Published on November 21st, 2011 | by Colin Ballsmonkey Hill1
Extreme Inbetweens – The 100 Greatest Animated Series of All Time Part 2
ME BEING PRETENTIOUS AND ARBITRARILY RANKING A BUNCH OF TV CARTOONS
THE 100 GREATEST ANIMATED SERIES OF ALL TIME
And now back to our regularly scheduled list of the 100 Greatest Animated Series of all time.
We pick it back up with numbers 80-61…
80. Space Ghost Coast to Coast: The original Adult Swim show, but it long predates it. Using the entire Hanna Barbera library for material, Space Ghost Coast to Coast used recycled animation and re-dubbed voices to create a hilarious and random talk show parody. SGC2C took Space Ghost, the hero of those old Hanna Barbera action shorts and recast him as a washed up buffoon who now host a rinky dink talk show alongside former enemies Zorak, his band leader, and Moltar, his director. The show had a large number of celebrity cameos featuring the likes of Metallica, Weird Al, Sandra Berndhart, Adam West, and Carrot Top. The interviews were pre-taped a later synched up with the animation to make it appear as if Space Ghost was actually interviewing him. The show was wonderfully weird with no regard for continuity or coherence. The main characters all played off each other perfectly and their scathing banter between each other was gold. Interviewees were sometimes in on the joke, and other times had no clue what was going on, which were always the best part. The show also inspired two spin-offs, The Brak Show and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, which has surpassed it in both longevity and poularity, but nothing beats the original.
79. Home Movies: Brendon Small’s crudely animated series about a boy who makes lower than low budget movies in his basement with his friends started life on UPN in the late 90’s before being rescued from total obscurity by Adult Swim in 2001. Home Movies had a visual style that looked like a child drew it with animation to match, but it proved that good writing can save even the crappiest animation. Home Movies writing and characterization were some of the most sophisticated I’d ever seen, there wasn’t really a bad character in the bunch, each had their own moments to shine, particularly Coach McGurrick, voiced by the great H. Jon Benjamin. The dialogue, mostly ad-libbed, felt very realistic, right down to the fact that characters frequently talked over each other. The show lasted four seasons and had a surprisingly emotional finale, I make it a priority to watch the show every time Adult Swim reruns it.
78. Kim Possible: The last good series to come out of the Disney Channel…hell maybe the only good series to come out of the Disney Channel. Kim Possible’s premise was a simple one, summed up perfectly by the theme song, a basic average girl who’s here to save the world. Kim Possible was a normal high school girl who doubled as a secret agent saving the world from evil of varying competence. While the show used that flat, angular look for the characters and backgrounds that I’m not really too fond of, it used them to good effect. The show’s voice acting and sense of humor also helped make the show so appealing. The show was kind of similar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but succeeded where that show failed in creating a likeable main character.
77. Pirates of Dark Water: Screw Pirates of the Caribbean, this show made pirates cool. Set on the alien world of Mer, Prince Ren along with his crew Ioz, Tula, and Niddler must collect the thirteen treasures Rule in order to save the planet from being consumed by the deadly Dark Water which kills whatever it touches. They must find the treasures before the evil pirate lord Bloth can obtain them for himself. This show was an amazing mixture of action, adventure, and fantasy. You had a group of heroes who are al deep and likeable on a mission that had real weight to it and a main villain who was very menacing. The show had a beautiful look to it and the color style was a great unearthly earthly tone, not to mention its epic score. Of all the Hanna Barbera action series this could have easily been the best, but it’s surpassed by one other that you’ll be seeing on this list.
76. Sym-bionic Titan: Gendy Tartakovsky is one of the undisputed geniuses in the field of animation. His simplistic character designs and backgrounds were enhanced by his cinematic-style camera work, visual storytelling prowess, and myriad of pop culture influences. Unfortunately aside from Dexter’s Laboratory his shows never got much mainstream exposure. Sym-bionic Titan was one of those underrated gems. Titan was Tartakovsky’s tribute to the giant robot shows made famous by Japan and was about two teens (Lance and Ilana) and their robot ally (Octus), refugees from a conquered planet the hide on Earth who unite to form the giant mecha warrior Sym-Bionic Titan to battle the alien creatures that hunt them. I’m not normally a fan of traditional/3D animation mix, but it worked really well for this show. The fight scenes were dope and surprisingly violent, but then again Gendy has always been able to get away with the intense violence. The writing was extremely strong and could balance humorous and light hearted with dark and dramatic. I’ve raved before about this show in a previous article so there’s nothing really new to say, except that it ended way before it’s time.
75. Peter Pan and the Pirates: Sticking closer to the J.M. Barrie stories than the Disney movie, Peter Pan and the Pirates centered around Peter, Wendy, John, Michael, and the Lost Boys adventures through the magical Neverland and their deals with Captain Hook and his crew. All the characters were very well represented. Peter Pan was cocky, adventurous, fearless, and a little selfish, as he should be, and Captain Hook, rather than the exaggerated buffoon he was in the Disney movie, was ruthless, cruel, and was a real threat to Pan, and it helped he was voiced by Tim Curry. This was one of the earliest shows on Fox Kids and certainly the best before a show about a certain caped crusader debuted two years later. The writing was creative and original and really took full advantage of the setting. I’m a big fan of Peter Pan and this show proves why.
74. 2 Stupid Dogs: The title says it all, 2 Stupid Dogs is about…two stupid dogs. Known only by Big Dog and Little Dog, these two dim-witted canines go through a series of misadventures caused by simple misunderstandings. The show, while simple-minded, was funny as hell. Big Dog’s slow, melancholic line delivery coupled with Little Dog’s hyperactivity and fear of cats made for some great comedic bits. 2 Stupid Dogs had a lot of great episodes, most notably the Red trilogy, with the duo pairing with a nearsighted Little Red Riding Hood to parody different fairy tale stories. Each episode contained two Dogs shorts with the middle segment being a modern update of Secret Squirrel, which was equally cool, but the adventures of Big Dog and Little Dog were the true stars.
73. Beast Wars: Crappy CGI aside, what kid in the late 90’s didn’t love Beast Wars? It was Transformers but with animals instead of cars and jets and tape recorders. Instead of the Autobots and the Decepticons there were the Maximals and the Predacons. Instead of Optimus Prime and Megatron there was Optimus Primal and…well, Megatron. The show, set in the same universe as the previous Transformers series, but on a more prehistoric Earth. Optimus Primal led the Maximals against the evil Predacons under the command of Megatron in an intense was. Where it lacked in animation quality it made up for in writing, characters, and voice acting. Rather than a multitude of interchangeable characters, the show was more focused on core group, which led to more character based storytelling and development. The action in the show was insane and the show could get dark really fast. Characters changed, characters died, it was playing a whole different game from what most other shows were playing. Beast Wars was absolutely kick ass, especially Dinobot.
72. The Tick: The Tick was based off the independent comic of the same name by Ben Edlund. The star of the show was The Tick, a large blue-clad superhero with super strength, nigh invulnerability, relentless optimism, and little intelligence. He and his pudgy, insecure, moth-inspired sidekick Arthur protect the city from various evils like El Seed, Brain Child, Chairface Chippendale, and Handy (an evil hand puppet). The Tick was absolutely hilarious, and for kids show one of the smartest comedies I’ve seen. The show was a great send-up to the entire superhero genre with parodies of various heroes from Batman to the Punisher to the Fantastic Four. The highlight of the show was the characters. Die Fledermaus, Sewer Urchin, The Civic Minded 5, The Deadly Bulb, Big Shot, Sarcastro, there was no shortage of memorable and hilarious characters, whether recurring or one time, and the Tick was the perfect central character for all this madness. The Tick was one of the many reasons Fox Kids owned on Saturday mornings.
71. Batman: the Brave and the Bold: As of the time of this writing, the latest animated incarnation of Batman. Rather than follow the popular grim and gritty style, this cartoon took inspiration from the more light hearted and imaginative Silver Age of comics. Batman was the star but he was accompanied every episode by a different hero of the DCU. From the more well known heroes like Superman, Green Arrow, and Aquaman, to up-and-comers like Blue Beetle, Plastic Man, and Firestorm, to the totally obscure like Haunted Tank, the Challengers of the Unknown, and Ambush Bug. They left no stone unturned. This show was pure fun. It knew exactly what it was and played to its strengths. Batman could be fighting everything from super villains, to mind-controlled dinosaurs, to an army of shark riding gorillas, and it would do it unironically. The show was a love letter to comic book fans and was packed with easter eggs only they would get, the show would also get with meat with itself and break the fourth wall on occasion. The show was brilliantly written, the animation was solid, the voice acting was the highest quality and it was entertaining. While the Bruce Timm-DCAU shows were better made, this show, in terms of pure quality fin, surpasses not just them, but every comic book cartoon ever.
70. Muppet Babies: It’s a wonder the Muppets never had more animated outings, considering how good this was. Kermit, Gonzo, Piggy, Fozzy, Scooter, Rolf, and Animal were the stars of this show, but this time as babies. Every episode took place in the nursery where the babies lived, but though the imagination of the characters they went everywhere from the worlds of Star Wars to Indiana Jones. Really, that was the whole premise of the show. The Muppets used their imagination to create fun scenarios, and it was awesome. As a young kid, this was my first exposure to movies like Indiana Jones and Ghostbusters. This show used a lot of stock footage, but it worked in the context of the show. Plus every episode featured a new original song, so all-in-all, it perfectly captured the fun and spirit we expect from the Muppets.
69. Johnny Bravo: A lot of good shows came out of What-a-Cartoon Show, and Van Partible’s Johnny Bravo was one of them. Johnny Bravo, a self-described studly ladies man and overall buffoon was the star of the series and episodes revolved around his misadventures and sad attempts to pick up women, and fail of course. The early shorts only starred Johnny, Johnny’s mother Bunny Bravo, and his neighbor Little Suzy, eventually the series went through a slight visual re-design and introduced the characters Carl, Johnny’s nerdy friend, and Pops, a diner owner and Johnny’s mentor. The driving source of the humor was Johnny himself and his dim-witted but mostly well meaning actions, the supporting characters weren’t has strong but Johnny I felt picked up the slack. The show featured excellent animation with great timing acting from the characters. Plus Jeff Bennett’s voice acting as the title character was always hilarious.
68. Teen Titans: Teen Titans was a unique show, in that it could pull off multiple styles pretty well. The show, based on the DC Comics series, centered around five young superheroes, Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy, and their leader Robin. Unlike other super hero cartoons, Teen Titans never got into the non-costumed life of the heroes, rather they were constantly in their super identities. The show also never brought in the well known adult heroes like Batman and Superman, rather it stayed self contained with the Titans being the only super team, and that approach worked. The show was visually eye popping, like a mixture of Japanese anime and swinging sixties culture. As I said before it could pull off multiple styles of storytelling really well. It could do light-hearted and comedic adventures, insightful character based stories, and heavy dramatic epics. All four seasons each had an overarching storyline with self contained adventures thrown in the mix. All five characters had a great dynamic and they never disturbed it by introducing a new member of the team. It had great music, especially the theme song by Puffy AmuiYumi, great fight scenes, great visual gags, and great atmosphere. This show rocked.
67. The Alvin Show/Alvin and the Chipmunks: Alvin, Simon, and Theodore have been staples of pop culture for decades. Long before those CGI abominations, these were the Chipmunks only animated outings. The Alvin Show from 1961 was very much like the cartoons series of that time, simplistic stories with strong character designs and staging. Each episode would feature a Chipmunks short, another short series called Clyde Crash-up, and two musical segments. The musical segments here featured more of the Chipmunks original songs like “Witch Doctor” and “The Alvin Twist”. In 1983 the characters were redesigned and update for a then current audience. Alvin and the Chipmunks, later retiled The Chipmunks, featured longer stories with a song injected into the story, only this time the songs were the Chipmunks covered popular song s of the time like Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” and Billy Joel’s “For the Longest Time”. This series in notable for introducing the Chipettes (Brittany, Jeanette, and Eleanor) into Chipmunks lorre. What was great about the Chipettes is that rather than just be female copies of the male Chipmunks, they were strong, well developed characters in their own right and could even carry episodes by themselves, which is a rare thing, but they still never overshadowed the Chipmunks, who prove even today they still have staying power.
66. Mighty Max: Mighty Max was a cartoon series from the 90’s based on a popular toyline, which of course means the show would be crap right? WRONG! Mighty Max was one of the most brilliant and intense shows of its time. The show’s protagonist was Max, a preteen who learns his destiny is to save the world as the “Cap-Bearer”, the wielder of a magical baseball cap that can open portals throughout the world and even throughout dimensions. He’s aided by Virgil, a wise and bookish Lemurian, a creature that looks like a anthropomorphic foul, and Norman, his hulking, sword wielding, definition of badass bodyguard. His nemesis was the evil Skullmaster (voiced by Tim Curry) who craves the caps power for himself, and was a truly terrifying villain for a kids cartoon. The show was an amazing adventure series that literally went everywhere, no situation being too out there. The show was very fun but could go dark very fast, specifically the final episode. Oh God the final episode. Max, Virgil and Norman prepare to have their final confrontation with Skullmaster, Norman and Virgil are KILLED, straight up killed, Max tries to battle Skullmaster and loses, and the only way to fix everything is to use the caps power to reverse time, to the very beginning of the series, with Max, still with all his previous knowledge, preparing to relive all the adventures again. What the hell kids cartoon ever did anything like that. Mighty Max was the biggest underrated gem of them all.
65. Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures: The 80’s were a dark time for animation, with more emphasis being placed on toy sales than actual quality, but Mighty Mouse: the New Adventures was different than the rest, mainly due to it being spearheaded by animation bad boy Ralph Bakashi. Mighty Mouse had incredible animation and real acting in the characters. The show was comedy show with bits of action. Mighty Mouse’s adventures were absurd and frequently featured parodies of everything from Batman to Alvin and the Chipmunks to modern animation as a whole. The show was a hub for future stars in the industry like Bruce Timm and John Krisfaluci, Bakashi knew talent when he saw it and together they created one of the most visually appealing shows of all time.
64. Courage the Cowardly Dog: John R. Dillworth’s wonderfully dark, twisted and surreal cartoon about a small pink dog named Courgae who protects his elderly owners from the supernatural more than earns it’s spot on the list. Courage the Cowardly Dog was based off the short “Chicken from Outer Space”, and if you’ve seen that short you know how perfectly that sums up the entire series. It was a great black comedy with character designs that were solid and abstract. The show had a cast of characters that could only work in a setting like this. Really thinking about it, Courage is a hard show to put into words. It was cartoony, but not off-the-wall, bouncy, high energy cartoon, rather a slow, deliberate cartoon that always built up its gags to big pay-offs. The main characters were all balanced and likeable, even Eustece, whos entire purpose for being in the show was to be a dick to Courage and get his comeuppance at the end. Courage the Cowardly Dog: bizarrely brilliant.
63. Roger Ramjet: Roger Ramjet followed the Jay Ward principle. Got crappy low budget animation, make up for it with hilarious writing. Roger Ramjet were the short adventures of Roger Ramjet, an all American superhero with his sidekicks, the youthful American Eagle squadron (Yank, Doodle, Dan, and Dee). Whenever Roger was in a pinch, he would pop a Proton Energy Pills, which would give him the strength of 20 atom bombs for 20 seconds. Ach short only lasted for about seven minutes, but told a solid story that wrapped up nicely. It was fast paced and the gags where all dialogue based, and for a show of its time had pretty snappy dialogue with many pop culture references. Roger Ramjet is a show that couldn’t work today, making this show all the more special.
62. The Critic: It only lasted for two seasons, but in those two seasons The Critic pretty much defined the 90’s. The show was about a stocky, bald, and cynical film critic named Jay Sherman who hosted a film review show, Coming Attractions, and frequently put down the latest Hollywood outings with his catchphrase, “It Stinks”! The Critic was pop culture machine and frequently went for the jugular with Hollywood. Every episode featured a parody of popular movies or actors of the time and left no one unscratched. Aside from that, the show had great characters. Not just Jay, but his boss, the Southern, right-wing, wealthy, and power mad Duke Phillips who predated Alec Baldwin’s character on 30 Rock, Jeremy Steele, Jay’s actor friend who was a parody of the leading action men of the time, Jay’s dad Franklin Sherman, his rum loving, millionaire father who was completely out of his mind. The Critic may seem dated by today’s standards, but its characters and voice acting brilliance have withstood the test of time.
61. Goof Troop: In 1992, Disney took two of its oldest characters, Goofy and Pete, and relaunched them both in a then new series called Goof Troop. Goof Troop was like a cartoon version of a TGIF sitcom and gave the two classic Disney characters sons named Max and PJ respectively, (actually they gave Pete a whole family, but those four where the stars). Goof Troop had all that great classic Disney animation and a slapstick style of humor that works best in cartoons. Episodes would either focus on Goofy and Pete (where Goofy would be the clueless foil to Pete’s greedy schemes), or Max and PJ (where Max would drag the reluctant PJ on his plans). With most of the other Disney Afternoon shows having underscores of action and adventure, Goof Troop was unique in that was family oriented. No race cars, laser, and airplanes, or crimes to be solved, just low-key but high energy adventures of these two families, which was perfectly fine. Goof Troop would later loosely spin off into the movies A Goofy Movie and An Extremely Goofy Movie making this series unique in that it’s one of the few western cartoons to have characters actually age, and in real time, but it’s hard to say if it fits in continuity. Still, neither discount from how great Goof Troop was.
Well that’s all for now, stay tuned for the next bath where we look at future families and inept aliens