Influential Animation



It seems that the quality of cartoons is decreasing every 10 years. Those who grew up in the 1980s say that cartoons in that decade are superior to those of the ‘90s. Generation Y kids say the same about today’s offerings compared to the 1990s and early 2000s. Fully animated CGI shows seem visually less-appealing compared to the traditional 2D that we grew up with, and the songs simply aren’t as catchy anymore. But beyond the superficial differences, the ‘90s completely transformed the way cartoons are looked at by both children and adults. Here’s a list of the top five influential cartoons from our childhood.

Ren & Stimpy It had a shorter run than many other shows, but “Ren & Stimpy” pushed the limits of how far cartoons can go. It could be unfamiliar to those who didn’t have cable or satellite as a child, but this show is one of the most controversial cartoons of all time. The adventures of Ren and Stimpy paved the way for other gross and adult-geared cartoons with the use of grotesque close-ups and vibrant colors, and directly influenced the production of the character who lives in a pineapple under the sea.

Animaniacs A collaboration of Steven Spielberg and Warner Bros. Animation, “Animaniacs” was one of the first shows that appealed to a broader audience along with “Tiny Toon Adventures.” It included social commentary and a tinge of slapstick adult humor. During its run, “Animaniacs” became the most popular animated children’s show, but the impact didn’t stop there. Older fans of the show became one of the first, Internet-based fandom cultures, springing up forums and archives for fanfiction and fan art.

Batman: The Animated Series Although it isn’t the first cartoon series based off superhero comic books, “Batman: The Animated Series” helped advertise comics to a wider audience. There was less stigma toward “original” comic book buyers—those who purchased physical comics—because the cartoons allowed for easier access to comic book characters. Artists Paul Dini and Bruce Timm created the medium-jumping character Harley Quinn, who first appeared on “Batman: TSA” before being featured in related comic books as well. Rival comic publishing company Marvel also premiered “X-Men” during this decade, and the success of both shows helped lead to the launch of other comic book shows—shooting off the popularity of the superhero genre.

Arthur And I say hey! With over 200 aired episodes, Arthur is the longest-running children’s animated show. What makes it a great show is that it is geared toward children and also tackles serious issues that families may face like asthma, cancer and Asperger’s syndrome. Fellow PBS cartoon series, “The Magic School Bus,” also helped shape educational cartoon shows. Following Ms. Frizzle’s class adventures made difficult science concepts easy to understand in layman’s terms. Both shows also had very catchy tunes like the Brain’s song, “(I was) Jekyll, Jekyll, Hyde,” and “Ride on the Magic School Bus.”

Sailor Moon As the longest running magical girl series, “Sailor Moon” is arguably the series that popularized the genre, and influenced shows like “Powerpuff Girls” and “Cardcaptor Sakura.” These shows empowered young girls and often had relatable characters—from athletic girls to underachievers. Along with “Sailor Moon,” “Dragonball Z” introduced many American children to Japanese anime, and helped shape the popularity of series like “Pokemon,” “YuGiOh!” “Naruto,” “Bleach” and more during the early 2000s and beyond.

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