Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram

9 of Our Favorite Cartoon Characters, Pictured Then and Now

Photo Credit: LMPC via Getty Images
Photo Credit: LMPC via Getty Images

Growing up, the cartoons we know and love weren’t considered ‘classics’ yet. But now, they go down in history as having laid the groundwork for the incredible animated shows and movies available today. But that doesn’t mean these old guys can’t keep up. Instead, they’ve just had a few touch-ups here and there to help them keep up with the Jones! It is easy to forget what they originally looked like, but wow was it ever different!

The Simpsons

the Simpsons family, then and now
(Photo Credit: Fox Broadcasting Company / Youtube screengrab / MovieStillsDB)

Although it began in 1978 as a cartoon short by Matt Groening on the Tracey Ullman Show, The Simpsons steadily grew in popularity for the Fox Broadcasting company until it eventually became its own television show that’s now been running for over 40 years. Its animation style has changed dramatically, with the features of the characters becoming more round than sharp, and all-around a little easier on the eyes.

Bugs Bunny

Bugs bunny cartoons
(Photo Credit: Leon Schlesinger Productions & Warner Bros Pictures / Youtube screengrab and Warner Bros Animation / Youtube screengrab)

Bugs Bunny was created as part of the Looney Tunes animated short film series and was seen on screen sporadically until he made his real debut in A Wild Hare in 1940. He quickly became one of the most popular characters in the series, and has been reimagined many times. Regardless of any animation improvements, Bugs can always be seen with big ears, gloves, and large feet.

Mickey Mouse

mickey mouse cartoons
(Photo Credit: LMPC / Getty Images and Disney Television Animation / pmv79 / MovieStillsDB)

Arguably the most popular cartoon character in the world, Mickey Mouse has undergone a major transformation since his early days in the ’20s. Originally voiced by Walt Disney himself, Mickey Mouse has been reimagined time and time again, and his voice has become a classic for impersonators. But no matter what kind of changes are made in the world of animation, you can always spot Mickey Mouse with his red shorts, white gloves, and friendly smile.

Strawberry Shortcake

Strawberry shortcake cartoons
(Photo Credit: Murakami-Wolfe-Swenson / Toei Animation / Youtube screengrab and Moonscoop Group / Splash Entertainment / Youtube screengrab)

Once a character for greeting cards, Strawberry Shortcake quickly became a popular doll for little girls, and even got her own television show in the 1980s. Back then, she lived in a shortcake home, but nowadays she resides in a giant strawberry. She seems to get older with each new series that is made, but she is always seen solving problems, learning new things, and being kind to friends.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon
(Photo Credit: Murakami-Wolfe-Swenson / RockChick1980 / MovieStillsDB and Nickelodeon / Youtube screengrab)

Based on a comic book, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are a band of humanlike turtle brothers that are trained in the art of Ju-Jitsu. Living underground, they come to the surface to fight crime. Each turtle has their own distinct personality, and those traits have never wavered since their first television appearance in 1987. Their faces constantly change with each new series or movie that is made, but the colors of their eye-masks always remain the same.


Pokemon cartoons
(Photo Credit: OLM Inc. / MovieStillsDB and Toho Ltd. / Netflix / Youtube screengrab)

Pokémon started out in 1996 as a video game created for Nintendo by Satoshi Tajiri and his friend and illustrator, Ken Sugimori. It was originally called “Pocket Monsters” and became wildly popular, selling millions of copies of its Red, Blue, and Green versions of the game. It did not take long for the game to become a television series, which began in 1997. The franchise has since come out with many variations of the television show, and has also dabbled in movies. The most recent animation style features CGI enhancements which make the Pokémon creatures so much cuter than before!

The Smurfs

The Smurfs cartoons
(Photo Credit: GAB Archive / Redferns / Getty Images and Sony Pictures / Columbia Pictures / marian1817 / MovieStillsDB)

These little blue guys also started out as a comic book in Belgium in 1958. Their real success would come when The Smurfs was introduced to America, becoming a television series in the 1980s. The series ran for almost a decade before becoming its own movie franchise in the 2010s. The overall look of the characters remained the same over the years, but the introduction of 3D animation has really given these little blue guys some life.

Alvin and the Chipmunks

Alvin on the left in black and white, with the Chipmunks on the right in full color
(Photo Credit: GAB Archive/Redferns and 20th Century Fox / Fox 2000 Pictures / Regency Enterprise / Rapper1996 / MovieStillsDB)

Alvin and his brothers had a very different beginning. They actually began as a song from 1958, “The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late).” The popularity of the song led to the production of a short television series in 1961, and they continued to release music until the death of singer Ross Bagdasarian Sr. The three chipmunks would go on to create another television series in the 1980s, and would receive a makeover in the 2000s with the release of three new CGI movies. The size and color of their sweaters would remain the same, with the same iconic yellow ‘A’ adorning Alvin’s hoodie.

Winnie The Pooh

Winnie the Pooh cartoons
(Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures / MovieStillsDB and Walt Disney Pictures / KingPatel / MovieStillsDB)

Based on a real bear, Winnie the Pooh became a literary staple for children’s novels, and in 1966 became animated in Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree. The 2D style showed a plump, yellow bear wearing a too-small red shirt. Winnie the Pooh has remained on television screens for decades, but one of his most recent makeovers came in the film Christopher Robin, which shows Winnie the Pooh as a stuffed animal more than a real bear. Nonetheless, the same yellow fur and red shirt are still present, making it obvious that this is the same bear we all loved growing up.

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!