I came across IGN‘s old list of the 100 greatest cartoons of all time, and I found several fatal flaws in their construction. For one, they felt compelled to list everything that’s ever been animated all in the same forum. This means hardcore anime and adult programming were all thrown into the same heap as stuff like The Smurfs. Also, they attempted to span all across animation history instead of choosing a specific era, yet somehow their timeline seems to have started in the 70’s up to 2008. And perhaps this is their place and they are the authority to do so. They aimed to encompass all the most important groundbreaking cartoons in media so naturally, there was a need to highlight The Flintstones and Family Guy and Rocky And Bullwinkle.
However, since I gather that most of you who visit this site belong to the same age range as I, I’m more interested in showing love to the greatest period of cartoon development ever!! The 80’s and 90’s. I’m not as moved to bias as one would believe. My outlook that 80’s babies were born in the perfect slot along the time-space continuum is not a product of my being one. I’ve questioned myself and have come to the conclusion that even if I was born at some other point, I’d probably have to admit that those born in the 80’s have the best of both worlds in most things. This is no truer than in the realm of entertainment and access. We’re cusp kids. We remember typewriters, but are the consumer market for whom iPads are geared. We remember Deloreans as the original vehicles with suicide doors. We were there for the beginning of rap and made rap what it is now. And our cartoons weren’t all stiff and watered down, nor were they all outsourced and digitized to the detriment of color and variety.
For the record, I know they’re hugely popular, but sorry – you won’t see any G.I. Joe, Voltron, Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon or He-Man on any of these lists. They just are really God-Awful cartoons.
With that, I give you 20 cartoons you should re-acquaint yourself with
Although not exactly a force for the feminist movement, it was nonetheless cool to have something close to a female action title along the line-up of boy-friendly icons. The simplisitic and glam-centric storylines involving Jem and her band moonlighting as crime solvers constantly haggled by a rival girl hair band were as sappy as the intermittent song breaks that were more like short animated music videos in between. It totally was a sign of the times in the surging Mtv generation. The coolest aspect of the show was watching Jem keep up her secret identity.
I know it’s not technically a 90’s cartoon, but we weren’t quite grown enough to not watch this kind of stuff when it came out. The storyline is super deep and not really kid-friendly although children are all the main characters. It’s a great lesson in weighty subject matter from the onset, with a heavy premise and dark scope. And it’s one of the few anime shows that don’t look completely messed up by American overdubs or emotionless because it’s emotion-based paced was the impetus of the entire show.
18) Flintstone Kids
A rehashing for the 80’s kids who didn’t quite get all of the adult-friendly jokes that required a laugh-track on the original, this light-hearted version which featured diminutive versions of the beloved cast was much more relatable. A memorable moment was when the special “Just Say No” episode was so important that it aired on primetime because it featured a guset appearance by “Michael JackStone”. Classic.
I admit, I was not a fan, but in hindsight, the animation and detail has to be appreciated. This series seemed to go on longer than most cartoons of it’s 90’s run. Almost every other kid I knew had the toys, and it certainly predated the whole Pirates Of The Caribbean craze. Plus the chic was kinda bad.
16) Alvin & The Chipmunks
Not sure how Simon and Theodore felt about being “& The Chipmunks”, let alone Dave Seville for that matter (He found, clothed and fed them for crying out loud), but I guess if you’re the one with all the ideas, you get Top Billing (wait, didn’t Simon write the songs??). The fact that this cartoon got the licensing to use all those hit 80’s songs was amazing in itself. No one could tell me anything about this cartoon when I was 5! Favorite episode, the one where they sing Billy Joel’s “For The Longest Time” to the kids in the hospital.
This was just a bunch of comedic writers having fun. It wasn’t even apart of any children’s saturday cartoon line-up originally. It was slated more for an early evening audience because of it’s tongue-in-cheek humor and superhero cliche jibbing. Sure it gets credibility because it was a real comic book series first, but the cartoon really brought the personality out. The villains are the best part of this show, let alone his dialogue and wimpy sidekick who was a…dude named Arthur dressed up as a moth??
As IGN mentioned, this show wins simply because much like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air theme songs, we still somehow know all the words to this. And everyone loves a good mystery solving show. The cast was superbly well rounded as well, with clever names – as only Disney can do – like Monterey Jack for the Australian Pilot addicted to cheese to a fault. It was a clever way to reuse some forgotten characters in the Disney Vault. Did you realize that Dale’s outfit was a nod to Magnum P.I.? And that Chip’s was a nod to Indiana Jones?
Land, Air and Sea. All the basic elements of Military and 3 of the basic elements of Earth itself. Any show rooted in this concept along with some crazy ass, colorful tech and important sounding transformation is a winner. “Power Extreme!!”
Rarely do cartoon incarnations of popular movies work. This is the exception. With the capabilities of taking Tim Burton’s surreal and trippy world of the dead and wacky waaaay beyond what was possible in Hollywood, this show gave the title character a second uhhmmm…Life in a vivrant way. Plus how often do you see goth girls in such colorful scenarios?? This was my Cousin Limi‘s favorite. I didn’t get it then. I do now. Kinda…
Never has a cartoon based off a real person been executed so greatly. Jackie was definitely heavily involved in the initial formation of this show and it’s obvious. The characterization was spot-on and even the action sequences seemed to be based off of his real movements. His viewer response and commentary at the end of the episodes was a throwback to the 80’s cartoons that featured post segments with lessons. Uncle was pretty cool too.
Yet another anime that was not hardcore and became fully integrated into the American mainstream, this one tried to be girl-friendly, full of themes of romance and high school concerns. It was a glimpse into Japanese school culture and like most anime cartoons, the action was based on some sort of distribution of powers by color, order and esoteric materials like gems and cards. And each holder had their own distinct personality. And lets not forget the ever requisite mysterious figure who helps when most needed, only to disappear back into their own agenda, retaining a sense of cool. In this case; Tuxedo Mask. The Love interest.
9) Captain Planet
You know this song too. Frontwards and backwards. This is a fine example of positive propaganda. The same forces that got us to be the generation not doing crack also got us to be the generation not littering. Too bad they didn’t go as hard with gang-banging and weed smoking efforts. But anyway, how much did we learn from this show?? We knew it was a walking, talking, animated PSA, but we watched anyway. As a result, we became the most environment-conscious group ever (probably the most destructive at the same time ironically – with all this technology), and we learned the continents along the way. How cool that Mother Earth was Black?? Go Planet!!
Speaking of Black. It’s still a shame that we can count how many African-American animated programs or programs with African-American leads there have ever been( How come there’s never been an adaptation of the “Curtis” comic strip?), and most of them are steeped in stereotypes. This show was a clever play on just that, and what saves it from Negro purgatory is it’s focus on family. Any of the individual characters by themselves are one-note cliches, but as a cartoon cast, it worked. I could do without Tommy Davidson’s father character, but clever stuff like names (Bebe and Cece) and the jabs at Magic Johnson (Wizard Kelly) are great. Plus, isn’t this the same artist from Bebe’s Kids??
7) Eek! The Cat
In the universe of cartoon cats, there have been Top Cats, Courageous Cats, even Karate Cats, but none were as effective as the cute but pitiful cat. Eek was comedy gold. A gullible neighborhood cat who caused and fell into calamity inadvertently with every step out of the house and was hopelessly in love with his bigger than life girlfriend, you couldn’t help but feel for Eek. Especially after hearing him utter his go-to phrase “Kumbiya!”
Quite Possibly the most successful Cartoon to feature a Black lead, and definitely the most successful if not the first cartoon starring a Black superhero, this adaptation of D.C. comics’ answer to Spider-Man was campy, but gets so many props for putting more Black faces on saturday morning than ever. And with range. It wasn’t all jive and hip-hop slang. The characters were scholars, criminals, runaways and celebrities. And real issues relevant to the times, like cyber bullying and homelessness and drugs (post crack) were addressed head on. No punches pulled. The music was cringe-worthy, but the creator is from Dakota after all…What can you expect?
5) The Critic
Before Family Guy and the Seth wave of adult-humor animation domination, the animators tried their hands at this equally witty but less abrasive vehicle for John Lovitz. It was like watching Lovitz just play himself as a pencil drawn version with a new job as a film critic. It followed a more Simpsons like ethic, where fun was poked and jokes were subversive, but the most malicious it ever got was when Lovitz’s character did his film reviews. Just goes to show, you don’t have to insult everybody every episode to be funny.
Archaeology? A rich uncle with a Scottish accent who swims every morning in a vault of gold coins but trips over his first dime that started his fortune? A character named “Dufus”? A superhero who changes into his robo-suit by yelling “Blabbering Blatherschite!”? Dopeness. This was imagination cocaine for young impressionable minds. It changed the game for cartoons and upped Disney as a leader in tapping into what kids wanted from their animation. We all know this song too…
3) Johnny Bravo
At some point, I believe women look at all men as if we’re him. The Elvis influenced muscle-head was a girl-scout helping, chic crazy, mama’s boy who loved his comb and karate, but didn’t know squat about squat. They even managed to get then-supermodel Vendela on the show. Not bad for a dude named after a Brady Bunch alter ego.
2) Tiny Toons
I dare you to name every character. Although Warner Bros. Whole Looney Toons roster has always proved to be too slapstick for my taste, I was indelibly affected by this incarnation of them. The tone of the show helped shape my idea of what middle school would be like (that, and The Wonder Years). There were genuinely funny moments and genuinely funny characters. My favorite, might be Fowlmouth. You might remember him;
And now our song is done!
Come on…An endless list of robots from another planet who are eternally beefing with each other and turn into the coolest vehicles out there – even Dinosaurs! And a Gun! This cartoon has always been the truth and spawned the best toys ever. And you all seem to like those lame movies. My favorite version might be the 3rd season tho.