Friday, January 20, 2012

Eight (almost) Forgotten 1990s Cartoons!


The 1990's were an awesome time for cartoons. We had most of the older 80s stuff still showing up in re-runs, so you could get your fill of Transformers, GI Joe, and He-Man while also catching all the cool new shows that were just hitting TV. We had the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons, and Rocko's  Modern Life just to name a few. It was a great time to be a kid.

Of course with so many high profile big name shows its easy to forget about some of the equally as entertaining smaller cartoons. These are the ones that we all enjoyed but for one reason or another don't get quite as much love as their bigger brothers. Here are eight awesome cartoons from the 1990s that time has (almost) forgotten about!


SWAT KATS: THE RADICAL SQUADRON -- This cartoon only lasted two seasons running from 1993 to 1994 and spanned a total of 24 episodes with three unfinished cartoons that never aired on television. Despite the relatively small number of episodes, Swat Kats was and still is one of my favorite cartoons of all time. I love everything about this show. From the theme song, to the shows in your face attitude and great concept. It is an all around awesome show that I will never understand why the networks pulled the plug on so quickly.

Swat Kats is the story of two rogue special forces officers, T-Bone and Razor, who basically kick ass, fight crime, and fly an awesome jet that shoots like four hundred different types of missiles at any given time. Did I mention the shows fantastic musical score. If you have not watched the included opening title sequence, you really should check it out. On top of all of this the show was really quite dark and pretty violent for a kids cartoon. If I may drop a sort of obscure comic book reference, it reminds me a tad of the Blacksad series. In the way that the characters are animals but they still act like people, the animal nature is more of a reflection of the individual's personality. Like I said, I love this cartoon. If there has ever been an intellectual property prime for a big budget live action film it is definitely Swat Kats!



PIRATES OF THE DARK WATER -- Lasting for 21 episodes, Pirates of the Dark Water hit TV stations in 1991. Pirates of the Dark Water suffered the same unfortunate fate as a lot of cartoons. While being successful and popular among fans, never quite managed to take off as well as the network had hoped.

Pirates of the Dark Water had a pretty cool story behind it. Taking place on a strange planet called Mer, which is being destroyed by a mysterious substance known as Dark Water. The shows main character, a young prince Ren, and his band of misfit pirates can stop it but only if they collect all thirteen pieces of lost treasure of Rule. The series was never completed before being abruptly canceled. With the recent success of films like 'Pirates of the Caribbean' I could totally see someone snagging up the cinematic rights to Pirates of the Dark Water and doing a live action adaptation


TOXIC CRUSADERS -- Toxic Crusaders was a very short lived cartoon series, debuting in 1991 on Fox. A total of thirteen episodes were produced but only five ever aired on television. Crusaders was of course based off the string of Toxic Avenger films from the 80s. If your wondering why exactly an R-Rated feature film was chosen to be turned into a children's cartoon well... that is a pretty good question.

Chances are Fox was looking to quickly cash in on the mega success of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles... and the Toxic Avenger, well hes sort of like a mutated turtle right? Plus the overall theme of the series sort of fit in with that brief period of time when a lot of cartoons featured "environmentally friendly" characters... such as Captain Planet and Swamp Thing. Needless to say the Toxic Crusaders did not catch fire. However thanks to Troma Entertainment the full series of Toxic Crusaders cartoons have been released on DVD and if you consider yourself a fan of all things Troma, are a requirement to have in your collection!


SKELETON WARRIORS -- Lasting for 13 episodes from 1993 - 1994 Skeleton Warriors is one of those really great concepts that came out just a little bit to late in the game. Sadly by 1993 this style of cartoon animation was fading away. Looking back on Skeleton Warriors I can really appreciate what they were trying to do with this series. It has the same look, style, and feel of all the great 80s cartoons. Reminding me of almost a strange blend of Thundercats, He-Man, and GI Joe. I really feel like Skeleton Warriors would have been huge if it came out in 1986 or something. However in 1993/1994 ... it just felt a little dated.

Which is a shame because a concept as cool as undead fighting skeletons in warrior outfits who can shoot bursts of light through there hands is a concept that should never go out of style. For a short lived cartoon series, Skeleton Warriors got a full toy line (which I still think I own some of my Skeleton Warrior figures, actually), a comic book series done by Marvel, and a main stream video game released for the Sony Playstation / Sega Saturn. Clearly someone believed that Skeleton Warriors was going to be huge. The series has been released in its entirety on DVD and is well worth your time!


WILD C.A.T.S. -- Another one of the many single season, thirteen episode cartoons from 1994 - 1995. WILD C.A.T.S. was clearly inspired by (ie: completely ripped off) the popular X-Man cartoon from 1992. With that in mind... it wasn't all that bad. WILD C.A.T.S. was also based off a fairly popular comic book series of the same name so the cartoon had plenty of source material to pull from. What what it was, it was a fairly enjoyable cartoon series. Those interested will be pleased to know that the series was released in its entirety on DVD in 2005.


GARGOYLES -- What happens when you take a kids cartoon and basically write it for adults? You end up with something like Gargoyles, which lasted from October of 1994 to February of 1997. Three seasons and 78 episodes in total, Gargoyles often times featured a complex plot involving story arcs that would span multiple episodes, involving a generally dark overtone and often influenced by Shakespearean themes. It is amazing that Gargoyles lasted as long as it did.

With that said those of us who remember Gargoyles pretty much freaking love it. The show was amazing and you have to keep this into perspective, Gargoyles ran all the way up to 1997... I was just reaching that phase where I didn't want to watch cartoons anymore yet Gargoyles still maintained my full interest. Unfortunately only part of the series has even been released on DVD, with the second half getting canceled due to 'low sales' ... which is a shame because I would love to own the fully restored, completed series.



CREEPY CRAWLERS --  Here is a perfect example of a toy line that shouldn't have been turned into cartoon series, that got turned into a cartoon series. Creepy Crawlers lasted for two seasons from October of 1994 to March of 1996 and spanned 23 episodes total. But Creepy Crawlers goes back much further then that, all the way 1964 when Mattel released a toy maker called "Thingmaker".

The concept behind the Thingmaker was a series of metal die-cast molds in which you pour a colored liquid like substance into them and then placed over the included small electric plate. Wait a couple minutes and pop out your newly formed rubber toy. The dies typically came in a bunch of generic bug shapes such as flies and spiders, though everything from Creeple Peeple (1965) to  Mini-Dragons (1967) could be made. Creepy Crawlers are an excellent classic toy line and the cartoon series... well, hey its an accomplishment that it even exists. And as strange as this show looks and sounds... I completely remember watching it on Saturday mornings. I totally had one of those Creepy Crawler machines and loved making little rubber neon spiders. So I guess... I am thankful for this short lived, kind of crazy cartoon concept.


MUMMIES ALIVE -- A short lived cartoon series from 1997, Mummies Alive fell into the trap of originally being wrote for an older audience before being cut back and turned into more of a traditional children's show. Mummies Alive was actually wrote by the same two guys who wrote the cult classic Gargoyles series and was supposed to feature most of the same overlapping themes that show did. However unlike Gargoyles, Mummies Alive never quite picked up with audiences and only lasted for one season and 42 episodes. For those interested, I believe the entire series was released on DVD in 2007.

So there you have it. Eight old cartoons from the 1990s that time has almost forgotten. And you know what we learned here today, that there was a lot of really great concepts (Gargoyles, Swat Kats, and Skeleton Warriors) that for whatever reason just never quite managed to make a large enough impression with audiences. I look at a lot of these shows and the only fault that I see in them is the fact that they are not the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. All that we really wanted was more Turtle cartoons... and I think that is the reason why stuff like the Toxic Crusaders and Creepy Crawlers came about. But you know what, even though they didn't last as long most of these shows still made an impression with those of us who watched them. For that, I thank these great alternative cartoons from my childhood. I am interested to see what other, lesser known stuff you guys grew up watching. So feel free to leave your favorite lesser known shows down in the comments below!

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