For decades, two-dimensional animation was the only game in town. Computer-generated graphics (CGI) were in their experimental phase throughout the 1980s, but exploded in the following decade. It was more about popular trends and the newness of the medium, as most of these early shows looked hideous given the primitive animation tools available to artists at the time.
A few of these shows were so good that viewers didn’t even notice the bad animation, which was primitive at the time anyway. For others who were just riding the popular wave, however, neither the animation nor the show as a whole has aged well.
seven Max Steel (2000-2002)
Josh McGrath is just an average extreme sports star at the start of Steel Max. However, he soon discovers that his uncle’s humble snowboard, hang-gliding, and bungee-jumping supply store is a front for N-Tek, a counterintelligence organization. Josh confronts a thief who turns out to be an agent, and the ensuing fight unleashes the Max Probes, who transform our protagonist into a virtual superhero.
Despite the animation, which is a pretty good example of basic CGI at the time and could be much worse, it’s a decent show with an interesting if not derivative premise. Max Steel had enough of a fan base for a reboot in 2013 and 2016.
6 Beast Machines: Transformers (1999-2000)
If the series had just been called animal machines, were it not for the connection to one of media’s oldest and most popular franchises, it might have fallen into an even deeper memory hole. The series was to be the sequel to Beast Wars which precedes this series chronologically and has better critical reception.
The most negative response to Beast Machines: Transformers focuses on changes to lore and characters from previous movies and shows, with little to say about low-budget CGI. Looking back on it now, it’s an average show with below average animation and not the best offering on the Transformers library.
5 Restart (1994-2001)
The story of To restart is an interesting movie that starts with a movie also famous for its bad CGI, Tron. Mainframe’s lore, with resident games, guardian programs, and sprites, is largely based on the famous Disney classic.
To restart was one of the first shows of its kind, and the storyline and characters were a hit with fans and critics alike, cleverly using computer language to reflect the unique setting. The plot is also the story of the transition from standalone computing to online gaming from a computer perspective, which is unique to say the least. At the time, no one cared about the bad animation or even noticed it, and by the end of the show, it felt more than decent for the time period.
4 Monster by mistake (1996-2003)
It’s a whimsical premise of a boy named Warren who occasionally turns into a monster, but the ability is something he can’t control, hence the title. The basic premise and storyline were charming enough, but the subject matter wasn’t as CGI-style as a sci-fi-themed show would have been.
Since the animation was poor even for the time, the show probably could have been improved with conventional animation. Apart from the monster, nothing exciting happens in monster by mistake so it can’t compete with shows about big giant robots or computer sprites.
3 The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2002-2006)
This series was based on the 2001 movie, Jimmy Neutron: Genie Boy, which is higher quality CGI but proportionally just as terrifying. James Isaac Neutron, also known as Jimmy, leads the normal life of a precocious child who also has impressive engineering skills.
Nobody noticed that the early seasons had really creepy and often weird animation because they had too much fun watching Jimmy and his antics. The show improved a bit over time, with its initial success prompting more sponsors and the funding of more hosts and better computers.
2 Country of Donkey Kong (1997-2000)
It was already a successful video game franchise and had lots of fun lore and popular characters, so it made sense to make a TV series. donkey kong country was one of the first attempts at CGI using motion capture technology, and it looks awkward to say the least. On the other hand, it seems to work for the aesthetic of the series, which is based on a series of much older games.
The show could have just focused on the hijinks of Donkey Kong and his friends in the usual “one and done” sitcom-style episodes like regular TV, but there’s an underlying premise about an object magic called Crystal Coconut that Kong is responsible for guarding. It’s a detail that makes the story more interesting and gives the series autonomy today.
1 Ugly Martians (2001-2003)
Maybe the idea was to fit the wrong animation into the story, but it didn’t work. The premise behind the honest title Ugly Butt Martians is that the would-be conquerors of Mars decide they love Earth too much to destroy it or enslave the population. As for the plot, it’s not exactly engrossing, following the main characters as they claim to occupy Earth and hang out with their human friends.
There’s nowhere to go from there, and the show doesn’t go down in memory. Compared to other shows from the era, the animation is one of the worst, which makes some even older shows look better in comparison.
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