Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Top-Ten Tuesday - Favorite Childhood Cartoons

Top-Ten Tuesday - Favorite Childhood Cartoons

I typically try not to write much about my choices in my top ten lists, mostly because being, by definition, my favorites of any given topic, I could go on for pages and and pages and eventually have a book's worth of fanboy ramblings before I could even write my next real book.  Still, some topics I can't help but say a little about, so here is a longer-than-usual top-ten list - my top ten favorite cartoons from my childhood.

10. The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin

Not only did I have a Teddy Ruxpin, but I loved this cartoon as a child.  The problem was, as a child, I was only able to see it when we rented one of the VHS collections(along with a VCR since we didn't own one at the time).  Because of this, I never saw more than the first few episodes, which at least included the ones I had the books of with my Teddy Ruxpin toy.  With the entire series now on DVD, I now own the first 20 episodes, and have finally been able to experience the end to the initial story arc of the first few episodes.  

Though I wouldn't say this cartoon has held up very well, I still love the level of imagination and whimsy throughout the episodes.  It's cartoons like this that helped shape my own imagination, which in turn plays a HUGE role in my fantasy writing.  I mean, it takes place in a rich, fantasy world rife with interesting creatures and lands.  Many of the episodes are grouped as parts of much larger stories(something slightly uncommon for the time), giving it, for children, an epic feel.  

Of course, I can't omit the fact that the cartoon was simply a marketing vehicle for the Teddy Ruxpin toys, but for an extended toy commercial, this was a cartoon that truly opened the imagination and pulled you into its world.  I'm looking forward to sharing Teddy's adventures with Grubby, Newton Gimmick, the Wooly Whats-It and the rest with my son now that he's old enough to enjoy it.

9. The Real Ghostbusters

I, as many kids of the 80s/90s loved the Ghostbuster movies.  Yes, even Ghostbusters 2.  Clearly, some corporate big-wigs recognized the potential for catering to the child-age fans of the movies and released The Real Ghostbusters.  I think the name is due to an unrelated Ghostbusters cartoon(please excuse my laziness to research this).  Though the animated Peter Venkman looks like the live-action Ray, and the animated Ray looked more like the live-action Peter Venkman, this cartoon was every young child's dream at the time, pitting the beloved Ghostbusters against a plethora of ghosts, from silly to creepy.  Plus, Slimer(based on the pudgy green ghost from the movie) served as a mascot of sorts.

An interesting bit of trivia is that Lorenzo Music, the voice actor for Peter Venkman, also did the voice of Garfield on Garfield and Friends(coming up soon on this list).  Bill Murry, the actor who portrayed Peter Venkman in the movies, also did the voice of Garfield in the Garfield live-action movie.  Weird, huh?

8. Inspector Gadget

Truly a product of its time, Inspector Gadget was a show about a bumbling, half-robot detective, and his efforts to take down M.A.D., an evil organization led by Dr. Claw.  With the utterance of "Go go Gadget (insert device here)" various robotic implements would pop out from Gadget's body, whether a helicopter propeller from his hat, a phone from his hands, springs from his legs, or a set of rollerskate wheels from his feet.  Even his car would switch from plain family car, to speedy sports car with a "Go go Gadget car."  Joined by his computer book wielding niece Penny, and her uber-smart dog (aptly named Brain) Gadget unwittingly defeats Dr. Claw's evil forces, almost always without even realizing it.  I'll never forget making my own "computer book" with some stapled, loose-leaf paper and acting out my own adventures.

Of all the cartoons on this list--heck, of all the cartoons ever made--Inspector Gadget may be the most formulaic.  To save some words and time, I'll just point you to Inspector Gadget's Wikipedia page, where the premise section outlines the basic flow of every single episode.  Every. Single. Episode.  Yet it was done so well, I didn't care as a kid then, or as an adult now.  Plus, Don Adams(of Mel Brooks's Get Smart fame) does a brilliant job voicing Gadget.

We just need to all pretend that the Matthew Broderick live-action movie(and especially the French Stewart sequel) were simply bad dreams instead of just bad movies.   I mean, the first one literally showed Dr. Claw from the beginning, effectively ruining any credibility of the writer/director's dedication to the source material.  You just don't do that.  Any of you who experienced this show as a child know what I'm talking about.  Still, they could've been worse . . . Michael Bay could've directed them.  Oh, wait, he's too busy ruining another of my favorites from further down the list.

7. Garfield and Friends

I love Garfield.  It is one of my three favorite newspaper comic strips of all time(with Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side).  Though much of Jim Davis's sarcastic wit was lost in these episodes of cartoon shorts. watching the wise-cracking feline come to life was one of the highlights of my Saturday mornings.  Each episode had a couple of original Garfield stories, a couple "Quickies" that animated classic Garfield comic strips, and a short U.S. Acres, featuring the likes of the intellectual pig Orson, wisecracking rooster Roy, impish chicken Booker, his twin Sheldon(a little pun in that he's  a chicken who's still in his egg with only his legs hatched out), the always terrified of everything(and always entertaining) duck Wade, and twin sheep Bo and Lanolin.

I never got tired of Garfield's Odie-kicking, lasagna-eating, Jon-put-downing, adventures, and after buying one of the DVD volumes, I can say that this one truly holds up today.

6. Batman: The Animated Series

Maybe one of the grittiest comic-book superhero cartoons, even to this day, this Batman incarnation oozed with style, both in animation and storytelling.  The animation, the voices(Mark Hamil's Joker is second to none), the wonderful collection of villains, and a presentation that wasn't afraid to stick to the serious tone of the comic books, made this cartoon stand out in a time when these qualities were somewhat rare(one major exception being X-Men).  And, honestly, Gotham never looked better. 

Though I haven't watched any of the many Batman cartoon series since, I have trouble believing that they can hold up to Batman: The Animated Series.  

5. X-Men

In many ways, Batman was a better cartoon than X-Men - better Animation, more unique style, better writing.  However, X-Men gets points from me in that it was just fun. X-Men lacked Batman's grittiness, but also remained fairly faithful to the comics.  Each episode was full of non-stop excitement and constantly introduced new villains and heroes to fight with and against Professor X, Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Gray, Beast, Rogue, Gambit, and the rest(as if this was Gilligan's Island).  Like the comics, many episodes ended with cliffhangers, always leaving me anxiously awaiting the next week's episode. 

My son already loves this show, and we just bought two of the comic-book adaptations of the show from a local comic book shop over the weekend.

4. Ducktales

"Life is like a hurricane . . . "  Admit it, this song is now in your head.  The show's animation was a step beyond most other cartoons of the time, there was loads of action, adventure, treasure hunting, and humor.  Most every episode involved Scrooge McDuck hunting down some priceless treasure.  Despite Scrooge's  insatiable love of money and wealth, his blatant disregard as to the safety of his nephews and niece, and flagrant self-importance, he somehow still came across as endearing.  Like an animated Indiana Jones populated with anthropomorphic animals, I have many fond memories of following the adventures of Scrooge, Launchpad, Huey, Dewy, Louie, Webbie, Gizmo Duck, etc.

3. Tiny Toons

"We're Tiny, We're Toony . . ."  Admit it, this song just kicked the Ducktales theme out and has permeated your every thought.  

Now, did you watch Tiny Toons as a child?  If so, pick up one of the Tiny Toon DVDs or look up an episode on YouTube.  Don't worry; I'll wait.  See how well it holds up?  Tiny Toons had tons going for it.  With Steven Spielberg's name attached, there was also a lot to live up to.  Following the adventures of basically the teenage counterparts of many of Looney Tunes most well known characters(who also happen to be teachers at Acme Looniversity).  

I've mentioned the quality of the animation of a couple of the previous cartoons on this list, but Tiny Toons surpassed them all.  The writing was clever, and hearkened back to the humor of the classic Looney Tunes shorts.

2. Muppet Babies

Man, did I love this cartoon when I was a kid.  Following the adventures created by the imaginations of the toddler versions of The Muppet Show muppets, this cartoon was one any young child could relate to.  The muppet babies are simply children being watched over by a nanny in a nursery, but they go an amazing adventures using their imaginations.  Muppet Babies also deserves a nod of recognition for helping me to use my imagination in my writing.

1. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Topping my list is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or at least the first 5 seasons or so of it.  TMNT is one of my guilty pleasures.  I may or may not have bought the majority of the 25th anniversary re-releases of the 1988/1989 figure line and have them stored away in their boxes.  I may or may not have owned the three live-action TMNT movies, the CG movie, and the first several DVD volumes of the original cartoon years before I had children.  And, I may or may not watch the new Nickelodeon cartoon with my son as those DVD collections are released.  In fact, I may or may not, despite knowing that it's going to be a trainwreck of a movie that will make me yearn for a Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind treatment, as well as make the Inspector Gadget movie I mentioned before Oscar-worthy in comparison, go to the theater to see the new Michael Bay Ninja Turtles movie.  

Yeah, it's sad, but I've loved Ninja Turtles since I got my Donatello action before I'd even seen the show.. This was the only cartoon that had me chomping at the bit for Saturday to arrive. My brother and I would tape the episodes off the TV so we could watch them again.  And again.  And again.  And . . . you get the point.  

Even today, the turtles have proven their ability to transcend generations, many fans of the original show(such as myself) now at the age where they can watch the new show with their children(like me with Jonas).  Of course, every time Jonas picks out the original cartoon over the new one on DVD when wanting to watch Ninja Turtles, and every time I hear him sing the original cartoon's theme song, I give myself a dorky pat on the back.


You know, every generation looks back fondly on what they grew up with, thinking theirs was the golden age of (insert any random topic you'd like).  Whether or not the mid 80s to mid 90s was the best time for cartoons or not, however, it was a good time for cartoons.  If nothing else, it gave us some darn catchy theme songs.

And here's a few more cartoons that had a big impact on my childhood, but didn't quite make the cut for the top ten.

Alvin and the Chipmunks
Transformers: Beast Wars
Dennis The Menace
Ren and Stimpy
Rescue Rangers
Count Duckula
Thirteen Ghosts of Scooby Doo
Rocko's Modern Life
David the Gnome
Count Duckula
Captain N
Captain Planet
G.I. Joe

Feel free to leave a comment about your own favorite cartoons from childhood or, if you're a big kid like me, your current favorites or your favorite ones to watch with your kids.  


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