If you are of a certain age, or even if you aren’t, you probably remember all of the old school cartoons that were on Saturday mornings back in the ’80s and the ’90s. These were not just for kids, of course- tons of adults would check these out as well. And why not? These were literally some of the most entertaining cartoons of all time. Some of them, like Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry were old school cartoons that came out years earlier, but still were shown because they were so darn good. Others, like Thundercats and He-Man, were newer cartoons that were popular because they were so bad that they were hilarious.
You have to remember, these were the days when the Internet as we know it was just a dream and cable TV was nothing like it was today. These shows were literally where it was at. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was checking out these shows on TV. If you watch some of them now, they are still pretty awesome, but others you will wonder just what were you thinking to ever check them out in the first place.
If there is one thing for sure, though, the days of old school cartoons, and sitting around on Saturday morning with your friends and family, are gone forever. There are so many different options now for people to do things that shows like this have fallen by the wayside. But that is not to say that they have been forgotten- we will always remember!
15. Batman-The Animated Series
Batman: The Animated Series was on from 1992 through 1995, and was considered a very good animated show. It was a lot darker than anything else on this list and the producers took some chances. Wizard magazine said it was the second best animated television show ever- The Simpsons was number one- big surprise there. Also TV Guide listed it as the “Seventh Greatest Cartoon of All Time,” and it won four Emmy Awards over its duration. The thing is though, how bad could it really be? It was Batman after all, which is obviously a pretty hard thing to screw up. The animated shows tended to follow along with Tim Burton’s vision of Batman and emulated his movies. This show was not afraid to be violent. Most importantly of all is that this show is where Harley Quinn was first introduced.
Hey, have any of you ever heard of the X-Men? No? I didn’t think so. Just kidding. Obviously, the X-Men is one of the most popular comic books and movie franchises of all time. The animated series? Ahhh…not so much. It ran from 1992 to 1997 on the Fox Children’s Network and never really caught on. The animation was not great and in fact the very first episode ran with hundreds of animation errors. Things did get better and the show had some success, but still with the enormous success of the movies one would think it would have done better. Sadly, though, the animated series sat firmly in that animation dead zone- the kind of show that wasn’t good enough to be a fan of and not bad enough to be campy.
13. The Jetsons
The Jetsons was another one of those shows, like Scooby Doo, that kind of hit that sweet spot between being really good and really awful. It was a show about a family that lived in the future, that cruised around in space cars and had a robot maid. The family also has a talking dog named Astro, who talks normally except for starting every word off with a growling sounding “R.” Because that is what dogs do, right? It originally appeared just for one season in the early ’60s then was on in syndication for years. Finally in the mid ’80s they made a couple more years of shows. The dad, George Jetson, works at a company called Spacely Sprockets, but even though the show is set in the future, nothing really happens that speaks to that, the whole show is set up like a normal sitcom, except, ya know, in the future.
12. Looney Tunes
Looney Tunes were possibly the best cartoons ever. The animation is killer and they are actually funny for real. They were made from the 1930s through the 1960s. They also made some later, but you can tell the difference as they are not nearly as cool as the old school ones. if you ever checked out Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd, Tweety Bird, Sylvester the Cat, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, Pepé Le Pew, Speedy Gonzales, Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, or the Tasmanian Devil, you were checking out Looney Tunes. This was the one cartoon, and still is, that kids and their parents both like equally. It is not just the animation either, the voices, which were done by Mel Blanc, were the best too.
11. Scooby Doo
All right, so who has not ever seen an episode of Scooby Doo? These were so bad they were totally awesome. In every episode the gang would get terrified by something, that always turned out to be some guy pretending to be a monster or a ghost, yet they never figured it out. Maybe it had something to do with all of the Scooby Snacks that Scooby and Shaggy were so into. These were mostly made in the ’70s and just like Looney Tunes, the best ones were early on- the later episodes were not nearly as cool. If you ever heard someone say “And I would have gotten away with it too if it was not for those meddling kids” then you heard someone who used to be a fan of Scooby Doo. The animation was awful, but in a funny way.
Before there were all the big market Transformer movies there was the Transformer cartoon that started back in the ’80s. You already know the plot; it was basically a war about giant robots that could transform into all sorts of other things. It was written and recorded in America but all of the animation was done in Japan, which if you know anything about Japanese animation explains a lot. The show was based on a line of toys that was already out. This obviously turned into a huge money mill for everyone involved- who would have thought that something like this would have turned into something so huge? The original cartoon was okay, but honestly not that great. But hey…don’t forget about all the cool robots!
9. Pinky And The Brain
Pinky and the Brain had some big names behind it. Like who you might ask? Well, no one really, just Steven Spielberg and Warner Brothers Animation that’s all. The two characters were originally seen on The Animaniacs and they eventually got their own show in 1995. They are both lab rats and as you might imagine by the name, The Brain is the smart one who is always getting the duo into trouble by thinking too much of himself, while Pinky is the nicer of the two, who also happens to be a total idiot. The show was aimed much more towards adults than towards kids, and was pretty decent overall. It was cancelled in 1998, but then the reruns were picked up by the Cartoon Network where it ran for another few years.
8. Tom And Jerry
Tom and Jerry was another show like Looney Tunes that had amazingly good animation and was totally fun to watch. The only difference between the two is that the characters in Tom and Jerry are not nearly as fun to watch. Basically the whole scene is that the cat tries to catch the mouse over and over again. This made it so that it was fun to watch one or two episodes but sitting down and watching it for long made it a tad repetitive. The best ones were made between 1940 and 1958; many more were made, but none of them were as good. Animation is one of those few things that was done better back in the old days. Back then it was thought of as a craft and not simply a way for people to make money.
Thundercats was awful. Seriously, it was one of the worst things out there, and by that I mean it was awesome. The characters were hilariously ridiculous, the voice acting was horrible, the scripts laughable, and the animation terrible. What could be better? Nothing! This was another show that was animated in Japan, but produced and voice acted in the United States- the gist of it was they were a bunch of cat-like aliens in human form. Cool right? Wrong. And the coolest Thundercat of all was Lion-o of course. You can see by the name how original the whole show was. Check it out. “Thundercats Ho!” This show lasted from 1985 to 1989. Everyone that watched it was kind of made fun of, but did they care? No way.
Animaniacs ran from 1993 to 1998 or so, and was obviously supposed to be a take off on Looney Tunes. The show was good, the animations was solid, and the humor decent and aimed at an adult audience. Still, it never really took off. First of all, there were just tons of characters and while the ones on Looney Tunes were iconic and memorable, on Animaniacs? Not so much. This show was produced by Steven Spielberg and had a lot of money behind it but it never really found its groove. Of course, maybe that is just my take on the whole thing, as a lot of people really loved it. Still, it may be the least memorable show on this list, even its spin off Pinky and the Brain gets more love from a lot of people.
5. The Smurfs
Speaking of getting love from people The Smurfs is a show that people either really loved (or hated) a lot. There was a time when you could not turn around without hearing about this show. It is a cartoon about a fictional colony of small blue humanoids who live in mushroom-shaped houses in the forest. Doesn’t that sound cool? There were tons of different Smurf characters. It was based on a Belgian cartoon that started way back in 1958. The cartoon ran from 1981 to 1989 on NBC and was produced by Hanna-Barbera, which was one of the most popular cartoon producers out there. Some other shows they produced included The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Yogi Bear, and Scooby Doo, all of which I would have preferred watching to The Smurfs.
4. Inspector Gadget
Another on the long list of “Love it or hate it” old school cartoons is Inspector Gadget. This show was enormously popular and was basically about the adventures of a rather clumsy and dull cyborg detective named Inspector Gadget, who was a human that had a whole bunch of bionic gadgets built into his body. Think Get Smart, or Inspector Clouseau from The Pink Panther. Believe it or not, this series originally came from a cartoonist in France, and was a true international product, with people working on it in Canada, the United States, Taiwan, and Japan. It ran for just a couple of seasons in the mid ’80s but has been successful in syndication and is still seen on many stations all over the world. “Go Go Gadget” indeed.
Ducktales was a Disney Cartoon, so you know that it was well animated and of high quality. It ran from 1987 to 1990 and was about Scrooge McDuck and his three grandnephews- Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Now, while this may not have been the coolest cartoon of all time, it was without a doubt very well done. The word is that there is to be a new series starting up in 2017. This was the first Disney cartoon that was ever syndicated, and just like pretty much everything else Disney has ever touched, I am sure it made a ton of money. Does Disney ever do anything wrong? I am talking about just their animation and their theme parks; they have done all sorts of things wrong in many other areas, and have produced numerous frighteningly bad movies. High School Musical anyone?
There is only one show on this list that rivals Thundercats in the “so bad that it is good” category, and that is He-Man. Holy cow, this series was awful, and when I say awful I mean it was really, really bad. The whole show was basically based on a line of toys that Mattel made, and boy did people buy in. The show was immensely popular and if you grew up around that time, all sorts of kids had the toys of He-Man and his arch-rival Skeletor. There was a lot of talk in the day that this show was a rip off of Conan the Barbarian; in fact a few lawsuits even came out of it. If you were around at this time then you know the words “By the Power of GreySkull, I have the Power!”
1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
What else could be in the number one spot other than the ridiculously awesome, (or ridiculously stupid, depending on your perspective) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. What could be a better idea for a show than four teenage-turtles that act kind of like humans and are named after four Renaissance Italian artists? Nothing if you ask me. You do not have to take my word for it, though, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was one of the most popular things ever in the world. Before its run ended there were movies, video games, toys and all sorts of other merchandise. For me though, just like The Smurfs, I did not feel it. To me cartoons need to be excellent, like Looney Tunes or Batman, or campy and ridiculous, like He-Man and Thundercats. All of the rest of them come in second place. I am sure many of you will disagree. One thing is for sure, any of us who saw any of these shows will remember them forever.