We could never forget the cartoons from the 90s, classics like Rugrats, Recess, Pinky and the Brain, Animaniacs, and The Powerpuff Girls.
What makes a childhood? Is it getting those hard, nearly unchewable gumballs every year for Halloween? Maybe it’s rummaging through the house to find a shoebox for a school project.
Everyone’s answers will vary. In my case, television is one defining aspect of my childhood.
The cartoons I enjoyed as a kid remains in my memory years after I last watched them. Now, I wish I could relive the days when cartoon marathons were at the top of my agenda. Take a trip with me into Nostalgia Town as I recount the 1990s cartoons that made my childhood memorable.
Amazing 1990s Cartoons
Let’s not forget cartoons that gave us major nostalgia as adults, like Doug, Hey Arnold!, and Rocko’s Modern Life.
These cartoons were more than just a distraction during Saturday morning cartoons. They taught us valuable lessons about friendship, responsibility, and growing up.
But let’s not forget the cartoons that were just plain weird, like Cow and Chicken or The Wild Thornberrys. And who could ever forget the edgy cartoons that pushed the boundaries of what cartoons were allowed to be, like Ren & Stimpy and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.
Spin-off: Postcards from Buster
This is a classic among the classics. I remember Arthur airing each weekday after I came home from school. It became part of my routine to watch the PBS lineup until it switched to orchestral music and British programming. On a side note, did PBS think kids were going to bed at 6:00?
There must have been something else they could air for an extra hour or two.
While Arthur was never my favorite, it was always entertaining. Who didn’t have “In the Good Old Summertime” stuck in their head for weeks?
How can anyone forget Arthur unleashing his wrath upon D.W. in a moment that has become a beloved meme? Best of all, the opening song is one of the best cartoon theme songs to this day. Bob Marley’s son made history with that track!
Beyond the music and memes are memorable characters. Buster was one of my favorites, and I remember the confusion and betrayal I felt when he moved away. I experienced similar feelings when I borrowed an Arthur book from my school’s library and got his unappealing predecessor instead (I’m still upset I failed an AR test because of that!)
39Courage the Cowardly Dog
Program creator: John Dilworth
The things this dog does for love are harrowing. Courage has done everything from enduring Doc Gerbil’s World to fighting demons.
I always liked Courage’s willingness to face horrors for the sake of his family. Despite being a “cowardly dog,” Courage is one of the bravest characters in cartoon history. He’s also one of the strangest looking, but that’s not important.
Most kids watched Courage the Cowardly Dog for the freakiness. However, I was always more interested in the characters and enjoyed moments when we saw their bond. Even the lazy, abusive Eustice had a few redeemable moments throughout the show.
Unfortunately, sweet Muriel often suffered alongside him. He was still a terrible excuse for a human being who deserved all the suffering he faced and more.
My favorite Courage the Cowardly Dog episode is far removed from any competition. “Remembrance of Courage Past” provides a long-awaited backstory for the show’s protagonist. Courage’s tragic past is already touching.
38The Magic School Bus
Networks: PBS KIDS, PBS, Qubo, Fox Kids, Fox, YTV
“Why can’t my class be like this?” Everyone had that question while watching the Magic School Bus. Ms. Frizzle is a zany science teacher who loves field trips and thoroughly embraces hands-on learning. She would probably be arrested on several accounts of kidnapping and child endangerment in the real world. Thankfully, the animated world she lives in doesn’t have laws.
When I remember this show, my mind immediately jumps to a particular episode. My third-grade teacher played this episode during our space unit. I was so spooked I avoided rewatching it for years. If it isn’t clear what episode I’m referring to, here’s a hint: Arnold dies.
In this lighthearted show about science education, one of the children nearly dies to prove a point to his stubborn cousin. The moment when Arnold removes his helmet in deep space and freezes is horrifying enough. Added to it is panicked tension as everyone races to take him back to Earth.
37Ed, Edd, ‘n’ Eddy
I can’t be the only one who thought Double D was a girl. It’s not my fault his hat looks like hair and his voice is so high! The nickname “Double D” also reminded me of Dee Dee from Dexter’s Laboratory, another classic ’90s cartoon.
This cartoon is why I once thought jawbreakers were a delicacy among candies. It’s also why I was thoroughly disappointed and felt deceived when I finally had one.
Those giant balls of sugar that the characters endured bodily harm to obtain bear no resemblance to their real-life counterpart.
Putting that disappointment aside, this cartoon sits fondly in my memory for its creativity and characters. This one cul-de-sac features a crafty scammer, a timid genius, a rugged farmer, an oblivious sex symbol, and other unique personalities. Add in Plank and the Kanker Sisters, and you have one of the most exciting ranges of characters in any cartoon.
Have you taken a bite out of the sun lately? Eddy has in what is my favorite episode of the series. From separating other characters’ outlines from their bodies to removing their mouths, the Ed Boys’ mischief reaches new heights.
It’s clear the creators put a lot of time and creativity into this episode…or were “motivated” at the time.
Many readers are balking right now. “Caillou? The annoying bald brat who gets anything he wants if he throws a tantrum?” I can hear parents sharpening their pitchforks. Give me a chance to explain myself before throwing rocks.
As annoying as Caillou may be to adults, children seem to be immune. I didn’t pay it much mind when I was little. Don’t mistake me. Caillou was never one of my favorites. However, it often aired when nothing else was on, so I watched it enough to form some nostalgia for it.
Caillou is a spoiled brat. That’s a fact everyone can agree on. With that said, I don’t think anyone watched Caillou for Caillou. I was lured by the art style that was strangely appealing in its simplicity. The equally simple plots made it an ideal cartoon to watch on autopilot.
Sometimes, it was nice to have a cartoon I could ignore 90% of without consequences. I also liked the relationship Caillou’s family had. It was cute watching baby Rosie learn new things and wholesome watching Grandma bond with the kids. Perhaps because of these sweet moments, I never noticed how bitter Caillou is.
These pirates who don’t do anything have quickly cemented themselves in my memory. After all, what isn’t memorable about a cucumber arguing with a tomato about dancing skills while singing in Spanish? Who can forget that same cucumber talking to a therapist about his fear of losing his lips?
This veggie-themed show starring two fruits is a Christian cartoon teaching bible messages and retelling bible stories. However, this is not what the show is best known for.
What keeps this cartoon popular are the songs in each episode. I cannot remember a single episode of Veggie Tales. That said, I can sing you at least 10 songs right now.
From water buffalos to yodeling veterinarians, these silly songs are some of the most iconic songs in children’s cartoons. Ironically, my favorite Silly Song isn’t a Silly Song. In one episode, Silly Songs with Larry gets canceled and replaced by Love Songs with Mr. Lunt. This cheeseburger song is incomparable.
34The Powerpuff Girls
Sugar, spice, and everything nice went into making this iconic cartoon. What’s not to love about three kindergarten girls beating up bad guys and playing with dolls? This cartoon was filled with creativity, action, and unique characters.
I was never very impressed with Mojo Jojo, but He was in another league. This villain was pure evil in a creepy yet alluring way. I always wished we could learn more about Him, but that mysteriousness is part of what makes the character so eerie.
On a side note, how do the Powerpuff Girls…work? Their eyes consume a disturbing amount of space. When the Professor made his perfect little girls, I suppose it never occurred to him to give them hands or feet.
They don’t even have ears or a nose! After seeing the anime version of these girls in Powerpuff Girls Z, I will gladly take the original.
33Sailor Moon (1992)
Sailor Moon has been a staple in the anime world since her debut in 1992. The series follows protagonist Usagi Tsukino, also known as Sailor Moon, on her quest to protect Earth from evil forces alongside a team of fellow Sailor Guardians.
With themes touching on love and friendship, Sailor Moon continues to be a beloved and empowering show for audiences of all ages. Plus, Sailor Moon’s transformation scenes never get old.
32South Park (1997)
South Park has been making headlines since its debut in 1997 with its controversial satire and no-holds-barred approach to addressing current events and social issues. Despite (or perhaps because of) the widespread criticism it faces, South Park remains one of the highest-rated and longest-running animated series on television.
Whether you love it or hate it, South Park continues to push the boundaries and spark meaningful conversations. So grab a towel (you might need it), and join us in South Park, Colorado, for some good old-fashioned comedy chaos.
31X-Men: The Animated Series (1992)
X-Men: The Animated Series may have premiered in 1992, but it’s still a classic amongst X-Men fans. With stellar voice acting (who can forget the iconic Cal Dodd as Wolverine?), fantastic animation, and faithful adaptations of beloved X-Men storylines, it’s no wonder this show has stood the test of time.
With its impressive X-Men roster (Rogue! Gambit! Jubilee!), X-Men: The Animated Series is a must-watch for any self-proclaimed mutant lover.
30The Simpsons (1989)
The Simpsons took the world by storm in the 90s, becoming a cultural phenomenon and solidifying its spot as the best cartoon of the decade. The show’s wacky yet relatable characters, witty humor, and satirical take on American society captivated audiences of all ages.
The Simpsons have remained a staple in pop culture for over 30 years, with no signs of slowing down. Who knows, maybe The Simpsons will go down in history as the best cartoon of all time. Only time will tell. But for now, we can confidently say that The Simpsons dominated the 90s and continues to entertain generations.
29Cartoon Planet (1995)
Cartoon Planet, the Cartoon Network classic hosted by Space Ghost and Brak, was a silly delight for 90s kids. Each episode featured a variety of cartoons from Cartoon Network’s vault, along with skits and musical numbers performed by our hosts.
Plus, who could forget when they had famous guests like MC Hammer and Ozzy Osbourne? Cartoon Planet may not be on the air anymore, but it will always hold a special place in our hearts as a quintessential piece of Cartoon Network history. So sit back, relax, and let Cartoon Planet take you down memory lane.
Let’s talk Rugrats. This beloved Nickelodeon show first debuted in 1991 and followed a group of toddlers – Tommy, Chuckie, twins Phil and Lil, and Angelica – as they went on wild adventures in their imaginations. Rugrats also featured unique perspectives, with episodes from the babies’ point of view.
The show continued for nine seasons and spawned a spin-off, Rugrats Pre-School Daze, and three feature films. Rugrats also made history in 1997 when it became the first Nicktoon to win a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program.
Pingu may be small, but this penguin knows how to cause mischief! Whether it’s getting into trouble with his little sister Pingo or trying (and usually failing) to imitate his father, Pingo, at his various jobs, Pingu is constantly causing hilarious chaos. Despite the shenanigans, Pingu’s good heart always shines through, and he learns important lessons.
Doug Funnie was your average 11-year-old kid navigating life in Bluffington with his best pal Skeeter and crush Patti Mayonnaise. But Doug also had a wild imagination, often daydreaming about being a superhero named Quailman or rockstar Doug Rock.
Doug taught us that it’s okay to be a little weird and to always stand up for yourself and your friends. Plus, Doug’s alter egos were pretty badass. Doug may have aired in 1991, but he’ll forever be a ’90s icon.
25Johnny Bravo (1995)
Johnny Bravo, the muscle-bound heartthrob with a knack for getting himself into hilarious situations, made his debut on Cartoon Network in 1995. With his signature catchphrase, “Ooh, Mama!” and Johnny’s constant attempts to impress women, this animated series had us laughing (and cringing) at Johnny’s antics week after week.
Despite never getting the girl, Johnny’s charisma and charm kept us coming back for more. The show may be over 20 years old, but Johnny Bravo will always be a classic cartoon hunk.
24Tom & Jerry Kids (1990)
Tom & Jerry Kids might not have the same level of notoriety as its classic predecessor, but it still provides plenty of laughs. This spin-off series follows our favorite cat-and-mouse duo as they navigate childhood adventures.
Though Tom and Jerry’s shenanigans may seem innocent at first glance, don’t be fooled– these kids can hold their own in the battle of wits.
Tom & Jerry Kids proves that age is just a number for mischief, reminding us that Tom and Jerry will always be the ultimate dynamic duo no matter what stage of life they’re in. So grab some snacks and get ready for nonstop laughter with Tom & Jerry Kids.
If you grew up in the 90’s, TaleSpin was a staple in your cartoon lineup. This Disney classic followed the adventures of Baloo the bear and his trusty sidekick, Kit Cloudkicker as they navigated their way through air deliveries and obstacles thrown at them by their nemesis, Shere Khan.
TaleSpin was also notable for its diverse cast, featuring characters from different species and backgrounds. So grab a slice of pizza and settle in for some TaleSpin nostalgia. And don’t forget to avoid those “crazy monkey-business” moments.
22Darkwing Duck (1991)
Darkwing Duck, the terror that flaps in the night, was not only a hero to the city of St. Canard but also a fan favorite in the 1990s cartoon scene. With his trusty sidekick Launchpad and his alter ego Drake Mallard, Darkwing always managed to foil the plans of villains like Megavolt and the Liquidator.
Darkwing’s famous catchphrase, “I am the terror that flaps in the night,” will forever be remembered by fans of this beloved cartoon.
21Tiny Toon Adventures (1990)
When Tiny Toon Adventures first aired in 1990, it quickly became a favorite among young viewers and cartoon enthusiasts.
The show followed the hijinks of young, Looney Tunes-inspired characters like Buster Bunny, Plucky Duck, and Babs Bunny as they attended Acme Looniversity to learn the art of cartoon comedy from the likes of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.
But Tiny Toon Adventures was more than just a cute spin-off; it also featured clever writing and intelligent humor that appealed to kids and adults. Episodes often poked fun at popular culture, famous film parodies, and the animation industry.
20Beavis And Butt-Head (1993)
Beavis and Butt-Head, the dynamic duo of dimwittedness, first graced our screens in 1993. The MTV animated series followed the exploits of two teenage troublemakers as they navigated their way through suburban America.
Despite (or perhaps because of) their lack of intelligence and immaturity, Beavis and Butt-Head managed to cultivate a cult following and even spawned a feature film, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America.
So what about these two delinquent delinquents that keep people returning for more? Maybe it’s the sheer stupidity of their actions, or perhaps it’s the relatable feeling of being a misunderstood teenager.
19The Ren & Stimpy Show (1991)
The Ren & Stimpy Show, created by John Kricfalusi, first aired on Nickelodeon in 1991 and quickly gained a cult following due to its subversive humor and bizarre animation style.
The show follows the chaotic adventures of chihuahua Ren and dimwitted cat Stimpy as they navigate their way through absurd situations. T
he show’s offbeat nature often landed it in hot water with censors and parents, but its loyal fans couldn’t get enough of Ren and Stimpy’s bizarre hijinks. The show’s cult status has only grown over the years, with a new generation of viewers discovering the chaotic world of The Ren & Stimpy Show.
Freakazoid! is the perfect show for you if you love superheroes and comedy. Created by Steven Spielberg and starring Paul Rugg as Freakazoid, this 1995 cartoon follows the adventures of Dexter Douglas, a nerdy teenager.
He transforms into the psychotic yet lovable Freakazoid after accidentally getting sucked into his computer. With his super strength, speed, and odd abilities, Freakazoid fights villains such as The Lobe, Cigarette Smoking Man, and even the Brainchild.
17Batman: The Animated Series (1992)
Batman: The Animated Series may have debuted over 25 years ago, but it remains a fan-favorite amongst Batman enthusiasts.
With its dark and mature tone, distinct art style, and stellar voice cast (hello, Kevin Conroy as Batman), the show solidified itself as a crucial part of Batman’s canon. And let’s not forget about its incredible roster of villains, including the legendary Mark Hamill as The Joker.
Batman: The Animated Series proved that cartoons could be just as gripping and emotionally compelling as live-action adaptations, cementing its place in the pantheon of Batman greatness. Long live the Bat.
16Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1994)
Spider-Man: The Animated Series, which aired from 1994 to 1998, was a hit with fans and critics alike. Voiced by the talented Christopher Daniel Barnes, Spider-Man/Peter Parker swung onto T.V. screens and into our hearts every weekend.
Alongside him were memorable characters like Mary Jane Watson, Harry Osborn, and of course, Spider-Man’s ultimate foe, the Green Goblin.
But Spider-Man wasn’t just fighting crime in New York City – he also faced off against villains like Venom, Doctor Octopus, and the infamous Spider-Slayer robots.
15SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron (1993)
The SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron cartoon may have lasted only for two seasons, but it’s still a fan favorite. With its unique blend of science fiction and noir elements, SWAT Kats captured viewers’ hearts everywhere with its badass vigilantes, TurboKat jet, and mega-villains like Dark Kat and Dr. Viper.
And let’s not forget the fantastic soundtrack by celebrated composer Barry Krauss.
SWAT Kats may have been canceled too soon, but its impact on animation and fandom remains strong. So grab some milk, pop a couple of cheddarheads, and watch the SWAT Kats save Megakat City again.
14Superman: The Animated Series (1996)
Superman: The Animated Series premiered in 1996, bringing the Man of Steel to life with a new animated style. This series perfectly captured Superman as the ultimate hero, balancing his powers with his solid moral compass and unwavering commitment to truth and justice.
Superman battled classic villains like Lex Luthor and Brainiac while facing challenges within his Kryptonian heritage. Superman: The Animated Series is a must-watch for any Superman fan.
Daria is an American animated television series that Glenn Eichler and Susie Lewis Lynn created for MTV. The series focuses on Daria Morgendorffer, a bright, acerbic, and somewhat misanthropic teenage girl who observes the world around her.
The show is set in the fictional suburban American town of Lawndale and is a satire of high school life, full of allusions to and criticisms of popular culture and social classes.
Gargoyles, the popular animated series from 1994, follows a clan of Gargoyles who are awakened in modern-day New York City after being frozen in stone for a thousand years.
Led by their fiercely protective leader Goliath, they must navigate the unfamiliar world while defending it from evil forces. Along the way, they learn about their past, form alliances with unexpected allies, and understand the true meaning of family.
11Dexter’s Laboratory (1995)
Dexter’s Laboratory, the iconic cartoon created by Genndy Tartakovsky, follows the adventures of Dexter, a child genius with a secret laboratory hidden behind a bookcase in his bedroom.
Along with his equally-brilliant sister Dee Dee, Dexter constantly battles to protect his inventions from her destructive tendencies. The show also features Dexter’s rival and neighbor, the beefy boy Mandark, who strives to best Dexter in all scientific endeavors.
10Space Ghost Coast To Coast (1994)
Space Ghost Coast to Coast was an animated comedy series on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block that featured Space Ghost, a 1960s Hanna-Barbera cartoon character, as a late-night talk show host. The show also featured various other classic Hanna-Barbera characters as guests and interviewees.
Space Ghost Coast to Coast pushed the boundaries of traditional animation, as it incorporated surreal and absurdist humor and utilized a unique interview style. The show was critically acclaimed and ran for ten seasons before concluding in 2004.
Have you ever wondered who’s in charge of the chaos at the Warner Bros. studio lot? Look no further than the Animaniacs!
This zany and unpredictable cartoon, created by Tom Ruegger, follows the adventures of Yakko, Wakko, and Dot – three siblings locked away in the water tower for a century. Along with their fan-favorite sidekick Pinky and the Brain, this wacky cast of characters causes mischief and delivers plenty of laughs every episode.
Animaniacs first premiered in 1993 and quickly gained a cult following for its satirical humor that appealed to kids and adults alike, so if you need some unadulterated.
8Rocko’s Modern Life (1992)
Rocko’s Modern Life, the beloved 90s Nickelodeon cartoon, was known for its wacky humor and offbeat characters.
From Rocko the wallaby to Heffer the cow, the show had a diverse cast of anthropomorphic animals navigating their daily lives in O-Town. Rocko dealt with everything from problematic in-laws to phone scams while maintaining his quirky charm.
The show also had a knack for subtly addressing social and political issues, including feminism, environmentalism, and consumerism.
It’s been over 20 years since Recess first graced our T.V. screens, but the show remains a beloved childhood favorite. The adventures of T.J. and the gang taught us valuable lessons about friendship and standing up for what’s right. Plus, who could forget the badass leader of the Recess Gang, Gretchen Grundler?
6Pinky And The Brain (1995)
Pinky and The Brain first made their debut as a recurring segment on the popular animated series “Animaniacs” in 1995. Following their success, they were given their spin-off show, which ran for four seasons and garnered critical acclaim.
Pinky, a cute but dimwitted mouse, is constantly coming up with outrageous schemes to take over the world, only to be foiled by his genius but neurotic lab partner, The Brain.
Despite their constant failures, they never give up on their mission to rule the world. Pinky and The Brain prove that even the unlikely duo can achieve greatness with a little (or a lot) determination.
In 1994, the world was introduced to a little cartoon called Reboot. This CGI show took us inside the inner workings of a computer system known as Mainframe. With memorable characters like Bob, Dot, and Megabyte, Reboot quickly became a cult classic among techies and animation fans alike.
4The Addams Family (1992)
The Addams Family is a quirky, creepy, and all-around kooky bunch that has captured viewers’ hearts since their comic strip debut in 1938. The eccentric family, consisting of Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Uncle Fester, Grandmama, Lurch, and Thing, have entertained audiences through various television shows, movies, and even a musical.
The 1992 animated series brought the Addams Family to life in a new way, showcasing their bizarre antics and macabre humor. The show was praised for its clever writing and spot-on voice acting, with stand-out performances by Tim Curry as Gomez and Daryl Hannah as Morticia.
3Timon & Pumbaa (1995)
Timon and Pumba, the dynamic duo from The Lion King, have been best friends since 1995. These two lovable characters teach us valuable lessons about friendship and taking chances.
Timon, the wise-cracking meerkat, provides comic relief with his quick wit and playful nature. Pumba, the happy-go-lucky warthog, proves that it’s okay to be different and have a unique perspective on life.
From their hit song “Hakuna Matata” to Pumba’s famous line “hakuna frickin’ matata,” Timon and Pumba bring joy and laughter to audiences of all ages. So the next time you find yourself singing “no worries for the rest of your days,” thank Timon and Pumba for their life-changing mantra.
2The Wild Thornberrys (1998)
The Wild Thornberrys may have been a cartoon, but it taught us some valuable lessons about conservation and appreciating nature.
Who could forget the infamous “Lorraine Goes Hunting” episode where Eliza learns the harsh reality of hunting for sport? The show also showed us the importance of respecting different cultures and lifestyles through characters like The Lost Boys.
The Wild Thornberrys may have been a bit wild, but they were definitely on to something. So grab some bug juice and join the Thornberrys on their adventures – you never know what you might learn.
1Captain Planet And The Planeteers (1990)
Captain Planet and The Planeteers first aired in 1990, but its eco-friendly message is still relevant today. The show follows five young people from around the world who are given unique rings that control elements of nature.
Together, they form Captain Planet – an environmentally conscious superhero who fights pollution and the planet’s destruction. Despite some cheesy dialogue and over-the-top villains, Captain Planet inspires people to take action against environmental issues.
Plus, the show gave us one of the catchiest theme songs. So let’s do our part to “take pollution down to zero” and make Captain Planet proud.
What Makes 1990s Cartoons Special?
Cartoons from the ’90s have a distinct feel to them. Part of it is because of the animation technology of that time. Another part is cartoons hitting their peak at the end of the decade. The number of cartoons in production skyrocketed after 1998. With increased competition came a greater emphasis on formulas and fabrication.
The organic creativity of the 90s’ wasn’t marketable in the late 2000s. Creators became afraid to take risks, and cartoon channels started imposing arbitrary rules to maximize sales. Fortunately, the 2000s held onto this creativity and passion long enough to produce some of my favorite cartoons.
Even though the 1990s may be gone, we can still enjoy its content. I sometimes see marathons of these cartoons playing online. Some of them can also be found on streaming services or Boomerang.
These cartoons will never be forgotten. As long as people like me associate them with childhood, they will always reemerge.