We’ve been riding a bit of a nostalgia wave in entertainment recently. From those nostalgic “You know you were a 90s Kid If…” Buzzfeed lists, gritty, viral reboots of The Power Rangers, to Jimmy Fallon reuniting the casts of shows like Full House and Saved by the Bell, we’ve kind of become a bit obsessed with remembering how awesome life was in the 80s, 90s, and 00s. Even better than internet lists and Jimmy Fallon bits (regardless of how marvelous they are), some of our favorite childhood cartoons are actually going to be returning. Because we’re getting shows like The Powerpuff Girls, Duck Tales, and Inspector Gadget back in our lives, it’s got me thinking of some other amazing cartoons that seriously need to make a comeback.
This one is kind of a no-brainer, as it is technically a spin-off of Duck Tales. Even more than that, superheroes are kind of a big deal right now. I feel like Darkwing Duck and his right-hand man–er, duck–Launchpad McQuack would fall easily into the ranks of Captain America, Superman, and Groot and Rocket Raccoon. For a lot of us, Darkwing was not only a hilarious superhero, but he was also a great dad to his daughter, Gosalyn, and he genuinely tried to make his hometown of St. Canard a better place. Messages of justice, kindness, and showing us that even the goofiest of us could be a hero made this show a classic. Besides, those duck-inspired names are just fantastic. This one definitely deserves to be brought back to a modern audience.
This show was one of my personal favorites. Based in the fictitious town of Cape Suzette in the country of Usland, where we followed the adventures of Baloo. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Baloo is the same bear from The Jungle Book. Apparently after assisting in the raising of Mowgli, Baloo thought he’d use his new-found free time to become a pilot. Because of course he did. The show is sort of like a kid’s version of the sitcom, Wings with a dash of Indiana Jones. The characters are loveable and funny, but you could always count on some edge-of-your-seat adventure each week. This was one of those shows that taught kids to imagine places far outside their front door, and it was just a fun 30-minute ride. Bringing a bit more Baloo in our lives is also always a good thing. He’s sweet, he genuinely cares for others, and he’s genuinely hilarious. Bringing Baloo into the 21st century is reason enough to revamp this show.
Rescue Rangers took the beloved characters Chip and Dale, and made them completely awesome. The two chipmunks set aside their usual hijinks–Chip donning an aviator jacket and an Indiana Jones-inspired hat and Dale taking on the Tommy Bahama look–open their own detective agency, and solve those crimes that often go ignored by the police. Facing regular big bads like Fat Cat–a literal fat cat–and mad scientist Norton Nimnul, the Rescue Rangers taught kids that even the smallest among us can take down evil. It also does some great PR for the unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt look.
I’ll be honest, my elementary school playground never resembled the playground on Recess, but I always wished it did. The playground turned into its own, tiny society, complete with a King of the Playground, a society of wild kindergarteners (who had their own ruler), and other class structures. The show followed a group of friends–T.J., Spinelli, Vince, Gretchen, Gus, and Mikey–and chronicled their adventures both on and off the playground. While it might seem like a bit of a bummer that these kids were subjected to class structure and government even during their recess, the show was largely about the kids learning about themselves and questioning the social and class structures. For a kid’s show, it often made you take a look at some heavy things like feminism, gender norms, government, and discrimination without feeling like a giant PSA. Recess was a hilarious cartoon, but it’s underlying message of teaching kids to be brave, strong, and intelligent makes it a classic.
To this day, my brother and I still quote Dexter’s Lab lines to one another. This was the show that made every kid want to become a brilliant scientist–whether or not they liked stuff like math and science. The show centers on Dexter, a boy genius who made a secret laboratory in his bedroom, and his sister Dee Dee, a freethinking, optimistic young girl with a passion for ballet. Understandably, the two often butted heads on the show, but they still loved each other. While a great deal of the show’s conflict came from Dee Dee ruining Dexter’s lab, or Dexter botching an experiment, they later added a nemesis for Dexter: another boy genius with his own laboratory. Mandark. Mandark was an evil genius, and he often worked solely to destroy Dexter, and also woo Dee Dee. The show was genuinely hilarious–and when I watch it today, I still think it is (fun fact: Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane was one of the show’s writers). It was one of those shows that made kids feel like they could do anything they wanted (even build a secret lab in their bedrooms), and it gave an entire generation of kids a bizarrely wonderful sense of humor.
Captain Planet and the Planeteers
Captain Planet was one of those shows that had a pretty strong message thinly veiled under a superhero story. But unlike other message-driven superheroes, Captain Planet was actually a fun show to watch. The spirit of the earth, Gaia, distributes five rings powered by elements of nature (earth, wind, water, fire) and one with “heart” to five young people around the globe. They, with the aid of their rings and Captain Planet, do what they can to stop pollution and the mistreatment of the earth. Each week, we’d see some form of pollution or crime against the earth personified by a villain, and the Planeteers would work with Captain Planet to stop it. What made this show cool was that it really empowered the kids watching to do what they could to protect the environment. Captain Planet showed kids how important it is to take care of the earth, made kids feel empowered to do their part, all while being a genuinely entertaining show. While a reboot may have to update Captain Planet’s mullet, I think it would do great being brought into the 21st century.
If you ever wondered why there are a bunch of nutty 20 and 30-somethings that go on and on about OTPs and shipping, it’s because of this show, right here. Hey Arnold! followed Arnold and his group of friends as they navigated the world of kid-dom. One of those aspects, was crazy crushes, and let me tell you, Helga had it bad for Arnold. She was mean to him in person, but she secretly pined over him in her secret closet shrine dedicated to him (kinda creepy, but let’s move on) and she would secretly weave beautiful poems of their unrequited love. I don’t think I’ve ever shipped anyone harder than Helga and Arnold. Beyond the shipping, the show dealt with bullies, grades, cliques, family drama, and even heavier stuff like war, dead parents, broken marriages, gambling, and homelessness. It made it all funny and relatable, and kids from almost all walks of life got to see themselves represented as a character or a story in the show. While you were laughing at the hijinks happening onscreen, it kind of made your own life seem a bit more normal and a bit less scary. It also taught us another important lesson: never eat raspberries.
I’m just gonna say it: middle school sucks. I have never met a person who enjoyed their time in middle school. Your bodies are changing, so unless you’re one of the chosen few, your arms and legs are a bit too long, you’re awkward (okay, maybe that was just me), and you’re in that weird emotional place of being a kid but also being a teen/young adult. And we’re convinced that we are the only one who feels this awkward and weird. That’s why I loved Pepper Ann. She was right in the middle of that horrible stage of adolescence. She actually started as a comic strip in the magazine YM, and soon migrated to Toon Disney and One Saturday Morning. Pepper Ann lived with her mom and her hilarious younger sister, Moose, and every episode had Pepper Ann facing some kind of moral issue that your average middle schooler would face, from bras, zits, to reuniting with childhood friends, and even heavier topics like discrimination and justice. She was basically a friend to all of us as we moved from a kid into our teenage years, she made viewers feel less alone, and the show was filled with lovable and hilarious characters. Middle school will never not be awkward, so we will always need Pepper Ann. After all, she’s like one in a million.
What are some cartoons that you’d love to see make a comeback? Let us know in the comments!