The Best Shows for Kids That Had No Disney or Nickelodeon Ties

Spoilers

Nickelodeon and Disney might come to mind when you think of great kids shows. After all, both networks have been producing programming for kids for decades.

Despite that fact, both companies have been under fire in recent years, particularly Nickelodeon, following the release of the Quiet on Set documentary.

Here is the perfect list if you want to expose your kids to some great shows that are not associated with either company.

Hanna-Barbera Classics (Various)

The Hanna-Barbera cartoons are classics that kids and adults of all ages can enjoy together. Many of them are geared toward children but include jokes to amuse adults.

Founded by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera in the late 1950s, Hanna-Barbera Productions produced 249 cartoon series between the 1950s and 1980s. Many of those have since become beloved classics.

A personal favorite of mine is Scooby Doo, and many fans share my love for the crime-solving dog and his Mystery Inc. crew.

Scooby, Fred, Velma, Daphne, and Shaggy were first introduced in the series Scooby Doo, Where Are You? It premiered in 1969. Since then, there have been many reincarnations of the characters in various cartoon and live-action shows and movies.

Huckleberry Hound, Magilla Gorilla, Fred Flintstone, and George Jetson are just some of the other iconic characters the company created over the years.

Scooby Doo Looks Frightened - What's New Scooby-Doo?

All of the Sid and Marty Krofft Shows

In the era of the rerun, we ’80s kids thankfully got to immerse ourselves in the imaginative world of Sid and Marty Krofft, a world first created with the release of the show H.R. Pufnstuf in 1969.

Pufnstuf (voiced by Lennie Weinrib) and his whimsical friends lived on an island inhabited by living trees and a witch named Witchipoo (Billie Hayes), who was always up to no good. A boy named Jimmy (Jack Wild) and his magic flute, Freddy, were stranded on the island and kept having to avoid her sneaky tricks.

After that show came more great Krofft creations that inspired the imaginations of generations of kids, for example, we could immerse ourselves in the world of dinosaurs on Land of the Lost, dancing hats on Lidsville, or the musical land of the flying Bugaloos.

Land of the Lost was so popular that it inspired a short ABC remake series from 1991 to 1992 and the 2009 film Land of the Lost, although that film was only loosely based on the original series.

Mayor H.R. Pufnstuf

Reading Rainbow

LeVar Burton is a personal hero to me, and many consider him a living international treasure. He is famous for his roles in Roots and Star Trek: The Next Generation, and he has singlehandedly instilled the love of reading and learning in generations of children worldwide.

LeVar’s pet project for the last several decades has been the show Reading Rainbow.

The original Reading Rainbow was a show that introduced kids to new books they might enjoy. It was simple enough, but LeVar’s ability to connect with kids and the fact that he had real kids talk about most of the books on the show captured our attention.

The show ran continuously on PBS from 1983 through 2006. Yet, many of us thought it was still gone too soon. As LeVar often said in the episodes, you don’t have to take my word for it.

Petitions were almost immediately circulated to get it rebooted, and LeVar also wanted it back. That led to the creation of a Reading Rainbow app and later a Kickstarter campaign to relaunch the series, which became one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns in the website’s history.

LeVar Burton on Reading Rainbow Intro

Captain Planet and the Planeteers

This fantastic show, known simply as Captain Planet to those who grew up watching it, originally aired from 1990 to 1996.

As the theme song said, Captain Planet was fighting on the planet’s side. He worked with five teens from different countries to stop polluters and those destroying the environment.

The teens had magic rings, controlling elements like fire and water.

Interestingly, LeVar Burton voiced the character Kwame, who had the power to move dirt and rock.

The 113-episode series, initially produced by DIC Enterprises before Hanna-Barbera took over production for the last two seasons, is still beloved today. It helped teach an entire generation about the importance of caring for wildlife, each other, and the planet.

Captain Planet Soars Through the Sky - Captain Planet and the Planeteers

Liberty’s Kids

Another great DIC Enterprises series produced in conjunction with WHYY and originally aired on PBS Kids was Liberty’s Kids (2002-2003). This fantastic cartoon show highlighted the important events and historical figures connected to the Revolutionary War but was sadly and surprisingly short-lived.

Liberty’s Kids was unique because it told stories about the war through children’s eyes. It was an excellent tool for teaching kids history and was frequently shown in schools.

A great thing about Liberty’s Kids for those who saw it in our late teens or adulthood is that we could recognize some fantastic guest stars who contributed their voice-acting talents to it.

Comedians Billy Crystal and Ben Stiller played John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, respectively. However, one of the biggest names to grace the series was newsman Walter Cronkite, who voiced Benjamin Franklin in all 40 episodes.

Other famous figures who popped up on the series included Annette Bening, Dustin Hoffman, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Sarah Phillips, a Character from Liberty's Kids

ZOOM

Long before it was the name of a popular video conferencing app, ZOOM was an excellent show for kids, but it was also created almost entirely by kids. The 1972-1978 series originated at WGBH-TV in my home state of Massachusetts and aired on PBS.

ZOOM was a fun show because all of the activities presented on it were suggested by fans, so viewers were encouraged to send in suggestions. There were science experiments, jokes, recipes, games, and more.

Interestingly, ZOOM even included a made-up language. It was called Ubbi-Dubbi and was another great way to attract kids. Ubbi-Dubbi was so popular that many adults still remember how to speak it. It is even spoken in my household from time to time.

The program had such staying power in the minds of kids who viewed it that they grew up to insist it come back, and their wishes were granted. The remake series aired from 1999 to 2005. Both versions are still frequently watched on websites like YouTube.

Girl Plays Guitar on ZOOM

Fraggle Rock/Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock

Another staple show for those of us who were ’80s kids, Fraggle Rock, originally aired from 1983 to 1987.

The show was created by famous puppeteer Jim Henson and his crew and produced through a joint venture between HBO in the United States and UK and Canadian production companies.

The show highlighted creatures called Fraggles, who lived in harmony, hidden from “the silly creatures” (humans) in an underground world.

The Fraggles’ daily activities always focused on basic life lessons, such as the importance of returning borrowed items, and their often musical exploits made the life lessons they taught highly memorable.

Fraggles were so popular that a reboot series, Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock, began airing on Apple TV+ in 2022. Its second season was released in March 2024.

Wembley Fraggle - Fraggle Rock

Sesame Street

Another fantastic show featuring Jim Henson’s Muppets we’ve all grown up on is Sesame Street, which is also the most successful show for kids in television history.

Sesame Street has aired continuously in the United States since its 1969 premiere, and versions of it are now aired in many other countries worldwide.

As you probably know, the show features a mixture of human actors and Muppets. They teach basic lessons like counting and spelling through songs, skits, and, in some cases, candid chats.

As a kid, I picked up some Spanish-speaking skills from Sesame Street. The show also taught us many valuable lessons about essential subjects, including dealing with death.

Like Liberty’s Kids, it’s another show that has heavily emphasized guest stars over the years. Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, and many more appeared on the show, but a favorite of many was Robin Williams.

Big Bird on Sesame Street

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood/Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, often just called Mr. Rogers, was another TV staple for my generation and several others. It aired from 1968 until 1976 and then came back in 1979. New episodes continued to air until 2001 when clergyman turned TV host Fred Rogers retired.

A friend to all, Mr. Rogers used his part live-action and part puppet show to teach lessons about everything from disabilities to musical instruments. I particularly love an episode featuring a skit on how crayons were made as a kid.

Mr. Rogers didn’t shy away from the challenging issues of the day. He even dipped his toes into a kiddie pool with an African American friend to show his stance on racism.

One of his most memorable moments came after the 9/11 attacks when he reassured us all and told us to “look for the helpers” in such trying times.

Fred Rogers passed away in 2003, but Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood still airs on streaming apps, as does Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, a spinoff of the original show based on puppets he created.

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Logo

Other shows for kids of all ages have come out over the years without Nickelodeon or Disney’s help. They have each been fun, unique, and often educational.

For those who grew up watching classic shows for kids, nostalgia often still draws us to them today. Some of us even own our favorites on DVD or Blu-Ray.

Did you have a favorite show as a kid? Was it one of those mentioned above?

Do you sometimes rewatch it today for fun or to share it with your kids?

Let us know what your favorites were in the comments section below.

Jessica Kosinski is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow her on X.

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