Cartoons are fun. They are entertaining. Sure they are mostly targeted at children but they can be enjoyed by all ages.
I grew up with cartoons in the 80’s. Saturday mornings were filled with shows like The Jetsons, Inspector Gadget, Voltron, Thundercats, G.I. Joe, Transformers and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
The Smurfs, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Muppet Babies bridged the gap into the 90’s. Some of you are saying, “The 90’s? You had to have been at least been a teenager by then, right?” Well yes I was, and shut your mouth. After a couple of short lived but quality cartoons like Duck Tales and Chip ‘n Dales Rescue Rangers went off the air there was a bit of a cartoon renaissance with shows like Doug, Tiny Toon Adventures, Batman: The animated series, TaleSpin and X-Men.
Then the unfortunate happened, for a little while it just became to uncool for me to regularly patronize such childish things; although on occasion I would catch Recess or Arthur under the guise of spending time with my little sister.
I’ll admit here that for a brief period of time, just out of high school, I watched Gargoyles nearly every day while eating a bowl of cereal before heading off to work the night shift. I don’t care if you judge me that was a good show.
As a parent, once my children grew out of the sometimes painful Blue’s Clues/Dora the Explorer phase, I was reintroduced to Arthur which is still going strong. From there in our house Nickelodeon had a pretty good run with The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius, Avatar: The Last Airbender and (although my wife will cringe at its mention) SpongeBob SquarePants.
Throw in the fairly recent editions from the Cartoon Network of Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Thundercats and you are pretty much up to date with some of my favorite cartoon shows of the past three decades with four purposeful exceptions.
Simply put, there are those that stand apart from the crowd. Look at it like this, say aliens land on our planet and we are not home, or humanity is forced underground for several hundred years and upon re-emerging they are curious about us. There is really only one way to ensure that important information is preserved. Carve a monument on the face of a mountain and tuck the critical data in the hall of records behind it. With that said there is obviously limited space so here are my nominations.
This one could get the nod purely on longevity having remained relevant for almost 80 years. Warner Bros. kicked off this animated treat in the early 1930’s introducing characters like Porky Pig and Daffy Ducky with the big cheese (or carrot as the case may be) bursting onto the scene in 1940. There’s not a person alive, in this country at least, between the ages of 8 and 80 who doesn’t know who you are quoting when you ask, “What’s up, doc?” This slapstick banter driven show has taken on many incarnations including major motion pictures. Bugs Bunny and friends recently returned to the Cartoon Network with The Looney Tunes Show introducing them to a whole new generation including my kids.
Memorable characters: Tweety and Sylvester, Marvin the Martian, Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, Taz, Elmer Fudd, Pepe Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, Yosemite Sam and last but not least Lola Bunny
Classic Quotes: “You’re deth-picable!”, “Be vewy vewy quiet, I’m hunting wabbits, He-e-e-e!”, “Suffering succotash!”, “I tawt I taw a puddy tat!”, “Andale! Andale! Arriba! Arriba! Yii-hah!”, “Beep! Beep!”
I’m sure I’ll take some heat for this one but only from those who’ve never seen it. This short lived but brilliant show came about just at the right time for me. I wasn’t quite old enough to have abandon cartoons but was just old enough to get the old-fashioned wit as well as the pop culture references that were splattered about the content of the show. In some respects Animaniacs is the little brother of Looney Tunes, they are both Warner Bros. products but this was done in collaboration with Steve Spielberg. The show was full of wild characters that lived on the Warner Bros. lot and were always up to mischief; led by siblings Yakko, Wakko and Dot who escaped from the Warner Bros. water tower where they’d been held since the 1930’s. Their irreverent comedy really struck a chord with not only small children but teens and pre-teens alike. Pinky and the Brain was pure gold and eventually spun off into their own show. Pinky: What are we going to do tonight brain? Brain: The same thing we do every night, Pinky. Try to take over the world!
Memorable characters: Dr. Otto Scratchansniff, Ralph the Security Guard, Hello Nurse, Rita and Runt, Slappy Squirrell and The Goodfeathers
Dot: Oh, oh, my heart aches with the sorrow of a thousand scouts. No merit badge. I mourn my loss.
Yakko: Say, those acting classes are really paying off.
Ned Flat: Why are you acting like this?
Yakko: We're not acting. We really are like this.
Ivan Bloski: Shhh. Shhh. Do you know what that means?
Yakko: You got a slow leak?
The Godfather: [to henchmen] Show these kids the door!
Yakko: That's OK, we can see it from here. Ooh, nice door.
Dot: Great hinges.
Man: Do you know who I am?
Yakko: Why? Did you forget?
Brain: Pinky, are you pondering what I'm pondering? [repeated regularly with a non-sequitur reply from Pinky]
Pinky: I think so, Brain, but where are we going to find rubber pants our size?
Pinky: I think so, Brain, but if we didn't have ears we'd look like weasels.
Pinky: I think so, Brain, but burlap chafes me so.
Pinky: I think so, Brain, but where are we going to find a duck and a garden hose at this time of night?
Pinky: Um, I think so, Brain, but why would anyone want to pierce Brosnan?
Pinky: I think so, Brain, but bein' Pippi Longstocking, I mean, what would the children look like?
Pinky: I think so, Brain, but isn't Regis Philbin already married?
Pinky: I think so Brain, but I can't memorize a whole opera in Yiddish!
Pinky: I think so Brain but how will we get the Spice Girls into the paella?
Speaking of irreverent, this show redefined the word. The Simpsons didn’t target children at all. It was a prime time television show that happened to be a cartoon. Centered around a stereotypical dysfunctional family we follow the lives of Marge, Homer, Lisa, Bart and Maggie in the fictional town of Springfield. Started in the 1989 it’s difficult to measure its impact on pop culture and society as a whole because it’s so ingrained in both. The Simpsons have won Emmys, Annies and a Peabody if you can believe that. In 1999 Time Magazine named it the 20th century’s best television series. The show is still running today with no end in sight.
Memorable characters: Moes, Charles Montgomery Burns, Krusty the Clown, Ned Flanders, Barney, Nelson Muntz, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, Grampa Simpson, Chief Wiggum, Groundskeeper Willie and (my personal favorite) Ralph Wiggum
Classic Quotes: “D’oh!”, “Ay Caramba”, “Okily Dokily”, “Excellent”, “Ha Ha”, “Eat my shorts”, “Me fail English? That’s unpossible”, “I’ve done everything the Bible says — even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff”, “I’m normally not a praying man but if you’re up there please save me Superman”, “Oh, loneliness and cheeseburgers are a dangerous mix”, “Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try”, “You don’t win friends with salad”, “Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do?”, “Kids, kids. I’m not going to die. That only happens to bad people”, “I hope I didn’t brain my damage”
Phineas and Ferb
This show is a late comer but just as strong as its predecessors; once again returning to a kid targeted show but with brilliant writing that appeals to all ages. You are hooked almost from the opening credits. The beauty is that the format never changes but is always new. You know what to expect but can’t wait to see what they are going to do today. It follows Phineas Flynn and his English step brother Ferb Fletcher through their daily adventures in summer vacation with their older sister Candace trying to bust them. Their pet secret agent platypus (you read that right) Perry always disappears at the beginning of the day to thwart whatever n’ator driven evil scheme Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz has cooked up. Somehow the two stories overlap with Agent P and Doofenshmirtz unwittingly erasing all evidence of Phineas and Ferb’s latest invention just before their mother comes home. If you haven’t seen it do yourself a favor and check out this Disney masterpiece.
Memorable characters: Baljeet, Carl, Isabella, Stacy, Jeremy Johnson, Buford, Lawrence Fletcher, Linda Flynn-Fletcher, Vanessa Doofenshmirtz, Norm, Major Monogram and the Fireside girls.
Classic catchphrases: “Hey, where’s Perry?”, “Ferb, I know what we’re gonna do today!”, “Whatcha doing?”, “Well that can’t be good”, “Yes, yes we are”, “Oh, there you are Perry”, “Curse you Perry the Platypus!”