There used to be a time when cartoons were downright terrible. When every new series on TV was either a poorly-translated attempt at being the next Pokémon or an excuse for such channels to replace them with horrible terrible live-action sitcoms for kids. Those were dark times. But right now, I do believe that we’re living in one of the finest eras of animation since…well, ever.
Not only is the quality of animation better, but so are the stories and the talents behind them. There’s a cartoon series out there for every taste and age, so sit back and relax with this brief round-up on the best of 2016.
Teen Titans Go
If you’re looking for good old-fashioned heroics, morals and a heart lesson learnt at the end of the day…then Teen Titans Go is not the cartoon series that you’re looking for. It’s the antithesis of that, a series that is insanely self-aware and runs with that ball. There’s nothing heroic about this incarnation of sidekicks, who spend more time obsessing over suprise meatball parties than saving the day.
And that’s what makes Teen Titans Go so special, as beneath the toilet jokes lies some of the sharpest humour on TV today. Seriously, I don’t even know how they get away with half the shenanigans that they pull, which range from pyramid schemes gone wrong to an entire episode focused on the evils of rent control property.
Star Wars Rebels
The best Star Wars experience isn’t on the big screen, but rather on your TV right now. Tight action, tighter pacing and threats that truly do feel insurmountable make Star Wars Rebels a completely different experience when compared to its predecessor, the brilliant Clone Wars series. It’s a show where even the most popular of characters may not survive unscathed, as a small rebellion takes its first steps towards creating an Alliance against the evil and tyranny of the Galactic Empire.
Voltron: Legendary Defender
We’ve waxed lyrical about Voltron: Legendary Defender before, and we’ll do so again because Netflix hit a homerun with this series. All the pedigree and charm you’d expect from the studio responsible for the Legend of Korra, combined with fluid animation from Studio Mir and unleashed all at once in a massive binge-worthy package. Mech-nificent stuff.
Rick and Morty
While most of the cartoons on this list may be suitable for kids, Rock and Morty sits on the opposite end of that spectrum. Dark, disturbing and featuring at least one episode this year based on a “good ol’ purging”, Rick and Morty will leave you mentally scarred for life. But in the best and schwiftiest way possible.
Star Vs The Forces of Evil
If Scott Pilgrim married a Disney princess, Star Vs The Forces of Evil would be the end result. Effortlessly charming, the new adventures of Starr Butterfly and Marco are a constant and joyful reminder to always be yourself. And to set rainbows on fire. Maybe not that last bit, but whatever.
Pickle and Peanut
There’s not a lot of weird humour on TV, but Pickle and Peanut easily takes the cake and then does disturbing stuff with it. From the very first episode which stars the duo locked up in a granny jail through to an Australian adventure where the boys have to deal with a genetically-altered mad lady who seeks to be the ultimate hunting lifeform, there’s nothing too bizarre that Pickle and Peanut won’t tackle.
The end may be near for Mordecai and Rigby, but the stakes have never been higher. Or weirder. Spending most of 2016 in space, Regular Show is still a prime example of how to mix charm, goofballs and obscure references to the 90s into one enjoyable package. OOOOOOOHHHHHHHHH!
We Bare Bears
Easily the most charming entry on this list, We Bare Bears is simple in its setup and layered in its execution. Three bears, one city and a very weird world that doesn’t take too kindly to a polar bear, grizzly bear and a panda wandering around looking to be Internet famous or attempt to enter the job market. It’s lovely stuff, fun for the whole family and worth watching just to see what dark secrets Ice Bear hides.
Ice Bear has no regrets
There’s a reason why Steven Universe has a following more rabid than the community behind any Blizzard game, and that’s because Cartoon Network’s premiere series is just downright magical. Every frame is a painting, every episode is a standalone adventure that builds towards something larger. And after a trio of seasons, Steven Universe is still going stronger than ever.
How the f*** did this sneak in here? To hell with this series, tsek.
Look, if you’ve been watching since the beginning, then I don’t need to sell you on the idea of Sterling Archer and his crew finding themselves bungling yet another case and watching each episode end in blood, fire and Burt Reynolds references. DANGER ZONE LANA!
Disney’s best and most original series in many a year was always designed with an end in mind. But with a finite setup, Gravity Falls is pure magic in every episode. With the world saved from a Weirdmageddon, the Pines family reunited and the cause of all the mysteries revealed and resolved, Gravity Falls is an adventure worth watching from start to finish.
WWE Superstars, but as children and forced to attend a summer camp. Sounds terrible, right? Nope! Because with some of the best creative minds from Robot Chicken behind this series, Camp WWE is a magnificent parody of itself and its current roster. The breakout star of the show however? Mr McMahon himself, voiced by the man and flung into the most outrageous of situations as the camp counsellor.
It’s a concept that sounds too silly to actually work, and yet somehow does easily with a cast of characters that includes veterans from Sergeant Slaughter to Ric Flair. Who may or may not have had improper relations with a bear in one episode. Also, SWANS ARE DICKS!
Sanjay and Craig
Sometimes, you don’t need sophisticated humour, caring characters or heartwarming stories to make a good cartoon. Sometimes, all you want is some good old-fashioned toilet humour, a field of comedy that Sanjay and Craig specialises in. Nicklelodeon’s series about a boy and his best friend (who happens to be a snake) is still going strong and quite often in disturbing directions.
But when you just want a cheap laugh or a ten minute dose of comedy that belongs in the darkest corners of the internet, Sanjay and Craig will always be there for you. Dude.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
While all the entries above may tick comedy and heart off of a list easily, no other series manages to handle action the same way that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles does. Not only that, but with decades of lore and adaptations to draw from, TMNT manages to somehow take the best of what came before and give it a fresh new spin that hits the mark every single time. There ain’t nothing half-shelled about this particular incarnation of the iconic Turtles.
Last Updated: November 29, 2016