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The Cheapest Stuff Our Favorite Childhood TV Shows Got Away With

Updated January 13, 2021 3.7k votes 620 voters 38.3k 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.

  • 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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  • 6

    'Power Rangers' Filmed All The Zordon Footage Once And Just Dubbed Over It For Each Episode

    Mighty Morphin Power Rangers may be one of the most important shows of the '90s. Not only is this long-running series still a thing, but it was also the catalyst for every 10-year-old taking Taekwondo in the mid-'90s. It was also made for about a dime.

    The series was created to be inexpensive, and most of the action is just repackaged footage from the Japanese series Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger. However, one of the things that the producers did have to film is Zordon, the big holographic head who helped the Rangers throughout each episode.

    Rather than film different sequences with Zordon, the producers just used the same footage of the actor and dubbed over new dialogue. Watch closely and you'll see that his mouth and the dialogue rarely match. But they're saving the world - we can let that slide.

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  • Running for 130 episodes across TWO seasons (not a typo), He-Man and the Masters of the Universe had to cut corners somewhere. Animation is an expensive medium and in order to fill time in any given episode, the producers behind the series would just throw in a transformation sequence.

    The studio behind He-Man, Filmation, was notorious for putting out shows on the cheap, but it feels a little cynical to use two or three 30-second transformation sequences in nearly every single episode of a 23-minute show.

    That being said, the show wasn't made for adults with their eyes on the new-to-old-animation ratio (animatio?); they were making a TV show for kids and reused footage - and like it or not, it shaped our childhoods. Plus, what child doesn't love seeing something they love and recognize repeated over and over again?

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  • Photo: ABC

    Even though it was produced in 1967, the original Spider-Man cartoon played in syndication for decades in spite of its low quality. The show is still a ton of fun to watch, but if you throw it on now, you'll get major deja vu after watching a few episodes back to back.

    There aren't a lot of unique animation cells on the show, and they clearly only made a few backgrounds (a pier, a brick wall, "New York") which were used over and over again. The fact that Spider-Man is wearing a mask for most of the show means that his dialogue didn't have to be matched to his mouth, and that his animation could be reused as much as needed with new dialogue looped over it.

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