Ever since the birth of Saturday morning cartoons, animated content became perennially tied to the magic of childhood. Just about everyone who grew up in an American household has memories of at least one cherished show they watched religiously growing up.
For some older folks, those cartoons might have been Looney Tunes or Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? For younger crowds, they were Spongebob Squarepants, Fairly Odd Parents, or Sailor Moon. Either way, kids' cartoons hold a special place in our hearts filled with wonder, innocence, and joy.
Or, do they?
Cartoon creators realized that they would have to appeal to both kids and adults if they wanted to get a large audience. Throughout the history of the animation industry, this has led to a lot of moments in children's cartoons that weren't really child-friendly.
Some cartoons definitely took more liberty than others when it came to adult humor. If you watch these cartoons as an adult, chances are that you'll wonder how you didn't notice the adult humor as a kid.
The Amazing World of Gumball
One of the most popular kids' cartoons airing today is The Amazing World of Gumball, a quirky show about the misadventures of Gumball Watterson in the surreal town known as Elmore.
For the most part, the show has proven itself to be squeaky clean, yet mature enough to address serious issues kids may face—including first crushes, jealous friends, and even parental abandonment.
There is still a lot of off-color humor that gets snuck into this show that somehow though. One of the more adult-oriented running gags involves Principal Brown having an affair with Ms. Simian.
Allusions to getting stoned, giving a blowjob, and even having public sex can be found if you're looking carefully. No wonder parents love watching this cartoon with their kids!
Unlike most other kids' cartoons, Looney Tunes was not originally meant for kids. During its start in the 1930s, the FCC had intensely strict censorship rules that animators had to follow, though, so many of the adult jokes ended up skating under the radar.
Many people are aware of the fact that multiple episodes of the old school cartoon were later banned due to racism that was featured in the show. You might also be aware of the number of sex jokes that are mentioned in the show, especially when it comes to Pepe LePew, a.k.a the mascot of sexual harassment.
We all saw the pop culture spoofs like Duck Dodgers that involved some timely humor. Did you know, though, that Looney Tunes also featured a lot of jokes about suicide and domestic violence? It's true. They also have jokes about raping a minor, being a predator, and being gay.
Take a look at some of the more extreme moments in Looney Tunes, and you might be a bit shocked. While they may be funny cartoons, these are definitely not cartoons for children.
If there were any 90s kids' cartoons that were notorious for adult humor, it had to be Animaniacs. They didn't even try to hide it. In fact, they jokingly alluded to Warner Brothers censors barring certain jokes.
The Warner Brothers (and their sister, Dot), were known for killing it at off-color humor. Lots of puns, wordplays, and snide commentaries are what made this a very adult-friendly kids' cartoon.
Oh, and Minerva Mink's bathing scene? "Hello, Nurse!"
Between the "pianist" joke and the ever-famous "fingerprints" joke, involving the artist formerly known as Prince, it's pretty easy to see why many parents felt uncomfortable letting their kids watch this alone.
Rocko's Modern Life
For 80s kids who were fortunate enough to grow up in the early 90s and witness Nickelodeon's golden age, few shows were as memorable as Rocko's Modern Life.
The show followed a young 21-year-old wallaby who immigrated to America and started life as a comic book shop attendant. With him were his friends Heifer Wolf, and Filbert. Together, they lived a totally 90s life and learned stuff about being an adult.
It all sounds wholesome until you realize how many adult jokes were involved in the making of this cartoon. Rocko's Modern Life was so raunchy, Nickelodeon actually had to retroactively edit, or totally ban, certain episodes from airing.
One such episode involved Rocko's neighbor, Mrs. Bighead, trying to seduce Rocko because her husband wasn't giving her attention. When Mr. Bighead found out, he asked, "You saw my wife naked? Isn't it awful?!"
In recent years, the show has gained a little retroactive notoriety for certain scenes that were tactfully edited out. Many of them would make modern parents blush and question how they got past censors.
Scenes that made their rounds online included a scene where Rocko worked as a phone sex operator, a scene where Rocko accidentally grabbed Bigfoot's "berries," a visit to the "No-Tell Motel," and a scene where Spunky gets intimate with a mop.
The Powerpuff Girls (Original Run)
Maybe it was a 90s thing, but it seems like a lot of the most popular kids' cartoons of the decade had a thing for adult humor. Even so, they were pretty awesome for kids regardless.
The Powerpuff Girls, for example, was one of the very first cartoons to involve a full team of female superheroes that were both cute and capable of saving the day. The show's original series became famous for naughty humor, especially when it came to sex.
Most people who watched this back in the day might remember seeing the busty Miss Sarah Bellum, who often acted as the brains for Mayor. Her overly sexualized appearance, though, ended up offending others. So, she was edited out of the reboot.
Another character that was swept under the rug is Sedeucea, a supervillain who used her sexual seduction powers for evil. She was even shown pulling the moves on the Professor!
That's not the only superpowered individual that the show's creators tried to sweep under the rug. One African superhero named Mandingo made an appearance on an episode that was never aired on stations.
At one point in the original animated show, a villain by the name of Fuzzy Lumpkins was shown having sex with a pile of mud. Because, why not?
Another classic 90s kids' cartoon that you might recognize for its adult humor is Johnny Bravo. The entire concept of the show is pretty sexually-charged in nature, especially because Johnny's whole purpose in life seems to be hitting on women in pretty gross ways.
Between women literally clobbering him, and having a guy who joked about women enjoying the "D," it doesn't take too much to see how a show about a 90s-era pickup artist could easily become one of the most adult shows on Cartoon Network.
The Toxic Crusaders
One of the more obscure Saturday morning cartoons to hit 90s airwaves was The Toxic Crusaders, an animated series based on the hit movie The Toxic Avenger. So far, it sounds like a multitude of kids' cartoons, right?
Well, yes and no. Like other early 90s shows, this cartoon had environmental overtones and cheesy-cool superheroes that would have made awesome action figures. Unlike other cartoons, the movie it was modeled off was borderline X-rated.
If you didn't know, Troma's The Toxic Avenger involved nudity, sex scenes, and incredibly gory murder scenes. It was anything but child-friendly. As a result, the cartoon itself had a little bit of the aftershocks—to say the least.
Cow and Chicken
When it comes to adult humor and pottymouth gags, it's really hard to top Cow and Chicken. This Cartoon Network classic was known for having gross humor, grosser animation, and occasionally getting network executives nervous about parental complaints.
The show was known for having dirty jokes, and it's not shocking considering that The Red Guy's butt was always in plain view. Some jokes, though, might have gone a little over the top—including the joke about female "rug munchers."
Tom and Jerry
Tom and Jerry is one of the few contemporaries to match Looney Tunes in fame and raunchiness. Just like the show that gave us Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry had multiple points that involved sex gags, suicide jokes, and at times, racist humor.
Between the many jokes about women being bad and the fact that the last episode shows them killing themselves, it's seriously a warped show.
Ren and Stimpy
While some kids' cartoons might just be a bit raunchy, Ren and Stimpy took it to a whole new level of crass. In fact, the show was so gross and wildly adult in nature, many people believe that its adult content was the reason why the show was cancelled.
After its initial run on Nick, Ren and Stimpy found a home on networks like Spike TV and MTV. Eventually, it even had a series of X-rated episodes under the name of Ren and Stimpy's Adult Party Cartoon.
No, we're not kidding.