When you think of animation in the 1990s which shows spring to mind? The Simpsons? Rugrats? Beavis and Butthead? Well for some of you reading this, there was a whole world of awesome animation out there, on the periphery, hidden by the behemoths we’ve just name-dropped.
Here are just a few of our favourite cartoons from the 90s that you totally forgot existed. How many do you remember?
10. THE HEAD
Spawned from the crazed mind of Eric Fogel, The Head was a short-lived MTV animated series about a dude named Jim who wakes up one day to find that his head is now the home from home for a small purple alien called Roy.
For 14 episodes, MTV’s odd couple (and that’s saying something), must work together to prevent a power-hungry cosmic cretin from destroying the Earth’s atmosphere and bringing about the end of mankind.
This was typical MTV madness but unlike Beavis and Butthead, this was the music channels attempts to step out of the adolescent image it had made for itself. Of course, choosing to do this with such asinine humour probably didn’t help their cause but they were really onto something here and it’s a massive shame it ended so soon.
9. FAMILY DOG
Originally appearing as part of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories, Family Dog was the tale of a largely ignored dog who spends his days trying to survive daily life with the Bindfords family. It was adapted into a short-lived animated series in 1993 but after a critical panning was cancelled after a month.
Looking back at Family Dog, it’s amazing to think it never landed huge. After all, it was the brainchild of Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles) and had characters designed by Tim Burton, yet it remains one of TV’s most shamefully forgotten animated shows.
8. MIGHTY MAX
If you were a girl in the early 1990s then chances are you owned at least one Polly Pocket playset. Not to be left out, the boys got their own version of the toy named Mighty Max, which was about a young kid who travelled to other worlds by means of an enchanted baseball cap left to him by his old man. The toys were so popular that they inevitably ended up being brought to the small screen in the highly entertaining Mighty Max animated series.
The show was packed with exciting and intelligent stories involving magic and paradoxes which Max, his bodyguard Norman, and a giant chicken named Virgil battled a number of otherworldly monsters all controlled by the show’s antagonist Skullmaster.
Tim Curry, Frank Welker, and Rob Paulsen were among the stellar voice cast, and the show ran for 40 episodes, albeit to see it get the chop after only 15 months. Considering it was as popular as similar toy lines for boys of the era including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers it was a bit of a shock to see it disappear from the schedules for good at the turn of 1995, never to see the light of day again – not even on DVD.
Based on the hugely successful and popular Image comic of the same name, Spawn was a dark and brooding series that brought the ultraviolent pages of Todd McFarlane’s opus to life – warts and all.
There’s nothing like Spawn on TV in 2019, which shows just how groundbreaking HBO was even back in 1997.
6. SAMURAI PIZZA CATS
In 1990, Tatsunoko teamed up with Sotsu Agency to create a dazzling anime series called Kyatto Ninden Teyandee. Three years later Saban picked up the rights to produce an English dub of the show, threw out what little scripts existed, and re-wrote the whole thing to create the legendary Samurai Pizza Cats.
Unlike the anime original, Samurai Pizza Cats was a farcical spin on the story, which saw 3 robotic samurai cats and their operator who split their time between working in the local pizzeria and saving Little Tokyo from the diabolical Big Cheese.
5. THE MAXX
MTV was the home of alternative animation back in the 1990s, with a number of shows on there ever-expanding books including this short-lived adaptation of Sam Kieth’s cult comic The Maxx.
Explaining the plot of The Maxx is no easy task. The titular hero is a homeless bum in our reality but a purple-suited hero in an alternate one known as The Outback. There Maxx must protect his beloved Julie (his caseworker in our world) from a sadistic villain named Mr. Gone and his impish army of cretins known simply as the Isz.
Although it was dropped after only 13 short episodes, it was a delight to behold with a mixture of insane art styles and gritty noir storytelling. Like most of the shows on our list, The Maxx has largely been forgotten since 1995, with only a limited VHS release and a few on-line streams to remind anyone that it was ever there to begin with.
What do Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, and Wayne Gretzky have in common? Well, other than being successful sportsmen in their fields, they were also stars of their very own action animation series, from those wonderful people over at Dic Animation.
Hu hu hu. Dic.
3. BUCKY O’HARE & THE TOAD WARS
One of the cool things about TV shows in the 90s was how they managed to transport your average, everyday nerd into unimaginably cool situations. One such kid was Willy DuWitt who found himself as a crew member onboard The Righteous Indignation, a frigate captained by a giant Green Rabbit named Bucky O’Hare.
As part of O’Hares S.P.A.C.E. Organisation, Willy teams up with Deadeye Duck, a psionic cat named Jenny, an android named Blinky, and a Berserker Baboon named Bruce, as they battle the evil Toad Empire across all of space and time.
Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars had already been a popular comic book series before Sunbow Productions brought it to life, but despite having a serious following for a time, it suffered from the ‘see if it sticks’ mentality of TV networks intent on recreating the anthropomorphic buzz of the walking cash machine about 4 young turtles with some pretty cool fighting skills.
Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na DUCKMAN!
OK, so Duckman was nothing like Batman, it was actually an adult animated sitcom about a widowed, egocentric private detective drowning in his own self-loathing. It was more successful than most of the shows on this list, running for over 3 years, and amassed a serious cult following that still petitions to see it revived all these years later.
Duckman was critically acclaimed for its entire run, and although it may be considered a precursor to shows like Family Guy, it is a much better developed, well-told story than the shows of its ilk still doing the rounds today.
There was nothing kid-friendly about Troma’s output as a film studio, so when it was announced they were releasing their very own animated TV show aimed at the same children who were still playing with their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures it’s safe to say there were a few eyebrows raised over at the networks.
Despite this, the show premiered on The Children’s Channel with TMNT‘s Fred Wolf at the helm and was an instant hit. To their credit, Troma toned down their previously adult-orientated cash cow Toxie and aligned him with a merry band of mutated misfits intent on ridding the world of evil and pollution.
Toxic Crusaders even got its very own toy line and a comic book series, holding nothing back with the hideously deformed heroes sitting proudly on toy shelves alongside Barney the Dinosaur and Barbie’s Dream House. Unsurprisingly the networks refused to renew the show after its initial run, to the surprise of no one, but only added to its mythos as another successful chip in the armour of the mainstream by Lloyd Kaufman’s B-Movie empire.
Our list is complete but are there any more forgotten gems out there? We’re pretty sure there are, after all they’re forgotten, right? Let us know in the comments section below, on Twitter and our Facebook page!