Adults Can Watch Them, Too!
Cartoons are a favorite past time for many kids across the world, and while fun-yet-dumb shows are a dime a dozen, there are some that are truly enjoyable for audiences of all ages. Some animated shows rise above the rest and truly try to make something special, so that it isn’t just the kids waiting each week for the next episode, but the parents as well. Before we begin, however, I should mention that this list excludes anime, as that is another category entirely that will eventually get its own list.
5. Spongebob Squarepants
Unlike the other shows on this list that I praise for attempting to entertain both kids and adults alike, Spongebob does the opposite, trying to be so funny and engaging for kids that adults can’t help but smile at the sheer ridiculousness of it all. In recent years, Spongebob has become a shadow of what it used to be, but that doesn’t change just how great the show was for the first few seasons. I dare you to make a classic Spongebob reference to any ‘90s kid and see if they don’t get the reference. Nine times out of 10, they will, because that is just how big the show was back when we were kids. Spongebob also contained just enough adult humor to get a smile out of parents without confusing the kids and making them feel left out. Spongebob’s influence can still be felt in kids shows today, as everyone is still trying to replicate that wacky nonsensical money-maker, but none come close to the original. It started a whole new trend in kids cartoon shows, which we are still facing more than 10 years after its beginning.
4. Batman: The Animated Series
Batman is such a strange and universally loved character. A man of strong morals who absolutely refuses to kill in his war on corruption in one of the most corrupt fictional cities ever invented doesn’t exactly sound like a cartoon made for kids. But Batman: The Animated Series merged the interests of adults looking to watch a mentally intriguing action show and that of kids who want to watch a man in a costume fight colorful bad guys. The show probably wouldn’t have been half as successful for adults were it not for the voice acting talents of Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker. The work those two geniuses did on a Saturday morning cartoon that only lasted a few seasons became so iconic that they became the voices of their characters: from movies, cameos, video games or basically anything that required Batman or the Joker to talk in a cartoon. The show’s popularity was also helped by the solid writing, which was sadly a somewhat new concept for an animated show to have. Batman: The Animated Series was an inspiration for many future series to follow it.
3. Teen Titans
Like Batman: The Animated Series, Teen Titans attempted to take the goofy concept of superheroes and actually give it a decent plot, character development and stakes. The main difference between the two, and the reason I rank Teen Titans higher, is that Teen Titans is about a team of teenage heroes, whereas Batman: The Animated Series is about an adult with a child sidekick. To me, Teen Titans is the slight superior because it touches on themes like self-doubt, the uncertainty of the future and pleasing your friends without losing who you are in the process. While Batman had its own share of adult themes, Teen Titans was more relatable, and the characters felt more like actual people than an idealized version of what a superhero should be. Teen Titans focused on the flaws of the characters, whereas Batman: The Animated Series focused more on the flaws of others and the world in general, with Batman being the shining example of a good man in a bad world. Teen Titans was better simply because it had more realistic and “real” characters.
2. Steven Universe
I may end up ranking this show lower in the future, as the way something ends has a huge impact on the way I see it as a whole, but as of right now, this show rocks (GET IT?!). At times the show gets a little too goofy for my taste, but that is forgivable because it balances out the goofiness with interesting world-building, mature emotional implications and really awesome music. One of the things that I love the most about this show is that it doesn’t attempt to explain everything to you right away. Steven Universe doesn’t hold your hand as it slowly builds its diverse and creative fantasy. It gives you just enough information to understand what is going on at the moment, and gives a richer explanation later on. The show is also deceptively silly, which is why many of you may have initially thought it strange that I ranked it so high. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes implications in the show that won’t be initially obvious to everyone. A great example of this (SPOILER SPOILER) is the reveal that Garnet is herself a fusion, meaning that she is two individuals who love each other so much they can literally fuse together to become one being. If you were paying close attention, you might have already guessed that this was the case before it was revealed, but even if you didn’t notice it, it makes sense when you look back on other moments in the series. The characters are also surprisingly deep, though that isn’t obvious if you have only seen a few episodes. Steven Universe has perfectly-paced storytelling, an original concept and likeable, but initially shallow, characters. It’s definitely worth a look if you haven’t before.
1. The Last Airbender/The Legend of Korra
I was having such a hard time deciding which of these great shows was better, I just decided to roll them into one. Both shows feature well-crafted characters, pitch-perfect comedy and some of the best animated action scenes you will ever see. I suppose if I had to pick which one was better, it would be The Last Airbender. But the best part of The Legend of Korra is that a sequel series actually lives up to its potential, which few ever seem to do. Continuing the trend started by Batman: The Animated Series, these two shows pushed the boundaries of what it means to be a kids show, offering such a rich and well-written world that I often had to remind myself that it was not actually intended for adults. Both shows also broke the trend of whitewashing characters that too many shows have in the modern era, featuring characters from multiple different races, sexual-orientations and sexes. The Legend of Korra features a Inuit, female, bi-sexual protagonist after all, which is virtually unheard of in any entertainment medium, much less in an animated TV show made for kids.
Any love for ‘Steven Universe?’ Which is better, ‘The Last Airbender’ or ‘The Legend of Korra’? Tweet me @adam_mcconnell. And be sure you follow us @YouNerded.
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