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The ‘90s were a golden age for Disney on TV, with the Disney Afternoon’s lineup of shows giving kids something to look forward to after school. Friday nights were also a lot of fun thanks to ABC’s TGIF lineup — and who could forget the Saturday morning ritual of cartoons and a bowl of cereal?
If you’ve ever wanted to relive those glorious days of television, you can do so on Disney+. By signing up for only $7 a month, you'll get access to an extensive collection of old cartoons and sitcoms. Here's a look at a few of our favorite Disney cartoons from the ‘90s.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? never got a TV show, but if it did, I’d imagine it would look something like this. Here, a former cartoon star named Bonkers D. Bobcat is roped into becoming an officer in the Hollywood Police Department. He's teamed up with a gruff, hardboiled detective named Lucky Piquel. Together they use Lucky’s police know-how and Bonkers’ showbiz experience to solve a variety of wild and wacky toon-related crimes.
Shows about precocious teenagers would become a Disney Channel mainstay in the 2000’s, but this sitcom starring Ben Savage was one of the earliest. It originally aired as part of TGIF on ABC, and ran for seven seasons — long enough to watch Cory age from junior high to college. Over that time he navigates the perils of classwork, friendship and his romance with the quirky and brilliant Topanga Lawrence. (You can also watch a sequel series, Girl Meets World, about Cory and Topanga’s daughter, on Disney+.)
He’s the terror that flaps in the night, but you can watch all 91 episodes of this action cartoon on Disney+ any time you’d like. Part pulp hero and part super spy, Darkwing Duck was a slapstick take on the superhero genre, with a gallery of crazy costumed villains, a trusty sidekick and a rambunctious daughter who, of course, always caused her dad plenty of trouble. Darkwing Duck also features the return of some beloved characters from DuckTales, as well as its own extremely catchy theme song.
Sure, Baby Sinclair is cute and you might laugh every time he screams, “Not the mama!” while bonking his dad on the head. But beyond that sort of broad humor lay an extremely cutting satire of modern society. Over four seasons, the show explored topics such as women’s rights, censorship, drug abuse, and unchecked capitalism, but with silly dinosaur puppets and puns. The final episode even dealt with climate change and extinction, which probably hits even harder today.
At a time when cartoons in the U.S. were still made largely for kids, Gargoyles told a complex story about magic and mythology in modern-day New York. The titular characters, who were frozen for 1,000 years, must learn to navigate the 20th century, deal with all of the strange creatures that they encounter, and protect their new home from anyone who would harm it. At the heart of the story was a romance between Gargoyle leader Goliath and human police detective Elisa Masa — a beauty and the beast-like scenario, except this time the two get to fight side-by-side.
I bet you never really thought about Goofy as a single dad, but here you’ll really come to appreciate his awkward, dorky demeanor as he tries to parent his teenage son, Max. Any kid who has ever been embarrassed by their dad will understand his plight, but you also can’t help but root for the good-natured Goofy. Even long-time Disney villain Pete gets a bit of redemption as Goofy’s abrasive neighbor with a wife and two kids, with the older son becoming Max’s best friend. You can also watch the two sequel movies, A Goofy Movie and An Extremely Goofy Movie, also available on Disney+.
The film version of Hercules came late during the fabled Disney Renaissance that brought us such gems as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. So the 1997 film tends to get overlooked. Even more forgotten is the TV cartoon based on the Hercules film, which decided to fill out Hercules’ years of training — something that was previously relegated to a musical montage on the silver screen. Now you get to see our hero deal with typical teen problems, in addition to battling mythological creatures and foiling the schemes of his evil uncle Hades, God of the Underworld.
As you face the pressure of adult life, it’s easy to forget that being a kid was no picnic. In fact, the rules and customs of childhood could be rather complex, and Recess took that to its logical conclusion by presenting life at Third Street Elementary School as an intricate society with a government and even a king. The show revolves a small group of friends and their efforts to maintain their individuality in the face of students and teachers who want to squash it out. The series was followed by four films, three of which are available on Disney+, including the one where they finally graduate to fifth grade.
Kids' cartoons are usually episodic, in that each one stands alone and rarely carries over into future episodes. In the early ‘90s, that all got turned upside-down with shows like Spider-Man, which presented adaptations of classic stories from the comic books as season-long arcs. It certainly induced panic in my teenaged self whenever I missed an episode, since there was no way to catch up back then. Luckily, all of it is now binge-able on Disney+, so you take in the entire story at your own place and not miss a minute of web-slinging.
This is the cartoon that paved the way for Spider-Man’s long story-arcs, with a blend of classic stories from the Marvel comics, as well as original stories starring famous X-Men such as Wolverine, Cyclops and Storm. The writing was more mature than a lot of cartoons back in the day, and on a rewatch you’ll find it holds up pretty well. It’s also the show that got me into comic books as a kid, so it’s near and dear to my heart.
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