Any individual born in the 1990s will tell you that a great portion of their childhood was spent with their eyes glued to some of the decade’s finest cartoons. Coincidentally, New York City seemed to function as a silent character in a vast majority of them. Often re-purposed and re-imagined, animated versions of New York City were often minted with a vibrant sense of wonder, color, and childlike adventure for the younger generation. Here are four animated cartoons with NYC inspired settings:
1. Hey Arnold!
During the late ’80s and early 1990s, Nickelodeon became a popular television channel for children, spawning various popular animated shows such as Rugrats, Doug, Rocko’s Modern Life, Rocket Power and The Wild Thornberrys. One notable cartoon during this era revolved around a virtuous fourth grader with a football shaped head. Set in the fictional city of Hillwood, Hey Arnold! chronicled the titular character’s adventures around the city and life with grandparents in their boarding house. The hit animated series, which ran from 1996 to 2004, was praised for its depiction of friendship and family, not to mention quality animation that was dotted with the visual flair of comic book, courtesy of the show’s creator, Craig Bartlett
In a 1998 interview, Craig Bartlett, revealed that the fictional city of Hillwood was meant to be a mixture of different cities such as Portland, Seattle and the borough of Brooklyn. It’s not hard to spot New York’s City most iconic landmarks in this late ’90s gem. Within the series’ eight year run, landmarks such as the Twin Towers, the Statue of Liberty, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New York City subway system were memorialized and re-imagined by the series’ visual artists.
2. Spider Man: The Animated Series
Even before Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield donned the web slinger’s famous latex costume, some of our first memories of Spider-Man came from the animated series that aired on Fox. In syndication from 1994 to 1998, the popular animated series saw our friendly neighborhood hero tackle dangerous villains and college life. To capture the breadth, scope and style of New York City, the show’s background illustrators used maps and snapshots from the city’s rooftops as a point of reference.
When he wasn’t fighting crime and contending with the likes of the Green Goblin or the Sinister Six , Peter Parker would attend classes at Empire State University. Fictionalized by comic book mastermind Stan Lee, the fictional institution bears striking similarities to Columbia University in both its design and structure. In fact, this familiar Columbia University classroom is featured in the Spiderman movies, as well as many other films.
When he wasn’t fighting crime and the demand of a college workload, Peter Parker worked as a freelance photographer for the Daily Bugle, a fictional gazette that was developed as a combination of the New York Post and the Daily News.
3. Superman: The Animated Series
Hoping to capitalize off the popularity of Batman: The Animated Series, Warner Bros. created Superman: The Animated Series. The series focused on Superman’s quest to defend the Earth while pulling double duty at The Daily Planet as the reserved Clark Kent. In syndication on the WB from 1996 to 2000, the series was praised for its storytelling and animation.
The series’ main setting, Metropolis, was referred to as “New York City during the daytime.” Fun Fact: The fictional city of Metropolis has often been referred to as “The Big Apricot” in the comics. In a reverse turn, this MTA bus had The Daily Bugle advertisement on it for the filming of The Amazing Spiderman 2. Here’s a look at 10 NYC film locations for the original Spider Man movie.
4. Batman: The Animated Series
Another gem from the DC World of Comics, Batman: The Animated Series was in syndication from 1992 to 1995. If there’s one lesson viewers took from the series, it’s that every supehero is synonymous with the city they protect. For Batman/Bruce Wayne, it’s Gotham City. Dark and morose, the city of Gotham could often be regarded as a grittier version of New York City.
The visual aesthetic of the series could be described as a combination of Art Deco design, gothic backgrounds and noir- esque imagery. In contrast to Superman’s Metropolis, Gotham City was regarded as “New York City at Night.” Comic book creator Dennis O’ Neal has referred to Gotham as New York City below 14th Street at eleven minutes past midnight on the coldest night of November.” Much of it was based on much of the artwork of its co creator Eric Radomski. In an article from Museum of the City of New York, it is mentioned that Gotham City was depicted as shaded block of color to represent the skyline, as well its grittiness.
Whether it’s Friends, Mad Men, Seinfeld or Spider- Man, New York City has become a prized and prime location for many great shows over the years. What are some of your favorite cartoons or shows set in New York City?