Cartoons aren’t always just for kids, a fact that was proven especially true in the ’80s and ’90s. Yes, the action cartoons from this era definitely appealed to adults as well as kids, but that’s not quite what we’re talking about. Some animated shows and movies of this time were pretty notorious for their purposely alluring female characters, ones that you definitely had a crush on. Weirdo. While some of these characters had a natural appeal, most were explicitly designed to be attractive. Cartoon bombshells were a staple of the ’80s and ’90s, and their creators really knew how to draw us in.
This trend of attractive cartoon women (at least in kid’s animation) seems to have died out a bit. That’s a good thing since there’s more variety in how women are portrayed these days, though it’s kind of fun to look back at this different era of animation. Shows like G.I. Joe and Thundercats were innocent enough, save for their attractive female characters, and movies like Roger Rabbit and Cool World knew exactly what they were doing. The ’80s and ’90s were full of risqué cartoon ladies, ones that you can’t deny you were attracted to.
15. JESSICA RABBIT
To start, we have one of the most famous sexy cartoons of all time, Jessica Rabbit. An entertainer of sorts, Jessica is the wife of Roger Rabbit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? And boy is she one well-drawn character. Jessica has impossible curves and a sultry appearance that makes her a bit of a satire of adult cartoons.
Despite being a parody of characters like Betty Boop, Jessica was still the crush of many an impressionable youth, who saw Roger Rabbit. Even though her proportions are impossible — her spine would literally break if she were real — Jessica has an appeal about her, from her figure to her sultry singing voice (thanks to the always welcome Kathleen Turner), it’s no wonder that both toons and humans go to see her shows.
14. LOLA BUNNY
Not to be confused with Jessica Rabbit, Lola Bunny is one of those cartoon characters that pushed the envelope quite a bit. It wasn’t just that she was overly sultry, it was also the fact that she is an anthropomorphized cartoon bunny. Created for 1996’s Space Jam, Lola served as both the Toon Squad’s only actually skilled toon player and as Bugs’ love interest.
Lola made a lot of the audience question themselves (and the film) a bit, seeing as how she is a rabbit, but there was something about her sass and skill that drew in the audience. In her first appearance, she was voiced by Kath Soucie, who funnily enough played Dexter’s Mom on Dexter’s Lab and gave the character her iconic aural presence. Plus, you can’t deny how great her design is, especially the ponytail ears.
13. MISS BELLUM
Miss Bellum from The Powerpuff Girls was one of those characters, like Hello Nurse before her, who was both brilliant and striking. We never actually saw Mis Bellum’s face, of course, but that just speaks to the strength of her character and design that she could still be iconic. Regardless, her curvy figure, voluminous red hair and unforgettable voice was enough to pique the interest of an adult audience.
However, Miss Bellum wasn’t inappropriate as a character, she was actually a brilliant political worker who, presumably, ran Townsville while The Mayor bumbled and stumbled around. Miss Bellum “just happened” to be drawn absurdly attractive, serving as a commentary on how society tends to value beauty. In that way, she is a surprisingly feminist character, also acting as a guide to the Powerpuff Girls at times.
12. HARLEY QUINN
A lot of people tend to point out, negatively, that Harley Quinn — who was created by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini to serve as a hot sidekick to the Joker.– has become too much of a sex icon in modern comics. This may be true to an extent — how much clothing she wears has gone down quite a bit — but it’s not like she didn’t start out as a sex symbol.
In fact, Harley was created to jump out of a cake as a gag since Timm and Dini thought it might be weird if The Joker himself did it. Ironically, they ended up going with The Joker, since it was funnier, but Harley stuck around as a character, acting as a great accouterment to his crazy from time to time. Think about it, Harley not only fawned over The Joker, but she also flirted with various men on Batman: The Animated Series. In the new movie, Batman and Harley Quinn, those adult undertones were most definitely brought to the foreground.
11. APRIL O’NEIL
What kind of reporter wears a jumpsuit? Well, definitely one who wants all the TMNT-loving kids to have a crush on her. Seriously, it’s kind of amazing what the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon got away with when it came to April O’Neil. Not only was April sexualized a lot in the show (shown in her bathrobe and the like), but she was also a mature, employed and very much adult woman hanging out with a bunch of mutant teenagers. Scandalous!
Every viewer of an age out there reading this who watched TMNT when they were a kid, probably had some level of crush on April. We can’t blame you, of course; she was a spunky reporter with a tight, low-cut jumpsuit. It’s no wonder future iterations of April brought down the sexualized aspects of her character — she was too much for kids TV!
Being that Thundercats was clearly about hitting puberty (Lion-O was a boy in a man’s body with a “growing magic sword”), it’s no wonder that its only female of note, Cheetara, was so sexualized. This, of course, it weird, because the creators wanted to get us attracted to an anthropomorphic cheetah woman. None of this really matters, though, because despite clearly being drawn to be a sex symbol, Cheetara remains an iconic design, right down to her inimitable ’80s hairstyle!
Without a doubt, Cheetara was one of the most memorable cartoon women of the ’80s, and not just because her design was so memorable! She was also one helluva badass! She was a skilled speedster and martial artist with her bo-staff, hitting hard with more than just her looks.
In the original Dragonball Series, Bulma and Goku travelled the world in search of the Dragonballs. Goku competed in martial arts tournaments in between journeys. Bulma, meanwhile, was a strong, defiant, somewhat spoiled girl who occasionally served as comic relief. In most instances, this usually involved Bulma ending up in a provocative outfit she definitely didn’t want to wear, like a bunny suit. Japanese comedy tends to have a lot of sexual humor, and Bulma was usually on the receiving end of it in Dragonball.
As Dragonball transitioned into Dragonball Z, the provocative humor died down completely, but that didn’t mean Bulma wasn’t still every young anime fan’s crush. She had that defiant personality and bossy attitude that made her so oddly endearing. Plus, she was a genius inventor to boot. Anyone who can put Vegeta in his place without fighting is one hardcore character in our books, and we’re happy that Bulma went from being comedic eye-candy into a legit boss.
8. HELLO NURSE
“Hellooooooo Nurse!” Every fan of Animaniacs knows that phrase, since it was on the show constantly, usually in reference to the beautiful bombshell nurse of Dr. Scratchansniff. Hello Nurse was such a purposefully drawn character that her name eventually developed into a catch-all term for anyone the Warners found attractive. Not hard to see why, since she’s got one of those impossible “Jessica Rabbit” figures.
Strangely enough, one of Hello Nurse’s most attractive traits is her intelligence. Animaniacs was a surprisingly feminist cartoon, and Hello Nurse was part of that. She was a brilliant woman who, because she happened to be attractive, had her brains ignored in favor of her beauty. Unfortunately, this remains a common problem, but one that was deftly commented on by characters like the good lady Nurse here above.
7. POISON IVY
Okay, so technically, Poison Ivy started out as a comic book character, unlike Harley Quinn. But we are still going to count her since Batman The Animated Series was the first time she was featured in animation. Furthermore, the Poison Ivy of BTAS was one alluring agricultural antagonist. From her classic costume to her use of seduction on her enemies, this redhead had the full attention of lots of fans of BTAS.
Somewhere along the line, Ivy developed a green hue to her skin, which didn’t affect her looks in the least, according to most fans. Poison Ivy was one of the many bombshells of the DCAU, and one of the more memorable animated ladies of the ’90s. Not only does she have that signature Bruce-Timm-drawn figure, but her plant pheromones sure did a number on men.
There’s something about villain women of ’80s cartoons, isn’t there? There’s just this magical quality that makes their dangerous nature and ruthless personalities lure you in as a viewer (let alone as one of their enemies). Evil-Lyn was one of those femme fatales, and she almost certainly stirred early thoughts of what would later become kinks in the impressionable viewership of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Too bad she’s clearly in love with a Skeletor — that’s a bit of a deal-breaker.
Evil-Lyn’s design is honestly great — simple yet effective — a great way to to sell toys. She’s got a cool witchy warrior helmet and even cooler armor setup. Though she seems to be unprotected on her arms and legs, rocking that signature ’80’s leotard look, her cape and staff bring her whole look together. Kids from the ’80s definitely can’t deny the crushes they had on Evil-Lyn. If they do, they’re lying.
5. MINERVA MINK
Another Animaniacs character created to be attractive was Minerva Mink. Minerva’s segments on Animaniacs all centered around the fact that she was so hot, she turned the heads of nearly every creature in her part of the forest. This life of being so enticing was apparently a tough one, however, since Minerva often sighed and “woe-is-me’d” about her “predicament.”
Minerva definitely catches the eye — that was the creators had in mind when they designed her, after all. She’s got that classic, impossible cartoon figure and those sultry eyes, plus the straps of her tops always seemed to be sliding off just slightly. Minerva doesn’t look anything like an actual mink — that would be a lot weirder if she did — but you still probably swooned at this cartoony version. Sicko.
4. THE BARONESS
The creators of the Baroness knew exactly what they were doing. Right-hand woman to the Cobra Commander, The Baroness was a femme fatale who served as the Cobra intelligence officer. She was a beautiful as she was deadly, ruthless in every battle and always willing to do whatever it took for Cobra. But sorry fellas, she’s taken by the metal-masked weapons supplier of Cobra, Destro. Also, she’s a cartoon and not a real woman.
Every young viewer who grew up in the ’80s and loved G.I. Joe no doubt had a fixation with this cat-suit clad villainess for one reason or another. The Baroness is as skilled as she is alluring, making her the full package of fantasy, even if she is just a drawing. But don’t get too close to this cobra, she’s poisonous with her skin-based bio-chemical warfare. Jeez, this lady is just one walking, talking not-actually-existing deal-breaker!
Power can be very attractive, especially when wielded by a true warrior. She-Ra was the perfect example of beauty and brawn, brandishing power similar to her twin brother, He-Man. She-Ra was made to appeal to a young female audience in the same way that He-Man was made to a appeal to a young male audience, but there was quite a bit of crossover.
She-Ra, also known as Princess Adora, wields the sword of protection, and she’s pretty good with it. Watching her take down enemies and bring peace to Etheria brought in a lot of viewers. In doing so she served as a great role model for all fans, and was a legitimately great female version of He-Man, even if she was visually propped-up to be the outlet for burgeoning fantasies for her viewership.
2. AEON FLUX
How could we not include a cartoon character who would later be portrayed by Charleze Theron? Too bad the live action film was not all the well-received. Luckily, there’s still the original Aeon Flux series to look back on, starring Aeon Flux herself, one of the greatest cartoons bombshells of the ’90s. The show took place in a dystopian future where the nation of Monica has sent their leather-clad assassin, Aeon Flux, to infiltrate the neighboring, police-state country of Bregna.
Aeon Flux was known for being an intense, action-heavy cartoon with tons of deep story and conflict. The titular character, never without her ridiculous leather outfit, was a bombshell assassin willing to do whatever it took for her mission and her people. It’s hard to deny just how attractive Aeon Flux was, as every attack and move had her exposing some or another part of her ill-clothed body!
1. HOLLI WOULD
Boy, there sure are a lot of femme fatales on this list aren’t there? Last but not least among them is Holli Would, from the film Cool World. We’re not even going to beat around the bush with this one, Holli was clearly made with on intention, sex appeal. Curvy figure? Check. Pouty lips? Check. Revealing outfits? Check.
Cool World was sort of like a modern, adult-oriented Roger Rabbit, and the two have quite a bit in common. Both combine live action and animated characters, both star a detective (in this case, Brad Pitt) in a world of cartoons, and both have a sexy female lead meant to catch your eye. Though Cool World has its fair share of (deserved) criticism, it’s hard to deny just how striking Holli Wood (voiced by Kim Basinger) was, whether you will admit it in polite company or not!
Which other cartoon characters were clearly drawn to lure you in? Let us know in the comments!
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