15 Masterpiece Cartoons That Never Got the Recognition They Deserved

The list is a combination of my personal opinions, as well other related lists on this topic that came before. I do use the previous lists to do my research but my own opinions do factor in.

1. Loonatics Unleashed: There was some controversy with this series in the preplanning stages, but once it came together it found its happy medium. It was still based on Looney Tunes, but combined it with futuristic science fiction. In the year 2772, a meteor strikes the planet Acmetropolis, but rather than destroy the planet, the meteor throws the planet off it axes and crashes into a waterfront on the planet. Afterwards, supernatural energies are released, giving some of the citizens super abilities. A team of heroes is soon assembled and their alldescendant of Looney Tunes characters we know and love. The team consists of Ace Bunny, Lexi Bunny, Slam Tasmanian, Tech E. Coyote, and Rev Runner. I will let you figure out who their based on. In spite of the team quarks that were picked up from their predecessors (especially Danger Duck), the Loonatics are good at eventually working together and defending Acmetropolis from the forces of evil.

2. Space Ghost: Coast to Coast: I find this oddbecause I found this one to be on several different lists regarding great cartoon shows that did not get recognition. The was the very first show to be produced by the company that would eventually become known as Williams Street Productions and would be the in house production arm of Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” block. The birth of what is now called Williams Street began by taking Hanna-Barbara’s science fiction hero of the early 1960’s transforming him from your morally straight Saturday morning super space hero, into a self-absorbed vanity filled would be late night talker. It worked and he found an audience, and it was really funny. Even his arch enemies (who were forced to work with the Ghost) could mouth off puns and jokes as well. I think it gets its recognition, but maybe it’s because I did like this show, and never forgot it; or maybe it just had a great run.

3. The Tick (1994 Series): With the thirdtelevision adaptation currently on Amazon Video, it has been easier to forget the original TV adaption which appeared in animated form and aired on Fox Kids from 1994-96. The title character already had a cult following since his debut in the comics in 1986. This series would help get the Tick more popularity in the world of geekdom, even if the Power Rangers did outshine this all around good guy. The show was also good at not only mocking superheroes but also mocked the whole morality preaching that many kids shows did for so long. Without this cartoon, you might not have the current Amazon series to enjoy.

4. The Critic: This show follows the personal life of movie critic Jay Sherman, and mocked the popular Gene Siskel/Roger Ebert movie review show. As with Siskel and Ebert, Sherman is an elitist and stubborn and cold to people. He was very blunt if he truly hates a movie however. The series only lasted for only 33 episodes, and that included a third season that premiered in the year 2000. Five years after Fox canceled it. Before Fox “The Critic” aired on ABC.

5. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003 series): While the current TMNT series barrows more from the 1987 series. The 2003 adaption that was co-produced by 4Kids Entertainment is closer to the original comic book adaptation. It is not all played for laughs in this version and their arch enemy Shredder plays for keeps and does not tolerate failure one bit. You may not die, but you really could lose an eye or maybe a hand or foot. This series would end in 2009 with a series finale that has this version team up with their previous incarnations of themselves (aka the original comic book and 1987 TV series adaptations). Would not mind another story like that one in the future. How about that Nickelodeon? Are you in?

6. Duckman: This one has appeared on every list I managed to bring up on this subject. I admit to not watching this series but it seems to have a loyal audience in spite of being somewhat forgotten. The title character is a self-hating duck (voiced by Seinfield’s Jason Alexander) who works as a private detective (or private dick for short and yes it’s a double entendre) in LA, while juggling his work with his family life. This cartoon is hands down adults only. It just gets outshined by the more popular South Park which was meant to be an “adults only” cartoon show as well.

7. Napoleon Dynamite: The reviews were mixed just as the live action movie from 2004 were. I felt that the animated series had potential to play on the lead character’s geekdom and life in rural Preston, Idaho with the added surrealism that can be done in an animated cartoon. Six episodes later, the show was canceled and “Bob’s Burgers” prevailed. Oh well.

8. Rocko’s Modern Life: It was aimed for the kids but it was good at dealing with adult issues (and connecting with them) in a comical way. The lead character is anAustralian-immigrant wallaby (belong to the taxonomy family just as the Kangaroos), who deals with the same everyday issues that we humans deal with in our world. Except in this world everyone except Rocko is mentally unstable. So Rocko plays the straight one, but it also means that he is fair game to anyone who wants to take advantage of him. The show did run for four seasons with 13 episodes each season. Stephen Hillenburg worked as a creative director on this series and it got his chops wet to create a more successful cartoon series which still is in production today. That being “SpongeBob Square Pants.”

9. Gargoyles: One of the darkest animated series that was produced by Walt Disney Television (even if they did not the use the main branding for this series). It was very well written and used a lot of Shakespearian and Biblical allegory. You also hada lot of Star Trek alumni that voiced characters on this show, with two of them from The Next Generation voicing the antagonists who were part of the core characters of the series. The show is focused on the title’s species who arenocturnal creatures and were turned to stone during the day. The show’s story begins in 994 Scotland in which a clan of gargoyles lead by Goliath (named after the Biblical character who was defeated by David) who made an oath to protect Castle Wyvern. Goliath and his clan are betrayed and he and surviving gargoyles are placed under a curse that leaves them permanently frozen in stone until Castle Wyvern rises above the clouds. In the late 20th century self-made millionaire businessman David Xanatos (voiced by Star Trek: TNG’s Jonathan Frakes) learned of Castle Wyvern and tests the theory of awaking Goliath and his clan. He buys the castle and makes it a part of his skyscraper in the New York City. As expected the spell is broken. Goliath and his clan learn about their brave new world, and the fact that Xanatos is not a good guy. They do find an ally in police detective Elisa Maza and guards Goliath and the newManhattan clan’s secretive existence as they defend the Big Apple nightlife from the forces and evil within and without, including one of the gargoyles’ own. That being Demona (voiced by TNG’s Marina Sirtis), who was once Goliath’s main squeeze.

10. Histeria!: This show was created as part of the new educational/informational guidelines imposed by the FCC regarding broadcast children’s programing. While most E/I programing has taken a documentary approach these days (with PBS Kids programing as a big exception and then some), Histeria! was able to meet that requirement and yet still retain the humor and animation that creator Tom Rueggerwas known for (along with his more successful predecessors Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs!). The word Histeria is a combination of the words ‘History’ and ‘Hysteria.’ While it did present educational facts and information about historical events it was able to do it in very entertaining way, using comedic slapstick, puns and song parodies. The regular characters of Histeria! were main host/presenter Father Time, Big Fat Baby (or Babies male and female), Miss Information (your valley girl blonde type of character), and the World’s Oldest Woman. There is also a Kid Chorus with LoudKiddington (and yes, he does speak loud) as its standout member.

11. TaleSpin: This series takes the character Baloo the bear out of “The Jungle Book” and into the anthropomorphichumanlike setting (ala Ducktales) of Cape Suzette on the country of Usland. While their time setting is never explained, the city has a 1930’s deco and air travel is experimental. It’s also Baloo’s job occupation. Baloo is also helped by supporting characters Kit Cloudkicker who serves as Baloo’s navigator, and Rebecca Cunningham who becomes Baloo’s superior and manages Baloo’s cargo plane business. In fact, the interactions of Baloo and Rebecca were inspired by the characters Sam Malone and Rebecca Howe on the hit sitcom “Cheers.” The series only lasted for one season.

12. Freakazoid: Another series that involvedTom Ruegger. The show’s title character is known by his everyday persona high school student Dexter Douglas. He gains his superhuman powers via a computer bug and getting sucked absorbed into his own computer. It had a two-year run, but this one is not as well remembered like “The Tick” is.

13. The Looney Tunes Show: This incarnation of the Looney Tunes franchise is played more like a sitcom than your typical slapstick cartoon fare. TLTS portrays Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck as roommates in Los Angeles. Daffy here is still in Bugs shadow, because he has to be. Just does not have the skill set that middle-class Bugs has. Bugs too has his quarks and even mistook Taz as a pet dog. Only lasted for 52 episodes. Simply put, ‘Warner Bros. Inc’ just wanted to take Looney Tunes back to its old ways in a new series focused on Bugs called “wabbit.”

14. Eek! The Cat: How is this for a slapstick cartoon comedy? Instead of the cat chasing mice or canaries, or even downright lazy (as with Garfield); how about a kind-hearted cat that wants to help, but along the way he gets physically hurt just as Tom or Sylvester do when chasing their respected prey. Eek usually comes out the winner after all the pain he had to go through in being the good Samaritan. “Kumbaya” indeed (Eek’s popular catchphrase taken from the old African Spiritual). However, Savage Steve Holland (co-creator of Eek! The Cat) is still better known for the Whammy character on the game show “Press Your Luck” than he is for Eek. Still had a decent run in the 1990’s, and the show turned into a Bullwinkle ensemble show of sorts with the introduction of the “Terrible Thunderlizards” and the very misunderstood “Klutter.”

15. Duck Dodgers: It took some time, but finally Daffy Duck’s Buck Rogers parody finally got to be a regular series. It even included a James Bond styled theme song performed by Tom Jones (who sung the theme to the Bond classic “Thunderball”) and kid friendly opening titles that similar to those in the Bond flicks. While it’s a continuation of the Dodgers shorts (the most popular being the original from 1953 and the sequel released in 1980), there are many references to other Looney Tunes shorts and well parodies from well-known science fiction franchises. Most notability Yosemite Sam being made to resemble a Klingon from Star Trek, Elmer Fudd becomes a mind-altering parasite call “The Fudd,” and Wile E. Coyote becomes an “Predator” like hunter.

Believe it or not, Dave Mustaine and his band Megadeth appeared in an episode in which they were themselves frozen but thawed out so they could help Dodgers defeated the Martian’s plan to conquer Earth by using a weapon that imposes beautiful music on its citizens. The Mustaine piece “Back in The Day” from the album ‘The Day The System Has Failed’ is featured in the episode that they appear in. After three seasons and 39 episodes you would think that Duck Dodgers finally got the respect that he deserved. Nope, and to use a popular phrase; “That’s Despicable.”

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