We thought we knew it all back in the ’90s.
There’s no way we would actually buy something off of the “World Wide Web.” Nothing would ever be better than Vertigo comics. Dr. Martin’s boots would always be made in England. The time we spent caring for our Tamagotchis was worth it. Plus a whole host of other stuff we were wrong about.
The older we get, the more perspective on that bizarre era we seem to develop. That’s why we’re continually realizing stuff that was true back then, whether we could see it or not. Here are a few examples:
1. “Step By Step” was just an updated version of “The Brady Bunch.”
An attractive divorcee with three kids meets a widowed mother with three kids of her own, and the two families mesh into one.
Now where have we heard that before?
Both shows centered on the family dynamics and drama surrounding the children as they learn to adjust to their new living arrangements. In fact, contemporary critics noted the similarities. In 1991, writer Jean Rosenbluth of Variety started his Step By Step review by quoting the entire Brady Bunch theme song in its entirety. Ouch.
We should note that Rosenbluth softened somewhat, noting that “Despite its utter lack of originality, Step By Step is actually a modestly amusing, occasionally heartwarming show that does its ancestor series proud (admittedly not a huge achievement).”
2. The Ninja Turtles didn’t use their weapons…ever.
Any TMNT fan knows that each turtle had a signature weapon: Leonardo had the swords, Donatello had the bo staff, Raphael had the pair of sai, and Michelangelo had the nunchucks.
Think hard: Do you ever remember them using anything but their feet and fists to pulverize the foot clan? None of the bad guys were ever stabbed, slashed, or sliced. It was a kids’ show, after all.
Granted, there was a decent amount of fighting in the first film, but in the (somewhat terrible) sequels and cartoon series, the Turtles used their fists—not the deadly weapons on their backs.
That doesn’t mean that the film sets were safe places. Ready for us to ruin your childhood?
“They had all these stunt people who came in from Hong Kong, who had no union protections,” said Judith Hoag, who played reporter April O’Neil, referencing the working conditions on the set of the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. “They were getting hurt. As soon as they were injured, they were shipped out of there. It was not the safest set to be on. That’s a little distressing.”
3. “Matilda” featured some pretty twisted stuff.
Though Miss Trunchbull was terrifying enough to us as children, it wasn’t until we watched the film as adults that we realized just how twisted she was. She not only force-fed children cake and flung them around by their pigtails, she also shoved them into the Chokey for hours at a time.
If you don’t recall, the Chokey was described as a long narrow hole in the wall with broken glass and nails sticking out of it. How in the world was she getting away with that? Where was the PTO? The school board? The police?!
Of course, things might’ve been worse; Roald Dahl, who wrote the book the film is based on, actually did away with the rebellious Matilda in an early version of his story.
4. Our Beanie Babies aren’t worth a dime.
With a few possible exceptions, the expansive Beanie Baby collection that you amassed as a preteen isn’t going to make you a millionaire any time soon.
Still, you might want to leave the tags on just in case. After all, there’s not much else you can do with them—many charities won’t accept Beanie Baby donations, and the market has pretty much dried up.
There’s a reason we thought these things were so valuable in the first place, though: Ty Warner, the company that created the craze, carefully controlled their supply, retiring characters randomly and limiting the number of products they shipped to certain geographical areas. It worked—for a while.
5. Neither are our comic books.
Some comics might be worth a fortune, but those 14 variations of the first issue of the 14th Spawn miniseries aren’t worth squat.
In the ’90s, we still labored under the mistaken assumption that we’d be able to pay for our college educations by selling our comic book collections. (Heck, we still dreamed we’d be able to pay for college educations at all.) Both things turned out to be untrue.
Of course, if you’ve got something like The Walking Dead #1, you could still make bank; that comic goes for up to $11,000.
6. Danny Tanner was not who he seemed.
Most of us remember Bob Saget as the wholesome, goofy, caring father to D.J., Stephanie, and Michelle on Full House. He was kind, funny, and never said so much as “gosh darnit” in the way of curse words.
Much to our surprise, we would grow up to discover that in real life, Bob Saget is actually the antithesis of Danny Tanner. He’s raunchy, vulgar, and downright offensive in his stand-up routines and many of his movies.
Granted, that wasn’t enough to stop Saget from returning to the role on Netflix’s Fuller House, but we’ll never be able to forget his appearance in The Aristocrats. The actor even titled his autobiography Dirty Daddy, an apparent reference to his Full House days.
7. “Hocus Pocus” stands the test of time.
Anyone who grew up in the ’90s has to admit that Hocus Pocus is the greatest Halloween movie of all time.
Every year we tune in to watch the Sanderson Sisters wreak havoc on the town of Salem after being awakened when a foolish virgin lights the black flame candle. We still shed a tear when Binx the cat gets run over.
Alas, there’s always a downside: Disney Channel is remaking Hocus Pocus for the small screen…and Bette Midler, who played witch Winifred Sanderson, isn’t excited.
“I know it’s cheap,” she told PEOPLE about the upcoming film. “It’s going to be cheap! I’m not sure what they’re going to do with my character. My character is very, very broad and I don’t know who they’re going to find to play that.”
8. Mindy from “Animaniacs” was awful.
Sure she was just a little kid, but the brat was always running away and getting into dangerous situations, causing her dog, Buttons, to keep her safe.
Granted, that’s about the only bad thing we’ve got on Animaniacs. We do have a bit of good news: IndieWire reports that creator Steven Spielberg is onboard for a reboot of the classic series.
9. Steve Urkel was Sonic the Hedgehog.
You read that right. Your favorite ’90s nerd was also the voice of your favorite ’90s hedgehog.
Jaleel White—who played Steve Urkel on Family Matters—provided the voice of Sonic the Hedgehog in three animated series: Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Sonic Underground.
What’s White up to these days? He’s still acting, with recent appearances in Atlanta, Hawaii Five-0, and Castle. We wish Urkel nothing but the best.
10. What happened to Judy Winslow?!
Speaking of Family Matters, can anyone tell us what happened to Judy Winslow? When the show began, she was about 9 years old, but then somewhere in the fourth season…she disappeared without a trace.
As Steve Urkel got more popular, the producers decided that poor Judy was simply dead weight. Her character was cut, and the cast acted as though she never existed.
Her actress, Jaimee Foxworth, went through some tough times, battling depression and destitution before making her comeback.
11. We ate a LOT of fruit snacks as kids.
Did any ’90s kid have a lunch that didn’t include a Fruit By The Foot, Fruit Roll-Up, or package of Gushers?
This highly-processed, sugary leather provided our daily serving of “fruit” all through grade school. They’re still delicious…just try not to think about the ingredient list, which typically includes stuff like sodium citrate, carnauba wax, and corny syrup. On second thought, we’ll skip the nostalgia trip.
12. No dance comes close to “Jump On It.”
Forget Soulja Boy and The Cupid Shuffle—Will and Carlton’s dance to Jump On It from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is pure genius.
Alfonso Ribeiro played Carlton on the classic sitcom (come on, you knew that already). He tells Time that the script simply read, “Carlton dances.”
“It was never even intended to be funny; it was just that he was dancing,” Ribeiro told the magazine. “The dance is ultimately Courteney Cox in the Bruce Springsteen video ‘Dancing in the Dark;’ that’s the basis. Or in Eddie Murphy’s ‘Delirious’ video, The White Man Dance as he called it. And I said, ‘That is the corniest dance on the planet that I know of, so why don’t I do that?’”
13. Floppy disks were the worst storage devices ever.
How many school reports did we lose in the ’90s? All you had to do to erase the data on a floppy disk was to look at it. On the other hand, that provided an iron-clad excuse for when you just didn’t do your homework.
Thanks to the Cloud, those days are gone for good. Hard drives helped, too: A 1 terabyte hard drive can hold as much data as about 694,444 floppy disks.
14. No one in real life would every actually be named Topanga.
You remember Boy Meets World. If you don’t, you weren’t a kid in the ’90s, and most of this list won’t make any sense to you. Even if you didn’t have cable, you managed to watch episodes of Boy Meets World at your friend’s house. We know this about you.
Well, as you’ll recall, the iconic girl next door, played by Danielle Fishel, was named Topanga. We all just accepted it. We wished for our own Topangas. It turns out that her name was taken more or less at random.
The show’s creator, Michael Jacobs, was driving down a highway when his producers called him, demanding a name. Just then he passed a structure called Topanga Canyon. Thus is history decided.
15. At least you could blow on Nintendo cartridges.
Sure, it was a pain to play those old 8-bit games, but at least you had recourse if something went wrong. Try getting World of Warcraft to work if your network goes down. You can blow on the (non-existent) cartridge all you want.
The bad news? Blowing on those ’90s games didn’t actually help anything. The simple act of removing and reinserting the cartridge did all of the fixing.