Sunday, February 1, 2009

Top 10 Childhood Cartoons That Ended too Soon

Now, although I think we've emerged from the cartoon wasteland of the early 2000's with some exciting programming such as the new Clone Wars show or Wolverine and the X-men, I for one still pine for those Saturday morning glory days. So, although this will seriously date me, here is my list of the top childhood cartoons that ended too soon or that I wish we had back.

Also, note that if the show has a current lineage, then I'm not going to include it here(e.g. Batman TAS/Batman Beyond has lineage through Batman: Brave and the Bold. Or GI Joe through all those spinoffs I can't recall), those will get their due in another post.

10. Conan The Adventurer
Now if you can get over the gimmicks of loincloth clad barbarians, this was a pretty solid early morning show. Wake up, have a little swashbuckling barbarian heroics, and you were ready for the day. Okay, so there were some weak points, like the comic relief bird that loved pomegranates, but overall it was a solid show with some classic archetypes.

9. Roughnecks: The Starship Trooper Chronicles
Better than the movie. Need I say more? Okay, okay, I guess I should. The 3d animation was pretty good(no uncanny valley) and the storylines made sense. More loyal to the book by Heinlein, they actually had powered armor(as opposed to the movie's woefully inadequate football padding) and Skinnies in this show, as well, you know, actually making the occasional atmospheric drop. Rico may still have been an idiot, but the supporting cast made up for it. Not to mention blowing up bugs, yup, lots of bugs.

8. Darkwing Duck
Let's get dangerous! He is the Terror that Flaps in the Night, the blankity in your blank, the etc. etc. The random catchphrase is definitely what comes to my mind first thing I think of this show. Witty enough to appreciate today, zany enough to love as a child. Logic? Pffft! Just a great cartoon that didn't take itself too seriously.

7. Pirates of Dark Water
I don't think there's any child born in the 80's that doesn't remember this show. Swashbuckling action, check, exotic locales, check, consistent storyline and engaging characters, check. What isn't there to love about this show? Besides the fact that it was canceled before we got any closure, damnit! Now the animation seems a bit dated, but the characters and plot are still there, and here we sit, just waiting for that last episode to come on. Also...MONKEY BIRD!

6. Pinky And the Brain
Narf! I think the theme song is permenantly etched upon my neurons. I spent way too much time watching and laughing over this show. Not to mention sketching my world domination plans during the commercial breaks....errr, have I said too much? Still, who can resist the two lab mice that tried to take over the world every night, if nothing else you have to appreciate the Brain's sheer tenacity. Not to mention how Pinky's mind worked to come up with the non sequitors that he did.

All right, now for the top 5!
5. The Tick

SPOON! Mighty, blue spandex clad justice. The Tick was probably the earliest heroic parody that we encountered as children, and we ate it up. The sheer insanity of it all still resonates today. And who could forget the supporting cast; Die Fledermaus, American Maid, the Sewer Urchin. Heros all....for better or for worse. Mostly for worse. This series was filled to the brim with off kilter jokes that still resonate, not to mention the over the top villains and comic parodies. Never taking itself too seriously, the Tick well deserves this number 5 spot on our countdown.

4. Exosquad

Now not all of you may remember this one, but I was enthralled when it came on. A cartoon with a body count?!? With our heroes putting DOWN a slave revolt you say?!? What madness is this? Now I can't help but feel the premise of putting down a revolution made by second hand citizens that humans created to do their dirty work seemed a bit morally dubious, but as a child, it didn't matter. Epic space battles that were more akin to an anime counterpart than an American cartoon, cities of Earth in ruins, concentration camps....okay, so yes this show was a little bit more adult than I think the target audience was, but it was still all sorts of awesome. And the fact that people actually DIED instead of just jumping out at the last second with a parachute, was just one of the reasons that this has retained a top spot in my list. Not to mention the subtle and not so subtle messages relayed through the human/Neo-Sapien relationships, the portrayal of loss and betrayal, and of course, the stunning humanity of some of the Neo-Sapiens. An epic space opera on Saturday morning tv, and if you didn't care for that, then you could just watch the Exo-suited pilots shoot up mooks. Of course, it did suffer from one flaw, like Pirates of Dark Water, it was never finished. So here we are, waiting in vain for final episodes to tie up loose plot threads.

3. Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego

Children don't need Dora, or a blue dog, or purple dinosaur to teach them during their off hours, no, they need an unrepentant master criminal bent on stealing the world's priceless treasures(and succeeding). Admittedly the talking head thing was annoying, but Rito Moreno as the sultry voice of Carmen, wowsa! The animation was first rate, the educational aspects were painless, and the characters were wonderful. Okay, so maybe I'm being a bit biased due to my geeky childhood crush on Carmen, but I don't think anyone can forget the intro music. Altogether, just an excellent show and one that should be considered as the pinnacle for educational animation.

2. Reboot

This is probably going to be a bit controversial, putting Reboot so high on the list, if only because it was such an uneven experience. If you only watched the first season, it was simply a mildly entertaining exercise in 3d animation with a few interesting gimmicks marred by cliche episodes and the monster a day plot. If you stuck with it, then things began to tie together. The later episodes ran into a very nice overarching plot, where the cute kid demographic was put on the backburner to making a good show. Tie that in with characters that you couldn't help but enjoy, and constantly poking fun at modern games and media, and there you have a winning combination that most can recall to this day.

1. Gargoyles

This is what quality animation should be. Not only that, but take a look at the voice cast, Star Trek: TNG actors ahoy! Anyways, this is one show that everyone who remembers it, seems to remember it fondly. Wonderful characters, actual overarching plotlines, excellent villains, compelling setting. Aside from one or two rare episodes, it wasn't preachy, was probably a perfect level of darkness for our childhood minds, and didn't speak down to anyone. To this day there are still plenty of fans that are hoping for its return. Anyways, with excellent animation, great characters, and plenty of devious plots, Gargoyles takes the top spot on my list of cartoons from my childhood that ended all too soon.

Honorable Mention:
Two words: Air Pirates. Okay, okay, it was more than that, with wacky stories and spot on parodies, this alternate world of biplanes sucked us in again and again. On the other hand, it's something that hasn't really aged with us, good visuals, but the jokes and sappy story arcs belong strictly in our childhood. It becomes painful to watch Kid skysurf, and the less said about the theme song the better. Catchy yes, in the smallpox kind of way, it weasels its way into your mind and doesn't let go. The final verdict is that although the dashing Air Pirate Don Karnage will remain in our minds with his indistinct species and undeterminable accent, Baloo and the Kid ring flat these days.

Dino Riders
Wow, it's as if the creators said to themselves "Dinosaurs are awesome, big guns are awesome, if we put them together it'll be MOAR AWESOME!" And awesome it was to our childhood minds. From the intro in the museum where dinosaurs came to life and began fighting each other, I for one, was hooked. Of course, unfortunately it doesn't stand the test of time well. Shoddy animation values(it was a cartoon to sell toys) and barely passable storylines designed to showcase the dinosaur of the week(it was a cartoon to sell toys) pull this one down off the top 10. Even compared to the other cartoons designed to sell toys(GI Joe and Transformers, I'm looking at you), this one is here mostly for reasons of nostalgia....well, that and Dinosaurs....with GUNS!

Aeon Flux
Stunning, and trippy. That's how I can best describe it. Cutting edge for its time, unfortunately its time being that of the extreme and horrible character design(unless jerky and emaciated are your thing of course). Honorable mention because we remember it fondly, but the idea of sitting through and watching it today is easily passed upon, if only to avoid the anorexic bikini stylings of "the future!"

Anyways, that's all I have for now. Feel free to comment on the choices, and especially if you have a favorite cartoon from your childhood that you just can't get out of your mind. I'd love to hear it, if only to jog this horrible memory.


Anonymous said...

I agree with the majority of this lineup, however I personally would have put Roughnecks a little higher on the list. I am, however, a bit biased. I was infuriated when the show's final season was scrapped and we were left with LESS than even a cliffhanger ending. I mean it wasn't even a proper ending to an episode. They scrapped and never finished the FINAL THREE EPISODES.

Really burns me up.

Talkos said...

Lol, yeah that pissed me off. That and apparently Rico got to hopscotch up the chain of command, but that was a minor quibble.

Brenna Raven said...

Oh man, Paul <3 Roughnecks. I'll have to tell him about your'll start him on a rant similar to your comment from xen0 but oh well.

BTW, are you following my blog? In fact, can you see if ANYONE is following it? When I go to check it shows it as empty. (Remember, I'm new on here! Forgive me for dumb questions!)

soul_krasty said...

i really like gargoyle especially the any?!..reboot i never manage to see the ending..pretty sad..

Talkos said...

Brenna, the best way to see who is following your blog is to add in a tracker. I use google analytics right now which shows me what website people clicked on from and a whole host of other neat statistics.

tyson said...

Excellent list...
honorable mention should also have gone to Disney's Gummibears.

In the past few years I've picked up Gummiebears and Tailspin box sets on dvd, and my kids (5 and 3) are absolutely in love with both.

yoshimickster said...

Okay I partially disagree with Pinky and the Brain. Mostly becauase it had over 50 episodes and ended pretty well. Also...the Starship troopers toon better than the movie? That ain't sayin' much homeboy, I still have night-terrors of that movie's lack-luster plot.

Loved the list though, keep up the good work.