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Why 80's and 90's Cartoons Are So Great

Updated on July 5, 2016
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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. | Source
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Fox Kids was the place to go for superhero shows.
Fox Kids was the place to go for superhero shows. | Source
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Doug and Skeeter, just regular kids.
Doug and Skeeter, just regular kids. | Source
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The Animaniacs lovingly torturing Dr. Scratchansniff.
The Animaniacs lovingly torturing Dr. Scratchansniff. | Source
Making Learning Fun
Making Learning Fun | Source
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Is there anything better than an old, scary Looney Tunes episode?
Is there anything better than an old, scary Looney Tunes episode? | Source
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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 greatness of the 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 catch reruns playing on The Hub Network or posted on YouTube.

Sadly, the cartoons that air on TV these days cannot compare in my eyes. I can’t help but think that if kids were exposed to older cartoons, they’d get a lot more out of their TV time. Here are some of the reasons why I believe this (Note: I’ve chosen to list only cartoons and not live action shows, or this article would be about 10,000 words long):

  • They were based off of movies from that time: 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 storylines 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. Examples: Beetlejuice, The Real Ghostbusters, TalesSpin, The Little Mermaid


  • They had great animation: When I see an episode of Pound Puppies or My Little Pony I can’t stand the stiff, bland animation. 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. Examples: Batman: The Animated Series, Hey Arnold!, The Busy World of Richard Scary, Inspector Gadget


  • They created smaller 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. I was hooked. Examples: The Muppet Babies, Tiny Toon Adventures, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo


  • There were more superhero shows than you could count: Even before the superhero boom that came from the success of the Spider-Man movies, 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. Examples: Batman: The Animated Series, Superman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Darkwing Duck, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.


  • They had fun plotlines involving 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 keep themselves from getting sucked down the drain in the bathtub. Examples: Doug, The Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, Bobby's World


  • There was still that old-school slapstick and pun-filled humor: 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 on the head 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, it kept us kids from being violent with each other for a half an hour. Examples: Animaniacs, Aaahh! Real Monsters, Beetlejuice, Tiny Toon Adventures, Pinky and the Brain, Heathcliff


  • They let kids be kids: 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 an escape after a full day of school or a morning of Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. Examples: Captain Planet and the Planeteers, The Animaniacs, Maya the Bee, The Busy World of Richard Scarry


  • Old school cartoons were still part of the daily lineup: 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 generations.



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 home video releases, re-watching them gives me a great nostalgic feeling, but it will never fully transport me back to the life and view of the world 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!

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    • Laura335 profile image
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      Laura Smith 11 months ago from Pittsburgh, PA

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

    • profile image

      Dawalk86 11 months ago

      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 profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      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 Savitsky profile image

      Lynn Savitzky 2 years ago from New Jersey

      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 profile image

      Kenneth Avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      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.

    • Laura335 profile image
      Author

      Laura Smith 2 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

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

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 2 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      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

    • Laura335 profile image
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      Laura Smith 2 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

      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.

    • profile image

      rob Jenkins - bristol, uk 2 years ago

      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?

    • Anaydena profile image

      Mia Trueheart 3 years ago from Arlington, TX, USA

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

    • Laura335 profile image
      Author

      Laura Smith 3 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

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

    • Anaydena profile image

      Mia Trueheart 3 years ago from Arlington, TX, USA

      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.

    • Laura335 profile image
      Author

      Laura Smith 3 years ago from Pittsburgh, PA

      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!

    • Anaydena profile image

      Mia Trueheart 3 years ago from Arlington, TX, USA

      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?