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6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes


Children's cartoons usually present idyllic worlds full of innocence and wonder. Even when there's some darkness, strife or conflict within them, the universes themselves are quirky, adventurous and just generally a hell of a lot more fun than this shitball we all spin around on. Except that's not always the whole story: If you dig a little deeper, you'll find that some kids' shows are actually taking place in dystopian hell dimensions that make our world look like Candyland.

Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?: Life in a Shattered Economy


Scooby-Doo cartoons, in their many incarnations, are about four teenage friends and their dog who all travel around solving mysteries. The gang always ends up in some kind of spooky location where a seemingly supernatural monster is terrorizing the local population, but eventually, our heroes solve the mystery and reveal the monster to be a disguised criminal. So even when it seems terrifying, it all works out for the best.


It's not like the real world's justice system makes much more sense.

So, What's the Problem?

The criminals are all super-geniuses, and not one of them can make an honest living.

Almost every locale in the Scooby-Doo universe looks like the economy has just taken a nosedive. Even their nice "vacation" spots look like bad neighborhoods in Detroit.

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

"Gee, Scoob, it sure is spooOOOooky how many out of work mechanics this scene implies."

In the 25 episodes of the original Scooby Doo, Where Are You? cartoon, our gang comes across four deserted mansions, two abandoned castles and an empty ski resort, amusement park, ghost town, mine, Hawaiian village, airfield and mill. And of the 27 villains the gang encounters, 23 are motivated by monetary gain via theft, smuggling or land speculation. The Mystery Machine crew isn't running into domestic disputes or drug-related crimes. They are dealing exclusively with people who need money so badly that they voluntarily squat in the basements of abandoned houses for the off-chance of landing a paycheck. And if the villains don't need money, they need work. The remaining four motives? Winning a dog show, getting an acting gig, revenge for getting fired and a hatred of robots. Those who don't need money or work are acting out of a hatred for robots, the quintessential job stealer.

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

"Beep bop boop. No, I'm not union, why do you ask? Bop boop beep."

And Scooby-Doo villains are not run-of-the-mill criminals: They all have the uncanny ability to manufacture realistic monster costumes, project full-scale holograms and carve out high-tech hideouts in abandoned mineshafts. Many of them already had impressive vocational skills prior to their criminal lives -- three of the villains were PhDs, two were lawyers, one had the ability to produce near-identical forged paintings, one could repair boats, one was a magician, one was a stuntman and one could hypnotize people.

See that? That's the educational system, art world, maritime engineering and entertainment industries -- all in the toilet. Each of these villains showed creativity, intelligence, diligence and ambition. In our world, they would easily be employed, maybe even famous. But, in the universe of Scooby-Doo, it simply wasn't enough. The Scooby gang ran into a new, desperate genius every single week for decades. Either brilliance is simply run-of-the-mill in their universe, or else the entire economy has collapsed, and what we're witnessing is the death throes of society itself. Although there are signs that the sandwich ingredient and dog marijuana industries are booming, so it's probably the former.


With all the ghost pirates and ghost ships around, shipping must be in a bit of a slump.

The Jetsons: They Burned the Sky

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

The Jetsons takes place in the futuristic utopia of Orbit City where George, the man of the house, is employed full time at Spacely's Sprockets for a total of nine hours a week. Robots and computers handle nearly all of the grunt work, leaving the bourgeois citizenry plenty of leisure time to shop for such frivolities as multi-dresses and ice cream for their space dogs.

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There's apparently no space-fuel crunch.

The Jetsons live high above the clouds in their Skypad apartment. In fact, all of the important places in their lives are above the clouds, including George's workplace, the schools and the shopping centers. Wait, why is "in the sky" the safest, most cost-effective place for an elementary school?

So, What's the Problem?

The natural environment is gone.


Also, we have some troubling questions about the state of human/robot relations.

The surface of the Earth is never shown, and the Jetson family never visits it. They often venture off-world like it ain't no thing, but never down to their own planet. We only have a few stray clues that point to the state of the Earth's surface: In Jetsons: The Movie, Rosie pushes a button to have the Jetsons' apartment rise above the planetary smog.

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

We too adhere to the "standing up real high" school of environmentalism.

And in The Jetsons Meet the Flintstones movie, when George visits the past, he makes an offhand comment that grass is something he "remembers from ancient history."

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

When something as ubiquitous and hardy as grass -- something that grows in freezing tundra and burning desert alike -- is "ancient history," the only logical conclusion is that nothing grows on the surface of the planet. It is so polluted, irradiated or burned that no life exists there. The fact that George Jetson hints at the fate of the Earth in a Flintstones crossover actually has even more worrying implications:

In the Flintstones universe, primitive man enjoys roughly the same quality of life as modern man, but only by virtue of animal exploitation. A camera, for example, is just a box with a bird that pecks the image into a stone tablet, a vacuum cleaner is a woolly mammoth trunk, and so on. The main problem is that these aren't just animals. They're intelligent: They think, speak and joke. They turn to the camera and say things like "It's a living" or some other glib line before dejectedly resuming their "jobs." Jobs that entail extreme suffering and humiliation: The steam whistle at Fred's job, for instance, is a bird. It's activated by yanking its tail until it screams in pain.


Fred's alarm clock is also a bird: The snooze function is activated by punching its tiny skull in. Just for doing its fucking job and sounding the alarm that Fred himself set.


If the Flintstones and Jetsons exist in the same universe, just in different eras, and there are no dinosaurs in the Jetsons cartoon, then somehow the dinosaurs from The Flintstones, like ours, have gone extinct. But our dinosaurs were just dumb beasts, and they went extinct long before humans had evolved. In the Flintstones universe, humans and dinosaurs still coexist. They're actually dependent on one another. One is not going extinct without affecting the other. So in the span of time between The Flintstones and The Jetsons, some cataclysmic event occurs that kills off just the creatures, but not the humans. And the Jetsons universe, with its scorched, unusable Earth, hints at what that event might have been: The dinosaurs, like every other creature on Earth not brought into the sky to dance and amuse future man, were either killed off through massive environmental negligence once we finally learned how to replace them with technology, or else, like in The Matrix, we simply burned the sky in a desperate, last-ditch attempt to stop the great dino uprising.

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

Their corpses were fuel, and we needed our sport utility oblongs.

Darkwing Duck: A World Without Free Will

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

Darkwing Duck follows the superhero adventures of Drake Mallard as he protects his city from evil, but not public indecency (seriously, nobody here wears pants; just corkscrew-shaped duckdongs flopping everywhere unimpeded). One of Darkwing's many arch nemeses, Negaduck, is an evil version of himself from an alternate mirror universe called the Negaverse.

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

Mustard is the color of evil.

So, What's the Problem?

The Negaverse, by its very existence, rules out free will. Or at least it does so in regard to romance and procreation.

The existence of "mirror universes" creates massive existential problems all throughout fiction. But let's focus on just Darkwing Duck for now. Negaduck is a recurring villain in the show, and Darkwing's main goal is to catch and incarcerate him. By doing so, however, Darkwing would be ensuring his own sterility.

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

He's a duck, which means there's a 66 percent chance he'd only use those genitals for necrophilia and rape anyway.

Within the majority of these fictional mirror universes, it's generally accepted that everyone has a double. (PROTIP: Shoot the one who doesn't insist that you shoot them both, "Just to be sure." Trust us, this situation will arise.) But in order for there to be a double for every character, that means that every set of parents, grandparents and ancestors since the beginning of time needed to procreate with the same partner they had in the normal universe. Additionally, the act of mating has to happen at pretty much the exact same time in order to ensure that the exact same sperm meets the exact same egg, and that the doubles are of the exact same age. This synchronized transdimensional boning is confirmed by the episode "Life, the Negaverse and Everything," when Darkwing leaves Honker's birthday party in the regular universe to arrive at Honker's simultaneous birthday party in the Negaverse. This means that Herb and Binkie, Honker's parents, must have got it on, conceived and laid an egg in an identical timeline.

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

The latter pair looks like they had more fun doing it, though.

With the romantic choices of every individual in the two universes tightly bound together, that means there's no room for free will to choose your own mate, or even when to procreate with them. If there were, the two universes would become unhinged and most, if not all the ducks, would lack any sort of double. The universe would no longer be "mirrored." As grim and depressing as that is, Darkwing himself has it the worst: Not only has he seen the Negaverse, and therefore peeked behind the veil that hides the yawning abyss from St. Canard, but, unless Negaduck is having children at the same time, Darkwing himself can never reproduce. It's Darkwing's mission to imprison or kill Negaduck. If any of those actions prove successful, it would be impossible for Darkwing to procreate. We've seen that Darkwing has romantic interests toward Morgana McCawber, but if he ever wants to have little ducklings with her, he would first have to let Negaduck escape back to the Negaverse to bone the mirror Morgana. Something his basic moral code would never allow him to do.

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

Not that other aspects of Darkwing's personality weren't flexible.

So yeah, you know how Batman would never, ever use a gun? Same thing with Darkwing Duck and his penis.

The Smurfs: Grow Up Alone

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

The Smurfs live in a seemingly utopian village of singing and sharing. They live among nature, pursue science, magic and the arts and have spectacular adventures. Smurfs don't even have to worry about the horrors of dating or the awkwardness of gender relations, since they don't reproduce sexually. Wait, but what about Smurfette? Screw her, that's what!

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

Papa Smurf might as well have "Been there, done that" tattooed on his arm.

That bitch is a Yoko if we've ever seen one.

So, What's the Problem?

Childhood is a long and lonely time in the Smurf world.

With life spans that are 10 times longer than a human's, Smurfs do everything slower. In the episode Brainy's Smarty Party, we learn that a Smurf childhood lasts around 150 years. Wait, 150 years of games and Smurfball? That sounds fantastic!

Think again.

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

Smurfball is terrible.

Your childhood was fun because there were other kids around. You had pals to play kick the can and Rambo vs. Transformers with. The days when none of your friends were around were usually spent whining to your parents about how long it was taking for your friends to come back. Alas, in the Smurf world, you would probably grow up without any peers. Smurfs (in the cartoon) reproduce via a stork that comes "once in a blue moon" to drop off a newborn.

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It's not too hard to figure out how often the storks come. There are roughly 100 Smurfs in the village. And in the episode Smurfquest, Papa Smurf specifically said Baby Smurf would live to be 1,000 years old. A millennial life span means the stork is coming roughly every 10 years to keep the Smurf population stable. If it came any more frequently, there would be way more Smurfs. Since there aren't, then either that stork comes once a decade, or else there are a lot of Smurfs routinely dying off-camera without a lot of fanfare.

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"Summon the council and prepare the altar. We must make room for this new Smurf."

Poor Baby Smurf is going to be the only kid around his age for most of his childhood, a period lasting about a century and a half. Baby Smurf will be 10 before the next Smurf child is even born (storked?) and around 35 when the next Smurf child is making coherent sentences. And after that, he'll still be at a significantly more advanced developmental stage than the next child. As any child will tell you, hanging out with a much younger kid isn't fun; it's babysitting.

Wait, what about the Smurflings, you ask? Aren't they children growing up together? Well, shit, rhetorical device, you sure do know a lot about Smurfs. But that was a fluke, anyway: The males were actually regular Smurfs de-aged to be children, and Sassette was magically created out of clay by the others, presumably because they were tragically uninformed about the cooties epidemic.

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

Or because Smurfs have a thing for redheads.

Also remember that Baby Smurf doesn't have any modern distractions like TV, video games or action figures to mangle, like an ordinary only child would. No, the only thing Baby Smurf has is several decades alone to wander Smurf Village, trying to keep himself amused with a handful of sticks while the adults step around him to do their work.

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

Well that, and the teddy bear messiah.

Popeye: Eternal War

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

Popeye cartoons feature Bluto and Popeye, both of whom possess superhuman strength. Though Bluto is normally slightly stronger than Popeye, the latter can always resort to his spinach, which grants him even greater powers (thus allowing him to secure the affections of his paramour, Olive Oyl, who apparently only gets wet when somebody's face is being bashed inside out).

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

Or from extreme nautical action.

So, What's the Problem?

It's not just Popeye who becomes strong from eating spinach. It's everyone. Several times in the cartoon, people like Bluto, Olive and even Swee' Pea ate a mouthful of spinach and experienced Popeye-like surges of physical prowess. Within the Popeye universe, spinach equals instant mutant freak brawn. And with that, society has just descended into a nigh-eternal and bloody global war.


It's like crystal meth meets the atom bomb.

Why? Well, remember in the X-Men movie when Senator Kelly quite reasonably questioned how society would function when hundreds of people with super powers were walking around? Expand that argument to every single person on Earth. What kind of chaos would cheap, ubiquitous super-juice have on society? How would police keep order? Would democracy give way to a Randian, might-makes-right free-for-all? The implications are too widespread. Let's reel in the scope for now and focus on one key part of the Popeye universe: the military.

The Popeye universe is set, for the most part, in World War II. In 1941, Popeye is enlisted into naval service to help fight the Axis. That's right: The military was apparently so desperate for warm bodies that even 40-year-old stroke victims were eligible for the draft. Anyway, it's important to note that before joining the military, Popeye was wearing normal civilian clothing. It was only during active duty that he started wearing the Navy uniform.

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

The toll of spinach abuse is clearly evident here.

In the episode "The Mighty Navy," we see Popeye's first day in the armed forces, during which he takes out eight enemy battleships and a carrier filled with fighter planes, solo. One would think that Popeye, high on spinach, could wrap up the war in a week. It's a Dr. Manhattan-like scenario: Who's going to defy the force with a demigod in their ranks? But strangely, the war doesn't end in that episode, or at all. It's left open-ended, a wellspring the writers frequently go back to throughout the series. How is this possible? What army can possibly stand against a man who drops an entire armada on his first day, by himself?

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

After D-Day, France was reduced to an island chain.

We're already given the answer: The only thing that has ever defeated Popeye was another fighter on spinach. In the episode "Hospitaliky," Bluto eats some and puts Popeye in the hospital. So for that war to continue, the Germans and Japanese would also have to possess spinach-powered supersoldiers, if only to counter the unrelenting, psychotic avatar of violence that is Popeye. That's not exactly a stretch to imagine: It's friggin' spinach. It grows out of the ground, and it doesn't even need processing.

Now, remember how we mentioned Popeye's uniform? The one he only started wearing after conscription? Yeah, he continued to wear it well after 1945, when our version of WWII came to an end. Popeye wouldn't change back to civilian clothes until 1978 in the All New Popeye Hour. WWII, in the Popeye universe, was continuously fueled by murderous supermen high on magical plant extract, and it lasted for 39 years.

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

That means Popeye killed a greater portion of Europe than the bubonic plague.

The approximate death toll for WWII was roughly 60 million souls, and it lasted for about six years. Extrapolating that number out means that Popeye's war -- the slapstick, wacky conflict full of swollen, anvil-shaped fists and punches to the moon -- cost the lives of roughly 390 million people.

It's no wonder they laugh at violence; it is all they have ever known.

Moody by Name

The spinach-fueled Japanazi hordes turned Western civilization into rubble.

The Real Ghostbusters: Hell Comes to Every Man

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

The Real Ghostbusters follows the animated versions of the beloved movie characters -- not those two weirdos and their goddamn ape -- as they keep New York safe from the undead. With their proton packs and traps, the crew captures ghosts and deposits them in a containment unit located in the basement of their firehouse.


IMPORTANT NOTE: Janine was waaayyy more bangin' in the cartoon.

So, What's the Problem?

The containment unit essentially condemns human souls to hell (or at the very least a brutal, eternal ghost prison).


We've always felt the doorway to hell should be marked with black-and-yellow caution tape.

Although it seems obvious, we tend to forget that the ghosts in the Real Ghostbusters universe are the spirits of dead people. Some of the specters were demons and monsters, yes, but the bulk of them were just poor souls doomed to haunt the Earth for their afterlife. The Ghostbusters captured these spirits, and then, without a trial or even so much as a "the fuck, bro?" they dumped them into their containment unit, forever.

Try to destroy the world? An afterlife in the containment unit. Simply annoy the new tenant? Also an afterlife in the containment unit.

The Ghostbusters aren't a police force, remember; they work for pay. If you've got a ghost and five hundred dollars and don't so much want the ghost part anymore, they'll come by, grab it and toss it into the unit. Their proton packs don't discriminate: Once they actually captured the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future and ruined Christmas.

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

Sadly, we never got a follow-up "Ghostbusters vs. the Holy Spirit" episode.

But why do we think the containment unit was such a bad thing? They never show it in the movies. Ah, but they do in the cartoon: In a few of the episodes, we actually get to see inside of the containment unit and confirm that, yes, it is basically a hellish dimension filled with every freakishly scary monster they have ever fought.

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

Pictured: A ghost being fucking terrified of something.

So, shit, you just died. That sucks. But hey, maybe you decide to stick around and haunt your apartment for a while, because you kicked off in the middle of a Firefly marathon and you really wanted to see how it ended. Then the new tenant moves in, and doesn't appreciate you moaning "Riiiiveeerrrr" every night in the hopes that he'll catch the hint and fire up the Netflix. So he hires the Ghostbusters. Half an hour later (minus commercial breaks), they've ensnared you with their agonizing nuclear lassos and then shoved you into a tiny steel cage. When they finally let you out, instead of a dark tunnel with a beautiful and forgiving light at the end, you find yourself in the basement of a run-down Manhattan firehouse with the furious spirits of murderers, madmen, rapists, demons and elder gods from the pain dimension. You will live there until the end of time.

6 Classic Kids Shows Secretly Set in Nightmarish Universes

Enjoy your eternity of winged puma rape.

It's like being convicted of jaywalking and getting dumped into Sing Sing with no trial and a sentence of eternity, and -- oh yeah -- all the other prisoners are giant blue cobras with a thousand screaming mouths.

For more WTF moments in cartoon history, check out The 6 Creepiest Things Ever Slipped Into Children's Cartoons and 5 Classic Cartoons They Don't Want You To See.

Check out The All-New Zombie Page featuring our most popular zombie articles like 6 Characters Who Show Up in Every Zombie Movie and Which Apocalypse Would Be the Most Fun?.

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