While most of us didn’t have a secret laboratory growing up, many of us endured a childhood with an annoying sibling who thought he or she knew better and/or a counterpart whose intelligence made us feel inferior (possibly due to his or her own secret laboratory). Such relatability is one of the reasons why Dexter's Laboratory was loved by viewers of all ages ever since its 1995 debut.
1. IT WAS A FIRST FOR CARTOON NETWORK.
Initially running old Warner Bros., MGM, and Hanna-Barbera cartoons 24 hours a day, the new cable channel started to air original animated shorts in 1995 during the showcase series What a Cartoon! One of those was Dexter’s Laboratory, which won a most popular short series vote, and was subsequently picked up as a series. Not only was the show the first original animated series in Cartoon Network history (the first original, sort of live-action show was Space Ghost Coast to Coast), it was the highest-rated series on the Turner-owned network in both 1996 and 1997.
2. DEXTER WAS VOICED BY TWO DIFFERENT WOMEN.
Accomplished voice actress Christine Cavanaugh provided the perfect voice for both Chuckie Finster on Rugrats and the titular Babe in the 1995 movie. She stopped portraying Dexter during the show's third season, in 2001, when she retired from the voice acting business. She was replaced by Candi Milo. Sadly, Cavanaugh passed away on December 22, 2014.
3. DEE DEE WAS ALSO VOICED BY TWO DIFFERENT WOMEN.
Creator Genndy Tartakovsky recruited his college friend Allison Moore to voice Dee Dee in the first season. When Moore tired of voice acting and left to pursue a career on Broadway, Kat Cressida took over. When the series came back for a third season, Moore actually took the role back. Then Cartoon Network stepped in before the fourth and final year and brought Cressida back, believing the show’s viewers were more used to her voice.
4. DEXTER HAS AN ACCENT BECAUSE ALL WELL-KNOWN SCIENTISTS HAVE ACCENTS.
At least that’s how Tartakovsky once reasoned it to The New York Times. In an interview with The Washington Post, Cavanaugh described the diminutive scientist’s voice partly as “a small Peter Lorre.” Director-storyboard artist-animation director-Tartakovsky roommate at California Institute of the Arts Rob Renzetti may have also prank-called Tartakovsky with a similar voice during their school days.
5. THE IDEA FOR DEXTER BEGAN WITH A DRAWING OF A BALLERINA.
Tartakovsky drew a tall, blonde ballerina one day for a college animation assignment. It led to him thinking up a polar opposite: a short little brother with a love of science. Gradually, Dexter came into being, with Tartakovsky’s computer engineer brother Alex as another inspiration.
6. THE JUSTICE FRIENDS WERE INSPIRED BY THE MARVEL COMICS TARTAKOVSKY READ AS A CHILD.
Tartakovsky left Russia with his parents and emigrated to Chicago at the age of seven. His father left behind a career as a dentist whose clients included the Soviet National hockey team. Watching Warner Bros. cartoons and reading Marvel Comics helped the budding animator learn English.
7. SPONGEBOB AND SCOOBY DOO WERE TWO OF THE JUSTICE FRIENDS.
Tom Kenny, who voiced SpongeBob SquarePants, and Frank Welker, who provides the voice of Scooby-Doo and Scooby's friend Fred, also worked on Dexter's Laboratory. Kenny played Valhallen in the Justice Friends shorts, while Welker played both his roommate, Infraggable Krunk, and Dexter’s Monkey, who starred in the Dial M for Monkey installments.
8. TARTAKOVSKY THOUGHT THE JUSTICE FRIENDS CARTOONS COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER.
When asked in 2001 if any project of his—which at that point also included Samurai Jack—didn’t live up to expectations, Tartakovsky replied that Justice Friends "could have been funnier and the characters could have been fleshed out more."
9. DEXTER’S BURRITO PALACE IS BASED ON AN ACTUAL PLACE.
Dexter's beloved Burrito Palace is based on an eatery that Tartakovsky frequented growing up in Chicago.
10. SETH MACFARLANE WAS A WRITER ON THE SHOW.
The future Family Guy creator was a storyboard artist on Dexter’s Laboratory and co-wrote four episodes. Craig McCracken, who would later go on to create The Powerpuff Girls, worked as a director, art director, model designer, and storyboard artist on the show. The Powerpuff Girls (which Tartakovsky produced) also originated as a What a Cartoon! short before blossoming into a full-fledged series.
11. THE ANIMATION STYLE WAS STRONGLY INFLUENCED BY ONE SPECIFIC MERRIE MELODIES CARTOON.
12. DEXTER WAS IN THE MACY’S THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE.
Twice! A giant balloon version of Dexter made its way from Central Park to Herald Square in both 1998 and 1999.
13. A SEGMENT WAS BANNED FROM SUBSEQUENT AIRINGS.
The Dial M for Monkey segment titled “Barbeqor” isn't one you'll be seeing again. Shortly after its initial airing it was pulled from the lineup because the Silver Spooner character presented a negative stereotype of gay men. The segment was replaced on all season one DVDs of the show.
14. ANOTHER SEGMENT DIDN’T SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY UNTIL 2013.
“Rude Removal” was initially produced in 1998. It achieved cult status through the years, because Cartoon Network would not air it due to its excessive swearing (it didn’t seem to matter that the 13 words were bleeped.) Finally on January 22, 2013, Adult Swim—Cartoon Network’s primetime block of programming—uploaded “Rude Removal” to its YouTube channel.
15. FANS HAVE SOME INTERESTING THEORIES ABOUT THE SHOW.
Some fans believe that Dee Dee is actually Dexter’s time-traveling daughter, sent back in time by Dexter to prevent him from working on an invention that would destroy the world. Less plausible theories, like that Dexter’s Laboratory is a prequel to The Big Bang Theory, are also out there.