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Plot Twists In Classic Cartoons No One Saw Coming

There's nothing more nostalgic than taking a trip down memory lane through some of the most beloved and classic cartoons -– both old and modern. That fondness of thinking back to Saturday mornings when you might dash to the TV in your pajamas to catch some of your favorite cartoons will always elicit warm vibes. Whether you were tuning into Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon as a kid, there were plenty of incredible cartoons to watch featuring iconic animated characters. Even as adults, there are plenty of more adult-centric cartoons that now have their own brand of nostalgia and deliver animated antics older viewers can enjoy.

There are so many classic cartoons to delight audiences of all ages, and even while most of them are likely remembered for the laughs and loveable characters they provide, they should also be recognized for some of the great storylines they delivered — some of which led to mind-blowing plot twists. From wild reveals that totally changed fans' perspectives of their favorite characters to bizarre revelations that made for some mind-bending twists on classic tropes, let's delve into some of the most shocking and unexpected plot twists in classic cartoons that no one saw coming. 

Timmy's secret wish - The Fairly OddParents

For the most part, audiences have some form of suspension of disbelief when it comes to the nonsensical, logic-defying things that happen in cartoons. For instance, some characters seem absolutely invincible when it comes to taking heavy damage, and others don't age after many years of existence. Well — as for the latter of two — there was an incredibly iconic and mind-blowing moment when the classic Nickelodeon series "The Fairly OddParents" actually answered the question of why its characters never aged. In the hourlong animated special "Timmy's Secret Wish," Timmy Turner was placed on trial just as he was set to make his 1,000,000th wish after it was discovered that he made a secret wish.

Eventually, Timmy is forced to reveal that he did make a secret wish to keep everyone from aging so that he could stay 10 years old and keep his fairies forever. Timmy even had Cosmo forget that he made the wish to keep it a buried secret. What makes this reveal truly jaw-dropping, though, is when Timmy reveals that he made the wish roughly 50 years ago. It's an incredible twist on the classic trope of cartoon characters never aging that's quickly become an iconic part of the beloved series. Fans even get to see elderly versions of Timmy and other characters when his secret wish is reversed.

Chad was a teenage spy - Codename: Kids Next Door

When Numbuh 274 aka Chad was introduced in "Codename: Kids Next Door," he was touted as one of the most beloved and respected members in the kid-ran organization. His skills in the field were generally unmatched, and he garnered such a high reputation in KND that he was revered by all. That's what made him becoming decommissioned in the episode "Operation E.N.D." when he turned 13 so tragic, as the KND not only lost one of their best operatives, but this also spurs Chad's villainous turn in the series as he joins the nefarious teen forces. However, as fans would eventually come to learn, Chad wasn't actually evil and served a greater purpose for the KND. 

In one of the series' final episodes, Chad is revealed to be a double agent and was never decommissioned. Instead, he's actually been conducting secret missions and gathering intel for the KND through a special operations team known as the Teens Next Door (TND). Like Numbuh 1, fans were filled with bewildered disbelief when Chad's true position was revealed, and it was pretty substantial since Chad had a long-running history as a villain in this series up until this point. It's twists like these that make rewatching "Kids Next Door" so much fun, as the reveal of Chad's double agent status completely changes your perspective on Chad's actions throughout the series. 

Amon's shocking backstory - The Legend of Korra

Throughout "The Legend of Korra," the abilities and story surrounding one of the series' main antagonists — Amon — were an ongoing mystery. Amon basically stated that he was given a "gift" from a higher power to drain benders of their abilities and went on a mission to make the world an equal place by making benders become extinct — which is what leads him to form an anti-bender extremist group known as the Equalists. Once Korra discovers what really happened to Amon and how he gained his powers, though, she wastes no time in revealing the truth.

It turns out that Amon is actually a bender himself who can bloodbend — which gives him the ability to strip other benders of their powers. The abuse and cruel treatment he received from his father — who wished to use Amon's power to gain power himself — during his training is what ultimately causes him to go on this Equalist mission to rid the world of benders. It's a tragic and mind-blowing reveal that caused Amon to lose all of his followers. It also delivered an incredibly memorable twist that fans wouldn't forget and added immense depth to one of the most memorable villains of the "Avatar" series.

The journal's actual author - Gravity Falls

One of the biggest mysteries fans were curious about throughout "Gravity Falls" is the identity of the author behind the journal Dipper finds in the series' first episode. The journal helps Dipper and other characters discover supernatural events that have taken place and still exist within the titular town, yet the author behind these chronicles is unknown. That is, until the series finally reveals the author's identity during the second season ... and it's actually a character who's been foreshadowed and left a mystery himself. 

It turns out that the journals were written by Grunkle Stan's twin brother, Ford — who was a paranormal investigator who came to Gravity Falls to study the paranormal activities that take place within the town. However, after a fight with his brother, Ford had fallen into an interdimensional portal, leaving behind his journals for someone to come and find. For how much Ford was mentioned throughout the show leading up to this point, his reveal as the author of the journals acted as not only a satisfying formal introduction for the character but also an exciting reveal that fans didn't see coming.

Mr. Krabs and Plankton used to be friends - Spongebob Squarepants

It's established pretty early on in "Spongebob Squarepants" that Mr. Krabs and Plankton have an ongoing rivalry, as Plankton attempts to use every dirty trick in the book to steal the Krabby Patty secret formula. While their dynamic might seem like a typical business rivalry, the series actually delivers some backstory for their feud that's incredibly unexpected. As shown in the episode "Friend or Foe," Mr. Krabs and Plankton initially had a blossoming friendship that saw them become acquainted as outcasts and form a loving bond that led them to go into the burger business together. Although they initially tell differing stories of what drove them apart, Plankton's computer wife, Karen, gives Spongebob and fans the real story of what happened.

After their crummy burger knocks out their only customer, Old Man Jenkins, Mr. Krabs and Plankton argue over whose fault it was and eventually get so frustrated that they completely split. This is what causes Mr. Krabs to eventually create the Krabby Patty and Plankton to go into the chum business and vow to steal the secret formula for himself. It's a great episode and a memorable twist in the series' central conflict that showcases how two budding friends became bitter enemies.

Thomas' true identity - Regular Show

In the fourth season of "Regular Show," the series introduces Thomas, brought on as a new intern for the park. It's not too long until he's dragged into the misadventures of the main cast, and fans simply accepted him essentially joining the series as a regular. However, everything changed in the sixth season when Thomas was eventually revealed to be a Russian spy on a secret mission. The episode — titled "The Real Thomas" — sees Rigby discover that Thomas was sent to the park so that he can steal it for Russia to help modernize their vastly archaic parks. 

We also get an incredibly sad backstory for Thomas' journey in becoming a spy that reveals his former life as a goat named Nikolai. In the end, Thomas ends up betraying the Russian government to save his friends, and it makes for a great end for Thomas' arc in the series as well as some tearful goodbyes. What's so wild about this twist is that it came after Thomas' two-season stint as a respected regular, so fans had no idea that there was this incredible depth to his story. Thomas might've come onto "Regular Show" as just another side character in Mordecai and Rigby's adventures, but he left having been part of one of the series' best twists.

Ash loses - Pokemon: Indigo League

While "Pokémon" fans became accustomed to seeing Ash Ketchum make it all the way to the League tournament just to lose every season, that wasn't exactly the case in the series' first season. It's tough to blame fans for thinking at the time that Ash was likely going to win the final tournament after defeating all the Kanto gym leaders and be dubbed a Pokémon Master. To everyone's surprise, though, he only makes it into the Top 16 after being defeated by Richie in battle.

Most stories make viewers believe that the hero will undoubtedly come out victorious after going through their life-changing journey. "Pokémon: The Indigo League" did something totally unexpected with Ash's early exit from the tournament in its final episode and delivered a gut-punch of a twist that saw Ash have one of his most emotional defeats ever. As fans know, Ash would go on to have an extensive history of losing before finally tasting victory in the Alola League. However, Ash's first defeat is something that fans will never forget as it delivered a surprisingly crushing turn.

The Ice King's backstory - Adventure Time

Although the Ice King is initially depicted as a simple and hilarious villain for Finn and Jake to tangle with throughout "Adventure Time," there's a deeper backstory introduced for the villain that's intriguing, tragic, and downright surprising. In part two of the episode "Holly Jolly Secrets," BMO plays a tape showing Ice King's former life as a human archeologist named Simon Petrikov. Then, Simon had a fiancée named Betty and even befriended a young Marceline. However, after he found the crown he now wears as Ice King and put it on, his life started to fall apart. He began to experience hallucinations that caused him to display concerning behavior that led Betty to leave him. Simon eventually never took the crown off and moved deeper into isolation as his princess obsession and ice powers grew.

Ice King always showed the potential to be more than just a goofy villain, and "Adventure Time" gave him the spotlight for his story to be revealed in a heartbreaking, insightful, and shocking fashion that made sure no one viewed him the same going forward.

Cow and Chicken's parents are just legs - Cow and Chicken

There are plenty of cartoons where the faces of characters are purposefully obscured so that there can be a hilarious running gag and a dash of mystery throughout the series. Characters like Ms. Bellum in "Powerpuff Girls" and the parents in "Peanuts" never had their faces shown, and that became a big part of the show's identity. "Cow and Chicken" had a similar gag with the titular siblings' parents, as you could generally only see their lower halves. However, the series gave a shocking and slightly disturbing answer that fans surely couldn't have expected. 

Right at the end of the series' first episode, Cow and Chicken's parents are seen chatting while their beloved children are chowing down on some breakfast at the kitchen table. While it simply seems like the show is establishing that they'll just be faceless throughout, the camera suddenly pulls back to reveal that their parents are just disembodied legs. It's such a sudden and strange twist that's oddly fitting given the show's bizarre sense of humor akin to "Ren and Stimpy" and left quite the impression for viewers right in the premiere episode. "Cow and Chicken" threw a curveball at viewers right away and delivered its own twist on "unseen parents" that gave an explanation for the characters' hilariously versatile use of their feet.

Rose Quartz's real identity - Steven Universe

"Steven Universe" establishes that Steven's mom and the former leader of the Crystal Gems — Rose Quartz — had sacrificed herself when fighting Pink Diamond during a big rebellious conflict to protect Earth pretty much from the start. It's a key reason why she's viewed so highly by Steven and other Gems as well as a seen pivotal figure in uniting the Rebellion against Pink Diamond. In Season 5 though, Steven discovers the truth behind Rose Quartz and reveals to the other Gems that she was actually Pink Diamond all along. To further unite the Gems to protect Earth, Pink Diamond went under the name Rose Quartz to start the rebellion to protect Earth and ultimately had Pearl help her fake her own death so that the war would come to an end. So Pearl is the only one who knew all along, and the news causes rifts of frustration and betrayal amongst the Gems. 

Given that fans were so used to seeing Rose Quartz in the same heroic fashion throughout the series, it was equally as shocking for them to learn something different. The real story behind Rose Quartz is undoubtedly one of the most prolific twists in modern cartoons. 

Evil Morty becomes President - Rick and Morty

Although "Rick and Morty" might be one of the newer animated entries on this list, it delivered one of its strongest twists recently, one that it organically built up over several seasons. This series is known for building up storylines in the background and started doing so when it touched on a pretty high-stakes presidential election happening in the Citadel of Ricks in Season 3. For the first time, it seemed like a Morty was going to win on the platform of uniting the two divisive factions by creating a sense of equality between them. Eventually, this "candidate Morty" went on to win the election, but there were hints that something was off about him. His political enemies and detractors were being eliminated, and there was just this nefarious nature to President Morty. It's eventually revealed that President Morty is actually Evil Morty — who blended in for years after escaping in Season 1.

The series flawlessly brought back one of its strongest potential villains in grand fashion for an all-time twist that caused Evil Morty to rise to looming villain status at the end of Season 5. "Rick and Morty" has yet to fully capitalize on this twist but has set Evil Morty up to potentially be one of the series' best and most dangerous villains.

Robin hallucinates Slade - Teen Titans

"Teen Titans" featured plenty of DC villains for the titular band of heroes to fight against, but none were as deadly, calculated, and psychologically damaging as Slade. The assassin always managed to keep the Titans on their toes with his ability to be one step ahead of them and craft destructive plans that were always tricky to stop. However, he's eventually shown to be defeated and seemingly gone for good. That is, until the fifth episode of Season 3 — "Haunted" — where it's believed by Robin that Slade is still alive since he begins seeing him again and Slade's disappearance or death always seemed unclear. As the episode goes on though and Robin is the only one that sees Slade, it becomes clear that things aren't what they seem. 

It turns out that Robin is just hallucinating Slade the whole time due to Slade's mask containing a chemical agent that causes hallucinations — which heightens Robin's lingering pain from being damaged by Slade for many years. While the rest of the group is able to save Robin from himself and rally around him, the damage certainly feels done, and it's established that Slade's presence will always be felt. If Slade had just suddenly reappeared, no one would've been surprised. But this little psychological twist added new emotional stakes to Robin's arc as a leader and created a thrilling storyline for fans to enjoy.