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Western Animation / Dennis the Menace

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Ruff, Gina Gillotti, Jay Weldon, Dennis Mitchell, Margaret Wade and Joey McDonald

In 1986, Dennis the Menace (US) was adapted into a 65-Episode Cartoon for U.S. syndication by DiC Entertainment, later moving to Saturday Mornings on CBS.

Outside of the U.S., this series was simply known as Dennis to avoid confusion with the British Dennis the Menace character by Beano Comics. As such, this series is not to be confused with the 1996 cartoon based on the British version.

Now has an (in-progress) recap page.

The 1980s animated series provides examples of:

  • Accidental Art: In "Ruff's Masterpiece", Mr. Wilson paints a bouquet of flowers, when Ruff runs across his painting while playing fetch with Dennis, ruining it. When Mr. Wilson tosses the painting out, an art professor thinks it's a masterpiece worthy of being entered in a contest, much to his shock. Mr. Wilson later has another painting made with help from another dog so he can enter the contest as well. His strategy works as he wins the contest, but Ruff causes it to be damaged, which leads his painting to be the winner after all.
  • Accidental Hero: In "Train That Boy", a spy on a train is planning to blow up a power plant, Dennis (who also is on the train) sees him and outright assumes hes a spy and attempts to stop him. After Mr. Wilson convinced Dennis that hes not a spy, Dennis decides to apologize to him and sees that he left his briefcase behind (unaware that the detonators are inside). Dennis gives the man his briefcase. The detonators blow up while the spys holding his briefcase and gets caught by the police.
  • Accidental Kiss:
    • In "Menaced Marriage", Mr. Wilson's niece and her fiance try to kiss each other, but both end up kissing Ruff, much to their disgust.
    • In the 1993 episode "It's a Guy Thing", Dennis asks Margaret to kiss him. As she's puckering up, Dennis takes out Willy and makes Margaret kiss him instead. Once Margaret realizes who she'd kissed, she freaks out and jumps out of Dennis' treehouse.
  • Accidental Passenger:
    • In "Train That Boy", Dennis goes on a train to visit his grandmother. When he accidentally leaves his suitcase behind, Mr. Wilson goes onboard the train to give it to him. Unfortunately, Dennis refuses to let him off, saying his mom told him never to step off of a moving vehicle, resulting in Mr. Wilson having to come with Dennis and his parents on the train, much to Mr. Wilson's chagrin. At the end of the episode, the roles are reversed; when Mr. Wilson goes on the train back home, Dennis leaves his suitcase on the train and goes back for it, resulting in Mr. Wilson having to spend the ride back with Dennis.
    • In "Boy Ahoy!", the Wilsons leave for a cruise, but Dennis stays on the ship too long and gets taken along for the ride. He's regarded as a stowaway, forcing Mr. Wilson to hide him. But after losing his clothes and forced to wear his wife's dress and caught with Dennis, Mr. Wilson is the one accused of being the stowaway and is made to work onboard the ship. When it returns to dock and the captain realizes the misunderstanding, he gives the Wilsons free tickets on another cruise. However, the shipping company also gives the Mitchells tickets to the same ship after the Dennis mishap. Mr. Wilson snaps and swims out into the ocean rather than go on another cruise with Dennis.
  • Ace Pilot: Both Dennis and PeeBee are this in "Come Fly With Me"; the former builds a fully functional airplane from the junk in his dad's garage, while the latter builds a fighter jet. The two challenge each other to a race, and for a while, are evenly matched. Dennis wins the race due to the radio in PeeBee's jet overloading its main circuit control.
  • Acrofatic: Mr. Wilson is capable of amazing feats despite his weight, thanks in part to having to deal with Dennis' antics day in and day out.
  • Ad Bumpers: Each in the form of a single-panel comic strip and narrated by Dennis.
    "We'll be right back!" / "Hey, welcome back!"
    "Hey, gang, stay tuned!" / "And here we go again!"
    "We'll be back in a flash!" / (no narration for the last, followed by closing credits)
  • And a Diet Coke: Concerned over Mr. Wilson's health, his wife forces him to enter a gym. When Dennis' antics get him expelled from there, Mr. Wilson is grateful enough to give the kid a sundae. Mr. Wilson has one as well but, wanting to lose weight, gives Dennis his sundae's cherry.
  • Animal Athlete Loophole: There ain't no rule that says a dog can't play football! There is, however, a rule that PeeBee points out in the episode "Come Fly With Me", where plays cannot be made with a player's mouth, so sadly Ruff is disqualified.
  • Animesque: Not so much the character designs, but the animation style is very Japanese. It's especially evident in the original intro sequence. The 1992 intro (commonly seen in syndication) and the 13-episode second season are much more Western in style.
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: In "Up Up and Oh Boy!", Dennis, Jay, and Margaret fly away in Henry's company's dirigi-blimp, and Henry and Mr. Wilson chase after them on Mr. Wilson's tandem bicycle. At one point, Henry and Mr. Wilson ride down a hill, and this exchange occurs:
    Henry: Hit the brakes, George! Hit the brakes!
    [Henry looks behind himself and sees some boulders rolling after him and Mr. Wilson]
    Henry: Oh no! Don't hit the brakes, George! Don't hit the brakes!
  • Bait-and-Switch Comparison: This exchange in "Menaced Marriage" when Margaret finds Willy in her bouquet of flowers:
    Dennis: Oh, boy! Margaret found Willy!
    Alice: Face to face with that creature? What a horrifying experience!
    Dennis: Yeah, I hope Willy is okay.
  • Balloon-Bursting Bird:
    • A variation happened in one episode where Mr. Wilson parachutes from a plane, but a bird pecks at his parachute - leading to a long drop.
    • It happened again in another episode when Dennis gets accidentally caught up in a hot air balloon race. A flock of birds burst one of the hot air balloons.
  • Banana Peel: In "The Wizzer of Odd", when Dennis and Ruff wind up in the Land of Odd, they are advised by the Munchies to see the Wizzer by following the Yellow Banana Road if they want to make their way back home. As they follow said road, they slip on banana peels.
  • Band Episode:
    • In "The Backyard Band", Dennis, Gina, Tommy, and Jay form a music band and are scheduled to perform in a talent show. At first, Mr. Wilson takes offense by their poor playing, but is really offended when a snobbish upperclassman insults them, believing his son, Timmy, is much better. Mr. Wilson helps the gang to practice and the results are greatly improved, but the judge gives first place to his nephews. The gang get second place, though and give their trophy to Mr. Wilson for being a great help to them.
    • In "Strike Up the Band", Dennis forms his own band with him on trumpet, Margaret on cymbals, Gina on accordion, and Joey on drums. However, because they all play different songs at the same time, their music is absolutely atrocious. Not wanting to hurt Dennis' feelings (and so she can get some peace and quiet), Alice tells Dennis and his friends to share their music with the neighborhood. Meanwhile, Henry and Mr. Wilson get jobs as police officers and pursue a purse snatcher at a department store. The purse snatcher evades them, but when he hears Dennis' band playing, he surrenders to Henry and Mr. Wilson so he can go to jail and not have to listen to it.
  • Banister Slide: Dennis does this in the opening theme.
  • Barbershop Episode:
    • In "A Hair-Raising Tale", PeeBee invents a hair growth formula, and Dennis wants to test it on Mr. Wilson due to the latter's lack of hair, but when Mr. Wilson refuses to be their test subject (not realizing that the formula works until after his bowling ball and its bag are both covered in hair), Dennis and PeeBee take the formula to Mr. Cavalini's barber shop so Mr. Cavalini can test it on his customers. Unfortunately for them, Mr. Cavalini thinks Dennis is making this up and refuses to take the formula. At this time, Dennis accidentally spills some formula on Mr. Cavalini's floor, forcing Mr. Cavalini to clean it up. Near the end of the episode, Mr. Wilson and Mr. Cavalini fight over the formula after having found out about its power and end up destroying the beaker with the formula in it.
    • In "Barbershop Disharmony", the Mayor stops by Mr. Cavalini's barbershop to get a haircut for a photo session. Around the same time, Dennis comes to the barbershop to hang some posters for City Clean-up Week. A mix-up with Dennis' bottle of glue and Mr. Cavalini's bottle of hair tonic result in Mr. Cavalini's hands getting stuck to the Mayor's head and Mr. Cavalini's barbershop becoming a huge mess when Dennis tries to help Mr. Cavalini get the glue off.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In "Genie Madness", After she and Dennis stumble upon a genie, Margaret wishes her doll Molly would come to life and have her personality, only for Molly to treat Margaret the way she treats her, only much worse.
  • Big, Thin, Short Trio: In "Wheeling and Double-Dealing", Winston is the Thin, and his two lackeys are the Big and Short.
  • Bird-Poop Gag: Happens twice in "Cruise Control":
    • The first time, it happens to Dennis when he takes Princess Liana to the deck of the cruise ship they're on. When he says, "I'm king of the world!", a seagull poops on his head, which causes Liana to burst out laughing.
    Liana: You must have been standing on the poop deck!
    • The second time, it happens to Mr. Wilson when he gets carried away by three tropical birds. After they drop him off at Liana's castle, one of them poops on his face.
  • Bowling for Ratings: In "Bowling For Dennis", Dennis goes to the bowling alley with his dad and Mr. Wilson, who get into a competition with a rival bowling team. The rival team tries to sabotage Henry and Mr. Wilson's chances of winning by putting bubble gum on the bottom of their bowling pins, giving them a remote-control bowling ball, and later a magnetic bowling ball, but Dennis inadvertently foils their plan.
  • Bridal Carry:
    • In "Second Honeymoon", Alice remembers Henry doing this with her on their honeymoon, and he does just this.
    • Inverted at the end of "The Love Rowboat" after Henry hears a roar and leaps into Alice's arms.
    • In "Super Duper Dennis", Dennis does this with Margaret after she faints from surprise that he can fly.
  • Canada, Eh?: However, this plays up to stereotypes. Most of the voice cast is also Canadian across both seasons.
    • The second season's animation was produced by Atkinson Film-Arts, one of the last projects they worked on before going bankrupt. Also, much of the second season cast was Canadian, including Phil Hartman's replacement, Maurice LaMarche.
  • Canon Foreigner: Jay, Lars, Mr. Cavallini and Professor Mentalapse.
  • Circus Episode: In "Circus Berserkus", the circus comes to Dennis' neighborhood. Mr. Wilson has to take Dennis and Joey to it at Mrs. Wilson's request. At the circus, a wicked Ringmaster who was fired from the circus tries to sabotage it as revenge. His first plan is to release a live bear from its cage, but that plan is foiled when said bear ends up in Joey's possession. His second plan is to cut the ropes to the tent to make it collapse, but that plan is foiled when Mr. Wilson gets roped into a trapeze act. His third and final plan is to release a live tiger from its cage, but that plan is foiled when Mr. Wilson gets roped into a Human Cannonball act.
  • Compilation Movie: "Memory Mayhem" was this. The movie itself had wraparound segments involving Mr. Wilson getting amnesia with Dennis and friends trying to get him to recover his memory; they bring up past adventures, appearing in forms of various episodes from the series.
  • The Dentist Episode: In "Nothing But the Tooth", Joey has a loose tooth and is afraid of having it fall out. Dennis tells Joey to go to the dentist to have it taken out, but Joey is afraid of dentists. He's even afraid of the tooth fairy when Dennis tells him that he can get money from her for his tooth. Dennis has PeeBee invent a robot to extract Joey's tooth, and when PeeBee tests it on Mr. Wilson by having it take his dentures, this frightens Joey even more. At the end of the episode, Joey overcomes his fear when Dennis accidentally knocks out his tooth at the dentist's office, but when Dennis finds out that he has a dental check-up, he becomes afraid of going to the dentist.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: In "Bicycle Mania", Dennis competes against a bully in a bike race. The bully stops to raise a drawbridge despite this only affecting Dennis who is in dead last. Averted when the bully wins anyway.
  • Diet Episode: Mrs. Wilson decides to put Mr. Wilson on a diet in one episode when he starts getting too big for his clothes despite his objections. Mr. Wilson tries multiple occasions to cheat on it until Mrs. Wilson gives up and decides to go out and buy some bigger clothes. By the end of the episode, however, their doctor informs them that they both need to lose some weight, and so the diet is back on.
  • Dinosaur Doggie Bone: In "No Bones About it", Ruff sneaks into the museum to get a bone from a dinosaur skeleton, with the museum's guards trying unsuccessfully to get him out. At the end of the episode, Ruff stops a pair of jewel thieves and is rewarded with the skeleton.
  • Dog Walks You:
    • In "Little Dogs Lost", this first happens to Gina when she walks a dog named Garabaldi. This later happens to Dennis when he takes up a job walking dogs, and the dogs chase Margaret's cat.
    • In "Animalympics", there's an event centered around this in the dog show that Dennis and his friends enter their dogs in. Each dog must run around a tree while their owner holding the leash follows behind them on roller skates, with the first dog to make it to the finish line winning the trophy. Ruff and the other dogs chase Gilbert, a cat chasing a mouse named Rover off course and through Mr. Wilson's backyard, pulling their owners along with them.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The episode Trembly Assembly is notorious for this; not to mention the writing is oft criticised, and the plain Mind Screw situation.
  • Elevator Buttons Mash: In "The Big Candied Apple", Dennis does this when he rides the elevator of the Empire State Building with Henry, Alice, and Dr. Meeker, resulting in the elevator bouncing up and down. While Dennis enjoys the ride, Henry, Alice, and Dr. Meeker do not.
  • Emergency Cargo Dump: In "Black and Blue Hawaii", Dennis uses a helicopter to rescue Henry, General Armstrong, and Captain Murphy O'Hara, but due to the difficulty he has flying it, he ends up flying it over the Montecola volcano, which has erupted. When Dennis has difficulty flying out of the volcano's range due to the extra weight he picked up, he dumps a crate of dynamite into the volcano. This manages to stop the volcano's eruption.
  • Exact Words: Henry wants to watch a football game, but Dennis wants to play sports with him. Hilarity Ensues, and many of Dennis's balls keep flying into Mr. Wilson's yard. Finally, Mr. Wilson threatens Henry by saying that he would lock the next thing that came over the fence in his garage. Dennis's final mishap makes Henry himself fall into Mr. Wilson's yard. The cartoon ends with Dennis outside looking for Henry, while Henry sits contentedly inside Mr. Wilson's garage watching the football game.
  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear:
    • Perhaps a literal example in "Wheeling and Double-Dealing". PeeBee and Dennis' perpetual motion race car is stopped by Winston's lackeys, both of whom are disguised as bears. The two bullies are then chased away by a real bear, who is in a lovestruck state.
    • Later in the same episode, after losing the race, Winston and his two lackeys are chased away by a swarm of rats after the former insults the three that powered his perpetual motion race car.
  • False Teeth Tomfoolery: In "Nothing But the Tooth", Joey is afraid of going to the dentist to get a loose tooth pulled, so Dennis has PeeBee invent a tooth-extracting robot. When they test it out on a sleeping Mr. Wilson, the robot takes his dentures. Mr. Wilson doesn't realize this until he tries to eat an apple, and when he sees the robot with his dentures, he chases after it, only for the robot to hoist him by the seat of his pants with his own dentures.
  • Five-Token Band: Dennis, Joey, PeeBee, Jay and Gina. A semi-recurring character named Tommy was ironically the Sixth Ranger. Margaret sometimes fills the Sixth Ranger as well.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: In "It's a Ruff Life", PeeBee builds a Brain Wave machine. When he tests it on Joey, Ruff gets into the other booth, causing the two to switch bodies. At the end of the episode, after Joey and Ruff are back in their normal bodies, Mr. Wilson and a bulldog get into the machine's booths as another dog turns the machine on, causing them to switch bodies.
  • Free the Frogs: In "A Froggy Day", Dennis and Joey meet Chef Pierre, who is catching frogs. One of the frogs Pierre catches is Willy, Dennis' pet frog. When Pierre tells Dennis that he is going to take Willy to his place for dinner, Dennis thinks that Pierre is going to give Willy a nice meal to eat. Dennis later finds out from Margaret that Pierre owns a French restaurant where people eat frog legs. Upon hearing this, he and Joey sneak into the restaurant to save Willy and the other frogs.
  • Full Moon Silhouette: In "Navy Destroyer", Mr. Wilson flies past the moon on a trap for a thief.
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: Margaret often does this to "Dennis Mitchell!".note 
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: At the end of "The Life You Save", Margaret practices her scales, but her dreadful singing causes the window behind her to break. She blushes in embarrassment after this happens.
  • Grenade Hot Potato: At the end of "Black and Blue Hawaii", Dennis, Henry, General Armstrong, and Captain Murphy O'Hara reach dry land after their helicopter runs out of fuel. Dennis manages to recover a ticking bomb, which he tosses at General Armstrong. He, Henry, and O'Hara all realize it's a bomb and toss it at each other as it continues to tick. Fortunately for them, the bomb is a dud.
  • Grocery Store Episode: In "The Supermarket", Dennis, Joey, and Ruff go to the supermarket to buy some ginger for Alice. Mr. Haskel, the supermarket's manager, is worried that Dennis is going to cause trouble. Ruff makes a mess of the supermarket, and when he chases Mr. Haskel, Mr. Haskel kicks Dennis, Joey, and Ruff out before they even have a chance to buy ginger. Dennis and Joey later use a picnic blanket to disguise themselves as an old lady to get back into the supermarket. When Dennis finally buys the ginger, he becomes the one millionth customer and is rewarded with the opportunity to shop at the supermarket all month without charge, much to Mr. Haskel's horror.
  • Hamster-Wheel Power: In "Wheeling and Double-Dealing", Winston's perpetual motion race car is powered by three rats running on a wheel.
    PeeBee: It's just like you to be powered by rats!
    Winston: Hey, why have friends if you can't take advantage of them?
  • Headless Horseman: There was an episode where Dennis scared some people by pretending to be a headless horseman.
  • House Husband: Henry takes on this role in "Househusband Henry" while Alice goes out for a day. Dennis tries to help him out with the cooking, the laundry and housework, each time resulting in Henry calling for emergencies.
  • Human Ladder: In "Meatball Mess", Dennis, Gina, and Joey form one to reach the cabinet on a high shelf and get the ingredients to make a new lunch of spaghetti and meatballs after Ruff ate the one they were going to have. Dennis is on the bottom, Gina is in the middle, and Joey is on top. They fall over when Dennis gets tired from all the weight he's holding, but fortunately, Joey gets the two boxes of spaghetti that he, Dennis, and Gina need.
  • Ill-Timed Sneeze:
    • In "Dennis in Venice", Dennis and Gina track some art thieves to their hideout. Gina blows their cover with a sneeze.
    • Zig-Zagged in "Strike Up the Band". Henry and Mr. Wilson chase a purse snatcher who hides in a department store display. He sneezes twice, but Henry and Mr. Wilson assume the other sneezed instead. The purse snatcher gives himself away with a "Thank you!" instead.
    • In "A Fox Tale", Dennis wears Fenton the fox cub on his head to have him pose as a fox-skin cap and protect him from the hunters. When the hunters come across Dennis, Fenton sneezes, revealing that he's a live fox.
  • I Owe You My Life: In "The Life You Save", Margaret becomes extremely loyal to Dennis after he saves her from a runaway shopping cart. Dennis gets annoyed with her when she gets him kicked out of a baseball game, and fakes life-threatening stunts to get her to save him so they'll be even. One of these stunts involves having Ruff in a bear-skin rug chase him, which Margaret doesn't fall for. However, the disguised Ruff attracts a real bear in a love-struck state, which Margaret scares away with her dreadful singing.
  • Invisible Streaker: Joey unexpectedly becomes this in "The Invisible Kid".
  • Jail Bake: In "Gone to the Dogs", Dennis, Joey, and Ruff use a magical booth to travel to a dimension where dogs act like humans. While in this dimension, Ruff gains the abilities to stand upright and speak English. Unfortunately, the dogs in this dimension hate humans and have them imprisoned in pounds. When Dennis and Joey are imprisoned, Ruff disguises himself as an old lady and gives them a cake with a bone inside to saw their way out. Dennis asks Ruff why he couldn't have just brought a hacksaw instead, and Ruff tells him, "Never look a gift bone in the mouth!". Unfortunately, they all get caught by the guard and Ruff gets kicked out.
  • Kid Hero: When Dennis wasn't causing chaos for Mr. Wilson, he was often ruining the plans of everyone from human criminals to evil space aliens.
  • Learnt English from Watching Television: In "Journey to the Center of Uncle Charlie's Farm", Dennis and Joey search for their missing basketball in the bottom of the well of Uncle Charlie's farm, where they discover an underground subterranean civilization who speak in a native language. They befriend a young boy named Fred, who is able to understand their English language, having learned to speak it from sneaking into Uncle Charlie's house in the middle of the night and watching television (particularly the cartoons).
  • Lethal Chef: In "Meatball Mess", Dennis and Joey try to make spaghetti for Henry and Mr. Wilson. Joey grabs a bar of soap, mistaking it for cheese, and shaves it into the dish. Upon trying it, Henry and Mr. Wilson begin hiccupping bubbles.
  • Library Episode: In "Quiet Riot", Dennis ruins a library book that Mr. Wilson was reading when he accidentally flies Tommy's toy airplane into Mr. Wilson's bathtub. An outraged Mr. Wilson makes Dennis come to the library with him to explain to the librarian how the book got damaged. While at the library, Dennis and Tommy cause havoc, which the librarian accuses Mr. Wilson of doing.
  • Marilyn Maneuver: In the "Wet n' Wild" segment, a blonde lady keeps her skirt in place as a draft from Dennis and Joey, riding on skateboards while carrying a raft, attempts to lift it.
  • Market-Based Title:
    • Just "Dennis" in the UK to avoid confusion with the British Dennis the Menace.
    • All-New Dennis the Menace was called Incredible Dennis the Menace in some countries.
  • Mistaken for Pregnant: In the episode, "Hospitality", Dennis is sent to the hospital for a tonsillectomy. When his friends visit him, Joey asks him what he's going to name his baby. When a confused Dennis asks Joey what he's talking about, Joey explains to Dennis that whenever his Aunt Julie goes to the hospital, she always comes home with a new baby. Margaret has to explain to Joey that she'll be the one having the baby when she and Dennis are married.
  • Mistaken for Transformed: "Dennis Rocks Out" begins with Dennis and Tommy performing a magic show that has a trick where Tommy turns Dennis into a rock, or so it would appear. However, the magic show ends prematurely when Tommy's mother calls Tommy back to his house for lunch, and Dennis leaves as well, not wanting to miss his own lunch. Joey spends the rest of the episode believing that Dennis really has turned into a rock, and trying to turn him back into a human.
  • Movie-Theater Episode:
    • In "Dennis at the Movies!", Dennis, Joey, and Ruff go to the movie theater to see the Cowboy Bob movie. While in the theater, Dennis encounters a bully who tries to take Joey's popcorn, and when the bully catches him and Joey, Dennis calls Cowboy Bob for help. Surprisingly, this works, as Cowboy Bob leaves the film screen and tells the bully to leave the theater.
    • In "3D and Me", Dennis, Joey, and Tommy go to the movie theater to see Submarine of the Future, a movie they've seen 15 times before. On their way to see the beginning of the film, they cut in line in front of a man several times. During the movie, Dennis falls asleep and has a dream where he becomes the captain of the naval submarine, which a spy tries to destroy with explosives. Dennis recognizes the spy as the man he cut in front of in line, and is awarded a medal for saving the sub. When Dennis awakens from his dream, he discovers that his feet are wet, which he assumes is from having spilled his soda, but then he discovers that he still has his medal with him. The man Dennis cut in front of in line then discovers that his feet are wet as well.
    • In "Box Office Smash", Dennis and Joey have a tough time when they plan to go to the movie theater to see Jojo the Wonder Dog. First, Dennis has to bring Ruff home since dogs aren't allowed in the theater. Then, an angry usher puts the boys in the back of the line being that he won't allow Joey to save Dennis' spot. The boys manage to reduce the line to get in with a little scheme, then help kids get treats from a candy machine. The usher chases the boys to the point where they get into the projection room and tamper with the machine. The usher eventually throws the boys out, but Dennis was able to get the reel of the film they wanted to see and pulls it out frame by frame to show Joey how the story unfolds, to the boys' delight.
  • Nobody Here but Us Statues:
    • In "Strike Up the Band", a purse snatcher on the run from Henry and Mr. Wilson takes the place of a department store mannequin.
    • In "Dennis in Venice", while hiding out in the warehouse of a pair of art thieves, Dennis and Gina pose as statues to avoid being noticed by them.
    • Used twice in "No Bones About It"; First, in order to get into the museum, Ruff poses as a Siberian Prairie Wolf statue so the museum's workers will bring him in. His cover is blown when Mrs. Tompkins, an elderly lady touches him, having mistaken him for a Norwegian Elk Hound. Later in the episode, Dennis and Joey pose as Eskimos and Ruff poses as a sled dog to avoid being detected by the museum guards. Their cover is blown when a worker brings in a statue of a cat, which Ruff chases.
  • Ocular Gushers: In "Big Baby", Sylvester grows to an enormous size after accidentally drinking PeeBee's super growth formula. When Dennis scolds Sylvester for playing with a real car like a toy, Sylvester cries, and Dennis gets an umbrella to avoid being rained on by Sylvester's tears.
  • Or Was It a Dream?:
    • In "The Wizzer of Odd", after Alice reads Dennis the story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dennis has a dream that parodies the story, with his friends in the roles of the story's characters. When Dennis first arrives in the land of Odd, he meets the Munchies (the equivalent of the Munchkins). The episode ends with Dennis awakening from his dream and telling his parents about it, and after they leave, the Munchies can be seen eating cookies in Dennis' toy box.
    • In "3D and Me", Dennis, Joey, and Tommy go to the movie theater to see Submarine of the Future, a movie they've seen 15 times before. Dennis falls asleep and has a dream where he becomes the captain of the naval submarine, which a spy tries to destroy with explosives. Dennis recognizes the spy as the man he cut in front of in line several times, and is awarded a medal for saving the sub. When Dennis awakens from his dream, he discovers that his feet are wet, which he assumes is from having spilled his soda, but then he discovers that he still has his medal with him. The man Dennis cut in front of in line then discovers that his feet are wet as well.
  • Oven Logic: In "The Great Pie Swap", after Dennis, Gina, and Joey accidentally wreck a pie that Mrs. Wilson set out for Mr. Wilson, Dennis decides to cook a frozen pie to take its place. Gina reads the instructions on the box to Dennis, which say to cook the pie at 250 degrees for half an hour. Dennis decides to cook the pie at 500 degrees so it will only take fifteen minutes. When the fifteen minutes are up, Dennis finds the pie burnt to a crisp. He then says "No wonder my mom told me to stay away from the stove!"
  • Own Goal: In "The Longest Half-Yard", Dennis and his friends play a football game against a rival team. When Joey has the ball, one of the players from the other team turns him around as he runs towards their goal, resulting in him ending up scoring a touchdown for them.
  • Painted Tunnel, Real Train: In "Chitty Chitty Moon Walk", a pair of spies after Henry's solar-powered moon walker place a landscape over their van as part of their plan to steal the walker from Dennis and Joey. Dennis and Joey are chased by a pair of bikers who also want to steal the walker, and when the walker powers down due to a cloud hiding the sun, the bikers drive past it and end up getting caught by the spies instead.
  • Parasol of Pain: In "Wheeling and Double Dealing", Winston kidnaps an old lady and disguises himself in her clothes to trick Dennis and PeeBee into helping him so he can steal their perpetual motion race car. Once Dennis finds the real old lady and rescues her, she wastes no time getting back at Winston for what he did to her.
    Old Lady: (smacking Winston with her umbrella) I'll teach you to mistreat a helpless old lady!
    Winston: I already know how!
  • Pet Contest Episode: In "Animalympics", Dennis and his friends enter their dogs in a dog show. One by one, all the dogs win the show's events, except for Ruff. At the end of the episode, Ruff wins the costume contest when he ends up wearing one of Mrs. Wilson's dresses as a result of chasing a cat through Mr. Wilson's backyard.
  • Porky Pig Pronunciation: In "3D and Me", Dennis is onboard a naval submarine that's under attack by a giant squid. When he comes across a button in the control panel, he gives us this line:
    Dennis: Hey! I remember this! It's the electromag... the electro... it's the shock button!
  • Prince and Pauper: In "Double Dennis", Dennis meets his cousin Prentis, who looks exactly like him, save for the fancy clothes he wears. When Dennis shows Prentis the fun things he can do, he decides to swap clothes with Prentis so they can live each other's lives. Unlike Dennis, Prentis returns Margaret's affections, while Dennis treats the house that Aunt Judy and Uncle Bob consider buying like an amusement park.
  • Railroad Tracks of Doom: In "Wheeling and Double Dealing", Winston's lackeys sabotage Dennis and PeeBee's road map by drawing a line on it, leading the two to drive onto a set of railroad tracks. A train approaches them, but fortunately, they get out of the way before it can hit them.
  • Read the Map Upside Down: In "Wheeling and Double-Dealing", Winston's lackeys sabotage Dennis and PeeBee's road map by drawing a line on it to lead Dennis and PeeBee in the wrong direction. When the two drive their perpetual motion race car into a lake, the line washes off, and the two realize they've been tricked.
  • Revival: 1993's All-New Dennis the Menace. Ran for 13 episodes.
  • Rouge Angles of Satin: "Meatball Mess" has Joey mistaking a bar of "Saop" for cheese.
  • Rushmore Refacement: In "All the President's Menace," Dennis travels around Mt. Rushmore on his own, out of sight from his parents and park personnel, and befriends a dynamite expert living deep inside the landmark who claims to have helped carve it. As a way of saying thanks, he blows up one part of the mountain near the sculpture to reveal Dennis' face on it.
  • Scooby-Dooby Doors:
    • "Chitty Chitty Moon Walk" does this in a hayfield with Dennis and Joey in Henry's solar-powered moon walker, a pair of spies in a forklift disguised as a haystack, and a police officer chasing them. It ends with the police officer crashing into the spies and arresting them.
    • "Cruise Control" does this in Liana's castle when Dennis, Joey and Margaret run from Kraigor Baskethead's guards.
  • Second Place Is for Winners: Mr. Wilson enters a contest for a vacation. He wins first prize, but the vacation package is second prize. First prize is... a pet goose or duck.
  • Security Cling: In "Ghostblusters", after Margaret hears a spooky noise, she jumps into Dennis' arms, clinging to him in fear, only for Dennis to shrug, thus dropping her in the process.
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • In "Crummy Mummy", after Margaret explains to Dennis that King Putt Putt is a 5000-year-old mummy, Dennis asks how a "he" can be a "mommy" as if he didn't know what a mummy is, yet in "So Long, Old Paint", when Dennis comes to the Wilson place and wraps Mr. Wilson, he says he looks like a mummy, and in "Mummy's Little Boy", Gina warned him and Margaret there was a mummy on the loose, little knowing it was Joey wrapped in bandages.
    • In "Cruise Control", Ruff licked Liana's sundae, and both Dennis and Liana laughed, yet at the beginning of "The Life You Save", when Ruff licked Dennis' ice cream, Dennis pulled it away, being unable to finish it off because it was covered in dog germs.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In one episode, Dennis hums the theme to Inspector Gadget. In several other episodes, George hums it. In "The Big Candied Apple", the captain of the ferry hums it. Martha hummed it in "Up Up and Away (From Here)" and "A Moving Experience". Margaret hums it in "Charmed I'm Sure!".
    • In "Dennis the Genius", the green ghost bears a strong resemblance to Slimer from Ghostbusters. In addition, the episode "Ghostblusters" is a pun on said franchise.
    • In "Big Baby", when Dennis agrees to babysit Sylvester, the theme to The Littles plays in the background. In "Dennis the Businessman", the same music plays after Mr. Wilson turns the TV on. The same tune plays in "G.I. George" when Dennis and Mr. Wilson go to a soldier union. The same music plays on the radio in "The Martians are Coming".
    • In the 1993 episode, "Caution! Boy at Work", the "Screech", "Jump", and "Ring" sound effects from Sonic the Hedgehog can be heard when Dennis plays an arcade game at Hasty Mart. At the time, DiC had produced two different animated series based on the Sonic games.
    • In "Cruise Control", Mr. Wilson tells Finkelstein to "Eat my shorts!".
  • Sliding Scale of Realistic vs. Fantastic: In contrast to the comic strip, comic books and live-action series. This series leaned to the Unusual on the scale, involving Dennis and friends meeting space aliens, travelling through time, encountering magic and visiting exotic locations. These fantastic plots though were limited to the context of that particular story and usually didn't carry over into other episodes or into the Dennis universe in general.
  • Smooch of Victory:
    • Averted in "A Good Knight's Work". In Dennis' dream, Princess Margaret tries everything to give this to Sir Dennis, but Sir Dennis avoids it every time.
    • At the end of the Dic Movie Toon "Cruise Control", Liana, for defeating Kraigor and showing her how to have fun, gives this to Dennis, to which Dennis reacts in disgust. She does this to him again on a news report
  • Soap Punishment: Discussed in "The Abominable Snow Menace":
    Martha: Isn't it just too lucky for words?
    George: Well, I can think of a few words.
    Dennis: What are they, Mr. Wilson?
    George: If I told you, you'd have to have your ears washed out with soap.
  • So Bad, It's Good: The 1986 series has an in-universe example. In "The Price of Stardom", Dennis becomes the prop man for a Heidi-esque play starring Margaret and Mr. Wilson. During the performance, Dennis turns on a giant fan, has Mr. Wilson dress in an Old-Timey Bathing Suit for a costume change, drops a bag of fake snow on Margaret and opens a trap door that Mr. Wilson happens to be standing on at the time. The audience laughs throughout the entire performance and cheers when the play ends.
  • Spanner in the Works: Dennis was often this for almost anything Mr. Wilson tried to do. He also wrecked the schemes of villains ranging from human criminals to evil space aliens. Other kids like Margaret and Joey sometimes joined in on it.
  • Stealth Pun: The original characters PeeBee and Jay. Think about that for a second.
  • Suspender Snag: In "So Sorry!", Mr. and Mrs. Wilson take Dennis to a Japanese village. When they arrive, Dennis is excited to be the first one off the bus, and runs off as Mr. Wilson tries to keep up with him. As Dennis gets off the bus, the suspenders of his overalls get caught in the door latch, and when Mr. Wilson tries to catch up to him, Dennis' suspenders close the door, causing Mr. Wilson to slam into it.
  • Taped-Over Turmoil: In the The Incredible Dennis The Menace episode, "Dennis the Genius", Mr. Wilson is relieved when Dennis starts going back to school, and to celebrate, he plans to watch a videotape about bass fishing. To his horror, when he puts it in the VCR, he finds out that Dennis taped over it with a home video of himself.
  • Terrible Trio: Winston and his two lackeys form one in "Wheeling and Double-Dealing".
  • Three Shorts: Wikipedia notes that 78 half-hour episodes were produced, with a total of 234 segments.
  • The Tonsillitis Episode: One episode had Dennis in the hospital for a "tonsil-neck-tummy".
  • Totem Pole Trench:
    • In "The Supermarket", Dennis, Joey, and Ruff go to the supermarket to buy ginger for Alice. When Ruff makes a mess of the supermarket, Mr. Haskel, the manager, kicks Dennis, Joey, and Ruff out before they have a chance to buy ginger. To sneak back into the supermarket, Dennis and Joey use a picnic blanket to disguise themselves as an old lady, with Joey on top and Dennis on the bottom.
    • In "No Bones About it", Dennis and Joey hide in a suit of knight's armor to avoid being detected by the museum's guards, with Dennis on top and Joey on the bottom. They later use the suit of armor to stop a pair of jewel thieves.
    • In "A Froggy Day", Dennis and Joey do it to sneak into a restaurant, with Dennis on top and Joey on the bottom. A couple times, the manager hears Joey talking from inside the coat, and Dennis always covers it up by saying his stomach can talk.
    • In "Mummy's Little Boy", Dennis and Margaret wear a doctor's uniform, with Margaret on top and Dennis on the bottom. Dennis doesn't blow their cover until they go into the surgery room where Joey was taken to.
    • In "Ruff Come Home", to get Ruff back, Dennis and Jay dress up as a tall gypsy to scare a pair of gypsies. Dennis on top, and Jay on the bottom.
    • In "Gorilla Warfare", Dennis and Joey disguise themselves as a gorilla, with Joey on top and Dennis on the bottom.
    • In the Dic Movie Toon, "Cruise Control", Dennis, Liana and Ruff dress as Kraigor, with Ruff on top, Dennis in the middle, and Liana on the bottom, to get Liana out of her cabin without Kraigor's guards noticing, and not blowing their cover until they were out of the guards' sight.
  • Trail of Bread Crumbs: In "Big Baby", after Sylvester drinks PeeBee's super growth formula, he grows to an enormous size. As PeeBee works on the antidote, Sylvester crawls off to a water treatment plant. To lead Sylvester back to his house, Dennis uses what's left of the super growth formula on some jelly beans and leaves a trail of them for Sylvester to follow.
  • Trauma Button Ending: In "The Time Bomb", Dennis and Joey have a rather harrowing adventure with a clock mistaken for a time bomb. At the end of the episode, hearing the sentence "don't you boys ever look at a clock?" distresses them so much that they flee, much to the speaker's confusion.
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: In "Double Dennis", Dennis' cousin Prentis looks exactly like him, save for the fancy clothes he wears. Dennis' Aunt Judy and Uncle Bob also respectively resemble Alice and Henry, albeit to a lesser extent.
  • Unfortunate Item Swap: In "Big Baby", Alice has Dennis look after Sylvester, the infant son of Mrs. Atkins. Around this time, PeeBee comes to Dennis' house to show Dennis his new super growth formula, which he keeps in a baby bottle since just one drop makes things bigger. Sylvester gets ahold of PeeBee's bottle and drinks the formula, growing to an enormous size as a result.
  • Universal Remote Control: In "Life in the Fast Lane", PeeBee invents a Time Tuner, which has the ability to alter real time. It can fast-forward it, rewind it, slow it down, and pause it. Dennis and PeeBee use the fast-forward function to help Henry read his 50-page report in time for work, help Alice wash the dishes in time for her soap opera, make Margaret's ballet recital more exciting, and help Mr. Wilson put up wallpaper in his den. When Mr. Wilson refuses to reward the boys with cookies for helping them, they use the rewind function on him as payback, getting him in trouble with his wife. Later, they use the slow-motion and pause functions to help the police catch and arrest a pair of bank robbers. At the end of the episode, Mr. Wilson asks Dennis and PeeBee to use the fast-forward function on him one last time so he can put the wallpaper up again. PeeBee does so, but the Time Tuner breaks, leaving Mr. Wilson stuck in fast-forward.
  • Vampire Episode: In "Vampire Scare", on their way home from seeing a horror movie, Dennis, Joey, Gina and Margaret walk by an old house they think is haunted by a vampire. When they explore inside, they find bats, spider webs, and even a coffin. By the end of the episode, they meet a man in a cape, who reveals himself to be a magician.
  • A Way Out of a Cave-In: In "Company Picnic", Dennis and Henry compete in Henry's company's father/son picnic against a troublemaking father/son duo. When Dennis and Henry catch up to the duo, they trap Dennis in a mine to keep him from competing in the final event, the tug-of-war. Dennis soon finds a mine cart and rides in it, crashing through a barrier and making it back in time for the tug-of-war.
  • Weapons That Suck: In "Strike up the Band", Henry and Mr. Wilson pursue a Purse Snatcher at a department store. They use a vacuum cleaner to catch the Purse Snatcher, and while they succeed in doing so, the vacuum works too well; after it sucks up the Purse Snatcher, it also sucks them up, along with many items on the shelves. Eventually, the vacuum cleaner becomes overstuffed and explodes, allowing the Purse Snatcher to escape.
  • Wedding Episode: In "Menaced Marriage", Dennis and his parents attend the wedding of Mr. Wilson's niece. Margaret is the flower girl, and Dennis' pets, Ruff and Willy, cause havoc at the wedding due to the former having followed Dennis and his parents, and the latter having been smuggled in by Dennis.