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Wednesday, February 8, 2023

“Aaahh!!! Real Monsters” – Nickelodeon Series Made ’90s Kids Fall in Love With Monsters

For this month’s installment of “TV Terrors” we revisit “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters,“ the fondly remembered Nickelodeon animated series that aired from 1994 through 1997.

Every Nickelodeon fanatic has their period where they thought the network really hit their stride. For me, 1994 was their real peak of pure kids entertainment. It was a time where they’d tapped into a wonderful momentum with programming blocks like Saturday Night’s SNICK, weekday morning’s Nick Jr., and excellent series like “Rugrats,” “All That,” “Legends of the Hidden Temple,” “The Secret World of Alex Mack,” and a whole lot more.

It was also the year that “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters” premiered.

Debuting officially on October 30th, 1994, the program was another of the many Klasky-Csupo produced animated shows that had dominated the airwaves for most of the Nickelodeon golden age. Breaking in to their tendency to spotlight the lesser explored corners of our society, “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters” focused on the world of monsters; the monsters that hide in our closets, under our beds, in our bathtubs, and in our toilets. It is one of the few genuinely horror-oriented animated shows that Nickelodeon has ever aired.

Set in New York City, the show’s protagonists were monsters themselves, many of whom aspired to be what was known among their race as “scarers.” Desperate to be taken seriously as “scarers,” a must in their world, the series specifically follows a trio of lovable monsters that live in a large landfill teeming with secret entrances. Oddly enough they’re also the primary heroes of the show. There’s Ickis, a small red creature often confused with a rabbit; Oblina, a thin striped female monster often confused for an upside down candy cane; and Krumm, a hairy, smelly, chubby monster who holds both of his detached eyes in his hands (and sounds a lot like Seth Rogen).

The trio attends a school for monsters where their teacher, The Gromble, looks for various human kids around the city to scare. The very existence and survival of monsters depends on their ability to scare people, and it’s mandatory that monsters in this reality learn how to give a great scare. Their assignments are chronicled and scrutinized by the Gromble who implements the Viewfinder, a chair-like projection device that is used to replay the scaring activities of students.

Much of “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters” garners the whimsical, eccentric, gothic animation influence of Edward Gorey, and was often darker than most of Nickelodeon’s other shows. Klasky-Csupo’s “Rugrats” had a great premise in focusing on what toddlers did when adults weren’t looking, and “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters” taps the same vein. Funny enough, both series would eventually cross over in the season six “Rugrats” episode, “Ghost Story.”

While the tone from “Rugrats” differs drastically, this doesn’t stop the series from feeling oh so inviting and absolutely entertaining. Though our reluctant trio of monsters made for charming and entertaining protagonists, they also thrilled in giving the best scare possible. This resulted in them terrifying other characters (humans) to a state of delirium by the end of an episode. And it also garnered them a few nemeses that did everything to out them to the public at large.

In fact, most of the episodes revolved around Ickis, Oblina, and Krumm either being sent on an assignment to scare a human, or being stuck in the human world with risk of giving away their existence. The series was brilliantly voiced by David Ecles, Charlie Adler, and prolific and well known Nickelodeon actress, the late Christine Cavanaugh. The tension was also centered on whether or not the world would find out about them, and what consequences the Gromble had in store for them.

Despite being icky monsters, dammit, we rooted for them every time.

Since their world relies on a fear of the unknown, the monsters had to often find a way to ensure their path home without revealing their existence, lest they be punished by the militant Gromble. As the series progressed, most of their former scare victims would re-appear again, hoping to find the monsters and bring them to the public eye. All while they avoided a relentless monster hunter (voiced by Jim Belushi) named Simon.

Some of the best episodes include Ickis bonding with a stray dog in their landfill home, Ickis’ challenge to complete five scares in one day, and “Rosh-O-Meter,” a clever spoof of Rashomon involving three different stories told from the monsters’ point of view. The characters were twisted and ugly, but they were also absolutely adorable. I always particularly related to Krumm, who loved to eat garbage and often carried his eyes in his mouth when his hands were full. I’ve never done either–but I loved his humility despite being a horrific monster.

“Aaahh!!! Real Monsters” still holds up wonderfully today with a unique, PG twist on what’s become a surprisingly well worn formula over the years with fodder like Little Monsters, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, and the Monsters Inc. franchise, respectively. In spite of the latter’s immense success, “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters” is still in a league of its own as a fun, often brilliant series that gave us a peek into monster life, showing us that deep down they too are also just students anxious to simply prove themselves academically.

The show was able to make its mark with some great merchandise including school supplies, candy, action figures, Fleer trading cards, video cassettes, and of course a very entertaining platformer video game for the SNES and Sega Genesis where you got to play as all three of our resident scarers.

While it was popular and very well received in its heyday, the series has thankfully managed to maintain a pretty large fan base of viewers that still fondly remember it as one of the better Klasky-Csupo series ever produced for the network (fans often go back and forth between this, “Rugrats,” and “Duckman”).

“Aaahh!!! Real Monsters” is perfect 90s nostalgia and top notch gateway horror, as well.

Rest in Peace, Christine Cavanaugh.

Is It On DVD/Blu-ray/Streaming? The series can be streamed now on Paramount Plus in its full and uncut form, and it’s still available on DVD in its complete form (and in various volumes) from Shout! Factory.

Horror and science fiction have always been a part of the television canvas, and constant attempts have been made over the years to produce classic entertainment. Some have fallen by the wayside, while others became mainstream phenomena. With “TV Terrors,” we take a look back at the many genre efforts from the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s, exploring some shows that became cult classics, and others that sank into obscurity.

The post “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters” – Nickelodeon Series Made ’90s Kids Fall in Love With Monsters appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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Got any friends who might like this scary horror stuff? GO AHEAD AND SHARE, SHARE!

Got any friends who might like this scary horror stuff? GO AHEAD AND SHARE, SHARE!