With YouTube and Netflix on smart phones and tablets, 21st century kids have a previously unimaginable universe of on-demand entertainment at their command. Prior to the Internet, though, young folk looking for a video kick had to take in whatever the TV networks saw fit to air in strictly regimented time slots—Saturday morning, of course, being the most prominent.
On the down side, that meant less choice and variety. On the upside, to compete with expanding technologies for juvenile eyeballs, broadcast and basic cable outlets got plenty weird.
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1990-91)
Based on a 1976 midnight-movie horror spoof, a scientific experiment turns our delicious red friends into razor-toothed, world-conquering carnivores.
Camp Candy (1990)
John Candy, the rotund funnyman of SCTV, Home Alone, and Planes, Trains, and Automobiles voiced an animated summer camp counselor who was beloved by kid campers and woodland critters alike.
Pop-rap sensation MC Hammer proved that when it comes to multimedia overkill, he could touch this by way of a cartoon that cast him as a crime-fighting superhero with magical dancing shoes that could talk.
Toxic Crusaders (1991)
The Toxic Avenger (1984) and its cult-movie sequels are gore-sopped, sex-drenched, sick-joke superhero send-ups that no child should ever see under any circumstances. This Fox cartoon adaptation recast “Toxie” as a gentle warrior for the environment, joined by a team of similarly ecological-minded mutant heroes.
Wish Kid (1991)
Macaulay Culkin rode the blockbuster success of Home Alone to this short-lived cartoon where he voiced a lucky lad who finds an enchanted baseball mitt that grants wishes.
Yo Yogi! (1991)
Hanna-Barbera’s veteran ursine Jellystone Park resident got a “cool” early-’90s makeover as he, Boo-Boo, Daisy Bear, Huckleberry and their pals became teenagers who rode skateboards and hung out at the mall to solve mysteries. Segments of the show were in 3D, so when Yogi spun around his backward baseball cap, kids at home knew it was time to put on their 3D glasses.
Fievel’s American Tales (1992)
By the early 1990s, Steven Spielberg desperately wanted to be Disney and he kept hoping Fievel Mouskawitz of his two American Tale animated movies would become his Mickey. This syndicated cartoon is where those dreams finally died.
Biker Mice From Mars (1993-1996)
In the annals of unmistakable rip-offs of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Biker Mice From Mars may be a hair less obvious than Samurai Pizza Cats (1990-91), but still….
Cadillacs and Dinosaurs (1993-94)
After an environmental apocalypse reawakens the dinosaurs, Earth’s future is driven by handful of human scientists, who pilot around the weird new landscape in classic luxury vehicles.
Life With Louie (1994-98)
Super-sized comedian Louie Anderson voiced a kid version of himself in a barbed family cartoon based on his real-life experiences of growing up as one of eleven children with a terribly problematic father.
Problem Child: The Animated Series (1993-94)
Junior Healy, troublemaking redhead hero of the big-screen Problem Child cult kid flicks, goes full cartoon for a series of slapstick misadventures. Comedian Gilbert Gottfried, who jokes he’ll take any job whatsoever, points out as evidence that he was the only cast member to work on the cartoon, reprising his role as Principal Peabody.
The first fully CGI half-hour TV series, the Canadian-made ReBoot proved revolutionary in introducing a young generation to concepts such as the Internet and online communication, as well as imparting lessons about ethics and fair use of floppy discs.
C-Bear and Jamal (1996-97)
Nine-year-old Jamal gets in and out of jams while accompanied by C-Bear, his way-cool hip-hop teddy bear voiced (and sung!) by rapper Tone-Loc.
Mighty Ducks: The Animated Series (1996-97)
Named for Disney’s popular kids’ sports movies and borrowing heavily from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the animated Mighty Ducks depicted muscular fowl who excelled at ice hockey and battled bad-guy aliens and robots on a distant planet called Puckworld.
Mummies Alive! (1997)
One last TMNT knockoff, Mummies Alive! actually proved to be kind of cool in its chronicle of super-powered mummies in modern times each imbued with the specific abilities of an ancient Egyptian god. The fight scenes were pretty gnarly, too.