The ‘90s were a great time to be a kid, especially if you were the type of kid that stayed inside and did nothing but watch cartoons. Shows like “Animaniacs,” “DuckTales,” “Doug” and “X-Men” were appointment television for many ‘90s kids. Many of these cartoons have stood the test of time, and have been rebooted or just survived throughout the years. However, some have been forgotten. They’re little blips in the history books.
For every “X-Men” or “Spider-Man” cartoon, there were many lesser-known superhero cartoons that folks have plumb forgotten. There were cartoons based on video games that failed to catch on. There were countless cartoons about mutated animals that turned into superheroes. There were even cartoons that turned professional athletes into crime fighters. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and look at 15 cartoons from the ‘90s that most people have forgotten!
15. EARTHWORM JIM
“Earthworm Jim” was based on the successful video game series, and like you would imagine, followed the adventures of none other than Earthworm Jim. For those who didn’t play the video game, Earthworm Jim is an earthworm that came across a powerful suit and became a hero who saved the universe from evil. Also, his name was Jim. In the show, the odd hero is accompanied by Peter Puppy, an anthropomorphic dog that turned into a monster when scared.
The series aired on Kids WB, and lasted a total of two seasons. The series was known for its incredibly wacky stories that normally included Jim saving the day, while also going after his love-interest, Princess Whats-Her-Name. The popularity of the TV show actually went on to influence the game, with aspects and characters finding their way into subsequent adventures. Also, the animated series spawned a comic book and line of toys. “Earthworm Jim” has stood the test of time, with a reboot being hinted as late as 2008.
14. MIGHTY DUCKS
If you weren’t a “child of the ‘90s,” it’s hard to fully grasp how big “The Mighty Ducks” film series was. Not only did it inspire millions of kids to start playing hockey, it also inspired pop and sporting culture, including naming an NHL franchise. Even the biggest fans of “The Mighty Ducks” might not have heard of the cartoon series that was inspired by the film. You can’t blame them for not knowing about it, considering the cartoon shares nothing with the actual film it’s inspired by.
Instead of focusing on a team of misfit hockey playing kids, “Mighty Ducks” tells the story of humanoid ducks from the icy planet of Puckworld that absolutely love the sport of hockey. A small group of ducks save their planet from the evil race of aliens known as the Saurians. This show was a clear cash grab by Disney to make money of the red-hot kids franchise and new NHL hockey team. Surprisingly to some, the show only lasted one season.
Do you remember “Ultraforce” published by Malibu Comics from the ‘90s? Featuring the heroes Prime, Hardcase, Topaz and Prototype, the Ultraforce team was the Avengers of their universe. Hot off the huge success of Marvel animated series like “X-Men” and “Spider-Man,” production company DIC tried its hand at superheroes with an animated show based on “Ultraforce.”
The series only lasted one season after poor ratings, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as you might think, or remember. In a world where superpowered people were called ultras, “Ultraforce” followed a group of good ultras that protected the world from the bad ultras, which included Lord Pumpkin and Rune. At the time of airing, Malibu Comics just didn’t have the name recognition of the heroes from Marvel Comics, so the series just wasn’t able to break through with the mainstream. However, like most cartoons from that era, a series of toys was commissioned and released.
“ProStars” is a cartoon that most people have forgotten about, for good reason. The series followed the three biggest athletes of the time, Bo Jackson, Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky, as they were given modified sporting equipment and helped children. Unfortunately, “ProStars” was very sloppy and lazy, with almost half the run time devoted to live action segments featuring the athletes answering really dull questions from children and making horrible cringe-worthy jokes.
When the cartoon episodes actually aired, viewers were given poor animation and horrible stereotypes. The guys had a base at “Mom’s Gym” where Mom was an incredibly offensive Jewish stereotype that bumbled her way around the facility. The athletes didn’t even voice their own characters. Instead, three voice actors did their best Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky and Bo Jackson impressions as they used gimmicks like boomerang hockey pucks to save kids. The most cringe-worthy part of the show was the opening song that shoehorned the athlete’s catchphrases and ended with the lyric, “ProStars, it’s all about helping kids.” Ugh.
Similar to the “Ultraforce” TV show, “WildC.A.T.S.” was the result of the massive success of “X-Men.” At the time, Image Comics had become a huge comics publisher, and CBS came knocking, wanting a cartoon to compete with Fox’s cartoon lineup. “WildC.A.T.S.” was created to air alongside “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Skeleton Warriors” to round out its Action Zone block of programming.
The series stayed fairly close to the “WildC.A.T.S.” comic series. Jacob Marlowe found the living computer Void and used her powers to locate the descendants of a race of good aliens called the Kherubim to fight the evil race of Daemonites. Calling his “covert action team” the WildC.A.T.S., the team fought the Daeomonites that were led by Helspont. Obviously, some of the comic’s more racy stories were changed around to be more kid-friendly, such as eliminating all talk of Voodoo’s exotic dancer background, but for the most part the comic characters were faithfully translated to the small screen. The series only lasted 13 episodes, but those interested in revisiting the series can find it on iTunes and Amazon.
10. TOXIC CRUSADERS
Imagine TV producers watching “The Toxic Avenger” and thinking it would make an amazing cartoon aimed at kids. The movie featured a geeky kid, desperate to have sex, who was mutated into a deformed superhero who viciously murdered his enemies. Somehow, this R-rated movie spawned a short-lived kids cartoon called “Toxic Crusaders.”
“Toxic Crusaders” featured the lovable Toxie, a hero that was mutated by toxic waste, accompanied by his sentient mop that fought evil polluters from the planet Smogula. Toxie was joined by a variety of other heroes with similar toxic backgrounds, such as No-Zone, Major Disaster and Headbanger. The show was every bit as crazy as the premise sounds. Featuring villains such as Czar Zosta, Dr. Killemoff and Psycho, the show was incredibly silly and embraced the campiness of the premise. Unfortunately, though, it failed to catch on and was sadly canceled after only one season. However, even though the show was short-lived, “Toxic Crusaders” action figures were released and are as epic as you would imagine.
9. SWAMP THING
“Swamp Thing” holds the dubious record of having the least number of episodes on this list, with only five. However, even with such a small number of episodes, the series wasn’t a complete failure, as the show was syndicated for years after its initial run, spawning a moderately successful line of toys. “Swamp Thing” is actually closely related to “Toxic Crusaders” in the way it portrayed a horror premise in an over-the-top, campy way.
The first thing that stands out when people watch “Swamp Thing” is the opening theme song. A blatant rip-off of the classic “Wild Thing” by Chip Taylor, the theme song just feels odd in the context of the rest of the show. The series was loosely based on the comic, following Dr. Alec Holland who is transformed into Swamp Thing after an altercation with Anton Arcane. Now, as Swamp Thing, he uses his powers to help protect the swamp from pollution-based monster villains.
8. JAMES BOND JR.
With a bit of a confusing family tree, “James Bond Jr.” tells the story of the famous spy’s nephew as he uses gadgets and saves the world from the villainous organization, S.C.U.M. While there’s no actual nephew in the regular James Bond canon, the animated show was fully endorsed by the rights-holders of the Ian Flemming character, and the show went on to last 65 episodes.
James Bond Jr. was regularly teamed up with descendants from other famous Bond characters. IQ, grandson of Q, and Gordo Leiter, the son of Felix Leiter, were schoolmates of Bond Jr. at the Warfield Academy. “James Bond Jr.” was decidedly more kid-friendly than the films and novels, with Bond Jr. never really killing anyone or having copious amounts of sex, even though he did always rescue the ladies. The villains of the show were largely based on classic Bond villains, but with a cartoon twist. The main villain, Scumlord, was a creation for the series, but fans of the show contend that it was none other than Blofeld.
7. SAVAGE DRAGON
Not many comic book fans realize that not only did “Savage Dragon” have an animated series in the mid-‘90s, but it was actually pretty good and lasted two seasons. Not only was the series actually good, it also featured the vocal talents of none other than Mark Hamill!
The “Savage Dragon” cartoon was surprisingly faithful to the comic series, telling the story of the Dragon, who is found mysteriously in Chicago, without any memory of who or what he is. He then joins the police force where he uses his super strength and general badassery to fight crime and save the city from Overlord. The series doesn’t have a lot of the campy aspects that plagued comic book adaptations during the ‘90s; i.e., wasn’t a cheesy theme song or poor animation. The show was actually just done really well. Sadly, it only lasted two seasons, but for those who got a chance to see the show, it’ll always be remembered fondly.
6. MORTAL KOMBAT: DEFENDERS OF THE REALM
“Mortal Kombat” was huge in the ‘90s. From the groundbreaking video games to the hit movie, the franchise was downright unstoppable. What people probably forget most about the series was that it spawned a short-lived cartoon series called “Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm.” The show only lasted one season, but if you watched USA Network cartoons from the ‘90s, you probably remember it fondly.
The series tells the story of the Defenders of the Realm, which consisted of Liu Kang, Sonya Blade, Jax, Sub-Zero, Stryker, Nightwolf, Kitana and Raiden as they, you guessed it, defended the realm from the forces of evil. The series didn’t borrow the typical tournament story from the games, instead going with a more superhero take on the franchise. Obviously, portions of the game were toned down for kids TV, such as the lack of blood and fatalities, but the look and powers of the individual characters were on display. The lasting legacy of the show is with the character of Quan Chi. The antagonist actually made his debut during the cartoon series before moving on to the actual game series.
5. ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES
“Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” has an interesting origin story. The film was released in the late ‘70s and was pretty unsuccessful. However, after a parody of the film was featured in an episode of “Muppet Babies,” the popularity of the franchise rose again and a sequel was made. After the success of the sequel film, the production company decided the concept would make for a great children’s cartoon and the rest is history.
Featuring one of the more memorable theme songs from ‘90s cartoons, “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” tells the story of what happens after The Great Tomato War, and the subsequent tomato ban. Yeah, this was a silly show. After Dr. Gangreen experiments on tomatoes in an effort to rule the world, a tomato turns into a human girl named Tara and she escapes. She teams up with humans who attempt to stop the evil Gangreen. The show aired for two seasons on Fox, and was actually a co-production with Marvel.
4. MIGHTY MAX
“Mighty Max” comes from the mold of the old ‘80s cartoons. Created to help sell toys, the animated series became an afterthought, as most people remember the character solely from the playsets. “Mighty Max” is an odd series in general. The premise was downright silly, but the cartoon tried to be educational, often including random historical facts and an educational epilogue where Max would explain the historical or scientific significance of the events of the episode.
“Mighty Max” tells the story of Max, a preteen boy, who is given a magical baseball cap and joins forces with a humanoid owl and a Viking as they save earth from the evil Skullmaster. Even with the ridiculous premise, the show received criticisms from viewers who thought the events of the episodes were excessively violent. In the series finale, both companions of Max are killed as he goes against Skullmaster. Whereas most children’s cartoons either skimmed over death or completely ignored it, “Mighty Max” had death as a central plot point in each episode.
3. SILVER SURFER
It’s a shame that the “Silver Surfer” cartoon is largely forgotten by fans. Blending cel animation with CGI, the series was groundbreaking when it premiered in 1998. Lasting only one season, the series never really had its chance to fully explore the cosmic side of the Marvel Universe, but it’s a quality series that fans should seek out. The series was eventually canceled when Marvel and Saban had a dispute over its direction.
The animation style is perhaps the best part of the series. Influenced by the classic Jack Kirby style, “Silver Surfer” looks great. Even when they use the CGI aspects for characters like Galactus, the animation is still good enough that it holds up today. Unfortunately, the series isn’t the most faithful adaptation of the comic book character. This is especially evident when you notice that most of the earthbound heroes are absent from the series. When Silver Surfer saves Earth from Galactus, he does so without the help of the Fantastic Four. However, many cosmic heroes and villains make appearances, including Thanos.
2. SWAT KATS: THE RADICAL SQUADRON
“SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron” could have been a huge success in the mid-‘90s. After the second season finished airing in 1994, the show became the top rated syndicated animated icon. The series featured two anthropomorphic feline “kat” fighter pilots, who used their advanced jet to defend MegaKat City from the various villains, while also butting heads with MegaKat City’s own law enforcement. The show’s early success spawned a toy line and a video game.
However, it was canceled for no other reason than because it was deemed too violent. Unfortunately for “SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron,” TBS owner Ted Turner had become aware of the show and decided he didn’t like the violence, so he ordered it to be axed, along with all merchandise, immediately. This left the production company with a handful of unfinished episodes. Not all was lost, however, because in 2015, the series creators launched a successful Kickstarter campaign, and now will attempt to produce a revival series to air on TV soon.
1. DUMB AND DUMBER
Jim Carrey was the king of comedy in the ‘90s. Appearing in hit after hit, it seemed that everything he touched turned to box office gold. Hoping to build off his mega-stardom, Hanna-Barbera decided to create a “Dumb and Dumber” animated series. As you might expect, the series didn’t do well and was ultimately canceled after one season. The series will forever be known as the very last that Hanna-Barbera created for a broadcast network, and the last non-Disney Saturday morning cartoon on ABC. So, in a way, “Dumb and Dumber” killed the Saturday morning cartoon.
The series featured the adventures of Lloyd and Harry as they team up with a purple beaver named Kitty. Traveling in their dog-shaped car, Lloyd, Harry and Kitty get into all sorts of mischief. Unfortunately for the series, original “Dumb and Dumber” actors Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels wanted nothing to do with the cartoon, and were replaced by veteran voice actors. For those who are interested in torturing themselves with all 13 episodes, you can stream them on Amazon or iTunes.
Which forgotten ’90s cartoon would you like to be remembered? Which ones would you rather forget? Let us know in the comments!