The show focuses on three young monsters — Ickis, Oblina and Krumm — who attend an institute for monsters under a city dump and learn to frighten humans. Many of the episodes revolve around them making it to the surface in order to perform "scares" as class assignments.
The episodes follow the adventures of Ickis, Oblina, and Krumm, three young monsters attending a monster school whose headmaster is The Gromble. Ickis (voiced by Charlie Adler) is a small red monster who, due to his large ears, is often confused with a rabbit. He is the son of Slickis, who was the academy's most renowned student and the Gromble's favorite. Oblina (voiced by Christine Cavanaugh) comes from a wealthy monster family, and is considered by the Gromble to be his best student. She is shaped like a black and white, upside down candy cane, resembling a banded sea krait. One of her favorite methods of scaring humans is reaching within herself and pulling out her internal organs, and she has considerable talent for shapeshifting into various terrifying forms. She also has a talent for inducing nightmares in humans, by sticking her finger in their ear and tickling their brains while they sleep. The third monster is named Krumm (voiced by David Eccles). Like the rest of his family, his eyeballs are not attached to his body, and are usually seen carried in his hands; if he requires the use of both hands, he can carry them in his mouth. His most valuable tool in scaring is his overwhelming armpit stench as well as using his eyeballs.
The Gromble (or more simply just Gromble) (voiced by Gregg Berger) is a tall, green-blue monster with two tufts of head hair, a beard, a tail, and wears a belt around his waist and a red pump on each of his four feet. Along with Ickis, he is one of the few monsters who can hear the Pool of Elders — the source of monster existence that is made of the very substance of fears. His assistant, Zimbo (voiced by Tim Curry) is a monster who resembles a bee with one mammalian leg and a humanoid face with green hair.
The show is set in New York City, demonstrated throughout the series by the presences of the Empire State Building and "IND Subway". The dump the monsters inhabit is implied to be, Fresh Kills Landfill, but never explicitly named in the series.
The monsters frequently face Simon the Monster Hunter (voiced by Jim Belushi), a human who is determined to prove that monsters exist. He wears a thick-collared jacket and glasses.
Aaahh!!! Real Monsters was created by Gábor Csupó and Peter Gaffney, and was produced by Csupó's company Klasky Csupo, which also created the animated shows Rugrats and Duckman. Before the final title was chosen, which took over 5 years, the series had the working titles Monsters and Real Monsters. The show was conceived after Csupó and his wife and creative partner Arlene Klasky were approached by the network Nickelodeon to create a follow-up series to Rugrats. Csupó was inspired to write a show about monsters because his own young children loved them. He also said he knew Nickelodeon would not want a series about human characters because everybody else was pitching shows about animals. Csupó drew some sketches of possible monsters on a piece of paper and successfully pitched the idea to the network: "I wanted them silly and not too skillful – and the idea worked."
Nickelodeon programming director Herb Scannell said the character design in Aaahh!!! Real Monsters was partially inspired by Yellow Submarine, a 1968 animated film inspired by The Beatles. The character Grumble, in particular, bore a close resemblance to the Blue Meanie characters from that film. Csupó said some elements of the show have a look similar to the film noir genre, and called the city dump where the monster characters reminiscent of the visual style from the films Blade Runner (1982) and Brazil (1985).
Christine Cavanaugh, who provided the voice of Chuckie Finster on Rugrats, played the part of Oblina. She attempted to make the voice sound like a British version of the actress Agnes Moorehead. Ickis was voiced by Charlie Adler, a voice actor with more than 100 credits on at least 80 television shows, who had also worked as a voice director for Rugrats. David Eccles provided the voice of Krumm; his wife, Diana Eccles, was a facilities director for Klasky Csupo and an associated producer for Aaahh!!! Real Monsters'. The Gromble was voiced by Gregg Berger, who previously played the character Cornfed Pig in the Klasky Csupo series Duckman.
Other recurring characters include:
- The Snorch
- Slickis – Ickis' father.
- Horvak – Krumm's father.
- Mama Gromble – The Gromble's mother.
- Sublima – Oblina's mother.
- Skeetch – Oblina's father.
- Nicky – The monsters' only human friend, a 10-year-old boy who befriended Ickis.
- The Shroink – An elderly monster
- Dizzle – A female monster student who likes Ickis
Home media releases
From 1995 to 1997, select episodes of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters were released on VHS tape by Sony Wonder and Paramount Home Video. The complete first and second seasons were released for PlayStation Network for view on the (PlayStation 3) and PSP (PlayStation Portable) systems.
Shout! Factory secured the home video rights to the series from Nickelodeon on March 22, 2011. They released Season 1 in a 2 disc set on October 4, 2011. Season 2 was released on May 15, 2012. Season 3 was announced to be released on September 11, 2012.
From October 1994 to around 2004, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters was on Nickelodeon. In 2002, it started airing on Nicktoons TV. In 2006, it was taken off Nicktoons (formerly known as Nicktoons TV) and was shown occasionally on Sundays on Nickelodeon's "Nick Rewind." It often appears on Nick.com's Turbo Nick, an online programming broadcast. In July 2011, TeenNick debuted The '90s Are All That, a block of classic Nickelodeon programming from the 1990s, which will include Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.
-  Argentina
-  Australia
-  Brazil
-  Canada
- YTV (1994-1998)
-  Croatia
- Nickelodeon (1998–2005)
-  Czech Republic ( 1998-2005)
-  Portugal
-  Greece
-  Poland
-  Hungary
-  France
-  Italy
- TV9 (2011-present)
-  Mexico
-  New Zealand
-  Sweden
-  Finland
- Nickelodeon (1998–2003, 2006–2008)
-  Turkey
-  Ukraine
-  USA
-  Philippines
Josef Adalian of The Washington Times praised the show's animation and sense of humor, although it was not as "hip and witty" as The Ren & Stimpy Show or The Simpsons. Although he felt the show would appeal to children over 9 as well as adults, he said it may not appeal to those who "react negatively to semi-scary sights and gags about body odor, physical punishment or abusive older siblings". USA Today writer Matt Roush called it "garish and blissfully silly" and praised the show's "outrageous characters have just enough Ren & Stimpy grodiness, but tempered with exceptional sweetness". Ginny Holbert of the Chicago Sun-Times called it a "cute and clever" series with "wit and inventive creatures", and compared the animation to the work of artist Peter Max. Gannett News Service writer Mike Hughes called it a "terrific cartoon series", and said the show's "wildly perverse humor" had a "distinctly European style" that reflected Gábor Csupó's Hungarian background.
The Plain Dealer writer Tom Feran called the show "good fun" and favorably compared the series' premise to that of the animated film The Nightmare Before Christmas. Boston Herald writer Frances Katz wrote, "If there was ever a great title for a cartoon, it has to be Nickelodeon's Aaahh!!! Real Monsters'." Not all reviews were positive. The November 1994 issue of Parenting magazine listed Aaahh!!! Real Monsters as #1 in its top ten list of the worst new shows of the television season, describing it as "Graphic and scatological; it's just plain gross." Some media outlets pointed out similarities between Aaahh!!! Real Monsters and The Brothers Grunt, an MTV animated television series about a group of grotesque humanoid characters. Gábor Csupó rejected these comparisons and claims his show was more story- and character-driven with a different visual style.
The pilot episode of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters won first prize for film animation producer for television at both the Houston Film Festival and Ottawa Film Festival. The series was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Animation in 1995 alongside Rugrats, Animaniacs, Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? and 2 Stupid Dogs. The award ultimately went to Rugrats.
After the success of The Rugrats Movie, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon Movies and Klasky Csupohad plans to make a film of Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. However, production of the movie was shut down due to the story being "too dark" for children.