Revisit The Utterly Deranged 90s Cartoons We Loved
Why do we harp on the 90’s? The return of high spouting ponytails, punk-friendly chokers, mixtapes, and endless listicles about kitsch snacks and glorious toys–we get it, the 90’s were rad. But for all the hype, there was also a lot of less wondrous shit that happened. Let’s not forget the days of Dial Up, the first Gulf War, O.J., and Hillary Clinton with bangs. But the nostalgia train just keeps pushing forward. The Full House reboot, Fuller House, is on its way to Netflix, and it seems to just be rehashing all that good old-fashioned family fun. Or is it?
It might be terrifying. And as a kid who grew up in the 90’s, I can’t help but remember all the the undeniably strange and utterly creepy shows that fostered my upbringing. After years of Cartoon Network and Nick, pounding gushers and Scooby snack dummies way past bed time, I’m surprised I’ve made it to my 20’s unscathed. To resurrect those childhood nightmares — because everyone had one after Courage the Cowardly Dog — here’s a list of the weirdest 90’s shows shows that marked and debatably scarred our childhoods.
Aaaah!!! Real Monsters
They were just like us. They went to school, had cruel teachers, dreaded assignments — except they were monsters and they lived under a city dump. This show was undeniably creepy. Beyond the fact that the main character is a pink bulge that carries his own eye balls, there’s plenty more weirdness to the series. Their teacher, the Scorch, punishes students by singing, and the Grumble, a cross dressing, Dr. Frank N. Furter-esque monster has four heeled feet, black leather gloves, and the scruffiest male voice you’ll ever hear.
Pinky and the Brain
Not only was this 90’s show created in collaboration with Steven Spielberg, but it also transported emerging technology fears into animation. In case you forgot, the show was about two genetically enhanced lab rats who live in a cage in Acme Labs research facility. Pinky is the dumb but lovable one, and the Brain is, well, the brain of every scheme to take over the world. Spoiler alert: every plot ends up failing due to Pinky’s stupidity or Brain’s overly elaborate plan. The series hits on a fear that rippled through the 90’s in light of tech advances, one in which genetic modification gives rise too super creatures. But to its credit, the show is also quite academic, featuring the rat duo under the lab authority of a number of swanky historical researchers like Pavlov and H.G. Wells.
A second kid’s show to hit on genetic mutation? Seems like a theme in 90’s cartoons. CatDog follows the lives of a half-cat half-dog creature. Set in the city of Nearburg, the town is thriving with hybrid creatures and other anthropomorphic oddities. CatDog’s best friend is a mouse named Winslow, who rooms in their dry wall, and there’s also a pack of badass Grease-like gagnster dogs who are always decked out in the coolest leather jackets. For the strange shows of the 90’s, this was probably the most tame and least nightmare-inducing series.
Ren & Stimpy
This is by far the creepiest show to air in the 90’s, and potentially ever. The plot follows an emaciated, erratic chihuahua named Ren, and his feline friend Stimpy. Ren’s consistently pink eyes make us, in retrospect, question whether or not he was a raging dope fiend. Laden with sexual innuendos, rubber nipple salesmen, sacrilegious depictions of the pope, and substance references (remember George “Liquor”?), this series is the best of the best and a natural go-to for weed-coma nostalgic binge watching. Pivoting on its more lewd themes, the series was followed by a second series, Ren & Stimpy “Adult Party Cartoon”, featured late night on Spike TV.
Somehow no one questioned how a puppet was related to humans. The mystery surrounding why Skeeter had to move in with his extended family, or how he was best friends with Queen Latifah and Michael Jordan, remains unknown. But the cheesy rap interludes and the most amazing theme song ever make up for the lack of plot logic. Plus, the show was the birth of Megan Good’s acting career, who stars in TV series Minority Report, Deception, and a number of films.
Courage the Cowardly Dog
If the elderly owners didn’t do it for you, then “The Revenge of the Chicken From Outer Space” definitely gave you nightmares. The return of the chicken, now fried and full of vengeance, returns in this episode to pull off Courage’s head and wear it. In other episodes, a group of dead horsemen come hurdling through Courages town, also cutting off heads (a common theme?). In another, we witness a lesson on domestic abuse between a dog and a bunny – a bunny who also gets involved in prostitution – and in another, a visit from creepy relative Fred, who likes to speak in rhyme and shave everything and everyone. Even scarier is the parody of the exorcist.
Thank you for the nightmares, Cartoon Network.
Stay tuned to Milk for more cartoon scariness.