Ever since I learned how to turn on the television on Saturday mornings, I’ve been a fan of cartoons. It started with Smurfs and Alvin and the Chipmunks, then made its way to The Disney Afternoon with Gummi Bears and Duck Tales, found a path towards anime with Sailor Moon, and dropped me off at Cartoon Network as a college student where I relearned to love Scooby-Doo and discovered some amazing animation talent. Cartoons, it seems, have always had a huge presence at every stage of my life, even today as a 30-something mom.
Most adults today pass cartoons off as silly and childish, and something they only watch because their three-year-old needs something to entertain them. But there are some cartoons out there – some I will watch after my daughter goes to bed that are so good, so entertaining, that they’re much better than the majority of live-action television that’s being produced today.
Not all cartoons are worth saving to your DVR, but there’s a handful out there that I highly recommend you see. Some are current shows, some are older, but they’re all available and accessible. So no excuses.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
I was a fan of the old My Little Pony cartoon of the 1980s, back when Sandy Duncan did the voice of the only girl who lived in Ponyville, or wherever it was they lived. It was a pretty good show, and if I were to catch an episode today, I’d probably sit down and watch it for old time’s sake. But it doesn’t even come close to its reincarnation.
This show is currently on The Hub, and it is probably the most entertaining cartoon I’ve seen since my college days (more about those in a bit). The animation style is whimsical and wonderful, and the writing is funny to kids and witty to adults. It’s just an all-around awesome cartoon, and has even reached cult status, with its popularity among guys, or as they’re known, “Bronies”.
But one of my favorite things MLP: FIM does is their reenactments of famous movie or television scenes. They’ve done one of the famous chocolate factory episode of “I Love Lucy”…
…and of course the awesome billboard…
Let’s just face it. Everything about this show is awesome.
The Powerpuff Girls / Dexter’s Laboratory / Samurai Jack / Clone Wars / Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends
These cartoons were created by the genius mind of Craig McCracken way back in 1998 and through much of the first part of the new century. Most of McCracken’s shows were on Cartoon Network and animated by Genndy Tartakovsky, whose animation style sort of changed the entire world of cartoons.
And once again the day is saved, thanks to…The Powerpuff Girls.
Craig McCracken was probably the first cartoon creator who actually realized that adults could be a core audience. Sure, the kids liked the shows, but what studio would ever even think of putting your most popular cartoons on Friday nights – for the college crowd? Many of the jokes on The Powerpuff Girls whiz by kids heads and go straight to adults ears, making them giggle with surprise and delight. And if you sit down and watch an episode of Samurai Jack, with its beautiful animation and lack of dialogue, you wonder if the show was even meant for kids.
Before there was the current Star Wars: Clone Wars, Genndy Tartakovsky created the non-CG, hand-drawn animated Clone Wars series. The style of the show was similar to Samurai Jack, with it’s “look is more important than dialogue” approach, and it worked. The shows came in 15-minute episodes, which were obviously much too short for me, because I could sit and watch a full-length Star Wars movie drawn by Tartakovsky.
And of course there’s Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, which is probably McCracken’s most tender-hearted cartoon. The characters on the show are memorable and funny, but it’s Foster, the heart of the cartoon, who makes us all yearn for our childhood again, who makes us never want to grow up.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
If you saw the live-action movie without ever seeing the animated series, I’m sorry. Do yourself a favor and forget all about the movie, run to Netflix or the internet or wherever you get your TV from, and watch all three seasons of this series from start to finish. You will realize that not only is it probably the best animated series to have ever been made, but that maybe you should have skipped that movie.
So much potential…
I first started watching Avatar: The Last Airbender on Nickelodeon back in 2007 when it first aired. I was baby-sitting my nephew, and told him he could watch whatever he wanted. He picked Airbender, and after one episode I was hooked. It’s considered an “action/adventure” cartoon, with all it’s water/fire/air-bending, kung-fu, martial arts influences, but it’s the characters and story that make this show special.
Aang, the title character – our last hope for a united nation of benders – is obviously the heart of the show. He’s the one we’re rooting for, the one whose future we care about. Katara is the one holding everyone together, a strong female character who manages to stay positive whenever things take a turn for the worst. And Sokka is our funny guy, the one who’s sense of humor gets the others – and us – through the episode without completely falling apart.
Of course there are a handful of supporting characters, all equally memorable and awesome. There’s Zuko, the tortured soul who’s been banned by his father, his evil and powerful sister Azula, and her gang of followers, and then there’s Toph, the earth-bender who may be blind but sees better than all of them by feeling the earth’s vibrations through her feet. She also has some of the best one-liners on the show.
Avatar: The Last Airbender has made me laugh, cry, and swear with excitement. It had more going for it in its three-year run than any other show on TV (excluding anything by Joss Whedon – he’s always the exception). If you are a fan of any kind of animated show, or if you’re simply a fan of great writing and story-telling, then you need to watch this show. I’m serious. Or this girl will kick your ass.
Some honorable mentions that are totally worth watching:
– Phineas and Ferb (for the inside jokes and songs)
– Strawberry Shortcake Berry Bitty Adventures (for the frickin’ cuteness of it)
– Bubble Guppies (for the educational songs that are totally catchy)
– Thundercats 2011 (for the fact that it’s Thundercats)