The Best Cartoons Ever
Written by: Dave Andrews
March 16, 2008
Filed Under TV
Ever since Walt Disney introduced us to Mickey Mouse in the short “Steamboat Willie” back in 1928, Americans have been captivated by cartoons. In this article we’ll cover the best cartoons ever, the animated television shows beloved by young and old that seem to live on from generation to generation.
Let’s start off with a true classic, Popeye. Possibly the most imitated cartoon character and certainly one of the most beloved, Popeye has survived and thrived for nearly eighty years. He and his girlfriend Olive Oyl, his burger chomping friend Wimpy and his nemesis Bluto have graced not only the television screen, but comic strips, comic books, and even theatrical releases. Throughout it all, the sailor hero with the outsized forearms was always able to defeat the evil Bluto and was strong to the finnich ’cause he ate his spinach. There’s hardly a kid in the world who doesn’t know Popeye and who hasn’t at least tried spinach as a result.
Another old-timer is Woody Woodpecker. This little guy was born in 1940. Like another equally famous cartoon bird, Daffy Duck, Woody has evolved over the years from a completely out of control insane troublemaker into a more refined and mischievous character. For well over 60 years now, kids have grown up knowing the characteristic laugh and wild antics of Woody the Woodpecker.
Since I mentioned Daffy Duck, let’s move right on to Looney Tunes. This may be the most beloved of all cartoon shows, having introduced us to not only Daffy Duck, but to a wide variety of famous characters, including Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam, Elmer Fudd, Porky Pig, Sylvester the cat, Tweety Bird, Foghorn Leghorn, the Roadrunner and a wide variety of others. This show has easily created more enduring characters than any other single cartoon and continues today to give us more adventures of the characters we grew up loving. The list of characters born on Looney Tunes is complemented by a nearly equally large list of characters inspired by the show, such as those seen on other shows like Animaniacs and Tiny Toons.
Tom and Jerry
Yet another enduring classic is Tom and Jerry. The (usually) non-speaking pair represented the ultimate in cat-and-mouse games. Every Saturday since the 1940′s the two could be seen finding means to outsmart, outwit and outmaneuver each other in new and exciting ways. While Tom tried sometimes ferociously to catch Jerry and Jerry time and again teased Tom while he evaded Tom’s traps, the two share a real love-hate relationship and could never live without each other. We couldn’t live without them either.
In the 1960′s came a new class of cartoons, mostly led by the company Hanna-Barbera. While the classics we’ve already discussed survived, they were joined by a new group of cartoons who have showed equally strong legs, thriving from decade to decade and eventually becoming classics themselves.
The first one I’ll mention is The Flintstones. This family of modern-prehistoric cave people lived in a world of stone, but nevertheless had every modern convenience, from dinosaur cranes for building stone skyscrapers to dishwashers powered by elephant-like creatures. Fred and Wilma and their friends Barney and Betty Rubble were joined by the Flintstones’ pet dinosaur Dino, who yapped like a small-breed dog and later on by the Flintstones’ daughter Pebbles and the Rubble’s super-strong son Bam-Bam. Fred was always finding himself in bad situations that just got worse and worse, usually until his wife was able to fix them. This show has spawned a variety of spin off cartoons, live-action movies, toy lines and even a line of cereal from Post Cereals.
With the success of The Flintstones, Hanna-Barbera wanted to repeat the success with a similar concept, so they left the past and shot right by us for the future with The Jetsons. This show starred George Jetson and also included his wife Jane, his beautiful teenage daughter Judy, his young but brilliant son Elroy, their dog Astro and Rosie, the robot maid with a New Yorker accent. Jetson works at ‘Spacely Space Sprockets’ for Mr. Spacely, and tiny little dynamo of a boss who never lets Jetson off the hook but depends on him greatly, despite his constant accusations of ineptitude.
Yet another Hanna-Barbera production born in the 1960′s was my personal favorite cartoon Scooby Doo. Regardless of inevitable misses like the unforgettable and unlikable Scrappy, the show has endured generations and is still beloved by millions. So disliked was Scooby Doo’s nephew Scrappy that he was turned into the villain of the first live-action Scooby-Doo film. Scooby and his pals Shaggy (originally voiced by famed DJ Casey Kasem), Fred, Daphne and Velma regularly embarked on mystery solving capers in their van, the Mystery Machine. Later on after the show had become a hit, guest stars regularly appeared on the show such as Don Knotts, the Harlem Globetrotters, Vincent Price, the Three Stooges and many others.
Not long after Hanna-Barbera first brought its string of hit cartoons to the airwaves, Bill Cosby had his own success with Fat Albert. Fat Albert was originally a character brought to life in some of Bill Cosby’s stand up skits of the late ’60′s starting with the hilarious skit “buck buck”, but in 1972 he got his own cartoon that survived in original run for twelve years and later spawned a live action film. Reruns of the show still air today more than thirty years later.
By far the newest entry to this group is Spongebob Squarepants. Undoubtedly there are those who would say that such a new ‘toon does not belong on this list, but I beg to differ. With the immense success of Spongebob in his nine years of TV life, there can be no doubt that this cartoon is here to stay and will have the same lasting affect on the hearts of today’s youth that the aforementioned titles have had on previous generations. Not only has Spongebob Squarepants been the most popular cartoon on television for several years now, it has actually been the single highest rated show on cable television on multiple occasions. Even with such a short life, the show has a powerful cult following among both children and adults and has already spawned a successful theatrical movie, something that some of the much older shows on this list have not yet achieved.
So that’s the list of best cartoons ever. To be sure, there are many, many others who could be mentioned here and would certainly be chosen by their staunchest fans, but these enduring classics and one powerful newcomer top the list.