Even though I got to see many of the shows from the 1990s thanks to the SABC being about as broken as our justice system, I’m a child of the 2000s. That was my era, a decade that saw the animated landscape embrace the work of other nations and expand. There were some ridiculously great cartoons made, shows that will live on in my heart and as a cellphone ringtone. And I feel like sharing some of that love today.
To this day, I’m still massively thankful to Pokémon. Primarily because it opened the floodgates for a ton of other Japanese cartoons to hit the market in an attempt for toy manufacturers to bleed parents die. Medabots is undoubtedly my favourite. Even for a cartoon, the premise of sentient robots engaged in cockfights that could determine the fate of the world, was ridiculous. Then you added in bizarre characters, an ancient Mayan prophecy and a gang of villains dressed like rubber fetish fans, and you had a pure winner. And that intro. It never gets old. Never.
If there’s any cartoon series that was way, way too ahead of its time, it was Invader Zim. It was a cartoon that was also horribly ahead of the curve with its target audience, thanks to episodes that involved a kid having his eyeballs ripped out and replaced with robotic replacements, a Christmas episode that turned Santa into a monster straight out of your nightmares and a class hamster that was evolved into something out of Neon Genesis Evangelion. It’s a cult classic, and required viewing for everybody. Especially if you want to learn the Doom song.
The Super Friends can kiss my hairy ass, as the real Justice League got the cartoon series that they deserved in the 2000s. A core roster that included Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, The Flash and Hawkgirl, the series quickly expanded into Justice League Unlimited. Bigger threats required a bigger team to respond to them, and this show delivered on that idea, and then some.
Knights Of The Zodiac
Sure, it may have been dubbed into English twenty years too late, more heavily edited than the State Of The Nation Address last week and made about as much sense as dolphin slippers, but it still had a bitching intro!
I’ve got a massive love for any cartoon series that Butch Hartman is involved in. He brings a manic intensity to all of his work, that is combined with ace editing and music. But coupling that style with a dedicated action adventure series? Pure genius. Pure fun genius that is.
The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy
Sweet Grim, but this cartoon was stupidly fun, and incredibly dark in the later seasons. And so, so much better once it freed itself of its horrid partner, Evil Concarne. Fun fact: Billy is voiced by Invader Zim himself, Richard Horvitz.
The Marvellous Misadventures of Flapjack
It always surprises me with the amount of NSFL content that some animators get away with. Take The Marvellous Misadventures Of Flapjack for example, which is pure nightmare fuel in 21 minute segments. I’m not saying that you’re a bad parent if you allow your kids to watch this show unattended, but ma oh man, this may have been Twin Peaks for kids.
Action League Now!
I’m cheating a little bit here, as this show wasn’t exactly animated. But it was crazy, cheap and just plain awesome.
If you don’t like giant robots, then I don’t think we can be friends.
Man, Cartoon Network had some experimentally crazy cartoons back in the day. Chowder was the animated result of a cooking show on the grooviest of drugs, left to its own devices. It was pure insanity, and somehow, it all made sense whenever a plot wrapped up.
As much as I dug Batman, seeing a far older and determined Bruce Wayne mentor a protégé Tomorrow Knight to save a Gotham City that had fallen into darker times was in many ways a superior Batman cartoon. Everything felt fresh and new again. And if you were a fan of this show, do yourself a favour and track down the director’s cut of Batman Beyond: The Return Of The Joker. It’s the show at its very finest, as it comes full circle back to the original 1990s series.
Jackie Chan Adventures
It was impossible to grow up and not turn a corner to find a Jackie Chan movie just waiting to be watched. At one point, the man outnumbered people by three sequels and four broken bones to every person living on the planet. So placing Chan in his very own cartoon series, was an idea that took way too long to come to fruition. But it was freakin’ worth it! And hey, one more thing….
Batman: The Brave And The Bold
If Batman Beyond is the dark knight at his very best, then then Batman: Brave and the bold is the caped crusader restored to his more fun silver age roots. It was a weekly tag team event where Batman would solve cases alongside a guest star. Everybody from Superman to B’wana Beast made it in the show. Hell, it even made Aquaman a likeable character again. OUTRAGEOUS!
Avatar: The Last Airbender
There has rarely been an animated series as ambitious as Avatar: The Last Airbender. Most series were content to offer self-contained episodes with an easy resolution every week, but Avatar was more ambitious than that. It set up an entire mythology, of a chosen protector who bridged the gap between the spirits and mankind, manipulating elements to help restore balance in a world where such special skills were hardly unique. It’s a magnificent epic, that was followed up a few years later by a sequel series, The Legend Of Korra. But your first time experiencing bending, will always be special.
I don’t think I know of anyone who didn’t see Samurai Jack. Cool, beautifully paced and epic in even the tiniest of moments, the show is a classic that will outlive us all. And maybe one day, Gendy Tartakovsky will get to finish the legendary series.
Last Updated: January 4, 2017