15 Cartoon Episodes So Controversial They Were Banned

Not every banned cartoon episode on this list is even too controversial. Sure, some are. At their best, cartoons - like Professor Frink on The Simpsons - make us laugh and make us think. At their worst, they can inspire angry people to a frenzy. That's rare, though. Some of these censored episodes offended the very religious, some are hideously stereotypical, while others have transgressions that are minor by today's standards. Many of these are from controversial shows, the kind you'd expect to be on here for their deliberately provocative nature, but certainly not all.

We'll keep the list to one episode per show, or else this could have been entirely filled with incendiary South Park episodes and installments of Beavis and Butt-Head and Family Guy that kicked up dust and were pulled from the air. Those titans of toon trash-talk get their due, but they're far from the only shows to get episodes yanked, rejiggered, and in some cases never restored.

Photo: Comedy Central

  • Way Down Mexico Way (Part 2)

    Numerous Beavis and Butt-Head episodes have been memory-holed. Suffice to say, before evolving into hapless morons who mostly fall victim to their own foolish, the duo began as more malevolent juvenile delinquents who engaged in all types of ridiculous antics. The two-part "Way Down Mexico Way," however, wound up being perhaps the most extreme, and not just for Butt-Head throwing slurs at Mexican people or the two stopping a kid to take his fireworks.

    Beavis and Butt-Head agree to engage in illegal activity that involves swallowing condoms with substances hidden in them. Failing a basic citizenship test because they were altered, they're granted access back to the United States. Like all the episodes mentioning fire, it was purged from MTV when the show was accused of inspiring real-life kids to burn their houses down.

  • While the primary purpose of this South Park episode is to spoof street magician David Blaine, its band remains infamous, no matter how innocuous it was at the time. The joke was that Blaine had become such a cult figure he had developed a religion around his tricks, and in order to counter his power, the South Park kids called on an alliance of deities that parodied the Super Friends, among them Jesus, Buddha, Joseph Smith, and an Aquaman-like member named Sea Man.

    However, Sept. 11, 2001 happened just two months later. A few years after that, with the publication of Danish cartoons in 2005, the world became aware that some fundamentalists consider depictions of Muhammad punishable by termination. So while the animated version of the prophet of Islam in this episode is a heroic figure with the power of fire, the episode no longer airs in reruns and has been yanked from the online archive for fear of retribution, and is one of the three episodes not available on Hulu.

  • The Littlest Tramp/Puffy Goes Berserk

    The Littlest Tramp/Puffy Goes Berserk
    Video: YouTube

    When Ralph Bakshi, typically known for button-pushing animation aimed at adults, became co-producer of The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse, it was only a matter of time before somebody took offense. The somebody in question was perennial '80s censorship advocate Rev. Donald Wildmon, who seized on an account by a Kentucky family of seeing Mighty Mouse inhale a flower as if it were some kind of mind-altering substance. 

    Though he compared Wildmon's complaints (and subsequent petition to have him removed) to McCarthyism, Bakshi agreed to snip the scene from future airings, explaining: "Mighty Mouse was happy after smelling the flowers because it helped him remember the little girl who sold it to him fondly. But even if you're right, their accusations become part of the air we breathe. That's why I cut the scene. I can't have children wondering if Mighty Mouse is using..."

    The scene was ultimately restored for DVD.


  • One Beer

    One Beer
    Video: YouTube

    They're Tiny, they're Toony, they're all a little loony, but in one infamous segment, Buster Bunny, Hamton, and Plucky Duck got seriously intoxicated. To impress upon viewers the evils of alcohol, and perhaps also make fun of the exaggerated anti-drug PSAs of the day, the Toons drink a beer. Following a psychedelic trip, they reappear instantly unshaven and dressed like vagrants. First, they just repel others with their slurred speech and bad breath, but then they decide to engage in other antics that get worse throughout the episode. 

    On the plus side, they do become angels and go to Heaven. And then they take off their angel costumes to reveal that the whole thing was an in-universe public service announcement the characters were filming. Still, according to the legend, Fox was not amused and ensured the episode would never air on the network after its first time around.

  • The Censored Eleven

    Deep in the massive archive of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts are a handful that have been deemed so racially insensitive that no amount of editing for TV or modern audiences can redeem them. Eleven were withheld from syndication in 1968, and that ban has generally been upheld. Still, most are available in one form or another, and eight were screened in 2010 for their historical value.

    While many are indeed inexcusable by any moral standard, ironically there are a couple in the group that, like the stories of Uncle Remus, were considered progressive at the time for capturing authentic Black voices that weren't otherwise being heard. Specifically, the Snow White parody "Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs," created as a response to criticisms that there were no Black cartoon characters, featured an all-Black cast and caricatures of jazz and blues musicians of the day.

  • When Futurama initially debuted the character of Robot Santa, a terrifying Kris Kringle whose naughty/nice meter was so off the charts it drove him to try to take out everyone, Fox standards and practices people did not intervene. The following year, when the character returned, the network decided his new episode was "inappropriate" for broadcast at 7 pm.

    So this one was not banned from any particular format, but from a time slot. Maybe the fact that Bender joins Santa on his rampage this time was deemed problematic; at any rate, Fox finally allowed the episode to air a year later at a later time.