From 1996 – 2003, Cartoon Network and Hanna-Barbera collaborated on a number of animated TV shows that would become What a Cartoon! and then Cartoon Cartoons. Spearheaded by former Nickelodeon producer Fred Seibert, the series launched a number of shows, many of which are still widely regarded as being amongst the best cartoons of the last 30 years.
Today, we take a look back at the entire run of Cartoon Cartoons and rank them from our least to most favourite, no-doubt opening a can of worms in the process.
15. I AM WEASEL (1997-1999)
Cartoon Network rarely got it wrong with their early Cartoon Cartoon shows, but I am Weasel, a show about an arrogant Weasel and a bumbling, vengeful Baboon was one such instance. So bad was I am Weasel in comparison to other great shows like Dexter’s Laboratory or The Powerpuff Girls that it eventually faded into obscurity and out of everyone’s minds – right up until we just reminded you of it with this list, and for that, we’re sorry.
14. SHEEP IN THE BIG CITY (2000-2002)
Sheep in the City is the brainchild of Mo Willems (Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus), and follows the life and times of Sheep – a sheep – who escapes to the big city after his beloved farm is threatened by an evil government agency intent on capturing him at any cost to fuel their new sheep-powered ray gun.
13. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO … ROBOT JONES? (2002 – 2003)
If you remember Whatever Happened to … Robot Jones, then you’ll receive 1 million bonus points. Sadly it’s a seldom remembered classic of the good old days of Cartoon Cartoons that perhaps failed because it came so late in the day, and was hindered by the “see what sticks” mentality of the channel by the mid-2000s.
12. MIKE, LOU & OG (1999 – 2001)
Mike, Lou & Og was essentially Ed, Edd N Eddy, but set on a remote island paradise instead of in the American suburbs. Mike – actually a female – is a foreign exchange student from Manhattan who finds herself transferred to a mysterious island that doesn’t appear on any maps, and meets self-appointed island princess Lous and her dimwitted friend Og.
11. GRIM & EVIL (2001 – 2002)
Viewers of Grim & Evil were treated to both Evil Con Carne and The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy in this short-lived series from the brilliant mind of Maxwell Atoms. Both shows would eventually be given their own separate series.
10. EVIL CON CARNE (2003 – 2004)
Evil Con Carne, which had started life as part of the Grim & Evil Show in 2001, has the dubious distinction of being the last ever Cartoon Cartoon to see the light of day before the channel went in a new direction with its animation.
Hector Con Carne was an everyday evil playboy jillionaire until one day he was blown up and his brain transplanted into the body of a dumb circus bear. It was a genius concept (in our opinion) and incredibly funny, but for whatever reason, it just never clicked with audiences and was quietly cancelled in 2004.
9. TIME SQUAD (2001 – 2003)
Time Squad was another wasted opportunity for Cartoon Network, as it was way better than it’s ranking here suggests. Created by Dave Wasson, who has also worked on Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Space Jam, Time Squad follows a trio of crappy ‘Time Cops’ who police the past by travelling from the future and inadvertently causing complete chaos. The show received no less than 5 Emmy nominations over its 26 episode run and featured voice work from Mark Hamill.
8. CODENAME: KIDS NEXT DOOR (2002 – 2008)
Codename: Kids Next Door is one of Cartoon Network’s most popular shows ever. It tells the story of 5 kids all named Numbah, who operate as part of a worldwide organisation of crime fighting kids, righting the wrongs carried out against kids.
The show ran for 6 years and was the brainchild of Mr. Warburton whose previous works included Doug and Beavis and Butt-Head. At times the humour of his previous work on shows aimed at older audiences shone through in the storytelling which probably helped make Codename: Kids Next Door so memorable.
7. ED, EDD N EDDY (1999-2009)
Personally, this writer didn’t see the appeal of Ed, Edd N Eddy, but I seem to be in the minority. The show was seemingly about 3 moronic kids with the same name, but looking back at it today it was actually a spot-on depiction of life in a cul-de-sac that was surprisingly relatable.
6. THE GRIM ADVENTURES OF BILLY & MANDY (2003-2008)
Billy and Mandy were a pair of little shit-bags who somehow forced the Grim Reaper into a lifetime of servitude as their ‘best friend’. Imagine Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey but with sadistic little kids instead.
5. THE POWERPUFF GIRLS (1998 – 2005)
Sugar, spice, and everything nice, that’s what The Powerpuff Girls were made off. Cartoon Network’s show about 3 genetically engineered little girls and their daily battles against the forces of evil was a wonder to behold – a colourful mixture of action and adventure that made it an instant classic from day one.
4. COW & CHICKEN (1997 – 1999)
Cow and Chicken was a show about a Cow and a Chicken who were biological siblings, with parents who were comprised of a pair of legs and no upper torso whatsoever, but could talk. Presumably through their assholes. Now if that isn’t good wholesome kids entertainment then we don’t know what is.
3. COURAGE THE COWARDLY DOG (1996 – 2002)
Courage is a cowardly dog (no surprise there) who lives with two old folks in the middle of nowhere – literally, a town named Nowhere. Unfortunately for Courage, Nowhere also happens to be the centre of the paranormal universe and a hotbed for weird shit.
Courage the Cowardly Dog was really a venture into the unknown for Cartoon Network, who had previously flirted with controversy but never really explored the darker side of kids TV. With Courage they quite frankly scared children and adults alike with some of the creepiest characters you’re ever likely to meet in pop culture. The very fact that it’s still creepy, even just thinking about some of the episodes, tells you everything you need to know about how great a show it was.
2. JOHNNY BRAVO (1997 – 2004)
He’s hot. He’s sexy. He’s probably riddled with diseases, and he’s definitely not suitable for kids. He’s Johnny freaking Bravo and he’s bloody awesome.
With his big blonde bouffant and Elvis-esque tones, he was the cock of the walk that just didn’t get how much of a sleazeball lameo he really was, and the audience loved him for it. He probably wouldn’t do so well in today’s #metoo aware society, but there’s no denying he’s an icon of the 1990s.
1. DEXTER’S LABORATORY (1996 – 2003)
Genndy Tartakovsky’s diminutive little ginger scientist was by far the greatest creation of Cartoon Network’s ‘Cartoon Cartoon’ heyday, and that’s saying something. Tartakovsky has been responsible for much of the best kids television in the last 20 years, with hits ranging from Samurai Jack to Star Wars: Clone Wars, but despite his continued success as a writer, creator, director, and all around awesome guy, Dexter’s Laboratory is his highest of highs.
The premise of the show was simple enough – Dexter’s plans to create something amazing are upset by his annoying, meddlesome sister Dee Dee, and he ends up having to save the day by inventing some sort of amazing machine. Rinse, wash, repeat. But in its simplicity lay its appeal. It was dumb enough to keep the kids happy but subtle enough with its adult humour to convert mum and dad to being fans, something shows like Cow and Chicken just couldn’t do.
And that’s out list complete but what did you think? Make sure to leave a comment in the section below, on Twitter or our Facebook page!