Animation is a storytelling medium unlike any other. It isn’t restricted by budget or bound by logic. The only imitations are that of the imagination. A child didn’t understand that Speed Racer was animated on 3’s, saving time and paper but giving it an unnatural motion that’s been parodied dozens of times. They didn’t give a shit because the car was cool and there was a monkey in it. No kid cares why Bugs Bunny can talk or why the Simpsons are yellow. They’ll accept it because it’s animated. Cartoons have to ability to suck us in but also present a world that we’ll instantly accept. Nothing taps into the imagination like cartoons, Whether it’s old school like The Ruff and Reddy Show (Not on the list) or brand new like The Happy Fun Times of Bojack Horseman (That’s not the title), animation has been here since the beginning and it shows no signs of going anywhere. Here’s my list of The 100 Greatest Animated Shows Of All Time.
40. Home Movies
Before he melted faces with the power of rock as the lead singer of Dethklok, Brendon Small teamed up with the creator of Bob’s Burgers to create one of the first hits of Adult Swim.
Home Movies is about a movie obsessed kid named Brendon and his two pals making short films after school or during school or whenever they have time. He lives with his mother and has a odd father/son relationship with the coach of his soccer team named McGuirk.
It’s a delightful show about childhood obsession but the real reason it’s on the list and the reason it’s a hit among fans is 100% McGuirk. H. Jon Benjamin brings every character he voices to life, not because he’s an expert voice actor–he never changes his voice– but because he’s one of the funniest people on the planet. There’s a reason almost every show he’s been on is on this list.
39. Muppet Babies
Born from a sequence in the film Muppets Take Manhattan, the idea of seeing those adorable ass puppets as babies proved to be such a hit among fans, that a show was inevitable.
Aimed at younger audiences like Rugrats, Muppet Babies is like that show in the sense that it focuses on the wild imaginations of babies but unlike Rugrats, it’s more pop culture oriented. Lil Kermie will fly an X-wing or be Indiana Jones. It’s reliance on movie references is why it’s endured but also why it’s never been released on home media. Disney bought both the Muppets and LucasArts. What’s the damn hold up?
38. G.I Joe
One of the things you’ll notice about this list is the amount of TV shows made to sell toys. They were either designed specifically to sell toys or they toys to begin with that needed a glorified commercial to sell more. G.I Joe was a toy line a good 30 years before the animated series premiered but nobody gives a fuck about the shit your grandfather played with when he was a tyke.
This was the 80’s, which meant more action, more ninjas and more American asskickery than the 50’s ever thought of. This was a decade built on cocaine and explosions and in the middle of that Venn diagram was G.I Joe.
Every kid had a favorite character (it was always Snake Eyes) because they were all lean, mean cobra kicking badasses that usually had punny codename. And there was always a message because the joes cared about the kids as much as they cared about kicking ass.
Go America. Go Joe.
The live action X-Men movies have been pretty hit or miss in terms of quality. They’re usually amazing or shit with no middle ground but the one thing they all have in common is the fact that they’re not as good as this show.
And the reason they’re not as good is the fucking theme song. If this was a list of the greatest cartoon theme songs, this would be in the top 5 easy. That’s how amazing it is.
But a show can’t be a theme song alone (unless it’s Friends), and X-Men ain’t no one trick pony. It’s one of the best written superhero shows ever created. The storylines were pulled from the comics or created wholesale by a team of amazing writers. If the superhero craze never kicked off in the beginning of the 00’s, it would’ve sucked but at least we still had this show and it’s incredible theme song.
To the outsider, anime looks like nothing but big eyed girls with physically impossible busts running away from monsters with the occasional robot thrown in and while that describes about half of them, the other half are usually some of the deepest, well written shows on TV.
Based on the third best selling manga of all time, Naruto is huge, sprawling epic that would cripple my fingers if I tried to explain in detail but the cliff notes version is: Naruto is Pokemon if you replaced all the Pokemon with ninjas and made Ash a ninja. It’s a little bit more complicated than that but that’s essentially the gist. There’s a ninja that wants to be the best ninja and there’s a whole bunch of other ninjas. It’s pretty much just ninja porn.
But a good ninja porn.
Archer is a spy parody created by Adam Reed, the genius that brought you Sealab 2021 and Frisky Dingo and is about a drunken man child named Sterling Archer who is the biggest douche on the planet but who also happens to be the greatest spy alive. Is it some innate “spy sense” he’s developed over the many years on the field or is it just drunken luck? It’s probably definitely the latter considering Archer bungles as many missions as he successfully completes but god damn can the man pull off a turtleneck sweater.
It’s kind of two different shows in one. The first is the typical spy set up: Archer and his fellow agents work for a spy agency run by his overbearing mother named Mallory. Every episode followed the agent on a mission set up. They get some details on a thing and Mallory sends Archer and maybe some other agents to go do that thing. It was a solid set up.
But then everything changed after season 4. Without going into spoiler territory for those of you who haven’t watched it yet, the format is completely different. The seasons are all serialized now and they’re usually a theme– Miami Vice, film noir, detective agency, Etc. It’s a radical departure from the beginning of the show but one thing stayed constant: The humor. No matter the storylines, Archer is still side splittingly hilarious.
34. The Jetsons
I don’t know what’s harder to believe, that there was a time where cartoons were played during primetime or that The Jetsons became a worldwide sensation with only one season. That’s right, before the 80’s movie renewed interest in the show, the original run lasted less than 30 episodes. Isn’t that crazy? It feels like it lasted for decades but that’s the power of creating instantly iconic characters such as The Jetsons, it’s impact outweighs it’s quantity.
There’s a reason why there been a remake in the works for the last 20 years and that’s because people still love the wildly imaginative future the show created and the characters that inhabit it. Or maybe it’s the treadmills. Audiences love a good treadmill joke.
33. Family Guy
There was a time where this would’ve been a strong contender for the top ten. Its insane pop culture references mixed with its irreverent humor made the perfect cocktail of funny in the early 00’s. It was so beloved by fans that it was actually cancelled twice but brought back every time because of the adoration of its die hard fans.
But that feels like a lifetime ago. The once fresh comedy stylings of Peter Griffin and the rest of the residents of quahog have become stale, lifeless. A pale imitation of its former self but no matter how terrible it gets, we’ll always have the great seasons. Just stop watching after season 8.
32. The Powerpuff Girls
“Sugar. Spice. And everything nice. These were the ingredients chosen to create the perfect little girls. But Professor Utonium accidentally added an extra ingredient to the concoction… Chemical X. Thus the Powerpuff Girls were born. Using their ultra-superpowers, Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup have dedicated their lives to fighting crime and the forces of evil.”
Thank god for that dumbass professor and that wonderful Chemical X or we’d never have the greatest female superhero team of all time– The Powerpuff Girls.
Made up of Blossom, who’s the leader, Bubbles, the emotionally fragile one with a heart of gold and Buttercup, the Raphael of the group. The lone wolf that barely plays by the rules. These 3 super powered kindergartners protect the city of townsville from a huge rogues gallery that includes villains such as Fuzzy Lumkins, Princess Morbucks, Him and the infamous Mojo Jojo. A character so great, he almost overshadows the rest of the show. Almost.
I feel like I’ve already covered this show extensively because I constantly reference it in regards to its amazing spin off or it being the crown jewel of the animated Spielberg collection but that’s how great it is. Its shadow looms over the vast majority of the kids programming of the 90’s. Because it didn’t just appeal to kids but adults as well.
Telling the mostly fictionalized account of the Warner Bros and their sister, the crazy antics of Yakko, Wacko and Dot were also accompanied by a slew of side characters with their own segments. It was a variety show in the same vein as Looney Tunes but updated for modern audiences. It kept the amazing character designs of its precursor but added an extra level of wacky the original never dreamed of. Animaniacs is a perfect throwback to the wildness of a Tex Avery and Chuck Jones but adding enough to stand not on their shoulders but side by side as equals.