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TV Guide Magazine’s 60 Greatest Cartoons of All Time

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Nick Spake
  • Nick Spake
    Jul 5th, 2012

    Of all the fantastical things TV brings into our lives, nothing indulges the imagination quite like cartoons. Whether timely (South Park) or timeless (Looney Tunes),
    animation can truly take us anywhere. The rules — and the budgets — of
    conventional television don’t apply. In short, we just can’t help being
    drawn to them. In honor of TV Guide Magazine‘s 60th anniversary, we present our list of the best and, often quite literally, the brightest:

    1. The Simpsons (1989—present)
    still not exactly sure where Springfield is, but we feel right at home
    at 742 Evergreen Terrace. Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie and their
    friends and relatives have balanced cheeky humor and sharp social satire
    for more than 500 episodes, making this TV’s longest-running scripted
    primetime series and as American as apple pie. Mmm, pie…

    2. The Flintstones (1960—66)
    Seemingly modeled on The Honeymooners,
    this prehistoric comedy from animation kingpins William Hanna and
    Joseph Barbera proved that cartoons could succeed in primetime. The
    exploits of modern Stone Age families the Flintstones and the Rubbles
    lasted six seasons, inspiring dozens of remakes, spinoffs and specials —
    and even a pair of live-action films — providing several generations
    with a yabba dabba do time.

    3. Looney Tunes (1960—present)
    started at the movies way back in the 1930s, but Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck
    and Co. have an enduring appeal that has made their slapstick antics
    pop-culture mainstays. Countless TV incarnations and an extensive cast
    of beloved characters — Tweety and Sylvester, Road Runner and Wile E.
    Coyote, and Yosemite Sam, among many others — ensures it’ll be a long
    time before Looney fans will be saying, “That’s all, folks!”

    4. Peanuts (1965—present)
    Springing from Charles M. Schulz’s endearing comic strip, the Peanuts gang has become a TV fixture, thanks to the ongoing (and much-cherished) replays of holiday specials like A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. The snark-free adventures of long-suffering Chuck, joyful beagle Snoopy and their friends define what happiness is.

    5. Scooby-Doo (1969—present)
    Zoinks! Who
    would’ve guessed that an animated comedy about a crew of paranormal
    investigators (four eclectic humans and one frequently cowardly and
    constantly hungry canine) would still be sniffing out new fans in its
    fifth decade. Beginning with the original Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! adventures and morphing into multiple series and movies, the Scooby gang has solved the mystery of longevity.

    6. Rocky and His Friends/The Bullwinkle Show (1959—64)
    and squirrel, such unlikely heroes — and such a hoot. Jay Ward’s
    pun-filled send-up of movie serials may have been primitive in
    technique, but it compensated with sophisticated and wacky satire. With
    Fractured Fairy Tales, Dudley Do-Right and time-traveling Mr. Peabody in
    the mix, each intricate episode was a dizzying delight.

    7. Batman: The Animated Series (1992—95)
    transformation! With moody film-noir art direction, emotional
    storytelling and mature casting (led by the brawny voice of Kevin Conroy
    as Batman and Bruce Wayne), BTAS was the definitive incarnation of the Dark Knight and set the standard for superhero cartoons.

    8. SpongeBob SquarePants (1999—present)
    his optimistic outlook and colorful cohorts — including a gleeful
    starfish, a narcissistic octopus and a deep-sea-diving squirrel —
    SpongeBob is the unpretentious antidote to today’s cynicism. You’d have
    to be seriously Krusty not to smile when visiting Bikini Bottom.

    9. Family Guy (1999—2002; 2005—present)
    MacFarlane built his animation empire on the stinging (some would say
    crass) comedy of the Griffin family of Quahog, Rhode Island. The show
    came back from cancellation in 2005 with the same irreverence and
    deadpan cutaways and has remained freak-in’ sweet to its fans—not to
    -mention the television academy, which in 2009 gave the cartoon a rare
    Emmy nomination for Outstanding Comedy Series alongside live-action
    heavyweights like 30 Rock.

    10. South Park (1997—present)
    Nothing has ever been off-limits to South Park
    creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who have spent 16 years going to
    outrageous extremes to slaughter pop culture’s most sacred cows. Stan,
    Kyle, Cartman and Kenny have seen Tom Cruise, Michael Jackson and Barbra
    Streisand pilloried in their tiny Colorado town. Because of its simple
    animation style, South Park has been able to churn out instantly topical episodes, demanding that we respect its authori-tay.

    The Other 50 (listed alphabetically):

    Adventure Time
    Avatar: The Last Airbender
    Batman Beyond
    Batman: The Brave and the Bold
    Battle of the Planets
    Beavis and Butt-Head
    Bob’s Burgers
    Dexter’s Laboratory
    Dora the Explorer
    Drawn Together
    The Fairly OddParents
    Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
    George of the Jungle
    Gravity Falls
    He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
    The Huckleberry Hound Show
    Iron Man: Armored Adventures
    Jem and the Holograms
    The Jetsons
    Jonny Quest
    Josie and the Pussycats
    Justice League/Justice League Unlimited
    Kim Possible
    King of the Hill
    The Magilla Gorilla Show
    Mighty Mouse
    My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic
    Phineas and Ferb
    The Pink Panther Show
    Pinky and the Brain
    Popeye the Sailor
    The Powerpuff Girls
    Ren & Stimpy
    Samurai Jack
    The Smurfs
    The Spectacular Spider-Man
    Star Wars: The Clone Wars
    Super Friends
    Superman: The Animated Series
    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
    Tom and Jerry
    Woody Woodpecker
    The Yogi Bear Show

    Nick Spake
    Jul 5th, 2012

    All in all, a pretty respectable, diverse list. I’m overjoyed to see the inclusion of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Phineas and Ferb, Pinky and the Brain, Spectacular Spider-Man, Daria, and Samurai Jack in the honorable mentions, plus Batman: The Animated Series in the top ten. Although I would have liked to have seen Ducktales, Gargoyles, Hey Arnold, and Robot Chicken on the list. Would have also been nice if they had included some anime like Death Note, Code Geass, and Cowboy Bebop. They actually probably could have if they had done a traditional Top 100 list as apposed to just 60. IGN did it, why couldn’t TV Guide?

    ReplyCopy URL
    Oct 11th, 2010

    This is bullshit.

    ReplyCopy URL
    Jul 5th, 2011

    They actually probably could have if they had done a traditional Top 100 list as apposed to just 60. IGN did it, why couldn’t TV Guide?

    I got the impression it was to tie in to their 60th anniversary. 

    ReplyCopy URL
    Nick Spake
    Jul 5th, 2012

    I figured that too, much like they did a series of Top 50 lists for
    their 50th anniversary. Yet, they did the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of
    All Time in a year that had nothing to do with 100. I guess it’s just
    me, but I guess I just like my all time lists to be stretched out to

    ReplyCopy URL
    Jun 4th, 2011

    Now, I would’ve changed the top 10 just a little bit. Scooby-Doo, as iconic as it may be, never reached the levels of excellence of Batman: The Animated Series. Didn’t even come close actually, and I have never been a big Batman fan, but that show was great and truly stands among the best in all television of the 90’s. SpongeBob and Family Guy are there because of popularity only.

    They were both great at one point, but both faced huge drops of quality at specific moments (SB when it returned after the film, FG in it’s first run after cancellation) and they shouldn’t be higher than Powerpuff Girls (one of the all-time best and iconic), Adventure Time (which I hope one day is seen as one of the all time best, because I really think it is), Daria, Dexter’s Laboratory, Futurama, Rugrats (really surprised it didn’t make top 10!), Samurai Jack, Tom & Jerry (another odd omission from the top 10), Underdog and Woody Woodpecker. South Park, for example, as much as I love it, shouldn’t be top 10 either. 

    This list skews too much in a “biggest cartoon franchises” way than actual quality and influence measure. That said, I can why one could make the case for the top 4 being sort of set in stone. It’s hard to argue against that selection even if you are not a big fan of some of those, as they really are a perfect balance of popularity, acclaim, quality, influence, impact and continued pop culture relevance, so I salute EW on getting that absolutely right. I would’ve put Looney Tunes and Peanust slightly ahead of The Flinstones, but it’s a minor personal thing. 

    ReplyCopy URL
    Jun 4th, 2011

    I also agree that Ducktales and Hey Arnold! should’ve made the honorable mentions list. Or at least that they could’ve expanded a bit, after all, there are tons of great animation american TV history.

    I don’t mind the lack of anime because this is clearly american-tv centric. Notice how they don’t even have the Tintin animated series. 

    ReplyCopy URL
    Feb 14th, 2012

    I would’ve put in Ducktales, Darkwing Duck, Bobby’s World, and Life with Louie.

    ReplyCopy URL
    Jul 9th, 2011

    I would have included X-Men (1992-97). It wasn’t perfect, but it was fairly well done for a comic book adaptation.


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