Seinfeld Is Unfunny: Western Animation

  • 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. While some episodes still hold up pretty well a modern audience may not be as impressed with it, given how much further superhero shows have come since then.
  • Beavis And Butthead 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.
  • 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 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 a 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.
    • Genie in Aladdin. A-List actors did not star in speaking roles before this. They all did afterwards.
      • In addition, the anachronisms in Aladdin were actually pretty fresh and helped add a Parental Bonus. (Since Genie would almost always refer to stuff that kids had likely never heard of.) However, by Quest for Camelot, it had worn thin and really, only Genie could get away with it.
    • Especially with the older Disney movies it is often forgotten how old they really are, and it is therefore easy to overlook how revolutionary they really were during the time they were made. For example the first segment of Fantasia is something every computer can do artificially nowadays, but back then the very idea to pair music with animation without telling some kind of story was revolutionary and Sleeping Beauty looks like a typical fantasy movie but was in fact the movie which more or less created the typical fantasy movie style.
  • 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.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show. Unprecedented and freakish when it debuted, it practically invented the "gross cartoon" paradigm. The gratuitous amounts of snot, Toilet Humor and Family-Unfriendly Violence were something completely new and unknown to the audience. Nowadays, Ren and Stimpy wouldn't shock or disgust many people (unless we're talking about the "Adult Party" version), with the spawn of many cartoons that used similar characters, humor and drawing style after Ren & Stimpy's success. However, while it is hands-down one of the most ripped off cartoons ever, the DVD boxes for said series still sport parental guidance labels on them, and the website commonsensemedia.org rates it as unsuitable for viewers below 15. Many commenters on YouTube who watch this show, most of them who hadn't seen it since childhood, often point out how "screwed up" and "insane" it is. Honestly, how many cartoons these days show characters pulling out their nerve endings with a pair of tweezers?
  • Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures. It was a revolutionary show and concept for its day, being a show where it was directed and written entirely by cartoonists (which was a very unique concept for cartoons of the time), 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 (and, obviously, laying the groundwork for shows like Ren and Stimpy). Unfortunately, the actual production quality of the show has aged horribly, not helped that the show had many production woes, animation and art mistakes and sloppy execution (as attested by former staff, including John Kricfalusi) and many of the jokes and satire will seem either tame or fly right over the heads of today's viewers.
  • Shrek. Back in 2001, this iconoclastic take on Fairy Tales and use of pop-culture references felt like a welcome reprieve from the usual clean fare. Now, with several films, including a few from Shrek's own studio DreamWorks Animation, following the same formula, the sheen has worn off the franchise.
    • 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. The first two seasons look really awkward to anyone who was introduced to it at a later date, but it's hard to overstate how revolutionary the show was at the time, and how quickly it became a phenomenon.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Celebrity guest appearances. Before The Simpsons, high-level celebrities didn't make appearances on animated programs. In fact, they generally didn't make appearances on TV at all, if their careers were going well. So, it doesn't seem like all that big of a deal that Michael Jackson voiced a character in the episode "Stark Raving Dad." However, in 1991, with Jackson at the height of his career, this was a HUGE deal, with much media speculation over who "John Jay Smith" actually was, and whether Jackson would actually voice a character on a cartoon. By 1994, a guest spot on The Simpsons had become a badge of honor, and is fairly passť today.
    • 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.
    Bart: Oh yeah! It's like watching Friday the 13th: Part 1. Pretty tame by today's standards.
    • 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, nearly all of the most popular western animated programs have strong continuity, even 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, you can see that in a lot of other cartoons.
  • For that matter, 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 Mister 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."
  • While Toy Story still holds up remarkably well, the graphics that were state of the art back in 1995 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.
    • Compare to Tin Toy to really see the evolution.
    • 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.
  • Tex Avery created many jokes and situations in animated cartoons that were once surprising and hilariously funny, but have been imitated and plagiarized so much by other cartoon studios that these jokes can make a modern audience yawn because they are so predictable and overdone. Examples are eyes flying out of their sockets, enormous long tongues, endless chases, characters using sticks of dynamite or dropping anvils on each other, characters walking on thin air before realizing that there's nothing beneath them whereupon they fall down, painted tunnels the hero can drive through while the villain simply crashes against the wall, and so on.
  • 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.
  • 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").
    • 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.)
  • 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. While it's aged a lot better than other examples here, it can be difficult for a new viewer to see what's so special about it. This may be why reruns of the show are relatively rare.
  • 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 Seventies.
    • 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 anywhere else on television. 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.
  • During Phineas and Ferb 's peak, it was popular with both kids and adults for featuring clever jokes, puns, storylines and pop culture references that only adults would get, and was seen by many for a while to be, not only the best example of modern animation, but restored faith that animation can appeal to universally everyone, after the belief that cartoons may never do so again. With a latter wave of creator-driven cartoons (like Adventure Time, Regular Show, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Gravity Falls and Wander over Yonder) coming out, that feature story archs, character development and Getting Crap Past the Radar and have been received more positive by audiences generally than Phineas and Ferb, Phineas and Ferb with it's Sliceof Life formula and satirical Strictly Formula, by comparison has been seen as inferior to the aforementioned in spite of paving the way for them, due to lacking the majority of the qualities that the other shows have, which has resulted in Hype Backlash for the show, to the extent of it becoming one of the most criticized cartoons on the internet. Some people have even refused to admit that they had ever liked the show and don't understand how it ever gained a cult following.
  • 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). Nowadays, however, these storylines are the norm, as well as their then-groundbreaking stylized animation.