If your childhood was anything like mine, the working week was simply a means to an end. I slept through class, suffered through swimming lessons, and sweated through T-ball practice, all with a singular goal: survive until Saturday.
Saturday was more than just a break from the routine, more than just the promise of croissants instead of dry toast, and more than just the freedom of not wearing a tie. Saturday meant Saturday morning, and Saturday morning meant one thing: cartoons.
This week, Starpulse takes a nostalgic stroll down memory lane in search of the top 10 animated television shows of all time, perhaps briefly stopping to beg the question: Where have all the good ones gone? Enjoy the first installment in no particular order.
(P.S. Don't get angry if your favorite cartoon didn't make the list. It probably just means it wasn't very good.)
1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
(The original, of course. 1987)
By far the most whacked out of any children's cartoon of the late 80s/early 90s, "TMNT" told the story of four highly-trained teenage ninja warriors with a unique twist: they were all mutated sewer turtles. Taught the finer points of Karate by a Japanese sensei living as a mutated rat in the sewers of Manhattan, the TMNT spent their days destroying robot foot-soldiers, battling evil brains, and squaring off against everybody's favorite evil-nemesis-that-nobody-realized-was-Japanese: Shredder. With the classic, laidback, anti-authoritarian good nature of four California surfer dudes out for a good time, "TMNT" always made sure there was enough time between surfing the sewers and throwing down pizza for some good old-fashioned ass-kicking. We here at Starpulse recommend ordering in some pizza, renting the DVDs, and joining Robert Winkle (a.k.a. Vanilla Ice
) in a rousing chorus of "Go Ninja! Go Ninja! Go!" until your neighbors call the cops.
2. Captain Planet
With his green mullet and exposed midriff, "Captain Planet" was Ted Turner's environmental brainchild burdened with the responsibility of educating America's children about the plight of the planet. While heavily moralistic and spliced with didactic public service announcements about how fun it is to recycle cans, "Captain Planet" was nothing if not entertaining. Drawing on the old superhero staple of the four elements (earth, fire, wind, and water), as well as adding an erroneous and unequivocally lamer fifth element (heart), Captain Planet and his trusty racially diverse planeteers set about saving the earth from environmental destruction one smog-emitting missile factory at a time. With voices from the likes of Whoopi Goldberg
, and villains ranging from arch-nemesis Captain Pollution to Adolf Hitler (yes, even Hitler), "Captain Planet" showed us that greed and gluttony was bad for the planet and taught us to value clean air, natural beauty, and magical rings above other more selfish, destructive pursuits. Al Gore
was definitely a fan.
3. Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears
(1985 - 1990)
One of the most bizarre syndicated Disney cartoons, "The Gummi Bears" - inspired by the rather mundane story of then-CEO Michael Eisner's son requesting his father buy him some Gummi Bears - told the story of a clan of magical anthropomorphic bears living in the woods of Gummi Glen. Set in medieval times (naturally), the main conflict of the show generally revolved around humans trying desperately to obtain Gummiberry juice - the magical potion that allows Gummi Bears to leap long distances and lift heavy rocks. Not technically one of the greatest cartoons ever made, "Gummi Bears" makes the list for the simple reason that it may be the most successful and unashamed candy-themed product tie-in cartoon ever made. Also, get this: it lasted five years. Now, I'm no fan of the Walt Disney Corporation, but five whole years of contrived Gummi narratives? You have to give them props for stamina alone. Also, the show's ability to saturate every episode with the word "Gummi" is worthy enough to warrant a mention. Wikipedia's list of characters provides a fitting example: "Chummi Gummi - A Gummi in search of Gummi Glen as a rest stop before arriving at New Gumbrea where the Great Gummies were situated." Wow.
4. Invader Zim
Surely the most inappropriate children's cartoon to ever hit Nickelodeon, "Invader Zim" was the brainchild of comic book genius and "Johnny the Homicidal Maniac" creator, Jhonen Vasquez. Lasting just under two seasons, "Invader Zim" told the story of an alien invader - Zim - whose mission was to destroy earth and enslave the entire human race. Filled with colorful characters like Turkey Neck, Chicken Foot, and Poonchy: Drinker of Hate, the "Invader Zim" universe was one where aliens were real, slabs of raw meat replaced gift cards on Valentines Day, and children drank cans of carbonated poop. Starpulse recommends buying the DVDs for younger nephews/brothers - if only to hear them respond to all future questions from their parents with "Silence, Bus-slave!" or "Curse you Poop Dog! Curse yoooouuuu!" Some notable episodes include:
The one where Zim harvests the organs of the school children to appear more human.
The one where Zim hijacks a school bus and sends it into a wormhole, at the end of which lies a very large moose.
The one where Zim infects Dib with a virus that gradually turns him into meat.
Final Grade: A for Awesome.
5. The Simpsons
(1987 - )
While they're not the same show at all, both "The Simpsons" and "Futurama" are both examples of superstar hilarity guru Matt Groening's
animation genius and thus are best examined together. To put it simply, "The Simpsons" was arguably the finest animated show ever made. It was hilarious in ways that other television could only hope to be, and enlisted writers like Conan O'Brien
to make sure it stayed that way. Unfortunately, somewhere around season 9 or 10, something changed. "The Simpsons" suddenly lost what made it great in the first place - tenderness and subtlety - and instead filled the empty, gaping hole where its heart used to be with lame celebrity guest appearances, panda rape (season 12) and silly string. It was a television tragedy - one that continues today - and for those of us who wept in our hands as each new substandard episode was aired, there was but one solace - "Futurama."
By abandoning the rules of time and space, "Futurama" opened up the animated sitcom format to any combination of story elements, characters (generally historical or alien), and environments. Groening tore us down to build us back up again, and everything looked peachy until "Futurama" was cancelled in 2003. Fortunately, for those who continue to mourn the loss of what was arguably the only possible heir to the disgraced Simpson's throne, Comedy Central has announced that "Futurama" will return with new episodes in 2008. There is a God.
6 - 10 to follow soon…
Story by David Smithyman
Starpulse.com contributing writer