The Cheapest Stuff Our Favorite Childhood TV Shows Got Away With
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.
- 1431 VOTESPhoto: 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.
- Photo: Group W Productions
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.
- 3291 VOTESPhoto: 4Kids Entertainment
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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'Power Rangers' Filmed All The Zordon Footage Once And Just Dubbed Over It For Each EpisodePhoto: Saban International
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.
- Photo: Saban International
Power Rangers may have been required viewing for kids returning from a long day at elementary school in the early '90s, but it wasn't lovingly crafted by any means. Made up of reused footage of a Japanese series called Super Sentai, all of the fight scenes and Megazord sequences are just dubbed over with new dialogue.
The reuse of footage is cheap and efficient, and no one noticed. Well, not until a giant Japanese boy showed up in "For Whom the Bell Trolls." In this episode, some of the reused Megazord footage features a boy who's about half the size of the Megazord. He's only there for one shot and it's super weird.
Rather than film new footage - or just take the time to find footage without the giant boy - the shot was dropped into the nationally syndicated US version of the show and the boy was never referenced again.
- 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.