By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The latest trend in Hollywood has been Disney live-action remakes.
This started back on Christmas Day 1994 with “The Jungle Book” coming to life in theaters. Then the Dalmatians got the treatment twice in 1996 and then in 2000. After “Alice and Wonderland” was directed by Tim Burton, we got a long break from real-life adaptions of Disney classics.
Since 2014, we have endured nine films from this genre with “Dumbo,” “Aladdin” and now the “The Lion King.”
“The Lion King” made millions of dollars after coming to theaters nationwide July 19. I am in the minority of people who didn’t care much about the originals and didn’t ask for all these live-action versions.
My animation preference has always been Warner Bros./Looney Tunes. I like sarcastic, slapstick, vulgar and satirical humor. After enjoying icons like Daffy Duck, Sylvester and Bugs Bunny, I gravitated toward adult-based animation series.
While there were a few classics produced in the 1960s, ’70s and 80s, the genre became mainstream in the 1990s. In the past 30 years, some of the best television has been animated primetime shows.
Some of the hardest laughs of my lifetime came courtesy of the shows I am about to list below.
So while the majority out there flock to these cash-grab Disney remakes, I will patiently wait for the day some of my favorite animated classics come to real-life form. We can start with these honorable mentions before tackling the iconic best: “The Cleveland Show,” “Mike Tyson Mysteries,” “Rick and Morty,” “King of the Hill,” “F is for Family,” “Space Ghost Coast to Coast,” “Drawn Together,” “Brickleberry,” “Aqua Teen Hunger Force,” “The Tick,” “SpongeBob Squarepants,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “The Flintstones” and “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle.”
(USA Network, 1994-97)
One of animation’s best kept secrets?
For those who know about the mid-’90s classic “Duckman,” this show was hilarious black comedy. Jason Alexander and crew did an excellent job of bringing Duckman, Bernice, Ajax, Gecko, Charles, Mambo, “Grand-Ma-Ma” and Cornfed to life in 70 episodes.
The titled character voiced by Alexander was a widowed duck living in Los Angeles with his insane family. While dealing with his family, Duckman was a private detective.
The total opposite to the intense Duckman in the series was his colleague, Cornfed, voiced by Gregg Berger. He was a calm, intelligent presence in the detective service.
It was fun watching how all the characters balanced each other and interacted. Duckman trying to keep a grip on his career and family was enjoyable 22 minutes each week.
9. “Robot Chicken”
(Adult Swim, 2005-present)
Stop motion animation meets sketch comedy wrapped in a warm blanket of dark humor, satire, surrealism and parody. That is the best way I can describe Cartoon Network’s “Robot Chicken.”
This show is the centerpiece of the Adult Swim lineup and it is only about 12 minutes long. But the creation of Seth Green, Matthew Senreich, Douglas Goldstein and Tom Root is nonstop laughter.
Nobody is safe in the animated world of “Robot Chicken.” Children of the 1980s and ’90s will relive their childhood and witness it destroyed. The minds behind this show will give some of the darkest backstories to classics like “Rainbow Brite,” “Transformers,” “Barbie” and “G.I. Joe.”
And their love of “Star Wars” is evident in the full episodes dedicated to parodying the iconic movie series.
It takes genius to be this dumb, silly and gross. “Robot Chicken” is a great way to laugh before bed.
8. “The Simpsons”
(Fox Broadcasting Company, 1989-present)
To summarize “The Simpsons,” you can simply write they went from the humble beginnings as part of “The Tracey Ullman Show” to the most iconic American television family of all time.
For the past 30 years, the Fox Network has used Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie as the foundation. The show has been on the air so long, it is hard for a U.S. American not to have a favorite period.
I fell in love with the show from 1995 to 2002. And every once in a while, I tune in Sunday night about 7 p.m. to relive the greatness of the program. Trust me, around Halloween, I come back to “The Simpsons” to watch the “Treehouse of Horror.”
“The Simpsons” have made every Springfield across the country proud. And from Bart being the primary focus to Homer taking over that role, “The Simpsons” are a firm part of Americana.
Most of us have owned a Simpsons-based piece of clothing or artwork. Great job, Matt Groening, with this timeless creation.
“The Simpsons” are so iconic that it has elements within the show that are references like the opening couch gag.
7. “American Dad”
(Fox, 2005-14; TBS, 2014-present)
This countdown officially welcomes Seth MacFarlane. I often thank God for MacFarlane missing his flight on Sept. 11, 2001. His presence today has given us “The Cleveland Show,” “Family Guy” and “American Dad.”
Sometimes I think “American Dad” is the best in the trio. All three programs have made me hit the floor in tears and lose my breath from laughing.
Almost 300 episodes later, “American Dad” is simply one of the best animated shows to grace television. I love the singing of Steve. Stan’s intelligent ignorance is the foundation of the show. Hayley and Francine provide balance for the show as Hayley challenges her father’s mindset. And Francine is the supportive wife to Stan.
But the masterpiece of the show is Roger, voiced by creator MacFarlane. Roger the Alien is one of my favorite characters of all time. His various characters from week to week take on a life of their own. Roger is ruthless but at the same time I find myself rooting from him.
6. “Black Dynamite”
(Adult Swim, 2011-15)
Blaxploitation was a period in cinema history that empowered African Americans. But the genre was a little over the top. And since the 1970s, some have dared to mock the niche with one of the latest being the 2009 movie “Black Dynamite.”
The underground success of the flick inspired the 2011 debut of “Black Dynamite” as an adult animated television series.
Most of the movie’s voices came to the animated project including Black Dynamite himself Michael Jai White. Joining him for the cartoon were Byron Minns, Tommy Davidson and Kym Whitley as Bullhorn, Cream Corn and Honeybee respectively.
Coming to the world of animation, the show got over the top quickly, earning a TV-MA rating. If you need to see a prime example of the show’s creative genius, watch the episode geared toward a young Michael Jackson.
(Fox Kids, 1993-95; Kids’ WB, 1995-98)
OK, this might be the only controversial pick for this countdown. Even when you look at the networks this series aired on, you would think “Animaniacs” was for children. But I will argue the show led by Yakko, Wakko and Dot Warner was just as much for adults.
The risky humor, double-entendres and pop culture references were purely for grown-ups and teenagers. I caught a few of the jokes when I was 12 years old. But going back to watch the show recently, I couldn’t stop laughing at some of the hidden jokes that would go over a child’s head.
This show has a pace too fast for younger children, blending slapstick and sarcasm. The variety show format produced legendary characters like the Warner Bros. and the Warner Sister. Other “Animaniacs” characters worth tuning in to see were Pinky and the Brain, Slappy Squirrel and The Goodfeathers.
This show was so good it made me even enjoy musical numbers. And I hate musicals.
4. “Family Guy”
(Fox Broadcasting Company, 1999-present)
This show has survived two cancellations and MacFarlane missing that doomed flight to still be on air. And “Family Guy” is one of the most successful animated prime-time series ever. Taking from classic TV shows “The Simpsons” and “All in the Family” the formula for “Family Guy” has garnered millions of fans.
As the show has progressed, it has become vulgar, anti-politically correct and plain stupid. Almost 330 episodes later, I am a die-hard fan of this show.
“Family Guy” has been nominated for 12 Primetime Emmy Awards and 11 Annie Awards, winning three of each. In 2009, the show was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, the latest time an animated series was nominated for the award since The Flintstones in 1961.
While the show has earned some recognition and respect among peers and the film industry, it is targeted by everyday society for being too ignorant and disgusting. Peter Griffin and his family — consisting of wife Lois and children Meg, Chris and Stewie — are not the cup of tea for many. Throw in the family dog Brian, and I love this show. I enjoy the pop-culture references, cutaway gags and attacks on American culture past, present and even future.
And Stewie is one of my most beloved animated characters of all time.
3. “Beavis and
(MTV, 1993-97; 2011)
Ranking right up there with Stewie are Beavis and Butt-Head. This duo entered my life at a crucial and influential time. “Beavis and Butt-Head hit airwaves on MTV has an animated series when I was almost 12 years old.
My parents told me I could watch the show and told me ‘You bet not try anything those fools do.”
After a few months of watching Beavis and Butt-Head, I enjoyed their adventures and stupidity. And Mike Judge’s creation illustrated to me the consequences of dumb behavior. I got a clear reminder that you can do maximum damage to yourself and others if you do crazy things.
So I got a chance to laugh and learn. I am a big fan of the show, centered around the two teen delinquents who spend several hours on the couch watching music videos.
There was a hidden genius to the humor of the show that highlighted two teen boys lacking morals, intelligence and awareness.
2. “The Boondocks”
(Adult Swim, 2005-14)
Four seasons spread out over nearly a decade, “The Boondocks” is amazingly fresh and topical for more than 50 episodes. And like “Animaniacs,” there is a rumored return in 2020 for this show as well. Wherever “The Boondocks” is going to reappear, I will be there.
The creation of cartoonist Aaron McGruder was a fave of mind when it was a comic strip I read in The Commercial Appeal in the late 1990s. Then the trio of Grandpa, Huey and Riley came to life on Sunday nights via Cartoon Network.
“The Boondocks” was a non-stop attack on culture, social economics, stereotypes, politics and mainly race.
My favorite season of the show was when it attacked pop-culture references. It managed to shine a spotlight on those issues while keeping the premise.
The anime-style of the characters added a flair to the program and made it easy to stop flipping through the channels.
Great voice work drove the show up a notch. And nothing was off limits from Maya Angelou to Bill Cosby to Oprah Winfrey. “The Boondocks” even attacked BET and the fast food industry and answered the question, “What if Dr. King returned to America today?”
1. “South Park”
(Comedy Central, 1997-present)
For more than 20 years I’ve been the fifth kid to join Eric, Kyle, Stan and Kenny at the bus stop in a small Colorado town called South Park.
The creation of Trey Parker and Matt Stone is the best of the best. All the great characteristics of the other nine shows listed describe “South Park.” This show is always topical. It has iconic characters and great catchphrases. It’s not afraid to address racial, political and everyday topics.
If you are mainstream, “South Park” will give you an episode before too long. And the writers on this show do it in a hilarious way each time. While moving at a face pace, “South Park” still manages to develop characters and always move forward.
The town of South Park is the best place for dark, surreal humor. The satire in this mountain town is as high as it gets in the animated world.
Great musical numbers will pop up from time to time, and Kenny McCormick dying never got old.
How Kyle Broflovski takes us back to the 1980s by wrapping up each episode with a lesson became another trademark. Stan Marsh being the straight man in the group gave us an avenue to normalized scripts.
But the star of the show by far is Eric Cartman. He is the foundation of the show and one of the best characters in TV history. Cartman has range within his psychopathic mind.
If I see the rotund Cartman, I know he will provide the juice needed for a great “South Park” episode. As long as the world keeps turning, material will be provided for Cartman and his crew in South Park.
THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.