The 5 Most Awesome (and 5 Least) "Baby" Cartoons

By Rob Bricken in Cartoons, Daily Lists
Friday, October 2, 2009 at 7:57 am
muppet babies.jpg
By Adam Pawlus

It's a cliche at this point that, at some point, your favorite long-running franchise is going to get revitalized and aimed at a new generation. Sometimes it works, like a Doctor Who a few years ago, or the Transformers' relaunch every 18 or so months.

In the 1980s, it took a particularly strange form in which a scene from a single movie inspired a cartoon, which in turn inspired numerous other franchises to re-invent themselves as "babies." The advantages of this are many -- new young audience, parent-friendly adorable characters, and of course a licensing bonanza. Sure, you may lose all the charm of the original, but isn't it worth it when you can have something to show kids between cereal commercials on Saturday morning network television?


5) A Pup Named Scooby-Doo

While most of these shows are pale copies of the original characters, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo manages to both celebrate and lampoon the 1970s show while making something younger kids could watch and get. It can be viewed as extremely lazy, or a sort of quasi-genius project. Nearly every episode you see Freddy blame some random crime on a kid named Red Herring, there's always some asinine dance number, and like so many other shows, this was probably scripted every week using one basic outline. Oh, and Shaggy still always has the munchies, meaning that a certain substance was likely consistently available for the bulk of his life.

Running from 1988-91 on ABC, this show got the original's camp and repetitiveness, and threw it right back in its face. The characters are acutely aware of what's going on, and point out to you that someone did or said something because it happens all the damn time so that naturally means you've just stumbled on a major plot point. "Hey everyone, Velma said 'Jinkies'! Take a drink!"

It's either a postmodern work of genius created by tortured animators or a lazy knock-off on an earlier, more popular animated property. The show certainly didn't take itself too seriously, but most important of all, Fred was revealed to be the idiot we always knew him to be. If you didn't look up to him, take solace that at least Hank Venture did.

4) Tom & Jerry Kids

The duo of Tom and Jerry are legendary figures in children's entertainment. At times, Tom and Jerry were friends (specifically the 1970s) and as far as the rest of the time, well, it's not known for being a particularly violent show for nothing. The 1990 Fox reboot of the series kept the adversarial relationship, but made it "for kids." Do you know what constitutes taking a kid's show and making it for kids? Put a baseball cap on a cat. The world eagerly awaits Itchy & Scratchy Tots.

As you can see, the show retains the fangs-- in the case of this clip, quite literally-- of the earlier, more violent shorts. So score one for Fox for basically getting it, but really, what's with the hat? The bowtie makes sense, but the hat?


3) Muppet Babies

The granddaddy of them all! Birthed out of a single musical number in The Muppets take Manhattan, this series was arguably the most successful of the many aged-down franchises, running from 1984 to 1990 on CBS. It's also notable in that basically, nothing ever really happened, the adventures were entirely in their heads. The show didn't write down to its audience, referencing something beyond the scope of the audience's pop culture references was incredibly common. If you watched Muppet Babies in 1987, you probably aren't going to get that "The News Brothers" was a parody of an SNL sketch that was old before you were conceived. One demoralizing note for Henson trivia buffs: this series lasted longer than any other Muppets television project.

Later seasons of the show expanded the main cast of eight-- Piggy, Kermit, Gonzo, Animal, Fozzie, Scooter, Skeeter, and Rowlf-- with numerous cameos. And one of the hardest-working voice actors on the show was Dave "Cut It Out" Coulier, TV's Uncle Joey. Despite this, the show had a good run but when you're the symbol of what many cartoon fans consider to be wrong with TV animation, you don't get a place in Cartoon Valhalla. The series never answered the question, "What Happened to Skeeter?" You see, Scooter had a sister on this animated series, and it's assumed by licensed Muppet-ologists that Skeeter killed and ate Scooter, assuming his identity and powers in future series. (It should be noted that this very true fact was not verified by the Topless Robot fact-checking staff.)

2) X-Men Evolution

The original Fox Kids X-Men series is something of a legend. Perhaps you remember getting the VHS tapes from Pizza Hut. Maybe you recall all the ads for the Phoenix Saga episodes, adapting Chris Claremont's work for animation and a new generation. Kids WB's 2000 hit X-Men Evolution isn't that show.

Fact: kids love angst. Fact #2: lockers beget angst. Relocating the X-Men (and women) to a high school environment lets fans see all sorts of quibbles, because it wasn't cool enough that Nightcrawler could vanish, now he's significantly less Catholic and has a projector to hide his blue appearance. Old farts may wonder what happened with kid shows, in that now to save the world, you need to be under 16. It's a good thing they can teleport or fly, because otherwise it's going to be hard to stop the evil mutants when you need someone to give you a lift.

1) Tiny Toon Adventures

While it's not uncommon for a show to inspire a legion of fans, it is unusual for a TV show to possibly inspire a lifestyle choice. While originally heralded as an amazing joint venture between Steven Spielberg's production company and Warner Brothers animation, the after-school favorite is now largely remembered as a possible inspiration for this generation of Furries.

The show relied heavily on parody and high-school conventions, so you'd be just as likely to see an Indiana Jones spoof as you might be to see Babs being upset about something with her date with Buster. It's not every day you see a show focused on dating with characters that don't wear pants, which is generally something more commonly thought of as a piece of another country's animation history. The show reportedly had a slightly higher cost with an orchestra for its music and a higher grade of animation, which why the most irritating thing most fans may remember from the series was that the same episodes looped seemingly forever without much in the way of new stuff past the first season. 100 episodes may sound like a lot, but this was a 5-days-a-week show which ran from 1990-95, and the first 65 aired pretty much all in the first year.

Also, if you were in elementary school when this show was stripped five times a week, odds are you watched it every freaking day after you got off the school bus. Don't deny it. We know your desires.

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