Since it is a Saturday morning, It’s only right that I conclude my cartoon list trilogy and present to you my list of my favorite and in my humble opinion, the 25 greatest cartoon series that any 80′s babies should love and agree with!!!
We’ll start with
25. Bionic 6
I was tempted to place this on my list of forgotten cartoons because I’m convinced that only the kids on my drug-ridden block in Harlem during the 80′s knew about this. Yet I’ve heard enough rumbles of recognition from others when I mentioned it in later life for me to give it a shot here. It’s a classic superhero family story. A couple comprised of 2 scientists adopt a bunch of kids (including a Black son and an Asian son), and bring their own along with them on high tech missions of hero-dom to save the world using their own developed bionic enhancements, giving each one their own power – from telepathy to speed and strength. It was like The Incredibles meet the X-Men. Plus the toys were made of real iron parts. Dopeness.
24. Bobby’s World
Before it was found out that Howie Mandel was an Obsessive-Compulsive germa-phobe, he was still collecting checks doing stand-up and voice-overs for lovable characters. One of his most memorable was his semi-autobiographical creation of Bobby, a tot who became lost in the world of his imagination and the antics of his immense family surrounding him. It was life from a child’s view before the Rugrats sensation. I learned about Minnesota accents from this cartoon. Love how other people always mispronounced his last name. “It’s Gen-er-ic”.
23. Marshall Bravestarr
Native American culture boost 101 in full effect. Here’s something you don’t see anymore. This made up for the horrible stereotype created by Apache Chief on Superfriends in the 70′s and gave the world a real Native American Superhero who embodied both a nod to the supernatural culture and the modern culture of American-Indians. A sheriff who is on a mission to fight evil and discover his true history finds himself endowed with mystic powers that allow him to call on the spirits of different animals to get him out of situations and save the day. Add in some Dope animation and a cool cast of supporting characters and you have a winner. For those of you that remember…
22. Fat Albert
I don’t have to say much. In an era of poor Black depictions and limited visibility for African-American characters on cartoons and television in general (a tradition that unfortunately continues to this day), Bill Cosby and his creative and comedic genius managed to turn those depictions into life lessons and memorable icons. This too is semi-autobiographical and based on Bill’s own crew from his youth. It’s still not clear why they were hanging in a Junkyard, but they truly tackled some relevant issues and slipped a lot of timely slang and jargon in there. I’m glad they re-ran this in the 80′s. Black kids needed this.
21. 2 Stupid Dogs
I Love this. Without being too slapstick, a la Looney Toones, this cartoon capitalizes on being so stupid you have to laugh. The things these dogs try to get into…And the fact that one is so hype and the other is so sedate to the point of slow is a great contrast. Now add in the fact that in between sketches, there’s episodes of Secret Squirrel and Morocco Mole and their clever and cute spy missions…Coolness.
20. Darkwing Duck
Disney doing superhero as only they can, the homage to Gotham-esque characters and cleverly named birds like Drake Mallard and SteelBeak went over so well that no one raised on the Disney afternoon line-up can forget it. As a matter of fact, this cartoon is what anchored the line-up and made it a definite fixture in afterschool cartoon watching. It was the stronger than Gummi Bears, and not as serious as Aladdin. And come on, how cool was it that they used 2 of our favorite characters from Ducktales? Launchpad Mc Quack and Giiiizzzmo Duck!! It was like a cooler spin-off.
I dare you to see if you remember this. Then I dare you to see if you remember the rollcall at the end of every episode and name every character’s name (if not, I included it in the clip below). This was the Dopest propaganda I’ve ever seen in a cartoon. Making police officers look cooler than they could ever be in real life, this special precint featured one super cop with one specialty in each unit, from riot, to highway to k-9. And there were equally specified villains, from a mafioso esque crime syndicate leader named Big Boss (who literally ruled with an iron fist), to an evil scientist, a testosterone-fueled chic named Misdemeanor and a sexy Black catburgular named Nightshade, all on his payroll. Oh, did I mention that the chief of police was a Black cyborg named Bulletproof?? Everything about this cartoon was ill.
18. Dexter’s Lab
A pre-pubescent kid from a quaint, suburban nuclear family who just happens to have an Eastern European accent and is a boy genius bent on taking over the world (or at least getting world recognition for his genius). Can we say “Stewie” much? Guess what Seth Mcfarlane was watchin in the 90′s…Of course, his inventions and designs from his secret lab below his bedroom never led to such domination, and were usually fueled by young boy motivations like winning 1st place at school. They were also usually foiled by his annoying ballerina and girly-girly older sister Dee-Dee, who always effortlessly got past his security measures. The theme song is crazy too.
17. Spectacular Spider-Man
Named after one of the actual comic book titles, I knew this take on an animated Spider-Man would be closer to the source material. It was a pure Marvel property and followed lots of the original plots and kept Peter Parker truer to form as a high school kid struggling to balance regular teen stress and an overwhelming rogues gallery of super-villains. With great power…As the best depiction of Spidey ever, I’m really not sure why this got canceled and never seemed to quite finish it’s second season tho.
16. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Speaking of teens, there’s nothing I can say about this phenomenon that anyone who grew up in the late 80′s and 90′s doesn’t know. It was impossible to not like this show if you were between the ages of 4 to 12. It appealed in a way that I still don’t how. But I guess the title itself is a clue to what the draw is. 3 things kids instantly love; Teen protagonists, Mutants – check!, Ninjas – check! The creators took a gamble with the turtle thing, but with 3 winning elements already in play, they could have been sloths and it would have worked. It’s etched in our minds probably more than any other cartoon from merchandise to movies. We all know the original theme song word for word and even the later revamps of the cartoon gave it a second and third life among younger generations. Turtle Power!
15. Pinky & The Brain
Warner Bros. and Steven Spielberg‘s Amblin entertainment at its finest, this duo was so popular from their Animaniacs series, that they earned their own show. It made its way onto pseudo primetime slots as well as saturday mornings because of its intelligent humor, but child-accessability. It’s the model that most kids’ animated films follow nowadays; keep the characters silly and lovable for the children, but slip in some adult references and historical allusions to keep the grown-ups awake. And the fact that these 2 lab rats were affected in 2 different ways from experiments, making one a mad genius and one just…mad, was a great study in character juxtaposition. The catch phrases are unforgettable. “What are we going to do tonight Brain?”
14. Superman Adventures
Another Warner property, no one has done comic book adaptations in cartoons better than what they did with the D.C. characters. Taking on the most famous and iconic Superhero of all time was a challenge. But They did it in a way that brought honor to the legacy they started with the Batman franchise. This was the best look at Superman, giving him layers and not seeming like a one-dimensional boyscout. It showed more of his history, his inner conflicts and just how bad the villains and threats he has to deal with are. You can’t be the most powerful superhero ever and not have the worst bad guys ever. Case in point, Lex Luthor – the worst villain of all time. Not because of powers, but because of his mind.
13. The Real Ghostbusters
The best animated take on a movie ever, this was my favorite cartoon for a whole year as a kid. Couldn’t tell me nothing! The way each ghostbuster was characterized was perfect, from nerdy to sarcastic to steadfast, even the secretary had personality! I love that they had to add “the real” in the name because there was some wack knock-off with an ape, but kids knew the deal. For a cartoon, it actually succeeded in creating pretty scary scenarios and atmospheres. And OMG, the ghosts and ghouls on there were creepy as hell! Peep this scene with the Boogeyman. It puts horror films to shame. Imagine being 5 years old watching that!
What can I say about this? The only comic-book cartoon that I know for sure that 80′s babies of both sexes remember with the same affinity and excitement. Although it angered me as a kid because I was old enough to be really familiar with the comics, and the show took liberties with changing important facts, there is something TRULY special and epic about the X-Men that makes so many of us appreciate them. I was just glad that they included Jubilee, Gambit, Rogue and Storm. Even my Mom loves them because of this cartoon. And it had the best theme music ever. Take notes, cartoons – no corny words!
11. Garfield & Friends
A sarcastic cat made famous from national newspaper comic strips, who just wants to chill, loves pasta and makes condescending comments about dogs?? Love it. I This is the best humor-based cartoon cat ever! – I said it. Damn Heathcliff, Top Cat, Sylvester and errrybody else! Even the U.S. Acres cartoon in between was enjoyable with colorful characters. “I hope you bring lots of spaghetti!”
Now tell me Disney wasn’t ahead of it’s time. The Disney afternoon was a brilliant way for the studio to reuse and re-introduce some of it’s non-staple characters like Chip and Dale, Uncle Scrooge and the like, but none was more clever than their rehash of The Jungle Book‘s (my favorite Disney movie) Baloo as an out of work pilot, looking to retire. This cartoon was the first one to set a serious tone for the Disney afternoon line-up and dealt with things like corporate greed, feminism, robber Barrons and debt, featuring an orphan, a bar, and a single mother who takes over Baloo’s business when it gets foreclosed and he loses ownership of his beloved plane. Full of clever Disney style names for places and characters, and a catchy theme song, this is a gem.
9. A Pup Named Scooby-Doo
Way better than the 80′s attempt to revive the Flintstones cast as kids, this remake of the classic Scooby-Doo shows was a winner! Of all the re-runs of those shows that were prevalent in the 80′s , this 90′s version was actually the one that made my generation familiar with the gang. It was 90′s chic with a 50′s spin reminiscent of diners and sock-hops. The music was so good. Even the background stuff. It really highlighted each kid’s quirkiness by poking fun at it’s older incarnations and emphasized the crime-solving aspect. I used to love when they unmasked the bad guy and recapped the clues. It was interactive but won us over because it was cute. Plus, it made Thelma the coolest character this time. “Like Zoiks!”
If Pinky & The Brain is the best Warner humor-based cartoon, this is definitely my favorite. Besides the Roadrunner & Coyote characters and Speedy Gonzalez (forgive me) Taz is THE ONLY Looney Toones character that I ever liked. The idea to put him in his own show that showed him in a family setting was great! It’s only better because his whole family is articulate and smart and amazingly calm. Especially his dad, who reminds me of my dad. To watch Taz interact with his family as he has an incoherent meltdown every 5 minutes is hilarious. The supporting cast of a dozen or so characters is also a nice touch, each with their own agenda revolving around his world. A great play on Australian wildlife with a tongue-in-cheek theme song. “Blah Blah Blah, yakkity-smackety”
At The peak of the Disney Afternoon, Gargoyles signified of changing of the guard. Disney gave the creators of this show creative license. I’m not sure if they were trying to compete with the more intense and ever-growing superhero market, but they took that and went really far with this one. The only show on the line-up to feature completely original characters detached from the rest of the Disney universe, this cartoon was dark, deep, multi-layered and full of references and nods to the 17th century. Shakespeare and Camelot inspirations as well as mentions of Illuminati and adult tones made this sooo not for kids. But it worked for a time…There were some minds at work here.
6. PowerPuff Girls
On a brighter (and I do mean brighter) note; sugar, spice and everything nice, and a little something X-tra make the perfect recipe for this adorable trio of butt-kicking girls. This was the 3rd effort from the creator of Johnny Bravo and Dexter’s Lab and it won me over because I needed some sunshine in my life. It incorporated girly fluff and superhero cliches with adult-friendly satirical elements. A really cute show. I liked it so much that I wanted to see the movie in theatres when it came out. I settled for on-demand.
I don’t know about the remake that has recently premiered, but this original is one of my top 5 favorite cartoons as you can see. The plot points were mature, the characters are all unique, and one of the characters is my favorite animal – a tiger! The villains and threats weren’t one note either. They really had some issues. And the origin story is epic and gripping. I set out on a goal as a kid to collect all of the action figures, but I failed. Maybe it’s not too late. “Give me sight beyond sight!”
4. Batman – The Animated Series
Never has there been a cartoon that made its own world and sucked its viewers in like this. We didn’t really know what era this show was supposed to be, didn’t know where exactly Gotham was, but all we knew is that Batman had a lot on his plate and was pretty messed up himself. This was like Oscar-worthy writing, direction and acting in cartoon form. These episodes dealt with psychology, sociology and criminology on so many levels. It gave us all the framework for how we view Batman to this day and is the reason why we appreciate Christopher Nolan‘s films so much. It’s iconic!
3. The Avengers – Earth’s Mightiest Heroes!
The only ensemble superhero show that could give Justice League a run for it’s money, This is Marvel’s first all around well executed cartoon series. Featuring all of the best characters from the universe that are NOT X-Men or Spider-Man, this cartoon balances the excitement of a saturday morning kids’ cartoon with the maturity and adult tone of the D.C. cartoons (finally) and introduces us to the best heroes and villains, including Thor, Hydra, The Kree and how cool that the Black Panther – a genius hero from a High-tech African city is one of the main members? Hope this one lasts for a while.
2. Justice League
The ONLY reason why this cartoon is not number 3 is because once it turned into Justice League Unlimited it got even more awesome and took things to levels no other cartoon has. If only X-Men could have taken a cue from this show, they’d know how to fit in all of their members while still maintaining a sense of stability. The animation was top-notch. Building off of where the Batman and Superman animated series left off, this cartoon featuring all of the big D.C. superheroes from Wonder Woman to (a Black) Green Lantern, was amazing. The story-lines were pretty heavy and came off like a super hero soap opera, complete with plotlines of love triangles, powerlessness and the government conspiring to kill them! Fascinating to the end.
1. Avatar – The Last Airbender
This is the reason why I did not support James Cameron history-making Blockbuster. This is the greatest cartoon ever made. Period. Go watch season one and you’ll be hooked. I love that it’s anime without being anime – because anime sucks if you’re not Japanese! I love that it’s not culture specific. I love that it plays off of universal laws, cultural differences, elements, spirituality, martial arts, militarism and colonization as well as adolescence and family ties. And there’s so much more. The best!