We all know how companies nowadays try to capitalize on the nostalgia of our childhood. This is precisely why we get so many reboots like the Michael Bay Transformers films and the Netflix She-Ra animated series. As long as there is brand recognition and a fanbase to
exploit celebrate it, there’s a good chance someone will try to revive it.
However, this is only generally true for the nostalgic properties that were super successful, not because of how good they really were. This is definitely true for a lot of cartoons from yesteryear. Animated programs like GI Joe, Transformers and My Little Pony soak up most of the nostalgic spotlight, and deservedly so, it’s no wonder why they get the big budget reboots.
This time, I would like to redirect the same spotlight at some of the other cartoons that deserve a little more appreciation than they’re given.
Inhumanoids is a story about the Earth Corps and their battle with the titular monsters who live in the Earth’s crust. They are assisted by other creatures, such as living trees and living rock beings who also want to defeat the Inhumanoids as those monsters also mean to destroy them.
Like most cartoon series, the Inhumanoids series wasn’t created to entertain children with ambitious battles, Shakespearean stories and fantastic character designs and motives. It was created to sell an upcoming toyline. Thankfully, the people behind the animated series decided to still give us ambitious battles, Shakespearean stories and fantastic character designs and motives.
I would say the Inhumanoids is a very overlooked cartoon. It’s visuals are really good and the designs for all of the monsters are very unique. You can definitely see this was inspired by old monster and horror films. The monsters were definitely the stars of the show because the humans in Inhumanoids are very forgettable. It also got away with a lot of shocking violence, especially for the time period. It was good and gruesome and definitely worth a watch.
#2 The Pirates of Dark Water
Pirates of Dark Water focuses on Prince Ren, who teams up with the sorceress Tula, the seafaring pirate Ioz and Ren pet monkey-bird, Niddler. Their mission is to gather the Thirteen Treasures of Rule as these are the only objects that can rid their world of Dark Water, a mysterious substance that is covering their planet.
On paper, The Pirates of Dark Water does sound like your one-of-the-mil adventure cartoon. However, what makes it better than your average adventure cartoon is it’s execution. It kind of feels like the creators copied the basic concept of Episode IV of Star Wars but set it in an alien world filled with water.
The Pirates of Dark Water also never talked down to its audience. The stories were generally swashbuckling fare but the characters all have some depth to them. The heroes do have some dark past they have to overcome and, sometimes, their motives aren’t all that pure. It’s this kind of character development and growth that made me fall in love with the show. I am still super disappointed to this day that they never did finish the show!
#3 Codename: Kids Next Door
During the channel’s heyday, Cartoon Network had a string of original hit cartoons. Dexter’s Laboratory. The Powerpuff Girls. Courage the Cowardly Dog. Cow and Chicken. Megas XLR. The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy. A good number of these shows do deserve a spot on this list. However, the most deserving and maybe even the least known would be Codename: Kids Next Door.
Codename: Kids Next Door focuses of a group of five children who are part of a secret spy-like group known as Kids Next Door. They face various threats, such as teenagers, homework and adults. It may sound like the kids are just playing pretend, and that may actually be the case, but it’s strongly implied that it’s all real.
Codename: Kids Next Door is one of those hyper-imaginative shows that manages to put all the necessary elements together to make for a wonderful show. There’s a surreal quality to the stories and a definite deep knowledge of classic espionage films with the Kids being highly trained in fighting and inventing super gadgets. This was one of my favorite cartoons growing up and, I will admit, I also forgot about it. I only remembered it when I was thinking about what to add on this list.
#4 SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron
This is a concept that shouldn’t have worked. Anthropomorphic cats pilot a specialized jet constructed from junk to fight crime. And it’s not supposed to be a comedy series but, in fact, something that’s done in all seriousness. Oh, and the cheesy title, using a “k” for “kats” and the word “radical” definitely sounds like it’s trying too hard. Yet SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron was a big hit! And if you watched it, you know why!
The two heroes are Jake “Razor” Clawson and Chance “T-Bone” Furlong, who were dismissed from the Enforcement group of Megakat City (again with the “k”). This was due to them pursuing a criminal known as Dark Kat (notice the “k” again) but, thanks to their commander clipping their wing, caused the duo’s jet to crash land into Enforcer headquarters. The commander did not take responsibility for the mishap and put all the blame on Razor and T-Bone. Still feeling the need for justice, the two move to a junk shop and build a new plane called the Turbokat (see the “k” again?) to fight crime.
I was very skeptical of the series myself until I watched it. What I saw was a fantastic action cartoon with some creative baddies and fun stories. What was doubly impressive is, if you strip away the “kat” nature of the characters, you’re left with some really great personalities under all that fur. Every character in the show may feel a little trope-y but that’s part of the fun!
There was a time when MTV was known for some really edgy ideas and pushing the boundaries on what could be considered tasteful television. It produced shows like The Max, Aeon Flux and, of course, Beavis and Butthead. Once again, these shows could be featured on this list. But the one that I’d like to focus on would be pretty much the only thing, literally the only thing, I would watch on MTV each and every week.
That show was Daria.
Daria is actually a spin-off of their highly successful Beavis and Butthead cartoon. But Daria was not about being horny or doing sophomoric things because you’re a teenager. It’s quite the opposite and it was just sooooo good! Daria was a cynical look at life as a teenager and how peers and adults would want you to think and act “normal” when you don’t have to be. It had the main characters point out the hypocrisy and idiocy of the world when teenagers are supposed to be programmed to suck it all down. It may not sound all that special today. But in the late ’90s, it was counter to the culture.
The weird thing is that, if you’re in the United States, you can actually go watch full episodes of the show by going to MTV’s Liquid Television website. Sure, the show isn’t on the front page and you and the music’s been altered to avoid paying royalties to the music owners. It’s also buried under a lot of the crap programming the site has. But they’re all there! Daria may not appeal to everyone, but for the person who loves sarcastic remarks and sly humor, you can’t go wrong with this cartoon.
It’s on Disney+. Go watch Gargoyles. It’s really, really good
Gargoyles was Disney’s attempt to make their own Batman: The Animated Series. Well, they did really well! It was serious and dark but still extremely fun. The last season was kind of crappy and the animation quality took a severe hit by then. But, man! Everything before that was gold!
It is kind of sad that only the more “hardcore” geeks still remember Gargoyles. But as long as we keep remembering, it’ll still be alive.
What other forgotten awesome animated shows can you think of? Let me know in the comments section below!