9 Super Weird Cartoons From the ’90s That We Actually Watched
One of them’s about a half-cat/half-dog entity that lives in a town full of anthropomorphic animals, and that’s not even the weirdest!
Graham Steinberg · 7 months ago
Do you ever look back on your childhood and think, “Oh man, what in the world was I watching back then???” Yeah, we do too. It was stupid and we loved it. The 1990s were arguably the zenith of trippy cartoons — chock full of aggressive talking animals and radioactive super children. Let’s take a minute to look at the best of what this decade of insanity had to offer.
9. Courage the Cowardly Dog
In all honesty, I was too scared of this show to watch it as a kid but it definitely has to be included as one of the weirdest of this era. Each week, Courage (who never actually talks) is forced to protect his adoptive elderly parents, Muriel and Eustace, from a cavalcade of paranormal threats they’re unaware have landed on their front doorstep. It picks up on a lot of campy horror tropes but its decrepit rural setting and monsters can actually be quite freaky at times, so I would wait till the kids are a little older to share.
8. Animaniacs / Pinky and the Brain
This one is a bit different than the rest on the list for a couple of reasons. First, it aired on WB (now defunct) instead of Cartoon Network or Nick. Also, it was a variety show with a wide set of characters and serials. At the center of the show were “the Warner Brothers and Warner Sister,” Yakko, Wakko, and Dot, who live in a water tower on the studio lot. Each episode consisted of two or three shorts, reminiscent of some older series, rather than a single plot. By far the best of these shorts was Pinky and the Brain, a series about two mice, one a genius and one not-so-bright, who spend each night trying to take over the world. Veteran voice artists Rob Paulsen and Maurice LeMarche provide their voices, while the series itself was produced by Steven Spielberg. The show was also recently revived at Hulu and is just as funny as the original.
7. The Angry Beavers
Daggett and Norbert Beaver are two brothers who move out of their parents’ house to live a bachelor beaver life in the forest near Wayouttatown. In typical cartoon fashion, Dag is absolutely off-the-wall insane while Norb is a bit more reasonable but equally terrible (they are the ANGRY beavers for a reason). The show received critical acclaim but was cancelled after four seasons due to issues between Nickelodeon and creator Mitch Schauer, who wanted to take the show in a more adult direction. Still, it has gained a cult classic following in syndication and continues to be popular for its off-brand humor and influence from classic serials such as The Pink Panther and Rocky and Bullwinkle.
6. The Powerpuff Girls
Sugar, spice, and everything nice. And a healthy dose of undisclosed chemical compounds. This classic riff on superhero cartoons and Japanese Tokusatsu was groundbreaking in that it starred three superpowered kindergarten-aged girls who spent their days protecting the people of Townsville, USA, from a rogues’ gallery of villains including the infamous Mojo Jojo. The series was created by Dexter’s Laboratory animator Craig McCracken based on a series of characters he made while still a student at CalArts. The trio often deal with realistic issues that children their age would face, and if you are looking for strong female characters to inspire your little girls, Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup are it. Powerpuff Girls will be returning in a live-action series this year.
5. Dexter’s Laboratory
Dexter's Laboratory is so inventive and weird that it could only have been created in, well, Dexter’s Laboratory. In many ways, this series is sort of the originator of this entire era. Russian animator Genndy Tartakovsky was a CalArts graduate along with Powerpuff Girls creator Craig McCracken, who got his start as an art director on this show. Tartakovsky based his series on a student film that actually started with Dexter’s hyper sister Dee Dee. Dexter was created as her exact opposite, but his Napoleon-like demeanor and thick Eastern European accent made him an instant hit. Like Powerpuff Girls, the series appeals to young audiences by showing extraordinary kids saving the world.
4. SpongeBob SquarePants
Of all the shows on this list, none have had a greater cultural impact than SpongeBob. What began as an educational book by marine biologist Stephen Hillenburg has turned into an ongoing 13-season series, three feature-length films, theme park rides, video games, and a Broadway musical. Its staying power can be attributed to its brilliantly dry humor and loveable characters. Its episodes are classics of pop culture, from the underdog story of Band Geeks to the almost Kubrick-like insanity of Squilliam Returns. Even though it’s still technically on the air, there’s no way we could put this list together without including the wonderful citizens of Bikini Bottom.
3. Johnny Bravo
Oh man, Johnny Bravo is just the coolest. But he’s actually not and that’s kind of the point. Johnny is always trying to act tough and get girls, but most of them end up rejecting him. To top it off, he still lives at home with his mother. Underneath it all there’s a strong subtextual message about the pitfalls of hypermasculinity. The series was created by Filipino animator Van Partible and began as a short form series for Hanna-Barbera. It remains popular because of its adult humor and pop culture references, including regular guest stars and cameos from other popular cartoon characters.
This is one of the strangest cartoons on this already pretty strange list. CatDog is a show that, as its name would suggest, is about a conjoined twin that is half Cat, half Dog. Yeah. It’s weird. The epitome of the classic duo, they are often at odds but trying to make it work because they kind of have to. While Cat is cultured and refined, Dog is goofy and dimwitted. The cast here is iconic, with Jim Cummings (Winnie the Pooh) starring as Cat and Tom Kenny (SpongeBob) as Dog. This one is probably the least well-known on the list but I genuinely think it deserves a lot more attention than it’s gotten.
1. Ed, Edd n Eddy
There have been a lot of crazy fan theories about the true nature of the cul-de-sac gang. Most of them probably aren’t true but it's a testament to just how crazy this show was. Cartoonist Danny Antonucci actually put together the series on a dare, creating the Eds, three preteen boys constantly devising scams so they can get quarters and buy jawbreakers. Eddy is the enterpriser and de-facto leader; Edd (Double D) is the smart one; and Ed is the… well, the opposite. Their hijinks are hilarious and the world they live in is just as entertaining. It might be the strangest on this list but that makes it all the more fun.