Published on December 17th, 2011 | by Colin Ballsmonkey Hill1
Extreme Inbetweens – The 100 Greatest Animated Series of All Time Finale
ME BEING PRETENTIOUS AND ARBITRARILY RANKING A BUNCH OF TV CARTOONS
THE 100 GREATEST ANIMATED SERIES OF ALL TIME
The Final Chapter
Are you ready?
I don’t think you’re ready.
You’re not ready for what I’m about to drop on you.
The Top 20 Greatest Animated Series of All Time.
The greatest of the great, the best of the best, the cream de la French stuff. These are the shows that have stood out among hordes of others and have shown a level of quality that no other show can rival. They earned their stripes.
Lives will be changed.
Minds will be blown.
And the world will never be the same! AGAIN!
Before we get to it, a quick recap of the previous 80…
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
60. A Pup Named Scooby-Doo
59. Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers
58. Batman Beyond
57. Aaahh!!! Real Monsters
55. Liquid Television/What-a-Cartoon Show/Oh Yeah Cartoons
54. Bobby’s World
53. The Fairly Oddparents
52. Aladdin: the Series
50. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
48. Spectacular Spider-Man
47. Hey Arnold!
46. Aeon Flux
45. Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat
44. Tiny Toon Adventures
40. Superman: the Animated Series
39. Invader Zim
38. Adventures of the Gummi Bears
37. The Schnookums and Meat funny Cartoon Show
36. The Jetsons
35. Garfield and Friends
33. Ed, Edd, n Eddy
31. Pixie, Dixie, and Mr. Jinx
30. Beany and Cecil/The New Adventures of Beany and Cecil
29. Scooby-Doo: Where Are You
28. South Park
27. Jonny Quest
25. Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends
24. Justice League/Justice League Unlimited
23. The Flintstones
22. Quick Draw McGraw
21. The Powerpuff Girls
And now, without further a-choo! (AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA)
Let’s get it on!
20. Top Cat: Top Cat was one of the coolest cartoons ever. It was one of the first primetime animated series debuting just a year after The Flintstones. The title character, Top Cat (T.C. to his friends), was a street-wise, crafty, greedy, but still noble con man and leader of a gang of alley cats whose get-rich-quick schemes often faced opposition by beat cop Officer Dibble. Like Yogi Bear before him, Top Cat was crafty and defiant of authority, though where Yogi tended to be a bit on the dim side, Top Cat was smart and a lot more cunning. Top Cat had very strong writing and great voice acting, especially by Arnold Strong, who played the title character, but this series ranks so high up on the list based on the strength of the characters alone.
19. Yogi Bear: One of the most iconic cartoon characters of all time, Yogi Bear was the breakout star of The Huckleberry Hound Show, and is arguably Hanna Barbera’s most popular character. The series of shorts featured the escapades of the crafty, impulsive, and always-hungry Yogi Bear and his soft spoken and level headed sidekick Boo-Boo as they tried to steal picnic baskets under the nose of Ranger Smith in Jellystone National Park. Yogi and Boo-Boo were such great characters and their dynamic was absolutely perfect; Yogi’s appeal came from his persistence and defiant nature, and Boo-Boo’s laid back attitude and willingness to let Yogi make an ass out of himself made him the perfect sidekick. The background designs and color palette of the show was absolutely gorgeous, a perfect blend of earth tones that really helped bring Jellystone to life. A beautiful looking show with great characters and stories, Yogi Bear was truly one of the best of the best, and the less said about that crappy live action movie, the better.
18. Dexter’s Laboratory: Gendy Tartakovsky’s breakout hit series about a young boy genius and his secret lab helped put Cartoon Network on the map. Dexter’s Laboratory was one of the network’s earliest original cartoons, starting out as a couple of animated shorts on The What-a-Cartoon Show and soon gaining enough popularity to carry a 30 minute series. The setting of Dexter’s Laboratory gave it a number of directions to go in. Dexter could travel through time, space, under the sea and inside a computer. He’s encountered aliens, built giant robots, and even used a giant stone Abe Lincoln to battle his rival and his giant stone George Washington. But the strength of the series wasn’t just that or the animation, which had that great cinematic level visual storytelling that Gendy is famous for, but was Dexter himself. He was little kid who despite being a super genius, was still a regular kid. He had to deal with things like school, getting picked on, crushes, as well as his pesky older sister, Dee-Dee; and Dexter using science to solve his problems almost always backfired on him. He was smug genius, but also kind of a loveable loser at times. The writing was brilliant and you can tell the crew really let their imaginations go wild with the show. Dexter’s Laboratory was one of the most creative, energetic, and fun shows to come out of the 90’s. It’s been imitated, but never surpassed.
17. Avatar the Last Airbender: The closest thing this generation will have to a Star Wars type epic. Avatar the Last Airbender takes place in a world made up of Benders (people who can manipulate the elements of nature). The world is divided into four different nations corresponding to a different element and kept in peace by the Avatar, who is the only person who can control all four elements. 12-year-old airbender Aang is the latest incarnation of the Avatar but fears his destiny and runs away, only to get frozen ice, rendering him absent when the Fire Nation seizes control of the world and wipes out the airbenders. Awakened from his frozen sleep 100 years later by two Water Tribe kids, Aang must fulfill his destiny and master all four elements to save the world. Nickelodeon took a chance with this series and it paid off big. The series lasted three seasons and each was better than the last. Each season had a unique look and feel, as well as its own sub plots, while still being a part of a major overarching storyline. It built a magical world with creative creatures and deep characters that were never one-note, but instead had their own strengths as well as faults, growing as the series went on. The environments were gorgeous, the colors had so much feel to them that they took on a life of their own, and perfectly matching the corresponding elements the seasons were centered around. The animation was insane, taking its cues from real martial arts choreography and assigning different kung fu style to each bending art a to make the fight scenes look like nothing else that’s ever been done in animation. It had adventure, action, drama, humor, romance, peril, and overall fun. Avatar the Last Airbender truly earned the right to be called “epic”.
16. The Venture Bros: Who would’ve thought a parody show could turn into such a unique and original experience? Venture Bros is hard to sum up in a few words. It’s main characters are the clueless “super sleuth” brothers Hank and Dean Venture; their father, former child adventurer and current hack super scientist Dr. Thaddeus “Rusty” Venture; and their bodyguard the hulking, murder machine Brock Sampson. Their main foe is the mostly inept, butterfly themed super villain The Monarch who is bent on destroying Dr. Venture for some reason. The show mixes elements from Jonny Quest, The Hardy Boys, comic books, pulp adventure stories and is jam packed with the best pop culture humor on television. The show started off very stand alone, but by the second season the writing had improved greatly and has crafted a deep storyline with many unexpected twist and turns. The show has rich character development and isn’t afraid to make long lasting changes and shake up the status quo. Plus, for an Adult Swim show the animation is pretty good. Venture Bros is not only the best Adult Swim show, but one of the best most underappreciated shows on television.
15. Eek! the Cat: I am a major fan of Eek! The Cat. Bill Kopp’s most successful series yet about a kind-hearted, optimistic purple cat named Eek who attempts to help people often caused him great physical harm was a major staple of Fox Kids and was one of their longest running shows. Eek had it all; the writing was funny, fast paced, and new how to utilize both pop culture jabs and classic cartoon slapstick to its upmost effect. Eek as a character is one of my favorites, he’s not cocky, he’s not a jerk, he’s not selfish or cruel, he’s a nice guy. He goes out of his help anyone, always following his motto “it never hurts to help”, although in his case, it usually does. Eek also had a great supporting cast including his morbidly obese southern girlfriend Annabelle, his friend Elmo the Elk, and Sharky the Shark Dog who’s usually hell-bent on destroying Eek. Despite being a show for kids, there was a ton of humor that adults could enjoy as well and would often parody movies that are geared towards adults like Jaws, Apocalypse Now, and Pulp Fiction. Eek! the Cat was one of the best cartoons of its time and has been a huge influence on me. I’m proud to have it on the list.
14. Ducktales: Ducktales brought the adventures of Scrooge McDuck from the pages of Carl Barks’ comic book to the silver screen. The treasure hunting adventures of Scrooge, his nephews Huey, Dewy, and Louie, and air-headed pilot Launchpad McQuack was one of Disney’s biggest television successes. This was like a kids version of Indiana Jones with its exotic locales, mystery, and daring adventure. The characters were all fun and the show perfectly conveyed the strong family bond between them. It could be heartwarming when it wanted to be, but never short changed us on the action. Almost no scenario was too crazy for Ducktales; time travel, magic, haunted houses, cursed artifacts, and hidden cities were all common place in the universe they set up, but it kept itself grounded with its down-to-Earth characters. In its last season , the show began to shift more focus to a new character, Scrooge’s accountant Fenton Crackshell and his alter-ego, the cybernetic superhero Gizmoduck. Fenton/Gizmoduck was a fine character but his stories took away from the excitement we had been used to before. Still, the good outweighs the bad and there was a lot good with Ducktales. It built an endless world of colorful characters, exotic locales, and daring adventure; and gave us the most insanely catchy theme song of all time. I bet it’s in your head right now. Life is like a hurricane, here in Duckburg…
13. The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show: Jay Ward and Alex Anderson’s classic about a moose and flying squirrel who, unintentionally, fought communism pretty much proved that a quality product could come out of a shoe string budget. Rocky and Bullwinkle was amazing as both political and social satire comedy, and just a fun cartoon. Despite its cheap and choppy animation, Rocky and Bullwinkle stands the test of time due to its top notch writing. The show was serialized and really mastered the cliffhanger ending with its blend of suspense and humor. The Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons weren’t the shows only offering, as it featured segments such as Dudley Do-Right, an action adventure parody about a heroic Mounty who foiled the plans of the evil Snidely Whiplash; and the time-traveling adventures of Mr. Peabody and Sherman in Peabody’s Impossible History. Those shows were great, but to me ,the Rocky and Bullwinkle episodes were the highlights.
12. Beavis and Butt-Head: Never has dumb been so brilliant. Beavis and Butt-Head’s premise is as simple as its main characters: the misadventures of two dim-witted teenagers who when they aren’t watching TV are looking for ways to either cause mayhem or score with chicks. Beavis and Butt-head were great reflections of everything wrong with teenagers in the 90’s, and today even, but more than that, they were funny characters. Their stupidity utter lack of common sense led them to make the simplest problems ten-time worse. The animation was good for its time and Mike Judge’s visual style gave the show a grungy, realistic look to it that really made the cartoony nature of Beavis and Butt-Head much funnier. A staple of the show was the commentary for music videos airing on MTV that the duo would provide between the episode segments. It was both scathing and hilarious, and very insightful (well, as insightful as beavis and Butt-Head could get). The show recently made a comeback after 13 years of being off the air, but aside from slightly improved visuals, you could barely tell it had left at all, it picked up right where it left off and the quality didn’t go down a bit. It was great back then, and continues to be great today.
11. Darkwing Duck: The Disney Afternoon gave rise to many great cartoons, the majority of them you’ve already seen on this list, but without a shadow of a doubt, the best of the bunch has got to be Darkwing Duck. Both a parody of the superhero genre, and a solid entry to it in its own right, Darkwing Duck was about a heroic yet sometimes inept superhero who protected the city of St. Canard from the forces of evil. The show was a radical departure from the Disney shows before it. The style was more rubber hose in nature and the humor was more focused on fast paced slapstick. Darkwing Duck was also more action-oriented than the other shows in the line-up, but because of the slapstick could pass under the censor’s radar. Darkwing was a great character. He was egotistical, stubborn, and often relied too heavily theatrics, but was balanced out with his intelligence, nobility, heroic nature, an ability to cleverly pull out a last minute victory, and his supporting cast and rogues gallery were varied and energetic, and worked perfectly in tandem with our main hero. The animation was the best of all the shows in the Disney Afternoon. It had real emotional to it and made for some great visual humor. Darkwing Duck had everything a kind could want in the 90’s and still holds up insanely well to this day. The show experienced a brief revival in the form of a comic book series, and hopefully Disney will utilize this gem’s untapped potential more.
10. The Ren and Stimpy Show: Alongside Doug and Rugrats, The Ren and Stimpy Show was one of the original three Nicktoons. But while the first two were very low key, Ren and Stimpy hit us all in the face with a sack of Gritty Kitty Litter. Created by John Krisfaluci in the early 90’s, Ren and Stimpy, about an angry and violent Chihuahua and his dim-witted cat pal, and put the cartooniness back into cartoons. John K took influence from classic Bob Clampett and Tex Avery cartoons, Hanna Barbera, The Three Stooges, and so much more when crafting the series and it’s very easy to see. The animation was simply the best of its time, it was the polar opposite of Disney, it was crazy, it was bouncy, and it never held back. The characters acted, an art which is lost in animation today. With every move they made there was emotion to it, its timing was perfect it never used the same gag twice, there was life to it. It was exaggerated as hell but there was also subtlety to the humor, for as much emotion as they actively conveyed, there was a lot more going on underneath it. The music was jazzy and could tell a story well enough on its own. After John K was fired from Nickelodeon, the show took a major downturn, but the Spumco produced episodes still hold up as animation gold.
9. Pinky and the Brain: This spin-off of Animaniacs proved to be just as popular on it’s on. Pinky and the Brain told the escapades of two genetically engineered lab mice plotting to take over the world. Pinky and the Brain’s dynamic was a classic double act, Brain was intelligent, short-tempered, stern, and ambitious in nature, in contrast to Pinky who was blissfully dim-witted, optimistic, friendly and crazy. All the great writing from the Pinky and the Brain segments in Animaniacs carried over here. The simple premise opened the door to many storytelling possibilities. The Brain’s schemes were grand and original like becoming a country western star and using a hypnotic song to make people his slaves, or luring the people of Earth onto a papier mache copy to take over the real one, and were usually fouled up by Pinky’s stupidity. The show mainly took place in the modern day but episodes could place them anywhere from the 1930’s to medieval times. What really mattered was the core dynamic of Brain and Pinky, made all the more excellent by the voice acting of Maurice LaMarche and Rob Paulsen respectively. This show about two little lab mice was larger than life and hopefully we’ll see the duo return in the future to try to take over the world once more.
8. Animaniacs: C’mon, if Pinky and the Brain showed up on this list, you knew this wouldn’t be far behind. After the success of Tiny Toons, Steven Spielberg went on to produce another, even bigger animated hit in Animaniacs. Animaniacs was a cartoon variety show centered around three lost forgotten, at least in the context of the show, animated characters of the golden age: The Warner Bros, Yakko and Wakko, and the Warner Sister, Dot. The Warners were zany and chaotic in nature and served no other purpose but to drive people crazy. Their personalities were strong and energetic, their dialogue was funny and unique to each character, and their designs echoed an earlier age of animation. Other shorts in the show included The Goodfeathers, a Goodfellas/Godfather parody with New York pigeons; Slappy Squirrel, about a cantankerous old retired cartoon star; and of course Pinky and the Brain, who would spin-off into their own series. In addition the show was famous for its musical segments that fulfilled the educational quota of the show, but did it in a way that was entertaining as hell and didn’t make you realize you were learning. We’ve yet to see another show like Animaniacs, and I doubt we’ll ever see one again. It was a show perfectly of its time and was great satire of pop culture and entry into the legacy of Warner Bros cartoons.
7. The Simpsons: Many people of my generation can’t even remember a time when The Simpsons weren’t on the air. This spin-off of The Tracy Ullman Show has managed to last well over 20 years and STILL has no foreseeable end in sight. This show about a middle-class family of five and the crazy cast of townsfolk that inhabit Springfield, USA has become a major staple of pop culture. Its dialogue is insanely quotable, terms it’s invented have made their way into our regular vocabulary, its characters both main and secondary are legendary, and the show has had cameos from so many celebrities from Adam West, to Kelsey Grammer, to Liz Taylor, to even Michael Jackson (supposedly). In addition, its animation is pretty decent, and its voice cast is astoundingly talented. The adventures of Homer, Marge, Lisa, Maggie, and Bart Simpson have spawned video games, comic books, toys, a movie, and over 400 episodes. This country would not be the same without The Simpsons.
6. Rocko’s Modern Life: Nickelodeon’s cult favorite cartoon about a wallaby named Rocko dealing with the absurdities of life was an obvious in for this list. Rocko’s Modern Life debuted in 1993 and launched the career of creator Joe Murray. Unlike most cartoons of the time, Rocko had much more appeal with adult audiences and the subtle little mature jokes they threw in the show were proof of that. Rocko had some of the strongest writing, characters, and animation of any cartoon series The animation, while not as exaggerated as Ren and Stimpy, was still filled with so much personality. Its striking visual style was very wonky, with everything appearing unbalance, reflecting the off-center nature of the characters of that world. Rocko’s Modern Life was filled with every kind of un-desirable that you would find in real life, especially in you lived in the city, all played off of fish-out-of-water Rocko, who served as the straight man of the show and our avatar into this crazy world. The writing team took real situations from their lives and used them as inspiration for episodes; things like getting the trash out on garbage day and or going to the grocery store became major sources for humor in the show. You can really feel all the fun that the crew was having making this show. Great writing, great animation, great timing, great visuals, great voice acting, Rocko had it all, and the fact that it never took off more in the eyes of the mainstream is a shame. Though it would give rise to one of the biggest cartoons of all time.
5. Batman the Animated Series: What can I say about this series that hasn’t already been said? It’s Batman the Animated Series. It’s one of the most universally praised shows of all time. It gave life to the title character like no other series did before. It did practically everything right. I don’t think I really need to explain all the pluses of the show, so I won’t. Here’s a quick rundown of everything the show did right, though: writing, animation, art style, color, backgrounds, staging, action, characters, voice acting, etc. It’s Batman: the Animated Series, ‘nuff said.
4. The Ruff and Reddy Show: Before Scooby Doo, before Fred Flintstone, before Yogi Bear, before Huckleberry Hound, there was Ruff n’ Reddy. This was the first of the Hanna Barbera cartoons for television and definitely the most unique. The series was about the adventures of buddies Ruff, a smart aleck cat, and Reddy, a dimwitted dog; simple, right? What made this show so unique was that unlike the shows that would follow, Ruff and Reddy was a serialized series with a story taking place over 13-part episodes. I love shows that aren’t bound to one setting and can have characters in almost any kind of situation and Ruff and Reddy was one of the best of them. The snappy dialogue, excellent character design, and great lead characters, and brilliant voice acting by Daws Butler and Don Messick made up for the limited animation, which in itself wasn’t bad at all. It’s rare to see any serialized cartoons anymore and it’s a shame because it’s a great format, and the show utilized it well. Each episode was around four minutes long and the cliffhangers did leave you wanting more. Despite being the first, Ruff and Reddy tends to be forgotten among the Hanna Barbera classics, but it’s influence can be seen and felt among the many shows that would follow it.
3. Spongebob Squarepants: For reasons I’m still trying to figure out, SpongeBob Squarepants has become the most popular cartoon in America today. The character himself has become one of the most beloved, recognizable, and long-lived characters in animation history. Created by former Rocko’s Modern Life writer Stephen Hillenburg, and has proven in almost every way its successor, Spongebob SquarePants is about the adventures and misadventures of a cheery and energetic yellow sponge who lives undersea with his friends and neighbors. The show has done what every cartoon aspires to do, appeal to as wide an audience as possible. Kids can appreciate the bubbly characters and great cartoony animation, while older audiences can find enjoyment in the great writing and subtle adult humor. SpongeBob has thrived for over 10 years and has succeeded Rugrats as the most popular show Nickelodeon. It’s unassuming in its brilliance and proven it can go on strong for years to come. In an era where it’s rare that cartoon character reaches the heights of those of the golden age, SpongeBob has become a staple of pop culture and will be remembered for years to come.
2. Huckleberry Hound: Ruff and Reddy may have been the first, but Huckleberry Hound was the best. Hanna Barbera gets a lot of flack for its limited animation and essentially creating the big divide between television and feature animation, but it doesn’t get enough praise for the stuff it did right, which was everything else. Great writing, beautiful color mixes and background designs, strong character designs, top quality voice acting, and fleshed out, likeable characters. Nowhere else were any of those qualities exemplified more than in Huckleberry Hound. As I said for Ruff and Reddy, I like shows where characters aren’t bound to one setting, and Huck sure wasn’t. The great thing about the show was that Huck could be anywhere and anything. A cowboy, a cop, a knight, or just regular old Huck, what stayed constant was his character. Huck was laid back, kind-hearted, and a little slow, but had his breaking points, he felt very much like a real person, and the way he broke the fourth wall and talked directly to the audience made us feel like we were a part of the show. Huck would win some and he would lose some, but maintained his appeal throughout, and Daws Butler’s voice acting was the icing on the cake. Huckleberry Hound was one of the first and without a doubt the best of the Hanna Barbera cartoons, and even today holds up among the modern offerings.
We’ve gone through 99, but now is the moment of truth. The number one greatest animated series of all time is…
1. Captain Planet and the Planteers: Proof that the greatest animated series are created by crazy billionaires. The show was about teens from all across the globe that were given magical rings, each embodying a different classical element, by the spirit of Earth, Gaia to fend off eco-terrorists. When in trouble the teens would combine their powers to summon earth’s greatest champion, Captain Planet, a blue-skinned, green mullet having superhero whos powers included flight, super strength, and the ability to constantly make the worst puns ever. Also you could kill him with trash. Granted the writing sucked, the characters were all bland, the animations were awful, and Captain Planet was one of the worst superheroes ever, but the show had something none of the other 99 shows on this list had…Heart!
Okay I’m just messing you, the real number one is…
1. Samurai Jack: I’ve gone on and on about how great Gendy Tartakovsky is, but I can’t say it enough. The man is one of the best animators of our time and this series is proof why. A time-displaced Samurai trapped in the far future must figure out a way to get back to his own time period to stop and evil demon named Aku from conquering the world as he’s already done. That was the premise of Samurai Jack. It was as simple as that, but still brilliant. It had a set end point, but was in no rush to get there. It was a ticking-clock show with no ticking-clock. The show could go in so many directions and explore many different aspects of its world, and it didn’t have to worry about staying on track because it’s ultimate destination was in the past, not the future. The reason Samurai Jack is at number one is mainly because of one thing, the visuals. No other cartoon on or off this list has even come close to matching the level of visual storytelling this show achieved. I feel like calling it cinematic would be an understatement. This show proved multiple times it did not need dialogue to tell a story, but instead relied on the breathtaking color style, dynamic staging, and some of the most crisp and fluid animation I’ve ever seen. Jack was like the Batman of samurais. He was determined, he trained hard, and triumphed over his enemies using his cunning, his bravery, and his sheer will alone. He was seemingly invincible but most of the time a victim of circumstance. Aku proved to be a great villain; a looming shadow constantly hanging over jack who was both menacing and humorous. Each episode was it’s on mini epic, with a color set and musical score tailor made to it. Samurai Jack could cover a wide range of emotion, it could be adventurous, funny, serious, uplifting, heartbreaking, or unapologetically whimsical, but no matter what, it was always fun. Ultimately what made the show brilliant led to its undoing. It’s experimental style of storytelling didn’t catch on well with the mainstream and it was cancelled before we could get a series finale. Normally that would be a negative but sheer brilliance of the show keeps me from holding that against it. What it did right and what it did wrong was one in the same, but what it did right it did really right. Samurai Jack was original, inventive, and absolutely astounding. I can’t think of another show more deserving of the number one spot.
So there you have it, there’s my list of the 100 Greatest Animated Series of all Time.
I eagerly await your bitching and moaning.