Welcome back Ninja Nation, we are continuing our countdown of the 50 greatest cartoons of all time. Today we cover numbers 40-31. Enjoy!
40. Powerpuff Girls (1998)
Powerpuff Girls was a cartoon about three girls of kindergarten age with superpowers created by Professor Utonium using sugar, spice and everything nice. Humor for both adults and children worked seamlessly while the parodying of bad guys of both Batman and Spiderman were genius. My personal favorite bad guy was Mojo Jojo, the mean monkey. Note to all future creators out there, when in doubt throw a monkey into the mix, always funny.
39 . Animaniacs (1998)
Purportedly telling the story of the original Warner Brothers — Yakko and Wakko — and sister, Dot, the comedy of Animaniacs was a throwback to the old Loony Tunes cartoons with a broad mix of old-fashioned wit, slapstick, pop culture references, and cartoon violence and wackiness appealing to both kids and adults. The show featured a number of comedic educational segments that covered subjects such as history, mathematics, geography, astronomy, science, and social studies, often in musical form. Animaniacs itself was a variety show, with short skits featuring a large cast of characters. While the show had no set format, the majority of episodes were composed of three short mini-episodes (the second produced by Steven Spielberg), each starring a different set of characters, and bridging segments.
38. The Tick (1994)
“SPOOOOOOOON!” Yeah that’s right. The Tick, based on Ben Edlund’s comic book series which itself was based upon the mascot for a comic book shop’s newsletter was one of the first cartoons to spoof the superhero genre and it spoofed it well. Why was he called and dressed like a Tick? Who knows but that of course is just part of the craziness of the show. Get it just for the great superhero lines if nothing else.
37. The Critic (1994)
Brought to you by ex-Saturday Night Livecast members and voiced by Jon Lovitz, The Critic gave us random humor that inspired shows such as Family Guy. The main character, Jay Sherman ,was an endearing, and a little pathetic. An average guy who just wanted to care for his son, find a mate and watch some good movies. Instead he was forced to watch and review such gems as Clint Eastwood’s Beverly Hills Robo Canine Cop and a Half 2.
36. Superman (1941)
Created by Max Fleischer Studios, the quality of these cartoons even today is considered cutting edge. A system known as Rotoscoping, the process of tracing animation drawings from live-action footage, was used extensively to lend realism to the human characters and Clark Kent.
Narratively, these shorts quickly fall into a predictable pattern. Aggressive newshound Lois Lane finds herself threatened – by a mad scientist’s army of flying robots, by gangsters, by Nazis or Japanese saboteurs (these were the war years, after all), by a thawed-out T-Rex, by an erupting volcano, ect. Clark Kent announces, “This is a job for Superman!” and disappears into a phone booth/closet/alley, emerging as Superman to save the day. Every episode ends with Lois basking in the glow of her front-page scoop and Clark grinning knowingly at the viewer.
Sure the episodes weren’t all that complex but decades later, the series strongly influenced the creation of the acclaimed animated television series Batman: The Animated Series, the 1990s Superman: The Animated Series, and the feature length film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Personally, the Ninja can remember being a kid at the Chicago Comicon in the mid-80’s and stumbling upon some dealer playing episodes on a VCR. I was simply stunned watching for hours.
35. Afro Samurai (2007)
A black samurai revenge saga based on manga created by Takashi Okazaki, this cartoon boasts top-tier voice talent like Samuel L. Jackson and a great soundtrack from the Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA. Along with the blood drenched action there is some good tongue in cheek humor spoofing the revenge themes.
34. The Muppet Babies (1984)
Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies was a spin-off of a dream sequence in The Muppets Take Manhattan, released two months earlier, where Miss Piggy imagined what it would be like if she and Kermit the Frog grew up together. The show portrayed childhood versions of the Muppets living together in a large nursery in the care of a human woman called Nanny (the whereabouts of their parents are never addressed). Nanny appears in almost every episode, but viewers never see her face, only the babies’ view of her pink skirt as well as her distinctive green and white striped socks. The stories revolved around the Muppet Babies incredible imaginations taking them on adventures around the world without ever actually leaving the nursery, truly inspirational for all of our imaginations.
33. Spectacular Spiderman (2008)
As you know, from this list alone, there have been several versions of Spiderman cartoons over the years and the Spectacular Spiderman version is a good one brought to us by Greg Weisman the creator of Gargoyles. Weisman knows his Spiderman history and pulls from sources as diverse as both the Amazing and Ultimate comic book series and the recent films Weisman manages to take this source material and inject new life into franchise while keeping true to its roots.
32. Teen Titans (2003)
Teen Titanswas another fantastic cartoon brought to us by Bruce Timm but instead of being in the style of his Batman animated series, Teen Titanshad an anime style which, in the Ninja’s opinion, really worked. Even better was the fun theme song by J-Popers Puffy AmiYumi — “Teen Titans Go!”
Teen Titansoften told stories from the 1980’s Marv Wolfman and George Perez DC comic book The New Teen Titans. The series revolved around main team members Robin, Starfire, Cyborg, Beast Boy, and Raven and, while it was an action cartoon, the series was also character-driven, with a focus on the main characters’ struggles with being teenage superheroes, their mutual friendships, and their limitations. The group’s base of operations was the Titans Tower a large T-shaped structure that combined living quarters, a command center, training/workout facilities, and hangar/garage space.
Seasons two and four were based upon two of the most popular The New Teen Titansarcs, “Judas Contract” and “Terror of Trigon” respectively. Many characters from the comics, including Aqualad, Bumblebee, and Speedy, appeared throughout the series. This was especially true in the final season, which introduced many Titans from the comics into the series for the first time, including the Doom Patrol heroes and villains.
31. Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends (1981)
O.K, a personal favorite of the Ninja’s, Spider-Man and his Amazing Friendsbrought familiar Marvel Heroes and villains right into our Saturday morning celebration of cartoon goodness. The artwork could be so-so at times but frankly that was part of its charm. Additionally, the idea that Spiderman, Iceman and the smoking hot Firestar all got to live together in a sweet pad seemed like a lot of fun and left us dreaming of the time we could move out on our own and share living quarters with our own little Firestar.