1994 was the year to really tune into Nickelodeon. It was a time where they’d hit their stride with programming blocks like SNICK and excellent series like Rugrats, and The Secret World of Alex Mack. It was also the year that “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters” premiered (October 30, 1994). Another of the many Klasky Csupo produced animated shows, “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters” focused on the world of monsters that hide in our closets, under our beds, and in our toilets. It is one of the few genuinely horror-oriented animated shows that Nickelodeon has aired.
Set in New York City, the show’s protagonists were the monsters themselves, many of who aspire to be ace “scarers,” which is almost a must in their world. Specifically the series follows a trio of lovable monsters: 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 chubby monster who holds both of his detached eyes in his hands. The trio attends a school for monsters where their teacher, The Gromble, looks for various kids around the city to scare. The very existence and survival of monsters depend on their ability to scare people, and it’s mandatory that monsters in this reality learn how to give a great scare.
Much of “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters” garnered the whimsical gothic animation influence of Edward Gorey, and was often darker than most of Nickelodeon’s other shows. Though the trio of monsters was very charming and entertaining protagonists, they also thrived on giving the best scare possible, resulting in them terrifying other characters (mostly humans) to a state of delirium by the end of an episode. In fact, most of the episodes in 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.
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 master “scarer” The Gromble and his Viewfinder, which has the ability to recollect their memories. 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 avoiding a relentless monster hunter (voiced by Jim Belushi) named Simon.
Some of the best episodes include Ickis bonding with a stray dog in the landfill, 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’ view about their last scare when Gromble’s Viewfinder malfunctions. The series was brilliantly voiced by David Ecles, Charlie Adler, and once prolific and well known Nickelodeon actress Christine Cavanaugh.
The characters were twisted and ugly, but also adorable. Particularly Krumm, who loved to eat garbage and often carried his eyes in his mouth when his hands were full. “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters” still holds up wonderfully today with a unique twist on what’s become a surprisingly well worn formula and has managed to earn a pretty large fan base of viewers that still fondly remember it as one of the better Klasky-Csupo series ever produced.