On a Saturday mornings, there was nothing better than sitting at home, eating a big bowl of Reese’s Puffs cereal, and watching some cartoons.
YTV (channel 25), The Family Channel (channel 51), and Teletoon (channel 45) were my channels of choice, and there were so many good shows to watch. Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, Reboot, and so on were my go-to shows of weekends filled with nothing but relaxation and denial that homework needed to get done.
Going back to the television channels now and watching the shows they have on… it’s just not the same. There are too many shows where randomness has taken over for good writing. I pity the young, but hey that’s why streaming online is awesome.
Anyway, here’s a whole list of Saturday morning, Monday morning, whatever time of the day cartoons that I watched as a kid and you probably did too, but these aren’t your typical shows and have a distinctly Canadian flavour to them.
Animal Crackers was based off of a comic strip and developed by the French-Canadian animation studio Cinar, and no matter how much you tried you couldn’t convince little me that the show wasn’t related somehow to the Animal Cracker brand snack.
I wasn’t a very smart kid.
Anyway, Animal Crackers follows the lives of Lyle the Lion, Dodo… the Dodo, Eugene the Elephant, Gnu the Wildebeest, and Lana the Lioness. Every episode began with an issue usually caused by Lyle’s passive aggressive nature, Dodo’s cluelessness, or Eugene’s inability to think before he acts that got solved by the end of the episode.
However, Dodo was always a bit of a oddity to me.
Early on in life, I learned the the Dodo bird was extinct and I don’t think they ever brought that up in the show. You’d think there’d be a huge plot where some conservationists try to steal Dodo away to help bring the species back to life.
Oh man that saxophone brings back way too many memories.
As a kid, I loved Untalkative Bunny because there never seemed to be an actual conflict. The show, produced by Glavrotic Cartoons and Blue Twist Animation, was a fairly straightforward bumper that played between shows. The episodes were usually about 5ish minutes long and featured a mute, yellow bunny who did… things. It was usually kinda weird, but it was also calming in its own way.
Two episodes I remember distinctly was the Double Mocha episode and the episode with the psychiatrist. I just remember thinking, “Oh man I really want a mocha right now” even though little Matthew probably would have died from the caffeine. And the second episode is actually a little more entertaining now that I’m a bit older. Untalkative Bunny is completely silent, so when questioned on that it’s like the show questioning itself.
Most of the episodes are on YouTube too, which is awesome!
Potatoes and Dragons
I think we’re up to three Canadian-produced shows now, so we’re reaching maple syrup saturation.
An interesting side note to consider is that channels like Teletoon and YTV are required to have a specific amount of Canadian content. The CRTC made it so that about 40 per cent of all content played on the air on Canadian television channels and radio should be Canadian-made, and it’s probably why a huge part of this list is made up of Canadian shows.
Potatoes and Dragons was a little-known, little-loved show about a small kingdom where there lived a not-so-nasty dragon. Like most giant lizards of his kind, dragon is simply misunderstood and is often the hero that saves the day when King Hugo the Third’s plans get out of control. Basically, every episode a new knight would appear who would vow to vanquish the dragon, but they pretty much always failed.
Dragon is also helped out by Melody, the king’s daughter, and Riri, his jester, who usually the ones to warn the dragon that the Knight of the Day is on his way to mess things up. However, King Hugo was really the funniest character in the show and was played by the ever-raspy Danny Wells who played Luigi in The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. What still confuses me was if the characters were actually potatoes. I still don’t know.
Monster by Mistake
Monster by Mistake was the show you watched when there was literally nothing else on. Seriously, I can’t remember one episode of the show, but I do remember just lying there in front of the television in a sugar coma hoping it would end.
Whenever the high-pitched protagonist Warren sneezes, he turns into a blue monster. His sister has to find out how to reverse the magic spell. The show was filled with horrid characters like a wise-cracking ghost, a lesbian cop, a bully that is literally grey, and a purple demon thing that cursed Warren to his bluish fate.
Also, bad computer-generated animation. Produced by Catapult Productions in 1996, Monster by Mistake was up against some pretty stiff competition in the CG business. Mainframe Entertainment’s Reboot had set a high standard for what 3D animation should look like on television and what it shouldn’t look like is exactly what you got episode after episode of this show. Nightmare fuel, and speaking of…
In 1999, Mainframe Productions lost their minds and decided to take a chance on a new show that played off of the Diddy Kong Racing and Crash Team Racing frenzy that was going on at the time. What the Vancouver-based studio ended up creating was Weird-Oh’s, an inexplicably strange show that I barely remember.
Just off of Route 66 is Weirdsville, the home of strange, deformed things that drive cars. What I didn’t know at the time was the show was based off of strange series of illustrations from the 1960s from William Campbell who created artwork for The Hawk Model Company.
Even if the show had some pretty cool origins, I simply couldn’t get into it. It was strange, kind of grotesque, and it didn’t air on YTV or Teletoon, two of my main channels. Instead, the show played on Fox Family. It aired for one season before it was canned, thank god.
Despite at least one person I know out who is currently flipping her desk seeing Rupert on this list, the show was awesome
Rupert Bear was originally created in 1920 by artist Mary Tourtel. The original television show first aired in the 1960s in in 10-minute segments, but returned in honest to television in 1991. The show stars Rupert Bear, an anthropomorphized who goes on adventures with a varying cast of friends from the animal kingdom.
While Rupert was cool with his tweed scarf and rocking a all-red ensemble, my favourite character was actually Constable Growler. And in this episode, Rupert gets kidnapped by some ruffians and we get to see that Growler is actually a pretty good cop. It was a show with some great variety, interesting adventures, and a slow pace that really let each episode breathe unlike shows these days that insist on 11-minute episodes.
Johnson and Friends
Oh my god kill them with fire.
Ok, so this one’s not a cartoon per se, but it was still a big part of my childhood’s line up of television shows. Johnson and Friends was an Australian production that featured four recurring characters who were toys. One was a pink elephant, another was a weird truck, and I think there was a accordion in there too.
Now when you’re a kid, you don’t think too deeply about things. Things are super cute and you worry about things like the characters in the show actually being played by adults. You certainly don’t worry that somewhere out there is a giant set that looks like a baby’s bedroom where these strange animals and toys are running around trying to escape, and/or kill you in your sleep.
Also, what kid plays with a hot water bottle? Seriously.
Fly Tales exists, at least in my brain, along the same lines as Untalkative Bunny. On Teletoon, Fly Tales was played as a kind of bumper between shows as episodes were about 5 to 10 minutes in length. The show was also produced by TVA Films, a Canadian-owned Quebec-based production company known mostly for its television productions.
The show was also produced by Futurnikon who, in association with cartoonist Lewis Trondheim, created the televised version of Kaput and Zosky, which I remember vaguely playing on a television that one time we were in Quebec on a small family vacation.
Fly Tales was a pretty good show, but it came in very small doses.
I don’t remember Insektors, but I do remember those weird frog things you just saw in the introduction of the show.
Insektors was produced in 1993 and is the first fully-animated 3D television series predating Reboot. However, since it played in the United States and Canada starting in the year 2000 it was thought to have been made after.
Watching a few episodes now, I can kind of see the appeal of the show. It’s a big war between the bugs with flashy colours and action, and even some romance depending on the episodes you watch. And after watching a few episodes you can definitely see where the inspiration for A Bug’s Life came from.
I’ll have some of whatever Ned’s Newt is having.
Ned’s Newt was an animated television show that first aired in 1997 in Canada and was produced by a joint animation collective of UK, Canadian, and German production studios.
Basically each episode, Ned gives his Newt this magic powder called Zippo that gives him some zip, but when eaten in excess makes him grow to six feet tall and gives him magic powers. He’s pretty much like reptilian Aladdin’s genie except when he loses his powers things really don’t end up going Ned’s way. Usually something in his home or hometown gets blown up, and Ned has to fix it with his Newt’s help.
I liked the show, but it did get a little repetitive after a while. You can only watch the same kind of episode with the same ending so many times as a kid.
Seven Little Monsters
So Seven Little Monsters is about some old lady who is the mother to seven not-so-little monsters. The show was created by Maurice Sendak who created Where The Wild Things Are, which gives it an interesting pedigree, but the show was pretty forgettable.
It’s really weird thinking back on it because I remember it being on television and watching the intro, but I don’t actually remember any of the episodes. Most of my recollections of it are vague and weird, but I vividly remember the monster Seven who had a removable head. I ask you, how does he speak when his head isn’t on?
Freaking hippies! Trim those sideburns!
Anyway, The Tofus is another show that I saw around a lot, but never actually got around to watching. The show debuted in 2004 and was produced by SIP Animation (or Saban Entertainment) and CineGroup who brought us Mega Babies, or the worst show in existence that I refuse to talk about.
I remember The Tofus because there was a live-action show that was made recently along the same lines, but I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the show. If you can identify put it in the comments! I beg you. I think it played on CBC and featured a young girl and her family living out on the West coast.
What’s with Andy?
Andy would be freaking millionaire Vine creator right now if he existed in our world. What’s with Andy? was a Canadian-produced show based on a set of Australian kids novels about a prankster.
Every episode Andy Larkin and his strangely proportioned friend Danny Pickett would have some kind of contest they’d take part in or they’d be planning some kind of prank to pull off at school. Jen, Andy’s sister older sister, usually tries her best to get them caught although she almost always fails.
I think they were trying to make Andy really cool, but they ended up going too far in the wrong direction. He usually just came off as being an unbalanced sociopathic bully when his plans backfired and he tried to cover it up, but somehow he would end up being vindicated of his crimes by the end of every episode. It’s like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off in Canadian cartoon form.
Jane and the Dragon
Jane’s like pretty cool. I mean, finding female protagonists that are actually strong in kids television is pretty rare and Jane is pretty awesome. The only problem is that characters in the show are part of a very specific moment in motion-capture technology. In other words, they look super creepy when they move about.
The show originally aired around 2006 and was a joint venture between New Zealand and Canada. It was also co-produced by Weta Workshop that produced creatures for Xena: Warrior Princess and worked on films like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The show was pretty decent and I usually gave it a watch, but something about the motion capture always seemed to mess with my eyes. And although they’re very different, you can see some influence Jane had on the character Princess Merida in Brave.
Donkey Kong Country
Once upon a time, a young Matthew came home from school to find his brother captivated by something on television. Apparently, we had been gifted a new television channel. It’s name Teletoon.
Now I was a YTV kinda kid who loved my PJ pals and all of the shows that played on the channel, but when I saw Donkey Kong I popped a boner so hard that I had to watch the entire episode to calm down. I mean, I had seen Reboot at this point, but the animation in this show was still crazy to look at.
In hindsight, I have no idea what my younger self was thinking. The show is an utter mess, the characters are weird, and the animation is awful, but it was the first show I saw on Teletoon and began a long love affair with the channel.
Ok, excuse the shitty drawing, but I need help on this one.
Either on Teletoon or YTV between shows they would play this educational show with these two robots you see above. The blue was was a girl and was smart. The red one was a guy and was dumb. They would do all kinds of math problems and language learning things, but I can’t remember for the life of me what it was called.
If you know what it is or have a YouTube clip, I’ll add it to this part of the article. This is driving me nuts.
That’s pretty much it for my brain.
I’ve looked deeply into the fuzzy-pink nostalgia of my childhood, liked what I’ve seen, and given myself enough nightmare fuel to last me for at least another two years by bringing up memories of Monster by Mistake.
And if I missed any good shows, add them into the comments!