There are people who will only watch live-action shows because they reflect real-life. They feel like animated shows are just childish. After all, aren't most cartoons made for children? Well, that may be true, but it's a truly reductive statement considering how many great animated shows there are out there that elevate the genre. Animated shows aren't just about animals chasing each other around anymore. They're about all kinds of amazing and hilarious subjects, and often, among all the jokes, they can still make a relevant statement about the world.
The fact of the matter is that animated shows just keep getting better, and nowadays there are just as many animated shows that are meant strictly for adults rather than kids. These shows can push the boundaries of their storytelling and get into really strange areas. That's one of the main benefits of an animated show: usually, the limits of its storytelling are only in the imagination of their writing staff. Even one of the best superhero films of 2018 happened to be an animated film, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. It just goes to show that animation shouldn't be ignored, because it just keeps improving.
Pick or pass on these great animated programs, both current and classic, and we'll try to guess your favorite one!
For almost 30 years, the Simpsons have graced television screens and delivered solidly hilarious episodes. The titular family, made up of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie, constantly find themselves in odd situations, typically caused by Homer's poor decision making. However, there have also been stories caused by Bart's persistent troublemaking. Lisa, of course, feels like the odd one out, due to her level of intelligence. Marge does her best to keep the family from falling apart, and at the end of the day, they all love each other.
Big Mouth is the kind of animated show that is definitely not meant for kids. The Netflix series, which stars Nick Kroll and John Mulaney, is all about the changes adolescents go through when they start to mature. The show does not pull any punches with its subject matter, and often gets right into the nitty-gritty of its stories, never holding back on some of the more uncomfortable topics. The show also features other talented comedians and actors in various roles.
South Park might just be one of the most relevant shows on television right now. IT has been running for almost twenty years, but still feels as fresh, if not fresher, than when it first started. The show was originally just a look at the lives of four boys living in a Colorado town, and the various weird problems they had to deal with. Since then, it has grown into a much more ambitious show, one that tackles a lot of current issues.
Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? SpongeBob SquarePants! This absolutely classic and truly beloved Nickelodeon show might just be one of the most popular series the company has ever produced. Set in the oceanic town of Bikini Bottom, the series follows the life of the titular Sponge as he does his job at the Krusty Krab, tries to pass his driving test, and has all sorts of strange fun with his best friend Patrick. The show also features a cast of wonderfully funny characters.
Being a spy can be hard, but it can also be a lot of fun, as evidenced in the series, Archer. The show follows the titular spy as he embarks on all kinds of missions and does his best to always look really cool while doing everything. He works for a spy agency run by his mother, who is always annoyed with his ridiculous behavior (and his truly irritating voicemail messages). The show has taken the opportunity to use a lot of different settings in its most recent seasons.
Adventure time is one of the most creative and unconventional animated shows ever made. It all started with an animated short that was submitted to Nickelodeon, which grew into an entire series after fans clamored to see more. The show is set in the land of Ooo, where Finn, a human boy, spends his days going on all kinds of adventures with his dog, Jake. The show was silly and creative, but it also had a lot of heart and even gave its villains a lot of depth.
Netflix found a true gem in its series BoJack Horseman. The show focuses on the titular character, a former sitcom actor who has since faded into obscurity. BoJack spends his days lounging around his house with freeloader Todd, but slowly is building himself back up as an actor. The series has seen BoJack win some victories, but it has also seen him hit some real lows in his life. The show does an amazing job balancing ridiculous and fun humor with down-to-earth moments and emotional clarity.
Family guy is a truly ridiculous, over-the-top, and hilarious animated show centering on the Griffin family: Peter, the overweight father who is constantly getting into all sorts of weird situations, Lois, his patient but equally strange wife, kids Chris and Meg, and of course, baby genius Stewie, who often gets into strange adventures with Brian, the family dog (who can talk). Family guy is the kind of show that is built on cramming as many jokes into an episode as possible.
Disenchantment is the latest project from Matt Groening, creator of the Simpsons and Futurama. This Netflix series, set in the kingdom of Dreamland, follows the adventures of Princess Bean, an unconventional member of the family who would rather just have fun and party than actually do any sort of ruling over her people. She is joined by her friends Elfo (an elf, obviously) and Luci, Bean's own personal demon. Together, they go on all kinds of adventures and fight to save the kingdom.
Bob's Burgers is a hilarious television show that centers on the Belcher family. Bob, the patriarch, runs a not very successful burger restaurant, which is his main outlet for his culinary creativity. He is joined there by his wife Linda, who has a big personality and loves breaking into song. Their three kids, Tina, Gene, and Louise may be a handful, as each of them has their own unique personality, but there is a lot of love at the center of this hilarious, heartwarming, and musical show.
The Fairly OddParents
Timmy Turner is a kid who just can't catch a break. His babysitter Vicky loves to torment him, and his parents are so oblivious that they just don't really seem to care about anything that is going on with their son. However, not everything is that bad for Timmy, because he has Cosmo and Wanda, his Fairy Godparents to rely on. These two fairies grant Timmy's every wish. Usually, these wishes start out okay, but soon begin to backfire, leading everything to go back to normal.
Rick and Morty
Rick and Morty is an incredibly popular animated show about the titular grandfather-grandson team and their adventures through space, time, and multiple universes and dimensions. Rick, the mad genius behind everything, is a total emotional wreck. Despite his incredibly high level of intellect, he is never really happy, and only wants to have the companionship of his grandson Morty, who is often the unwitting participant in wildly ridiculous adventures that find the duo in constant danger. The series was created by Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland.
What happens when a twentieth-century pizza delivery boy ends up thrust 1000 years into the future? That's the driving story behind Futurama, created by Simpsons creator Matt Groening and David X. Cohen. Fry was just a delivery boy trying to get through life, despite his many misfortunes. On New Year's Eve, 1999, he is knocked into a cryogenic chamber and frozen for 1000 years. In the future, he meets Bender, a partying robot, and Leela, a no-nonsense cyclops, and they get a job with Fry's distant relative as a delivery team.
Steven Universe is no average animated show. The series has delved into some seriously relevant themes and made a lot of social commentary that would win it accolades and praise from various advocacy groups. The show revolves around a team of intergalactic guardians known as the Crystal Gems. Among them is Steven Universe, who is half human and half-Gem. Together, the group works to keep the universe safe from their various nemeses. Steven may not be the most graceful Gem, but the team wouldn't be the same without him.
Gravity Falls is all about mysteries, and two young siblings who set out to solve them. After they are sent to spend some time with their uncle in the titular Oregon town, Dipper and Mabel begin to discover some mysterious truths about Gravity Falls. As time goes on, and the twins find a strange journal, they start to learn more about the town's odd origins, as well as some of its weirder inhabitants and locations. Gravity Falls has received praise an accolades for its storytelling and themes.
The Amazing World of Gumball
The Amazing world of gumball is an adorable show that combines animated characters with live action backgrounds. This is yet another animated show that really dives right into the craziness of its world and stretches the boundaries of reality. Gumball is a young cat who is joined by his walking talking fish, Darwin, as they go on wild adventures together. The show depicts Gumball as having a somewhat complicated family life, as his little sister is clearly smarter than him.
What happens when a Raccoon and a blue jay living in a very weird world get into all sorts of strange adventures? Regular Show first premiered back in 2009, and it immediately became a hit due to its offbeat brand of humor and very strange storylines. The show revolved around Mordecai and Jake, the aforementioned blue jay and raccoon, who work at a local park, but would much rather be hanging out and being lazy than actually getting any real work done.
Arthur is a classic children's TV show, one that a lot of kids grew up watching. Based on the popular series of children's books, Arthur follows the life of eight-year-old Arthur Read, a curious, friendly, and imaginative aardvark who just wants to have fun with his friends, watch Bionic bunny, and not have to put up with his pesky sister DW. The show excelled at teaching less conventional lessons than most other children's shows. It also featured a number of guest voices like Yo-Yo Ma and Mr. Rogers.
What does the world look like from a baby's point of view? Rugrats is the kind of show that takes that question and runs with it, setting the show entirely in the lives of four toddler friends who are constantly getting into all kinds of big and little adventures. Tommy, Chucky, and twins Phil and Lil have boundless imaginations, and the way they interpret the world is far different from how adults see things. Of course, they also have to put up with Angelica, Tommy's mean cousin.
Gotta catch 'em all! that's the rallying cry for all trainers in the world of Pokémon. Based on the popular game franchise that is still going strong to this day (strong enough that a major film based on it, Detective Pikachu, is hitting theaters very soon), the animated Pokémon series followed Ash Ketchum, along with his friends Brock and Misty as they traveled the world looking for rare Pokémon and challenging various gym trainers in order to win badges. And, of course, who could forget everyone's favorite Pokémon pal, Pikachu?
Darkwing Duck was a pretty great attempt by Disney to create their own sort of superhero, along with a whole cadré of supervillains for him to face off against. The central and titular her o of the show lives in Canard City, and works tirelessly to protect its citizens against villains like Megavolt, Quackerjack, Bushroot, and Liquidator. He is joined by his sidekick Launchpad (yes, the same Launchpad who also appeared in DuckTales), and also gets some help from his daughter Gosalyn.
The Wild Thornberrys
What if a girl had the ability to talk to animals? that's the driving story behind the Wild Thornberrys, a Nickelodeon show that follows young Eliza Thornberry and her family as they travel the world studying animals and documenting them. Along for the ride are Darwin, a properly intelligent chimp that Eliza talks to, and Donnie, a feral child that is informally adopted by the family. The show was a huge success and even led to a movie, as well as a crossover with Rugrats.
Rocko's Modern Life
Back in the 90s, Nickelodeon was making all kinds of bizarre yet interesting and hilarious TV shows. One of those shows was Rocko's Modern Life, a truly strange cartoon following the life of a sweet little Wallaby named Rocko as he tries to keep out of trouble and do the right thing. He is joined by his friends Heffer (a cow adopted by wolves) and filbert, as well as his little pet dog Sparky. He also must deal with his annoying neighbors, the Bigheads.
Originally airing in the 1980s, then revived in 2017, DuckTales follows the travels and adventures of Scrooge McDuck, along with his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, and his trusty friend Launchpad. Together, and using Scrooge's massive fortune, the ducks travel the world looking for lost treasure and getting into all sorts of trouble. The show was known for its catchy theme song, which also got a 2017 update. The current DuckTales also features an all-star voice cast that includes David Tennant, Beck Bennett, and Ben Schwartz.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
My Little Pony was a popular series of toys in the 1980s, and it had an accompanying TV show to go along with it. Eventually, the ponies fell out of style, and were almost forgotten. That is, until the new iteration of the show, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic came along and revitalized the brand. The show, which was popular with all different types of people, emphasized more complicated storylines and smarter humor in order to make the show better as a whole.
Disney's Recess was the kind of show that celebrated being a kid while also teaching some really valuable lessons that couldn't be found in other shows. The series centered around a group of sixth-grade friends: streetwise TJ, tough Spinelli, intelligent Gretchen, Gentle and poetic Mikey, athletic Vince, and geeky Gus. Within the show, there existed a lot of different groups of kids, each with distinct traits and personalities, such as the diggers and the Ashleys. The playground was also led by King Bob.
Sailor Moon is a staple for many anime fans out there, as it is one of the most popular shows in the genre. The series follows a girl named Usagi who discovers that she has the power to become Sailor Moon, a powerful hero who is tasked with protecting the Earth against some seriously bad people who want to drain humanity of all its energy. Along the way, she helps other girls unlock their potential to be sailors as well.
Scooby Doo is an absolute classic of a cartoon series, one that has had a major influence on everything that has come after it, and is still relevant today. The original series found Scooby and the gang, which included Fred, Velma, Daphne, and shaggy, investigating all kinds of paranormal mysteries. Shaggy and Scooby would usually just want to know where the food was, but they would also get really scared all the time. However, most of the ghosts and monsters turned out just to be people in masks.
Cow and Chicken
Some cartoons are pretty straightforward, even if they are a bit silly sometimes. Then there are shows like Cow and Chicken, an absolutely bizarre offering from Cartoon Network about a sister and brother, who were, respectively, a cow and a chicken. Together, they have to navigate all kinds of weird adventures, with Cow occasionally taking on the mantle of a superhero named SuperCow. In addition to these regular stories, there were also segments that followed the perfect I.M. Weasel and the dim-witted I.R. Baboon.
Back in the nineties, Disney had a tendency to take a lot of its classic characters and put them into new settings in order to create TV shows that could tell different kinds of stories. That was exactly the kind of process that led to the creation of Talespin. The show Followed Baloo, the bear from The Jungle Book, as he runs a plane-for-hire service from an island called Cape Suzette. The show played on a lot of adventure tropes from the 30s and 40s.
King of the Hill
King of the Hill was the kind of show that was pretty much perfect in every way. It knew how to pull at the heartstrings, but it was also relentlessly hilarious. Hank Hill is a mild-mannered propane salesman living in the small town of Arlen, Texas with his wife, Peggy, and son, Bobby. In his spare time, Hank would stand around in the alley behind his house with his best friends, Dale, Bill, and Boomhauer. Hank was known for his annoyance at most things, and constantly saying of Bobby, "That boy ain't right."
Hey Arnold! was a classic Nickelodeon show about inner city kids dealing with everyday problems and trying to get through school without too much trouble. Arnold lived in a boarding house with his grandparents and spent his days hanging with his best friend Gerald and the other neighborhood kids. The show also focused on Helga, a girl who was always giving Arnold trouble, but was also secretly in love with him. The show dealt with a lot of real-life issues, but was also a lot of fun.
The Powerpuff Girls
Sugar, spice, and everything nice... Along with some accidentally added chemical X. That's the formula that brought the Powerpuff Girls to life. These three adorable heroes may look cute, but they are more powerful than anyone can imagine. The show found the trio protecting the City of Townsville from all manner of supervillains, including supergenius monkey Mojo Jojo and a mysterious, red, lobster-clawed figure so incredibly scary that he was only known as "HIM." The show was a huge hit, and even spawned a movie.
All Dexter wants to do is spend his time in his giant secret laboratory that is somehow built right underneath his family home. However, every time he thinks he has found a moment's peace, it is interrupted by his pesky sister DeeDee. Dexter's Laboratory was an incredibly popular Cartoon Network show that had a lot of great humor and creative storylines. It also featured other segments with characters like the justice friends and Monkey, a simian secret agent working to save the world.
Spoon! That's the battle cry of the Tick, a giant blue superhero with super strength, whose only goal in life is to keep the good citizens of The City safe from bad guys. Together with his sidekick, Arthur (who wears a moth suit and can fly, but never gives himself a superhero name), the Tick fights all of his enemies and does his best to lead a virtuous life. The Tick's subversive tone and spoofing of superheroes made it popular enough for a live-action adaptation.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an absolute classic, and it has been recreated in a ton of different series. However, everything really got started with the original show, which aired in the late eighties and early nineties. After four turtle brothers are exposed to a strange ooze, they turn into walking, talking crime-fighters. Of course, they also get a little bit of help from their trainer an father figure, Splinter. Together, Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michaelangelo fight Splinter and his foot soldiers.
Pinky and the Brain
Two lab mice totally bent on world domination. Well, one is at least. The other one is more focused on just enjoying life, eating cheese, and watching some good TV. Pinky and the Brain is a highly acclaimed animated show that followed the comedic adventures of the titular mice as they attempted, every single night, to take over the world. Brain is the conniving genius whose plans never seem to work, and Pinky is his seemingly dim-witted assistant, though he sometimes has more sense than Brain. Narf!
The Magic School Bus
There really is nothing like a good old fashioned field trip. The kids get to leave school, get on a bus, and go somewhere cool to learn about all sorts of different things. Of course, with Miss Frizzle at the wheel, there really is no such thing as an ordinary field trip. Based on the popular series of educational books, the Magic School Bus follows the adventures of Miss Frizzle and her students as they embark on journeys into space, to the bottom of the ocean, and inside the human body.
Phineas and Ferb
Phineas and Ferb is another Disney channel show, however one that is truly underrated. Phineas is a kid genius, one who is totally invested in having fun with his stepbrother Ferb. Together, they pull off all kinds of hilarious and fun-filled things like creating their own amusement park or starting a band. However, their sister is constantly annoyed with their antics. On the other side of things, Dr. Doofenshmirtz, a wannabe supervillain, is constantly dealing with the interference of his nemesis, Perry the Platypus.
Imagine being a high school student who also has to deal with bigger issues like a supervillain trying to take over the world. That's the main premise of Kim Possible, a popular Disney animated show that was eventually turned into a live-action Disney Channel movie. Kim and her best friend and partner, Ron, must constantly put their own lives in danger in order to save the world. Eventually, Ron and Kim realize that they may be more than just friends.
Chip & Dale: Rescue Rangers
Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers is another product of the nineties. This classic Disney Channel animated show followed the classic chipmunk duo and a couple of new friends as they went on adventures, tried their best to help people, and fought bad guys, despite their diminutive size. One of the funniest aspects of the show, and one that would have gone over most kids' heads, was that the two titular chipmunks were dressed as both Indiana Jones and Magnum PI.
Courage the Cowardly Dog
What happens when an elderly couple living in the middle of nowhere are constantly beset upon by monsters, ghosts, and other paranormal beings, and the only companion they have to help them battle these otherworldly forces is their little pink dog who is absolutely afraid of everything? Courage the Cowardly dog was yet another show that, despite being made for kids, had a lot of scary elements in it, particularly the monsters that would show up at the farm and cause trouble.
It's one of the most classic and memorable animated shows of the 80s, and it still holds up today. Inspector Gadget follows the work of the titular inspector, who has been augmented with all sorts of robotic items like a helicopter in his hat and stretching metal limbs. He is sent on missions to defeat the bad guys at MAD, led by the sinister Dr. Claw. Of course, Inspector Gadget gets a lot of help from his niece Penny and her dog, Brain.
When it comes to dark animated shows, one of the most memorable ones has to be Invader Zim. This show really went to some strange places, and was constantly in trouble of being canceled due to its subject matter. Still, it maintains its place as a cult favorite of Nickelodeon fans. The show revolved around a single alien, Zim, trying to invade Earth. However, he was actually sent there because he is kind of bad at what he does. Still, he does his best with what he has.
What happens when a regular high schooler is granted ghostly powers by a laboratory explosion? That's the main story of Danny Phantom, another popular Nickelodeon show. Danny, the main character, is granted the powers of a spirit, and even though he has to keep it a secret, he uses those powers to fight bad ghosts that have leaked into the realm of the living. Along with doing all of the regular ghostly superhero stuff, Danny also has to focus on finishing high school.
Tom and Jerry
It's the classic cat and mouse pairing that has lasted for decades. Tom and Jerry might just be one of the most well-known pair of cartoon enemies out there. Tom is a cat who just can't seem to catch a break. All he wants to do is take a nice nap, but he's got Jerry, this little annoying mouse, running all over the house, stealing food, and generally causing trouble. Though they are at odds with each other, they do sometimes team up.
The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
Boy genius Jimmy Neutron and his friends Carl and Sheen are always dealing with some sort of new emergency. Luckily, Jimmy happens to be a boy genius, one who is pretty much capable of building anything, as evidenced by his advanced robotic dog, Goddard. The show is based on the original Jimmy Neutron movie, and although it was never quite as popular as some of the other shows that came out at the same time, it still has left a memorable legacy.
Avatar: The Last Airbender
Setting aside M. Night Shyamalan's truly unsuccessful take on the source material, Avatar has always had its legion of fans. The show follows the journey of Aang, the legendary Avatar, who, in a world divided into four nations (fire, water, air, and earth), is the only human able to control every single element. The fire tribe is bent on dominating every other tribe and finding Aang. However, joined by his friends, Aang is learning how to control all of the elements in order to defeat them.
Tiny Toon Adventures
What happens when a new generation of cartoon characters has to learn the ins and outs of cartooning from some of the greatest characters of all time? Tiny Toon Adventures, a hilarious, original, and innovative series co-produced by Steven Spielberg, followed the lives of Babs and Buster Bunny (no relation) and all of their young toon friends as they learn how to be better cartoon characters from greats like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Sylvester and Tweety Bird while attending Acme Looniversity.
What happens when a cat and a dog not only have to live together, but are actually sharing the same body? That's the weird, wild, and wacky premise of the appropriately titled CatDog, a classic Nickelodeon show about the titular animal just trying to get by without getting into too much trouble. Of course, each side of the body has to put with the other's habits, like coughing up furballs and chasing garbage trucks. They also have to deal with bullies and a streetwise mouse.