The 20 Best Saturday Morning Cartoons Of All Time

It's the end of an era, and the Saturday Morning Cartoon is officially dead. So I thought now would be the perfect time to take a look back at the best Saturday Morning Cartoons. Hit the jump to find out the 20 best Saturday morning cartoons of all time, according to me. I have even included the opening credits song (whenever available) so that you can take a trip back in time to revisit the pop culture that owned the saturday mornings of our childhoods.

Disclaimer: Of course, like most lists, this is subjective. Not only is this list subjective, it is based within the source material of my childhood.  The Saturday morning cartoon blocks began in the 1960s and lasted through the new millennium (with the last and final bow happening in 2014), but considering my childhood spanned the 1980s and 1990s, my list is heavily in those generations of programing. I'm sure those in the generation that followed me might list SpongeBob Square Pants, while those in the generation before mine might list DC Comics' Super Friends. And I'm sure there will be other shows like Thundercats which many will agree could be represented, but didn't make the list.

20. Camp Candy (NBC, 1989-1991; syndication, 1992)

This is one of those animated television shows that you might not remember until someone mentions it, but it was fun. The show was set in a summer camp run by John Candy. (Who voiced an animated version of himself; later syndicated broadcasts even featured live action segments featuring Candy.) The show came after Candy's performance as Chet Ripley in The Great Outdoors and as Jack Chester in Summer Rental, both of which loosely inspired the series.

The show would usually begin with John Candy trying to show an outdoor skill to his summer campers, leading him to tell a tale which would be the episode's story. One of the main antagonists was Rex DeForest III (gotta love that name), a man who is trying to demolish Camp Candy in order to build condominiums.

19. The Smurfs (NBC, 1981-1989)

Say what you will of the recent live-action/animated hybrid movies, but The Smurfs Hanna-Barbera Productions television show was a staple of Saturday morning cartoon block in the 1980s. Based on a Belgian comic, the cartoon series followed a colony of small blue creatures that live in mushroom-shaped houses in the forest in hiding from the evil wizard Gargamel, who along with his cat Azrael, wanted to capture the Smurfs to create a potion to turn base matter into gold.

18. Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (CBS, 1972-1984; syndication, 1984-1985)

Everyone loved Bill Cosby, and his animated series Fat Albert was unlike anything else on the Saturday morning cartoon block of the 1970s and 1980s. The show was created, produced, voiced, and hosted by the comedian, who appeared in live-action bookends. Stories were based on his memories of his childhood gang lead by Fat Albert (voiced by Cosby and known for his catchphrase "Hey hey hey!"). Each episode featured an educational lesson, making it one of the first Saturday morning cartoon shows to take this approach.

17. Bobby's World (Fox, 1990-1998)

Created by comedian Howie Mandel (who also voiced the title character and his father Howard), the show followed the daily life of Bobby and his very overactive imagination. Mandel would also be featured in a live-action bookend describing how part of this week's story was inspired by his own personal childhood. And rumor has it that Howie Mandel is trying to get a deal with a network to reboot the show for today's kids. I hope it happens.

16. M.A.S.K. (USA Network, 1985-1986)

Sure it was a blatant toy commercial created by Kenner toys to take on Transformers and GI Joe, but it was pretty cool and the toys were even cooler. The show told the story of M.A.S.K. (\Mobile Armored Strike Kommand), a special task force of  super-powered mask-wearing characters which employed high-tech transforming vehicles  in an ongoing battle against the criminal organization V.E.N.O.M. (Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem, again: love it!).

The Best Saturday Morning Cartoons

It's the end of an era, and the Saturday Morning Cartoon is officially dead. Our top 20 Saturday morning cartoons list continues at #15:

15. Voltron: Defender of the Universe (syndication, 1984-1985)

This is one of those Saturday morning cartoon series which was probably not as cool as its toy line, but may be cool because of the toy line. The show was actually created using licensed footage from Japanese anime series. The first season which featured the "Lion Force Voltron" was adapted from the Japanese anime television series Beast King GoLion, while the second season which featured the "Vehicle Voltron" was adapted from an unrelated anime series titled Armored Fleet Dairugger XV. The original show dialogue was completely rewritten, keeping the core plots and excising more violent sequences.

The US show focused on a team of five young pilots commanding five robot lions which when combined to formed a giant robot fighter named Voltron. The series took place in the future where the Voltron Force was in charge of protecting the planet Arus (ruled by Princess Allura) from the evil King Zarkon (from planet Doom), his son Lotor, and the witch Haggar.

14. The Real Ghostbusters (ABC, 1986-1991)

Ghostbusters captured the imagination of an entire generation of children, despite its obviously inappropriate ghost blow-job dream sequence. The animated series was created as a spin-off of the movie, and the inclusion of "Real" in the title confused most kids I knew. (That title was actually a concession of a dispute with Filmation over their Ghost Busters franchise.) Story-edited by J. Michael Straczynski, the series continued the adventures of paranormal investigators from the movie (Dr. Peter Venkman, Dr. Egon Spengler, Dr. Ray Stantz, Winston Zeddemore), who along with their secretary Janine Melnitz, accountant Louis and their now mascot ghost Slimer would hunt rogue spirits around the world and in New York City.

A bit of trivia: Ernie Hudson was the only actor from the Ghostbusters films who auditioned to play his character in the series;  but even so the role was instead given to Arsenio Hall. Full House star Dave Coulier voiced Peter Venkman, and legendary voice actor Frank Welker (best known for voicing many of the characters in the original Transformers animated series) provided the voice of Ray Stantz and Slimer.

13. Beetlejuice (ABC, 1989-1991; Fox, 1991-1992)

This short-lived cartoon series was loosely based on the 1988 film of the same name. Developed and executive-produced by Tim Burton, the series adapted Burton's unique signature goth-style and further explored the Neitherworld, a wacky afterlife realm inhabited by monsters, ghosts and ghouls. The show followed Lydia Deetz, a goth girl who could call upon the undead con-man known as Beetlejuice.

While the show didn't really resemble the 1988 film, it was fun to see Burton's style adapted for the small screen in an animated form — remember, this predates The Nightmare Before Christmas. I also remember enjoying this show because the storylines would often parody classic films and tv series.

12. Garfield and Friends (CBS, 1988-1994)

Based on the comic strip by Jim Davis, the premise of Garfield was very relatable, especially for anyone who has owned a cat. Garfield is fat, lazy orange tabby cat who loves to eat and sleep, and Jon Arbuckle is his owner, a nerdy bachelor cartoonist who is always trying to get his cat to do the right thing. The combination of the two personalities resulted in 121 episodes and 7 seasons of television. Garfield is a classic and the humor feels timeless.

11. Animaniacs (Fox, 1993-1995; The WB, 1995-1999)

Animaniacs and Tiny Toon Adventures made the classic Warner Bros characters and style new and fresh. Originally a weekday afternoon show that moved to Saturdays after its long first season, Animaniacs was a show that featured a large cast of characters separated into individual segments. But front and center were The Warners, three brothers named Yakko, Wakko, and Dot, 1930s cartoon stars that were locked up in the Warner Bros. water tower on the Burbank studio lot until the 1990s, when they escaped. Another popular regular segment involved Pinky and the Brain, two genetically altered laboratory mice that continuously and unsuccessfully attempt to take over the world. The show also featured a bevy of other characters, including Slappy Squirrel, Rita and Runt, Buttons and Mindy, Chicken Boo, Flavio and Marita, Katie Ka-Boom, a trio of pigeons known as The Goodfeathers, and Minerva Mink.

The show offered parodies of movies and television shows, sometimes lampooning the world of Hollywood which it was based, and also featuring violent cartoony fun reminiscent of the old Looney Toons cartoons. For someone like me who was obsessed with movies and Hollywood, I loved the crazy adventures of Yakko, Wakko, and Dot on the Warner Bros studio lot.

And then 10 shows remained. Which ten cartoon shows topped our list of the best Saturday Morning Cartoons? Hit the jump!

The Best Saturday Morning Cartoons

It's the end of an era, and the Saturday Morning Cartoon is officially dead. Our top 20 Saturday morning cartoons list continues with #10:

10. Captain N: The Game Master (NBC, 1989-1991)

Okay so this show wasn't great but I always loved the possibilities it offered. Captain N: The Game Master tells the story of Kevin Keene, a California teenager who is sucked into his television and taken to another universe known as Videoland where according to an ancient prophecy, he must save Videoland from evil forces led by Mother Brain (from the floating world/fortress called Metroid).

Every week, Captain N would team with a bunch of the video game heroes to fight the forces of video game villains led by Mother Brain. The great thing about the show was that it was a mash-up of the popular Nintendo video games of the time, and the worlds and characters from all your favorite games would converge in the adventures each week. It was Wreck It Ralph before Wreck It Ralph. Again, the story-lines were not incredible but the show was entertaining and left your imagination running wild. I remember playing Captain N: The Game Master with my 9 year old friends in the backyard.

I've said this a number of times, but I wish Nintendo would produce a Captain N: The Game Master video game which would put you in the shoes (or sneakers?) of Captain N who must journey through classic NES, SNES and N64 video game levels with interesting twists and featuring unexpected characters and changes. I've always thought that could be really cool.

9. The Bugs Bunny Show (CBS, 1968-2000)

This show is a classic, featuring characters that most everyone has seen at some point. While the show started out in primetime, after two seasons The Bugs Bunny Show moved to Saturday mornings, where it remained in various formats for nearly four decades. The cartoons inspired countless animators and storytellers and the episodes are still entertaining 45 years later.

8. Doug (Nickelodeon, 1991-1996; ABC, 1996-2001)

Created by Jim Jinkins, Doug followed the early adolescent life of Doug Funnie (Voiced by the legend Billy West) and his experiences attending school in his new hometown of Bluffington. The stories were narrated by Doug through his journal entries. The series connected with many pre and early teen kids as it addressed a lot of relatable topics for the age range, including trying to fit in, bullying, and attempts to impress his class crush Patti Mayonnaise.

The Walt Disney Company purchased Jim Jinkins' company Jumbo Pictures in 1996 and ordered new episodes of the show, released under the titles Brand Spanking New! Doug and Disney's Doug in the late 1990's. But it was the original series that connected with so many kids, including myself.

7. Darkwing Duck (Disney Channel, 1991; syndication, 1991-1992; ABC, 1991-1992)

Darkwing Duck originated as a storyline in Ducktales and was spun-off into its own series after the conclusion of the show. The series told the story of a anthropomorphic duck character who struggles to balance his craving for fame as the masked superhero Darkwing Duck and his efforts to be a good suburban father to his adopted daughter Gosalyn.

Darkwing Duck is a favorite among many Disney kids, but the original series ran for only a year and a half. The 91 episodes had a long life in syndication and the legacy of the series has inspired a comic book series from BOOM! Studios and even some recent throwback appearances from the costumed character in Disney theme parks.

6. X-Men (Fox, 1992-1997)

X-Men was my first animated superhero television series. I found comic books in the late 1980's during what is known as the "speculator boom" of the comic book industry. X-men quickly became my favorite series and the X-Men animated series on Fox brought the issues to life in ways I had never before imagined. Nowadays we're spoiled with how much great superhero and comic book movie adaptations we have on the big and small screens, but back in the early 90's, Tim Burton's Batman was mind blowing and nothing else really existed. I watched the old Adam West Batman tv series, and even the black and White Superman show, but those were both relics from the previous old school campy episodic era where X-Men offered more mythology.

I remember being particularly taken with the character Morph, which was introduced in the animated series. Seeing the character meet his fate on the show at the hands of the Sentinels blew my mind. Its not that I had not read comic books where characters were killed off, but it was a completely different thing seeing it happen in an animated series — for some reason it felt more real and tangible — it mattered.

We're down to the final five, have your favorites been named yet? Find out which five animated series topped our list, after the jump.

The Best Saturday Morning Cartoons

It's the end of an era, and the Saturday Morning Cartoon is officially dead. Our top 20 Saturday morning cartoons list continues with the top 5 of all time:

5. Batman: The Animated Series (Fox, 1992-1995)

After X-Men came Batman: The Animated Series, infused with the look of Tim Burton's live-action films mixed with art deco and film noir flourishes. I loved the overly-dark style of the art direction. The show led me to find Frank Miller's Batman comic book run and discover some of the darker modern takes on the character. I loved The Joker, who was notably voiced by Star Wars lead Mark Hamill. I again was drawn in by the longer form storytelling that the series employed.

4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (syndication, 1987-1990; CBS, 1987-1996)

If you were a boy during the late 1980s and early 1990s, you watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The series was an adaptation of the Eastman/Laird comic book series, following four mutant human-sized turtles with marital arts Ninja skills trying to save the city from the evil Shredder and his foot clan, as well as an alien from another dimension named Krang and his various minions. The show was geared towards children, unlike the original black and white comic book series, and sold a ton of toys — it got so popular that every year they needed to produce new action figures based on the Ninja Turtles. At some point "Supermutant Michaelangelo" was selling out at Toys R Us, I kid you not.

3. Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (CBS, 1969-1970)

The Hanna-Barbera television series followed four teenagers (Fred, Daphne, Velma, and Shaggy) and a cowardly dog named Scooby-Doo as they traveled in the Mystery Machine van, which would usually conveniently break down or make a pit stop in a strange possibly haunted location. The Mystery Inc gang would volunteer to help out and try to solve a supernatural-related mystery of the week. The show went on in various incarnations and featured crossovers with guest stars ranging from the Harlem Globetrotters to WWE wrestlers, and spawned a series of live action hybrid feature films.

For the longest time as a child, Scooby-Doo was my favorite television show. I had VHS tapes filled with episodes on extended play mode that were worn out from so many plays. I was particularly attracted to the mystery/detective aspect of the show, and enjoyed trying to figure out the real reasons behind the supposed supernatural occurrences. In this respect the show was smarter than your average childhood cartoon, even though the series stuck to a rather simple step-by-step episodic formula.

Find out the final two — the best Saturday morning cartoons, after the jump!

The Best Saturday Morning Cartoons

It's the end of an era, and the Saturday Morning Cartoon is officially dead. Our top 20 Saturday morning cartoons list concludes with the top 2 Saturday morning cartoons of all time:

2. DuckTales (syndication, 1987-1990; ABC, 1996-1999)

The Disney animated series followed the adventures of Scrooge McDuck and his three grandnephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, who were left with Scrooge after their uncle Donald Duck joined the Navy. Usually the Beagle Boys or the industrialist Flintheart Glomgold would be after McDuck's fortune or his number one dime (the first money Scrooge ever earned, which Scrooge considered to be the source of all of his good luck). And everyone loved Scrooge McDuck's money bin which was filled with so many gold coins that he could dive into and swim through the money almost as if it were a giant pool.

The series also spawned the 1990 animated feature film DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp, which was also pretty great. Watch the trailer below:

The series paved the way for future Disney cartoon syndicated series such as Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin, and Darkwing Duck (which was a spin-off of DuckTales). In recent years, BOOM! Studios released a new DuckTales comic book series and aspects of the show have appeared in the popular Disney Infinity video game, but there has been no word if the series will ever see a reboot or sequel.

1. Jim Henson's Muppet Babies (CBS, 1984-1991)

Jim Henson's Muppet Babies followed the adventures of preschool-age Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Animal, Rowlf, Scooter and Skeeter (a new addition to the gang), as they played and dreamed together in a nursery overseen by a nanny. (Voiced by Leave It to Beaver's Barbara Billingsley; the character was never seen from the waist up.)

Jim Henson's Muppet Babies was probably more influential on my life than any other television series from my childhood. It taught me to dream and showed me the power of imagination and creation. I have a fond love of The Muppets, their movies and The Muppet Show but Muppet Babies has had more of an impact on me as a person. Some of my favorite episodes were those that parodied Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

Strangely the idea for Muppet Babies originated in the movie The Muppets Take Manhattan, which premiered two months before Muppet Babies with a dream sequence where Miss Piggy imagined what it would be like if she and Kermit the Frog had grown up together. I had seen the movie well after being introduced to Muppet Babies, so I always thought the reference was the other way around.

You might not know but Muppet Babies was actually a production of The Jim Henson Company and Marvel Productions. Thats right — Marvel Comics produced Muppet Babies. They also produced a comic book series based on the property. Some have wondered if Disney's acquisition of LucasFilm could mean the series will finally get a home video release. Fans have theorized that copyright issues have kept the show from being released, as sequences blended animation with live action clips from films like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars. Ghostbusters, Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Three Stooges and more.

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What Do You Think?

What did you think of my top twenty picks for the best Saturday morning cartoon shows? Which series did I miss? What rankings do you disagree with? Please remember that not all cartoon series played in the Saturday morning cartoon blocks, so don't get mad at me for not including a show which played in the afternoon or another weekday slot. For instance, The Flintstones and The Simpsons aired in primetime — not on Saturday mornings. I'm sure there will be many disagreements about some 1970s and 2000s series that didn't make the cut because they weren't part of my childhood viewings. And I'm willing to bet many people will have a different pick for the top Saturday morning cartoon of all time. Leave your thoughts in the comment below!