Top 5 Secretly Trippy Kid’s Cartoons
Childhood! You believed in magic, ate dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets and went to bed at 7:30! You loved your teacher, climbed trees and picked your nose! But what did your enquiring little mind enjoy most of all? Why, switching the tv on on a Saturday morning and tuning into your favourite cartoons, that what! Watching crazy critters embarking on a new adventure each week was a thrilling event for any kid. What we didn’t notice at the time, however, is how gosh-darn weird they all were. Perhaps it was because we weren’t yet bogged down with ‘reality’ and ‘logic’. Perhaps we were just enjoying the bright colours?
Many people compare psychedelic trips with returning to a childlike state of mind. Free of the constraints of the mundane we are able to play, and believe, and imagine like a child again. Two demographics who will happily watch a beetle crawling along a path for an hour? Children— and tripping people. (and maybe Sir David Attenborough!) Kids just have an affinity with the higher realm we’re all trying to reach, I guess Perhaps this is why as children we accepted that a cow and chicken could be siblings, parented by two humans? Or that a mouse could own a pet dog?
But! We’ll be here all year if we start pointing out every wacky domestic situation in cartoon world. We think, as Lockdown Part 2 advances, cheerful distractions are more necessary than ever. Therefore, we think it’s time to compile the top 5 secretly trippy kids cartoons. Whether they’re your old favourites, or new to your eyeballs, we reckon there’s a whole load to enjoy here, high or otherwise!
Need we list the ways in which SpongeBob and his watery world are totally nuts? He lives in a pineapple under the sea, he is a sponge that works in a crab-owned burger bar selling Krabby Patties, he’s mates with a squirrel in a diving suit. To name but a few. SpongeBob SquarePants burst onto the cartoon scene in 1999, spreading nautical nonsense with surreal adventures and enough sexual innuendo to keep adults glued to their screens too. Like all shows that stoners enjoy, SpongeBob has also elicited a wealth of conspiracy theories. One of the most prevalent is that Bikini Bottom where SpongeBob etc live, is actually the seabed of Bikini Atoll where the US government performed nuclear tests during the Cold War. Radiation exposure could explain why everyone down there is so flippin’ weird. Or it’s just an awesome kids show. Who knows?
The Ren and Stimpy Show
Now I don’t know about you but I was definitely too wimpy for Ren and Stimpy when I was small. Premiering in 1991, it followed the antics of a rather highly strung (read insane) chiwawa named Ren and a kinda simple cat named Stimpy. It quickly became a favourite with adult viewers due to its intense gross-out humour, shock value and (you guessed it!) sexual innuendo! Although based on classic cat vs. dog cartoon canon, Ren and Stimpy’s adventures were as loony as they come; seeing the pair explore space, or go back in time to the Wild West— all with a psychotic energy fans came to know and love.
The wacky aesthetics, such as extreme and gruesome close-ups that would inspire the future SpongeBob, or the background being suddenly replaced by ink blots “reminiscent of holes in reality” meant that this was a show only for the bravest of kids.
This show, birthed by Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg was first aired in 1993. Inspired by 1930s black and white cartoons, (their backstory was that they had been locked away by Warner Bros in the 1930s only to escape and cause havoc in the 90s) siblings Yakko, Wakko and Dot starred in this much loved cartoon. Set up to be like a surreal variety show, the program offered a few different trips per episode, with a wide cast of characters. Both politically engaged, surreal, educational (and chock full of innuendo!), at least ⅕ of its large viewer base were above 25 years old. In fact, the Animaniacs actually inspired one of the first internet based fandoms in the 90s, and won a boat-load of Emmys.
The Powerpuff Girls
Some scientists synthesize psychedelic compounds in their labs, others like Professor Utonium, just want to create the perfect little girls. The Powerpuff Girls were created when the good professor mixed sugar, spice, all things nice and… CHEMICAL X. Now they defend Townsville as preschool superheroes. The show, which paid homage to Japanese animation as well as the kitsch Batman of the 1960s, was actually made with adult viewers in mind. Creator/animator Craig McCracken explained “I thought I would get a college hit where 20-year-olds would watch it in their dorms when they’re stoned”. With antagonists like the insane super-villain monkey Mojo Jojo, and the camp, lobster-clawed demon named Him, McCracken definitely hit the mark.
A true descendant of all of these shows, Adventure Time has seen just as many adults as children running around in a white animal-eared hat. Starting on Cartoon Network in 2010, it immediately attracted a vast following. Starring Finn, a human boy, and his adopted brother, a shapeshifting yellow dog named Jake, the show takes place in the post-apocalyptic land of Ooo. As you can imagine this premise alone gives space for a range of psychedelic shenanigans. With a cast of bonkers characters like the Ice King and Princess Bubblegum, as well as dark hints about the ‘Mushroom Wars’ that ravaged Ooo, Adventure Time was a trip while completely sober.
As well as triumphing in the surreal humour arena, the show also tackled hard-to talk-about subjects like mental health and Alzheimers. Adventure Time kick-started another golden age of animation, for old and young to enjoy. Though the show stopped airing in 2018, creator Pendleton Ward recently gifted us with the cartoon Midnight Gospel, a mind-expanding adventure that you don’t have to share with kids.
That was our top 5 secretly trippy kid’s cartoons! But there are many more favourites we haven’t included. Let us know yours in the comments below!