Yeah, I’m an animator. So I’m going to talk about animation, or at least what I like. When I started to think about it, there were a good 40 shows I’d like to talk about, so I’m breaking it down a bit. These are my favorite American produced animated shows that have run their course on TV. If you haven’t seen them, pick them up and watch them. You won’t be disappointed.

A side note before I begin…
There’s a “cartoon” and there are “series”. A cartoon is a themed set of characters who are there to set up as many funny gags as possible, while the plot (if there is one) is bare bones and only useful as a “loading screen” for the next joke. A series is a themed world with characters who are moved forward along an important plot, while funny gags are inserted as a pause from drama and tension.

TO THE LIST!

Samurai Jack

This series is a great example of an excellent idea with even better execution in packaging that guaranteed huge sections of its audience wouldn’t look at it. It’s almost more art than entertainment, with stunningly beautiful designs and a thorough understanding of myth, legend, and combat dynamics. Every episode is a gem and some are pure GOLD. Unfortunately, it was packaged as a kids show, like Kim Possible. Disaster.

 

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The Venture Bros.

Before you protest, I know. Season 5 makes its debut soon. But there’s been such a significant gap, I felt it qualified for this oh-so-specific list. The Venture Bros. became an instant classic when it launched on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim in 2003. Boasting a far higher quality of animation than most other shows near its time slot, it had a brilliant mix of well-written dry humor and a very strong, character driven take on the “real lives” of people similar to the older cartoons Johnny Quest and Scooby Doo. The show isn’t afraid to go to dark places and loves peppering every episode with TONS of obscure pop culture references.

 

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Justice League (and later, Justice League: Unlimited)

I raved about this series in another blog post. But I thought I’d include it for people happy with the new mega popularity of the Avengers and curious to see DC’s lineup in similarly great circumstances. The first two seasons work mainly with the founding members of the Justice League, but Unlimited breaks out to new members, showing more than 50 new superheroes in the first episode. I always say there can be a great live-action Justice League movie because there’s already been great animated series arcs. And it’d be different from the Avengers. Marvel is the story of men playing at being gods; DC is the story of gods playing at being men.

 

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Avatar: The Last Airbender

I talked about this series in that other blog post, too. But you’d be surprised how often I run into people mid-twenties and younger who’ve never given this show a shot. With amazing fight choreography, fantastic mystical world design, and a level of character development rarely seen in any storytelling, it’s worth watching and it’s popular for a reason! Give it a shot! And if you like Avatar: The Last Airbender, check out The Legend of Korra, its current and more grown-up sequel.

 

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Megas XLR

I understand a lot of people not remembering this cartoon show. It had a very short run on Cartoon Network. But it’s worth checking out. Think Clerks mixed with Voltron in the year 200. It touches me in all the right places: a mashup of video games, sci-fi/fantasy/genre heavy movie references, celebrity voice actors lovingly included, very funny dialogue, and not half bad action to boot. Look this one up. The geek in you will be grateful.

 

More to come in Pt. 2! Stay tuned!

What American animated TV shows do you like to re-visit?

Nick Adducci

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Nick dreams up visual concepts as a story artist/animator. He's a toothless pyromaniac with a pathological hatred for onions.

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