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The Cheapest Stuff Our Favorite Childhood TV Shows Got Away With

Updated October 17, 2020 1.9k votes 332 voters 21.8k views13 items

List RulesVote up the most blatant corner-cutting moves from shows we loved anyway.

As much as we still love our favorite childhood TV shows, that doesn't mean they're perfect. It's not that the shows are bad or that we've gotten more cynical with age. It's just that when you look back on your favorite shows from when you were a kid, it's really easy to see where they cut corners - sometimes so brazenly or hilariously, you really almost have to respect it.

Whether you watched The Simpsons on Sundays, Scooby-Doo before school, or if you were VeggieTales kid, they all used recycled animation, and some were more brazen than others. It's not just the animated shows that were a little lazy. Shows like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers reused footage all the time, and at least one beloved Nickelodeon show made its cast buy their own wardrobe.

None of this means that we were wrong to love these shows. In many ways, the fact that the shows could be so overtly cheap and remain lovable is a testament to just how much they still hold up.

  • 'The Simpsons' Just Threw Existing Characters Into The Background, Sometimes Even When They Were In The Foreground
    Photo: Fox

    The Simpsons always relied on limited animation in its earlier seasons, but in some instances, the animators go all out and just drop characters into the background of a scene when they are already in the foreground of the same scene.

    In the episode "Bart Gets Hit by a Car," the unnamed Blue-Haired Lawyer is grilling Marge on the witness stand, and if you look in the background, you'll notice some recognizable characters. Mr. Burns is watching the case, and next to him sits the same Blue-Haired Lawyer, as well as a PURPLE version of Mr. Burns.

    It's clear that these characters were the most readily available to be dropped into the scene and the animators didn't think that anyone would notice back in a pre-internet world. Even if you did notice, it's not like it made you hate The Simpsons

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  • When the English dubs of Pokémon began airing in 1997, they knocked the audience's socks off and started a wave of fandom that's still going in spite of the fact that they were produced quickly and cheaply. There are plenty of the hallmarks of a cheaply produced show in Pokémon, but there's one choice in particular that's just super weird.

    Whenever the characters are eating, they overly Americanize the names of their food. This was done as a way to make the show more palatable for Western audiences, but rather than animate new footage that matches the name of the food the characters are discussing, the old shots were left in the series.

    This kind of chicanery is most notable in the episode "Primeape Goes Bananas" when Brock extols his love for "jelly-filled donuts" while clearly holding rice balls.

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  • When it comes to cheap animated programming in the '90s, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is unmatched in the number of corners cut. It's honestly wild how well this show holds up even with all of the glaring animation issues.

    Not only was the series animated by multiple studios per season (that's never a good mark of quality), but the four main characters also all look like one another, so they're easy to mix up. The most noticeable goof can be seen in the Season 2 episode "The Catwoman From Channel Six," when Leonardo slices off a collar that April is wearing.

    In the scene, Leo charges with his sword drawn, then turns into Michelangelo while running, and the scene ends with Donatello slicing off the collar while still holding Leonardo's katana.

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  • If you go back and watch the original episodes of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! from 1969 and 1970, there are clearly a number of cost-cutting measures in place, but none of them are as glaring as the laugh track that plays after every joke.

    Rather than use the Douglas Laff-Box, a technique pioneered by Charles Douglas that created a myriad of different laughs at a variety of speeds, Hanna-Barbara made its own canned laugh and ran it into the ground. The brazen use of the same laugh track over and over again is honestly kind of impressive. 

    Hanna-Barbera didn't care and it didn't think the audience would care, either. In the end, the reuse of the laugh track only adds to the campy fun to be had with Scooby and the gang.

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