Secret lairs — every self-respecting cartoon villain worth their salt has one. Dr. Doofenshmirtz? Has a secret lair. Dr. Drakken (the blue guy from Kim Possible that you can’t remember because Shego was the real showstopper)? Has one too. Even Mojo Jojo, a mutated monkey that would totally qualify for r/BodyHorror if he was real, has one.
Heck, they’re so cool that heroes themselves keep their own secret lair like Flint’s laboratory in Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.
Now, we might be too old now for building pillow forts and pretending they’re the treehouse from Code Name: Kids Next Door, but you know what? We have younger cousins, nephews and nieces, and kids — all of which are a perfect excuse to build cardboard secret lairs. So grab your notepad, schedule a play date, and take your pick of the coolest secret lairs in recent cartoon history.
The Underground Laboratory From Gravity Falls
With a name like “The Mystery Shack”, it’s no surprise that this wooden cabin has some less than normal secrets. During the day, it serves as a souvenir shop that overcharges tourists for kitsch, cheap items imported from overseas. At night, the shack becomes the base of operations for dimension hopper Ford Pines and his brother, Stan.
The show teases us by revealing the room’s existence in “Tourist Trapped”, the first episode of Gravity Falls, where we see Grunkle Stan entering a room hidden behind a vending machine. Bookcases? Old and obvious. Vending machines? Totally unique.
I’m not going to lie. That scene from Gravity Falls is what got me hooked on the series. The long wait to see what’s behind that vending machine, and downstairs as indicated by the handrail on the wall, finally paid off in the 20th episode, “Gideon Rises“.
I won’t spoil what’s down there in case you haven’t seen it yet because this is one of the newer shows on our list. But if you have a paranoid, nosy nephew and an oblivious niece, you can live out your Grunkle Stan dreams by pretending your basement has a dark, Lovecraftian secret.
Jerry’s Office From Totally Spies
Ah, Totally Spies. The animated action series sold millions of little girls around the world on the idea of becoming undercover spies and moving to Beverly Hills. The show follows best friends Sam, Clover, and Alex as they juggle high school and fawning on cute boys with fighting evil organizations as spies employed under WOOHP.
WOOHP’s headquarters in downtown Los Angeles isn’t quite as secret as traditional secret lairs. It’s secret in the way the Pentagon is secret — you know it’s there and that there’s classified stuff going on inside but you’ll live forever with the pain of never really knowing and or having a chance to sit on the couch at Jerry’s office.
Though we only ever get to see Jerry’s office from his perspective and from the girls’ perspective, it’s enough for us to know that Tony Stark would feel at home at WOOHP. If anything, it’s more of an armory considering how many high-tech gadgets and weapons are stored away in the very walls of Jerry’s office. Jerry even had an AI assistant, G.L.A.D.I.S, at one point, but she was decommissioned before she could pull an Ultron.
The Watchtower From Justice League: The Animated Series
Or any of the Justice League animated shows, really.
The Watchtower is basically the International Space Station hopped up on whatever was in the water back on planet Krypton. It was built by the Justice League team after an alien invasion that sought to terraform Earth into a more facehugger friendly environment, proving once again that colonial forces are scary.
After defeating the Imperium aliens, Superman invited the rest of Earth’s best superheroes to form a group that would protect and advance the ideals of peace and justice, hence the name Justice League.
We see a lot of the Watchtower in “Eclipsed” as the Flash tries to escape his superpowered colleagues after a magical stone turns them into murderous, mind-controlled zombies. There’s a medical bay, a control room, and a really cool network of crawlspaces that lead to several areas of the space station. The Watchtower’s design looks straight out of a Star Wars movie.
Dexter’s Lab From Dexter’s Laboratory
Here’s another secret lair of the laboratory kind and one that’s so good the show itself is named after it.
Dexter’s Laboratory is one of the great Cartoon Network classics. Produced by Hanna-Barbera and aired in 1996, the series is all about Dexter, a boy genius with a love for robotics, nuclear energy, and chemistry.
For some inexplicable reason, this redheaded minor managed to build his own secret laboratory hidden in his room. Being an earlier show, it’s a little more traditional and follows the “secret room behind a bookcase” trope. Huh, secret labs behind furniture. Maybe Gravity Falls‘s secret lair was inspired by this one.
A constant source of conflict in the series is the fact that while the lab is designed to keep everyone out, Dexter’s older sister Dee Dee can always get in. Dee Dee’s ditzy and happy-go-lucky ways cause all sorts of trouble in the lab since she often tips over vats of acid and sets off lasers every time her pink ballet flats tiptoe into Dexter’s lab.
Aside from its tech, the laboratory seems to be more than just a regular part of the house. If you look at the exterior of Dexter’s family home, you’ll notice that there is no way that the lab can fit in the house unless the lab is a non-Euclidean space. House of Leaves and Dexter’s Laboratory crossover, anyone?
Rose Quartz’s Room From Steven Universe
While the true nature of Dexter’s lab is ambiguous, this next secret lair doesn’t hide the fact that it operates on alien magic logic.
Fans of Steven Universe will remember the Crystal Temple, a giant statue of the gem fusion Obsidian that has a cozy beach house sitting on her lap. The temple itself is an open secret kind of secret lair, but there’s one room in the Crystal Temple that remained a mystery to the gems for millennia: Rose Quartz’s room.
We’ve already talked about how shady Rose Quartz really is, so it’s no surprise that a woman with as many secrets as her would have the strangest bedroom in TV history.
Upon entry, Rose’s room looks like a pink paradise floating in the clouds with pink skies stretching as far as the eye can see. The room lets Steven walk in any direction for what appears to be several minutes, possibly even hours, without him finding a single wall.
This would be creepy on its own but what makes Rose’s room so cool is the fact that you can manifest anything into existence. No, that’s not some new age thing. The room can actually create any item or environment that its user requires, kind of like the Room of Requirement from the Harry Potter series.
That said, clues about Rose Quartz’s room reveal that it isn’t a magical dimension but is likely a form of gem V.R or A.R. This becomes more obvious when Steven asks the room to replicate all of Beach City and it crashes like a computer.
Sector V Treehouse From Codename: Kids Next Door
Come on, you can’t tell me you didn’t want a treehouse of your own after seeing this show.
When it comes to cartoon secret lairs, there’s little out there that can top the sheer coolness and kid appeal of the Kid’s Next Door operatives’ treehouse. The treehouse sticks out like a sore thumb thanks to its size, but its surrounding area suggests that it’s in a suburban area in the United States with some fans speculating that V stands for Virginia or Vermont.
The treehouse is divided into three main rooms and individual rooms for each of the members of the Sector V branch of the KND organization. Most of the episodes feature the briefing room, a central meeting space where the kids gather to receive briefs and plan missions against their boring adult foes. But the real fun is in the bedrooms of each KND operative.
The methodical Numbuh 1 has a room that looks more like a storage room than an actual bedroom. It’s filled with KND gadgets, toys, and books that are scattered haphazardly throughout the space — a depiction of a kid’s room that couldn’t be more true to life.
Meanwhile, Numbuh 2’s room appears to be the cockpit of an airplane. Numbuh 3’s space is filled with Rainbow Monkey plushies, Numbuh 4’s is practically a gym, and Numbuh 5 has the coolest bedroom with its own bathroom, pool table, and DJ equipment. If you find yourself in a KND treehouse, you know which room to call dibs on.
Edna Mode’s Mansion From The Incredibles
It was hard picking a secret lair out of all the awesome secret lairs we see in The Incredibles and for good reason: The movie is filled with gorgeous mid-century buildings. Say what you will about Syndrome, but the guy had taste.
His secret base in Nomanisan island had massive windows all throughout the side of the building that overlooked the rest of the island, giving his henchmen and Mr. Incredible an amazing view of the tropical paradise that surrounds it.
But since this is all about praising aesthetic taste in secret lair design, we cannot, lest we commit sacrilege, ignore the stunner that is Edna Mode’s mansion.
Located in Metroville, this million-dollar piece of prime real estate looks to have been carved from one solid block of marble. Edna Mode’s mansion sits on top of a hill and can only be accessed by going through a long, gated road that really makes you aware of how poor you actually are in comparison while giving off a feeling of exclusivity and secrecy. The house has a pool inside of it complete with a fountain. Its wide, empty spaces are broken up by bright red carpets and couches.
As Edna would say, it’s bold, dramatic, and heroic.
Titan Tower From Teen Titans
Nothing says chic and luxurious like a secret lair that’s built on its own private island.
The Titans Tower sits on a small island just outside of Jump City and serves as a home and base of operations for the Teen Titans. It’s like the Kid’s Next Door treehouse if they built it with Batman’s budget which, considering how Robin is practically Batman’s adopted son, may not be too far off the mark.
We get to a lot more of the Titan Tower compared to all of the cool secret lairs on this list since the Titans spend most of their non-fighting time hanging out in the tower. Often, that downtime is spent hanging out in the main ops room where Beast Boy and Cyborg play video games on the Tower’s multiple displays.
The tower comes with its own armory, game room, and gym, making it one of the fanciest co-living spaces on TV. Just make sure you don’t wander into Raven’s room or you might end up in a different dimension or worse, the bathroom of some demon’s secret lair.