The Ten Best Saturday Morning Cartoons
10. Schoolhouse Rock!
When watchdog groups began to criticize the networks for their “bad message” cartoons, a movement was set in place to make cartoons educational. The most notable of these efforts was ABC’s Schoolhouse Rock which tried to teach kids about all sorts of things through musicals numbers, including math, grammar and of course how to put a bill through legislature! Schoolhouse rock has become a television classic and is a milestone for educational TV.
9. Inspector Gadget
Great Saturday morning cartoons follow a specific formula, and few are better at this formula than Inspector Gadget. There’s a protagonist in a position for crazy adventures, in his job as a secret agent, with a catch, in this case he is part robot with neat gizmos and gadgets. There is a great villain, the mysterious Dr. Claw. And there are the familiar aspects and running gags; Gadget’s gadgets never work properly, Penny and Brain are always the ones who end up saving the day, and so on. Inspector Gadget knew exactly what it needed to do to make great kid’s entertainment.
As television was moving towards more serial story lines, Saturday morning cartoons would follow suit. And Gargoyles was one of the best. This story followed the mythology of gargoyle warriors who turned to flesh at night. The story arcs were rich and complex and the characters turned out to be just as rich throughout all three seasons.
7. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The heroes in a half shell came onto TV screens in the late 80’s and were a run-away hit. Each turtle was given their own personalities where kids could choose their favourites, and a wide cast of supporting characters and villains helped to expand this universe and draw in viewers even more. Their popularity was huge at the turn of the decade and for good reason; the characters were great, the idea was fun and interesting, and the episodes were exciting to watch.
6. Rocky & Bullwinkle
Moose and Squirrel have entertained both children and adults for decades. With its clever humour and topical use of the cold war, Rocky and Bullwinkle became relevant and fun for adults while the children fell in love with the wacky characters and stories. A classic in animation.
As far as cartoon comedy goes, Animaniacs knew what it was doing almost better than anyone else. They were wacky and witty, slapstick and contemporary, violent satirical. They had a great cast of running gags and characters (including the just as famous Pinky and the Brain). Backed by Hollywood’s golden boy Steven Spielberg, Animaniacs became extremely popular and was one of the funniest of the cartoon comedies.
Vehicles that turn into giant fighting robots? Hmm, think the kids will be into that? Absolutely, as it has become one of the most recognized and popular Saturday morning cartoons ever. A large cast of interesting and familiar characters as well as a serial plot has made this one of the most memorable cartoons ever made. And the current success of the live-action films only highlights the massive impact that this show has had.
3. Batman: The Animated Series
Comic book cartoons have never been so good as the 90’s Batman series. The characters of Gotham City were dealt with respectfully while a brooding and haunting tone was set through the three seasons. We understood why Batman was such a threat to the Villains of Gotham and we understood what made him tick. This cartoon had just the right amount of humour, suspense, action, and great animation to make it top notch entertainment. It was mature and sophisticated while being a whole lot of fun at the same time.
For decades Disney has been the powerhouse of animation and the early 1990’s saw a return of their high quality entertainment through movies such as Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King. This quality also rubbed off onto Saturday mornings with a line of excellent weekly cartoons, the best of which was the Scrooge McDuck centered Ducktales. Ducktales provided a sense of adventure for kids that was hard to match. The characters and stories provided solid cartoon entertainment which is hard to beat.
1. Looney Tunes
The undisputed champion of Saturday morning cartoons. With a cacophony of household-name characters, Looney Tunes has entertained TV viewers for decades with their slapstick humour and gags. They are the masters of working a formula to perfection, whether it was Bugs behind hunted by Fudd, Sylvester trying to find new ways to eat Tweety, or the never-ending chase of Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. Simple, but masterful. These crazy characters are all a part of one of televisions most enduring legacies, a classic among classics.