Pretty much everyone knows by now that kids’ cartoons are full of NSFW moments, adult jokes and innuendos that go over kids’ heads. Heck, even animated films as “pure” as Disney are full of dirty jokes and imagery that were thrown in under the radar. Who’s to say how these jokes come about — maybe the writers and animators were trying to see what they could get away with or maybe they were put in for the adults watching the show. Whatever the reason, cartoons have gotten away with a lot of adult humor.
The best part about these adult moments is that you totally didn’t know they were there until you rewatched your favorite cartoons an adult. In the age of nostalgia, lots of fans are going back and watching their favorite childhood cartoons, and are shocked to find all the adult jokes that went over their heads as a kid. Sometimes it’s blatantly obvious innuendo, and others they involve references to controlled substances. We’ve explored a couple of these before, but we thought we’d dig up a few more. Brace yourself, your childhood is about to die a little.
15. ROCKO’S MODERN LIFE – NO TELL MOTEL
The creators of Rocko’s Modern Life have stated before that they were constantly surprised with that they were allowed to get away with on the show. One example of this comes in the episode “Road Rash,” in which Rocko and Heffer go on a road trip.
On their trip, the pair stop to say the night at the “No Tell Motel.” Why is it called that, you ask? Probably because it’s clearly used for prostitution. If the name wasn’t obvious enough, when Rocko and Heffer ask for a room, the sleazy owner says there are not available, but then a light goes off and he says “oh, we have a premature departure,” and books them a room. To make things even more obvious, the owner is “impressed” when they ask for the room for “all night.”
14. THE ANIMANIACS GO SHOPPING
Animaniacs also got away with a lot of adult content, from characters like Hello Nurse to the infamous “finger prince” joke. It also had a lot of mature jokes that would go right over kids’ heads, and even some adults! One of the more subtle, and brilliant, adult jokes came in episode 43 in the segment “Survey Ladies.”
The segment follows Yakko, Wakko and Dot as they search for the perfect present for Dr. Scratchansniff at the mall. While riding the escalator, they consider some of the shops that catch their eye. The first one is “Oedipus Rex Menswear,” to which Yakko says “Nah, his mom would hate those,” and the second is “Freudian Slips,” which Yakko replies to with “Nah, he makes his own.”
13. MIRAM PATAKI’S DRINKING PROBLEM
Hey Arnold! dealt with a lot of real-world issues, which the characters reflected by having deep, relatable flaws underneath their seemingly one-dimensional traits. For example, Helga was a bit of a bully, but we learn that her family life is complex and difficult. For one thing, her mother, Miriam Pataki, pretty clearly had depression and dealt with it through alcoholism.
What appeared to be simple laziness and apathy to kids has much more meaning as an adult. Helga’s mom was constantly seen waking up on the couch without realizing how she got there and was also shown having an affinity for “smoothies.” These “smoothies” were most likely blended alcoholic drinks since she had an unhealthy attachment to her blender and would state she needed one whenever something weird or difficult happened to her. Man, Hey Arnold! got real at times, didn’t it?
12. WHERE DID ED COME FROM?
Seeing as Danny Antonucci got his start with raunchy adult cartoons, it comes as no surprise that Ed, Edd, N’ Eddy was rife with insidious adult humor. Some of these adult moments were straight up dirty, but some were actually pretty subtly brilliant, like in the episode, “Wish You Were Ed.”
In the episode, Rolf is homesick and is having trouble fitting in with the cul-de-sac kids. He tells the Eds of his glum state while they are trying to free Ed, whose head is stuck in a mailbox. The scene cuts away from the mailbox and Ed suddenly walks up as though he was never stuck. Surprised, Eddy asks, “Where’d you come from?” to which Ed replies with, “Blame my parents, Eddy.” Ed was definitely “the stupid one,” but he might have actually been a comedic genius.
11. PROFESSOR UNTONIUM’S DATE
From Miss Bellum to Sedusa, Powerpuff Girls had a lot of adult content that went right over kids’ heads. Like a lot of cartoons, some of the show’s dirtiest jokes were so fast you’d miss them if you weren’t paying attention. One of the show’s earliest adult jokes came in the episode “Mommy Fearest,” in which Professor Utonium goes on a date. The girls, wanting it to go well, help the Professor get ready for his night with Ima Goodlady.
While prepping the Professor, the girls meticulously adjust every aspect of his date-night ensemble. They put gel in his hair, spray him with some cologne, give him some breath-mints and attach his cufflinks. Oh, and one other thing, if you watch closely, Buttercup slips something unseen into the Professor’s pocket, saying “and some of these,” pretty clearly implying she slipped him some condoms. Remember, stay safe, people!
10. PATRICK’S GENIUS IS SHOWING
SpongeBob Squarepants is one of the longest running and most successful cartoons of all time, and some of the earliest episodes were full of adult jokes. In the season one episode “Texas,” Sandy finds herself missing her life in Texas, so much so that she plans on leaving Bikini Bottom. To stop her from leaving, SpongeBob and Patrick hatch a plan to throw Sandy a Texas-themed party.
The plan forms when Patrick offhandedly mentions they should just bring Texas down there to the ocean. SpongeBob replies with “That’s it!” and tells Patrick that his “Genius is showing.” Patrick responds by covering up his crotch and frantically asking “Where?!” It’s not hard to figure out what Patrick thought SpongeBob said.
9. RUGRATS – CUT RATE
Rugrats was, and still is, one of the few kids cartoons that depicts Jewish holidays. In fact, there were two Jewish holiday specials, one depicting Passover, and the other, Chanukah. The latter was shown in an episode aptly titled “Chanukah,” and it contains an amazing hidden joke. The episode depicts the origin and meaning of Chanukah with the babies playing the parts of the characters.
In one of the first scenes, there is a building in the background that is hiding a brilliant adult joke. The building has a sign that says “mohel” in Hebrew and another sign near the door that says “cut rates.” For those who don’t know, a mohel is someone who performs Jewish circumcisions, so “cut rates” has a hilarious double meaning.
8. DEXTER’S DRUG BUST
There’s not a ’90s kid alive who didn’t love Dexter’s Lab, and many of theme still love it to this day. Dexter’s Lab has appeal for both kids and adults, especially with all the adult humor hidden within it. In the episode “Beard To Be Feared,” Dexter thinks he lacks manhood and believes growing a beard will make him manlier. He uses his lab to grow a beard and as a result is mistaken for his hero, Action Hank.
Dexter is pulled into a fight by the police, who ask him to stop a group of villains. The villains are four bearded men who produce black market bread. When Dexter arrives, the villains are cutting open open a bag of flour, one of thousands surrounding them. They mention it is “100% pure,” implying it might actually be some other substance.
7. GUMBALL BLOWS A BALLOON
The Amazing World of Gumball has broken down every wall of modern animation from censors to cartoon traditions. Seriously, this show is a completely bonkers runaway train of insane creativity. The show also gets away with a lot of adult humor, most likely due to the fact that the characters are all types of animals and inanimate objects, so sexual content and innuendos don’t have quite the same effect.
There is one adult joke in the show that is just straight up brilliant. In the episode “The Storm,” Gumball accidentally breaks up his friends Carmen and Alan. Alan, a balloon, is so affected by the breakup that he has become deflated. Too depressed to inflate himself, Alan asks Gumball for help. The episode cuts to the two exiting the bathroom — Alan, fully inflated, thanks Gumball, who dismissively says “whatever man,” regret and disgust on his face.
6. ADVENTURE TIME – 15 TIERS
As time began to pass in the world of Adventure Time, we found Finn shifting his affections from the “too-old-for-him” Princess Bubblegum to the mysterious and destructive Flame Princess. After the two share a tinfoil-encased hug (so Finn doesn’t get burned) in “Burning Low,” Jake brings Finn aside to have a little brotherly talk. Jake gives Finn some advice on love and the steps in a relationship.
Jake dubs these 15 steps, “tiers” and goes into detail of the tiers he and Lady Rainicorn have explored. Finn gets curious about “tier 15,” to which Jack immediately says “you stay away from that!” Finn replies with silence and Jake further pushes the point,”do not do tier 15!” Man, he makes it sound worse than it actually is.
5. MORDECAI DRINKS “UNICORN SLUMP”
There’s pretty much no way to consider Regular Show a kids’ cartoon. It’s about two slacker 20-somethings who shirk responsibility at their dead-end job so they can party and drink “sodas” all day. There are so many adult moments in Regular Show, it’s surprising it wasn’t an Adult Swim show! One of the grossest adult jokes in the show comes from the first season episode, “The Unicorns Have Got To Go.”
In the episode, Mordecai starts hanging out with a group of party-bro unicorns who promise to help Mordecai with his girl problems. Before the unicorns help Mordecai, they make him drink from the “cup of knowledge,” a glass filled with a glittery liquid. Mordecai drinks it and immediately spits it out, they tricked him into drinking “unicorn slump.” We’re not sure we want to know what that means.
4. STEVEN UNIVERSE – FUSIONS
Steven Universe has done a lot for kids cartoons. It’s pushed the envelope for children’s television and teaches lessons of family, communication, consent and love in all its forms. Steven Universe accomplishes this with allegorical storytelling, aspects of the show often reflecting real-world issues or lessons. One particular aspect of the show that teaches about relationships is fusion.
Fusion is when two gems combine into a single being, a feat that is accomplished when two (0r more) gems perform a dance to synchronize their bodies and minds. The fusion dance (which was inspired by Dragonball Z) is rather sexually charged in nature. It actually helps the show communicate ideas of consent and communication in a relationship, and how different relationships manifest in different ways. It may not be a dirty joke, but the ideas behind Fusion are perhaps more understood by adults.
3. CYBORG SEARCHES ROBIN
The original Teen Titans cartoon was know for perfectly combining action and comedy, and the show had some genuinely laugh-out-loud moments. Some of these moments were somewhat NSFW too, like a joke from the episode, “X.” In the episode, a new Red X shows up and the Titans believe Robin to be dressing up as the anti-hero once again.
Previously, Robin used holograms to fool his teammates, and they’re suspicious of this once more. After Starfire repeatedly pokes Robin, she determines that he is not a hologram, but Beast Boy isn’t convinced. Beast Boy suggests the possibility that Robin is a robot decoy, and tells Cyborg to “check for batteries.” With a serious expression, Cyborg puts on a rubber glove and extends his index finger, apparently ready to perform a cavity search on Robin. Does Cyborg just keep a rubber glove on him at all times?!
2. SYM-BIONIC TITAN – BOOTY QUAKE
Despite being short-lived, Genndy Tartakovsky’s Sym-Bionic Titan is somewhat infamous for one very provocative scene. The scene in question appears in the episode “Lessons in Love,” and has since been dubbed the “booty quake” scene. Sym-Bionic Titan followed a group of alien refugees as they tried to blend in to Earth life, dealing with school drama and the like. It was like Voltron meets The Breakfast Club. It even had a popular redhead girl, Kimmy.
In “Lessons in Love,” Kimmy is forced into being tutored by Newton so she can get her grades up and stay on the cheerleading team. Kimmy does not want to put in the effort and instead attempts to convince Newton into doing her work for her. She does this by turning the radio on to a song with the lyrics, “Shake it, bake it, booty quake it,” and doing a rather seductive dance.
1. GRUNCLE STAN’S PUG CARTEL
Gravity Falls was as funny as it was compelling, combining humor and mystery much like a cartoon version of Twin Peaks. If this list has taught us anything, its that every kids cartoon has adult jokes, and Gravity Falls is no different. Gruncle Stan in particular was the main source of adult humor, often spouting inappropriate things to Dipper and Mabel or doing something illegal for a quick buck.
One of Stan’s many money-making schemes, seen in the episode, “The Last Mabelcorn,” is perhaps the cutest adult joke of all time. Stan is showing loading barrels of pugs onto a truck that is going across the Mexican border early in the morning. Get it? It’s a pug cartel? Like a drug cartel but WAY cuter. Seriously, it’s the most adorable adult moment in a kids’ cartoon.
Can you think of any other references that went over your head as a kid, but totally get now? Let us know in the comments!
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