ICYMI: Cartoons Aren’t What They Used To Be

We grew up in the 80s & 90s, a time when the media we consumed consisted of SNICK, boy bands and cartoons. But during this time, we were also exposed to media that tried to teach us lessons, and for some reason, a lot of these shows’ lessons were… drugs are cool?

Just Say YES: 80s & 90s Kids’ Shows That Made Drugs Look Fun

First things first: we would never tell children to do drugs. Children’s programs do it for us. Or did, anyway. Back when the front line of the War On Drugs was manned by a white lady named Nancy, kids’ shows told the youth of the nation to “just say no.” The problem: the drugs looked awesome. Was it because the show runners didn’t know what drugs looked like? Or were they just trying to show kids how hard it could be to resist peer pressure? Because I guarantee if these cartoons showed gross needles, or weed being smoked out of a dank Coke can, fewer kids would have wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Instead, the drugs looked awesome:

Punky Brewster

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcqgHmBXwUk]

Punky’s got lessons. Don’t go all the way inside of a refrigerator. Your family is who loves you, not who abandons you in a supermarket. Someday, you’ll get a bra. And don’t do drugs, even though drugs look like the best candy in the world.

A group of girls invite Punky and Cherie into their clique, but only if they do drugs. I repeat: the girls invited Punky and Cherie to hang out in an amazing technicolor dream fort, and offered them free drugs. I’m not surprised that Punks did the right thing, I’m just confused why those girls wanted to be friends with her that hard.

Cartoon All Stars To The Rescue

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzKx92QD8Hk]

This was an all-out failure of concept. When a young boy starts drinking beer and smoking dope ( I think they say “dope,” and I’m never 100% clear on what drug that’s supposed to be), his kid sis and a team of Cartoon All Stars gang up to teach him that there’s a better way.

That’s right, kids. If you do drugs, all your favorite cartoon characters will come over to hang.

In a way, though, this was the harshest punishment of all, because can you imagine being on drugs and then trying to deal with the fact that you were rolling with Alf, the Smurfs, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Garfield, the Muppet Babies – the freaking Muppet Babies – and the Ninja Turtles? While we’re at it, Ninja Turtles: the CONSTANT PIZZA? The slow, drawled out speech? Sitting around all day in a basement with your bros? Oh, come on.

Dinosaurs

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmhENpMMMH8]

I’ve seen episodes of Weeds that were less pro-drug than this. Earl and Robbie, the boy dinosaur who’s Dinosaurs’ answer to Eddie Winslow, find a plant that makes them all chill and happy, but then the next day all they can find is seeds and stems. So I guess the lesson here is that they should have had more drugs on hand. Anyway, the whole family turns amotivational and at the end, Robbie delivers an anti-drug speech. Or is it an anti-anti drug episode speech? “When one show does an anti-drug episode, other shows feel pressured to do one, too. […] [P]ut a stop to preachy sitcom endings like this one.” In sum, the writers room of Dinosaurs probably smelled like that one kid in your nighttime sociology class who always wore a Central American poncho.


 

If you think the cartoons of yesteryear were odd for pushing drugs, take a look at what your faves look like now. Some of these look like the current animators on these shows grew up on the pro-drug shows that we did, too.

Your Childhood Cartoons All Look Freaking Weird Now

This week, the world has been mourning the end of Saturday Morning Cartoons (well, by “the world” I mean people on the internet with a fondness for the 90s and complaining about things: so, most of tumblr, much of twitter). But really, what has been lost? Saturday morning cartoons were so special for millennials, Gen-Xers and boomers because they were all we had. They were a treat! Nowadays, kids with cable can watch cartoons on several channels 24/7 – 365. Even kids without cable pick up several over-the-air channels that play cartoons – PBS has the best kids lineup there is! Plus if you have internet access there’s YouTube for free, and Netflix for cheap.

While they aren’t aired at eye-wateringly early times on the weekend anymore – a win for parents everywhere! – most of your favorite childhood cartoons are still out there. See, energy cannot be created or destroyed: it can only change form. And cartoons are seldom destroyed, either. They just get rebooted and start to look freaking weird. If there’s a cartoon you loved as a child, it probably now looks like it was CGI-animated in this bizarre 3d-but-not-3d format.

My Little Pony

Then:

Now:

How Freaking Weird Does It Look?

Pretty freaking weird. It’s my little pony, not my little weird humanoid. However, the first My Little Pony reboot does not involve bipedal ponies – this is a spinoff of that, I guess.

I can’t speak to these creepy people-ponies, but the regular new My Little Pony is well-written and surprisingly cute, although as someone who’s named after a My Little Pony character who was a human girl, it’s a bit weird that there are no people around anymore.

Sidebar: Parents, that’s why you shouldn’t let your eight-year-old name your baby. I’m just lucky I didn’t end up being called Rainbow Sparkle or Dewdrop.

Pound Puppies

Then:

Now:

How Freaking Weird Does It Look?

First, a story. Did you know that Pound Puppies had cat friends in the 80s and 90s? They did. They were called Pound Purries. As a 4 or 5-year-old, I thought that was the stupidest name ever. What sort of idiot called a cat a “purry?” And as a kid who read lots of children’s books from 50+ years ago, I KNEW that there was a better alliterative name for these cats. So, I could not figure out why my parents reacted with swift horror when I said that I was going to call the characters “Pound Pussies.”

There was no way to know it yet – the internet was still in its infancy, after all – but guys, I’m pretty sure I invented the first online pornography search term.

Anyway, do these look weird? Well they look more like real animals, but they’re a lot less whimsical. And I can’t help but notice that there’s an absence of pounded pussies, which really has always said whimsy to me.

Strawberry Shortcake

How Freaking Weird Does It Look?

It gets weirder the longer you look at it. Original Strawberry Shortcake was this girl in a pinafore and a bonnet and pantaloons, Middle Strawberry Shortcake was some sort of messy kid wearing Birkenstocks with socks and a hoodie tied around her waist, and Final Strawberry Shortcake is wearing a puffy, billed cap that belongs in an early 2000s J-Lo video. However, I’m most sketched out that the whites of her eyes appear to be green. Also, the character has either slimmed down considerably or been photoshopped – or maybe it’s like they say, the pinafore adds 10 pounds.

Holly Hobbie

How Freaking Weird Does It Look?

It’s like seeing Abraham Lincoln dressed as a child in a Disney Channel Original Series. That’s how weird it looks. The whole point of Holly Hobbie is that she was a mostly-mute girl from some vague time in the days of yore who had to wear a quilt as an apron. She fit right into the Little House On The Prairie, 19th century thing that kids were into at the time. But these new girls look like they came from season one of the new Degrassi. As with Strawberry Shortcake, they look like the early 2000s, which I guess is olden times to today’s youths. Flared jeans, gaucho capris, and another one of those puffy billed caps – these gals look like extras in That’s So Raven. I half-expect a trucker hat or Return To Tiffany bracelet.

Arthur

Then:

Now:

How Freaking Weird Does It Look?

It just looks… I don’t know, cheap? Now don’t worry, you can still catch regular Arthur episodes. It’s still one of the least annoying kids’ cartoons there is, although my 4-year-old nephew keeps singing the theme song and let me tell you, it is a major earworm. These CGI movies look like an Arthur CD-ROM game, though.

Rainbow Brite

How Freaking Weird Does It Look?

Man. I miss those giant bangs that started on the midpoint of your scalp then continued to your eyebrows. And what ever happened to boys in bowlcuts? New Rainbow Brite is a bit more sleek and well-groomed, but the only freaking weird part is that the characters are older. It seems like all of kids’ shows today have protagonists in their teens, maybe a preemptive strike to convince kids that they have a lot to look forward to in the future? Psst – kiddos. Being a teenager isn’t that cool. Sorry.

Care Bears

Then:

Now:

How Freaking Weird Does It Look?

You know what? Not that bad, actually! Like Arthur, it feels a little cheap looking, but when you’re dealing with plush-looking cheerful animals, there’s only so far you can go.

Of course, that’s what I would have said about My Little Pony, and we see how that went.

Maybe it’s my age showing, but I just don’t know how you could look at the colorful, hand-drawn frames of the old Care Bears and find this fake-3D computer game-looking stuff more appealing.

Smurfs

Then:Now:

How Freaking Weird Does It Look?

I don’t know if they’re weirder or just scarier. A colony of blue critters in KKK hats living on mushrooms is creepy enough, but somehow when you add muscle definition things get a lot sketchier

Alvin and the Chipmunks

Then:

Now:

How Freaking Weird Does It Look?

The plus here is you can still tell who every character is supposed to be. But when you can clearly see their hair and claw-hands, you really remember that these are rodents, and rodents are disgusting. I sort of miss the giant nightgown-shirts, though.

A note: you may notice you didn’t see any superhero shows on here. It’s not because they don’t look freaking weird now – of course they do! It’s just that the very nature of those characters is that they’re constantly being repurposed. There have always been different incarnations of Batman or Spiderman, so remaking them for this era isn’t really a surprise.

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