9 Times Cartoon Episodes Were Banned In The 1990’s

TaleSpin - 'Flying Dupes' (1991)

Broadcast television operates under the scrutiny of the Federal Communications Commission, and while the FCC has to respect the First Amendment, it does ensure that obscene, indecent, or profane content does not reach child audiences. But most of children’s programming regulation occurs internally, where the studios or broadcasters deem content inappropriate for children.

In the 1990s, an abundance of animated content was on television, but not all of it was created for children. And sometimes, the writers creating shows for kids crossed the line, producing episodes of normally kid-friendly shows that were anything but. While most of these incidents did not trigger FCC warnings, they did offend the delicate sensibilities of parents with their depictions of violence, sexuality, profanity, or blasphemy.

1. Tiny Toon Adventures – ‘Elephant Issues’ (1991)

Tiny Toon Adventures - 'Elephant Issues' (1991)

Tiny Toons effectively rebooted the classic Looney Tunes characters, imagining new, juvenile versions of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and other Merrie Melodies creations. These “tiny” versions, including Buster Bunny, Elmyra Duff, Montana Max, and Dizzy Devil, attend Acme University, where they are taught by faculty made up of the Looney Tunes originals.

In a segment of the “Elephant Issues” episode, which first aired in 1991, Buster, Plucky Duck, and Hamton J. Pig engage in underage drinking and quickly learn how dangerous alcohol can be. Buster pressures Plucky and Hamton into trying beer, and everything devolves as the boys try to attend school while intoxicated, and later drive off a cliff, ascending to heaven with angels’ wings. 

Despite the moralistic tone of the episode, it was banned for many years.

  • Original Airing: September 18, 1991
  • Season: Tiny Toon Adventures – Season 2
  • Episode Number: 3

2. Darkwing Duck – ‘Hot Spells’ (1992)

Darkwing Duck - 'Hot Spells' (1992)

Disney’s Darkwing Duck was one of the more popular shows that aired in the early 1990s, but the crime-fighting mallard soon encountered an enemy that offended so many people that the episode was banned

“Hot Spells” features the titular character engaged in a battle with Beelzebub, who is depicted as the devil. Fittingly, the episode premiered on October 31, 1992. Because the devil attempts to steal Darkwing Duck’s soul, it was pulled from rotation and remains firmly locked in Disney’s vault. 

  • Original Airing: October 31, 1992
  • Season: Darkwing Duck – 3
  • Episode Number: 8

3. Dexter’s Laboratory – ‘Rude Removal’ (1998)

Dexter's Laboratory - 'Rude Removal' (1998)

In Dexter’s Laboratory, Dexter’s mad-scientist character was forever at odds with his bubbly older sister, Dee Dee, which generated much of the drama in the cartoon. She consistently foiled his experiments, and in true family fashion, Dee Dee drove her younger sibling nuts.

While Dexter and Dee Dee’s familial relationship consistently drove the plot of the cartoon, it never crossed the line into violence or deep-seated hatred. However, one particular episode, “Rude Removal,” never made it on air due to such a tremendous amount of profanity that it seems unlikely the writers ever intended it to do so.  

The profanity is bleeped, but it is so obvious the characters are cursing that the episode was never released. Adult Swim eventually released the episode online, though kept the swear words muted.

  • Original Airing: July 12, 1998
  • Season: Dexter’s Laboratory – Season 0
  • Episode Number: 1

4. Dexter’s Laboratory – ‘Barbequor’ (1996)

Dexter's Laboratory - 'Barbequor' (1996)

Dexter’s Laboratory occasionally featured a segment starring Dexter’s pet monkey (named Monkey) who was a secret superhero. In the “Dial M for Monkey” segment called “Barbequor,” a supervillain called Barbequor threatens Earth. He is joined by his sidekick, Silver Spooner, a Silver Surfer parody with all the hallmarks of the flamboyantly gay stereotype. 

The episode first aired May 19, 1996, but was soon banned due to either the offensive stereotype or because of the obvious copyright infringement on Marvel’s Silver Surfer. Still, there are some out there who laud Silver Spooner as a gay cartoon icon.

  • Original Airing: May 19, 1996
  • Season: Dexter’s Laboratory – 1
  • Episode Number: 4b

5. Rocko’s Modern Life – ‘Leap Frogs’ (1993)

Rocko's Modern Life - 'Leap Frogs' (1993)

Rocko’s Modern Life was another of Nickelodeon’s hit cartoons that defined animated television in the 1990s. As a wallaby who moves to America, Rocko navigates many of the components of adult life, which in one episode included sexuality and even a bit of sexual coercion. Couched in a cartoon format and littered with jokes, the “Leap Frogs” episode may have seemed funny to children, but adults instantly recognized darkness in the humor. 

Leap Frogs” initially aired October 31, 1993, and features Rocko’s next-door neighbors, the Bigheads, an unhappily married couple. Mrs. Bighead attempts to make her husband jealous by inviting Rocko over to “fix” a few things around the house.

The episode is laden with sexual innuendo, and at one point she offers him lemonade made with “Spanish fly,” an aphrodisiac. She asks Rocko to zip up her dress and, when he does, her dress rips in two. The episode was eventually banned for its frank depiction of adult sexuality. 

  • Original Airing: September 19, 1993
  • Season: Rocko’s Modern Life – Season 1
  • Episode Number: 3

6. The Ren & Stimpy Show – ‘Man’s Best Friend’ (1992)

The Ren & Stimpy Show - 'Man's Best Friend' (1992)

It is a wonder that Ren & Stimpy was ever deemed appropriate for child audiences, and surprising that many of our parents allowed us to watch it as kids. It was certainly Nickelodeon’s grossest show, and often filled with violence – typically from Ren the dog, whose rage knew no bounds. 

One of the earliest episodes never made it on air, although now it can easily be viewed online. In “Man’s Best Friend,” Ren and Stimpy are adopted by a human, George Liquor, who believes in harshly disciplining his new pets, whom he regards as lower life forms.

After nearly eight minutes of watching Liquor physically and mentally mistreating Ren and Stimpy, the man dons a protective suit and tries to get them to target him as guard dogs. Instead, Ren grabs a canoe paddle and nearly beats Liquor to death.

The sheer violence of the assault was enough for Nickelodeon to never air the episode, although it did appear as part of Ren & Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon in 2003. 

  • Original Airing: August 22, 1992
  • Season: Ren & Stimpy – Season 2
  • Episode Number: 2b

7. Pokémon – ‘Holiday at Aopulco/Beauty and the Beach’ (1997)

Pokémon - 'Holiday at Aopulco/Beauty and the Beach' (1997)

Pokémon‘s humor was not always aligned with American conceptions of propriety in children’s programming, and one episode definitely toed that line. The “Beauty and the Beach” episode focuses on Team Rocket’s vacation in which they cannot escape getting into trouble. Misty, Jessie, and James all end up participating in a beauty competition, with James wearing a suit that makes him appear to be a woman.

James inflates his suit so his false breasts become enormous, then uses them to tease the younger Misty. Between the tiny bathing suit and the humor at Misty’s expense, the episode was banned before being heavily edited. It was eventually released, but without the images of James in his bathing suit. 

  • Original Airing: July 29, 1997
  • Season: Pokémon – 1
  • Episode Number: 18

8. Rocko’s Modern Life – ‘Heff in a Handbasket’ (1996)

Rocko's Modern Life - 'Heff in a Handbasket' (1996)

Heffer, one of the recurring characters in Rocko’s Modern Life, visits the underworld in the episode “Heff in a Handbasket,” which first aired June 18, 1996.

While there is never a direct use of the word “hell,” the episode does include characters dealing with the Dark Underlord, as well as references to going to “heck” and the number 666. Perhaps it was the obvious use of “heck” instead of hell or the idea of characters selling their souls to the devil (named Peaches) that made the episode problematic.

  • Original Airing: July 18, 1996
  • Season: Rocko’s Modern Life – Season 4
  • Episode Number: 17

9. TaleSpin – ‘Flying Dupes’ (1991)

TaleSpin - 'Flying Dupes' (1991)

Disney’s early ’90s cartoon TaleSpin was a bizarre attempt to capitalize on the popularity of their 1967 cartoon The Jungle Book. TaleSpin relocated key characters like Baloo the bear and King Louie to a late-1930s era with airplanes, radio, and nascent television technology. 

In one ill-conceived episode, titled “Flying Dupes,” Baloo delivers a package that turns out to be a bomb. The episode aired on August 8, 1991, but never returned to television after Disney realized that a plot about a mail bomb on a children’s program might be inappropriate. 

  • Original Airing: August 08, 1991
  • Season: TaleSpin – Season 1
  • Episode Number: 65