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Top 10 Short Lived Cartoon Kids Shows That Gained A Cult Following

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Miller
These are the cartoons that stayed with us long after they finished airing. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today, we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Short-Lived Cartoon Kids’ Shows that Gained a Cult Following. For this list, we’ll be looking at TV cartoons that were axed too quickly, but still maintain a strong following to this day.
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These are the cartoons that stayed with us long after they finished airing. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today, we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Short-Lived Cartoon Kids’ Shows that Gained a Cult Following.

For this list, we’ll be looking at TV cartoons that were axed too quickly, but still maintain a strong following to this day.


#10: “The Pirates of Dark Water” (1991-93)



This wildly original Hanna-Barbera show started off as a miniseries before being elevated to a full commitment. Unfortunately, it only lasted 21 episodes before it was cancelled. Featuring the heroic adventures of an alien pirate prince on the island planet of Mer, we can see why the show may have been a hard sell for the network executives in charge. That being said, we loved it as kids, and the show has a strong fan base still going today. We could easily see the adventures of Ren and his crew reimagined for audiences today. Aliens plus pirates? Count us in.




#9: “Cadillacs and Dinosaurs” (1993-94)





“Cadillacs and Dinosaurs” was a show ahead of its time. Or, was it behind its time? These phrases get confusing. Anyway, this futuristic series depicted a world full of dinosaurs and lizard people with a strong environmental message. The show’s hero, Jack, leads a group of Cadillac-driving freedom fighters against the corrupt government. The series’ high-quality writing and animation won its fair share of fans, but the political-based series had a hard time finding its footing amongst Saturday morning cartoons. The show only produced 13 episodes before the decision was made to pull the plug.




#8: “Biker Mice from Mars” (1993-96)




Lasting three seasons, “Biker Mice from Mars” was a very strange show, and that’s probably why so many kids who grew up watching it still remember it today. The story of three alien mice who escape their war-torn home of Mars and come to protect planet Earth from a variety of dangers, the series is remembered for its stylish tone and the outrageous main villain, Lawrence Limburger. “Biker Mice” spawned several video games, a short-lived Marvel series, and even received the reboot treatment around 2006. Though it wasn’t quite able to stick around, the show is still fondly-remembered by many fans today.




#7: “Earthworm Jim” (1995-96)





Based on a popular video game released the year before, “Earthworm Jim” was the story of a super-heroic earthworm named, you guessed it, Jim. With his advanced suit giving him extraordinary abilities, Earthworm Jim, voiced by the legendary Dan Castellaneta, fought off enemies such as the Lord of Nightmares and the Archbug, saving the world for 23 episodes of adventures before the series was cancelled. The franchise was able to live on through several more video games, but eventually died off. The character was quite popular, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see an “Earthworm Jim” revival somewhere down the line.




#6: “Sonic the Hedgehog” (1993-94)





Airing around the same time as “Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog,” this short-lived cult classic provided viewers with a darker alternative. “Sonic the Hedgehog” depicted a dystopian alien planet where Sonic leads a resistance against the planet’s ruler, Dr. Robotnik. The show is more mature than you might first expect, which may be why it only lasted 26 episodes. Fortunately, unlike many cartoons of the era, the show was given a satisfying series finale that saw Sonic and his allies defeat Robotnik’s forces, albeit with one cliffhanger. Fans remember this series for being head and shoulders above most other Sonic cartoons.




#5: “Mighty Ducks” (1996-97)




Inspired by the popular series of Disney live-action hockey films, this cartoon told the story of a team of hockey-playing, evil-vanquishing humanoid ducks from an alternate universe. On paper, it’s absolutely absurd. But it works! It’s a fun cartoon that was taken from us too soon, lasting for only one 26-episode season. Its villains were wildly imaginative, and the voice acting from the entire series was memorable, being populated by some of the best voice actors of the decade. This was an extremely well-made cartoon that had an inventive and unique premise. It’s really a shame we didn’t get more of it.






#4: “SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron” (1993-95)



“SWAT Kats: The Radical Squadron” was another in a long line of ‘90s cartoons starring anthropomorphic animals who worked normal jobs by the day and fought crime at night. It was, however, an excellent one. The real tragedy of “SWAT Kats” was that it was cancelled only because it was perceived as too violent. Its fan base remained strong even though the show was cancelled, and in 2015 the show’s creators started a crowdfunding campaign to revive the series. It received enough funding to get the project off the ground, getting us also hyped for “SWAT Kats Revolution.”






#3: “Mighty Max” (1993-94)





This animated series depicted the adventures of a young boy named Max who is granted a hat that gives him portal-hopping powers. The series lasted for 40 episodes, but had the potential to go for many more, and many older fans now are left wondering why it didn’t. The journey of Max, his mentor Virgil, and his bodyguard Norman gave us some of the most engaging storytelling and action in cartoons at the time, and the primary villain Skullmaster was even voiced by Tim Curry. To this day, the show is not easily available digitally or through physical media.




#2: “Gargoyles” (1994-97)





Starting from the theme’s opening notes, this gothic action-adventure tale had us gripped. Taking a page from “Batman: The Animated Series,” “Gargoyles” used its dark atmosphere and setting along with three-dimensional characters to weave a surprisingly deep story within this Disney cartoon, drawing inspiration from Shakespeare and other classical sources. The series still has a strong following today, with its characters making appearances as cosplays, and Jordan Peele reportedly pitching an idea for a feature-length movie to Disney. Fingers crossed we’ll get to see the “Get Out” director’s take on this awesome potential franchise.







Before we reveal our top picks, here are a few honorable mentions.



“Road Rovers” (1996-97)





“Dave the Barbarian” (2004-05)







“Mummies Alive!” (1997)






#1: “Invader Zim” (2001-02; 2006)





The adventures of Zim, GIR, Dib, and Gaz made such a strong impact despite their short run. “Invader Zim” has thus carved out its own recognizable pop culture niche in the years since its cancellation. The series was dark and strange, and that’s why a subset of kids absolutely loved it. The show’s unique animation style and dark sense of humor made it a departure from Nickelodeon’s ordinary programming. Maintaining wild popularity even over a decade after its cancellation, Nickelodeon decided to revive the show as a TV movie entitled “Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus!” If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll even get some more Zim after that.

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