Published on November 16th, 2011 | by Colin Ballsmonkey Hill3
Extreme Inbetweens – The 100 Greatest Animated Series of All Time Part 1
THE 100 GREATEST ANIMATED SERIES OF ALL TIME
Greetings Toonsters! The year is almost over and 2012 is just around the corner, so before we all go down in a fiery and horrific apocalypse I thought we’d take a look back at all the cartoons kept us entertained. That’s right, today we’re going to countdown the 100 Greatest Cartoon Shows of All Time!
Now let me preface by saying, this list was composed entirely by me, no one else. No voting, no deliberation, no objective opinions, just me, because Extreme Inbetweens is MY damn column. This isn’t a toonocrasy, this is toontatorship, so you can call me GaDaffy (see what I did there). Will there be bias, yeah. Will you people disagree with my choices and blast me for what I put on/left off the list, of course, but then again I never get any comments anyway so whatever, but in any case, if you guys don’t like it, make your own damn list. Nothing’s stopping ya.
These 100 shows I felt really brought something entertaining to the world of animation. Some have become megahits and some flew way under the radar. Some have become cult favorites and some have just been plain forgotten. But I didn’t just throw the list together all willy nilly, there were three strict rules adhered to, to keep this list fair and balanced…
1. No Golden Age Film Shorts, TV Only: I had to put this one in place early on, otherwise the number 1 would be too obvious (Looney Tunes for those not in the know). Besides, those are a lot to take in and I wanted to keep this in the world of television. No Popeye, no Betty Boop, no Mickey Mouse, no Woody Woodpecker, etc. Not saying they’re great, but they’ve gotten their praise, let’s give the little guys a chance.
2. Only in America: I wasn’t about to try to factor in anime or any other foreign cartoon series. I’m not opening that can of worms. As much as I would like to include shows like Cowboy Bebop and Pokemon, I’m keeping this to just cartoons made in the good ol’ US of A. And yes I’m well aware all of this stuff is animated overseas. That’s not the point so shut up!
3. If I haven’t seen it, Then it’s a no-go: Obviously I can’t rank or critique any show I haven’t seen before. That’s not how I roll. All 100 shows on this list I’ve seen either in it’s entirety or a good chunk of the episodes to give me a clear vision of what the show is about. So don’t get mad at me if I left something off that you love, I just may not of have seen it. Or I didn’t think it was good enough, either/or.
So let’s get it started with numbers 100-81…
100. Young Justice/Thundercats: Yes we’re starting this list with a tie…but what a tie! Young Justice is the latest offering from DC and Warner Bros and continues their long tradition of animation brilliance. The show is centered around a team of six young heroes (Robin, Aqualad, Kid Flash, Superboy, Miss Martian, and Artemis) brought together by a desire to establish themselves out of their mentor’s shadow. Under the command of Batman and the Justice League, the team takes on the covert missions the high profile League aren’t able to. Young Justice’s biggest strengths are it’s story telling, voice acting, and characterization. The main characters are written like real teenagers, with their own unique voices who aren’t above goofing around with each other, but can make the switch to true professionals at a moments notice. They feel human and you get engrossed in the show because of it.
Thundercats, on the other hand, is a reboot of the 1980’s toy commercial cartoon series. Rather than be a complete retelling of the series, the show slaps some Tollken-style epicness into it, using pre-established characters in a new and more exiting light. The show follows the adventures of Lion-O, lord of the once great race the Thundercats, as he and he’s allies try to save their world from the grasp of Mumm-Ra and his forces. The setting, character designs, and plot have received a welcome update. The show is engrossing and absolutely beautiful to look at, with some of the best animation on TV today.
These two shows are very different but are number 100 for the same reason, they’re really new. At the time of this article, both these shows have barely got out of their first season, so it remains to be seen how far they’ll go and if the quality remains. But if they stay on the track their on, I see nothing but great things to come.
99. Avengers: Earth’s Mightest Heroes: Let’s pretend that other Avengers cartoon never happened and consider this the first true animated outing of the team. Since being acquired by Disney, Marvel seems to be getting more serious about animation, and this shows. Avengers: Earth’s Mightest Heroes, which chronicles the exploits of the Marvel Universe’s most powerful super-team, offers a unique visual style, more fluid animation than what’s been seen in most other Marvel shows, and much tighter writing. Fan favorite characters like Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, and the Hulk are all beautifully represented and the show is both engaging and action-packed. If only it had a better theme song.
98. Mad Jack the Pirate: Around 1997, the great animation renaissance of the 90’s began to peter out, though in those few remaining years there were a number of great shows that never caught on big like other shows of that era like Animaniacs or Ren and Stimpy, or are as well remembered. One of those shows is out number 98 and comes courtesy of Eek the Cat-creator Bill Kopp, Mad Jack the Pirate! The show centered around the self centered, greedy, and cowardly pirate captain Mad Jack and his first mate, Snuk. The show used relied on classic animation gags and top notch voice acting. The animation was some of the best of that time and writing, while not ground breaking, were entertaining as hell. It wasn’t afraid to be a cartoon, and that’s an attitude more shows should have.
97. Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog: Sonic the Hedgehog has had quite a few animated outings, but the one that gets the most fan praise is the show simply titles Sonic the Hedgehog(or Sonic SatAM). The show get’s praise for it’d dark storyline and additions of the Sonic cast roster. But you know what, they don’t know nothing, Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog was the superior show. AoSH didn’t take it’s lead character so seriously, instead focusing on a more cartoony tone with plenty of slapstick action. Rather than a big cast of characters the show was just focused on Sonic and his sidekick Tails as the bomb around the city of Mobious, eating chill-dogs and foiling the schemes of the bombastic Dr. Robotnick and his bumbling robot sidekicks Scratch and Grounder. The show was funny, colorful, weird, and fast-paced, prefect for a 90’s Saturday morning. There weren’t any deep storylines or character development, but you didn’t need them. The show was fun, the animation was good, and the music was painfully addictive. Sonic was perfect character to translate into the medium of animation, and this was his greatest showing. Forget about the rest, this one is the best.
96. King of the Hill: It’s really rare for lighting to strike twice. Most creators only get one hit, but Mike Judge was obviously doing something right. After Beavis and Butt-Head ended, Mike Judge quickly came back to the world of prime-time animation with King of the Hill. The show centered around The Hill family (Hank, Peggy, and Bobby) of Arlen,Texas and their friends and neighbors. Compared to Beavis and Butt-Head, KoTH felt a lot more grounded, at least situation wise. The characters themselves were all bursting with personality, balanced out by straight-shooter Hank Hill. This show also came the closest to capturing true realism in animation. There were no beautiful people, no glorified character designs, it chose to showcase the little imperfections of people making them look more lifelike than anything CG has ever done. KoTH was one of the longest running cartoons of all time, it wasn’t wacky or outlandish, but was able to turn the mundane aspects of life into pure entertainment.
95. Beetlejuice: Based of the 1988 film of the same name by Tim Burton, the cartoon series took a different approach to the characters. The show focused on the title character, Beetlejuice, the ghost with the most, and his human friend Lydia and the chaos that would encounter, mainly due to Beetlejuice’s actions. The show wasn’t as dark as the movie, and Beetlejuice and Lydia, as well as her parents, were the only characters carried over. The show had a great warped sense of humor, although the constant puns could get annoying at times, and it’s visuals were very unique. The animation was very satisfying for it’s time and fit the tone of the show. It’s one of the few movie-to-cartoon adaptations that, at least to me, surpass the source material.
94. Kablam: The 90’s had quite a few of these cartoon variety shows, Kablam was probably the last, or at least one of the last. The show’s structure was that of comic book and was hosted by cartoon duo Henry and June who would provide comedic bits inbetween shorts alongside their friend Mr. Foot(Bigfoot). The show had quite a bit of different cartoons but there were four mainstays each utilize a different animation style. Sniz and Fondue, the traditionally-animated adventures of two roommates, Life with Loopy, the imaginative escapades of a 12-year old girl named Loopy told through her brother Larry done in cut-out animation, Prometheus and Bob, the claymated video diaries of an alien trying to educate a caveman with often painful results, and the most popular segment of the show, Action League, NOW!, a stop-motion animated series featuring a team of action figures who rescue people, or at least try to seeing as how their all idiots. Action league eventually spun-off into it’s own series, but I’m honoring Kablam for its creativity and being a great animation showcase.
93. The Smurfs: Honestly, I can’t figure out the appeal of this show. A spin-off of the Belgian comic Johan and PeeWee, The Smurfs takes place in the tiny Smurf village, inhabited by little blue creatures called Smurfs. The Smurfs are pretty much defined by what they do, there’s Baker Smurf, Painter Smurf, Brainy Smurf, Jokey Smurf, Hefty Smurf, Clumsy Smurf, Smurfette(the only chick), etc, all under the watch of Papa Smurf. The central conflict comes from their arch-enemy Gargamel, who wants to capture The Smurfs to…do something with them. The show odd but I give it points for its fantasy setting, voice acting, and strange charm despite the ridiculousness of it. For its sheer impact on pop culture, Smurfs gets a spot on this list.
92. The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy: It’s odd how a show this dark and twisted could be marketed to kids, but by God they did it. Created by Maxwell Atoms the show was a spin-off of a larger show, Grim and Evil, but was cut down to just this one. The set-up, The Grim Reaper, who for some reason was given a Jamaican accent, after losing a bet with two kids; the blissfully idiotic Billy and the intelligent, dark, and semi-sociopathic Mandy, is forced to become their eternal playmate. The show was great, with a very dark sense of humor, with the characters dealing with everything from demons to a Red Foxx-like Dracula. The shows biggest strength was the dynamic between the main characters with Grim always looking for a way to escape his debt, Mandy always being able to manipulate a situation to her favor, and Billy…well..just being a retard. Insanely dark but insanely fun, Grim Adventures is a worthy addition to the list.
91. Scooby-Doo Mystery Inc: The latest in the long string of Scooby-Doo cartoons, this is one is one of the absolute best. Rather than take a back-to-basics approach, the show takes a whole new spin on Scooby, giving the show a overarching story and introducing new character development and relationships. Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby-Doo once again make up the core cast. They still solve mysteries, but now in a small town where they face opposition from adults who are not only in on the ploys, but encourage them to gain tourist attraction. This is also the darkest series of them all, with an overarching mystery dealing with the disappearance of a previous team of young sleuths and how it ties into the mysteries today. Mystery Inc is also one of the funniest with clever writing that pokes fun at the show itself and all the tropes it’s created along the way. Mystery Inc is one of the best cartoons today and is recommended for fans and non-fans of the series alike.
90. Rugrats: One of the original three Nicktoons, Rugrats was the biggest show Nickelodeon had before a certain yellow sponge burst onto the scene. Rugrats looked at the modern world through the perspective of 1-year-old Tommy Pickels and his fellow babies. Rugrats came from the minds of Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo was created the animation studio Klasky Csupo, which would go on to produce more shows for Nick, but this was their biggest. In its days, Rugrats was a great commentary on life and how odd the actions of adults are when viewed through the simplistic eyes of a child. It had a very distinct visual style with exaggerated body proportions on the characters and very warm feeling muted color scheme, but once The Rugrats Movie, those elements were toned down and the writing became, ironically, more child-like. Still, the show was megahit in the late 90’s, and one of the biggest cartoons of the time, maybe the biggest. Rugrats wins for great writing, great animation and voice acting in the early days.
89. Doug: It’s funny, when the first Nicktoons were in production, Doug was predicted to be the biggest of the three. The three that included it, Rugrats, and Ren and Stimpy, thus further proof that no one really knows nuthin’. Still, Doug was good show. It centered on the life of 12-year-old Doug Funnie, a pretty average, mundane kid with a big imagination. The show could get kinda mundane at times, but the best bits were whenever Doug would get lost in his own imaginative interpretations of problems, which could get really twisted at times, but accurately captures the anxiety of being an awkward pre-teen. Doug had a strong, colorful (and I do mean colorful) cast of characters and a damn catchy and enigmatic score. Of the little gems of the 90’s.
88. X-Men: Before being completely overshadows by Batman the Animated Series, X-Men was the pinnacle of super hero cartoons. Based off the uber-popular Marvel comic of the same name, the show was about a team of mutants, people born with genetic abnormalities that give them super powers, assembled to fight to defend a world that hates their kind. The theme of being a misfit, ostracized and different from normal people is what made the series resonate with a 90’s audience. It had strong writing and deep storylines for older audiences and kick-ass action and powers for younger audiences. Though the show’s main failing came from the animation. It’s highly detailed character designs made it animate poorly and the final season looked even worse, and the show quickly became centered around the character Wolverine, to the detriment of the others. Still, you can’t deny that it made a huge impact and will always be remembered, especially its theme song.
87. Static Shock: It’s always great to see more diverse representation in our entertainment, but that’s not why Static Shock is on this list. Based of the comic series by the late great Dwayne McDuffie, Static Shock featured the animated adventures of teenager Virgil Hawkins who, after exposure to an experimental gas, turned into the electrified hero Static. In a time were super heroes were being taken more seriously than they needed to by, Static Shock never forgot to be fun. Granted it could get a little preacy at times, but it never stopped being entertaining and Static himself to be a popular and highly appealing lead character. It had plenty of great action, a great cast of characters and villains, heart, and lots of cameos by other DC heroes like Batman and Superman. Shame the current comics can’t be just as good.
86. Aqua Teen Hunger Force: What the hell can you say about this show? It’s…it. It’s what it is, complete nonsensical, episodes operate without regard for continuity, it’s lead characters are talking milkshake, box of fries, and wad of meat. A spin-off of Space Ghost Coast to Coast, ATHF is the longest running show on Adult Swim, and when the episodes could literally feature anything and the show has nothing resembling a plot it’s easy to see why. It’s random and the animation is some of the cheapest ever. ATHF brilliance comes from the fact that it’s so dumb. It’s an easy show to jump into and the characters are funny enough to hook you with ease.
85. Cow and Chicken: Speaking of dumb being brilliant, Cow and Chicken! Created by animator David Fiess, Cow and Chicken was one of the most twisted, insane, and beautifully animated cartoons of the 90’s. The show is summed up by the title; there’s a cow named Cow, and a chicken named Chicken. They’re sister and brother…yeah, the show doesn’t make any more sense than that. The show was funny, very funny, with most of the humor coming from general insanity, unique character designs, adult humor, and great visual gags. It’s a wonder how they got away with half the stuff they did in this show, but I love them for it. Also it had a naked red devil running around. Like I said, they show didn’t make sense. The show spawned another cartoon series called I.M. Weasel, but we won’t get into that.
84. Moral Orel: Created by Dino Stamatopoulos, Moral Orel was not only the darkest show on Adult Swim, but one of the darkest in the history of television. The used a stop-motion style in a send-up of Davey and Goliath, which put in an innocent face of the subject matter. The show was based in a overly religious somal town called Moralton and stared a young boy named Orel Puffington who always tried to do what he thinks is right thing, but is constantly led astray by the several moral decay of the adults around him. What made this show so good was how far it was willing to go, and I’m mean really far, not only just taking jabs at Christianity, but the people who base their lives around it. Episodes contained themes of unfulfillment, abuse, neglect, bigotry, accepted ignorance, and episodes would usually end with Orel getting a spanking an learning a morally backwards lesson from his father. Thank God the show was so funny and self aware otherwise it would be utterly horrifying.
83. Filmore!: This show flew completely under the radar and that’s a freaking crime because this show was brilliant. Think of all the cool police dramas and movies you’ve ever seen, now imagine them set in a middle school and replace things like counterfeit money and grand theft auto with counterfeit baseball cards and bike theft, that’s Filmore!. The show was about Cornelius Filmore, a former delinquent who was given a chance at redemption and became his school’s greatest safety patrol officer. Together with is partner Ingrid Third, the two work to clean up the halls of X Middle School of crime. The shows unique take on familiar detective story tropes was very creative and fun as hell. Filmore was a cool lead character and the shows clean animation and pop culture references make this one of my favorite shows ever.
82. X-Men Evolution: Marvel has had a long history of getting its ass kicked by DC in the field of animation. While Bruce Timm took DC’s characters into a bold new direction style-wise, Marvel was lagging behind with overcomplicated designs and underwhelming animation. But that all began to change in the 2000’s, starting with X-Men Evolution. Evolution went back to basics with the X-Men making them teenagers again, but now putting them in a high school setting. You’d think that would drag the show down, but it didn’t, the show still dealt with the same themes, and by season 3 began to resemble the comics more. What was great about this wasn’t just character designs and animation, but that character development wasn’t just limited to Wolverine, everyone got a chance to grow. The show took familiar elements of the comics and used them in new ways to set this series apart from everything done before. It ran for four seasons and while the final two episodes were a bit of a let-down, it didn’t detract from what a great series this was as a whole.
81. The Angry Beavers: The best word to describe this series is “groovy”. Mitch Scauer’s series about two beaver brothers striking out on their own was colorful, erratic, and wonderfully absurd. The show had very abstract designs with an appealing eye-popping color scheme to accompany it. The animation had a very fast paced timing behind it and wasn’t afraid to go totally cartoony. What also made this show great was the dialogue. The characters would frequently play with the pronunciation of words and invent their own like “spooty”. The main characters Norbert (played by Nick Bakay, aka Salem from Sabrina the Teenage Witch) and Dagget (played by a post Alpha 5 but pre Zim Richard Horvitz) had great designs and a great dynamic between them. The show also had a great self awareness, which ultimately got it in trouble, but still, a great series, one of the best of the Nicktoons.
Check back later for 80-61, when we’ll look back at teenage spies and warring robots.