In retrospect, the 90s feel like a bit of a fever-dream. The hair, the fashion, the over-plucked eyebrows. We didn’t know it then, but better things were coming. Just one aspect of the surreal dream of the 90s were the cartoons. Thanks to MTV, cartoons were no longer just for kids. Bevis and Butthead, Daria, and King of the Hill, all products of the 90s, have multi-generational staying power even now. But for every hit, there were plenty of misses. And while some were straight up bad, a lot were just plain strange. Here are some of the weirdest cartoons of the 90s.
Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat
The intro sequence is a montage of weird scenes straight out of animators’ subconsciousness. The creators set you up perfectly for the surreal story lines to come. In every 20 minute episode, Felix and a recurring cast of friends would get out of trouble and protect his Magic Bag of Tricks from his nemeses. The show is a remake of a series in the late 50s and early 60s, but the character of Felix has made film, newspaper, and tv appearances since the very start of the 20th century. You can still find full episodes of the show on YouTube if you want to take a trip down memory lane. (x)
Cow and Chicken
Even with the maniac animation style and voices, this bizarre cartoon garnered an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Animated Program. It features two siblings, Cow and her brother, Chicken, who have human parents and get into typical grade-school antics. Like when Chicken gets left behind during a field trip to Folsom Prison. The pilot episode was part of Hanna-Barbera’s What a Cartoon! But the gross humor and surreal premise got the show enough support for its own series. The cartoon ran for four years, and you can find full season compilations online. (x)
Steven Spielberg teamed up with creators from the DC animated universe and the Animaniacs! team to create a superhero that’s a perfect distillation of all three influences. The premise is also singularly 90s, in that Freakazoid gets his powers from the Internet. Prior to the transformative incident, Dexter Douglas was a geeky highschool student. While working on his computer, he activates a computer virus with a series of code. It grants him all the information on the Internet, causing him to become super-strong and super-fast, but he loses his sanity. The show’s meta humor was largely slapstick and surreal. (x)
The Ren & Stimpy Show
I still think about Don’t Whiz on the Electric Fence about once a week. Ren & Stimpy premiered in the early nineties in a time block with Doug and Rugrats on Nickelodeon, but quickly set itself apart for its grotesque and sexual humor and mature themes. The show follows Ren, a high-strung chihuahua and Stimpy, a dim-witted cat. It ran for five years, despite frequent issues with the Standards and Practices department at Nickelodeon, meeting deadlines, and banned or revised content. (x)