Saturday morning cartoons

The era of Saturday Morning Cartoons was quite a time to be alive and aware of. From the 1980s to the early 2010s, there was an incentive for kids of that era to wake up early. You got to see cartoons and animated series that you would not usually see. These varied from Western Dubs of foreign properties to licensed shows.

Ultimately the concept of Saturday Morning cartoon programming blocks collapsed due to things such as the FCC passing legislature severely limiting the total run time of shows along with the commercials that would tie into the shows, reduced financial returns on merchandise, and the major networks ultimately abandoning the idea. Now that we are in the age of streaming services, there is little possibility of this golden age returning.

Now, the VGU staff will give their combined Top Ten Saturday Morning Cartoons:

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012)

My first instincts were to put down the original TMNT cartoon, but that would be the nostalgia talking. Instead, the 2012 show is what I’m going to put down for one simple reason – it’s the best TMNT show. The stories are not only well told, but it’s made better by stellar animation, an amazing voice cast, and a tone that melds the humor and action expected in this series so well. This Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series is so much fun and legitimately engaging, and it’s easy to see why they are still relevant when children are given this level of quality many years later.

Animaniacs (1993)

It is always time for Animaniacs. It didn’t matter if it was The Goodfeathers, Chicken Boo, or Good Idea-Bad Idea; Animaniacs were always quality. The humor suited both kids and adults, and the musical numbers get stuck in your head for generations. The impact this show had can’t be overstated. It helped propel Fox Kids to success it hadn’t previously and was one of the most popular kid’s shows on the air at the time. I haven’t had the opportunity to watch the new reboot, but if it’s anything like the original show, it’ll be worth a watch.

Ultimate Spider-Man (2012)

I know, this one seems a bit far off the timeline we’re shooting for. While not necessarily a “Saturday Morning Cartoon of my youth,” I wanted to mention a more recent show I loved that fit the mold of “cool cartoon for young adults.” I started watching Ultimate Spider-Man when I was 15, and while it probably was geared toward people a little younger than me, it sufficiently scratched the itch I had for an “engaging superhero show I can easily follow.” Not to mention the humor – which was always on point – and the acting performance of one Drake Bell who, while I cannot condone his behavior in the years since, has left a mark as probably my favorite Peter Parker. Let’s move on before I damage my reputation further.

SpongeBob SquarePants (1999)

I feel this list would be remiss if we didn’t mention – arguably – the most famous cartoon of all time: SpongeBob SquarePants! Spanning multiple generations, this little yellow sea sponge has touched the hearts of children and adults alike for over 20 years. Personally, I feel so lucky to have grown up right alongside SpongeBob, watching its iconic first few seasons as they aired live. From “Employee of the Month” to… probably the fifth season, this show was a goldmine of inside jokes and meme material for years to come. The show and its trove of memorable moments really helped define my generation, and it’s staying power for over two decades is a testament to how timeless the characters and their misadventures really are.

Courage the Cowardly Dog (1999)

Growing up, I was a rather fair-weather fan of Cartoon Network. Finding their programs to seem more nonsensical and over-the-top, I steered clear of most things like Billy and Mandy, Ed, Edd, and Eddy, or even Adventure Time. But one CN production that really piqued my interest – and my nightmares – was Courage the Cowardly Dog. The story of a dog living on a farm in the middle of nowhere as he and his apathetic family are visited by a demented cast of dangerous strangers was enough to keep me coming back for cruel and unusual punishment many times over. I urge you to seek this show out if you’re a fan of psychological horror. Oh, and don’t forget to return the slab!

Batman: The Animated Series (1992)

Batman: The Animated Series is arguably one of the most definitive versions of Batman. It did so much right from the crime noir take on the show, redefining characters like Mr. Freeze while creating new ones in Harley Quinn, and establishing Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy firmly in the minds of fans as Joker and Batman respectively. To this day, it holds up incredibly well and is often cited as the pinnacle of superhero animation. And during a time when the movies were faceplanting in the dirt thanks to Joel Schumacher and WB executives, this was a much-needed breath of fresh air for the Dark Knight.

Yu-Gi-Oh! (2001)

Credit: Konami

When I was seven years old I was obsessed with YuGiOh. Some would say a little too obsessed but that is something for another time. This debuted on Saturday mornings in America in the fall of 2001 on Kids WB which has since dissipated into 4K which itself was absorbed by Konami of all companies. The show centered on a trading card game called “Duel Monsters”. Young Yugi Moto serves as the main character of the series and would become the face of the franchise despite multiple series following the show with different protagonists.

Jackie Chan Adventures (2000)

Credit: Sony Pictures Television

What’s the common saying? “If you remember this you had a great childhood”… Well, you can say a similar thing about Jackie Chan Adventures. This Saturday morning cartoon featured action star and icon Jackie Chan reimagined as a part-time archaeologist/part-time spy. Chan was still a martial artist who knew how to defend himself even though he wasn’t an action star. Despite ending its run in 2005 after five seasons on-air, it is still remembered fondly by those who got to experience it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987)

Credit: CBS

So I (Al), was born after the show had come out but as someone who loves the TMNT IP and concept, there was no way it wasn’t going to end up on this list. The thing that made this series so special wasn’t just the fact that it was the first series but it was the cast too. Rob Paulsen, Townsend Coleman, Cam Clarke, and Barry Gordon were the turtles and put their all into the voice acting. You had Tony Jay and James Avery respectively as Lord Dregg and Shredder and they set the bar for each character.

Batman Beyond (1999)

Credit: WarnerBros

What does Batman do when he gets too old to wear the cowl? In the futuristic Neo-Gotham things have… not gotten better for the citizens. Old man Bruce Wayne tasks young Terry McGinnis with the task of being Batman for the future. With the late Kevin Conroy voicing older Bruce Wayne, you had the presence of a Batman who had seen things in his line of duty as the caped crusader. Despite being seen as the darkest of the Batman animated projects of the era, it has cultivated a large fanbase from its run. The show would end after 52 episodes fittingly and live on in comic book form.

There are our picks! Did we do okay? Do you have any others you preferred? There are so many over the years to choose from, I’m sure nobodies lists are the same. So let us know your top 10 in the comments below or as a reply on Twitter to this article!

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