The earliest Woody Woodpecker shorts directed by Walter Lantz and Alex Lovy are quite different from the eventual Jerk Ass he became later. Woody was adorned with an ugly, ghoulish design, and was a shameless ripoff of the early screwball Daffy Duck. Even the stories and gags were very derivative of Warner Bros.–type comedy (although this is probably because Lantz had one of their former writers, Ben Hardaway, working with him).
The original Mickey Mouse was a far more mischievous character. As he become an iconic hero, parental pressure forced him into being the bland character he is today. He also wore no gloves in his earliest cartoons. Those were given to him later to make sure that you still see his hands even if he held them across his black belly.
Donald Duck had a far longer beak in his earliest cartoons.
Goofy's first incarnation was very weird. He actually looks older than he looks now: beard and glasses!
Betty Boop was originally a weird, dog-like creature in her first cartoon! She was intended as a girlfriend for Bimbo the Dog, but this idea was later dropped as she turned into a real human female. Also, the early cartoons were more risque as they premiered before The Hays Code cracked down on sexual content.
The original Felix the Cat cartoons from the 1920s feature only Felix himself, none of the cast members that the TV show "Felix the Cat" later added in the 1950s. He doesn't even have his infamous "magical bag of tricks"!
Tom and Jerry: The early Tom & Jerry cartoons are much slower paced than the later ones. In their first cartoon Jerry has no name and Tom is called "Jasper". Also, Tom looks and acts more like a real cat by walking on all fours and meowing whenever he's in pain instead of his later more infamous human yell.
First were the Tracey Ullman shorts (which focused on the Simpsons family and had Lisa as being just as devious as Bart). Then come the first season or so, most of which is very different in tone and humor style to everything that came after it. In particular, there's the episode "There's No Disgrace Like Home" (in which Marge embarrasses the family by getting drunk in public and Homer is actually ashamed of his family being dysfunctional, something that would be more in character for Marge or Lisa in later episodes). The writers' commentary cheerfully admits that pretty much everything in the episode is "wrong" compared to later seasons, though that still doesn't stop it from having a scene that continues to be extremely popular (the climax where The Simpsons give each other electro-shock therapy and cause rolling blackouts all over the city).
Also notable is the completely different, more gruff voice Dan Castellaneta uses for Homer during the shorts and first part of the first season. The original voice of Homer was based rather closely on Walter Matthau. As well, after the first three or four seasons (after the initial craze died down, but the show still had good ratings to keep it afloat) the writers realized that Homer was a much better character for generating plots instead of Bart, as long as they kept him fairly unpredictable and dumb. Dan Castellaneta actually says on several commentaries that he never really made a decision to change the voice; he just kept trying his best to match the voice he used in the previous episode, and it slowly changed to one that fit the writing better.
There's also the early Off Model appearances of an Ambiguously Brown-skinned Smithers with blue hair on the season one episode "Homer's Odyssey" (which was said to be due to an inking error), Lou the cop (whose skin switched from being black to being yellow due to the show's notoriously bad animation back in the 1990s), Barney the drunk whose hair matched his yellow skin, Miss Hoover (Lisa's teacher), who had blue hair instead of brownish gray, and Hans Moleman (whom the ink and paint people keep switching from brown to yellow — sometimes in the same episode).
Homer is not nearly so dumb in the earlier episodes, though he does mix up his facts (when he told Bart that Albert Einstein turned himself all different colors when he invented the light bulb) and does initially come off as clueless to his wife's and children's emotional problems.
Ned Flanders wasn't the "everything-is-religious" extremist we imagine him being today in the very first episode, "Simpsons Roasting On an Open Fire." Of course he and his family are shown celebrating Christmas, but all their decorations are of secular Christmas characters (like Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer). In the early episodes, Flanders was just a nice, church-going man who had a beautiful wife and well-behaved children (which made Homer jealous of him). Then came the, well,Flanderization of Flanders and the rest is history.
In his very first appearance, Sideshow Bob is shown to be more or less happy working on Krusty the Clown's show, and you'd never guess he was harboring any of the resentment that would drive him to frame Krusty for armed robbery and embark on his career as a master criminal (though the episode, "Krusty Gets Busted" had something to do with Sideshow Bob's change in personality). And with the exception of one really brief scene Sideshow Bob's hair looks completely different than it normally does, instead looking closer to Kruty's replacement sidekick, Sideshow Mel.
Krusty himself often seemed more genuinely childlike and hyperactive in early episodes ("Itchy and Scratchy and Marge" shows him having trouble not playing to the kids when trying to have a more serious discussion on air), compared to the acerbic, money hungry Nice Character, Mean Actor he is in most modern episodes.
In general, the plots were much more straightforward than in later seasons, the jokes that had to do with satirically pointing out social issues were actually subtle, and the art and animation looked very amateur.
The show is essentially known as one of the modern era's leading voices in satire, but the first several seasons were much better known for being full of Vulgar Humor (not that it doesn't have it now; it's just that it used to be in excess, leading to a lot of complaints from censors and media watchdog groups), swearing, and plots driven on Rule of Funny. The lower budgets and actual-construction-paper animation also present a significant visual difference. Funnily enough, the newer seasons are far filthier and feature unbleeped swearing. The show itself lampoons all this when recreating the series' first scene with twice as much swearing and blockbuster computer effects in the Season 7 opener "Cancelled".
Cartman was also different in the show's early years, his personality depicted as the result of his mother's poor parenting and rarely exceeded a spoiled obnoxious bully (actually, his growth into more of a psychopath is one of the show's more realistic aspects). In addition the other boys often dished out as much as they took and acted more as childish Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonists with not much more clarity than the world around them.
South Park was also way smaller in the beginning. For example, Barbrady was the only police officer in town for the first six seasons (an actual plot point in "Chickenlover", where he retires and the town quickly falls in chaos) before Yates and other policemen were added in the seventh season. Barbrady then became the police chief.
In Terrance and Phillip's introductory episode "Death", their show is a cartoon in-universe and their cruder appearance than the other characters is because they're meant to be even worse-animated cartoons. This was later retconned to them being live-action comedians and all Canadians looking like that. A commentary even revealed that Trey Parker and Matt Stone had initially considered them to be British as well, before it was decided to make them Canadian. The Canadian retcon also led to Kyle's brother Ike being revealed as adopted, due to the split-head similarity (originally, all babies were to have that design. An Ethiopian baby can be seen appearing that way in "Starvin' Marvin"). Also, in their first appearance, Terrance was voiced by Trey Parker and Phillip by Matt Stone. All subsequent appearances reverse this.
In episodes 2 to 6 in the first season, Kyle was the one who says, "Oh my God, they killed Kenny!", rather than Stan. The seventh episode, the first Halloween Episode, had the line said by Stan as normal at the beginning, but the ending features a variant said by Kyle. Subsequent episodes have Stan as the primary deliverer of the line. On another note, "You bastards!" wasn't said in the Volcano episode.
The 1992 short "Jesus vs. Frosty", which came out before "The Spirit of Christmas", is even more drastic; the character that is to become Cartman is called Kenny and is The Voiceless, Future Kenny has no name and speaks coherently, and they both die. The characters are also missing their Garfield-styleSphere Eyes, having only unfilled circles and dots in their place.
In "Weight Gain 4000", Cartman wins an essay contest by cheating. In later seasons Kyle would be the one trying to move heaven and earth to prove it while no one believed him, but in this episode it's Stan among the four main boys who gets pissed. Later, he'd be the least likely to give half a shit.
Granted, the reasoning for this was that his girlfriend Wendy was upset about losing to him, which is more in character. When Cartman is exposed (and no one cares), Wendy is still indignant he gets no punishment, while Stan just shrugs it off.
The characters' voices were also different earlier on, even if some of them had the same voice actors (and keeping in mind that most of the child characters' voices were digitally tweaked). Cartman had a higher, raspier voice, while Stan and Kyle were somewhat higher-pitched. Cartman's voice began to gradually lose its rasp over the course of later seasons, while the pitch-shifting used for Stan and Kyle was relaxed somewhat.
The movie South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut also had much notable differences compared to how the show was for the last five years due to being created around the same time as the show's third season. If someone who was introduced to the later episodes of the show watched this film, they'd noticed the much cruder animation and jokes that were standard during those times. Also, certain characters who would rise to prominence much later on, most notably Butters and a few tertiary characters such as Craig and Token, are just background characters. Cartman himself is also the bratty jerk he was known for early on instead of the cunning and manipulative sociopath of the later seasons. Even Randy, the most notable adult character of the later seasons, is only given a single line in the entire film (questioning the V-chip).
Codename: Kids Next Door started with Sector V as apparently the only KND unit in the world; it's not until the end of the first season that any others are mentioned and the second season that we actually see any. Their specialties and specific personalities besides Numbuh 1 being the official leader had also not been established yet, Numbuh 5 was almost The Voiceless, Numbuh 4 didn't have his famous crush on Numbuh 3, and the show itself was far more of a comedy (with downright bizarreGrossout Show-style plots relying on Rule of Funny) than the action/comedy it became as the series progressed. Also, some of the early gadgets didn't have the acronym gags.
It also had very little continuity, to the point you can watch most of the early episodes out-of-order. Also a lot of characters acted differently.
And of course, the first episode title was "No P in the OOL" as Pun instead of the Fun with Acronyms titles for which the series is famous.
Teenagers were implied to be neutral instead of working on the adult's side the first episode they were mentioned in.
Also, in earlier episodes, the KND were heavily implied to be Villain Protagonists, albeit sympathetic ones, usually harassing authority figures for petty reasons more akin to realistic rebellious kids, and coming off as rather incompetent (eg. one episode has them try to crash a swimming pool during adult swim, another has them try to destroy a supply of pianos just for how annoying they are, they fail miserably in both). Later episodes made them more unambiguously heroic.
Daria's early gimmick was that whatever odd situation the title character had been placed in, she could get through it and upstage her erstwhile counterparts at Lawndale High and home on her wits and effective use of irony. Daria became more introspective in the later seasons.
The first two seasons of Kim Possible lack the series signature Affectionate Parody, Les Yay, and comedy. Dr. Drakken was also a serious villain early on, and Shego was a rather onesided mook with some essences of her later personality.
The art is also quite different in the first season.
Also, Kim was weirdly hostile toward Rufus, calling him a naked freak among other things.
Most of these changes can be attributed to the departure of the original director and producer, Chris Bailey, who allegedly clashed with co-creators Schooley and McCorkle on the show's creative direction. The second season had a number of rotating directors before Steve Loter was installed as the permanent director for the third season.
"Tick, Tick, Tick" had Steve Barkin with blond hair, and all future appearances had brown hair. Kim's hair dryer grapple gun was also purple instead of blue.
The early Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts are almost unrecognizable from the latter-day productions during the 1940s and '50s, they were no different from the other cartoon series running at the time—mildly amusing musicals with bland characters, derivative of Disney's more polished Silly Symphonies (note the similarities in name), not to mention that the early cartoons were in black-and-white and drawn in a completely different style that actually looks more cartoony than the later shorts. It wasn't until Tex Avery was promoted to director that Looney Tunes began living up to the first part of their name.
Even after the Loonification of the cartoons, some still come off as incredibly weird. Bugs Bunny (or his prototype) in particular started off more like Daffy Duck wearing a rabbit suit. Watch "Hare-Um Scare-Um" sometime and see Bugs openly refer to himself as crazy, jump around chuckling to himself, and even sing a Daffy-esque song about how insane he is.
In some of the early cartoons, Bugs actually loses sometimes!
For that matter, Daffy was more of a Bugs Bunny-style comic protagonist. Only in later toons did Daffy become a Butt Monkey who is eternally jealous of Bugs.
Tweety Bird was featherless in his debut cartoon. Warners executives then forced the animators to give him yellow feathers, because they thought the bird was "naked".
Marvin the Martian had a less squeaky voice in his debut cartoon. His voice sounds more like a bad impression of Droopy.
The Road Runner originally fought back against Wile E. Coyote. Eventually this idea was abandoned, because the Coyote was so clumsy that he didn't need the Road Runner to have his plans backfire.
It took a few cartoons for the Pepe Le Pew series to jell - one early short ended with his wife showing up, and he drops the French accent, addressing her in a meek, nervous Midwestern voice!
A lot of this is lampshaded in the musical remake of the episode, which in-universe actually involves several of the principal characters just deciding to try what they did in the episode again. Doofenshmirtz even suggests that the reason the plan failed was that he didn't use an -inator.
She smiles while threatening Dib in the "Taster of Pork" episode, so clearly the creators were OK with an occasional smile.
Also, she's far less violent and sadistic towards Dib: In the first episode, she overdramatically declares that her brother "will pay!" for drinking the last soda, but acts perfectly calm when he enters the room a moment later, whereas in later episodes, she would beat him up numerous times for perceived slights.
In the first season of Rocko's Modern Life not only was the theme song different, but Rocko was more paranoid and easily angered, Filburt was not a regular character, but when he did show up he was nerdier than in later seasons, Bev Bighead in all her season 1 appearances was more flirtatious and liked to party, and the style was cruder, and there was more gross out humor and innuendo than later on, and most plotlines involved Rocko trying to make it through everyday situations gone wrong more than in later seasons.
Craig McCracken's first The Powerpuff Girls short (created under the title Whoopass Stew) features the Amoeba Boys as genuinely competent criminals. Also, the girls have no individual personalities, and defeat the Amoeba Boys by flying them to extremely close contact with the sun, causing them to melt. Also, Professor Utonium for some reason looked like Dexter.
The first My Little Pony special from 1984 was very dark; in fact significantly more so than other children's shows shows at the time (this website. A Cracked article notes that it was basically about a bunch of cartoon horses fighting the devil himself). The series based on the special was Lighter and Softer, and the franchise only became even lighter and even softer throughout the generations. Also, the ponies in the original 1980's cartoons resembled actual horses and acted like them. To fans of the newer series, seeing them lick each other and lie down near each other seems homoerotic.
The original cartoons had humans but once My Little Pony Tales came out everything else was horse-centric.
The premiere made the series look more like a Magical Girl show. However, the Elements of Harmony are completely forgotten outside the occasional two part arcs later on, and the show turns to focus on one-shot Slice of Life episodes rather than an overarching plot.
Spike is treated differently in the premiere; he's not portrayed as being quite as competent as in later episodes. He doesn't even know how to spell "brink". Twilight also treats him rather harshly, and is more an acerbic Jerk with a Heart of Gold in this and certain early episodes, compared to the Super OCDAll-Loving Hero she usually is Season Two onwards.
It took a while for the visual effects for unicorn magic to be standardized, and even then the Color-Coded Wizardry didn't really show up until Lesson Zero.
Likewise, the exact nature of unicorn magic seems different early on. In Boast Busters, unicorn magic appears to be entirely in-born. A unicorn either has an ability, or they don't. However, later episodes seem to suggest that unicorn magic is much closer to Rule Magic, thanks to the appearances of magical schools and spell books, wherein any unicorns ability to learn a spell is limited only by aptitude at learning magic, rather than by simply being born with a given list of 'tricks'.
The third episode of the series, "The Ticket Master", was the first episode to be written, and it shows - Spike has no interest in Rarity, non-unicorn ponies can somehow levitate the tickets above their heads etc. It's also the lightest episode plot-wise, as it was originally intended for a Two Shorts format.
The episode opens with Twilight helping Applejack with the harvest, which clashes with the latter's convictions in "Applebuck Season".
In general, the first season is a lot more Slice of Life than any of the later ones, which tended to have epic premiers and finales, and more adventure-type episodes. In particular, the season lacks any sort of finale. The last episode of the season, "The Best Night Ever", isn't a bad episode by any means, but compared to "A Canterlot Wedding" or "Magical Mystery Cure", it seems extremely low-key and mundane. Keeping in mind the first episode, this as a result becomes a case of reverting more to the Early Installment Weirdness as the show continues.
At the end of the series premiere, Princess Luna is shown to have a short, periwinkle-colored mane, in sharp contrast to her long and dark blue mane shown in later episodes. Fans wrote this off as being her mane style from before she was imprisoned in the moon, but the Season 4 premiere Jossed this.
In the pilot, the narrator refers to Celestia and Luna as "unicorns". Season 3 canonizes the fanon term "alicorn" for ponies with both wings and horns.
Despite Word of God to the contrary, some Season 1 episodes depict unicorns and pegasi as having physical strength on par with Earth ponies. For example, the three types of ponies seem evenly matched in the Running of the Leaves, and they all are able to dig through earth at the same pace.
The second episode of the original Nickelodeon version of Doug, "Doug Can't Dance", had a different art style from the other episodes of the original series. Roger has a different gang of thugs in that episode as well.
This is because "Doug Can't Dance" was the show's pilot. The version that aired on Nickelodeon has some new footage interspersed with the original pilot footage, which makes the differences all the more noticeable.
Arthur has some major inconsistencies early on. Francine was a Jerk Ass instead of her more mellow Jerk with a Heart of Gold personality from later episodes, Sue Ellen appears several times despite having transfered to the school in third grade, Francine celebrated Christmas despite later being shown to be Jewish and celebrating Hanukkah, etc
Even Binky Barnes being a legitimately feared school bully instead of a close friend of the gang seems weird given how long it's been, although this is 100% a case of intentional Character Development as he becomes more sensitive, gets into music and ballet, and gradually teaches the other Tough Customers to follow suit.
The Five-Episode Pilot of Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers for some reason actually portrayed villain Fat Cat in a way so that he acts like a human when no one's looking, but like a normal house cat when he is with humans. From the second episode onwards however, he is now always shown acting like a human. Justified since in the pilot he is owned by a criminal mastermind named Aldrin Klordane, and after Klordane is arrested Fat Cat operates on his own.
On the first two episodes, the transformations are treated with much more gravitas. With each member shouting his name and transformation code out loud, and being seen to transform by themselves. This is not limited to just the first transformation either, as almost all of them in the first two episodes are this way. Similarly, a big case is made out of Optimus' inexperience at commanding. This is never referred to again once the two parter is over.
In the first season of Courage the Cowardly Dog, Courage openly spoke and had dialogue with a few other characters. For the rest of the series, he was almost completely silent. This is probably due to the fact that he was pretty much Captain Obvious.
The pilot episode was completely silent, with no character dialogue outside grunts and a single line from Courage (in a Jackie Mason impression).
In the first 1973–74 season Super Friends episode "The Power Pirate", there were a number of things that didn't match later episodes.
Wendy and Marvin talked like 1960s hippies, using phrases like "groovy", "cool", "right on" and "far out". They never spoke like this again.
Marvin was able to levitate himself into the air, indicating he was developing super powers. This was never brought up again.
Wonder Woman was shown controlling her transparent plane by beaming mental thought waves at the control panel. In all later episodes she controlled the plane with a standard control yoke.
Wonder Woman can fly through the air, which she never did in any of the other episodes.
The pilot episode had both Gumball and Darwin Watterson look nothing like how they do in the series proper (Darwin was CGI instead of traditional animation, and Gumball's design was radically different). Also, Gumball was voiced by Nicky Jones instead of Logan Grove.
In the series proper, some charactes had slightly or completely different personalities in season one than in season two. Darwin started off being just as dumb (if not dumber, such as in The Genius) as Gumball, but eventually became the slightly niave voice of reason. Alan the balloon became an extremely Nice Guy in season two when, in the first season, he could be just as antagonistic toward Gumball and Darwin as the other students at the school. Then there's Sussie the chin puppet, who was a relatively normal student (who tended to drool on everything), but became a bizarre Cloud Cuckoo Lander in season two...the list goes on...
The first season was relatively more down to earth, if still having a handful of episodes that dealt entirely with fantasy plots. Come seasons two and three, and there's plot elements such as dream-sharing, a physical embodyment of the internet, the universe nearly coming to an end because Richard got a job, Gumball's real name taking an identity of its own, jealousy itself becoming a ghost after being exorcised out of Gumball, an entire episode that takes Everything Talks and runs with it, and a corporation being ran by a devil-like figure, among others. Overall, little in season one entered the "widget" factor to the extents that the following episodes do.
The first season of Code Lyoko definitely fits the bill. For a start, Aelita is trapped on Lyoko and isn't seen on Earth at all until the season finale (compare to later seasons where she lives on Earth full-time). Furthermore, season one is also very formulaic, the pacing is noticeably slower than in later seasons and at this point Sector 5 isn't know to exist. Couple that with different terminology to later seasons (sectors are called 'regions', Kankrelats are called 'Roachsters' etc.), and very different 3D graphics, and it almost feels like a totally different show!
Though it's only in the American version. The French doesn't have terminologies's issues.
The early episodes of Ed, Edd n Eddy had more grotesque animation, Double D was more mellow and less uptight, Ed was only slightly dense and spoke more coherently, and Eddy is less sociopathic and more of a Loveable Rogue. In addition, while still luckless, the trio occasionally got the odd karmic victory every odd episode; they actually succeed in getting jawbreakers in the pilot. There were also noticeable differences in dialogue and plot structure.
Static Shock was originally intended to be separate from the DC Universe, and the early episodes make references to Superman and other heroes as fictional, along with their alter egos. The show's first season also has a cruder animation style and more focus on problems that would afflict urban youth whereas the Lighter and Softer later seasons would shy away from this and make the conflict more about fantastic superhero problems.
In the first episode of the original cartoon, the Autobots could fly just like the Decepticons. This ability faded over the course of the first season.
The series also had a degree of Negative Continuity (characters changed as the toy company demanded, but there was zero focus on consistency otherwise.) and was written by writers who often didn't know each other's work and were on a very tight schedule. Therefore, every episode, New Powers as the Plot Demands came and never appeared again, game-ending weapons were made or discovered and then forgotten, no two backstory-related episodes were compatible with any of the others, and the show's terminology didn't exist yet; sparks, protoforms, anything else about the Cybertronian life-cycle - all that debuted in Beast Wars, and Negative Continuity means these things didn't just work differently than they do now - they didn't exist. Also, while most TF series are either arc-based or Half-Arc Season-structured, the original had a few multi-part episodes, but a Story Arc or Myth Arc? You'll have to wait for Beast Wars. Megatron was a very different character than his successors, too, having a high-pitched voice and being prone to yelling "Decepticons, retreeeeat! RETREEEEEEEAT!" when the going got tough sometimes when he still had the upper hand. Starscream was The Starscream, but had none of the subtlety or Magnificent Bastard quality - he'd openly insult Megatron and his plans, and even attempted to shoot him more than once, getting away with it only because, again, this isn't the Megatron you know. (This isn't to say it sucked, but it was very much an 80s cartoon, and also, much of what we consider integral to the TF universe now hadn't been invented yet, and didn't even have equivalents or things you could see evolving into those concepts, and even the anatomy of a TF series was different. This comes together to make watching the original TF for the first time a very trippy experience.)
The show completed ignored the "robots in disguise" element that would later characterize the franchise, meaning that the existence of the Transformers is public knowledge and both sides commonly walk around urban areas in broad daylight without attracting attention. There's also the fact that several Transformers can inexplicably change size when they transform (Megatron turning into a handgun and Soundwave turning into a tape player, for example), something that would rarely come up in later fiction, the highly non-canonical origin of the Transformers and the even more outdated origin for Unicron. Let's just say Transformers has come a long way since 1984.
The first season of The Dreamstone had cruder animation due to a studio change. Many of the character designs and personalities were also altered slightly during the second season (the former is easily noticeable due to being used in the opening credits, which remain unaltered throughout the show's run). The pilot is noticeably darker (if still slapstick), Rufus and Amberley act more as the main protagonists with goofier personalities, with Urpgor (here only a minor character) and Sgt Blob's men actually getting shooed out in the second part, a stark contrast to their Villain Protagonist role afterwards.
While most of the series afterwards was a lite Villain Protagonist series, the earlier seasons were far less subtle about it. The heroes lacked even their occasional token side plots from later episodes, and in addition were far more hostile and sadistic in stopping in the Urpneys. Later episodes seemed to take more measures to ensure the heroes were at least moderately sympathetic and attached to the plot, and, in something as a subversion of the trope, started reverting more to their pilot characterizations. While most of Seasons One and Two were more simple, relaxed scenarios with the Urpneys just trying to sneak into the Land of Dreams, Seasons Three and Four utilized world travelling plots with Rufus and Amberley, allowing them to have new characters and realms involved in the feud.
Compared to later seasons, Futurama's first season had somewhat different character proportions, but what's really noticeable is the voices. In particular, Bender's speech is a bit more slurred, while the voices of Farnsworth and especially Hermes are markedly higher pitched. * The actors remain the same throughout the series; it's evident that they hadn't quite nailed the voices yet.
Also, most early episodes had a "the Planet Express crew visits another planet and gets into wacky hijinks" plot. Later episodes took place mostly on Earth and were more characterization-based.
The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes has no Cold Opens in the first five episodes produced. The first season also has a number of cosmetic differences for the crimefighters, compared to the second season. Iron Man's mask has an opening for his mouth. Thor has a sleeveless and more colorful costume. Nick Fury has black and grey hair and no beard, like in the mainstream Marvel comics. It should be noted, though, that even after Iron Man and Thor changed their costumes, Marvel continued to use the old ones in publicity materials.
If a viewer started watching during season two, he or she might find it jarring to go back to season one and find no Previously On segments, a Thematic Theme Tune, and not a lot of guest spots by crimefighters associated with neither the Avengers nor SHIELD.
The show's political humor was much more blatant in the first seasons, with most of Stan's abrasive behavior provoked by his Right Wing extremism (similarly Hayley was more a hypocritical Left Wing extremist). As time passed the show evolved into a more traditional (if still over the top) family sitcom, with Stan acting more as a traditional Bumbling DadUnsympathetic Comedy Protagonist.
Beavis And Butthead. In addition to having even moreprimitive animation and artwork (the squishy cel physics and washed-out crayon style backgrounds) and voice acting (Butt-Head's voice is deeper and the two sound closer to Mike Judge's regular speaking voice, plus Judge also voices nearly all the female characters) the video music video portions of the first couple seasons are noticeably more minimalist than they would be later on. The original approach was akin to recreating what two dumb kids would say while watching a video in real-time, basically stock reactions to random sights and sounds. Later on, said segments would evolve into the more structured joke setups that would be considered among the series' highlights.
The "classic" episodes of Rugrats that most of us think back on were about the friendship of the whole gang, who are all well-developed characters, working together to deal with various issues, fears, superstitions, things the adults are doing, etc. The first season on the other hand is a way starker show about a largely-silent Tommy (and occasionally some of the other kids) being brought to some new building (the hospital, the post office, a child psychologist, a baseball game, the movies, etc), wandering off from his parents and accidentally getting into all sorts of trouble without them noticing, only to return to them unharmed at the end of the each episode and leaving the building with them as it descends into chaos. It was great and creative and all, but the later episodes were way warmer, deeper and easier to rewatch now.
The art style was also quite a bit cruder in the first season, and Tommy spoke with more of a grunt.
The pilot episode, "Tommy Pickles and the Great White Thing", was even stranger, with more bizarre animation that looks like Don Bluth on LSD, adult characters having long necks, and a different voice actress for Tommy.
During the first season (and in S2's "Chuckie Vs. The Potty"), Chuckie is said to have a living mother. He isn't revealed to be a single parent child until Chaz becomes a more prominent character midway through Season Two (unless Chuckie's mother died around that time, and Chaz didn't feel the need to mention it until the Mother's Day special).
Chuckie was also a bit more of a Jerkass in the first season, often angrily complaining and yelling at everybody when things didn't go his way. He wouldn't become the disagreeable yet lovable sidekick we all know and love until the second season.
Funnily, it also seems like the characters experienced a little developmental regression after the first season. In Season One, they're able to successfully count to three and articulate fairly sophisticated words (even if they mispronounce them). Neither of which they would be able to do again from S2 onwards.
Similarly, in the first season it was implied Tommy could speak a little, as there was the occasional episode where he didn't speak as he normally did and was mainly around adults at the time. The second movie establishes Chuckie as the first baby to speak
Season one of Recess was a bit different from the rest of the show. The show was more fast-paced, exaggerated, and cartoonish, T.J. was more sarcastic and a borderline Canon Suenote (Plus, he was also drawn with highlights in his eyes, which only lasted the season), Vince was more of a Sour Supporter, Miss Finster and Principal Prickly were more sadistic (Miss Finster especially in "The Box"), Miss Grotke was less sympathetic and appeared less often, King Bob was more of an antagonist, the animation was more off-model, and Lawson didn't appear at all.
In some of the early episodes, such as "The Break-In", "The Great Jungle Gym Standoff", "To Finster with Love", and "My Fair Gretchen", Miss Finster doesn't sound as sinister as she usually does in the show.
In the original pilot version of the first episode, "The Break-In", T.J. and the gang (barring Mikey) had very different character designs. For example, here's T.J.◊, and here's the rest of the gang◊. TJ had the same voice actor, though.
Early episodes of Drawn Together had Foxxy Love being the most prominent housemate (as opposed to Captain Hero), as well as an antagonistic and unsympathetic Toot Braunstein. The pilot even had black and white blood for Toot, and she had a retraux vocal effect.
Foxxy and Princess Clara were both much more sympathetic in the first episode. Foxxy had a Hair-Trigger Temper and was violent but still wasn't the shifty schemer and overall Jerkass she'd eventually become, while Clara's politically incorrect opinions stemmed from being raised by her bigoted father rather than her being truly evil.
The first billed Heckle and Jeckle cartoon, "The Talking Magpies", was actually a Farmer Al Falfa cartoon. The magpies in question were a married couple whose quarreling over a nest disturbs Al Falfa and his dog (an early version of Dimwit). Heckle and Jeckle took their more familiar designs in the next cartoon, but their voices were not the Brooklyn-esque and British accent they were more noted for. Syd Raymond voiced them at the time, with Jeckle sounding more like Curly Howard.
The third-season episode of Count Duckula "Unreal Estate" was in fact an early pilot that was initially unintended to be aired outside to test audiences. As such, there are noticeable abnormalities, punctuated by it being aired so late in the show's run.
Von Goosewing notices in his newspaper that Duckula is back from the dead, seemingly starting off his vendetta against him.
Some of the animation looks very off-model and bizarre and more akin to the somewhat uglier character designs that were rejected prior to season 1. The title sequence animation of Duckula playing his harmonica originates from this episode.
Dmitri and Sviatoslav have their voices, but not names, the other way round.
People watching W.I.T.C.H. starting with season two, then jumping back to season one might be thrown for a loop with how vastly different and unrefined the series was - moments where the girls were complete Jerk Asses (such as ambushing their own teacher on an assumption), using their powers for more greedy things, Will using abilities she never had in the comics, etc.
While most of this could be chalked up to Character Development, the first season was vague on issues including the girls' powers, the Heart and just what made Elyon so important. The second season cleared up and explained these questions; producer Greg Weisman explained that he tried to bring the show closer to the comic as producer.
"Heads or Tails", the pilot episode of Sonic the Hedgehog is markedly different than the rest of the series. Sally sports her original comic's pink fur and black hair, NICOLE is a wheeled out desktop computer instead of a tricorder-type computer, Tails acts like a four-year-old (the age of his other cartoon counterpart at the time) instead of his ten-year-old self, and the SWATBots are shown with their comic-based gray coloring instead of their stealthy black coloring as well as a personality (two are shown laughing at Snively after an accident.) Rotor similarly has his undeveloped purple design used in the comics, with much more emphasis on his Adorkable qualities. To say nothing of how much Lighter and Softer the whole thing was: at the end a squadron of evil robots is repelled with water balloons.
The first season went through a few inconsistencies before Season Two set things in stone, especially since it was made by several writers rather than one, and the decision to have an arcing plot wasn't in place yet. Sally was more childish and arrogant, Snively was more genuinely loyal to Robotnik and actually thrived on his rare praise at points. Antoine's cowardice and pompousness was also more subtle. Some episodes such as "Sonic Boom" also caused continuity errors with the backstory established in the Second Season.
Bill Cosby had produced a "Fat Albert" cartoon special before the Saturday morning show that was a world away from the series - character design was realistic with a lot of sketchy line shading, animation was more sophisticated, and the backgrounds were real-life filmed cityscapes.
The first few episodes of Family Guy are much different from the show as it's known today. The animation is much cruder, characters lack their distinctive voices (Meg even had a completely different voice actress for the first 10 or so episodes), and many of them lack their more notable character traits (Meg wasn't the Butt Monkey and was in fact something of a bratty Daddy's Girl who was embarrassed by her parents and actually had friends, even if they were average-to-geeky girls just like her), Peter lacks his Jerkass qualities and is a more conventional well meaning Bumbling Dad, and Brian was the Only Sane Man who drank martinis a lot and lacked his overly leftist traits that became prominent later on). Notably, the setup is far more whimsical and tongue in cheek, more a light hearted CrapSaccharine universe, with the Mood Whiplash of later seasons far less evident.
The Superjail! pilot "Bunny Love" depicts the Warden as being well aware of the Twins and their trouble-making, while Jared suggests that he "suspend their privileges". The Twins are also later shown to fear the possibility of dying from the outcome of the chaos, and rather than teleport away, they fly off on rocket-powered stair climbing machines. In the series itself, the Warden and Twins never really meet face to face and he either seems to be unaware of the chaos they make or doesn't acknowledge it. Other than a reference to them being inmates in a tie-in comic in Playboy magazine, the Twins are also later treated as a separate division of characters from the staff and inmate population.
The colors in the pilot are a little less saturated, particularly visible in the Warden's outfit (which is a brighter or darker purple in later episodes).
A few of the characters had different vocal delivery in both the pilot and season 1: Jared was less shrill and seemed to have a bit of a lisp, while Alice had a deep voice but wasn't as guttural.
The pilot uses the song "Rubber Bullets" by 10cc. Starting with "Superbar," the theme was changed to "Coming Home" by The Cheeseburgers, as the licensing fee to use the former song was too expensive.
The ending credits to the pilot are also a little more comprehensive and accurate with the voice actors for the show. For some reason or another, the voice acting credits in season 1 only ever credited Chris McCulloch, David Wain, Teddy Cohn, and Richard Mather, and never changed or updated by episode. Seasons 2 and 3 fix this mistake, save for a few occasional slip-ups (such as Sally Donovan being uncredited in "Oedipus Mess").
Where to begin with Home Movies? First, the entire first season was animated using the visually-aggravating "Squgglevision" method, which was subsequently switched to more traditional animation. Second, Paula had a noticeably different voice actress. Third, fan-favorite character Coach McGuirk had a washed-up Jerk Ass personality, rather than the more laid-back lovable loser he eventually became.
The first three installments of VeggieTales used a Two Shorts format (which would eventually return from time to time) instead of being single half-hour episodes, and were named after their primary theme instead of the actual stories. Where's God When I'm S-Scared? opened with an actual child reading the letter instead of Bob or Larry paraphrasing it, the second short had a nameless female narrator instead of Bob or Larry, and Larry's voice was radically different. God Wants Me to Forgive Them!?, the second installment, didn't even have a "Silly Songs" segment; instead it bumpered its shorts with a commercial for the "Forgive-O-Matic".
For a while, in Avatar: The Last Airbender , Appa is called a "Flying Bison" instead of the more prevalent "Sky Bison" that he became later.
The first episode of Total Drama Island, the first season of the Total Drama series is like this to newer viewers, since Chris is a lot more subdued and kinder, while the contestants are a lot more chummier with him. Then again, this is before he became the sadistic Chris we all know and put them through the hellacious torture he calls challenges. Also, when the contestants are faced with the first of many ridiculous challenges, DJ, of all people yells "Oh shit", which is largely out of character.
The original seasons of Thomas the Tank Engine were not only produced using models compared to the CGI animation of today, but were fairly low budget and prone to errors compared to the later points. Also the depiction was incredibly different due to being based very closely on The Railway Series novels, the tone was darker, the functions of the railway were more realistic (drivers talked and had a more pivotal role, and there were often life like accidents and collisions) and some of the characters played more as Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonists (Thomas in particular was far more self absorbed and rude in the first two seasons, a fairly lengthy number of seasons developing him into the altruistic Cloud Cuckoo Lander he is in the CGI episodes).
It was originally a more traditional family sitcom. Just like most shows that run for 10-plus seasons, the characters started off as more muted and simplistic versions of themselves. But the overall tone of the show changed as well: Whereas early on, Hank (as well as his friends and Peggy to a lesser extent) served as the Only Sane Man in plots about the encroachment of progressivism into the good-ole-boy community of Arlen, later seasons tended to focus more on the main characters' shortcomings as a whole. Hank had to learn to change and adapt with the times, Peggy was confronted with her unrealistic image of herself, et cetera.
Earlier on, (at least the first two seasons) some episodes ended with scenes where characters would talk directly to the viewers while the credits are running. Examples include Boomhauer talking about the dangers of smoking, and Hank lampshading the first time his bare butt appears on the show. This is even more unusual considering that it used to have a more "realistic" feel to it. For one reason or another, the gag was used a lot less often.
The first syndicated season of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cemented the familiar look and sound of the series, which stayed largely consistent until the show was retooled in 1994. As a result, reruns of the 1988 season and especially the 1987 miniseries always seemed like strange anomalies. The animation style was different, the Channel 6 building was different, and some of the voices were different (although the actors were the same). One of the most obvious shifts was Krang. He seemed more alien in the early episodes, with slow, labored speech, pulsating flesh, and constantly twitching tentacles.
As Told by Ginger: The pilot was nothing but weirdness. Ginger has what only can be described as a pointy afro, her voice was slightly different, and her journal was pink rather than the cyan color that series adapted to afterwards. And it doesn't even end with the titular character. Dodie's pigtails started low on her head and arched up (and were very expressive), the whole main group of friends was treated as actual losers rather than the cool losers they'd become. Courtney had an entirely different design, Darren's headgear gave an annoying squeak whenever he spoke, and, the icing on the cake, both Darren and Miranda were white.
In the Thundercats pilot it's debatable whether the Wilykittens were cubs or simply small cats, as they're treated less like children than they are later on. There's also ambiguity in their relationship as Wilykit tells Wilykat "Gosh, you're beautiful when you smile" without a lick of sarcasm or familial affection. Also, the characters spent their time before they got to Third Earth naked, their modesty protected by Barbie Doll Anatomy. After they got their outfits, they spent the rest of the series in them.
Mike, Lu & Og: The pilot short from What A Cartoon! Show is very different from the series proper. Citing a few examples, the short has no music (aside from the theme song at the beginning and end), Lu and Og are a little more naked (Lu's bra is not connected from the back and Og only has one loincloth in front, exposing his rear) and the animation was a more choppy and simple (while Pilot Studio in Russia was always involved with the show, the pilot was the only short actually animated there, whereas the show itself was animated by Sunwoo in Korea).
The first Mr. Magoo cartoons were different from his later appearances. While he was still nearsighted, Magoo had a slightly more detailed appearance and had the qualities of a Grumpy Old Man (In fact, his debut short The Ragtime Bear ended with him trying to shoot Waldo!). His later cartoons dropped those qualities and made him the happy-go-lucky, lovable geezer we know and love.
The first several episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle have a laugh track, along with severely low-key narration by William Conrad and Off Model animation, which got better as the show went on since they outsourced to a Mexican animation studio which had been set up expressly for the show.
While the premise of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) was pretty consistent throughout its run, the material that came out before the cartoon is another story. The earliest mini-comics depicted He-Man as a Barbarian Hero, the greatest warrior of an uncivilized jungle tribe, whose great strength comes from that harness he wears; there was no Prince Adam or "By the Power of Grayskull!", no Sorceress guiding his actions and no Orko providing comic relief. When DC started making comics about the series, they added a lot of that material (except for Orko, who was created for the cartoon). However, DC's comics characterized Prince Adam as a womanizing party animal and troublemaker — a far cry from the Adam of the cartoon. The dialogue in DC's comics was also archaic, almost Shakespearianly so (think Marvel Comics' Asgard prior to 2006 or so), whereas the cartoon and comics that came after it debuted featured modern English diction.
In the 1983 cartoon and related comics, Cringer/Battle Cat, Adam's pet tiger, could talk. He hasn't been depicted as speech-capable since the 2002 series, so anyone more familiar with more recent He-Man material is certain to find that a little hard to adjust to.
In the Mumfie's Quest episodes of Magic Adventures Of Mumfie'' do not decide on which way to draw Bristle and use a squeaking noise for Mumfie's sneezes and falls rather than that noise which sounds like he farted.