ME BEING PRETENTIOUS AND ARBITRARILY RANKING A BUNCH OF TV CARTOONS
THE 100 GREATEST ANIMATED SERIES OF ALL TIME
Greetings Toonsters! Are you ready for round 3 of the list? Of course you’re not, you feeble minds aren’t ready to be blown, but they will be anyway. First though, since I neglected to do this last time, a recap of the list so far…
100. YoungJustice/Thundercats (2011)
99. Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes
98. Mad Jack the Pirate
97. Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog
96. King of the Hill
93. The Smurfs
92. The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy
91. Scooby-Doo Mystery Inc
87. Static Shock
86. Aqua Teen Hunger Force
85. Cow and Chicken
84. Moral Orel
82. X-Men: Evolution
81. The Angry Beavers
80. Space Ghost Coast to Coast
79. Home Movies
78. Kim Possible
77. Pirates of Dark Water
76. Sym-Bionic Titan
75. Peter Pan and the Pirates
74. 2 Stupid Dogs
73. Beast Wars
72. The Tick
71. Batman: the Brave and the Bold
70. Muppet Babies
69. Johnny Bravo
68. Teen Titans
67. The Alvin Show/Alvin and the Chipmunks
66. Mighty Max
65. Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures
64. Courage the Cowardly Dog
63. Roger Ramjet
62. The Critic
61. Goof Troop
And now, on with the show…
60. A Pup Named Scooby-Doo: The big trend in animation in the 80’s and early 90’s was taking beloved cartoon characters and turning them into kids to appeal to a younger audience. Muppet Babies, Flintstones Kids, Tom and Jerry Kids, Yo Yogi, etc. They were all of varying quality, but the unquestioned best of the bunch was A Pup Named Scooby-Doo. Scooby had a long string of cartoon adaptations prior to this, but this was the most different from them all. The series still stared Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby, and they still solved mysteries and busted guys dressed like monsters, only this time as kids. But what really made this show so memorable was that it was equal parts continuation and parody. The show was very self-aware and frequently made fun of the common tropes of the series, from the chase scenes (now complete with dance sequences), to the “meddling kids” line, to Velma saying “Jinkies” every time she finds a clue. While Shaggy and Scooby remained the same, the others had their personalities altered. Freddie is still the leader, but is a outspoken dim-wit who believes aliens, vampires, bigfoots, etc are always behind the case of day. Daphne, playing into the fact that her family was rich, was now more snobbish, sarcastic, and skeptical, with her catchphrase being “Please, there are no such things as ghosts/monsters”. Finally Velma, still the brains of the group, was now more quiet, only really talking when a clue had been found. A new character, a bully named Red Herring, was added to the cast, who Freddie always accused (incorrectly except in one case) of being the monster. The show was hilarious and still holds up to this day. The most entertaining incarnation of Scooby-Doo to date.
59. Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers: A staple of the Disney Afternoon, Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers took the classic Disney chipmunks, put them in a fedora and bombers jacket and Hawaiian shirt respectively, and turned them into detectives. They were teamed with new characters Gadget; a female mouse who was a mechanical wizard, Monterey Jack; a burly adventurous mouse with a cheese addiction, and Zipper; a brave and fast little green fly. Together they solved any crime that went down in the animal world and frequently battled the likes of feline mob boss Fat Cat, and mad scientist Professor Nimnul, their only human enemy. Rescue Rangers was a lot of fun to watch. The characters had a great dynamic, especially Chip and Dale, who bickered about practically everything. The voice acting was also a high point in the show, featuring Tress MacNeille, Jim Cummings, Corey Burton, and Peter Cullen as regulars. You can’t go wrong with that combination. Rescue Rangers creative, playful, goofy, and was the best thing they did with Chip and Dale since, well ever. Plus, it had one of the best theme songs in television history.
58. Batman Beyond: Theoretically, Batman Beyond should not have worked. A teenage Batman in the future with a techno/rock soundtrack, craziness, but surprise surprise, it not only just worked, but was a brilliant incarnation in it’s own right. Taking place in a future Gotham improved aesthetically by technological advancements, but still plagued with crime and corruption, Bruce Wayne, now elderly and long past his prime, has passed the mantle of Batman down to former delinquent seeking redemption Terry McGuiness, who in a similar fashion to Bruce, lost his father to criminals. Batman Beyond took everything that made the previous animated series so good and adapted it here. Terry was a very deep and fleshed out character, who had his own set of ethics, his own outlook on life, and his own supporting cast. He was very different Batman than the one we were used to and the fact that he had the older Bruce Wayne serving as a mentor/father figure made the transition more easier. The show also succeeded in creating a great rogues gallery for Batman, making them multi-layered and somewhat sympathetic rather than stereotypically evil. The show didn’t exactly have the same art-deco type design as the pervious one, but a lot the same elements carried over and mixed with elements of Japanese anime and futuristic movies like Blade Runner. The stories were multi-layered, dark, and didn’t fall into the trap of focusing on stereotypical teen problems. I could go on and on about this show, but I’ll conclude with saying Batman Beyond is a worthy addition into the Batman mythos.
57. Aaahh!!! Real Monsters: Aaahh!!! Real Monsters did what Monsters Inc would get famous for doing four years after the show was canceled, introducing us to the day to day lives of under-the-bed type monsters. Created by Gabor Csupo of Klasky Csupo (the same people behind Rugrats), Real Monsters starred three young monsters named Ickis, Krumm, and Oblina who are studying in the Monster Academy, learning to become great monsters. This was a really creative cartoon. It succeeded in creating an entertaining universe that these monsters lived in and the rules that applied to them. Things that were sweet and cute were like poison to them, while ugliness and rot and filth were their normal. Their assignments were scaring humans and their most common method of transportation was through toilets. The animation was also top notch, with great use of squash and stretch, especially during the scaring sequences. It was a great black comedy series with memorable characters and voice acting. Pixar did it good, but Aaahh!!! Real Monsters did it the best.
56. Recess: Recess was so simply brilliant it was a wonder no one did it before. It was an entire cartoon set during recess. The main characters we a diverse group of kids in the fictional 3rd Street Middle School: TJ; the leader of the group and master schemer and prankster, Vince; the athletic kid, Spinelli; the tough kid, Mikey; the chubby poetic kid, Gretchen; the brainy kid, and Gus; the whimpy new kid. They were stock types, yes, but entertaining stock types. The real highlight of the show was the supporting characters who were all basically hyperboles of familiar personalities on school playgrounds like Randall; the tattle-tale, the Ashleys; four snobby rich and popular girls with the same name, Kind Bob; the king of the playground, and the tribal Kindergartners. There were even characters defined by their niche like Swinger Girl, Guru Kid, and Hustler Kid. It took all the everyday little things that happen in school and exaggerated them into world shattering issues. This was one of the last good Saturday morning shows.
55. Liquid Television/What-a-Cartoon/Oh Yeah! Cartoons: Same type of show, three different networks, number 55 for the same reason. All three were compilation shows, showcasing works from many different animators. Liquid Television aired on MTV from 1991 through 1994, What-a-Cartoon Show aired on Cartoon Network from 1995 to 2001, and Oh Yeah! Cartoons aired from 1998 through 2001. It might be strange to add compilation shows to this list, seeing as how they’re hard to judge, but I had to add them due to their importance. Fact is, these shows are the breeding ground for new talent show what they got and potentially become the future superstars of the animation world. These three shows combined featured the starts of guys who would go on to revolutionize the animation world and produce most of the shows on this list. Gendy Tartakovsky, Peter Cheung, Craig McCracken, Mike Judge, Danny Antonucci, Butch Hartman, John R. Dilworth, Rob Renzetti, the list goes on. It’s a damn shame there aren’t any shows like that on TV anymore, because if the animation world is going to thrive, it needs more imaginative, talented, ballsy creators like these guys, and these shows were the best ways to find them.
54. Bobby’s World: From the mind of comedian Howie Mandel came Bobby’s World, a cartoon series about everyday life told from the perspective of the over-imaginative 4-year-old Bobby Generic, voiced by Mandel himself who also voiced Bobby’s father, Howard. The show was based around Mandel’s stand-up routines and the writers of the show drew upon their own childhood experiences for story and character inspirations. Being a little kid during the entire run of the show it was easy to relate to situations Bobby went thrugh and the imagination scenes was always cool. The show had a great mix of familiar characters and realistic storylines, but not too realistic. Also, the character designs were done by Mitch Schauer, who would go on to create show number 81 on this list, The Angry Beavers.
53. The Fairly Oddparents: Fairly Oddparents spun-off of a couple of shorts from Oh Yeah! Cartoons and was centered around 10-year-old Timmy Turner and his two fairy godparents, Cosmo and Wanda. A show where a kid can wish for anything he wants is a hard concept to base a show around, but Fairly Oddparents has been going on strong for over 10 years now. The show’s animation is fluid and dynamic and the writing is very clever, with great character bits, snappy dialogue, and jabs at pop culture. Fairly Oddparents continued the legacy of strong Nicktoons and it’s success has allowed creator Butch Hartman to develop two other shows for Nickelodeon, Danny Phantom and TUFF Puppy. But neither have really reached the heights that Fairly Oddparents has, but that’s a really high bar to pass.
52. Aladdin: the Series: Rarely has the show been better than the movie, but here’s one of those cases. Aladdin: the Series picks up right where the second movie, Return of Jafar, left off and continues the saga, (yes, I feel secure in calling it a saga), of Aladdin, Jasmine, Abu, Iago, and the Genie. The style is the same as in the films, but the animation isn’t as strong, though it’s understandable seeing as how this is a 30 minute regular series. All the original cast members return except, of course, for Robin Williams as Genie, whom they replaced with Dan “Homer Simpson” Castellanetta. Aladdin’s transition from big to small screen couldn’t have gone better. All the humor and action that made the movie so good was done better here and they even gave Aladdin a wide and colorful rogues gallery. It was a show that was way better than it should have been. Great cast, great adventure, one of Disney’s best.
51. Daria: Daria began life as a minor character in Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head who, right before the series cancellation, got her own series. Daria Morgendorffer is a cynical, intelligent, and underwhelmed high school teenager who uses sarcasm and general apathy to deal with the craziness and stupidity that plagues her everyday life. While having some of the worst and laziest animation I’ve ever seen, the show excels solely due to its writing and characters which are both phenomenal. The dialogue was fast, scathing, and hilarious. The show had some of the best cast of characters I’ve ever seen. They were basically all the same people you know in real life exaggerated to the max but never one note. Daria was a smart show with a message to get out and it got its point across every episode.
50. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Anyone who knows me isn’t surprised this is on the list, though they may be surprised it’s not higher. I had to knock it down for the cheap 80’s animation. Still, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the stand-out show of its era. The series, based off the comics by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird about a quartet of turtles (Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo), mutated by radioactive ooze and trained in the art of ninjutsu by their rat sensei Master Splinter, took it’s own approach to the action cartoon genre. When other shows like G.I. Joe and Transformers took themselves seriously, TMNT had fun with itself. The Turtles were laid back, made jokes, and even broke the fourth wall on more than one occasion, and that worked to show’s benefit seeing as how at the time the most violent you could get away with showing was one character tickling another, TMNT, unlike others, had its witty humor to fall back on. Rather than a huge cast of interchangeable characters, the four Turtles were core of the show and diverse enough in personality that everyone had their own favorite. Plus, the soundtrack to the show was killer, and it’s theme song will be forever ingrained in the minds of every kid who grew up in the late 80’s and early 90’s. The turtles have had a couple more animated outings since then with another on the way, but none have yet to capture the charm and heart of this one. Turtle Power will never die.
49. TaleSpin: TaleSpin was the first original show for the Disney Afternoon. Taking the characters from the Jungle Book and recasting them in an adventure series set in the 1930’s. Baloo the Bear was now an ace pilot working for the Higher for Hire cargo delivery company. Shere Khan and King Louie were the only other two characters from the original book to be used, the series had it’s own cast of original characters, most notably air pirate Don Carnage. The show felt like one of those old timey adventure serials, complete with exotic locals, thrilling danger, and stereotyped minorities (though they used animals instead of people, so it’s ok). It had great characters, great voice acting, and the animation was solid. The art style had real feeling to it, from the rustic seaside city of Cape Suzette to the exotic locals the show ventured to, the art was simply beautiful. TaleSpin was just all around great, shame it never got a movie.
48. Spectacular Spider-Man: Marvel’s best cartoon ever. Ever. Simple as that. Not a single cartoon they ever put out before was better than Spectacular Spider-Man. Instead of following the movie, or sticking painfully close to the comics, the show, chronicling the early super heroics of Peter Parker, aka Spider-Man, took its inspiration from the early Stan Lee and Steve Ditko Spider-Man stories and created a fun, dramatic, and engaging series that captured everything great about Spider-Man. The title character himself was sympathetic, funny, relatable, and heroic, all the things missing from Tobey McGuire’s Spidey. He was surrounded by great supporting characters and a truly menacing rogues gallery. The animation was fast, fluid, and breathtaking in some moments. Spectacular Spider-Man ended way too soon, long before it reached its peak. The next Spider-Man cartoon has a lot to live up to.
47. Hey Arnold!: Hey Arnold was similar to shows like Doug and Recess, except it felt like more of what those shows should have been. Hey Arnold centered around the life of 9-year-old Arnold, a boy with and active imagination, wisdom beyond his years and a football-shaped head who lived in New York City. Hey Arnold’s urban setting is what made this show so cool. It’s supporting cast was diverse and eccentric, very fitting of New York, with their own unique voices and personalities. The early episodes of the series were very stylized, complete with colored penciled backgrounds, and were focused solely on Arnold and his trippy day-dream sequences. In later episodes of the show the animation became more on model and the day-dream sequences were done away with as the supporting characters began carrying their own episodes. Thankfully the stories remained solid. Hey Arnold was entertaining, clever, and never pandering.
46. Aeon Flux: Aeon Flux was created by Peter Cheung, who, after coming off Rugrats, wanted to push the limit of what could be done in television animation, and man did he succeed. The sci-fi series was about master assassin Aeon Flux working to bring down the technologically advanced yet dystopian country of Bregna led by Trevor Goodchild. The series is famous for its avant-garde visual style and animation, drawing inspiration from Asian and European art. The way the series played with perspective, color, and character construction were like nothing else on TV at the time, or anything on TV now. The series also had a very non-linear story structure with continuity rarely ever coming into play. As a result, it was a very easy show to get into, each episode feeling like its own little production. Aeon Flux was a show way ahead of its time, yet it fit perfectly with the alternative and innovative mindset of the 90’s animation world.
45. Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat: Until recently I had forgotten this show existed, and I’m glad I found it because it was really cool. The show is a somewhat modern take on the classic cartoon character of the 20’s created by Otto Messmer and Patrick Sullivan. Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat took a page out the Fleischer bros. book and substituted snappy dialogue and strong story structure for great, off-the-wall, cartoony animation, and it was great. It was a pure, unabashed cartoon, not trying to be anything more. The visual gags, the timing, the squash and stretch, it all worked perfectly. It felt exactly like a cartoon of the golden era, and this was in 1995. This show didn’t know the meaning of the word “on-model”. Maybe that’s why it isn’t so well remembered, but it doesn’t make it any less awesome. Find it if you can if you’re an animation fan.
44. Tiny Toon Adventures: While so many classic characters were being aged down, Tiny Toon Adventures took a different approach. Rather than turn the Looney Tunes into kids, we instead got whole new characters, inspired by the classic characters, who were now their teachers at Acme Looniversity, as school where young toons learn to be next cartoon superstars. The stars were the cool, wisecracking, and unpredictable Buster and Babs Bunny (no relation), the greedy and egotistical Plucky Duck, and his frequent sidekick, the soft-spoken and gluttonous Hampton Pig. The show had a wide cast of characters each representing as different Looney Tune. The show helped revive interest in classic cartoony animation, but it always did it with a slight wink to the audience. The show was mostly made up of multiple shorts with the characters, mainly Buster and Babs, talking directly to the audience inbetween. The writing was great and found humorous ways to get morals across to children, so we barely noticed it. The music was also phenomenal, thanks to a number of different composers, including Richard Stone, would go on to use his talents on other Warner Bros cartoons. Tiny Toons was the first in a long line of animation classics.
43. Futurama: Created by Matt Groeining and David X. Cohen, Futurama is consistently well written but sadly nowhere as popular as its “older brother” The Simpsons. Philip J. Fry, a dim-witted pizza delivery boy in 1999 New York get’s accidentally frozen on New Years Eve and wakes up in the year 3000. He then joins the Planet Express delivery crew alongside new friends Leela, a level-headed and bossy female cyclops, and Bender a foul-mouth and hard drinking robot, thus the premise for the show. Futurama offers us a more realistic version of the future, giving us all the fantastic stuff we’ve always wanted like flying cars and spaceships, yet showing we’re still plagued with the same problems like crime, corruption and general debauchery. Futurama’s writing has remained consistently hilarious and at times heartfelt over six seasons. The show indulges in various jabs and homage’s of sci-fi movies, serials, and TV shows of the past and feels very much like a spiritual successor to them, a very sarcastic and raunchy successor but a successor nonetheless. The show aired on Fox but was cancelled after four seasons, but a strong fanbase kept it alive to the point where the series was renewed on Comedy Central, and unlike another resurrected Fox show, Futurama came back just as strong as ever.
42. Underdog: “There’s no need to fear, Underdog is here”! Those words were heard every episode of this Superman-inspired cartoon series. Mild mannered Shoeshine Boy would spring into action every time Sweet Polly Purebred was in trouble by popping his Super Energy Pill (another pill popping hero), to become the mighty Underdog. Just like Roger Ramjet, Underdog made up for it’s limited animation with strong character designs and fun writing. Each episode was divided into parts, which made the series very suspenseful for kids. The dialogue was fine, and the fact that Underdog always talked in rhyme never got old. While his rogues gallery was limited to only two recurring villains, it was fine for the show. It remained fun and energetic. A movie was made in 2006 but the less said about that the better. Just watch the cartoon.
41. Freakazoid: Another in a string of great Warner Bros cartoons, Freakazoid was a parody of the super hero genre, but offered much more than that. The plot of the show was summed up in the theme song; Nerdy Dexter Douglas gets sucked into the internet, gains superpowers and turns into Freakazoid, a super strong, super fast, and super insane blue-skin, red long-john wearing hero. Freakazoid, for a kids cartoon, was very hilarious. The writing was both goof and intelligent, and you can tell it was a fun show to work on. The characters were just all just as absurd as the show itself and didn’t so much balance out Freakazoid, as they did give him something to bounce off of. As superheroes became more serious, it was nice to see the seriousness get thrown back in their face in such a loving way. It was wonderfully cartoony and high energy and continues to hold-up for younger and older audiences.
Come back later for the next 20, when we, and by “we” I mean I, talk about superheroes, bouncing bears, and undersea sponges.
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