Based on the comic strip of the same name by African American cartoonist Aaron McGruder, The Boondocks takes a sharp satirical look at American society, with an emphasis on black culture and race relations, from hip-hop and movies to icons like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Oprah Winfrey. Controversial from the start, The Boondockshas drawn criticism for its use of the N-word and for its portrayal of such historical figures as King.
Another by-product of Cartoon Network's World Premiere Toons block (a.k.a. the What a Cartoon! Show, which also spawned such series as Dexter's Laboratory, Powerpuff Girls, and Cow and Chicken), Johnny Bravo started out as a collection of seven-minute shorts, like the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons. The series' titular star, Johnny Bravo, was a not-so-bright manchild who talked like Elvis and thought he was God's gift to the ladies (even if he struck out every time). He'd often strike body-building poses to show off his physique, was completely full of himself, and was generally over-the-top ridiculous.
Today, Popeye might be merely seen as the greatest endorsement of one of the most lackluster vegetables of all time. But "back in the day" this malformed, one-eyed, corncob pipe-smokin' sailor was the complete franchise. In 1929, Popeye appeared as a supporting character in the comic strip Thimble Theater, which was originally a venue for Olive Oyl and her kin. He quickly stole the hearts and minds of America. Soon the comic strip was focused on him, and Olive even dumped her longtime boyfriend Ham Gravy to become Popeye's main squeeze. Sounds a bit like an "ole timey" Urkel if you ask us. In 1932, Popeye got his own animated series, which usually found him getting pounded to a pulp by nogoodniks until he finally ingested canned spinach and fought back with superhuman strength. Popeye was an icon that spawned movies, lunchboxes, pinball machines and even his own line of frozen food. And yes, the Popeye cartoon did give a much needed shot in the arm to the U.S. spinach industry, which is not only fascinating, but might also constitute a high crime.
After a few Pink Panther films had hit the big screen in the '60s, America was treated to a cartoon showcase based on some of the themes and characters from the Blake Edwards/Peter Sellers franchise. The Pink Panther Show featured the bumbling adventures of a cartoon Inspector Clouseau and his "peanut butter and garlic sandwich"-loving Spanish sidekick Deux Deux; a Jackie Mason inspired aardvark trying to catch a sly red ant; an actual Pink Panther who lives only to infuriate his mustachioed next door neighbor; and a slew of other stories. All of the little cartoon-ettes were accompanied by the sizzling Henri Mancini jazz score from the famed movies. It was a cool collection of animation that ranged from slapstick to surreal, and gave us some wonderful characters to cherish. And let's not forget the most important part: Even though all of these animated nuggets were only loosely tied to the films, they were still exponentially better than the Steve Martin remake.
Forgive us if we reference yet another theme song, but it seems that the title music for so many of these shows has done much to make them permanent residents of our collective psyches. In the case of this DIC Entertainment produced cartoon (huh, huh, huh, we said DIC!), the absentminded adventures of the cyborg (or was he a full-on robot?) Inspector Gadget were certainly made all the more exciting by the unforgettable "Go, Gadget, go!" music. Throw in the far superior intellectual abilities of Gadget's "niece" Penny, the master of disguise canine Brain, and the villainous (and barely glimpsed) Dr. Claw and his M.A.D. Cat, and untold hours of afternoon TV addiction were to be had. That Maxwell Smart himself, Don Adams, lent his voice to the title character -- a fact we as kids were probably not even aware of on a conscious level -- well, that was just icing on the bumbling cyborg detective cake, wasn't it?
The Looney Tunes characters hadn't been used for much original content in quite some time, but this series not only brought them back, it also kicked off a slew of successful new Warner Bros. cartoons through the 1990s, produced in conjunction with Steven Spielberg and Amblin Entertainment, including Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain and Freakazoid. Tiny Toon Adventures took a clever, post-modern approach to the Looney Tunes characters, re-introducing Bugs, Daffy, Porky and the gang as instructors at Acme Looniversity, where they teach the next generation of Looney Tunes things like how to take an anvil to the head like a pro. A genuinely likeable and fun group of young new characters were the focus, including Buster Bunny, Babs Bunny, Plucky Duck and Hamton J. Pig -- though perhaps the most inspired creations were the antagonists, Montana Max and the blissfully dense and dangerous Elmyra Duff, who was known to squeeze pets to death... literally. While nothing could recapture the perfection of the original Looney Tunes shorts, Tiny Toon Adventures was a worthy homage to those shorts, made up of funny and creative episodes that included moments of subtle and smart humor for older viewers.
Fans of true Japanese anime think Avatar is a cheap American knockoff, and there's no denying that the show borrowed heavily from anime. In an industry often dominated by Asian imports, Avatar found a way to emulate the best features of Japanese animation while keeping some unique elements of western cartoons, and that formula made it the top rated animated show in its demographic. It's so popular with the kids that the King's Island theme parks cashed in on the fun with an Avatar-themed thrill ride. The Avatarphenomenon is sure to grow even more with the upcoming release of three live-action movies directed and written by M. Night Shyamalan.
Talk about a vast and expansive sci-fi franchise. Three different, and unrelated, anime series were combined to create the world of Robotech. The technology aboard an alien ship that crashed to Earth is used to help the human race develop robots that are used to fight off alien invaders. That was the basic premise. But due to the fact that the three cartoons were separated in their characters and themes, three different generational "wars" were created to explain the new heroes and adversaries. There is way too much to get into here regarding the entire saga of Robotech and the movies and such, but just know that it was one of the first pieces of anime to come over to America with a ton of its violence and sex left intact. It was pretty mature stuff when compared to the hijinx of The Smurfs to say the least. Most of the earlier anime that we got, like Astro Boy and Speed Racer, were softened for American audiences and had a lot of the more mature themes and scenes removed, but Robotech had a bunch of that stuff left in. Anime purists might like to trash Robotech as a patchwork Franken-show that crapped all over the original separate stories to create one big unintended masterwork, but for us it changed the way we looked at cartoons and raised the bar for storylines and violence. Plus, we probably wouldn't have been able to follow the original shows anyway.
Of all the projects completed by ex-Saturday Night Live players, The Critic is the most fully realized, hilarious and heartwarming. It took its cues from Woody Allen movies like Annie Hall and Manhattan, and offered up a style of random abstract humor that wouldn't really be seen again until Family Guy. Jon Lovitz simply was Jay Sherman. We know it's really Lovitz, since he doesn't alter his voice in any way to inhabit the cartoon character, but Jay Sherman was such an endearing sad sack of a film critic that he completely stands alone as his own entity outside of Lovitz. And that's a good thing. All fat Jay Sherman wanted to do was wear sweaters, love his fat son, find someone to grow old with, argue with his tummy and see a good movie. For the love of God, just give him a good movie. Instead he's forced to watch such tripe as Schwarzenegger's Rabbi P.I. and Eastwood's Beverly Hills Robo Canine Cop and a Half 2. This show was just grand. And hey, Jay Sherman even got a guest spot on The Simpsons. Who else can say that?
Seth Green and Matt Senreich never stopped loving toys, and guess what? Neither did we. Tapping into the collective geek memory its creators and audience share, Green and Senreich's Adult Swim series delivers fast-paced comedy via segments lasting anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes. Using stop-motion animation and toys (and a bevy of notable voice actors), the targets here run a wide pop-culture gamut, from the Olsen Twins to He-Man. When it comes to the toys, movies and cartoons Robot Chicken has parodied, there is obviously a lot of knowledge and love at work -- you have to remember Turbo Teen well to make such a twisted, hysterical send-up as the one seen on Robot Chicken. From Mario driving his Kart into Vice City, to the Saved by the Bell gang meeting Saw's Jigsaw, to Emperor Palpatine dealing with a phone call from a whining Darth Vader, Robot Chicken constantly keeps us laughing.
Welcome to the cartoon's first "procedural." There have been a ton of Scooby Doo cartoons over the years, but this was it. Scooby Doo Where Are You! was the one that had the gang solving crimes in the Mystery Machine. Chasing ghosts and revealing them to be old crusty codgers in masks. This was before all of the Scooby Doo movies that featured guest stars like Don Knotts and Batman (?). This was the show where they changed the world by tackling the tough cases that no one else could crack. Their van would break down, and then they'd all learn that wherever it was that they managed to get stranded had a ghost problem. Then Fred would have the brilliant idea of splitting up the gang to look for clues, in which he always sent the two pothead cowards, Shaggy and Scooby, off together. Then they'd set a trap for the fake monster. Then they'd pull off the mask to reveal it was really old man Withers/Snyder/Malloney... and that they were just trying to scare people away from the land so they could buy it cheap. And of course... "I would have gotten away with it if it hadn't been for you meddling/snooping/pesky... kids." Was there a formula to it? Damn straight. Just like there is for CSI and NCIS. And we wouldn't have it any other way. 2b1af7f3a8