?In the ’90s, you really only needed a few things to get the green light on an animated kids show: namely skeletons, sports, street culture, robots, or a Snake Eyes. It didn’t hurt if your heroes are actually anthropomorphic animals either. Combine any of these elements and you had yourself a guaranteed cartoon show. This formula was used to create an incredible amount of cartoons with very mixed results.
Unfortunately over the years a lot of shows have been forgotten that deserve to be remembered. If not for their cool or completely ridiculous concepts than at least as a warning to future TV executives of what to avoid. In no particular order, here are seven mostly forgotten ’90s cartoons — not necessarily forgotten to TR-reading nerds such as yourselves, probably, but to the world at large.
8) Biker Mice from Mars
Biker Mice From Mars was another example of TV executives trying to create the next Ninja Turtles with a Mad Libs book. In this incarnation, three rodent aliens crash land on Earth while trying to escape a Plutakian invasion of their home planet, Mars. They land in Chicago where they quickly befriend April O’Nei– I mean Charley, a local female mechanic that becomes the group’s guide to human culture (why do these women keep throwing in with anthropomorphic animal crime fighters?). Of course, the Plutarkians are also on Earth and planning a secret takeover; why they decided to be all stealth about it when they’re in the midst of blowing the hell out of Mars remains unknown but what we do know is three, 20-something man-mice on motorcycles are here to save the day. Did I mention that their entire species was just wiped out by these same aliens? Oh, well, I’m sure we’ll be just fine.
7) The Bots Master
As you can see from the theme song above, this is one of the shows that started the horrible ’90s habit of peddling “streetz” culture to kids. It featured Ziv “ZZ” Zulander and his B.O.Y.Z.Z Brigade, which stands for Brain Operated Young Zygoetopic Zoids, or what most people would just call robots. In the show, ZZ is like most robotic engineers and can kick all sorts of ass, save the world, and charm the ladies. He also created these cool robots to play with because despite how amazingly cool he is he can’t find anybody that wants to be his friend. He’s probably annoying as hell. When his boss, the President of the Robotic Megafact Corporation, comes to that point in his career that all multinational corporation presidents eventually come to and decides he wants to takeover the world, ZZ uses his BOYZZ to fight back. Aside from the theme song, the show’s main appeal was of course the robot Snake Eyes ninja, complete with two left arms and a buzzsaw crossbow for a right arm. Why not make the second left arm a buzzsaw and give him a right and left arm? Because it’s the ’90s, that’s why.
6) G.I. Joe Extreme
“Extreme times call for extreme heroes” or so goes the slogan from G.I. Joe Extreme. And just how extreme was G.I. Joe Extreme? Well, Cobra Commander is clearly not extreme enough, so how about Iron Klaw? Yes, with a K. And cobras, while scary, are not extreme, but you know what is? A scar! Wait, no. let’s make it more extreme — a SKAR! And it’ll stand for Soldiers of Khaos, Anarchy, and Ruin! Hell yeah! And thus the new enemies of G.I. Joe were born. Unfortunately after starting off strong they really dropped the ball with the Joes. Instead of getting anybody even closely resembling cool we got a bunch of generic thick necks including army dude (Sgt. Savage), army dude 2 (Lt. Stone), dude-bro rocker (Metalhead), robot guy (Harpoon), token black dude (Freight), a guy with a mullet (Ballistic), and Snake Eyes (Black Dragon). It’s like the show was trying to promote terrorism by making the good guys so lame.
5) Mutant League
Continuing the misconception that toxic chemicals actually turn you into mutants with awesome powers instead of instantly murdering you was Mutant League. Based on the Mutant League videogame series, the show promoted the life lessons that all parents want their kids to learn: that it doesn’t matter how many rules, hearts, and lives you have to break, all that matters is that you win. Despite its strong morals, the show was quickly forgotten, probably because they decided to pit deadly monsters against each other in such non-brutal sports as volleyball and baseball. Sure, they tried to make them more deadly but come on, it’s volleyball. The show did, however, have the requisite skeleton character and thus lasted two seasons.
4) Road Rovers
I think we all know that person or couple that loves animals a little too much. They treat their cat like it’s the head of the household. They list their pets as family members on applications and think it’s “cute” when it causes clerical errors. And they eventually give up on lint rollers because they’re admittedly a pretty flawed invention and by this point being covered in animal hair is starting to feel more natural. Now imagine this person gets to write a television show for children. Welcome to Road Rovers and the world of cano-sapiens and transdogmafiers. A world where a scientist with god-like glowing eyes creates an invention that can make dogs semi-human (which is terrifying if you imagine how it would look in the real world) and gives them super powers. Yes, this scientist created a machine that can give dogs powers, but didn’t create a machine that can give humans powers. The scientist also made the always intelligent move of allowing a rabid dog to join the team. Another great message to send to children. And yet amongst the ’90s television landscape the only thing that seems odd about this show is that there wasn’t a Snake Eyes dog. Seriously, what’s up with that?
3) Toxic Crusaders
If the ’90s proved anything it was that you could literally turn any idea into a cartoon for kids. Nothing proved this more than when Troma, the company behind such gems as Surf Nazis Must Die, Killer Condom, and Cannibal! The Musical, got a kids cartoon. Granted, it didn’t last long; only five of the original 13 episodes were ever actually aired, but an entire toyline was created and distributed to children. When kids tried to find the TV show the toys were based on, they couldn’t, because it was canceled. So of course they found the actual Troma films instead.
2) The Mighty Ducks
So first Disney made a live action movie called The Mighty Ducks. If you don’t remember the film, it’s about a drunk driver that inspires a kids’ hockey team to pull together and win by doing his court ordered community service. Because it was so popular, Disney then created an actual NHL team called The Mighty Ducks (that’s one super-inspiring drunk driver, thanks Emilio!). Realizing kids and about 98% of the people who liked the movie don’t actually care about hockey they decided their next shameless merchandising effort should actually be aimed at children. And after seeing Duck Tales and Darkwing Duck they realized there’s really no such thing as too many mallard-based action cartoons. And thus 1996 birthed the final cash grab for the franchise, The Mighty Ducks animated series.
1) King Arthur and The Knights of Justice
Imagine you’re a star quarterback in the NFL. You’re living the good life of getting laid all the time, buying whatever you want, and doing whatever you want (except texting pictures of your penis to hot reporters, that won’t ever fly, guys). Now suddenly some old ass wizard plucks you from this amazing life and brings you back to the Middle Ages. You know, where the black plague is still killing 80% of the population and you toss your own feces in front of your house because that’s the sanitary way of dealing with it. Then you’re told you’re the new king of crap town and you have to save the real king. How do you respond? Well if you’re the characters from King Arthur and the Knights of Justice, you’re surprisingly cool with the whole deal. On top of all this you’re told that despite the fact this old dude can search all throughout time for a replacement king (and apparently decided a quarterback is the best replacement?) and equip you with magical armor that can summon giant dragons, he himself cannot free the real king from a cave of glass. For those not aware of what glass is, let me explain. Look around your house. Point to the most fragile thing you can see. That’s glass. Thanks for nothing, Merlin.