Ahh, the ‘90s. They weren’t here that long ago, and yet, we still get all warm and fuzzy inside whenever we think about them. I particularly miss the cartoons of the ‘90s, which I loved watching well into my teenage years (when it was no longer the ‘90s, but whatever). There are plenty of cartoons to choose from now, but for me, there was nothing like settling down with a new episode of "Doug" or "Pepper Ann" to complete the perfect Saturday morning. Here are my top picks for some of the greatest ‘90s wholesome children’s cartoons (because "Ren & Stimpy" and "Rocko's Modern Life" will be on another list).
Main characters: Douglas 'Doug' Yancy Funnie; Doug's sister, Judith "Judy" Funnie; his crush and friend, Patricia "Patti" Mayonnaise; his dog, Porkchop; his best friend, Mosquito "Skeeter" Valentine; his enemy, Roger M. Klotz
Summary: The Funnie family moves to Bluffington where Doug must adjust to life as the new kid in town. He often writes in his journal about his experiences, many of which revolved around his group of friends. With a highly active imagination, Doug likes to dream what his life would be like as a superhero named Quailman.
Why it's awesome: "Doug" was about an insecure kid navigating the overwhelming and sometimes frustrating world of middle school. His life isn't perfect, which made him relatable, and he also had a huge imagination and a big heart. Doug was a little nerdy, and sometimes embarrassing, but so were we. We secretly hoped he'd one day get to be with his crush, Patti, or get discovered for his banjo talent and play with his favorite band, The Beets.
2. Pepper Ann
Main characters: Pepper Ann Pearson; Pepper Ann's best friends, Nicky Little and Milo Kamalani; Pepper Ann's mom, Lydia Pearson; and Pepper Ann's little sister, Margaret Rose "Moose" Pearson
Summary: Pepper Ann is a 12-year-old with a wildly active imagination. With two best friends, Milo, a dramatic artist, and Nicky, an overachieving violinist, Pepper Ann is just trying to survive middle school. (A tough time for everyone, including Doug, obviously.) She’s usually presented with some type of moral quandary, and often makes the wrong decision, but faces the consequences and, in the end, learns a lesson.
Why it's awesome: This cartoon was pretty progressive, considering it debuted in 1997. Pepper Ann was constantly fighting against a sexist radio DJ, while her sister, Moose, was a notorious tomboy (and nobody cared). Even if she didn't always make the best choices, Pepper Ann, like Doug, was someone we could relate to and root for. She really was too cool for seventh grade, you know?
3. Powerpuff Girls
Station: Cartoon Network
Main characters: Blossom; Bubbles; Buttercup; and their "father", the brainy scientist Professor Utonium
Summary: Three kindergarten-aged girls with superpowers live with their scientist/father Professor Utonium in Townsville, USA. Although they have to deal with normal childhood issues, like loose teeth, going to school, and sibling rivalry, the girls are also often called upon by the town's mayor to help fight nearby criminals using their powers.
Why it's awesome: First of all, it's hard not to be impressed by kindergartners who can fight crime. Can you fight crime? How about giant monsters that plague your city? No? I didn't think so. Imagine doing that, but also being five years old, and angry that you can't bring your security blanket to school. It's a rough life, man. The Powerpuff Girls were all about independence, strength, and embracing their girliness — all while also keeping their town safe from mayhem. When I grow up, I totally want to be a Powerpuff Girl.
4. Hey Arnold
Main characters: Arnold, a dreamer and idealist who always tries to do the right thing; Helga Pataki, the school bully, who is meanest to Arnold, but only because she’s secretly in love with him; Gerald Johanssen, Arnold’s BFF, voice of reason, and schoolyard storyteller; Phoebe Heyerdahl, Helga’s quiet, overachieving best friend; Harold Berman, a dim “bully” whose bark is worse than his bite; Grandpa/Phil, Arnold’s good-natured, but silly, grandfather who owns the boarding house where Arnold lives; Grandma Gertie/Pookie, Arnold’s eccentric grandmother
Summary: Arnold is a fourth-grader living in a boarding house owned by his grandparents. Along with the antics that unravel in his home, Arnold is the level-headed one in his fourth grade class and group of friends. He always tries to do what's right, as well as help those in need. He and his best friend, Gerald, are often going on adventures around their hometown of Hillwood.
Why it's awesome: Arnold has pretty much the coolest room ever. Aside from Cher's closet in "Clueless," I can't think of something I wanted more when I was a kid. Everything in it is controlled by a remote control and it has the most amazing glass roof. That aside, Arnold was a good kid, but it was his kooky family and boarding house mates, as well as his class at P.S. 118, that really helped round out the show. "Hey Arnold" was funny, entertaining, and it had story lines that went a little deeper than a lot of other cartoons, showing us that sometimes there wasn't always a right answer and the best you could do was try.
Main characters: Tommy Pickles; his cousin, the evil Angelica Pickles (and her beloved doll, Cynthia); and Tommy's friends, Chuckie Finnster, his absolute best friend, a cowardly, red-head; the twins, Phil and Lil, who often tried to out-do each other when it came to gross, disgusting things; and Susie, Angelica's kind-hearted but tough schoolmate
Summary: Tommy is an adventurous and wildly smart one-year-old infant. He always carries a screwdriver in his diaper so that he and his friends can escape their playpen and seek adventures. Their parents are often absent-minded, though they mean well, and the babies are able to wander around freely. Most of the adventures take place in Tommy's house, as the infants visualize everyday activities through new eyes.
Why it's awesome: Logical fallacies aside, I'm pretty sure that group if infants has had more adventures in their first year of life than I've had, period. Part of what "Rugrats" so awesome, I think, was that there weren't any shows like it. It also taught me all about Hanukkah, so even as a kid apparently I had a thing or two to learn from babies.
Main characters: T.J. Detweiler, a prankster and the group's leader; Ashley Spinelli, called just "Spinelli" by her friends, a tough tomboy; Vince LaSalle, a sensitive, peace lover; Gus Griswald, a scrawny, unlucky nerd; Gretchen Grundler, an overachiever; and Mikey Blumberg, a star athlete
Summary: Six fourth graders just want to enjoy their favorite time of the day: recess. But it’s a bit harder than it might seem at Third Street Elementary School. The group must deal with the militant recess monitor Miss Finster, and her personal snitch, Randall Weems, as well as Principal Prickly. In addition, the student body is ruled by its own infrastructure, which includes King Bob, the unibrowed king of the playground who helps enforce the unwritten student code of honor.
Why it's awesome: If you loved recess growing up, then you probably also enjoyed "Recess," the show. Sure, the antics were a little over-the-top, but it was hard not to root for a group of friends who just wanted a chance to play dodgeball. There was drama (often thanks to Randall the rat), chaos (especially if students didn't abide by the student code of honor), and surprise (finding out Spinelli was actually an... Ashley?) — a little something for everyone.
My runners up: "Ahh! Real Monsters"; "Angry Beavers"; "Tiny Toon Adventures"; "Tale Spin"; "Arthur." Which '90s cartoons are your favorites?