Kids Cartoons made in the 80s and 90s are considered the Renaissance Age of animation. Prior to these years cartoons were stuck in a rut. They had extremely small budgets and produced content that many considered to be from the stone ages, because of a lack of artistic creativity. It would be the collaborated efforts of toy makers, advertisers, and brilliant artists that would bring about the Renaissance Age of cartoons and change the landscape of animation in America for the better.
With the popularity of cartoons, and the toys often associated with them, came plenty of dark secrets you may have missed while you were growing up. This was especially true concerning 90s cartoons. The 90s were a funny time in animation, taking place just prior to the peak in popularity where cartoons would have a direct impact on American culture and society. Disney suddenly found themselves in direct competition with production companies like Warner Bros. Animation, Cartoon Network, Fox, and let’s not forget Japanese anime.
This massive influx of animation companies led to timeless shows like Beavis and Butt-Head, SpongeBob SquarePants, Batman: The Animated Series, and Animaniacs. Even big names like Steven Spielberg became involved with cartoons which were produced in the 90s. But not everything was sunshine and rainbows. Behind closed doors and in the minds of some very creative artists, lies a host of information which takes the innocence out right out of our favorite cartoons. From Voodoo theories to mistaken identities, here are 30 dark secrets you didn’t know about which took place in 90s cartoons.
30. Batman Gets Taken Oversees Quietly
Outsourcing in the animation world is a quiet tactic major production companies don’t want you to know about. Batman: The Animated Series was one such cartoon that had its first 65 episodes outsourced. Various production companies were included on the project such as Dong Yang Animation, AKOM, Blue Pencil, Spectrum Animation, Studio Junio, Sunrise, and most notably TMS Entertainment.
Not everything went to plan however as AKOM was fired because of inconsistent animation. The majority of the outsourced work for Batman: The Animated Series was done by Dong Yang Animation in the first two seasons. From WB to Disney, outsourcing kid’s cartoons has been taking place for quite some time. While this did help animation in the west by creating a unique anime and western blend, it also changed the workforce scene for western artists.
29. Long Lost Cartoon Brother From Hit 90s Animated Show
The hit 90s cartoon series Animaniacs was produced by Amblin Entertainment in association with Warner Bros. Animation. But did you know they had a comic book published by DC Comics? Featured in issue #33, there is a secret you didn’t know about. In it is a character named Sakko Warner who turns out to be a long-lost brother.
Sakko Warner isn’t official however as his name is only mentioned in the comic book. The team that worked on the comic was different from the Animaniacs animation crew. Writer Paul Rugg did like the idea of fourth Warner and wanted to include him in a movie that never got made. His name wouldn’t have been Sakko, but it would’ve been cool to see this mysterious brother added to the Warner family.
28. Flower Consuming Metalheads Blamed For Tragic Fire
Mike Judge created Beavis and Butt-Head from a short film of his called Frog Baseball. The two teenagers were notorious for watching MTV videos, snaking on munchies, and producing timeless catch phrases. They also happened to be pyromaniacs too.
In 1993 a tragic fire would take place in Ohio where a five-year-old would burn the family home and kill his two-year-old sister. The mother of the boy blamed Beavis and Butt-Head’s love of fire for this tragic tale, causing MTV to wipe all fire references from the previous episodes while changing the air time of Beavis and Butt-Head to after 10:30pm. While the story is horrible and tragic, the question remains as to why a young child was watching the show in the first place (possibly unsupervised) — and how did he get his hands on equipment to start a fire in the first place.
27. A Controversial Cartoon Writers Walkout
Rugrats popped into creation through Gábor Csupó and Arlene Klasky, along with Paul Germain in 1989. The trio were also animating The Simpsons at the time, which they would continue to do until 1992. Rugrats would first hit TV screens in August of 1991. Despite it being a kid cartoon, the show had its fair share of drama in the workplace.
Paul Germain would end up walking out on Klasky-Csupo over creative issues and would end up signing along with Disney, where he would produce the hit series Recess. It wasn’t just Paul that would leave though as all the writers walked out too. Nobody has talked about the famed incident due to legal reasons, as a settlement was reached between Nickelodeon/Klasky-Csupo. Ironically, it would be Rugrats reruns that would spark the shows popularity to new heights.
26. Possible Cheating Theory Explains Bobby Hills Personality
The Hill family is another Mike Judge creation, along with Greg Daniels that ran on Fox from 1997 to 2010. Hank Hill is the King of the Hill in this little Texas town, along with his wife, two best friends, and his son who doesn’t act or look like him. The theory revolving around Bobby Hill is that Hank isn’t the father — put that in a Maury episode.
Hanks buddy Bill Dauterive fits the profile of Bobby’s dad to a tee. He’s chubby, not too smart, and probably likes to play with dolls too. Anyone who has watched the show knows Bill has the hots for Peggy, and this scenario is much easier to grasp than Hank being Bobby’s dad. Let’s not forget that Hank Hill has a narrow urethra too, which could explain why the swap happened in the first place.
25. Fairies Represent Anti-Depressants For Kids
The Fairly Oddparents premiered on Nickelodeon in 2001, but it had actually been around since 1998 in the form of cartoon shorts. The story is based around the character Timmy, who’s neglected by his parents and essentially tortured by Vicky the babysitter. Because of the nature of his environment, a Reddit theory went rapid when it was said that the fairies presented to Timmy were representations of anti-depressants. Which honestly, fits the theme in the 90s and early 2000s right on the nose.
Timmy’s fairy godparents are supposed to represent Zoloft and Prozac, to help Timmy with his issues and problems. The theory is strengthened through the argument that they showed up when his problems began, and that there’s side effects for when he abuses their magic.
24. Why Is It Such A Big Deal That A Dog Was Female?
Blue’s Clues was the highest-rated show for preschoolers in America and was essential to Nickelodeon’s growth for a new generation. Producers Angela Santomero, Todd Kessler, and Traci Paige Johnson used concepts from child development and early childhood education, along with animation to help kids learn. Blue’s Clues was originally hosted by Steve Burns, who left in 2002 and was replaced by Donovan Patton.
What everyone gets wrong, or flips out about regarding Blue’s Clues, is that Blue was a girl and not a boy. We’re not sure why it’s such a big deal, but apparently, a generation is upset with Steve Burns because he left the show to play music (no, he didn’t OD) and Blue for being a girl. Get over it and move on with your life, please.
23. The 90s Cartoon Version Of The Walking Dead
There’s an overwhelmingly popular theory created by fans of the cartoon Ed, Edd, n Eddy which has gained serious traction over the years. The idea began when fandom started discussing the tones of skin color featured on each character. Ed, Edd, n Eddy have a distinct yellow and sickly pink tone which gives the impression that they aren’t actually alive.
This hit cartoon was a joint American and Canadian project created by Danny Antonucci for the Cartoon Network. While designing a commercial, cartoonist Antonucc was dared to make a kids cartoon which he made based off classics from the 1940s through the 1970s. If Ed, Edd, n Eddy are based off dozens of old cartoon characters, it would explain their deceased look on the show.
22. April Isn’t A Real Human On Animated TMNT
There’s a dark secret in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that not too many know about. April O’Neil is portrayed as a human who can relate to the TMNT as ninja hero’s and not monsters out of the sewer. The secret behind April can be found in the original TMNT comics. According to the literature, she is a drawing come to life created by a man named Kirby King.
Nickelodeon played off this concept a little, in which April was featured as half human and alien. The coolest part her being either an alien or an image come to life, is that she has some awesome psychic powers. The ironic part about the animated TMNT series is that it was created for toy sales, which countered the cult following it had with comic book readers.
21. 90s Cartoon Character Gets ENDED Over Actors Pay
The Simpsons is the most popular animated TV show aired in America. Created by Matt Groening, it was Fox Broadcasting Company’s first series to land in the Top 30 ratings. The Simpsons also had a movie where it grossed over $527 million worldwide. So, pay for actors shouldn’t have been an issue — right? Maggie Roswell was the voice actor on The Simpsons who played Maude Flanders, Helen Lovejoy, and Miss Hoover.
Roswell went to Fox and asked for a raise after moving from L.A. to Denver with her family. Recording still needed to be done in L.A., leaving Roswell lots of travel time. She asked the execs if she could make $6000 an episode, as opposed to the $2000 she was making at the time. To put this in perspective, the main character voice actors were making around $125,000 per episode. Fox, however, didn’t acknowledge her request as valid and only offered her a raise of $150 bucks. The result, so long Maude Flanders.
20. Let’s “Take Over The World” Is Based On Real People
Pinky and the Brain was produced by produced by Warner Bros. Animation in collaboration with Steven Spielberg’s company. The 90s cartoon received inspiration from the personalities of two producers who worked with Tom Ruegger on Tiny Toon Adventures. Tom wondered what it would look like if artist Eddie Fitzgerald and Tom Minton actually tried to take over the world.
The idea prompted Ruegger to create the characters Pinky and Brain as a fun way to play out his thoughts on the subject. Naturally, Eddie Fitzgerald and Tom Minton landed a real life animation spot on the show as writers in “The Pinky and the Brain Reunion Special.”
19. Radioactive Censorship In 90s Cartoons
Spider-Man: The Animated Series has a dark secret not too many know about. According to the broadcast standards of censorship, the cartoon needed to replace any mentioning of the word radioactive. Because kids who watch Spider-Man will apparently suffer if the word radioactive is used. The craziest part about this form of censorship is that the word is used repeatedly in the opening theme song.
The writers did find a loophole in the system and created fiction based science to explain how Peter Parker got his Spidey powers. The idea was that Peter Parker would be involved in high school demonstration of a Neogenic Recombinator. A spider accidentally gets caught in the beam which in turn bites Peter Parker and creates our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
18. Secret Theory Sheds New Light On Inspector Gadget
Inspector Gadget was a clever and hilarious animated version of the old TV series Get Smart. In the cartoon, Inspector Gadget was supposedly a human who had every gadget known to mankind. He wasn’t the sharpest tack on the board, often relying on Penny and Brain to accomplish all the real detective work.
The theory with Inspector Gadget is that he’s not a person, but a robot created by Penny. Why, you may ask? The reason would be that the antagonist of the series, Dr. Claw, is the real Inspector Gadget. The theory explains that Dr. Claw was a detective who suffered a horrible accident and went crazy. To deal with her grief, Penny his niece, created the robot Inspector Gadget seen in the cartoon. While this has never been confirmed, the theory makes way more sense than the supposed real version.
17. First Episode Aired Of Famous Cartoon Wasn’t The First
Tiny Toons released their first episode in 1990 on CBS, but it didn’t take because the show Family Matters scooped up all the viewers. When the series returned to network television, it was on Fox. The change in networks threw off audiences as to which was the actual first episode for Tiny Toons.
When Tom Ruegger took over the series, it was a hot mess that needed a ton of patch work. Buster’s name was Bitsy (ugh), which Ruegger stated “made me cringe and I immediately started introducing new names for him.” The creation aspect was such a mess that scripts were written and recorded before Plucky and Hamton even had a name assigned to them. We’re glad Ruegger picked it up and created the cartoon masterpiece it’s known for today.
16. The Kicker Behind Batman Vs Superman
Ten years after the 1986 reboot of the Superman comic-book character, Warner Bros. Animation produced Superman: The Animated Series. Riding the coattails of the successful Batman: The Animated Series, the show needed something big to set it apart in its own right.
In the late 90s, Superman was happily married to Lois in the comic books. So it came as a shock for comic fans when the “World’s Finest” episode aired featuring a crossover between Superman and Batman. Lois provides the perfect spark for the crossover to happen as she decides she’s had enough of Clark, she’s moving to Gotham. That’s right, out of the arms of Superman and into the arms of Batman. The kicker to the whole episode is that Lois falls for Bruce Wayne hard, who obviously can’t reciprocate that type of love.
15. Warner Brothers Mistaken Identity
Prior to the Animaniacs release in 1993, someone in marketing decided to tie a large balloon of Yakko to the top of the Warner Bros. water tower. The only problem with this friendly marketing strategy was that Bob Daley (the guy running the entire studio) thought the balloon was of Mickey Mouse and had it removed immediately.
Daley pulled Ruegger in and started making changes to Yakko and Wakko’s design. The heads were made less round and whiskers were added to avoid a potential legal battle with Walt Disney. As things tend to go, the cartoon was already in the drawing stage. Animation president Jean MacCurdy was forced to rush back to the studio and make changes before everyone’s hard work became scrap — all because an exec thought Yakko was Mickey.
14. Giant Mysterious Secrets Surrounding Magic School Bus
The first and most popular theory surrounding Magic School Bus is that the teenagers featured in Captain Planet are the grown up versions of the kids from Magic School Bus. While you can’t argue that the similarities are certainly there between the teenagers and their possible younger counterparts, the theory has never been confirmed.
The second (and our favorite) theory determines that Ms. Frizzle is a renegade Time Lord who ran away from Gallifrey, just like The Doctor did from Doctor Who.
Perhaps one of these theories will be explored because a reboot of Magic School Bus launched this fall on Netflix. Hopefully instead of brainwashed kids on an Island, the theory about Ms. Fizzle being a Time Lord comes true and we get an animated crossover with Dr. Who.
13. The Floating Brain Phenomenon
Futurama was the hottest rerun show to watch on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim and has been aired by several broadcast networks over the years. In its first season, episode “Fry and the Slurm Factory” featured Bender getting sick and having an X-ray done for his head. The results show a 6502 microprocessor out of an Apple II in his head.
But this ancient chip isn’t Bender’s brain. It’s been noted on the show that his brain floats around his body which is referred to as a Spine Brain. Fans have been clamoring for a return of Futurama, but Matt Groening has yet to find another network to pick it up. Recently an audio episode was released on The Nerdist Podcast called Futurama: Worlds of Tomorrow Presents, RADIORAMA!
12. Tuition Money Spent On Analyzing South Park
South Park has been a subject of controversy since it was first launched in 1997. It’s also one of televisions greatest shows with a handful of accolades and awards. What you probably didn’t know is that you can enroll in a class offered at McDaniel College in Westminster Maryland which takes a deeper, analytical look into various South Park episodes.
McDaniel is a small private school which has a high reputation in the Maryland area. So if you want to take classes which will peak your inner nerd, head off to Maryland and get enrolled today. The class focuses on social issues, along with the alien hiding somewhere in the background of every single episode. Personally, we wouldn’t spend a few hundred bucks on South Park social issues, but to each their own.
11. Two Ladies Rock Out Dexter’s Voice
Dexter from Dexter’s Laboratory was a brilliant 90s cartoon created by Genndy Tartakovsky for Cartoon Network. The secret behind Dexter is that this young male character was voiced by two separate women. Voice actress Christine Cavanaugh was the first, having previously played Chuckie Finster. Cavanaugh retired from voice acting in 2001 and sadly is no longer with us. She was replaced by another female voice actor named Candi Milo who finished out the series.
Dexter wasn’t the only character on the show to have two female voice actors. Dee Dee was first voiced by Tartakovsky’s friend Allison Moore, but she soon left for a Broadway career. Kat Cressida stepped in to cover the voice work until Cartoon Network brought Moore back because audiences were used to her voice.
10. Innocence Of Pokémon Destroyed Through Cannibalism
Here’s a dark secret associated with Pokémon which is guaranteed to blow your mind. According to Sinnoh Folk Tales (Sinnoh’s Myth) Pokémon and humans were at one time the same. Yep, that means Pokémon were at one time very similar to humans, as we were to them. Over time the races evolved and separated, creating the Pokémon we’ve all come to love.
But here’s the real kicker. While this fact wasn’t portrayed in the anime, it has been concluded that humans sometimes eat Pokémon. Slowpoke in Pokémon Gold and Silver are considered a high-end and expensive delicacy. This means that when humans eat a Slowpoke, they’re actually partaking in cannibalism. The most interesting part is that there are animals in the Pokémon world, so why not eat them instead?
9. Secret Halloween Episode Has Devil Stealing A Soul
In the early 90s, Saturday cartoons were still alive and a favorite to watch was Darkwing Duck. Created by Tad Stones as an alternate universe of the DuckTales series, the series was unusually quirky and innocent — until the 1992 Halloween episode.
It starts off with Darkwing Duck who’s with DW and Gosalyn while they’re visiting Morgana McCawber’s magic school. Things get spooky and dark when the devil shows up as Beelzebub. Normally Beelzebub steals politicians and car salesman souls, but this time he decides he wants a challenge and goes after Darkwing Duck’s soul instead.
For a cartoon produced by Walt Disney Television Animation that was targeting young kids, this Halloween episode may have gone a bit too far. It aired a couple of times before someone woke up and yanked it off. If you’re feeling perky, it can still be found on YouTube.
8. Crazy Springfield Geography Due To Time Travel
Nothing from The Simpsons is supposed to be taken seriously, yet fans have been trying to determine what state Springfield is in since the shows conception. Fandom has finally determined that the messed up geography concerning The Simpsons is due to the after effects of time travel.
The town of Springfield itself is constantly adjusting with the backyard of the Simpsons home having another house behind it, a forest, graveyard, and a parking lot for the Power Plant. Even Moe’s somehow transplants itself from downtown Springfield to a couple of homes away from Homer’s house.
The theory behind the ever changing city of Springfield is that each episode features a city which is from an alternate timeline. While we doubt that this is true, it does explain why landmarks keep changing location.
7. The True And Dark Meaning Behind Dink Family
Doug was a seemingly innocent 90s cartoon that didn’t have the more adult-like humor that was seasoned in other animations. However, there was a more sinister part of Doug that you might have missed as a child. The Dinks don’t have any children in the cartoon because their name is an acronym for double income, no kids.
While you may have already known this, the subliminal messaging behind this family continues to be a dark secret. Creator Jim Jinkins goes out of his way to feature Mr. Dink making large and expensive purchases all the time. The purpose behind these shopping sprees was a subliminal message that adults without kids have more money to spend. Is this why millennials are more adapt towards saving and are having fewer kids?
6. Apocalypse Secret And Deadly Sin Tie-In
Created by marine biologist and animator Stephen Hillenburg, SpongeBob SquarePants was one of the most popular animated series of its time. Because of its immense popularity, fans have been trying to determine how the world of Bikini Bottom came to be. The most controversial, and probably true explanation, is that Bikini Bottom’s the remnants of a post nuclear attack.
Another fun and controversial fan theory surrounds the characters themselves. Each SpongeBob SquarePants character is designed around the seven deadly sins. For example, Patrick is sloth, Squidward is wrath, and Mr. Krabs is greed. The list goes on with Gary as gluttony, Sandy is pride, Plankton as envy, and SpongeBob himself as lust.
5. Personality Disorders Take Center Stage
Courage the Cowardly Dog was considered an animated horror comedy which was featured on Cartoon Network. Created by John R. Dilworth, Courage was abandoned as a puppy after his parents were sent into outer space by a crazed veterinarian. Because of this traumatic experience in his life, the cartoon is said to take place in Courage’s head.
This would mean that Muriel and Eustace aren’t real, and the adventures they find themselves in with supernatural creatures are all a figment of courage’s wild imagination. It’s a visual of the horrors in his mind because Courage can’t deal with his present reality.
It’s also been noted that the anime Ghost in a Shell was an inspiration for Courage the Cowardly Dog. This makes sense since the anime was keen on presenting two realities — the real world, and the place which exists inside one’s head.
4. Secret Color Coding Reasons Behind TMNT
The beloved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles didn’t always have different colored headbands. During the testing of the animated series, complaints were given that audiences couldn’t tell one turtle from another. The solution to this problem came from the producers who gave each turtle a specific colored headband.
While the change seems overly simple, the results were exactly what the producers were hoping for. Kids were able to distinguish the characters from one another due to the colors associated with them, kind of like creating a drawing by connecting the dots. Either we’re not as smart as we think we are, or we’ve been dumbed down by color coded Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Whatever the answer might be, TMNT brought in a ton of money due to this subtle and simple solution.
3. Correlation Between Sleeping Beauty And The Powerpuff Girls
Speaking of color coding, The Powerpuff Girls contain a secret that you might have missed if you never watched Sleeping Beauty. The three fairies in Sleeping Beauty share the same color scheme (red, blue, and green) as the Powerpuff Girls. But that’s not the only similarity. Each fairy was named Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather. Supposedly the names line up with each girls personality from The Powerpuff Girls — the sweet one, the spunky one, and the tough one.
Another not-so-dark secret you might have missed in the show was the framed pictures in the background. The portraits on the walls are of the animators themselves, which was an incredibly smart and devious decision by the artists as a way to immortalize themselves. These portraits can be seen in several episodes.
2. Stray Cat Characters Attract Top Actors On Animaniacs
Animaniacs didn’t become the hottest cartoon in the 90s by chance. The concept and writing was brilliant, attracting some big names in showbiz to play a couple of stray cats in the series. Bernadette Peters voiced the cat Rita and Frank Welker voiced Runt. Welker’s portfolio includes Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, The Little Mermaid, and Beauty and the Beast — just to name a few. Peters was just as famous with being nominated for three Grammy’s and winning two Tony awards.
Sadly, Animaniacs ended before its time should have been up. The dark secret concerning this involves advertising and marketing and has nothing to do with ratings. Animaniacs was taken off the air because college kids and adults made up a huge part of the viewer audience. But the advertising agencies weren’t targeting them, they were after little kids. Basically, a lack of sales for ad companies caused Animaniacs to depart before it should have.
1. Who’s Got The Voodoo? Care Bears Have The Voodoo
For those that figured out the header was a nod to David Bowie and the movie Labyrinth — give yourselves a pat on the back. But in all seriousness, there’s a dark secret going around which states that the Care Bears were associated with Voodoo. While this theory is probably untrue, there are similarities nonetheless.
There is a district in Port-au-Prince (France) named Carrefour, who’s a demon like creature in Voodoo literature. While this may seem like a stretch, the symbols on the Care Bears tummies happen to line up with symbols used in Voodoo as well.
The theory is most likely bunk, but if we’ve learned anything, it’s that what may seem innocent on the surface — most likely isn’t. Cartoons from the 90s are full of dark secrets we never expected to encounter.
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