Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers was a very off beat show when it first appeared in 1985 with its blend of space opera, western and samurai motifs and an atmosphere that felt closer to a show from the early '90s rather than the mid '80s, what with all the Nightmare Fuel. Today it probably wouldn't look nearly as unique to a more cynical and less sensitive audience.
Batman: The Animated Series was a huge leap forward in its depiction of action and drama in a superhero cartoon. A modern audience, however, may not be as impressed with it, given how much further superhero shows have come in terms of darkness and drama since then. A few of them ("I've Got Batman in My Basement" comes to mind) actually have more in common with the corny kiddie shows they were trying to replace than with the newer shows they inspired, and are now an Old Shame to the animators.
Kevin Conroy is generally said to be the one true Batman. This is usually the viewpoint of longtime Batfans. If YouTube and forum comments are anything to go by, many newer Batfans, particularly Dark Knight fanboys consider Conroy to be dull, robotic and a genuinely terrible actor and have no idea why people love him, other than nostalgia. Though most of Conroy's recent Batman roles have been a little on the robotic side, it's mainly due to the fact that he hasn't had any Batman roles that require genuine emotion in years. His more recent Batman roles often have Batman as a side character or the Decoy Protagonist. Even the Batman: Arkham Series focuses on Batman's allies and enemies more than Batman's personal growth, save for Batman: Arkham Origins which Conroy wasn't a part of. He seems to have stepped up his game for Batman: Arkham Knight, where he is seen interrogating a soldier and legitimately sounds angry.
Beavis and Butt-Head debuted in the very early nineties, at a time when the Animation Age Ghetto was still very strong, and The Simpsons was just breaking through, while still remaining relatively family friendly. Beavis and Butthead on the other hand was shocking and caused a panic among the Moral Guardians, being one of only a very very few animated programs that didn't target children. Nowadays we have Family Guy, South Park, the entire [adult swim] lineup, and countless other "Late Night Cartoons", to the point that Beavis and Butthead looks tame, and downright corny by comparison.
On top of that, the main reason it got such a diehard fanbase was because of all the shock and panic it caused (a lot of it undeserved). Now, years removed from the hype, explaining to today's kids what's so great about it is flat-out impossible. Why Mike Judge made any attempt to relaunch it is a mystery.
MTV's president said that today's culture is so weird that we need the duo's POV (they even riff Jersey Shore in the revival!).
Let's face it: before B and B, the "ignorant 14-year-old with no future" trope had virtually disappeared from popular fiction. Not only that, but this show was maybe the first on television to accurately portray the average 14-year-old's sex drive.
When Bugs Bunny first said, "What's up, Doc?" in the 1940 short, A Wild Hare, it was a shock in ways modern audiences simply can't imagine or appreciate. In 1940, audiences saw the hunter (Elmer Fudd, of course), heard the hunter say he was hunting wabbits (er, rabbits), and then they saw the rabbit. 1940 audiences were expecting that rabbit to scream, run, pick a fight, play dead, anything except strike up a casual conversation with the guy trying to kill him. So, when Bugs did that, he brought the house down - a response that led to it becoming his Catch Phrase. Nowadays, not only does nobody find, "What's up, Doc?" funny, most people don't even realize it was ever supposed to be funny in the first place. It's just that thing Bugs always says in every freakin' cartoon he's in.
The trope is invoked in the latest incarnation of the franchise, The Looney Tunes Show. Even Daffy Duck can't remember Bugs' catchphrase any more.
Codename: Kids Next Door was one of the first mainstream Western kids' shows to undergo Cerebus Syndrome and experiment with world-building and story arcs. However, its heavy influence has made it difficult for a new viewer to see what's so special about it.
The Minions from Despicable Me were lauded as the movie's funniest characters and became the series' Ensemble Darkhorse group. This, of course, wound up leading to other companies wanting a piece of the pie and coming up with their own Minion like characters themselves. (i.e. McDonald's Happy Meal creatures, the elves in Dreamworks' Rise of the Guardians, and the lemmings in Norm of the North, etc.) The verbally-impaired-friends/helpers-of-the-protagonist trope has seen so much use that anyone who went back to watch the movie that broke it into the mainstream will likely fail to see the appeal of the quirky Minions. (The fact that the Minions themselves became ludicrously popular themselves to the point of Hype Backlash and are blamed for this trend results in this example teetering on the edge of Deader Than Disco, as well.)
Traditional Disney movies, particularly the fairy tale-based ones. A few can appear rather corny today. Especially the ones where the characters were similar to their original fairy tale inspirations, before the writers decided to adapt some more characterization to the princesses. The studio later experimented with new techniques that look rather sketchy today. (Namely the stuff in the 1960s; xerography was a pretty new technique for Disney then. Before, they mostly rotoscoped.)
Disney animation from the 1930s and 1940s: Think of this: many animation techniques have all been pioneered and perfected by the Walt Disney Company: synchronizing animation with sound, color animation, animated features, making characters appear as if they are actual personalities, dramatic atmosphere, overcoming technical difficulties (streaming rivers, ocean water, rain, light effects, shadows, fire,...), detailed backgrounds, having large groups of characters appear in the same scene, avoiding continuity errors, storyboarding scenes,... And all of it was done by hand! Yet nowadays most people take it all for granted, failing to see how groundbreaking all these innovations were at the time and still are.
Mickey Mouse: The world's most iconic cartoon character of all time is still popular ever since his creation in 1928, yet most people wouldn't exactly call him their favorite Disney character at all. Ever since the second half of the 1930s Mickey changed into a bland character who is more an extra in his own films and lets Donald Duck or Goofy steal the show. Many people nowadays wonder how on Earth this character ever became such a universal success? In reality much of the early 1930s Mickey cartoons and comic strips show Mickey engaging in heroic adventures and use his strength and wits to overcome problems and villains, which is far more entertaining than what he would eventually become. And Mickey's success effectively proved that animated cartoons could be an artform and business at the same time. Without that mouse most of today's cartoons wouldn't exist.
Steamboat Willie: For a modern day viewer it is certainly not Mickey's best cartoon and one might wonder how on Earth this ever got such a popularity that it practically launched the Walt Disney Company into the empire it still is today? Even the novelty that it was the first cartoon with pitch perfect sound synchronization looks rather unimpressive today. For instance, there is no speech, only music and extremely primitive sound effects. But at the time there was literally nothing like it! (It helps that Steamboat Willie is still very funny more than 80 years later, if perhaps only on a Cringe Comedy level now.)
Playful Pluto: A 1934 Mickey Mouse cartoon which is famous for a scene where Pluto gets stuck on a piece of flypaper. At the time this moment was groundbreaking in terms of character animation, because for the first time a character seemed to be thinking for himself, making the suspension of disbelief completely disappear. People who look at this scene nowadays will probably not be that impressed by it.
The Tortoise and the Hare: The scenes where the hare runs at Super Speed were very impressive in 1935 and influenced many other cartoons that came afterwards, especially Looney Tunes. Yet, nowadays it actually doesn't look that notably quick.
Disney princesses. Snow White, Princess Aurora, and Cinderella. People like to complain that these characters are boring and don't do much, especially as compared to their later counterparts. What many forget however is that these characters could be considered very active when compared to most depictions of women in media at the time, and had at least as much personality. They appear even more active and nuanced when compared to the characters from the original fairy tales who did and said far less. For example both Snow White and Aurora's relationships with their princes was an improvement over the original fairy tales - in that they met before they were saved. Aurora in particular was the first princess to actually properly get to know her prince - even though their time together was brief.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Back in 1937 this was the first studio animated feature that was so perfect that it surpassed all the previous attempts to make an animated feature. While still popular few people realize this cartoon pretty much placed the standard on which all animated cartoons afterwards are still judged to this day. It was such a landmark film that proved that animation was a viable medium alongside Live Action. This also means that every animated movie that followed it takes cues from it. As a result, the 70+ years of films homaging, parodying, and generally being influenced by Snow White makes the original film look like a Cliché Storm. And it's not just a great cartoon, a lot of techniques pioneered in this movie were even groundbreaking and impressive when compared to most live-action movies at the time.
Fantasia: Would you believe that, after decades of music videos, the concept of this was novel? While it has been able to age well due to the Visual Effects of Awesome, the concept sounds entirely cliche with the availability of music videos on the internet.
The Rite of Spring deserves special mention — would you believe that it showing the history of earth being formed not by God, but by what is considered scientific was actually pushing the limits of what was allowed?
CG, if for splicing it with cel-animation or using it as an All-CGI Cartoon has evolved a lot over the years. The Black Cauldron (1985) was the first to use CG-I as a special effect. Watching it nowadays will be beyondConspicuous CG and veer almost into Special Effect Failure, same with the somewhat out of place looking gears in The Great Mouse Detective (1986). Pixar and Dreamworks's early movies also look a lot more rubbery and stiff compared to their most recent cartoons, and the humans will fall right into the Uncanny Valley. But at the time, they were some of the most technically impressive films on the market.
Genie in Aladdin (1993) A-List actors did not star in speaking roles before this. They all did afterwards. The film that really set the trend of Anachronism Stew and Parental Bonus was Aladdin, which was different to what Disney was doing at the time, and yet has influenced countless subsequent movies including Shrek. However, by Quest for Camelot, it had worn thin and really, only Genie could get away with it.
The Little Mermaid might seem like a paint-by-numbers Disney flick these days. But when it came out in 1989 it was hugely ground breaking. It was the first Disney film to merge the fairy tale plot with Broadway elements. Numerous other stock cliches of the Disney Renaissance - feisty Plucky Girl, "I Want" Song, Award Bait Song, comedy animal sidekicks (great potential for tie-in merchandise), campy villain - were all innovated by this. Pretty much most animated projects made in the 90s owe their existence to this film. It's notable to see that The Little Mermaid and its successor Beauty and the Beast are far more Broadway-esque than later Renaissance films.
Pocahontas is a strange one. When it came out, it was badly received by American audiences (but did very well in Europe). The main reason? It was an animated film that took Artistic Lisence with American history (though filmmakers insisted they were adapting the legend of Pocahontas rather than trying to be accurate). After Pocahontas we got films like Anastasia, Titanic: The Legend Goes On, Mulan and The Hunchback of Notre Dame - which took place in named times and depicted historical events. The general public would be desensitised to that kind of thing these days. Anastasia's producers took note of the reaction to Pocahontas and marketed the film as merely a historical fairy tale not to be taken as fact. It worked and they loved it in Russia.
The relative tameness of old cartoons is lovingly parodied on The Simpsons with "That Happy Cat", an early Max Fleischer-style "Itchy and Scratchy" cartoon, in which all Scratchy does is walk along a street. Even the 1920s and 1930s, Mickey could be subject to this after the rise of Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry.
Doug premiered in 1991, before most Slice of Life animated shows were created, thus creating a rather large impact. However, with a lot of the shows of the genre today, it makes everything in Doug look rather cliche, though that's mainly due to many shows of the genre using plots similar to the show's episodes.
Felix the Cat: Back in 1919 and the 1920s Felix was the first cartoon character to become universally popular. There were several reasons for this. It was much more smoothly animated and took actual advantage from the fact that is is a cartoon by having visual puns and physically impossible gags, something earlier cartoons didn't do. Nowadays, however, with the advantage of animation in the wake of Disney modern viewers can find the silent Felix cartoons quite underwhelming, as there are no other characters besides Felix and most of the action is not as wild or funny as modern cartoons.
The Flintstones has been hit pretty hard by this trope. Let alone being the first true animated sitcom, The Flintstones was the first animated program to feature a predominantly human cast and episodes spanning an entire 30 minutes. Up until that point, cartoons were usually brief seven or eight minute shorts featuring funny animals (with a few exceptions, such as Betty Boop, Popeye, and Mr. Magoo) either played in theaters before a movie or pieced together for television broadcasts. Hard though it may be to believe, episodic cartoons in general (let alone shows like The Simpsons, South Park and Family Guy) would have never existed if not for this classic series about a "modern stone age family." But to modern viewers The Flintstones looks more like your average corny 1960s TV sitcom, only with a lot of Anachronism Stew, lame rock and stone puns and animals used as modern day appliances, not to mention the obvious laugh track.
Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures suffers from this badly nowadays. It was a revolutionary show and concept for its day, and essentially served as a training ground for future animation pros today, and for bringing back cartoon animation in the vein of classic cartoons to the mainstream in TV. However, today, due to the success of all the shows created in it's wake, especially The Ren & Stimpy Show'' most modern viewers might not find it revolutionary, not helped that the show had many production woes and animation and art mistakes (as attested by former staff, includingJohn Kricfalusi).
DreamWorks Animation has their own breed that is almost like an inversion — with a few exceptions like Shrek, plenty of Dreamworks's early CG-I movies were seen as budget Pixar movies to downright knock-offs of Pixar movies. However, they have since grown the beard, and in the new tens, are considered to be one of the better animation studios, producing movies that rival Pixar's.
Most consider this trope to have reached Up to Eleven with the misleading ad campaign for Disney's Tangled, which tried to portray a more traditional fairy tale as a hip spoof of fairy tales — meaning, in essence, that the Trope Maker for such traditional movies is now scared to admit they're still making them.
ReBoot was the very first fully CGI television show that came out in the early nineties and was a pretty big success at the time. In this day and age, shows with CGI are completely common, and most people would consider ReBoot pretty tame in terms of computer accomplishments, although it had a great story, wonderful characters, and is still hailed today as one of the best, if not the best, CGI show of all time, with its biggest competitor for the title being another Mainframe series: Beast Wars.
One thing that didn't help was that a year after it premiered Toy Story came out, with a movie-level budget and production time frame. Thus many people were dismissing ReBoot as a cheap, inferior product as part of Tough Act to Follow. It is admittedly a little clunky to watch because of some stilted animation but there is no denying the amazing story and visuals of episodes like "Talent Night" and "Painted Windows."
The Simpsons as a whole is very much a case of this trope by this point. During the shows golden age of the early to mid 90's, the show was extremely original, and not only because it was an animated program intended for adults. Its particular style of satirical, subversive humor made it stand out not only as a television cartoon, but as a comedy. To younger people who have spent their adolescent years watching shows like South Park and Family Guy, whose brand of humor is very much derived from The Simpsons, it is probably quite hard to appreciate just how groundbreaking the yellow skinned family and their show were back in their heyday.
And how controversial it was back then. The first season seems pretty tame, yet there were groups devoted to banning this show and its merchandise. Bart in particular was seen as a very bad example to children as he is a mischievous troublemaker. Yet, compared to later more evil child cartoon characters like Cartman or Stewie nowadays he almost comes across as adorable. Bart's most devious behaviour in the earliest seasons was sawing off the head of a statue, which he immediately regretted.
South Park acknowledged this in the episode "Cartoon Wars Part II." Bart makes a surprise appearance midway through the episode, explaining to Cartman what a "bad kid" he is by mentioning the time he sawed the head off a statue. Cartman counters this by referencing the time he fed Scott Tenorman his own parents, and Bart walks away feeling horribly dwarfed.
And don't forget the numerous film references in The Simpsons. They started this trend in animation and back then when they did it was often surprising, not done that often before and very amusing. Soon Disney movies like Aladdin, the Dreamworks films like Shrek and Shark Tale and every adult animated series, from South Park to Family Guy have been including references to popular films ever since.
In fact, Family Guy itself with its cutaway gags with references to popular films - even avoiding Small Reference Pools (not afraid to reference sometimes obscure authors or films) was one reason the show actually got noticed in the day. Nowadays, it's seen as "stale".
Itchy and Scratchy's violent cartoons were originally intended as a parody of traditional cartoon violence like in Tom and Jerry and Looney Tunes, which was often very painful, but never bloody or fatal. So Itchy & Scratchy's gruesome battles surprised and shocked viewers because you never saw violence this extreme in mainstream animation. Nowadays, thanks to controversial and often gory shows like South Park, Family Guy, and Happy Tree Friends, the violence in Itchy and Scratchy doesn't seem that noticeable. Also, the disappearance of all classic 1930s-1950s cartoons on television means that the original reference target and thus the joke is lost on very younger generations.
The concept of the trope itself is brought up in the first "Treehouse of Horror" episode. Lisa reads Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven to Bart as an example of a truly scary story. Bart is naturally unimpressed and wonders why anyone would find a poem scary. Lisa theorizes that people in the mid-19th century were just easier to scare, having not seen any of the modern day's gore-fests.
The Simpsons wasn't only revolutionary by the standards of animation, it was revolutionary as a Sitcom and for comedy programs in general. As just one example, being animated meant The Simpsons weren't restricted to sets and Studio Audiences and gave them the freedom to introduce huge numbers of characters, not limited by actors and budget. It may not seem like much, but audience expectations changed as a result. If it weren't for The Simpsons, we probably wouldn't have things like Arrested Development, or, if we did, they would look very different.
The Simpsons also paved the way for continuity in an animated series. The episode "A Milhouse Divided" was subversive in that not only did Milhouse's parents, who got divorced mid-episode, not get back together by the end of the episode, later episodes depicted them living apart. Before then, all animated series, and most live-action sitcoms, had no continuity and relied on the Snap Back if an episode didn't end the way it started. This was even brought up in the DVD commentary. Nowadays, many popular cartoons have strong continuity; its sister series, Futurama, so much so that The Simpsons is often labeled with Status Quo Is God, even right here on TV Tropes, as its own continuity is mild by comparison.
Matt Groening wanted The Simpsons to have a unique feel compared to the cartoons around the time (namely Disney and Hanna-Barbera). So he decided that the show was to have cartoon characters obeying real life physics (meaning: no squash and plump, no wacky sounds while characters do things or exaggerated facial expressions). Nowadays, most cartoons with an all-human cast are similarly restrained. Indeed, these days it would be considered strange to see "rubbery" humanoid characters in most cartoons, even most children's cartoons.
Space Ghost Coast to Coast pioneered the style of later [adult swim] cartoons: low budget; extreme Limited Animation with only stock poses and animations for characters; silly, borderline nonsensical conversations; and a dash of random humor (added in increasingly large doses as the series progressed). Today it seems tame compared to later Adult Swim shows such as Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
While Toy Story's graphics that were state of the art back in 1995, they pale in comparison to what's being done today. The humans look almost as plastic as the toys (which is why they told a story where the main characters were toys), there's an airless quality to the outside scenes, and the animation is not as fluid and nuanced as what we see today. Not that the movie has now become unwatchable, far from it, but compare it to Toy Story 2 just four years later and the improvement is remarkable. And then compare that to Toy Story 3 11 years after, and you appreciate how much CGI has evolved in such a short time. Also, consider the fact that before Toy Story, the number of fully computer-generated feature films was exactly zero, and it would be two more years before there was another such film. With CGI so ubiquitous today, it's hard to imagine how mindblowing an experience it was to see Woody and Buzz for the first time.
When you watch the behind-the-scenes features about Toy Story, it's clear that John Lasseter and the late Joe Ranft were aware of this issue. They made sure they put as much effort into the story and the characters as they did into the technology. Which is why people will probably still be watching Toy Story in fifty years, long after its technology has become outdated.
Even Rocko's Modern Life may have suffered from this. Back when it first premiered, the Getting Crap Past the Radar moments were extremely impressive, and shocked many people. Lots of kids' cartoons nowadays, however, do the same thing, and so Rocko may not seem that impressive to some people who are used to watching Adventure Time or Regular Show, the latter of which got "pissed" past the radar.
Daria is the quintessential self-aware high school program that broke from all established conventions and deeply satirized American culture and the teenage world view, as a time "teen shows" were generally limited to light and comedic fare like Saved by the Bell and Welcome Freshmen. The tropes and archetypes have shown up in just about everything aimed at or about teenagers since and both the light and comedic, and the dark and snarky tropes have been deconstructed, exaggerated, played straight and pretty much run into the ground since the initial run of the show in the late 1990s. It's hard, if not impossible, for people to appreciate just how much this show impacted an entire generation.
South Park can apply this trope to itself. The Denser and Wackier early seasons seem shallow and unsatisfying compared to the slicker, more robust, dramatic and sophisticated episodes that followed, but back when it debuted its unique brand of surrealism, sociopathic satire and "less is more" animation were quite captivating to witness.
Also, many of the jokes and issues that seemed downright shocking in the first couple of seasons now seem pretty tame and commonplace. A perfect example of this is the season one episode "Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boat Ride." Today, the episode's premise (Stan's dog being gay and Stan needing to accept it) seems like pretty standard TV-14+ cartoon fare. However, in 1997, this was about as edgy and socially conscious as cartoon plots got.
And back then, practically every episode was considered "the most obscene thing on television", earning the series the wrath of many a Moral Guardian. Nowadays, the show is mostly left alone by Moral Guardians (in an ironic twist, even some conservative Christian leaders admit to being fans!) and only makes the headlines over a depiction of something offensive to a specific minority (ex. "Trapped in the Closet" and "200/201").
A good example of the show invoking this onto itself is with the character of Eric Cartman. In the first four seasons, he was easily the most manipulative and foul-mouthed of the main characters but still a relatively harmless Bratty Half-Pint. Even having moments of genuine concern and/or empathy from time to time (such as in "Cartman's Mom Is A Dirty Slut"). Compared to the conniving sociopath he would become in Season 5 ("Scott Tenorman Must Die" being the big turning point for his character), the Cartman of the first few seasons seems almost adorable now.
An in-universe example occurs in "The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs". The boys are assigned to read The Catcher in the Rye, and are excited because of the controversy it caused... but become disappointed with it and write the eponymous book as what they think is controversial in response.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! debuted in 1969 on CBS and became Saturday morning's number 2 show (The Archie Comedy Hour was the top show). Upon its success, Saturday morning became littered with crime-fighting/mystery-solving teens with wise-cracking animal sidekicks, many (if not all) by Scooby's studio, Hanna-Barbera. (Curiously, one such show, The Hardy Boys, which aired on ABC opposite Scooby-Doo, was by Filmation.)
Ralph Bakshi: His 1970s animated feature films, like Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic and Coonskin, were groundbreaking for introducing adult topics in a medium that had been almost exclusively child friendly up to then. Nowadays, in an era where adult animation with references to drugs, sex, politics and bloody violence have more or less become part of the mainstream Bakshi's work doesn't look that special anymore. Apart from the explicit nudity and pornography there's nothing that you won't see in The Simpsons, South Park or Family Guy these days. To a modern audience something like "Fritz the Cat" now comes across as a Random Events Plot with a few boobies here and there to make schoolboys snicker. It's also very dated, even for something from The '70s. Bakshi himself has whined that if he did Fritz the Cat today the censors wouldn't harass him as much as they did.
His version of Lord of the Rings also seems inferior nowadays compared to Peter Jackson's fully worked-out film trilogy, which at least tells the story of all three books.
Robot Chicken is an interesting example in that it's become this trope due to an entirely different medium. When it debuted back in 2005, its unique style of rapid-fire, witty humor and clever parodies of beloved pop culture icons simply couldn't be found in any other stop-motion animated show. The closest it resembled are the cutaway gags in Family Guy, which is an animated cartoon. To an extent, that's still true; to this day, nothing like it exists on television. However, it's spawned countless imitators on the Web, a good number of which manage to stand out even in comparison to the show they imitate (see asdfmovie, The Lazer Collection, and Sonic Shorts for a few examples), so for someone who started on one of those series and was then introduced to Robot Chicken later, it likely wouldn't come off as anything special.
Back in The Fifties, the cartoons from the UPA cartoon studio (especially Mister Magoo) were actually regarded as being very cutting-edge by having extremely sophisticated plots and animation at the time (to the point that a Magoo HiFi album was released in 1957). But nowdays, these storylines are the norm, as well as their then-groundbreaking stylized animation.