Why Disney Afternoon Was the Best Children’s TV Ever

Free-For-All Friday: Why Disney Afternoon Was the Best Children’s TV Ever

Last Friday I talked about the new television block on TeenNick called The 90s Are All That, which features the old greats from 90s Nickelodeon programming.  This week, I want to talk that other great 90s block of television programming, which was in my opinion even better than Nickelodeon: The Disney Afternoon.

For those who may not know, The Disney Afternoon was a 2 hr afternoon programming block on the Disney Channel that aired from 1990 to 1999.  It was, for me, one of the defining parts of the 90s in general and my childhood specifically, and it was home to some of the most brilliant children’s programming to this day.  These shows were flat-out amazing. They were brilliant, hilarious, perfect for children, fun for adults (which, let’s be honest, not all Nick shows can really claim), and absolutely iconic of the 90s.  Also, they all had the best opening sequences/theme songs EVER.  My brother and I actually had The Disney Afternoon soundtrack that had some the theme songs on it, and I STILL know most of the words to them.

Many shows made it into the Disney Afternoon block at various points many were made specifically for the block, but several had been made in the 80s and brought back for a stint in the block.  I loved almost every single one of the shows that featured Disney Afternoon, especially the earliest ones, and there are too many to talk about here, let me just mention a few.

The Adventures of the Gummi Bears:  This is the show that started it all, and seriously, it doesn’t get much better than this.  It first aired in 1985, but was the first show brought to the brand new Disney Afternoon block.  The Gummi Bears are the exiled remnants of what was once a great civilization destroyed by humans, who now hide in a warren beneath the kingdom of Dunwyn and who befriend a few special humans only after they prove to be civilized. The Gummis: Gruffi, Summi, Grammi, Tummi, Sunni, and Cubbi ran the usual gamut from old and grumpy to young and mischievous.  And the show ran the gamut from rather dark to flat-out trippy.

Chip’n’Dale Rescue Rangers:  One of the favorite stories my mother loves to tell about my brother was how our grandmother bought a VHS tape of a couple episodes of Rescue Rangers of my brother sat down right in front of the tv, so his little blonde head blocked half the screen, and watched that tape over and over and over and over again for days.  Inpsired (loosely) by the two chipmunks who terrorized Donald Duck in the old Disney cartoons, The Rescue Rangers actually included Chip and Dale (the chipmunks), Gadget and Monterey Jack (mice) and Zipper the fly.  Together they solved mysteries that the humans couldn’t handle, and often came up against their two main arch-enemies: Mobster-esque Fat Cat, and the mad scientist Norton Nimnul.

DuckTales:  Let’s make this clear, DuckTales was awesome.  And it had one of the best theme songs EVER.  This show followed Scrooge McDuck, the richest Duck in the world who was always looking for new ways to increase his wealth, and his three Great-Nephews (the nephews of Donald Duck): Huey, Dewey, and Louie, as well as Scrooge’s housekeeper/nanny Mrs. Beakley and her granddaughter Webigail.  This show was, quite honestly, insane.  The inept burglars the Beagle Boys, the evil Magica de Spell, scatter-brained Gyro Gearloose, the ever-hopeless Launchpad McQuack, and superhero Gizmoduck were just a few of the regulars, who were also joined by ghosts, time-travel machines, dinosaurs, and a host of other crazy scenarios, all made the show completely awesome.  Also, I still love the DuckTales Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp to this day.

TaleSpin:  TaleSpin is a strange case.  Many of the characters are based/inspired by characters from the Jungle Book — Baloo the Bear, Louie the Orangutan, Shere Kahn the Tiger — but they take on new life as a sea plane pilot, bar owner, and business tycoon respectively, and a enormous host of other characters were brought in, include Kit, Baloo’s young assistant, and my personal favorite: the theatrical air pirate Don Karnage.  Baloo flies a cargo plane under the employ of Rebecca Cunningham (a straight-man character if there ever was one), and gets in all sorts of ridiculous trouble.  There was some great music in this one too!

Darkwing Duck This is arguably the best of the bunch (though my brother would say that there is no argument, it’s a simple statement of fact that it is the best).  Darkwing Duck is the Batman-parody-esque hero of St. Canard City, a character with some skill, but very bad luck, and a ego the size of Jupiter.  To make matters more interesting, in the pilot episode Darkwing Duck (whose alter ego is Drake Mallard) adopts a young and spunky (to say the least, some might say “bratty”) girl named Gosalyn.  The show is also a spin-off of DuckTales and features two characters from DuckTales: Launchpad McQuack as Darkwing’s well-meaning but bumbling sidekick, and Gizmoduck as a rival superhero.  This show was brilliant and hilarious, with a gallery of villains the likes of which will never be seen again, including Megavolt: whose main goal is to “liberate” lightbulbs and electrical devices, Quackerjack: a toy maker gone stark-raving mad, and the ultimate villain: Negaduck: an evil version of Darkwing Duck whose enormous ego became twisted in an alternate universe (who has some of the funniest damn lines EVER).

I could seriously go on about almost every show that ever aired on The Disney Afternoon.  The Little Mermaid Series!  Timon and Pumba!  The Aladdin Series!  GARGOYLES!!!  But I’ve probably gone on for too long as it is.  So I’m going to direct to you this page: The Disney Afternoon List, which has the open sequences from (I think) every show that ever aired on The Disney Afternoon, and leave you to enjoy the retro splendor.

(Note: you can click on each picture to go to that show’s wikipedia page.)

So, now it’s your turn to chime in!  What were your favorites from The Disney Afternoon Block?  There are so many to choose from, I know I didn’t get them all!

Why The 90s Are All That: 5 Fave 90s Nick Shows

Free-For-All Friday: Why The 90s Are All That: 5 Fave 90s Nick Shows

Anyone who has been paying attention to the television over the last few weeks has probably noticed by now that TeenNick one of Nickelodeon’s affiliated tv channels has begun a midnight programming block called The 90’s Are All That.  In an enormous surge of nostalgia, Nickelodeon has begun to air a rotating selection of their best 1990’s television shows, both animated and live-action.  This decision is largely in response to an overwhelming demand from the 20 and 30-somethings demographic for a return to the “good stuff,” ie, the tv shows we literally grew up on in the 90’s a sign that we 20 and 30-somethings refuse to give up our childhoods quite so easily as all that.

I’m 26 years old, which puts my elementary and middle school years squarely in the 1990’s.  So you can imagine my enthusiastic response to this development.  My brother is a few years younger than me, and the two of us watched quite a lot of television together when we were younger (hell, who I am kidding, we still do), so we were both extremely happy for the chance to see some of our 90’s favorites again.

In honor of The 90’s Are All That block, here are my top 5 favorite 90’s Nickelodeon tv shows:

Doug: Okay, seriously.  If you’re over the age of 18 and under the age of like, 50, you loved Doug – right?  (Don’t destroy my illusions, please.)  Doug was funny, quirky, and so identifiable for every middle-school-aged kid ever.  As Doug Funnie dealt with being the new kid in school, first crushes, bullying, babysitting, and bad grades, so were we.  Some of the best segments, of course, were when Doug imagined his life as the alter-egos superhero Quailman, secret agent Smash Adams, and explorer Race Canyon (just to name a few).  However, my personal favorite character wasn’t Doug, but Skeeter.  Crazy, off-the-wall, blue-skinned Skeeter.  He was just too damn hilarious!

Clarissa Explains It All:  Not only was Clarissa Explains It All the first Nickelodeon show to star a girl, it also had a large following of both boys and girls, dispelling once and for all the belief that shows starring girls would turn off male audiences.  On top of that, Clarissa Explains It All dealt with quite a few serious teenage issues in ways that were more lighthearted than many other shows at the time (such as Full House).  Clarissa was a spunky, intelligent girl who dealt with school, bullying, getting her driver’s license, even issues of alcohol and sex, without chasing off male audiences, or causing a stir among censors or parents.  One of the more interesting elements of the show was the way it broke the fourth wall, allowing Clarissa to speak directly to the audience.  This was one of my favorite shows, because it showed that a girl could be tough, intelligent, and friends with boys (with no romantic undertones), all while still being a GIRL.

Hey Arnold!: Like Doug, Hey Arnold! was a cartoon about a boy dealing with school, friends, bullies, etc.  But Hey Arnold! was also different.  For one thing, Hey Arnold! portrayed a main character with a non-traditional family: Arnold lived with his paternal grandparents who were the proprietors of a boarding house, and the other tenants of the house were as much family to Arnold as his grandparents were.  For another thing, while Doug remained mostly within the realms of reality (despite Doug’s constant daydreaming), Hey Arnold! often spun out into the completely bizarre.  Superheroes and headless horsemen were as likely to appear in the show as any “normal” school situation.  This is part of what made the show so much fun.  Also, the opera episode “What’s Opera, Arnold?” is an absolutely riot, and by far my favorite episode.

Legends of the Hidden Temple: Nickelodeon was home to my two favorite game shows of all time: Legends of the Hidden Temple and GUTS.  Both were great, but of the two Legends of the Hidden Temple was definitely my favorite.  A game show that pitted 6 teams of 2 against each other in a number of physical and trivia challenges, Legends of the Hidden Temple was all-around-fun.  And it was also one of the most difficult game shows for children EVER.  I can probably list the number of times a team won the final challenge on one hand.  My brother and I watched this show fanatically.  We wanted to be on it so badly, and we were fairly-well convinced we could have won it if we had been on.  Actually, I STILL think my brother and I could have won the game if we’d be on it.  We always wanted to be the Blue Barracudas what was your favorite team?

GUTS: Last, but not least, GUTS.  The competition show for athletic types, full of increasingly difficult physical challenges the likes of which no children’s game show has ever seen again.  The final challenge of GUTS was the Aggro Crag – a gigantic fabricated mountain that the two final contestants had to climb, being the first to the top after activating several lighted targets.  This was NOT an easy challenge, but man, was it fun to watch.  When GUTS was later changed to Global GUTS, the format remained essentially the same, except that the contestants now came from all over the world rather just the U.S., and the Aggro Crag was made even more difficult and changed to the Mega Crag, and finally the Super Aggro Crag.  I would never ever ever have survived that show, but I have no doubt my brother would have been awesome on it.  I bet he could have won too.

All of these shows are specifically Nickelodeon shows fro the 90’s.  Now, if Disney brought back it’s 90’s programming too, this favorites list would like significantly different.  Anyone else remember the Disney Afternoon programming block?  ‘Cause that is still one of my favorite grouping of tv shows ever.  But I’ll save that gush of praise for another day.

So, what’s your favorite Nickelodeon show from the 1990’s?  Is your favorite missing from my list?  Let me know!