works of art. They had the over-the-top movements of a WB cartoon and were set by colorful, detailed backdrops.

Gummi Bears

They Created New Versions of Beloved Characters

Just as cartoons based on movies were successful, so were cartoons based on the younger versions of classic characters. It was fun to see the tradition of the Muppets and Looney Tunes continue on in pint-sized forms and updated for a new audience.

My parents took me to see The Muppet Babies live when I was about two years old, and one of my earliest memories was of breaking away from my mom after the show was over to try to go meet Baby Piggy. The Muppets were my Beatles, and The Muppet Babies were my way into this lifelong obsession.

Batman The Animated Series

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There Were an Abundance of Superhero Shows

Even before the superhero movie boom that came from the success of the Spider-Man franchise, kids were watching animated versions of their favorite comic book heroes as well as newly created heroes that ruled the 90’s. Animated superhero shows have come before and since, but Batman: The Animated Series in particular is still widely regarded as one of the greatest adaptations of the character of all time. You can see the influence that these shows had in the Batman comics and films that were released after the show. Just because a show is animated and geared towards kids doesn't mean it isn't great art.

Hey Arnold!

feeling-nostalgic-why-the-80s-and-90s-were-the-greatest-years-for-cartoons

They Featured Regular Kids

Kids love shows whose main characters are talking animals and people with super powers, and I don’t blame them, but some of my favorite shows growing up were about real kids. These protagonists were just worried about trying to get through a tough homework assignment or trying to impress their crush.

Animaniacs

The Animaniacs lovingly torturing Dr. Scratchansniff.

The Animaniacs lovingly torturing Dr. Scratchansniff.

They Featured Classic Slapstick Gags and Puns

The eliminating violence in cartoons campaign must have won out because aside from the action shows for boys, there isn’t a lot of that quick-witted, Looney Tunes humor and anvil-on-the-head violence that used to dominate the cartoon world. It was funny to watch Beetlejuice say that he had a splitting headache and then watch his head split in two or see Gogo Dodo hit himself in the face with a mallet to get a rise out of the audience.

The Animaniacs were always torturing Dr. Scratchansniff with pranks and harmless insults. My parents never complained about the violence. In fact, cartoons kept us kids from being violent with each other for at least half an hour.

The Busy World of Richard Scarry

Making Learning Fun

Making Learning Fun

They Were Educational but Fun

There wasn’t always a moral or lesson to be learned. There were educational shows back then, but today’s cartoons seem so much more sophisticated and filled with forced morals and educational value.

That doesn’t seem like something to complain about, but there is plenty to learn from cartoons without having to force it down a kid’s throat. Isn’t that was school is for?

Cartoons expanded my vocabulary, loaded me with historical facts, and though I didn’t realize it at the time, introduced me to classical music that I learned later were masterpieces. Cartoons are supposed to be a fun escape after a full day of school or a morning of Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

Looney Tunes

Is there anything better than an old, scary Looney Tunes episode?

Is there anything better than an old, scary Looney Tunes episode?

Classic Cartoons Were Still Easy to Find

Nickelodeon and The Cartoon Network, were always playing reruns of The Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry, Grimm’s Fairy Tale Classics, Bullwinkle and Gumby, showing how well a good cartoon show can hold up over the years and still be interesting to newer generations. Everyone was wearing Looney Tunes merchandise in the 90’s.

It didn’t matter that the characters were as old as our grandparents. There were bits and catchphrases and tunes that we could discuss with both our parents and grandparents. In this way, it unified the cartoon-watching generations.

Grimms Fairy Tale Classics

feeling-nostalgic-why-the-80s-and-90s-were-the-greatest-years-for-cartoons

Revisiting Old Cartoons

The changes in cartoon programming for children can seem sad to reminiscing adults. However, when it comes down to it, if a kid is enjoying their favorite shows, then what does it matter how they’re drawn and what they’re about?

What is upsetting is the realization that our childhoods are over. While my favorite childhood TV shows are accessible thanks to the Internet and DVD's, re-watching them gives me a great nostalgic feeling, but it will never fully transport me back to the life and worldview that I had when I watched cartoons as a kid.

Reminiscing is the best I can do. Then, I will sit back and laugh as children today grow up and shake their head at future programming, insisting that their era of cartoons was so much better.

What were your favorite cartoons growing up? Leave your answers in the comments below!

A t-shirt to show your love of the 90's.

Comments

Laura Smith (author) from Pittsburgh, PA on September 28, 2016:

Very good choices. Thanks for reading and the nice comment!

Dawalk86 on September 27, 2016:

I came across this site in a web search and decided to check it out. I'm glad I did. I, too, enjoyed reading your essay and I just had to comment. I have several favorites, both those before my time and from my childhood. But among others, they include: CBS Storybreak, Grimmy, Seabert, The Why Why Family, Fox's Peter Pan and the Pirates, Rupert, The Twisted Tales of Felix The Cat, Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies, classic Disney shorts, just to name a few.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on June 08, 2015:

I agree with you about many of these. Hey Arnold was a good one that my kids watched and I found myself watching with them. Spongebob was a great cartoon that is always good for a belly laugh or two. It's not just the cartoons you watched when you were a kid, but also the cartoons you watched with your kids. Great hub.

Lynn Savitzky from New Jersey on March 25, 2015:

I grew up in the late 80s and the 90s, so a lot of these cartoons were staples of my childhood. We've got some good ones today, yeah, but the things you watch as a kid are the ones that really stay with you.

Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on October 18, 2014:

Dear Laura335,

Thank you for the respect, but I use "sir" to talk about my late dad, who was altogether worthy of that monicer. You are a terrific writer and show a lot of talent. I mean it. Keep up the great work.

Laura Smith (author) from Pittsburgh, PA on October 18, 2014:

Thanks a lot, sir. I needed to hear that.

Kenneth Avery from Hamilton, Alabama on October 17, 2014:

Dear Laura,

I will tell you the truth. I really love this hub. And here are the reasons why:

1. This is an excellent piece of writing. Amazing work.

2, I loved the way you worded this hub.

3. Graphics, superb.

4. This hub was helpful, informative and very interesting.

5. Voted Up and all of the choices.

6. I loved your topic.

You are certainly a gifted writer. Please keep up the fine work.

Sincerely,

Kenneth Avery, Hamilton, Alabama

Laura Smith (author) from Pittsburgh, PA on September 26, 2014:

Thanks. Yeah, it will be interesting to see what will influence this generation. I wonder if they even care as much about TV as kids used to. There are a lot of other forms of entertainment that they can turn to today.

rob Jenkins - bristol, uk on September 25, 2014:

Good post and totally agree that the 80s were an awesome time for kids programming. I read Dumas because of the muskahounds, hg wells because of willy fogg and homer because Ulysses 31 also went to the Atacama because of mysterious cities of gold.

I wonder what the current kids shows will inspire this generation to do?

Laura Smith (author) from Pittsburgh, PA on May 16, 2014:

Good luck to you!

Shermia Trueheart from Texas, USA on May 16, 2014:

Agreed, but there are obstacles in my way right now, but I'm going to strive for it definitely!

Laura Smith (author) from Pittsburgh, PA on May 15, 2014:

Go for it. The animation world needs more of that mindset.

Shermia Trueheart from Texas, USA on May 15, 2014:

I agree with you on that one, I can't stand most of the cartoons on television today. Its another reason why I wanted to actually become an animator, to actually change the way cartoons are being portrayed now a days. I wish they'd make more quality cartoons as opposed to the smut they have and have called cartoons.

Laura Smith (author) from Pittsburgh, PA on May 15, 2014:

You're right. I got a little biased in this piece and only mentioned my favorite cartoons from those eras, but The Cartoon Network was the place to go back in the day for old cartoons, and they played all of those that you mentioned. I'm so glad that The Hub Network and Boomerang channels are springing up and exposing older cartoons to this new generation of cartoon watchers. Thanks for the comment!

Shermia Trueheart from Texas, USA on May 15, 2014:

Pretty awesome hub you have here, I do agree...but you should just say pre-2000 because most of the looney tune episodes were from the '30's to 70's...what about the Flintstones? Alvin and the Chipmunks? Josie and the Pussycats? All things Hanna-Barbra?

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