‘What a Fine Day for Science!’: 15 Trivia Tidbits About ‘Dexter’s Laboratory’
“Enter at your own peril, past the bolted door where impossible things may happen that the world has never seen before…”
So began every episode of Cartoon Network’s iconic 1990s series Dexter’s Laboratory, featuring the adventures of a boy genius and his disruptive older sister, Dee Dee. It’s time to dial
M for Monkey T for Trivia because hidden in Dexter’s laboratory were not just countless ingenious inventions but also these tidbits about the beloved cartoon…
A Cartoon Network First
Dexter’s Laboratory was Cartoon Network’s first “Cartoon Cartoon,” which was the name given to original cartoons produced by the network. Before that, the series pilot was part of the channel’s anthology showcase titled What a Cartoon!
How Dexter Beat the Powerpuff Girls
The What a Cartoon! episode with the Dexter’s Laboratory pilot aired on February 26, 1995, a week after the episode featuring the pilot for The Powerpuff Girls. Despite Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup hitting the airwaves earlier, Dexter was the character who first nabbed a full series green light. Dexter’s Laboratory would debut on April 27, 1996, while The Powerpuff Girls series debuted on November 19, 1998.
Dexter’s Russian Origins
Dexter’s Laboratory creator, Genndy Tartakovsky, was born in Moscow and defected to America with his parents when he was seven.
But Dexter’s Accent Isn’t Russian
Despite being born to an American family without any hint of an accent, Dexter has a (sort of) German inflection. When asked about it, Tartakovsky explained that he has an accent “because he’s a scientist. All scientists are foreign and have accents. It’s not really a German accent. It’s just Eastern European.”
The late Christine Cavanaugh — the voice of Chuckie on Rugrats and Oblina on Aaahh!!! Real Monsters — provided Dexter’s vocals until she retired from acting in 2001. After that, Candi Milo, who, among other credits, has voiced Granny in various Looney Tunes projects, took over.
Dee Dee Came First
When attending CalArts, Tartakovsky first crafted Dexter and Dee Dee as part of a homework assignment. In an interview, he revealed, “I was animating a girl dancing, and she basically looked like Dee Dee. I thought, ‘I really like her. What’s she going to do? Maybe she has a little brother. She’s all about art and fun and dance. He’ll be short and blocky, and he’s about science. Then he’ll have a secret lab, and she’s always sneaking in it to bother him.’ Dee Dee came first. She was really the star of the show to me. She was so much fun. Later on, I started on Dexter, and he took over.”
Not An Exact Science
Despite being a scientifically-minded character, Tartakovsky preferred not to assign Dexter an exact number for his age, preferring to say he’s “between six and eight.”
Dexter’s Mom’s Gloves
Dexter’s Mom, who has no name besides “Mom,” was later determined to be a germaphobe. This was because she always wore gloves, and the writers decided to use that trait to expand on the character.
Dexter’s Last Name
Like Dexter’s mom, his dad had no name but “Dad,” and the family’s last name has never been revealed.
Dexter Is a Bit Based on Tartakovsky’s Brother
“My brother had all these little toy soldiers,” Tartakovsky explained in an interview. “He always played with them and had intricate battles. I was never allowed to do that with them. They were fragile. There’s a little bit of Dee Dee and Dexter in that. He has science, and he doesn’t want Dee Dee in his lab. My brother is Dexter. I’m Dee Dee.”
The series contains two banned episodes. The first was the Season Two episode “Rude Removal,” which saw Dexter and Dee Dee getting split into two separate people — their polite halves and rude halves. The rude halves dropped (censored) curses throughout the episode, causing Cartoon Network to refuse to air it. Tartakovsky would show “Rude Removal” at animation festivals for years before it finally aired on Adult Swim in 2013.
Another episode, titled “Barbequor,” which starred Dexter’s super-powered pet monkey, aired in Season One but was later removed from the rotation for featuring a character deemed to be an offensive gay stereotype. The episode also showed another character getting drunk, having a hangover and vomiting.
How the Powerpuff Girls Eclipsed Dexter
The segment “Chicken Scratch,” which became part of the fourth and final season, was originally shown on the big screen before Cartoon Network’s first theatrical film, 2002’s The Powerpuff Girls Movie.
It Ended Twice
Tartakovsky intended to end the series after two seasons and the 1999 TV movie Dexter’s Laboratory: Ego Trip. However, after Tartakovsky moved on to Samurai Jack, Cartoon Network revived the series for two more seasons in 2001.
Dexter’s Comic Book Collection
Dexter’s Laboratory has had two comic series. The first, from DC Comics, ran for 34 issues from 1999 to 2003. The second series dropped four issues in 2014 and was published by IDW Comics.
Rebooting the Laboratory?
When Tartakovsky was asked about a potential revival earlier this year, he responded by saying, “Probably no, because number one, the voice actress (Christine Cavanaugh) passed away, and she was such the soul of Dexter (that) I don’t feel comfortable trying to replace her in a way. And we’ve done so many of them. I don’t know why there’s more to be done. You know what I mean? It’s kind of a weird thing.”