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'90s cartoons that didn't age well

The '90s was a glorious decade, especially if you were a kid. It was a golden age for cartoons, with Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Disney Channel offering a plethora of amazing shows. And a lot of these series are still pretty incredible by today's standards. But for every Batman: The Animated Series and Animaniacs out there, there's a show that hasn't exactly stood the test of time.

Perhaps they haven't aged well because the animation just hasn't held up at all. Other times, these cartoons dealt with certain subjects that were pretty cringey in hindsight. Others might've seemed funny as a kid, but looking back as an adult, they're just plain annoying. Yeah, these '90s cartoons might've been part of your regular line-up back in the day, but you probably shouldn't schedule a binge-watching session any time soon. Otherwise, you may question what you ever saw in these shows in the first place.

Doug was a pretty boring '90s cartoon

Yeah, we'll admit it — there's a certain charm to Doug. The series follows a boy entering the sixth grade, and along the way, he goes through everything regular kids go through. He has a bully he has to regularly contend with, and he develops feelings for the cute girl in his class, Patti Mayonnaise. But while having something kids can relate to is commendable, the show is pretty bland in hindsight.

Granted, the series tries to take advantage of its cartoon medium by showing Doug's vivid imagination, where he assumes the role of secret agents and other cool guys, but that's about it as far as creativity goes. Rugrats also took us inside the imagination of the babies, and the worlds colored there were so much more vibrant and memorable. Not every show needed to be as wacky as Rocko's Modern Life, and sure, Doug was a nice reprieve among the rest of Nickelodeon's programming. But if you watch it now, you're likely to be bored out of your mind. 

Street Sharks fails in TMNT's shadow

There was a period in the '80s and '90s where a ton of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ripoffs permeated the zeitgeist. From Battletoads to Biker Mice from Mars, plenty of creators tried to replicate the formula of taking animals and turning them into buff, anthropomorphic warriors. One of the most egregious examples of this was Street Sharks, which ran from 1994 to 1997. 

As for the plot, a professor and his four sons are forcibly transformed into humanoid fish, courtesy of a "gene-slammer." Thus, the titular Street Sharks are born, and they spend their days battling monsters in the streets of Fission City. Honestly, the whole thing feels like one of those ideas that was designed to sell toys more than actually create an enjoyable television series. And sure, you don't exactly expect The Wire from a show named Street Sharks, and the series probably had some fans considering it lasted for three seasons. But Street Sharks never got out of the shell-shaped shadow of Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Donatello. So if you're going to revisit a series about buff animals, you're better off sticking with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Mighty Ducks took the franchise in a strange direction

The Mighty Ducks was a 1992 Disney film about an attorney who needs to coach a group of kids in hockey after getting arrested for driving under the influence. It's a plucky sports movie that's part of every '90s kids' nostalgia. The movie was a big hit, spawning two sequels, but while those films stuck pretty close to the basic premise laid out in the first one, the cartoon series that came out in 1996 went completely off the rails. 

Instead of featuring a cartoon version of Emilio Estevez, the Mighty Ducks show centers around a group of humanoid ducks who come from a planet called Puckworld where hockey isn't just a sport ... it's a way of life. After their planet suffers an attack from reptilian overlords, the main ducks go through a portal where they end up in Anaheim, join the NHL, and continue the fight against their scaly enemies. That's a lot of backstory to what should've essentially just been a basic hockey story. It was such a drastic departure from what made the movie so popular, and it was also a clear attempt to capitalize on the extreme sports trends from the '90s.  

The '90s Iron Man cartoon certainly hasn't aged well

Iron Man is now a household name thanks to his prevalence in movie theaters over the last decade. Starting with the 2008 blockbuster, Tony Stark went on to become the central figure of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, appearing in his own line of films, as well as the Avengers and Spider-Man movies. But before Robert Downey Jr. made the character a household name, most people only knew Iron Man from his short-lived and critically panned cartoon series from the '90s. 

After the success of the X-Men cartoon, Marvel was wanting to expand their line-up. The result was The Marvel Action Hour, which aired shows such as Iron Man and Fantastic Four. But in case you were thinking of looking more into Iron Man's origins, there's no reason to bother with this show. The storylines are overly dramatic with little explanation given for why characters are in certain situations. Also, Tony Stark has a terrible mullet. When you see it, you just can't pay attention to anything else on the screen. 

Transformers: Beast Wars came during the dark ages of computer animation

The Transformers franchise has been incredibly lucrative over the years. While the original series has held up in many fans' eyes, there have been various spinoffs that have tried to capitalize on that success to varying degrees. One of these is Transformers: Beast Wars, which ran for three seasons from 1996 to 1999. And admittedly, the show has a lot going for it. It has one of the greatest '90s heroes and one of the greatest '90s villains, but while we give it big props for its characters ... well ... it certainly isn't perfect.

Watching it today, the biggest problem with the series is the CG animation. It was a new technique in the '90s when the show first aired, and a lot of viewers probably saw the show as state-of-the-art. Unfortunately, a lot of CG animation from that decade has aged horribly due to advancements in the medium. It's understandable that Beast Wars doesn't look great today, but there are other Transformers cartoons that essentially feature the same stories with better visuals. Seriously, if you're a Transformers fan, then you'll likely be aware that the series basically copied the same story beats from the original cartoon from the '80s. 

Donkey Kong Country doesn't look so great today

In the '90s, Donkey Kong was one of Nintendo's flagship characters. The company had already adapted Mario and Luigi into their own feature-length film and cartoon series, so it only made sense to give the big ape his own show, too. Unfortunately, the cartoon was just as well-received as any of those Mario properties.

The show has some rough CG animation — and we're talking rough — which hasn't allowed the series to age particularly well. But we may have been able to forgive that if it was clear anyone who'd worked on the show had actually ever played Donkey Kong. Many of the characters undergo radical transformations from how they behave in the games. For example, in the cartoon, King K. Rool is a big wuss. He's a formidable opponent in the games, but in the show, Donkey Kong can knock him out with one punch. It could be fun to see some adventures with Donkey, Diddy, and the others, but this just isn't it. 

Rocket Power has horrendously dated '90s slang

Rocket Power ran from 1999 to 2004, so it still counts as a '90s show. And it pretty much earned that label for how the series dove headfirst into '90s culture, from what fads were popular at the time to the lingo used by all the characters. As for the plot, the show follows four kids as they participate in all kinds of extreme sports, like skateboarding and street hockey. It makes sense Nickelodeon would want this show to capitalize on those trends, but it just means the show doesn't really hold up all these years later. 

The equivalent would be if you made a show today where the four main characters said "yeet" all the time and were influencers. Sure, kids today may be into it, but you're seriously dating your series. By the time those kinds of extreme sports wore out their welcome by the mid-2000s, it was time to cut the cord on the show, which had already become a relic. 

Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm toned it down for kids

There was a point in time when Mortal Kombat dominated arcades across the United States. The gory fighting caught on with players of all ages, and the video game even lent itself to a feature-length film. However, when the creators tried to follow up that success with a cartoon series marketed toward kids, it just didn't work at all. 

For starters, the cartoon series featured characters that were in Mortal Kombat 3, which was noteworthy for leaving out several popular characters from earlier in the series, such as Scorpion. Additionally, the show was geared toward young children, so it couldn't be anywhere near as violent as the games. Granted, this was all part of a trend in the '90s when studios took R-rated properties and turned them into children's cartoons. Just look at RoboCop and Toxic Avenger. But the result was something that didn't (and doesn't) really appeal to either kids or adults. 

Todd McFarlane's Spawn is too edgy for its own good

As a character, Spawn debuted in comic books in 1992 to critical acclaim. The story follows a man who's killed and sent to Hell. It's here where he makes a deal with a demon to return to Earth to see his wife ... only to learn that she's remarried. And now, he has to do the demon's bidding. It was a huge success when it first came out, and when a cartoon series was announced on HBO back in the '90s, there was reason to be very excited. 

Even now, the series has some loyal followers, but viewing it today, it just kind of falls flat. R-rated cartoons were a bit of a novelty in the '90s, but now you can find them on pretty much any streaming service. Watching the show in this modern era, it just comes across as being edgy for edgy's sake. Superhero stories have evolved over the past couple of decades, and hopefully, that future Spawn reboot offers something innovative to the genre. 

Captain Planet and the Planeteers hasn't aged well because it's too preachy

Having a show to teach kids about the dangers of environmental degradation is absolutely relevant to today's world, and that's why we've got to give major props to Captain Planet and the Planeteers. And in addition to taking care of the Earth, the show tackled many issues that kids needed to learn about, such as the danger of drugs and political corruption. But looking back on the series today, it's unclear what its legacy will be. 

In a certain regard, it's kind of disappointing to see how so many issues dealt with in the show are still pertinent to this day. And the show basically feels like one long sermon, and it's definitely not entertaining on its own as a superhero show. With all that in mind, it doesn't seem like the series was particularly effective in its goals. Additionally, Captain Planet may be one of the lamest superheroes ever created. His weakness is pollution, which is supposed to be the one thing he's supposed to fight against. That would be like if Superman's whole goal was to save Metropolis from kryptonite.

The '90s Mask cartoon is too annoying

Released in 1994, The Mask was an incredibly popular movie that followed Jim Carrey as a timid banker who would turn into a larger-than-life trickster at night after donning a magical mask. One year later, Hollywood tried to capture lightning in a bottle twice by producing an animated series based on the same character. The show basically continued the adventures from the film, except this time, Stanley Ipkiss could use the magical mask during the day. However, a few alterations to the mythos didn't do much when looking at the series as a whole. 

It makes sense that people still love the cinematic version of The Mask as Jim Carrey is a lot of fun to watch and incredibly funny. The movie also works because it's only 101 minutes in length, which is just about enough time to not get sick of Carrey's schtick. That's not the case with 54 episodes of this animated series, where Ipkiss quickly gets too annoying to bear. Still, the show is probably still better than Son of the Mask

Cow and Chicken hasn't aged well because it tried too hard

Cow and Chicken was basically Cartoon Network's answer to Ren & Stimpy. The show was wild and out-there. As for the plot, it follows two siblings, a cow and a chicken, who get into various surreal adventures. Their parents are just legs, and they're constantly being harassed by the Red Guy, who's basically the devil who constantly tries to scam them. 

Ren & Stimpy was also surreal and weird, but there's more going on than just that. The animation was revolutionary at the time and pushed the boundaries of what was possible with a kids' cartoon. It's hard to follow up on that, and Cow and Chicken is basically just weird for the sake of being weird. Although, if you ever get the chance to watch the "Buffalo Gals" episode, then you should definitely check it out and marvel at how something like this was even able to air in the first place