Thursday, October 21, 2021

Real Heroes

Mark Arnold’s Top 50 Animated Series of the Millenium

How well do you know your cartoon history? Mark Arnold shows his chops in this expansive list of his choices for the best TV cartoons in history.


As the 20th Century came to a close, many of my friends had a listing of the best TV animated series of the last millennium. Though I agreed in most cases to other’s choices, I decided to do a re-ranking that catered more to my tastes. I wished that I could have added series like The Mighty Heroes, Pink Panther, and Bugs Bunny/Road Runner among others, but in keeping the format of TV, I have not included series that had theatrical origins.

50. Hong Kong Phooey — Probably the worst Hanna-Barbera cartoon ever in the eyes of other readers, but strangely enough this is one of the post-60s H-B shows that actually elicits a few laughs thanks to the comic timing of Joe E. Ross and Scatman Crothers.

49. The Archie Show — Another one to elicit a few groans from the audience, but remember, how many other shows have been successfully transferred from a comic book AND have a #1 hit record?

48. The Ruff and Reddy Show — This could have rated higher if I had seen more of them, but the inaugural Hanna-Barbera production deserves an appearance on this list.

47. Peter Potamus — One of the lesser of the "Golden Age" Hanna-Barbera shows (1957—1966), but compared to what came after...

46. The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show — Same here...

45. Inspector Gadget — This used to rank higher, but the totally rotten live-action feature almost knocked this series completely off the list. Saved by Don Adams "Get Smart" voicing and the all-too-catchy theme song.

44. Lippy the Lion/Touche Turtle/Wally Gator — Back to Hanna-Barbera. Another lesser cartoons from their Golden Age.

43. Magilla Gorilla

42. The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show — Not as good as the infinite amount of holiday specials produced, but in 1983, this was leaps and bounds above the competition. 

41. Star Trek — Would rate far higher if they weren't animated by Filmation. I suggest reanimating and rescoring the episodes using the same vocal tracks, perhaps adding Walter Koenig. Excellent storytelling.

40. Speed Racer — My sole nod to anime. I've always had a soft spot for this series because of the intensity of the vocal work, and very creative story ideas.

39. Schoolhouse Rock — Some have argued that this cannot qualify as a series, but since it was head-and-shoulders above anything else produced in the 70s, it warrants inclusion here.

38. The New Casper Cartoon Show — After making syrupy Casper cartoons for 15 years, Paramount finally gets it right when Harvey solicits a new series based on actual Harvey comic book stories.

37. Quick Draw McGraw — Two words for the greatness of this series: El Kabong!

36. Top Cat — By Joe Barbera's own admission, this series was a bit too talky and less cartoony than anything else produced by Hanna-Barbera at this time, but still a very important and worthwhile series, nonetheless.

35. Beavis and Butt-Head — Too many lackluster moments drag down an otherwise brilliant series. The movie Do America is far better than anything produced for the small screen.

34. King Leonardo and His Short Subjects — Before Underdog and Tennessee Tuxedo, TTV-Leonardo produced this highly entertaining series. A virtual Bullwinkle clone.

33. The Critic — The widely inconsistent series had quite a few bright spots, but equally as many disasters, such as too many moments featuring The Critic's son.

32. Count Duckula — A widely overlooked, but very funny series. I gave this the nod over Danger Mouse, but both could occupy this spot.

31. Johnny Bravo — Two years ago, I would have rated this much higher, but there have been far too many unfunny episodes featuring Johnny's mother.

30. Tiny Toon Adventures — Someone other than Disney finally broke through on TV again, and once again it was Warner Brothers.

29. Duck Tales – “What, only #29? Sacrilege!” complained some of my Disney fan friends. Hey, this is of all time, and I've never warmed to Webigail or Launchpad, or the fact that Donald is barely in any episodes in this supposed "homage" to the work of Carl Barks!

28. The Underdog Show — This would probably rank higher if the other segments such as Klondike Kat were as consistently good an memorable as the series main character.

27. Yogi Bear — The earliest ones were the funniest, with the later ones settling too much into the "Hey There, It's Yogi Bear" sameness rut.

26. Powerpuff Girls — Very inventive and funny, just like...

25. Dexter's Laboratory — produced by the same guy for Cartoon Network.

24. Crusader Rabbit (1949) – I haven’t seen the 1957 version, as I'm only familiar with this earlier version, which is hilarious from the creators of the later Rocky and Bullwinkle.

23. The Baby Huey Show/Richie Rich (1996) — The 1996 Film Roman Richie is the only Richie to watch. Ignore the 1980 Hanna-Barbera version.

22. Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures — Before Ren and Stimpy, John Krisfalusi gave us this gem that has been overlooked in succeeding years, much like his latter-day attempt of Beany and Cecil, which was actually better than the Bob Clampett original.

21. Animaniacs/Pinky and the Brain — Another excellent Warner Bros. series, marred by too many unfunny segments, mixed in with the brilliance.

20. Gumby — At times funny, at times scary, at times boring, but always watchable.

19. The Alvin Show — Depends on your taste for high-speed voices.  This series coupled with the Clyde Crashcup segment is always entertaining. 

18. Davey and Goliath — An actual improvement over Gumby, with some really subversive elements if you care to look.

17. South Park — Suffers the same fate as Beavis and Butt-Head. Sometimes really funny, sometimes really stupid.

16. Jonny Quest (1964) — Don't bother with later versions, this "all-male" version is the one to watch.

15. Batman Adventures/Batman and Robin Adventures — My love affair with humor is why this doesn't rank any higher, but it is on the list, so take heart. 

14. Superman Adventures — Same here.  This ranks slightly higher because of my affection for Superman over Batman.

13. The Ren and Stimpy Show — The ultimate in gross-out cartoons that are actually funny.  The episode where Ren doesn't brush his teeth cannot be beat. 

12. Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales — Easily TTV-Leonardo's best series, funny AND educational.  With Don Adams voicing again!

11. Huckleberry Hound — A classic in every sense of the word, but Hanna-Barbera would still do even better things!

10. The Adventures of Hoppity Hooper/Uncle Waldo — Unknown Jay Ward series, has all the charm and humor of a well-known Jay Ward series.

9. Roger Ramjet — Funny, funny, funny!  Poorly animated, but funny!     

8. Mouseworks/House of Mouse — The most recent series on this list is Disney's best! Humor and cameos galore!

7. The Flintstones (1960) — A lackluster final season drops this gem a couple of points.

6. Freakazoid — Another top series.  Caveman at the San Diego Comic Convention is the bomb!

5. The Jetsons (1962) — Hanna-Barbera's premier show for me.  Absolute perfection. The 1962 episodes at least.

4. Futurama — A tough choice on these last ones as they are equally excellent. 

3. George of the Jungle — Enjoyable because of Superchicken and the widely overlooked Tom Slick, easily the best segment of the series.

2. Rocky and His Friends/The Bullwinkle Show/The Rocky Show/The Dudley Do—Right Show – Whatever the name, Jay Ward's top—notch series deserves top honors.

1. The Simpsons — The longevity of this and durability keeps this at #1. Futurama may oneday overtake, but this series has amazingly bounced back when I had written it off.

What, no Scooby-Doo?  Sorry, I have never been a fan of the durable Great Dane. I actually liked The New Scooby Doo Movies, but that's because I actually like comedians such as Don Knotts. And, no more Disney? Well, despite the efforts of the latter-day Disney company, I would rather watch any episode of the above 50 over most anything they produced for TV. My opinion, of course. If I added another Disney series, Darkwing Duck would get the nod.

If I haven't listed it here, it just didn't make the cut in my eyes, or I have not seen enough episodes to warrant a conclusive opinion. Most of those are series that aired originally in the 60s and haven't aired since.

What do I consider the worst animated series of all time? It is easily Rubik, the Amazing Cube. Why this series? Well, it encompasses all of the worst elements of what makes a horrible animated series. To wit, it is a product tie—in or fad that was especially predominant in animated cartoons of the early 80s. It has horrible voicing by Ron Palillo (Horshack from Welcome Back, Kotter). The character design is abominable, a blue cube with a big nose. The characterizations and stories were dreadful, and it was boring and stupid. There is absolutely nothing to recommend.

A friend of mine frequently sites the 70s as the worst decade of animation in the history of the medium. I always have begged to differ as the years 1980—1986 were especially lean. In fact more so than the 70s. Standout series during this period were The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears, and Disney’s The Wuzzles and possibly, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and that’s it! All of the animation studios turned out their worst material as it was in the final waning days of Filmation, DePatie—Freleng, Ruby Spears, Rankin—Bass, and the worst animation from Warner Bros. and Hanna—Barbera. Even Disney’s animated feature films from this period were lame. No wonder The Smurfs stayed on for 10 years from 1981—1990; it wasn’t that it was that good, it’s just that everything else was that bad! Let me know your choices!

Mark Arnold is a comic book and animation historian and a writing, art, and film/video production professional. He writes comic books and articles on comic books and animation for various publications in addition to scripts, short stories and novels. He is also skilled in sales, marketing and promotion, and has film and TV production experience with digital video, video tape, and film. He has many online websites including Fun Ideas, Mark's Rare Comics, The Harveyville Fun Times!, So Rare!, and Food Shop. He also writes an (almost) daily blog and writes and draws a weekly comic strip called Protecto, the Little Robot. For the curious, Mark can be reached online at Whew!

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