Think back to your earliest childhood memories, and you probably remember rushing home from school to watch your favorite tv show. If you were forced to do homework or go outside to play, you might have looked forward to Saturday morning cartoons.
When you were young, you probably didn’t understand many of the innuendos and references meant for adults. With your innocent mind, all of the adult jokes went over your head. You were probably just happy to watch something silly and fun before school was back in session.
The content that went over your head may have been more sinister than you expect. Viewers have devised creepy stories from children’s media since their conception. Parents and politicians may believe that certain shows are pushing an agenda on their children and try to ban them from television. Fans of the show, but who love to overanalyze, have also devised dark theories for characters on cartoon shows for years. Theories range from believing The Fairly OddParents’ Cosmo and Wanda may not have been wish-granting fairies, but manifestations of Timmy’s antidepressants to thinking Finn from Adventure Time is a sad little boy who escapes by imagining himself on epic journeys.
No matter what you believed of a cartoon when you were younger, some fans were creating dark conspiracy theories that not even the show’s creators could have written. Our list compiles some of the most outlandish ideas that fans have written to make sense of their favorite childhood cartoons.
20. Even A Genius Has A Good Imagination
Dexter’s Laboratory stars a young genius named Dexter. He develops various plots that are often ruined by his older sister, Dee Dee. These schemes are thought out in a giant elaborate laboratory on the back of the family’s suburban home. It’s a fantastic dream to an innocent child, but to realistic viewers, Dexter’s lab is impossible. They developed a theory that Dexter’s elaborate science lab doesn’t exist. There’s no way that his family would be able to afford the equipment or the electricity to run the lab. The experiments he creates may not even be legal. Dexter’s lab may only be a figment of his imagination. Although it’s not real, the lab may be an example of where he would love to work in the future.
19. Is This The Same Universe?
Developers and animation companies love to add in Easter eggs referring to their other projects. These hidden gems are a thrill for fans to find, but they also give birth to creative, though unlikely, theories.
Dubbed “The Pixar Theory,” fans believe that all Pixar movies take place in the same universe. As early as Brave, fans think that the magic used to turn Merida’s mother into a bear was the same that gave The Incredibles their superhuman families. The advanced sea life in Finding Nemo could explain why Remy’s rat in Ratatouille could cook, sing, and dance. The theory grows darker with Cars. The vehicles are using up too many of Earth’s natural resources, that lead to the uninhabited planet in Wall-E.
18. Dreaming About Lasagna
Garfield is a well-known comic strip but was also a popular Saturday morning cartoon in the 90s. Garfield is usually portrayed as an overweight, lazy cat. Conspiracy theorists have been busy for years devising stories about the series. Some believe Garfield is only a figment of Jon’s imagination, which brought life to the website Garfield Minus Garfield.
A darker theory suggests that Garfield isn’t the large, confident tabby cat you see in comics. He’s homeless and living in an alley, alone and dying of starvation. His best friend Odie and owner Jon are hallucinations. The warm bed with the blue blanket and roof over his head are only unobtainable dreams. The funny cartoons we read as children were hiding the sad truth of Garfield’s true fate.
17. Was Pinky The Brain All Along?
Pinky and the Brain was a spin-off from the WB cartoon series Animaniacs. It was a slightly darker cartoon. In each episode, two trapped lab rats were forced to follow their owner’s bidding until they left work for the night. Only in the cover of darkness could the rats leave their cages. Brain would work plots to take over the world, while Pinky goofed off.
Brain would come up with elaborate schemes for world domination, but they were always ruined by Pinky. Though the cartoon joked that Pinky did it by accident, he may have been hiding his power level. After years of living together, Pinky knew that Brain was evil. He may have deliberately sabotaged Brain’s plans to stop him from taking over Earth.
16. These Hats Seem A Bit Familiar…
The Smurfs have recently been revived as a CG movie, but previously had a long-time cartoon series. A lecturer at a Parisian political science school wrote an in-depth analysis of how these blue creatures were an “archetype of a totalitarian society imbued with Stalinism and Nazism.” The claim states that the Smurfs were originally named The Black Smurfs, but translated into The Purple Smurfs. Papa Smurf’s red clothing and white beard were a reference to Joseph Stalin. Smurfette was a man’s misogynistic version of the ideal Aryan blonde hair, blue-eyed woman.
The Smurfs weren’t the only ones to get over-analyzed. The lecturer also believed The Smurfs discriminated against others. Their biggest enemy, Gargamel, was an anti-Semitic caricature. His cat, Azraël, has a Hebrew name.
15. Bikini Bottom Meets Fallout
Watch a single episode of SpongeBob Squarepants, and you’ll immediately suspect something is off with the residents of Bikini Bottom. Sea animals shouldn’t be walking, talking, or making burgers. A squirrel shouldn’t have the ability to swim to the bottom of the sea, nor does she have the credentials to be an astronaut. The residents of Bikini Bottom may be hiding a secret. According to conspiracy theorists, the inhabitants of this underwater oasis may be victims of radioactive materials. It is possible they were mutated from the remnants of nuclear waste.
The characters being mutated versions of land and sea animals explains how they’ve created a small community. The mutagens may have a different effect on each character, which explains why some characters, like Patrick, are not as intelligent as Sandy.
14. From School Trips To Saving The Planet
In the mid-90s, Magic School Bus took viewers on a ride to places over the world. With Ms. Frizzle at the wheel, every week her class would learn a new lesson. Fans of the show didn’t realize the show was meant to educate them on different cultures, countries, and space.
Another educational cartoon was also in progress in the 90s. Captain Planet and the Planeteers focused on saving the planet. Using their powers, they were able to stop villains or create the superhero Captain Planet.
Conspiracy theorists believe that Ms. Frizzle’s students grew up to be the Planeteers. Over time, the kids may have grown apart. Gaia may have needed the help of some cool teens with attitude, and brought them together, wiped their minds, and turned them into her eco-warriors.
13. Dreading Each Day Until Death
Most children are bubbly and full of life. Charlie Brown is the opposite. Though his shirt is bright yellow, his view on life is dark and disturbing. Conspiracy theorists believe Charlie is so depressed because he is dying of cancer. His outlook on life is negative because he believes there is no point in living.
His physical characters may also be proof of his condition. He always misses kicking the football Lucy is holding because he’s weak from chemotherapy. The medical treatment also explains why he’s missing so much hair, which is uncommon for a child his age. The negative way the other kids treat him maybe because they are too young to understand death and disease and opt to treat him as an outcast.
12. Bear-y Bad Voodoo Magic
The Care Bears were a colorful group of animals who fought off evil with the magic symbols on their stomachs. With “Care Bear” magic, they fought off enemies by working together. Some have taken this innocent children cartoon and turned it into something more sinister. Theories began to circulate that Care Bears was promoting Voodoo magic to children.
The name “Care Bears” is similar to the region of Carefours, which is an area near Port au Prince, which is known for practicing Voodoo. Each bear represents Lwa, or Voodoo spirit, and can be connected to a specific Lwa spirit. Love-a-Lot Bear is similar to Erzule, Goddess of Love. The symbols on their stomachs show similarities to Veve symbols, which are unique to each Lwa spirit.
11. A Coward’s Way Of Life
As told in the intro of the Coward the Cowardly Dog show, Coward lived with his owners in the middle of Nowhere. The region is a boring world of dirt and despair. That’s how Coward sees it.
Theorists believe that Coward lives in a beautiful region, filled with trees and green grass. He only calls his hometown Nowhere because that’s the name his owners call it. Coward only sees the world as Nowhere because his owners don’t walk him enough. Though he loves Muriel and tolerates her husband Eustace, they are senior citizens and are unable to take Coward on regular walks.
Staying indoors for so long has hurt Coward’s view of the world. When Muriel and Eustace have the opportunity to take him into the outside world, Coward believes his surroundings are scary and terrifying.
10. An Adoption In The Family
Caillou is a cartoon for meant for preschool-aged viewers. When adults are forced to watch the show, they’re usually immediately turned off by Caillou’s whining. That doesn’t keep some theorists from watching anyway and waking notes. A theory that lasted for years was that Caillou had cancer. The creator, Hélène Desputeaux, explained it was because he was a young child, and many kids have not grown full heads of hair yet.
One mystery remains unexplained. Caillou is bald, so his hair color is unknown. However, his parents both have full heads of brunette hair. Rosie is the only member of the family with red hair. Theories speculate that Rose is adopted. Besides sibling rivalry, Rosie’s original origin could explain why the brother and sister don’t always get along.
9. Saving The World From Hospital Beds?
Code Name: Kids Next Door tells the story of a group of children who spend their days saving the world. They are often paired up with others or take on obstacles together. They’re great at solving cases and resolve issues by the end of the episode.
These kids may not be as powerful as they appear. Some theorists believe that these children were confined to a children’s hospital. They may occasionally interact in shared play areas but mostly spend time in their hospital beds. Supposedly, a kind nurse told them that each of the kids has a unique ability. They’re also given toys that can be used as spy gadgets to help them on missions. With these skills, they use their combined strengths to help save the world.
8. Sisters Struggling To Defeat The Evil In Their Lives
The Powerpuff Girls are kindergarten students who save the world before bedtime. Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup have super human abilities and can defeat any enemy that comes their way.
Theorists believe that these girls are merely pretending to live a glamorous life. Though they may be young, some twisted viewers believe they are being abused. To cope with their situation, these girls have turned their abusers into different enemies. HIM, who represents the devil, maybe a close male relative that the girls always cringe at seeing. Mojo Jojo, who appears as a villain the most, is their abusive brother.
The sisters have turned the people close to them into characters as well to fit into their narrative. Fuzzy Lumpkins is just their old, hairy neighbor. The Gangreen Gang are normal neighborhood teens, and the Mayor is just their old, yet lovable grandfather.
7. The Explorer Suffers From Dementia
Dora the Explorer has helped many children learn about nature and animals. She loves to head out on adventures with her best friend, Boots the Monkey. The show rose in popularity quickly, just like the conspiracy theories.
Many believe that Dora has some form of dementia. It would explain why she is much louder than the other characters, who speak at an average volume. Dora may be imagining these fantastic adventures from a mental institution. Theorists also believe that she sees hallucinations. That’s why she always breaks the fourth wall, even though she cannot see the audience, and only pretends to hear their responses. All of the animals who wear clothing, like her pet monkey, and the talking map may all be figments of her imagination since these creatures cannot talk in real life.
6. Dinosaurs Return In A Post-Apocalyptic World
The Flintstones presented a unique take on the prehistoric world. Did humans and dinosaurs co-exist and help each other survive on Earth? Scientists don’t believe so, but theorists have come up with their interpretation of events.
Instead of taking place in the past, theories believe that The Flintstones takes place in the distant future. After the world was destroyed by nuclear war, the survivors had to pick up the pieces. They did not have access to the factory machinery or farming equipment we have today. Times were so tough that homes and vehicles had to be carved from stone. The dinosaurs we see on the show may be mutated animals that humans have succeeded in domesticating. Though the world was in shambles, The Flintstones told the tale of post-apocalyptic human survival.
5. The Engines All Slaves Of The Controller
Thomas the Tank Engine took children into the lives of trains. With the Controller, Sir Topham Hatt, these trains worked hard to help people and improve their quality of life. The trains usually had smiles on their faces, but theorists believe otherwise. They claim that the tank engines are slaves to the Controller. If they do his bidding, they are allowed to live another way.
Henry is an example of one train who rebelled. Afraid of getting wet from the rain, Henry stayed in a tunnel. He refused to move when the Controller told him to leave. The Controller tried to pull him out by force, but Henry didn’t budge. Angry and frustrated, the Controller decided to punish Henry. He filled in the tunnel around Henry, burying him alive. His fire burned out, and he was left in dirty tunnel alone and sad.
4. Babies Born From Grief
In Rugrats, Angelica was the oldest, meanest and most spoiled of the group. Theorists believe that she imagined everything in her head. There were no other babies. Tommy was never born, and instead, Dee Dee miscarried. To cope with the loss, Stu builds toys for a son he would never meet. Chuckie passed away at the same time as his mother, leaving his father Chaz to be a ball of nerves. The DeVilles ended their pregnancy early. Angelica wasn’t sure if they were expecting a girl or boy, so she imagined they had twins.
Suzie was the only child that was real to Angelica. They were neighbors and played together often, so Suzie would hear of Angelica’s elaborate stories about babies that were never born. Suzie only played along with Angelica’s delusions to make her happy.
3. Christopher Robin’s Imaginary Forest Friends
Winnie the Pooh is a long-running children’s show about the adventures of forest animals. The Canadian Medical Association has theorized that each character from the show represents a mental disorder. Winnie the Pooh suffers from an eating disorder, which would explain his obsession with honey, and A.D.H.D., which explains why he’s so obsessed with the sweet treat. Tigger also suffers from A.D.H.D. and is always seen bouncing from place to place. Piglet suffers from general anxiety. His stutter is due to a traumatic event in the past. Owl is extremely intelligent but suffers from Dyslexia and Short-Term Memory Loss. Rabbit has an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, as seen with his carrots. All of these characters were manifested are part of Christopher Robin’s Schizophrenia disorder.
2. Cul-de-sac Of Childrens’ Purgatory
The residents of the cul-de-sac in Ed, Edd, n’ Eddy were on a permanent Summer vacation. They didn’t have to go to school and could spend every episode having fun. Theorists believe they were in purgatory. It would explain why there were no parents around and why the kids never went to school.
All of the kids arrived in the cul-de-sac as soon as they died on Earth. Rolf was the first inhabitant, who perished in the early 1900s. That’s why he always speaks of an older world where he lived on a farm. Johnny arrived next. Unable to get along with Rolf, he picked up a piece of wood, drew on a face, and named it Plank. Nazz died during the 60s. Her parents were of the Woodstock era, and she inherited their laid-back attitude.
1. Only Able To Be The Best In His Dreams
Ash is one of the few human characters to appears every Pokémon season. His re-occurring appearance has made some theorists skeptical. They believe that the world of Pokémon is not real, and is an elaborate world created by a comatose boy.
In each season, Ash is ten years old and rarely ages past 11. In the real world, he may still be ten and doesn’t know what it’s like to grow older. Ash is always happy because he isn’t restricted to a hospital bed. The world of Pokémon is the only place Ash can let his imagination take flight with no restrictions.
The only real restriction Ash faces is during Pokémon Championships. He has never won a single one. These losses may represent how Ash has not defeated his illness. He may only awaken when he’s finally become the best Pokémon Trainer.