Brace yourselves! Longer than normal post ahead! Mostly because I’m passionate about this subject and I’m making up for lost time this week.
As I approach the exact middle of my 20s, I find there is still one constant in my mind since I was a kid: I love cartoons. When I was younger, I just thought the pictures were cool and the stories were fine. As an adult, I find their artistry and story-telling can be phenomenally well done. Sure, there are some stinkers here and there, but isn’t that the case with every genre of TV show? Since I love cartoons so much and have quite a bit of experience watching them, I’ve decided to compile my first list of the new year! These are My Top 10 Favorite Cartoons of All Time! (Note: List is subject to change in the future. Tastes change, people change, new cartoons get made, etc. I may wish to change my list at some point in the unknowable future. This list reflects my mindset during the present, in my mid-20s.)
Before we begin, some ground rules!
- No anime. I just don’t know enough about them and haven’t seen a whole lot. If you’re really curious, my favorites right now are Yu Yu Hakusho, Hellsing Ultimate, and Soul Eater. But again, haven’t seen a lot of ’em.
- I have to have seen every episode of the show to date. That means all aired episodes if still on the air or all episodes released if finished. I simply can’t put a show I’ve never seen on this list.
Lastly, just before the list, some runners up!
El Tigre: A fantastically animated show with a cool premise: A kid with superpowers trying to decide which side of the Good vs Evil fight he’s on. I reviewed the Halloween special once, and I highly recommend this show to anyone curious.
Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends: A really unique show with a fun, yet simple art style. Creative characters, a good sense of humor, and even some touching moments. A bit too “episodic” to make the top 10.
Static Shock: A show that’s not afraid to talk about some serious subjects, this was a great superhero show with good action and awesome characters.
Powerpuff Girls: What can I say about this show that hasn’t been said already? Great all around. Just didn’t have quite what it took to break my Top 10.
Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: Man, what an underrated show. This is one great kid’s sci-fi show with awesome action and really good animation. Highly recommended. I just happen to like 10 other shows just a bit more.
10. Ruby Gloom
While this show is aimed at smaller kids, I still think it’s a really solid cartoon. It follows the daily life of Ruby Gloom, a little girl with monster-ish friends. The show has a really nice slightly Gothic style and a good sense of humor. The characters, though, are what make this show great. I could seriously do an entire article analyzing every single one of these characters with really cool and compelling personalities. Misery (the weepy looking blue-purple one in the pic up there) is my all time favorite of the show because she has just the most “darkness” to her. (Doom Kitty is a close second for me, though.) Otherwise, this show is just really positive and bright. This is must see for kids both young and old. Bonus points go to a really catchy theme song!
Favorite Episode: Misery Loves Company. As stated, I love Misery and any episode that revolves around her. This episode brings in her extended family who are all as lovable as her.
9. Lilo and Stitch: The Series
Disney went through a huge phase where they turned a bunch of their movies into cartoons. Not all of them were great, but I watched them all. By far, Lilo and Stitch is my favorite. Our titular duo spend the show finding and taming Stitch’s “cousins,” the other 625 experiments made by Jumba. (Remember, Stitch is Experiment 626.) The show had a lot in common with Pokemon with a whole “collect the monsters, learn a lesson” aspect. The animation was half decent (though, I do think it greatly improved in the second season). It should be noted that Lilo and Stitch is one of my favorite movies, period. But what put this show on this list is that I remember the very first time I watched it. I was in the hospital for appendicitis and I was so excited to watch this show that I got up at 6 in the morning to see the first ever episode. If you can get that kind of dedication from me, you’ve gotta be doing something right.
Favorite Episode: 627. It’s an episode that revolves around Jumba making one more experiment. I like 627’s design and I love that he was a formidable opponent for Stitch.
8. Teen Titans
When it comes to Superhero Team shows, this one… is the only one I’ve seen to completion so far. (On my list of things to watch are Justice League and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.) But, man, what a great team to start with. If Teen Titans Go! has taught me anything, it’s that the original show could have easily been a shit-storm of bad animation, terrible humor, horrible stories, and half-assed voice acting. Fortunately, the original is the exact opposite. This show did a fantastic balancing act between drama and comedy and did both extremely well. The animation was top notch and the action scenes were extremely well done. I just hope the other “hero team-up” shows are half as good.
Favorite Episode: Anything involving Slade. I thought he was the best villain the show ever did. I guess If I had to choose just one, it would be The Apprentice two part episode. Very good drama.
Well, this is one type of show I never pictured Disney doing. A dark, brooding, atmospheric show about monsters being the good guys. The Gargoyles are a group of… well, gargoyles who watch over New York City at night and the show follows their adventures and dives into their rich history as a team. Ignoring the lackluster third season, this show was amazing in every conceivable way. One of my favorite things about it is that it never talked down to kids. (Again, ignoring the third season.) The characters were always complex. The villains were never just “the bad guys,” they had legitimate and often heartbreaking reasons for their deeds. The animation was also excellent with expressive and beautiful character designs and fast-paced action scenes. Definitely worth a look if you’re into the darker side of Disney.
Favorite Episode: City of Stone, the four part episode. I love this one mostly because we get a full history of Demona, the best villainess from children’s programming, bar none. I love Demona and knowing more about her is a huge plus in my book.
6. Kim Possible
Kim Possible is better than James Bond, Jack Bauer, and Jason Bourne combined. Yeah, I said it. This show, about basically a secret agent teenager who saves the world from super villains, came at the perfect time in my life. I was just turning into a teen, so I could relate to Kim and Ron (and I could develop my first ever cartoon crush on Kim [shut up]). I was still kid enough to really love cartoons. The action and story were simple enough that the kid parts of my brain could get it but complex enough to keep me interested. And I still enjoy it to this day. I really love that it’s a show that’s all about girl-power but it never truly gets caught up in that fact. We never have over-the-top “girls are equal” shticks, we just get straightforward stories. Just because she’s a teenage girl doesn’t mean she can’t kick your ass.
Favorite Episode: A Sitch In Time 3 parter. I love shows that dive into the characters’ futures and this is one of the best ones. Great story, awesome action, the best that the show ever did.
5. Avatar: The Last Airbender
I cannot sum up this show in just one sentence in a way that would do it justice. Let’s just say it’s about the adventures of a group who can manipulate the elements. But even THAT isn’t good enough to describe it. These are some of the most compelling characters Nickelodeon has ever done. Aang is believable both as just a scared tween and as a hero trying to figure out his powers. Katara is great as the emotional center of the group. Sokka is a fantastic comic character AND a brilliant strategist and still believable. Toph as the down to earth (ha!) sarcastic blind girl is really fun to watch. Zuko as the shunned prince on the road to redemption is… beyond definition. I could talk about ALL these characters all day, but I can’t. The action is some of the best animation I have ever seen. All the fight scenes are breath taking. Despite my number 1 pick, this is the best show Nick has ever done, period. The less said about the live action movie, the better.
Favorite Episode: The Tales of Ba Sing Se. Iroh’s segment. I cry every time.
4. Gravity Falls
Yet another Disney show I never would have expected. This is basically like a kid’s version of Twin Peaks as Dipper and Mabel Pines stay with their uncle for the summer in the town of Gravity Falls. Supernatural shenanigans ensue. I love the mystery of this show and how the mystery unfolds. I love the supernatural creatures and their cool designs and stories. I LOVE the characters and their quirky personalities and how they’re allowed to have flaws and develop over the course of the show. I don’t think there’s a single bad episode of this show. I love it to death and I could analyze and talk about it for days on end.
Favorite Episode: Sock Opera. Any episode with Bill Cipher in it is fantastic, but this one is particularly funny and well done. I just like the premise of the bad guy taking over the body of the good guy. This is a really fun episode.
3. Darkwing Duck
As a kid, this was my absolute favorite show and I continue to love it to this day. We follow the heroic exploits of Darkwing Duck as he strives to protect the city of St. Canard from evil doers! This is a comedy show with slapstick comedy that honestly rivals anything from the Looney Tunes. The animation is perfect for that kind of comedy with really colorful character models and punchy impacts. The voice acting is some of the best in the business. Jim Cummings (voice of Darkwing) is a personal hero of mine and, having met him at a convention once, I can safely say he’s awesome. What’s more, the show isn’t afraid to get dramatic every now and then and the drama still works because you CARE about these characters. When you see this show, come for the laughs but stay for the heart.
Favorite Episode: Comic Book Caper. It just follows Darkwing as he tries to write a comic book. It’s one episode I saw over and over because it was one of the few I ever actually owned on VHS thanks to my parents buying it. It’s not the funniest or the most heartfelt, but it’s one I cherish deeply. Plus it’s neat to take a small peek into some of the character’s heads as they try to help with the story.
2. Steven Universe
I was sick of this show before I ever watched it. It was all over Tumblr and I just groaned whenever I saw it pop up. “What, this again? I’m never watching this show. It looks stupid and childish. Ugh.” Then I watched the extended theme song. Then I watched every single episode that was out at the time. Now I get excited when they announce new ones coming out. How wrong I was. We follow Steven and his family, the Crystal Gems, as they protect the world from otherworldly evils and monsters. While this show does have comedy, it’s drama is its draw. These characters have rich inner lives, really interesting personalities, and good designs. You WANT to see them live and work through their problems. You can’t help but become invested in anything they’re doing, no matter how mundane. This show grabbed a hold of me, pulled me in, and never let go. Despite one or two really annoying side characters (looking at YOU, Onion, Lars, and Ronaldo), these are some of the best cartoon characters in recent history. And in case you’re wondering, Garnet is my favorite Gem.
Favorite Episode: Alone Together. My GOD, I love Stevonnie. I love absolutely every single thing about Stevonnie. As the only episode that includes Stevonnie, I had no choice but to call this one my favorite. It helps that it’s an incredibly well done episode, too.
1. Danny Phantom
Ever since I watched the first episode, I loved this show. Heck, ever since I saw the trailers for this show’s premier, I have loved this show. Danny Phantom is a half ghost super-hero that fights ghosts, eludes his ghost hunting parents, and deals with being a teenage boy all at once. This show can do no wrong in my eyes. There isn’t a single bad moment in the whole show, let alone bad episode. The characters are great, with a believable partial romance budding between Danny and his Goth chick friend, Sam (I ship it). The stories are great. The animation and action scenes are second to none. I love this show and I will ALWAYS love this show. And I will go far further into details when I eventually talk about the show in my video series, The Spook Factor. This show gets my absolute highest recommendation to any animation fan.
Favorite Episode: The Ultimate Enemy. A time travel plot with a twist. Danny’s future self has become the most deadly ghost in existence and his teenage self has to stop it. The level of HOLY SHIT in this episode is through the roof. It’s the absolute peak of story-telling in the show. While the rest of the show after it is still very VERY good, I still say it never quite got as good as this episode.
There you have it! My favorite cartoon shows of all time (for now). I had a lot of fun with this list and I hope you had fun reading it. Got a different favorite? Want to discuss the shows on this list? Have anything to say at all about the article? Go ahead and leave a comment! Until next time, I’m gonna go rest my fingers.