Deader Than Disco / Western Animation

These cartoons used to be quite popular in their heyday, but these days they've been abandoned or forgotten by their original fans and the general public.

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    Genres & trends 
  • Racial and gender stereotypes or caricatures (along with cartoon violence) were very prevalent in old cartoons made in the 1920's through the 1950's. However, starting in 1968, these were increasingly censored in TV reairings (or the cartoons were banned altogether, like the Censored Eleven) first to go were gags about Black people, then one by one jokes about Asians, Native Americans, and Mexicans received informal bans. Today, the only cartoons that still use racial jokes, albeit under a satirical hood, are adult cartoon series.
  • Grossout cartoons were absolutely HUGE in the early-mid '90s. At a time when the more saccharine cartoons of the previous decade were starting to phase out, the surprise success of shows like The Ren & Stimpy Show and Beavis And Butthead had networks scrambling to get their own piece of the pie. This led to a large amount of similar shows. In fact, it was hard to think of a major channel that aired cartoons that didn't have at least one show of this variety. As the decade wrapped up however and some of these shows ended, the appearance of newer cartoons of this ilk became much rarer. When John Kricfalusi tried his hand at two new shows in the millennium (Ren And Stimpy Adult Party Cartoon and The Ripping Friends), they were rather big duds and soon cancelled. Although some modern cartoons have the grossout element intact (such as SpongeBob), it's doubtful that this genre will be as heavily popular as it was years back.
  • Children's cartoons that are based on R-Rated film properties. The '80s and The '90s had several of them: Police Academysee note , Rambo, Highlander (The Animated Series), Robocop, Toxic Avenger, and Conan the Barbarian all had heavily watered down and sanitized children's animated versions. This will not gain them viewers with the audience old enough to see the film versions. And children will only get too confused about why they aren't allowed to see the films these cartoons are based on.
  • Cartoons focusing heavily on Lampshade Hanging and Breaking the Fourth Wall-style humor are becoming harder and harder to come across. A lot of it probably has to due with less talented writers using them as a lazy way to address or explain away flaws, or to snipe at detractors and critics. This is largely one of the reasons why Family Guy and Phineas and Ferb (which both consistently use meta humor) have suffered Hype Backlash.

    Shows And Films  
  • A Greek Tragedy, a little known yet acclaimed 1986 Belgian toon about three scantily clad Ancient Greek statues, won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film...... over another acclaimed (and at the time revolutionary) film made by a then-unknown computer company named Pixar. A Greek Tragedy is now considered as the worst animated winner of all time and is mainly remembered as "the movie that took Luxo Jr's Oscar".
  • Believe it or not, Johnny Test was actually fairly popular during its first few years having a higher budget and completely different production team, not to mention Kids' WB! having a hand in its production (alongside the Canadian network Teletoon), probably helped. When Teletoon took on the sole responsibility of production after Kids WB died out in 2008, the show's quality began to drop severely and it's now one of the most hated cartoons of all time. Even the early seasons are viewed as not much better in hindsight. Not helping was the fact that it continued production well into 2014, mainly because of a Canadian law forcing Canadian animation to be constantly churned out (the show's ratings are abysmal). It's very telling that its season boxsets are sold solely in grocery store bargain bins, and even Cartoon Network (who got the American broadcast rights from The CW after the demise of Kids WB) seems to despise it as almost all of their promotions for it reek of Our Product Sucks. It's even believed that the whole show was a Springtime for Hitler ploy Gone Horribly Wrong. Today it only seems to be brought up positively as voice acting trivia, and even then it is as a footnote stating, "this Canadian Voice Actor was here" and "featuring James Arnold Taylor."
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) was one of the first toy-driven cartoons of the 80s, and easily one of the biggest. It was regularly shown in syndication, its sister show She-Ra: Princess of Power proved a More Popular Spin-off, the toyline was enormously successful and stuck around for a good decade, and it even saw a live-action adaptation. However, while its peers (G.I. Joe, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) have stayed fairly active, He-Man has fallen off the grid. Both The New Adventures of He-Man and the 2002 reboot series vanished from the airwaves largely unmourned (though the latter was admittedly Screwed by the Network), and the toyline survives solely as Masters of the Universe Classics, a collector-focused and entirely online series aimed strictly at diehard fans of the 80s cartoon. Rob Bricken of Topless Robot suggested that the franchise's lack of a real identity beyond "things that boys like", coupled with laughable naming conventions and a cornucopia of Ho Yay, condemned the franchise to Snark Bait by the 90s - and unlike Transformers or G. I. Joe, which have managed to shake off some of their campy past through reinvention, He-Man's most famous portrayal is still by far the silly 80s toy ad. DC is currently doing their best to bring about a Darker and Edgier comic revival, but the viral success of this video and copyright holders DreamWorks Animation making a version with a Reality Show angle leaves their work very much cut out for them.
  • Drawn Together has largely faded from the public consciousness. When the show debuted, it was successful with many enjoying its shock comedy and concept of different characters from various animation genres living together as housemates. However, as the series progressed, many fans became rather annoyed that the characters became even bigger assholes (i.e. Clara was turned from a sweet if unintentionally racist princess into a Knight Templar religious bigot), while the humor either excessively crude or too gross to be enjoyed. It really didn't help matters that the polarizing Captain Hero began taking up more screen time since the middle of Season 2. Throw in constantly changing timeslots for season 3 along with a divisive Grand Finale movie, and the series is more or less dead. By now, former fans have moved onto other series while DT currently lingers in obscurity.
  • Scrappy Doo is an example of a character fitting this trope. In the 70s, he was credited with preventing Scooby Doo's cancellation, and was loved by children. As a result, the show focused on him even more in the 80's, annoying older fans. He now came off as a Small Annoying Creature, not appealing to the younger fans and alienating older ones. He is now one of the most loathed characters in Western Animation, to the point of being the Trope Namer to this wiki's term for hated characters, being listed as one of the worst TV moments in the book What Were They Thinking The 100 Dumbest Events In Television History (at #7), and being the Big Bad of the 2002 live action movie. Few modern incarnations of Scooby Doo even acknowledge him, and the times they do, it's never with kindness.
  • Of all Nickelodeon's classic animated shows, Rocket Power has probably aged the worst. It was fairly popular in its day, running for four seasons, generating videogames, made-for-TV movies and a decent amount of merchandise, and ran in syndication on the Nicktoons channel for several years after its cancellation. Today it's practically regarded as Snark Bait for its reliance on Totally Radical slang(though in all fairness that was toned down starting with the second season) and riding the popularity of the late '90s extreme sports trend. The show did receive a DVD release in 2014 and occasionally turns up on TeenNick's The '90s Are All That block, but lacks the Nostalgia Filter received by other Nick shows from the same era. The main reason is that Rocket Power, unlike most of Nickelodeon's animated output made until that point such as Rugrats (made by the same people), Rocko's Modern Life or SpongeBob SquarePants (which debuted the same year), had no crossover appeal with teens and adults. It was made and marketed exclusively for kids, especially kids who played the extreme sports depicted on the show. Even in its day, many people outside the target demographic criticized the series for those elements and its overexposure on Nickelodeon's schedule, with some of them even considering it the worst Nicktoon made at that time.
  • Many of Butch Hartman's shows (yes, even Danny Phantom) have suffered this badly. The Fairly OddParents started out extremely popular, with only the popularity of SpongeBob SquarePants and Rugrats standing in the way of the show becoming Nickelodeon's third breakout hit. Around 2004-2005, when Butch Hartman left to work on Danny Phantom, OddParents began to lose ratings to the point of a sudden cancellation (with Danny Phantom getting the axe a year later). The show resurged in ratings numbers and Nickelodeon decided to renew OddParents and give it another chance. However, only the premier episode of FOP's revival managed to pull in stellar ratings, with the series diminishing in popularity year by year to the point that it ended up in production limbo by 2014, it eventually returned in 2016 with Poof and Sparky(both of whom had become The Scrappy for many longtime fans) no longer in the show with no explanation, though the ratings still are not particularly good. T.U.F.F. Puppy started out well in the ratings but declined to the point of where it ended up on Nicktoons and The Fairly OddParents has only been granted another season because of fan requests.

    To make things even worse for him, Hartman released two shorts in 2013 in hopes that Nickelodeon would greenlight at least one as a full series the shorts were called Knight and Dave and The Buglys. Neither one was picked up. Suffice to say that Butch Hartman's own dynasty is coming to an end; however In December 2015, Nickelodeon finally greenlit another Hartman series, "Bunsen is a Beast!" so time will tell if this sticks for very long.

    In fiction 
  • A special shout-out to G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, which actually used the line "Deader than Disco" in one of the episodes.
    Cobra Commander: As of now, your little project is deader than disco!
  • The Simpsons:
    • Gabbo in "Krusty Gets Kancelled". When he debuted, he was popular enough to bury Krusty in the ratings and drove him to cancellation. Not even Bart's attempt to destroy Gabbo's reputation by broadcasting his obscene remarks about the children of Springfield worked. After the big success of Krusty's comeback special, Gabbo was quickly forgotten. It didn't help that Krusty managed to get many A-List celebrities while Gabbo could only get Ray J. Johnson.
    • "Bart vs. Australia" discussed the American fascination with Australian culture in The '80s, including such works as Crocodile Dundee, and Yahoo Serious' films such as Young Einstein, the latter prompting Lisa to say "I know those words, but that sign makes no sense."