Animation Domination Part 2: Top 20 Greatest Children\Family Cartoons Ever Made.
Welcome back to part 2 of our celebration of animation domination. In part 1 we covered animated sitcoms that were more aimed at adults. For this one, we’re covering the top 20 of the greatest cartoons aimed at kids, but could also be enjoyable adults. When most think of cartoons they think it’s just silly crap they can sit their kids down to watch for hours instead of having to talk to them, and to be perfectly honest a lot of cartoons aimed at kids are juvenile, idiotic and just plain dull to anybody over the age of 10. But there was a true golden age in kids cartoons where animators became determined to make cartoons that kids could watch that they themselves could still be entertained by and perhaps the same with other adults. Cartoons where the writing was sharp enough, the characters lovable and relatable enough and stories compelling and\or funny enough to capture interest by all ages. And hereeee we go!
20. Megas XLR. 2004–2005.
You may remember this cartoon or you may not, but I certainly remember the fun Saturday nights my brother and I had watching this show with my Dad. A truly underrated gem, Megas XLR was simply about two video game obsessed teenage slackers: mechanic Coop and his best friend Jamie, who find a mecha robot from the future called Megas (Mechanized Earth Guard Attack System) in a New Jersey junkyard. Coop modifies Megas and replaces his head, the control center, with a classic muscle car, and names him XLR (eXtra Large Robot). Together with Megas’s original pilot Kiva, they must defend Earth from the evil alien race called “the Glorft”. The series is an homage and parody of mecha anime and wowed the kiddies with its exciting action and cool robotics and made the adults laugh with its clever wit and pop culture references.
19. Jackie Chan Adventures. 2000- 2005.
Saturday mornings just weren’t complete without Jackie Chan, archaeologist\ star and secret agent\and his crews kicking the butt of the bad guys and trying to protect the world from threats both magical and supernatural. The show was expert at martial arts action and flat out wacky comedy.
18. Darkwing Duck. 1991–1992.
“I am the terror that flaps in the night! I am the winged scourge that pecks at your nightmares! I am Darkwing Duck!” Darkwing Ducks tells the adventures of the titular superhero, aided by his sidekick and pilot Launchpad McQuack. In his secret identity of Drake Mallard , he lives in an unassuming suburban house with his adopted daughter Gosalyn, next door to the bafflingly dim-witted Muddlefoot family. Darkwing struggles to balance his egotistical craving for fame and attention against his desire to be a good father to Gosalyn and help do good in St. Canard. This classic yet sadly short lived after school cartoon was always a delight for us kids and it also had one of the greatest theme songs for an animated show ever!
17. Kim Possible. 2002–2007.
“Call me, beep me, if you wanna reach me.” Kim Possible was the teenaged girl answer to 007. She would go to school, the mall and cheerleading rehearsals during the day and go on crazy secret spy missions at night. You know… the typical teen stuff. Assisted by best friend and goofy sidekick Ron Stoppable and his pet Molerat Rufus, Kim would constantly foil the evil deeds of the nefarious Dr. Drakken and his lovely assistant Shego. The show had style, action, comedy and a true deep bond between Kim and Ron that ended up as something more by the series finale film.
16.The Proud Family. 2001–2005.
The Proud Family has been recently revived on Disney+ but it all started with this hilariously funny and heartwarming animated family comedy that a family could actually sit around and enjoy together for some of the same reasons for different reasons. Most of the jokes, especially the ones revolving around Oscar and Trudy’s marriage and the biting sarcastic barbs exchanged between Oscar and Suga Mama were what got the parents busting a gut laughing.
15. Spongebob Squarepants. 1999-Present.
Who lives in a barnacle under the sea? Spongebob Squarepants and his group of wacky and lovable friends do. The show has been on for over twenty years now and still seems to make kids and their parents laugh, though personally the earlier seasons were the show at its best and certainly funniest.
14. Scooby-Doo Where Are You! 1969–1970.
Scooby and his gang have been around for decade after decade in countless numbers of tv shows, movies both animated and live action, commercials, comic books and even cereals, but it all started here with the first incarnation of Scooby and the Scooby Gang back in 1969 with the lovable Saturday morning animated comedy mystery series where those “meddling kids” always got their man or woman unmasked by the end.
13. Superman: The Animated Series. 1996–2000.
Superman came back to animation in style in 1996’s WB Kids’ Superman: The Animated Series created by Bruce Timm and Co that also created Batman a few years earlier. This far more grown up version of Superman was a breath of fresh air for kids and adults alike. The only real flaw was how ridiculous Superman would sound whenever he got slightly hurt, but other than that it’s still one of the top tier superhero cartoons ever made. Probably its best contribution was the voices of Tim Daly and Clancy Brown as Superman\Clark Kent and Lex Luther.
12. Justice League\Justice League Unlimited. 2001–2004, 2004–2006.
For a kid on Saturday night it ain’t got no better than tuning into Cartoon Network and checking out both Justice League and its continuation\spin off Justice League Unlimited. These shows were far more mature, dark and edgy than Super Friends back in the 70s and 80s. The show had expert voice acting, top notch scripts and exquisite animation. It was never afraid to be fully grown up and show the true dangers of being a superhero, and even had a pretty steamy scene involving John Stewart and Hawk Girl on a bed kissing pretty hot and heavy. They don’t make ’em like that anymore.
11. Static Shock. 2000–2004.
I can’t tell you how much it meant to me as a kid to wake up Saturday mornings and catch a show about a black superhero who was basically a kid like me, although obviously older, but still basically a young black kid kicking butt and saving the day. Static meant a lot to me and I’m sure many other kids who felt the same way, but it was just a great superhero cartoon for anyone. Static was one of the few animated series to delve deeply into social issues such as drugs, racism, gun control, bullying, dyslexia etc. as well as of course the first real African-American led superhero show. Great memories, and Virgil Hawkins and his boy Richie are still my dudes to this day.
10. Arthur. 1996–2022.
Arthur and friends finally said goodbye after a staggering 25 year run but they’ll never truly be gone because their legacy and countless reruns will always be here. Myself and everyone I know grew up on the books and the animated series that taught us about the bonds of family, friendship and of course having fun isn’t hard when you got a library card. The characters are indelible and relatable to many children and the best thing about the series is that it never aged because it was still just as funny, heartwarming and informative to adults as it was for the kids.
9. The Animaniacs. 1993–1998.
The classic animanie, totally insaney cartoon gave us a comedy cartoon like no other. What was essentially an animated sketch comedy in the vain of The Carol Burnett Show, In Living Color and SNL, the show would feature three short mini episodes, each starring a different set of characters and would become known for its music, pop culture references satirical satire, catchphrases and innuendo that went over the heads of kids but made the adults fall out of their chairs laughing. It was one of the few animated shows “made for kids” that was actually not written for them at all but for adults.
8. The Peanuts Specials. 1965–2022.
We all know and love Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Woodstock, Lucy, Linus, Peppermint Patty, Pig Pen and the rest of the gang. They’ve been around as long as the earth has been spinning and that’s because their adventures are always fun to watch. We always rooted for the under dog that was Charlie Brown and laughed whenever the adults, who we’d never see but here the classic “wah, wah, wah, wahhh” sound whenever they’d speak. The show and its characters have inspired many children\family aimed cartoons since and will always be a hallmark… Hopefully one day Charlie will finally be able to kick that football.
7. Recess. 1997–2001.
A Saturday morning cartoon answer to The Great Escape and Hogan’s Heroes, Recess featured TJ Detweiler and his buddies constantly scheming and saving the day at Recess from Ms. Finster, Principal Prickley and the slimy weaselly snitch Randall. The show was very sharp witted and always fun to watch with characters that evolved over time yet still remained fun and lovable.
6. Golden Age Classic Looney Tunes. 1944–1964.
The Looney Tunes have been around forever and have inserted themselves into every medium possible, but the golden era of the Looney Tunes from 1944–1964 is truly the best and most memorable run. With the creation of such iconic characters as Pepe Le Pew, Sylvester, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Marvin The Martian, Wile E. Coyote and The Road Runner, Granny, Speedy Gonzales and the Tasmanian Devil. As well as some of the most beloved and memorable cartoons such as “What’s Opera, Doc?” 1957, “Tweetie Pie” 1944, “One Froggy Evening” 1955 and “Feed The Kitty” 1952.
5. Batman Beyond. 1999–2001.
Successfully bringing goth punk into kids animation, Batman Beyond took us to Gotham’s dystopian future where Bruce Wayne hangs up the cowl and passes the torch to the young and hot headed Terry McGinnis. The two become a classic duo and save Future Gotham from the Jokers gang, Curare, Spellbinder and many, many other villains, including a few from Bruce’s original roster. The show was even darker and grown up than previous Bruce Timm shows, including the show it spun off from, Batman: The Animated Series. It also had one of the coolest theme songs ever made. The network wanted a simple Batman in highschool kids show and got this wonderfully edgy and mature masterpiece instead.
4. Pinky and The Brain. 1995–1998.
Your life was not complete in the 90’s ’til you heard this exchange on the regular:
“Gee, Brain, what do you wanna do tonight?”
“The same thing we do every night, Pinky… Try to take over the world!”
Pinky and The Brain was a spin off from the Animaniacs and in this author’s opinion as well as I’m sure many others believe that it surpassed Animaniacs on every level with brilliant satirical comedy and indelible characters with the calculating Brain and his dopey sidekick Pinky. The show was another example of on the surface looking like a typical kids show but was actually written and thought of as an actual show for adults that kids could watch but would not get the more subtle innuendo that only the parents would understand.
3. Rugrats. 1991–2004.
Who would’ve ever thought that a cartoon about a bunch of babies would become such an icon? Not the creators and certainly not the viewing public, but life pulled a fast one. The show ended up being sharply creative, cleverly funny and astute observation of childhood. The best years frankly were the 1992–1994 seasons where the writing and stories were at their best, but the overall legacy of the show hasn’t been surpassed and remains a true classic.
2. Hey Arnold! 1996–2004.
The show about everybody’s favorite football head and his colorful friends, family and Boarding Housemates. Hey Arnold was first and foremost a comedy but it had a heart and soul that went deeper than any animated series for kids or even adults dared to go. Known as the “sad episodes”, the show was never afraid to probe into the depths of its characters and their lives. From Helga’s dysfunctional family to Mr. Wynn having lost his daughter back in Vietnam, Hey Arnold made us laugh and cry with its characters. Also one of the few shows to actually have kids voice kid characters instead of grown women. Novel concept, huh?
- Batman: The Animated Series. 1992–1995.
BTAS gave us three things: 1. The beginning of the DC Animated Universe. 2. A more mature and dramatic look at superhero animation and 3. Established Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as the definitive voices of Batman and Joker. This was the series that started it all and raised the bar for animation up a bunch of notches. The series was masterful with characterization, storylines, voice acting, score\soundtrack, and animation. It was like watching a 1940s radio drama but with Batman every week. The show’s influence continues to this day and for my money there will never be a better Batman or Joker than Kevin Conroy or Mark Hamill.
Phineas and Ferb, The Wild Thornberrys, Fat Albert, Super Friends and Jonny Quest.
Stick around for part 3! To be continued.
Link for Part 1: