'80s and '90s Worst cartoons

My personal picks for worst cartoons of the 1980s and 1990s.
August 10, 2007
If you've seen my original list of my favorite cartoons, you will note that many of my favorite cartoons came from the 1980s and 1990s (those decades rule!). But, if I was to tell you that these decades gave us nothing but classics, I would be lying. Like anything, the 1980s and 1990s had their share of forgettable junk.

On this list, I will not be listing anything that would be a 'cash-in' type of series (cartoons like Pro Stars, WishKid, HammerMan and New Kids on the Block) or cartoons that obviously were not made to appeal to me (ie. cartoons that are obviously intended for a female audience with absolutely no male appeal).

DISCLAIMER: These are only my opinions.

So, without further ado:

#15: Sonic Underground (1999)

"Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog"? Poorly done, but forgivable. "Sonic the Hedgehog"? Classic. "Sonic Underground"? The black sheep of the Sonic continuities. Why, you ask? Well, I understand that this show is not supposed to be in the same continuity as "Sonic the Hedgehog" despite the similairities in art style, but one thing that just can't be excused is the fact we only get Sonic and Robotnik back; other major characters like Tails are nowhere to be seen in this show. That would be like making a new Muppet movie and the only characters you got back were Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. Sure, they're popular and widely recognizable, but you'd be left wondering where everybody else is. Knuckles does appear, but I don't think he's one of Sonic's better secondary characters mainly because he's duped a little too easily. Sonic is now weak, has too many fears, and just can't be seen as a hero. His siblings in this show, Manic and Sonia, are not characters people have generally warmed up to. Sonia is a stereotype; she's constantly worried about her looks and clothes. What type of message is this sending little girls? And Manic grew up as a thief; he steals and pickpockets usually to their advantage without punishment. I don't think kids need to see that stealing is actually helpful. It's fine if the villains do it considering they'll get punished, but a hero who does is just sending the wrong message. And the Robotnik in this show is like the "AoStH" Robotnik in the "SatAM" Robotnik's clothing.

In any case, it might be better than that wretched OVA "movie" that ADV Films released.

#14: Punky Brewster (1985)

An animated version of a sitcom series starring Soliel Moon Frye, this show is not something I fondly remember. And while the live-action sitcom was seemingly down-to-earth, the cartoon made it even more wacky by adding Glomer, the magic cat who could transport Punky and her friends to wacky places. It is almost like the final season of "The Flintstones"; in the sense the Great Gazoo was added in the series to try to save ratings and is thought to be the factor in the series "jumping the shark". Adding a totally absurd character in somewhere they don't truly belong does not help a show that much. It's like the '80s "Sabrina the Teenage Witch".

#13: Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm (1996)

Based on the popular (and highly controversial--to the point where the ESRB rating scale was found) fighting game series by Ed Boon and John Tobias, "Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm" was a part of USA's "Action Extreme Team" lineup. Released shortly after the first Mortal Kombat film (which was regarded well) and the game Mortal Kombat 3 (which wasn't), it was about six of the game's heroes (Liu Kang, Kitana, Sub-Zero, Jax, Sonya and Stryker) acting as an interdimensional task force team (with Raiden as their mentor and Nightwolf as a computer techie) trying to maintain balance between the realms. Its problem was the fact that because it was a kid-friendly cartoon, it was watered down to an extreme. The gore was a major draw in the video game series, take it out and you're not left with much to distinguish it from its main competitor, Street Fighter 2. This decision was akin to choosing to play the original, watered down version of the game on the Super Nintendo. You could, but why would you want to? And the character roster: while I can understand Liu Kang, Kitana, Sub-Zero, Jax and Sonya (they are among the main heroes in the game story) what's the deal with including an inconsequential character like Stryker and excluding the more relevant and popular Johnny Cage?

#12: InHumanoids (1986)

Like many cartoons of the 1980s, InHumanoids was a cartoon about a toyline. This series was a mature themed cartoon intended for kids. It was never one of the better '80s toy-based cartoons, in the sense the toys where not that great and this show didn't have a whole lot to live up to. The show is about some archelogists digging up a bunch of subterranean terrors (Metlar, Tendril and D. Compose) and now it's up to the Earth Corps to stop them (hopefully). More cartoons about environmental responsibility, ick. It was really ugly and poorly made, everything looked so cheap. The sound got really loud at times, I had to just turn down the volume as it started to make my ears bleed. Another problem it had was like the Mortal Kombat cartoon (but released about a decade earlier), it had a great deal of trouble trying to find its audience (it's like animated horror). Kids wouldn't mind the poor quality of the show, but it would most certainly scare them. Older viewers wouldn't think it's so scary, but it's so loud and grating on the senses that it wouldn't draw them in. Who exactly is it intended for?

#11: The Wacky World of Tex Avery (1997)

A series of cartoons in the style of Looney Tunes director Tex Avery (who had nothing to do with it--after all, he died back in 1980), "The Wacky World of Tex Avery" was kid-friendly, with lots of goofy slapstick almost like a throwback to the "Golden Age" of Looney Tunes from the 1930s-1950s. Too bad it wasn't funny. None of the skits (which included "Tex Avery", "Freddie the Fly", "Power Pooch", "Ghengis and Khannie", "Einstone", "Maurice and Mooch" and "Pompeii Pete") really engaged; I mean, if I decided to make a cartoon series called "The Nutty World of Chuck Jones" and made its main skit about a child who was always one step ahead of everyone who just so happened to be named "Chuck", that wouldn't mean Chuck Jones had anything to do with it. It's only name recognition and nothing more.

#10: Extreme Ghostbusters (1997)

"Extreme Ghostbusters" was made as a cartoon series meant to be a tie-in to the aborted "Ghostbusters 3" (the movie that's been through limbo, or development hell). One main problem was Dan Akyroyd and Harold Ramis intended the first "Ghostbusters" movie to be a one-shot deal; the 1989 sequel "Ghostbusters 2" was made out of a cash grab. As a result, the first movie (and the original cartoon) remains a classic, and the movie sequel is...well, just "good", and the cartoon sequel bites. Basically its been years since serious ghost activity, and the Ghostbusters have since disbanded. The only characters we get back from the first show are Egon Spengler, Janine Melnitz and Slimer. With the exception of two episodes, don't expect to see Peter Venkman, Ray Stanz or Winston Zeddmore, and forget Dana Barrett and Louis Tully. But Dr. Spengler, acting as a college professor, ends up recruiting four of his students (Eduardo Rivera, Garrett Miller, Roland Jackson and Kylie Griffin) as a new team once the ghosts start respawning. One serious problem that I had was the overly politically correct nature of the show; I mean, on the first cartoon, Winston Zeddmore was the only minority character in the series. I am willing to buy a new black guy, a goth chick and a latino as new Ghostbusters, but a paraplegic character is just eyebrow raising. No offense to the handicapped, but in this type of profession, you're going to need all your available mobility to catch ghosts. Another factor is the more 'serious' tone of the show. Like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles of the '80s, "The Real Ghostbusters" knew it was goofy and acted on that. This new cartoon tries to be more serious (like the Turtles in their 2003 remake series), which sucks some of the fun out of it. It's like how on the original Transformers series, the first two seasons were great partly due to the fact they knew they were goofy and acted on that; but in the post-movie episodes, suddenly the show got more serious and it wasn't as much fun anymore. The more cartoonish nature of the ghosts makes it even more goofy, and because the third movie never materialized (back in the late '90s, at least--and if it did, I'm sure it would have sucked as I've heard it was based on a new team of Ghostbusters), "Extreme Ghostbusters" had to stand on its own and it looks almost like a failed production.

#9: Gilligan's Planet (1982)

One of the all-time great "what were they thinking" type of cartoons. I don't think I need to elaborate on it.

#8: Disney's Doug (1996)

Bought by Disney shortly after Doug's original Nicktoon series ended, "Disney's Doug" was just weak all round. I liked the original Doug cartoon (from 1991), Doug Funnie seemed like a real kid with identifiable problems and all his quirky neighbors were really funny. But in this new show, some time has passed and everything went through major changes. I mean, first there was the writing. It went from quasi-serious, yet goofy enough to laugh at to sickeningly sugary-sweet. In the original cartoon, Doug was trying to figure out how to return Vice Principal Bone's trophy without his knowledge and landing in serious trouble. Now, he's trying to figure out what to do with a lost puppy. And the characters--I mean, Doug has a new voice, Skeeter is a geek, Patti is more feminine, Beebe has a school modeled after her, the Beats now appear all the time, the Honker Burger is now a swanky French restaurant, Skunky is now a major character, Connie is thin, Roger is rich...I mean, what the hell happened to everybody???

#7: Aladdin (1994)

With the success of Disney's Aladdin movie from 1992 (so successful it was the highest grossing film of the year, no easy task with all the major competition), Disney made the 1994 DTV sequel "The Return of Jafar" with the intent on it acting as the series premiere episode. I have a soft spot for the original Aladdin movie--I remember having to learn how to sing "A Whole New World" (Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle's remix) for my sixth grade graduation (6th grade was the highest elementary school grade in 1993). But this show never worked for me. The budget is obviously lower, the characters went from being really nice and pleasurable to being tedious and tiresome and the generic feel of "Aladdin" probably meant I could replace it with anything and be more entertained. If you thought some of the Genie's lines in the movie would likely date it in time (though not as badly as "Hercules"), wait until you hear him say, "I'm down wit that, homey!" This show will probably age even worse.

#6: Dumb and Dumber (1995)

Based off the Farrelly brothers movie of the same name, "Dumb and Dumber" was about Harry Dunne and Lloyd Christmas driving around doing anything for money. Not really a lot of plot here. One serious beef that I had was the toned-down nature of the cartoon; its kid-friendly nature meant no more curse words and dirty toilet jokes. It's just not the same. In addition to that was the cheap animation of Hanna-Barbera; I thought I could do a much better job with the characters' designs. I mean, EVERYTHING looked so poorly done. It was almost like '90s Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi.

If you need a "Dumb and Dumber" fix, just watch the original movie. This cartoon series and the 2003 prequel, "Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd" are not worth the filmstrip they're printed on. However, that movie is not regarded as Jim Carrey's best work. Whatever Harry and Lloyd do, other recent comedy teams like Beavis and Butt-head and Jay and Silent Bob (of "Clerks" fame) are funnier.

#5: Ghost Busters (1986)

While these paranormal exterminators came first (it was based on a lame 1970s live-action show starring two guys from F-Troop, the hilariously classic 1984 movie was the knock-off), it was a much, much less effective show. Filmation was responsible for some weak cartoons and this show didn't help them at all. This show talked down to kids, often spelling out the moral at the end like most '80s cartoons did (but the others had much stronger writing). And while this cartoon gave Jake, Eddie and Tracy (the gorilla) a primary villain, Prime Evil was a joke. I couldn't listen to him without thinking he was constipated. This was one of the few times the knock off idea was actually a lot better than the original idea.

#4: Yo, Yogi! (1991)

Yet another "Muppet Babies" wannabe from Hanna-Barbera (after "The Flintstone Kids" and "A Pup Named Scooby-Doo"), "Yo, Yogi!" felt more like it was trying to be like "Tiny Toon Adventures" than Muppet Babies. The first time since 1979 that Yogi was in an animated cartoon series (he was gone throughout the '80s), it cast Yogi as a crimefighting teenager who hung out with Boo Boo, Cindy Bear, Snagglepuss and Huckleberry Hound in Jellystone Mall, and Ranger Smith appeared as a security guard (ugh). But this show only succeeded in contradicting everything Yogi stood for. First, he was in a park, but as a teen, Yogi hung out in a mall? Did they tear down the mall to make the park? When did the business agents suddenly start to care about the environment? And the adult Yogi was a picnic basket thief, but as a teen, he was busy fighting crime? The whole show was so obviously trying to appeal to '90s sensibilities that even a desperate 3-D gimmick couldn't save it. I think calling it, "Oy, Yogi!" would have been more appropriate.

If you want '90s Yogi, go look for John Krisfaluci's short cartoons from 1999.

#3: Captain Planet and the Planeteers (1990)

Never was there a more black-and-white cartoon series. I think Ned Flanders could have made something with darker, more colored undertones. Everything was "Planeteers are right, villains are wrong". Basically, it's about a group of teenagers from around the globe, including Kwame (Africa), Wheeler (the U.S.A.), Linka (Russia), Gi (China) and Ma-Ti (Brazil) obtaining five magic rings from a deity. Its now their job to ensure the end of pollution and protect the environment. One problem was the inequality in power diversity in the rings. Respectively, the powers of "Earth", "Fire", "Wind" and "Water" all seemed helpful, but Ma-Ti's "Heart" ring was near useless. Once their element names were called together, they would summon Earth's champion, Captain Planet. Problem is, this "hero" couldn't stand anything unclean. Sludge, poison, gas, smog, even carbon dioxide was like Kryptonite to him! Another problem is the goofy nature. If you want kids to take eco-themes seriously, make it powerful. Otherwise, it's just going to seem like its trying to defeat the message it's attempting to preach. All in all, a well intentioned, but misguided, cartoon.

#2: Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain (1998)

Now, I probably should have mentioned this earlier, but I am willing to accept a bunch of different new themes of older ideas. I don't mind seeing spin-offs ("The Simpsons" from "The Tracy Ullman Show"), revisions ("House of Mouse" to "Good Morning Mickey!" and "Donald Duck Presents"), remakes ("The Batman" to "Batman: the Animated Series") or revivals (like how "Family Guy" originally ended in 2002 but was brought back in 2005) of old ideas or adaptations based on movies, novels, comic books, toys, video games, and other assorted propaganda. But, with some exceptions ("Batman Beyond"), I draw the line at sequels to existing series ("Extreme Ghostbusters", "Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation"). In the original cartoon, "Pinky and the Brain" (an "Animaniacs" spin-off) was really nice. But now, they are acting as pets for Elmyra, arguably the worst character on "Tiny Toon Adventures". Giving the Brain Pinky is a good touch (the Yin to his Yang), but adding a second idiot into the mix is totally overbearing. The show was now incredibly annoying and completely unfunny. A waste end to a good series.

#1: Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1990)


Probably my least favorite memory of early 1990s animation. This cartoon was based on John DeBello's unspeakably cheesy, not-really-a-point-but-who-cares-its-funny low budget sci-fi/horror/comedy/spoof B-movie from the late 1970s that just happened to get an intervention on an episode of "Muppet Babies" (the first film was featured once as a throwaway gag, and due to the episode's ratings success, the 1988 sequel was made, and...so was this show, which adapted the characters and ideas from the sequel, regarded as the best of the film series--*pants* pardon me while I catch my breath). Basically, Professor Gangrene (John Astin in the sequel, again lending his voice to his character) mutates a bunch of tomatoes--produce banned thoughout Earth--and plots to use it in his scheme to take over the world and it is now up to pizza delivery boy Chad Finletter (Anthony Starke's character), his Uncle Wilbur (veteran from the original movie) and his buddies to save our butts. In addition to that, Gangrene pitches a tomato (FT) that's overly fuzzy and not really destructive (I know peaches can get fuzzy, but tomatoes?) and mutates another tomato to transform into a human teenage girl (Tara) and whenever salt is sprinkled on her, she transforms back into a tomato, but sprinkled with pepper and she becomes human. She leaves, grabs FT, and links up with the heroes. How this element--transforming a plant into a human--is funny is beyond me. Really, it's more creepy than it is funny. "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" was royally stupid and ugly; its ideas, themes and values are almost hard for me to look at at times. Another problem is the fact it seems like it is glorifying evil; it seems like we are supposed to care more about the villains than the heroes. The first season, with '80s values (power, corporate greed etc), was just a collection of spoofs of movies, novels and television shows and there was no real continuity between episodes. The humor, while at times smart, seemed almost like an absolute necessity considering how its main theme was really dumb. Without this humor, the show would be total brain rot. In the second season, with '90s values (giving up power and prestige to obtain what you've lost), Gangrene actually won and he took over the Earth. But his mutant tomatoes overthrow him and then he sides with the heroes in taking back the Earth. It was the first cartoon to use CGI along side cel animation (the trailers looked really creepy when I was a kid...I didn't understand why it looked so different). But in the end, the show was a victim of its own gimmick. Only eight episodes were made in Season Two, because new episodes were getting too expensive to produce.

But, that's my list. I love animation but I feel these shows are the cream of the crap for '80s-'90s animation. I welcome your thoughts and keep in mind, these are only my opinions. Thank you and good night. ;)
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