Writers for shows aimed at children generally like to keep the content seen on the show family-friendly and tend to shy away from more mature or dark content, so they don’t scare away the kiddies. But every once in a while, an episode of a kids’ show gets censored by the network it airs on.
An episode (or episodes) can get the plug pulled for a variety of reasons—perpetrating racial stereotypes, being too violent, or proving to be dangerous to someone’s health. A good example of the last reason is the infamous Pokemon episode “Electric Soldier Porygon.” Flashing strobe lights seen in the episode resulted in seven hundred Japanese people, ranging from 3-58 years old, to suffer epileptic seizures, vomiting, irritated eyes, and other symptoms. The impact was big enough to put Pokemon on a four-month hiatus in Japan.
“Electric Soldier Porygon” isn’t the only Pokemon episode that got banned, and it’s not the only episode in a kids’ show to receive a ban. Some episodes are only temporarily banned while others receive a permanent ban and will never get aired again.
If you want to check out some of the cases of episodes of kids’ shows that caused some problems, then check out this list of 15 controversial episodes of kids’ shows that got banned.
15. Dexter’s Laboratory – “Rude Removal” (1998; 2013)
“Rude Removal” was an episode produced for the second season of Dexter’s Laboratory, but it never saw airtime in the U.S. In the episode, Dexter builds a machine known as the Rude Removal System, a machine capable of removing the rudeness from his sister, Dee Dee. But then, Dee Dee interferes, and both siblings get caught in the machine. The Rude Removal System splits the two up into a sweet and polite pair and a rude and raunchy pair. The rude pair are destructive and swear like sailors, but the vulgar language is bleeped out; however, context makes it easy for viewers to know exactly what they’re saying.
Cartoon Network banned the episode for TV but the episode was seen occasionally at animation festivals and speaking appearances by series creator Genndy Tartakovsky. The network released the episode online on Adult Swim in 2013.
14. Pokemon – “Tentacool And Tentacruel” (1997; 1998)
The Pokemon episode “Tentacool and Tentacruel” wasn’t one of the series’ episodes that were permanently banned outside of Japan, but it was temporarily banned in the U.S. for a period of time following the 9/11 attacks. One of the major reasons for the episode’s banning was a scene that showed Tentacool destroying a skyscraper, a scene that somehow remained in the show’s opening sequence.
Kids WB decided to withhold from airing the episode due to the destruction of buildings. But somehow, the episode was aired a month after the attacks and wasn’t shown again until Cartoon Network started airing the show. The episode was banned for a couple of weeks following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as it showed a city flooded with water.
13. Sesame Street – Lost “Wizard Of Oz” Episode (1976)
The Wicked Witch of the West didn’t just terrorize the inhabitants of Oz in The Wizard of Oz; she also made a cameo appearance on Sesame Street. A 1976 episode of the children’s show featured actress Margaret Hamilton reprising her role from the movie. The premise of the episode was that the Wicked Witch was flying over Sesame Street when she dropped her broom. She spends the episode trying to get it back, threatening to turn Big Bird into a feather duster at one point.
Soon after the episode aired on TV, Sesame Street received a flood of negative feedback from parents, who said that their children were afraid and didn’t want to watch the show anymore, citing “the threat of the witch’s power remains in children’s eyes.” The episode was pulled from the airwaves and never aired again.
12. Peppa Pig – “Mister Skinnylegs (2004)
Sometimes, well-intended messages can lead to frightful results, depending on where you live at least. The British animated series Peppa Pig had an episode named “Mister Skinnylegs” that sought to teach its young viewers that while spiders may look scary, they can’t really hurt you. At the beginning of the episode, Peppa is afraid of the spider. But by the end of the episode, she befriends the spider and invites him as a guest to her tea party.
The episode’s message was fine and dandy in Britain, but not so much in Australia, home to some of the most venomous spiders in the world, like the Redback Spider, whose bites are intensely painful and have historically been linked with deaths as seen in medical records. Australian broadcasters considered the episode unsuitable for public safety and banned it in Australia.
11. The Powerpuff Girls – “See Me, Feel Me, Gnomey” (2004)
“See Me, Feel Me, Gnomey” is a musical rock opera special which parodied Tommy by The Who and is about a gnome who manipulates the girls into relinquishing their powers in exchange for peace in Townsville. However, Cartoon Network never aired the episode and for years, people didn’t know why.
They came up with theories such as flashing lights posing seizure risks and themes about cults and allusions to Communism being too dark for viewers, but series creator Craig McCracken revealed what the actual reason for the ban was on his Tumblr, in 2016, after the episode was made available on DVD. The reason? The censors thought that “the metal beams in the destroyed buildings looked too much like crosses and one of the hippies looked like Jesus” which wasn’t the writers’ or animators’ intention at all.
10. Pokemon – “Holiday Hi-Jynx” (1998; 1999)
Believe it or not, Pokemon was accused of perpetrating stereotypes about African-Americans, much like racist cartoons from the 1930’s. The episode in question is “Holiday Hi-Jynx,” an episode about Team Rocket attempting to get revenge on Santa Claus. During the episode, Ash and friends meet a Pokemon named Jynx, a lost Pokemon who belongs to Santa Claus, but Team Rocket is certain that Jynx is Santa Claus.
Shortly after the episode aired on TV, it was pulled from regular rotation after African-American author and critic Carol Boston Weatherford accused the Pokemon of being a stereotype of African-Americans. The episode hasn’t re-aired in the U.S. since then and wasn’t included in Pokemon DVD episode collections. The episode was re-aired in 2012 on Pokemon Smash!, a Japanese Pokemon TV show. But Jynx’s skin was edited purple instead of black.
9. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood – “Conflict” (1983)
The problem with the “Conflict” episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood wasn’t that they were trying to teach kids anything potentially dangerous; it was simply guilty of attempting to teach children too much. “Conflict” was a five-episode arc that taught young viewers about the Cold War, focusing on the Neighborhood of Make Believe where they nearly go to war by jumping to conclusions.
Corny the Beaver receives a strange package, and Good King Friday immediately assumes that the former is assembling a supply of nuclear weapons, paranoia, and fear, making the situation progressively worse. Kids were frightened by the subject matter, and also due to news at the time involving the war, the story arc was pulled from television in 1996 and never aired again.
8. Pokemon – “The Tower Of Terror” (1997; 1998)
Another Pokemon episode that saw a temporary ban was “The Tower of Terror,” similar to the reasons for the temporary ban on the “Tentacool and Tentacruel” episode. Due to the title of the “The Tower of Terror,” the episode was banned from re-airing on Kids WB, following the 9/11 attacks.
Really, the episode’s title was a reference to the Tower of Terror theme park ride located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Tokyo Disney Sea, Walt Disney Studios Park, and formerly located at Disney California Adventure Park. But Kids WB still didn’t give the tape over to Cartoon Network for them to air the episode in 2002. They later conceded their rights over the tape, and it was put back into circulation, airing in regular episode rotation.
7. Looney Tunes And Merrie Melodies – “Bugs Bunny Nips The Nips” (1944)
“Bugs Bunny Nips The Nips” was created during World War 2 and reflects America’s attitude towards one of its enemies at the time—Japan. The episode’s title is a play on the verb “nip” which means “to bite,” and “Nips” is a widely-used slur for Japanese people, as the Japanese word for Japan is “Nippon.” In the episode, Bugs lands on an island in the Pacific Ocean and fights against highly stereotyped Japanese soldiers, calling them by racial slurs such as “monkey face” and “slant eyes.”
He quickly defeats a large sumo wrestler and bombs most of the Japanese army using various explosives, such as grenades. Since the 1960’s, the episode has been at issue due to its portrayal of the Japanese and the violence shown towards them. It’s occasionally been seen on TV since then, but protests from Japanese groups resulted in the VHS tapes being withdrawn.
6. Gargoyles – “Deadly Force” (1994)
Gargoyles‘ “Deadly Force” episode is arguably considered the show’s most controversial episode, and for good reason. During the episode, Gargoyle Broadway plays around with human ally Elisa’s gun while spouting Western dialogue in a John Wayne-esque voice. He jumps around, aiming the gun, and accidentally sets it off. He doesn’t realize what he did at first. But when he enters the kitchen to apologize to Elisa, he sees her lying on the floor in a pool of her own blood, not moving. He carries her to the hospital, and luckily, she survives.
Unsurprisingly, parents and protest groups quickly started complaining about the sensitive subject matter of gun safety, and the episode was banned. It was later allowed to be re-aired, but Elisa’s blood was edited out after she was shot.
5. Talespin – “Flying Dupes” (1991)
For a show that featured characters adapted from Disney’s The Jungle Book, it got really dark all of a sudden for the last episode. In the episode, Baloo delivers a package to the home of the foreign leader, not knowing that the package contains a bomb. The foreign leader desires a war that will generate high profits for bomb makers, attempting to dupe an unsuspecting Baloo into an assassination.
Due to the terrorist themes of the episode, the episode was only shown once before Disney banned it. It did, however, air again in 1999 on Toon Disney, although it’s believed to have been a mistake. “Flying Dupes” hasn’t been seen on TV since then.
4. Transformers: Robots In Disguise – “Battle Protocol” (2001)
Like a couple of other entries on this list, the first episode of Transformers: Robots in Disguise anime was banned after being aired for the first time for similarities between the episode’s events and 9/11. In the episode, Megatron destroys a skyscraper. And the episode had the ill fortune of being aired three days before the 9/11 attacks.
In fact, the whole show was wrought with endless destruction that was considered tasteless, so FOX Kids had to do a lot of editing for many of the episodes. But since the show was scheduled to air six episodes a week, many of the edits were rushed. Disney never brought the Saban library so the show was never released on DVD in the U.S., but the episode can be seen on YouTube.
3. The Ren & Stimpy Show – “Man’s Best Friend” (1992; 2003)
The Ren & Stimpy Show was already controversial for its dark humor, adult jokes, and violence, among other things. But one episode in particular may have gone over the top, at least according to Nickelodeon. Things in “Man’s Best Friend” were going pretty smoothly by Ren & Stimpy standards, until an unusually violent scene that consisted of Ren brutally beating the pair’s new owner with an oar.
The episode was produced for the show’s second season but it never aired due to Nickelodeon pulling the plug on it. Series creator John Kricfalusi notes the banned episode as the reason why he was fired from the show. The episode was later aired in 2003 on Spike’s short-lived series Ren and Stimpy’s Adult Cartoon Party.
2. Tiny Toon Adventures – “One Beer” (Elephant Issues) – 1991
Most TV shows aimed at children and/or young adults would speak against drugs and alcohol in moderate and not elaborate ways. But the makers of Tiny Toon Adventures decided they didn’t want the show to be like others of its kind. The episode “Elephant Issues” features a segment known as “One Beer.” A lot happens in the segment, but basically, Buster, Plucky, and Hamton take turns downing a bottle of beer, motivated by a desire to teach children the “evils of alcohol,” and they become drunk as a result.
They promptly turn into hobos, take a police car out for a joyride, and drive off Death Mountain to their deaths. Even though it was supposed to be a joke, the studio thought it was a bit much, and they yanked the episode off American airwaves. The episode still airs in Canada, though.
1. Pokemon – “The Legend Of Dratini” (1997)
“The Legend of Dratini” is one of six Pokemon episodes that never aired in the United States and never received an English dub. Largely the reason why the episode was banned everywhere outside of Japan was due to the prevalent use of firearms. Characters are threatened with guns in several different scenes, namely one that shows Kaiser, the Safari Zone warden, pointing a gun directly at Ash. While the scenes were all intended for comic effect, 4Kids Entertainment thought they were too dark for young viewers. Unfortunately, the banning of the episode led to continuity errors, confusing fans outside of Japan. In the forbidden episode, Ash catches 29 Tauros, which were seen in later episodes and used by Ash in Pokemon tournaments. Fans had no idea where, when, why, and how Ash caught so many of those Pokemons.
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