10. Rocky & Bullwinkle
As a kid, this was usually a show I'd turn right off, because I just didn't get it. Only in the last year or two did I finally give it a proper chance, and come to appreciate its brilliance. It's an extremely self-aware show, with a great mix of absurdity and very clever writing. I don't like a lot of cartoons from this era, but this one still holds up very well.
9. ReBoot and Beast Wars
I'm going to cheat and make a double entry for two shows with a lot in common. Mainframe Entertainment broke new ground in the 1990s. Hot on the heels of television's first fully-CGI animated series in ReBoot, they went on to produce the first Transformers show that was actually GOOD, while building upon the story of the original series. For one reason or another, both of these shows took several episodes before they came into their own. In the latter half of each series, there's some very impressive characterizations to be found, and several surprisingly mature themes accompanying a continuous story arc.
8. Transformers: Animated
When I first saw the character art, I really wanted to hate this show. I wanted a show about badass robots, and these exaggerated, cartoony proportions simply did not fit that motif. I got over it. It was unique, and in time, I even grew to like it. In terms of consistency, Animated is a better show than Beast Wars. Having its share of twists and turns, it did more with fewer episodes, and ended far too soon. The show also featured a stellar cast with Corey Burton as an extremely menacing, yet subtle Megatron, a unique twist with David Kaye (Beast Wars Megatron) as a younger, inexperienced Optimus, Tom Kenny (SpongeBob) as a great Starscream, and some memorable appearances from "The Tick" and Weird Al.
7. Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated
I have never, ever been able to get into the Scooby-Doo franchise at all. It seemed to just be on perpetual cruise control since the 60s, relying on nostalgic value for its tired, campy formula and presentation. In 2010, it was as though some executive finally asked, "What if we made this actually good?". Mystery Incorporated retains the spirit of the original series, but with writing that's much smarter and more relevant
to today. Characters and relationships change throughout the overarching story, villains are more threatening, and Velma's hot now
. Umm... I mean... uhh... What?
I'm giving it this spot over The Simpsons. It's not that far gone. Not yet. In recent years, when it's not obnoxiously relying on craaaaazy Bender and contemporary humor, there's still a very smart and creative show in there, with some incredible stories to tell. At its best, I've never seen a show jump so seemlessly between moments of absurdity, and moments that are truly touching.
5. Pinky and the Brain
I absolutely loved the Warner Bros. "Silver Age" of animation which included Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs and Freakazoid!. This Animaniacs spinoff grew into my personal favourite of the bunch. You'll find a lot of very clever and quotable dialogue between the two title characters who share a phenomenal dynamic, and can be thrown into virtually any situation together.
4. The Critic
I discovered this 1994 gem nearly 15 years after it left the airwaves. Boy, did I miss something special. Legendary comedian Jon Lovitz does a fantastic job as the show's lead, Jay Sherman. Sherman really stands apart from the common "fat, pitiful T.V. dad", by also being an very intelligent character, in a world filled with idiocy. I strongly feel this show deserves the place Family Guy holds today. Far ahead of its time, The Critic's use of parodies wasn't forced and self-indulgent. This show had heart.
3. Batman: The Animated Series
There's not much that needs to be said about this one. It was truly groundbreaking and unique in bringing a gritty, mature, noir style to the typically colorful world of Saturday morning animation.
2. Avatar: The Last Airbender
This is another show I really, really wanted to hate. Again, I had my reasons. Children as lead characters tend to annoy me by being loud and obnoxious. It also looked like a Japanese Cartoon, even though it wasn't. But as I watched more and more, I just couldn't bring myself to dislike the show. The art and animation is an amazing sight to behold at times, numerous cultural influences are evident, and the characters are very well written and likeable. They felt real. I'd watched them grow, and by the end, I absolutely needed to know how their stories would unfold. This IS the best animated series that America has produced in the last decade, and it should not be missed. Its upcoming sequel will have a lot to live up to.
1. Samurai Pizza Cats
Don't let the English theme song turn you off. Even I hate it. This was my favourite show as 6-year old who thought the concept of cats and crows with swords was amazing. When I rediscovered it in high school, I loved and appreciated it for so much more. Saban's English writers threw the entire Japanese Cartoon script out the window, making up whatever they felt might fit the animation, while gearing it towards a western audience. The result was the most brilliantly self-aware, self-deprecating show I've ever seen. Alongside several pop culture references, "How'd they sneak THAT past the censor?" moments, and squabbles with the pompous, "underpaid" narrator, characters routinely mock their show's animation budget, nonsensical plotlines, and even each other's performances. However, the cast itself is truly a thing of beauty, with incredible comedic energy and timing throughout. The show doesn't feel like a dub, it feels like a cartoon that was always meant to be this way. It's definitely not the "best" show on this list, and could easily be too hammy for some, but Samurai Pizza Cats singlehandedly kept me smiling during some of the most difficult years of my life and is the reason I'm working in the field of voiceover today. It will forever remain my all time favourite animated series.