There were two types of cartoons for me and my friends: The weekly syndicated shows and the weekend Saturday line-up. Now shows like The Critic and The Simpsons would air on Sunday nights and I'd do my damndest to not miss those, but Saturday morning ones were rare for me to get involved in. My parents had just gotten a divorce and I was over at my dad's on weekends. Naturally, cartoons were the last thing I got to enjoy on the weekends with him and a step-mother who aimed to make my life miserable and keep me away from the TV.
If I followed a Saturday morning show-it had to be good. The syndicated stuff was what I really got into because that was on weekdays at daycare and later on, just got home alone. Setting a VCR to record in those days was a pain in the ass, so any show that was going to be recorded took drastic measures to tape. I didn't really bother with it for that reason.
Thank god back then the shows on every day were fucking amazing. What does this have to do with the list? Absolutely nothing. I just figured I'd try and play with everyone's nostalgia who didn't get to take full advantage of Saturday morning cartoons.
This list really has no order it was compiled in, I can't really choose favorites with these. Furthermore, I'm really not going to go much into detail on what the show is about. I'm just going to give my thoughts on the show and what I remember about them. If I watched this at 6 years old and can remember it 20 years later-that should mean something.
10: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
*sigh* alright, I may as well get this out of the way right now.
I know a lot of lists will have this show at some point and I don't want to get redundant. I don't really know what to say about this show that hasn't been said, so I'll go off my own personal experience with the show.
I got into TMNT the moment kids at day care brought in their own action figures. That night it was a trip to K-mart with my mom to buy some of my own, and Ghostbusters went goodbye. I rented the VHS tapes, I recorded the episodes playing every day-I loved it.
Unfortunately, I had no clue the show aired new episodes every Saturday morning later on. I never really had any schedule outside of finding out when Mario aired (more on that later), so seeing Turtles on Saturday Mornings never really got my attention. I was limited to the syndicated shows released before school at 7AM and the ones after school.
People seem to think this series was deep, but I have to disagree. It's just the Turtles stopping Shredder every episode, like every other fad made for kids. It's simple. They tried to do a revolving storyline with the first season (which was well done) but from there they relegated to simple "Stop Shredder, eat pizza" storylines.
But did I care? Not really. Long after I lost interest in the show, they wrote Shredder out and introduced some new villains, new settings (The orange sky or dark sky season of Turtles episodes). Too bad I wasn't watching the show then, I probably would have liked the changes.
I'm not dogging this series, I bought everything TMNT I could get my hands on-and slaved through that god awful NES game (it's not that bad..except for the last level). When the movie came out I was there the third or fourth night of release with my mom to see my heroes in live action (which is a great flick mind you). When it's all said and done, I look back and enjoy the show mostly out of nostalgia, not really because I think it's a great show. The episodes are loaded with errors and the character development is very very small-you'd think by now we'd be past this. Overall though, I can still sit through a couple episodes before getting bored...which I would guess is a good thing.
I'd say the funniest thing to come out of TMNT is the fact that the actors are voicing video games now. Splinter's actor shows up in everything it seems like (probably because I played Assassin's Creed then Dragon Age) and Cam Clark (who voice Leonardo) voiced the awesome villain we know as Liquid Snake...and Ryudo from Grandia 2.
Ok, Ryudo's voice didn't suck, but that script was god-awful.
9: The Super Mario Brothers Super Show/Zelda Fridays/The Adventures of Super Mario 3/The New Super Mario World
I don't want to hear any of you tell me how bad this show was or how it holds up to shit. I don't really care about how it is aged or inferior-it's Super. Fucking. Mario.
I started watching SMBSS a few months before I had an NES. At this point it was all I wanted, but the system vernacular was still foreign to me. This cartoon satisfied my hunger for anything Nintendo, even if I didn't have the system it was on. I didn't care if the cartoon had terrible storylines or if King Koopa's real name was Bowser, it was the only way I could see Mario. Even this "Legend of Zelda" thing was interesting. When I played the actual game weeks later I was marked out even more at the connection. "WAIT THIS GAME, GOT A CARTOON???"
Of course once I got a Nintendo, that didn't change anything on this show-until Mario 3 came out. After that I had to be up to watch it at 6:00 AM Saturday mornings (gotta love that Mountain time zone). Mario 3 was a major improvement over the original. While the storylines were the same, it felt more like a video game cartoon.
The original series had them going to some strange world each episode like "Cave man Land" or "Robo Land" and King Koopa would assume an identity in relation to it like "Caveman Koopa" or "Robo Koopa." It grew tiresome and felt less like a video game cartoon, SMB3 had them in the Mushroom kingdom each episode against King Koopa. Ok sure, the names of the koopalings was different in the show compared to the game (in actuality no one had any idea on what to name them in the game when the show was written), and the plots never went anything more than "Stop King Koopa's evil plot." But for someone 7 years old, you didn't really care about storylines, that was about half of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' episode library anyways.
When Super Mario World came around, that was when the show started to get old. While it was a natural progression for the games, the cartoon never gave us much of The Mushroom Kingdom to begin with (I was still attuned to Super Mario 3), so when they took it to Dinosaur Land the episodes got more goofy. The residents of DL got annoying and Yoshi's voice was enough for even an 8 year old to roll his eyes over. Toad was gone and in were annoying cavemen. Bah, by then I didn't mind sleeping in.
X-men is a show anyone writing serial dramas can analyze-it has long story arcs that can span entire seasons but you can sit down for one episode and have a clue on what the hell is going on, that's how good the storytelling is. Furthermore, it had that varied age range allowing both kids and adults to enjoy it.
Oh yeah, and it's got Marvel's badass mutants in it too! Win-Win. In the mid-90s, the comic cartoon genre ached to get more serious. We saw it with Batman: The Animated Series, and X-men threw a curveball of its own by having one of its own characters (Morph) get killed in the first or second episode.
Let me remind you-this was groundbreaking. This was an industry saturated with characters always springing back to life and somehow saving the day no matter what the odds. Well X-men turned that whole kids shit on its ASS. From there we had storylines straight from the comic books, but animated. Phoenix? She made it in. Sentinels? They made it in. Just about everything you could ask for from the X-men comic books made some sort of appearance in some way, shape, or form, and it would be the basis for Spiderman's TV debut in two years. Not only that, but the show did so well that the voices of the characters would be trademarked and used in the Capcom Marvel games, to this day no one can do a better Wolverine than Cathal J. Dodd.
IF there was anything to complain about X-men, it was the fact that it definitely was more kiddy than Batman was-a lot of the mutants are capable of campy dialogue and while there is death-it's definitely a lighter toned cartoon. Still-X-men rocked.
7: Tiny Toon Adventures
This is what you watched after school. No, this is what you ran home to watch so you didn't miss the first five minutes.
Much like Muppet Babies, TTA featured "baby" versions of characters in the Loony Tunes world. The difference was they weren't the same character. Rather than "baby" Bugs Bunny it was Buster Bunny-a aqua colored hare that had the same wise cracking personality as Bugs. Each of the popular Loony Tune characters had one of these and their proteges ended up with vastly different personalities-which made things fresh. That and Warner Bros added in a few original characters to make the show not look like a senseless knock-off.
The group attends ACME Looniversity, a school that teaches all of them to be absolute dicks to everyone else (in true Merry Melodies fashion). Since Stephen Spielberg produced it, the writing was top notch and in my opinion, seemed to stay fresh much longer than the Loony Tunes shorts. The cast of characters rotated very well also. While Buster was the clear cut main character, they gave him a rest once in awhile and whoever stepped in found themselves doing the same slapstick we'd expect but with deeper storylines.
I'm not sure what happened to this series, because they never had a hyped up final episode. For its time though, Tiny Toons did a great job reviving the Loony Tunes after a decade hiatus-and actually made things original again with the humor as well.
They also made some good video games based off these guys too-check em out.
6: Duck Tales:
Everybody knows this theme song. And everyone knows by now-when you put ANYTHING Donald Duck related-it will kick ass. Donald Duck serves as Disney's wide appealing guy. Screw Mickey, Donald just can't go wrong with that temper of his.
Yes, Ducktales rarely has anything to do with Donald Duck (He's stuck on a boat somewhere) but since it is in Donald's universe-well it makes it infinitely badass even if he's in all of four episodes.
The show is set in Duckberg starring Uncle Scrooge along with his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie. The ducks get into all kinds of trouble in the run of the show, usually involving money and/or some expensive treasure ole' greedy Scrooge has his eyes set on. These were some of the better characters to come out of Disney-The Beagle Boys, Magica DeSpell, Launchpad, Gizmo Duck. Believe me-these were some vast and unique characters. When going through caves trying to take down shape-shifting Magica wasn't working, they turned and had the boys chase after Gizmo Duck on some strange Duckburg saving event.
I don't know why I stopped watching this. I watched a few episodes for this article and it still is entertaining. It doesn't feel the least bit cheesy and holds up very well given the time period. Hell, if they started the run now it'd do pretty well I'd say. While the reason I stopped watching this is a mystery (probably more attention to video games), there's no mystery on the success this cartoon had. Without this we wouldn't have gotten that other awesome Disney show called Rescue Rangers, along with Darkwing Duck, Talespin, Gargoyles, the list goes on. While I never got into the Disney Block (I was more into a show called Video Power which was about video games at that point). I highly regret it because there were some quality shows airing after school.
This is the first and probably the best.
5: Muppet Babies:
If you have a problem with Muppet Babies or Muppets for that matter-you got a problem with yourself.
Yeah, go ahead, laugh it up. I watched Muppet Babies, and you actually can't laugh because if you remember this show-you did too. Pay no attention to those worthless, media whoring puppets today called "Muppets." Those are not the same as the ones the late Jim Henson had under control (but damn good in their own right). Much like Harry Potter, the Muppets were made for kids, but adults enjoyed the puppets so much-and they were so welcoming to mature audiences, that there was no shame for the world loving Kermit and co.
Muppet Babies was surprisingly tame though. The live action puppets would get a bit of an edginess to them (partly why adults liked them so much) which seems lost here. Outside of that-the show was random. The whole idea was to get kids to make-believe and use an imagination, but no kid, even one with an insane imagination make-believe's these figments. Even when they are in reality, with the things they find and take part in you'd think the writers were on acid.
For instance, whenever the closet door is opened it reveals a star destroyer and a bunch of TIE fighters in a dogfight with X-wings (if this was Star Wars footage made black and white, or just outtakes, I don't know).
I wish I was making this up. I guess the writers loved Star Wars because there is a parody episode as well. That closet can open into other black and white movie scenes also, but I can't remember any, nor could I find any on my half assed attempt to watch episodes for this article.
The characters themselves are equally strange. Sure it's Kermit, Gonzo and the rest of the gang which already defined weird, but they definitely were taking part in whatever crazy drug induced ideas the writers thought of. Gonzo was even stranger in this show having an almost stalker like crush on Miss Piggy (I guess it stemed from the live-action Muppet Show, but am yet to confirm this). And the one adult character created specifically for this show-Nanny seems to make you scratch your head at the end when she's trying to make the viewer understand the moral of the story.
But I'm six or seven. You think I realized any of this at the time? Fuck no.
So if it ever was possible, Muppet Babies was a less edgier version of the Muppets-but more nonsensical, crack-headed writing.
Fuck The Lion King.
Really, Fuck The Lion King. It's one of the most overrated Disney films ever. THIS is a good film.
When I watched the Lion King (and the later Disney pictures) I always felt like Disney was trying too hard. They knew a mature audience was out there and it felt like they were trying wayyyy too hard to get that audience's attention, to the point where the quirkiness was lost.
I know I'm going to get A LOT of hate mail for that. This is just my own personal opinion. It's nothing really backed up by evidence and nothing that I can really defend. Just how I felt when I watched The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Ok, back to Aladdin. This is one of the only two Disney movies I can sit through today (and that's saying something). I think it's because unlike the later films, Aladdin doesn't try, it just does. It's for kids, but adults like it because it's so outlandish and distorting with its world. This is due mostly to the brilliant casting of Robin Williams as the Genie. Yes, he steals the show, but not only does he steal it-he makes everyone else look good. I'm fine with show stealers if they do that. Aladdin's character would be boring and dull had the Genie not been interacting with it-and the thing is, it works. These jokes and lines came naturally in the movie and it didn't feel stretched at all.
The songs aren't that bad either, only one lame sing-a-long makes it into the film and besides that, the rest of the musical numbers are welcome...and I hate musicals.
If there's anything really annoying with the film it's Gilbert Gottfried as that stupid parrot. I swear, I want to know who the hell thought Gottfried was funny for longer than a millisecond because once you hear that voice you want to bang your head against the wall.
This stands as the last Disney film I really got into. Lion King just didn't sit well with me, for whatever the reason.
3: Dragon Ball Z
If any of you have followed me for some time, you know I have a crazy novel written about conspiracies against Christianity, three headed dogs and other fucked up shit Polly won't let me mention, but if there was one show I watched to learn how to choreograph my fight scenes and also learn the chemistry between villains and heroes-it was Dragon Ball Z.
DBZ began as a Japanese anime around the same time America was introduced to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Dismiss the horribly dubbed, American DBZ and watch the Japanese shit. There's F-bombs by the dozen, main characters consuming alcohol and a much more mature feel to the storyline. Even the uncut crap doesn't do the series justice (Oh look-they covered up a part of Goku's ass!)
With that said, DBZ was an excellent direction to go with Goku's coming of age tale. Loosely based on the Journey West folk tale, DBZ tells the tale of Son Goku. Goku, a Saiya-jin( humanoids born with furry monkey tails that can turn into huge apes at a full moon...err whatever), crash landed on earth as a baby and was instructed to tear shit up, but hit his head and instead became a peaceful, albeit devastating fighter.
Of course that all spirals out of control further when Goku's bro Raditz shows up in the show's first episode. Raditz explains Goku was supposed to nuke every last earthling to smithereens and then proceeds to kidnap Goku's son. From there is a saga of Goku coming to grips with his heritage, his son, Son Gohan learning how to follow in his father's footsteps, and the friends they meet along the way.
DBZ had a great plot, but what kept you interested were THE FUCKING FIGHTS. I remember when the first batch of episodes came out we'd be in school saying "Shit man, Goku is gonna fight Vegita." "Vegita is gonna get his ass kicked." The fights were just drawn up perfectly and developed so well, you were on the edge of your seat during the entire power fiasco-
-yes even during the filler, DBZ's crucifix to viewers. See, Akira Toriyama didn't want the show to advance past the manga (which he was writing at the same time), so he made absolutely sure to cram within 10 minutes of content, 20 minutes of people sitting around, talking. Once that got old, we had episodes where a character just sat there charging an attack or having an internal thought debate on the fight he/she was currently in. Boring, stupid, but at the time most didn't complain, well most. I think after I re-watched a fight I'd be fast forwarding through crystal balls, body switches and SUMMON THE ULTIMATE KAME HAME HA!!!! Just to get to the good stuff, but just for timely sake, not because I didn't like it.
DBZ remains one of the few series I can say I've seen every episode of, and have every original takuban compiled (The original Japanese Manga volumes). The plot flowed, the characters were one of a kind, and the fights man, THE FIGHTS. It's also one of the few shows where I remember sending letter after letter to cartoon network to get more episodes after watching the show continually restart at episode 1 midway in a story arc (Goku vs The Ginyu Tokusentai if you remember). There's no other show I've even lifted a finger to see more episodes of and to see the series in it's entirety-DBZ is a first.
Yes, this is also coming from a non-anime fan. Anyone wanting a crash course in storytelling does well to see how DBZ does it.
2: The REAL Ghostbusters
Fuck TMNT-THIS is what I watched, well until the Green Machine beckoned me anyways... I would go to the dark side of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fandom in two years time, this remains probably my earliest childhood fad. The show picked up from where the movie left off, and that was enough for me. There was a ghost of the week, there was some decent animation, and there were toys. Oh man, the toys based on the show were probably some of the most creative to come across-and I had them all. The firehouse, the car, the cop that turned into a skeleton, the garbageman that turned into a....I dunno, green thing.
It was like a dark twisted version of Transformers. All the propaganda that went with it made my love for the show, and Saturday mornings that much greater.
But it didn't last. This is the first show I was turned off of because of creative changes and we can blame it on Slimer that puke colored piece of shit. For some stupid reason the writers decided to go from a half hour show to a full hour. Sounds great, except after that half hour focusing on the Ghostbusters, we had a half hour bore-a-thon with Slimer staring in his own episode with his own assembled crew of 40 year old virgins. While they were trying to make it youthful (and I was four or five at the time, imagine that) It made no sense and turned me along with a lot of viewers off from the series: Enter TMNT.
For the time though, this was my show. The storyline was your usual "Four heroes; one fool, one bad guy each week" but it was marketed so well with such cool toys it all came together as a great childhood memory and a good franchise.
Of course, there was the movie. At this point, having a Ghostbusters uniform, a Ghostbusters proton pack, and just about the entire action figure line, I had no clue this was all based off a record breaking movie. My mom decided I needed to watch it when it had it's week as the Sunday movie on network television (remember those?) and I proceeded to run around the room with a proton pack zapping the ghosts like they did-
-until Gozer took control of the dog statues and I proceeded to piss my pants. I buried my head in my mom's shoulder for the remainder of the movie, only to look at the TV when they blow up the Stay Puft Marshmallow man.
Oddly enough I liked the second movie more...back then. Comparing them now, the first is amazing-the second one is ok. The cartoon though, that's some good animation.
1: The Simpsons
I may not be a regular viewer of this show today, but when I was younger-this defined my youth. Every Sunday was a ritual of anticipation for the new Simpsons episodes. This was back when they had greats like Conan O'Brien doing the writing and episodes like Krusty gets Kancelled.
The Simpsons today may not be a show I watch at all, but there is no denying the fact that it's cemented itself into pop culture a way no other cartoon ever will. The show will always have fans whether I watch it or not (and gorge on the good ole days) and will continue making episodes until they literally run out of ideas (which while they may rip themselves off occasionally, hasn't reached that blocking point).
It's weird to say I watched the Simpsons when they had their times changed several times, from Thursdays to Sundays and jumped around before that for God knows what. Not too many shows can survive schedule changes like these, and the show just kept it's viewers. It makes you wonder how the ratings for this show stay up.
Ratings aren't everything. Let's be honest with ourselves here-part of the reason The Simpsons still has a time slot is because it's a very financially friendly show. Those episodes are cheap to make. And when you got a show that can even get half the ratings The Simpsons does, then it's very cost effective to make more episodes. Look at South Park.
I don't need to go into characters or the fact that we pretty much know who every single one in the cast is-because there's other articles for that. What I can go on though is the fact that while we can be thankful they aren't a real family, we all see our own families and lives within theirs. I mean their dysfunctional setting makes us identify with it so much, even if it's nothing like our situation.
There was a great debate about what was the better show: The Flintstones or The Simpsons, and I can easily end that argument. Children have a hard time getting into The Flintstones, the era is also hard to identify with looking at today's audience and how Bedrock had so much in common with the decade the show was produced. Pop in a Simpsons episode from the early 90s and have a four year old watch it-they will find it hilarious and get into it. It's that immune to the test of time.