Top 10 Dark Truths About Your Favorite Cartoons
VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild
WRITTEN BY: Jordy McKen
We love these cartoons, but each has some dark and disturbing facts surrounding them. For this list, we'll be looking at grim secrets and not-so-hidden facts about popular animated TV shows and franchises that might make you uncomfortable. Our countdown includes The Orphans from “DuckTales” (1987-90), Creator Chris Savino's History of Harassment from “The Loud House” (2016-), Consumption Island from “Peppa Pig” (2004-), and more!
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Dark Truths About Your Favorite Cartoons. For this list, we’ll be looking at grim secrets and not-so-hidden facts about popular animated TV shows and franchises that might make you uncomfortable. Do you know any other dark facts about cartoons? Let us know below!
#10: Slaying Sales
“The Transformers” (1984-87)
After getting hooked on “The Transformers” TV show, fans were probably excited to discover they were also getting a film in 1986. But that delight turned to horror when they saw big named characters like Ironhide and Optimus Prime get graphically wrecked on the big screen. As it turns out, it wasn’t a creative decision that led to the downfall of many Transformers. Parent company Hasbro wanted to shine the spotlight on a new line of second generation toys. So, they decided it would be a great idea to wipe out the first generation of characters in the movie. But having Optimus Prime get mortally wounded was too much for some fans. A huge fan campaign led to the producers bringing back the Autobots’ leader.
#9: Stone-Age Smoking
“The Flintstones” (1960-66)
“The Flintstones” quickly became vital viewing for kids and adults alike thanks to its unique combination of modern sitcom conventions and a stone age setting. Eventually, that popularity led to the show being connected to a lot of products. But one economic connection didn’t particularly age well. In one of the commercials, Barney and Fred watch Wilma and Betty working hard as they do garden chores. So, the duo sneaks off to avoid their guilt rather than help out their partners. They also decided to whip out some Winston-branded cigarettes and smoke while hiding. It’s pretty jarring to see these family-friendly icons advocate for smoking with corporate dialogue. Thankfully, Welch's grape juice stepped in as a big show sponsor in the third season.
#8: Consumption Island
“Peppa Pig” (2004-)
“Peppa Pig” seems like a peaceful universe where nothing bad happens. But fans have looked a little closer to see a dark implication. In the episode, “Desert Island,” Grampy Rabbit, Grandad Dog, and Grandpa Pig go on a fishing trip that goes wrong. After getting stranded on a desert, the trio begins to wonder what to eat. During their conversation, Grampy Rabbit and Grandad Dog glance at Grandpa Pig like he might be an option on the table. Fortunately, the trio is rescued before anyone is turned into bacon. But what makes it more disturbing is the fact that the trio was only stuck on the island for a couple of hours.
#7: The House Un-American Activities
“Mister Magoo” (1960-62)
Today, the character of Mister Magoo is seen as an old man who gets into problems due to his bad eyesight. However, there was a lot more to the character than people expected. John Hubley was an animator at Disney until he left the company after a notable strike in the 1940s. Disney blamed the strike on communism when they testified at the House Un-American Activities Committee. In 1949, Hubley and Millard Kaufman began creating comics with Magoo. The duo parodied the obsession of hunting apparent communists by developing the character. Magoo would often spout offensive remarks about the movement and turn on neighbors with his paranoia. Even Magoo’s near sightedness was meant to reflect his short-sighted nature.
#6: The Orphans
In the original “DuckTales” cartoon, Donald Duck leaves his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie with Scrooge McDuck. The dynamic between the boys and their rich relative was so fun that it probably made viewers overlook one major question “Why aren’t the trio with their parents?” Thankfully, the comics expand on that backstory. The kids were left with Donald temporarily after their unnamed father was hospitalized. Apparently, the patriarch was injured after the trio put firecrackers under his chair as a wacky practical joke. Fan theories suggest that since the kids remained with Donald and their father is never mentioned, he likely perished from their joke. Viewers also posit that their mother Della Duck abandoned her children in the wake of this incident.
#5: Stuttering Purpose
“Looney Tunes” Franchise
One of the most recurring aspects of “Looney Tunes” character Porky Pig is the fact that he often stutters while speaking. Soon after his debut in 1935, the unique vocal feature took center stage. But it wasn’t exactly on purpose. Porky’s voice actor at the time, Joe Dougherty, had an actual stutter. His speech disorder apparently caused recording sessions to take longer. At points, actors like the legendary Count Cutelli were brought in to voice Porky and speed things up. But the studio eventually decided to fire Dougherty in 1937. When the reins to the cartoon pig were handed to Mel Blanc and other actors, the stutter was kept a character trademark.
#4: Real-Life Skeletor
“He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” (1983-85)
If there’s one character that’s nailed the maniacal laugh, it’s Skeletor. The terrifying and sometimes hilarious baddie is a real thorn in the side of He-Man. And when Mattel’s toy line became a TV show, Skeletor became a household name. But his inspiration is pretty spooky. When Mark Taylor was a kid, he went to an amusement park and spotted a creepy corpse in a funhouse that he convinced was real. It turns out he was right. The body actually belonged to a notable outlaw named Elmer McCurdy. Years later, when Taylor was working as a designer for Mattel, he used this startling childhood incident as the inspiration for He-Man’s nemesis.
#3: Creator Chris Savino’s History of Harassment
“The Loud House” (2016-)
Thanks to working on big projects like “The Powerpuff Girls” and “Dexter's Laboratory”, Chris Savino garnered quite the résumé. He eventually used his experience to create the 2016 show “The Loud House.” But Savino’s accomplishments were overshadowed by a dark truth. In 2017, he faced numerous allegations of harassment. On top of this, Savino allegedly blacklisted women from the animation industry when they wouldn’t consent to an inappropriate relationship. His terrible actions had seemingly been going on quietly for over a decade behind the scenes. After the serious allegations went public, Nickelodeon fired Savino. They continued making “The Loud House” without his involvement.
#2: Causing Seizures
On top of being a video game and merchandising juggernaut, Pokémon also has its famous anime. But one of the franchise’s darkest moments came in an early episode of their popular show that aired in Japan in 1997. During the “Electric Soldier Porygon” entry, a scene features lights flashing quickly. This sequence reportedly caused hundreds of kids to be hospitalized due to seizures and other conditions. As a result of the scandal, the episode didn’t air outside the country. It also meant Porygon was barely featured in future anime episodes or films. Ironically, it was Pikachu’s attack in that scene that caused the issue. But Porygon is still seen as the face of this dark incident.
#1: The Tarnished Legacy of John K.
“The Ren & Stimpy Show” (1991-96)
To “The Ren & Stimpy Show” fans, creator John Kricfalusi, aka John K. was a genius. But for the animators that worked on the show, he was horrible. John K. was said to be overly demanding and created a hostile work environment. In 2018, serious allegations also came out about Kricfalusi. Animators Robyn Byrd and Katie Rice claimed that he acted inappropriately to them when they were underage. John K.also faced additional allegations of harassment. Due to the statute of limitations, he didn’t face any formal charges. However, his animation career was effectively over. John K. then made a bizarre public statement and blamed his ADHD and undiagnosed bipolar disorder for his actions. This greatly angered Byrd, Rice, and the public.