Typically we stick to music discussions around these parts but every once in awhile it’s fun to revisit the good times of our youth.
It was so much better than what today’s youth experience, with their Snapchat and their “Hotline Bling” and their hoverboards.
Get off my Internet lawn, you kids.
Today, we’re gonna let the ’80s and ’90s babies shine and revisit the most memorable moments of animation in our lifetime. To keep this list from being dominated by Batman: The Animated Series and X-Men (cuz they were that awesome) I’ve limited the list to one magical memory per show.
If you ever drank Ecto-Cooler or recorded music off the radio on cassette tapes, I’m sure you’ll remember all these moments.
When We Found Out Cobra Commander Was Literally A Snake
G.I. Joe: The Movie (1987)
The ’80s G.I. Joe movie gets a bad rap. Yeah, it’s all kinds of weird and stomps on years of continuity, but we finally got the answer to the show’s biggest mystery — what does Cobra Commander look like behind that fishbowl-looking helmet? Apparently, he’s from a race of prehistoric blue skinned snake men who now has about 10 eyes thanks to an experiment gone wrong. That’s all. Oh and he also gets turned into a literal snake, so there’s that. I told you it’s weird.
When Fry’s Dog Destroyed Our Emotions
Futurama, “Jurrasic Bark” (2002)
Futurama is mostly known for its off-beat sci-fi humor but man, Fry and the gang could really tug at your heartstrings sometimes. Fry tries to clone his dog, who died about 1,000 years earlier before having a change of heart. But that parting shot of 20th-century Seymour waiting years for his long-missing master to come home … y’all got me in my feelings again.
That Time Lion-O Fought All The ThunderCats And Won
ThunderCats, “Lion-O’s Anointment: Days 1-5” (1985)
In order to prove himself Lord of the ThunderCats, our boy Lion-O had to battle all his teammates in “trials” that were spread out over the course of four days, culminating in a battle with arch-enemy Mumm-Ra on the last day. This was some EPIC storytelling at the time — it had me and my boys racing home from school to see the next day’s episode. And speaking of racing, the most memorable moment of the series was Lion-O beating speedster Cheetarah in a footrace.
When Dinobot Went Out Like a Solider
Beast Wars, “Code of Hero” (1998)
Yes this isn’t technically a cartoon, but it’s animation and it’s my list, so chill. Anyway, Dinobot, the series’ tough-as-nails curmudgeon, gives his life to stop Megatron from killing a bunch of cavemen and rewriting history (long story). Dinobot goes out like a warrior — his spark rises from his body while being saluted by his teammates — in one of the best episodes in Transformers history.
When Muppet Babies Treated Star Wars Better Than The Prequels
Muppet Babies, “Muppet Babies: The Next Generation” (1990)
The entire Muppet Babies series was based on parodies of current TV hits. Be glad this show wasn’t around in the 21st Century — the LAST thing we need is Real Muppetwives of Atlanta. The most beloved parody was the gang’s take on Star Wars. Still a classic.
Barbara Gordon Dies, Commissioner Gordon Goes HAM
The New Batman Adventures, “Over The Edge” (1998)
After Batgirl seemingly dies in a battle, her distraught father Jim Gordon goes nuts and declares war on Batman — revealing his identity and even sending Bane after him. And it gets worse: Batman’s rogues gallery hilariously file a class-action suit against Bruce Wayne for mental distress or some such nonsense. Of course, we find out that Barbara Gordon is just having a REALLY bad dream courtesy of Scarecrow. Still, we were on the edge of our seats the entire time.
Hold Up, He-Man Has a Sister?
She-Ra, Princess of Power, “The Sword of She-Ra (Parts 1-5)” (1985)
He-Man fans thought we knew all there was to know about the Most Powerful Man in the Universe. Except the fact that he had a twin sister who was kidnapped by a whole new group of enemies and raised as an evil brainwashed general on another planet. WHAT!? Tying the She-Ra spinoff so close to He-Man was brilliant — it created instant continuity with its predecessor and had guys eagerly tuning in to “a girl’s show” to see how the story unfolded next. Plus, She-Ra was just as cool and powerful as her brother. To this day, she’s synonymous with female power and beauty.
OOO WEE OOO, KILLER TOFUUUU
Doug, “Doug Rocks” (1991)
There’s not much to this episode — Doug and Skeeter just want to see their favorite Beetles knockoff band, The Beets. Skeeter gets grounded, but they meet them anyway. Who cares, we’re just here for that “Killer Tofu” song, which STILL goes hard today.
The Time Jean Grey Spazzed Out And Ate A Sun
X-Men, “The Dark Phoenix Saga (Parts 1-4)” (1994)
The ’90s animated X-Men series was awesome, bringing some of the greatest comic storylines to life. The crowning achievement was the Dark Phoenix Saga, where sweet lil ol’ Jean Grey becomes a cosmic bird lady, loses her mind and goes around wrecking solar systems for fun. Obviously, our alien neighbors are pissed, so the X-Men are forced to fight to defend their friend, who technically was still a super-powered psychopath at this point. The moral ambiguity made for really compelling TV.
Goku Goes Super Saiyan, Over 9,000 Gifs Are Born
Dragon Ball Z, “Transformed At Last” (1999)
Look, I love DBZ, you love DBZ, but we can all admit it was downright maddening waiting for the show to deliver on its promises. You know the routine: Bad guy shows up, stands around talking, kills a few people, stands around talking, the heroes fight his goons while the villain stands around talking, the villain kills more heroes THEN the mighty Goku shows up to fight (after standing around and talking some more). It took about EIGHTY episodes (seriously!) but when Goku FINALLY transformed into the legendary Super Saiyan to give Freiza those golden hands, it was worth the wait.
That Time Robin Killed The Joker. And That Was Just The Beginning
Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker (2000)
Sure, it might not seem like it in 2016, in an age where you can see your favorite superheroes cussin, sexin’ and killin’ everyone in sight on Netflix, but the direct-to-DVD Batman Beyond movie was super controversial at the turn of the century, thanks to the violent death of the Joker. In a flashback, we see the final moments of the Joker, who transformed Robin into his demented Mini-Me and turned him loose on Batman. JokeRobin kills Joker instead, simultaneously crying and laughing in a depressingly creepy moment. And that’s just the START of the story. I won’t spoil the film but it’s a must see, holding up as one of franchise’s best movies.
Broadway Accidentally Shoots Elisa
Gargoyles, “Deadly Force” (1994)
Gargoyles was SO ahead of its time. This episode proves it. Broadway, one of the titular Gargoyles, fools around with policewoman Elisa’s gun and accidentally shoots her. His fellow Gargoyles assume the shooter was a gangster and go after him instead. This episode was so touchy that it was initially pulled from rotation, before returning with all evidence of blood removed. Still, it’s a powerful commentary on guns that hits home today.
Cartman’s Mom Is His Father. It’s South Park, Don’t Ask.
South Park, “Cartman’s Mom Is Still A Dirty Slut” (1998)
Good lord, THIS episode. Stay with me, cuz this is a trainwreck. The first season of South Park ended on a cliffhanger, with the town poised to find out the identity of Cartman’s father. So with the nation tuning in to the season 2 premier ready for answers, in typical South Park fashion, instead we get some stupid episode focusing on side characters Terrance and Phillip. America would not STAND for this level of immature trolling and went ballistic, so next week we finally got the episode we wanted, which finally answered the burning paternity question — Cartman’s mom was a hermaphrodite and impregnated herself. Uh huh. This was later retconned a few seasons later but still, UGH. Memorable, yet dumb.
Who Shot Mr. Burns? A Baby.
The Simpsons, “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” (Parts 1 & 2) (1995)
Ready for another
shameless rating ploy exciting cartoon cliffhanger? At the end of season six, cartoonishly evil rich guy Donald Trum… err, Mr. Burns pisses off everyone in the town of Springfield by being his usual maniacal self. An unseen figure lets the choppa sing at the end of part one, leaving Burnsie left for dead. All summer America speculated on the identity of the culprit, with most people with good sense thinking it was Burn’s manservant Smithers. But nope, it was the Simpson’s youngest, Maggie, making her the trillest toddler in Springfield.
That Time the Music Meister Had The Entire DC Universe Singing
Batman: The Brave and The Bold , “Mayhem of the Music Meister!” (2009)
Gotta admit, I was pretty late to the party on this one, just seeing it about a year ago. But man, it’s magnificent. The premise is simple — the evil Music Meister controls heroes through music, basically turning the show into a 22-minute musical. Batman’s got better range than most these children pretending to be R&B singers on your radio. The episode is just pure fun, with an outstanding score and insanely catchy songs.
The Death of Mufasa
The Lion King (1994)
I intentionally tried to stay away from Disney movies because they’d easily dominate this list. But I’d be as heartless as Scar if I didn’t mention this gut-wrenching moment. If you aren’t tearing up just thinking about this tragedy, you’re a cold-hearted beast who needs to be in somebody’s church this Sunday.
Family Guy, “Barely Legal” (2006)
Yeah, I know the bloom fell off the Family Guy rose long ago. But one of its greatest contributions came from this throwaway episode about Meg trying to have sex with Brian. Yes, the dog Brian. Meg bakes Brian a pie, Stewie asks for the “Cool HWhip,” and magic happens.
That Time A Batman Cartoon Won An Emmy
Batman: The Animated Series, “Heart of Ice” (1992)
It’s hard to pick one moment from this episode, undoubtedly the crowning achievement of the iconic Batman: The Animated Series. It’s all so good. But “Heart of Ice” and its portrayal of the villainous Mr. Freeze as a broken-hearted man who only wants to save his wife was brilliant storytelling. The final scene, with Freeze pleading with his dead wife to forgive him for his crimes, has stuck with me for decades. The episode won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in an Animated Program, proving that kids’ shows can be compelling TV too.
When the Coyote Caught The Roadrunner. Yes, This Happened.
Looney Tunes, “Soup or Sonic” (1980)
The hapless Wile E. Coyote is the Meek Mill of the cartoon game — always lagging behind while catching Ls left and right. But in 1980, the Coyote FINALLY succeeded and caught the roadrunner — sort of. Check out the vid to see what I mean. Nickelodeon used to air this episode all the time during my childhood and that image of the super-sized roadrunner glaring down at Wile E. cracked my little brother up EVERY SINGLE TIME.
The Day Our Childhood Died
Transformers: The Movie (1986)
Keep your trash Michael Bay films, THIS is the only Transformer film we acknowledge. We got cool new heroes and villains, an 80s soundtrack that still will melt your speakers to this day, and a literal fight to the death between Optimus Prime and Megatron. Watching the mighty Optimus fade into sepia tone was devastating. He came back to life, of course, but still, nothing was as tragic as seeing the mighty fall.
Man, there’s a lot of death on this list, huh? But instead of ending this on a bad note, let’s watch Prime ball all over his Autobot brethren on the basketball court. Tracks got that WORK.
What are some of your favorite cartoon moments? Leave ’em below.