The ‘90s were a simpler time when everything was stonewashed, most people didn’t carry cell phones, and animation was absolutely all over the place in terms of tone and style. The shows a lot of us grew up watching have managed to hold up surprisingly well—and given the fact that a lot of people are staying home these days, now’s as good a time as any to revisit some of these classic animated gems.
Given the current state of the world, it’s increasingly safe to assume that everyone’s planned summer vacations are going to be drastically changed if not outright canceled. The agony of accepting that your summer plans might not work out is all too real and very much a feeling that the students of Acme Looniversity are all forced to deal with, as they get mixed up in a series of ridiculous adventures that end up being more exciting than they imagine.
Where to Watch: Hulu, Amazon
It still boggles the mind that Goofy, one of Disney’s most awkward throwback characters, ended up starring in what’s arguably one of the slickest Disney movies of all time. To be fair, the movie’s just as much about Goofy’s bond with his son Max as it is about the anthropomorphic dog bumbling around and getting into trouble. But honestly, that’s one of the things that makes the whole story so memorable.
Where to Watch: Disney+
The Brave Little Toaster franchise has a different significance to it in a post-Marie Kondo world, because the films pose important questions about how the things people own (but don’t always have strong emotional attachments to) feel about them rather than the other way around. Rob always sparked joy in the hearts of his appliances like Toaster, but to see their feelings become complicated and turn somewhat dark with the arrival of Rob’s son (and the belief that he might no longer love the appliances) brings out a new depth to the entire cast of characters in a wonderful way.
Where to Watch: Disney+
For all of Captain Planet’s cheesy after school special-ness, the show consistently made valid points about just how important it was for everyone to understand the role that humanity would play in saving the world from the ravages of pollution. It sucks that Captain Planet’s warnings weren’t heeded by the larger public, and if and when the series is rebooted, it’s almost certainly going to have a somewhat darker tone because of, well, the way that we’ve all really let Captain Planet down. That said, the original series still holds up and then some.
Where to Watch: Amazon, YouTube
Doug Funnie’s pre-teen antics were the stuff of ‘90s legend, not because they were particularly grand or heroic, but because they were rather pedestrian, all things considered. Doug’s world was one that was just left of center enough to feel like our own, so much so that his flights of fancy into fantasies about Quailman and that strange noise he heard whenever he bumped into Patti Mayonnaise still manage to come across as intensely relatable.
Where to Watch: Hulu, Disney+, Amazon
Every time you fire up a video game, it’s impossible not to wonder if a premise like ReBoot’s has some degree of truth to it. Games like Animal Crossing and Breath of the Wild feel full and rich because of the complex inner lives and personalities that NPCs in the games have. ReBoot knew that the gaming industry was well on its way toward creating worlds populated by digital beings who felt like living, breathing creatures, which makes the show feel especially relevant today.
Where to Watch: Tubi
The interesting thing about the Cardcaptors dub was how it either completely flew under people’s radars or bowled them over, depending on their particular narrative sensibilities. Cardcaptors was very much your traditional monster-of-the-week episodic series, but unlike the vast majority of localized anime that made its way out west at the turn of the century, it centered female characters with powerful knacks for both fashion and magic, all the while featuring some of the most gorgeous action sequences imaginable.
Where to Watch: Hulu, Crunchyroll
By not shying away from the difficult realities of living in an economically depressed neighborhood, The PJs was able to have a wicked sense of humor that most shows about working-class people can only dream of. Beyond the show’s scripts and its stacked cast, The PJs was a rare example of meticulously-crafted claymation making its way to weekly network television, which made the entire endeavor feel that much more high concept.
Where to Watch: Laugh Out Loud
Beast Wars: Transformers is among one of the best riffs of the Transformers franchise, if only because it’s blessedly free of any sort of modern-day humanity. Robots transforming into vehicles and such is a cute concept and all, but it pales in comparison to robots transforming into prehistoric creatures as they wage war with one another on a strange planet they don’t fully understand.
Where to Watch: Tubi
In retrospect, Rocko’s Modern Life was really, really trying to warn an entire generation of children that the real evils of adulthood were always going to be mundane nuisances seemingly designed just to make life feel that much harder. The show’s frank but charming approach to repeatedly explaining how the world tends to be a less-than-amazing place was novel when it first premiered, and it’s strangely comforting to revisit now.
Where to Watch: VRV
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