Movies & TV / Columns

The 411 Movies Top 5: The Top 5 Kids Cartoons

February 7, 2015 | Posted by Shawn S. Lealos
Batman The Animated Series Kevin Conroy

The 411 Movies Top 5: Hello everyone and welcome to 411 Movies Top 5 List. We take a topic each week and all the writers here on 411 wrestling will have the ability to participate and give us their Top 5 on said topic. So, onto this week’s topic…

The Top 5 Kid’s Cartoons

5. SPIRAL ZONE Truly underrated, this 1986 series had a vibe and plotline far darker and more daring than most anything else at the time. In the near future, a mad scientist called Overlord drops pods across half the planet that create Zones where people inside are turned into mindless slaves. Putting aside their differences, the nations of the world unite against him and his Black Widows, an international team of Zone Riders using special suits to enter the Zones and fight back. The shots of the Zones were chilling as was the war of attrition: Riders could destroy generators but Overlord would just drop more elsewhere. You had personal touches of Riders with loved ones trapped in Zones and even political stuff (one episode revolving around a foppish lord the only free member of the Royal Family and having to be made King) and the Widows often scheming against each other while Overlord was shown as a truly cunning figure. It was a bit short-lived but still a stand-out as far more adult than most cartoon series and even showcasing how war, no matter what form it is, is a very horrible thing.

4. BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES The show that began the entire DCAU and still one of the best versions of the Dark Knight ever broadcast. Moody, gothic, it nailed the dark tones of the comic while still appealing to all ages, a nifty trick that helped it grow over the years. Kevin Conroy was a perfect Batman with gravely voice, terrifying at times but still warm hearted enough to win you to his side. The fall of Harvey Dent to Two-Face was a stunning work and the introduction of Harley Quinn brought a new big face to the mythos. Of course, the best part was Mark Hamill’s take on the Joker, a true mad mastermind who stole every episode he was in and reminded you why he’s Batman’s greatest foe. Possibly the best super-hero cartoon show ever (and better than most live-action) and one that fans of all ages can love equally.

3. THUNDERCATS First of all, this was the best opening to a cartoon series ever. Second, the set-up was fun as a group of feline aliens crash on a planet that’s clearly a far-future Earth, setting up in a huge castle while clashing with mutants and an evil all-powerful mummy. You just can’t hate a show like that and it was fun, teaching some lessons without being too heavy-handed about it and the action was damn good for afternoon watching. Plus, the Sword of Omens was the coolest cartoon weapon ever and the journey of Lion-O from cocky adventurer to noble lord was a highlight of growth other series wouldn’t touch. Whether you loved the action or the scheming of Mumm-Ra, still a great show to love.

2. G.I. JOE As a child of the ‘80’s, this was a true gem. Yes, the action was fun with no real fatalities but you had to get into it still for the sheer genius of how it worked. Cobra’s plots could be insane and often dumb but now and then, coming off as actual bad-asses. Better were the Joes themselves as you’d get a good mix of them in missions and liking the characters from tough soldiers Duke and Flint to bad-ass Snake-Eyes to even great female characters like Lady Jayne and Scarlett. The animation was damn good and the action went all over the world in various locales to make you see the global conflict. Even stuff like Serpentor didn’t bring it down and whether comedy or surprisingly dark (the alternate world where Cobra ruled), the series was a gem that had you enthralled and a reason ‘80’s cartoons remained such a magic time for so many of us.

1. MUPPET BABIES: Many cartoon series cater toward kids. But few have ever nailed what it’s like to be kids more than this absolute gem. Yes, it’s fun seeing the Muppets in kid form: Fozzie cracking bad jokes, Rowlf on piano, Gonzo being weird, Piggy the diva and Kermit just the voice of reason amid this madness. But the way they showed them playing, indulging in fantasy sequences that mixed in real TV and movie footage (a key reason it’s not on DVD) was glorious. From wonderful takes on Star Wars and other properties to just wild antics of pirates, race cars and more, it drew you in with fun humor and musical numbers while also good tackling issues that bug kids from fears of the doctor to being alone. Wonderful and still holding up today as even in kiddie form, the Muppets can never be beat when it comes to humor in their own great style.


5. RAMBO: THE FORCE OF FREEDOM – When this action cartoon first came out I was bummed that it wasn’t an animated version of Rambo: First Blood Part II. That’s what I thought the show was going to be. Why was Rambo part of a team? And what the hell was SAVAGE? It was just like Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos except it had Stallone as the hero instead of Chuck Norris. As a kid I thought that was just ridiculous. But the show grew on me and I eventually realized that it was cool because no other cartoon did action quite like Rambo. The toys were cool, too. However, why was the Rambo figure with the white sleeveless sweatshirt bigger than the First Blood Part II doll with the M60? That always bothered me.

4. MASK – I don’t remember much about this cartoon in terms of its stories. It never seemed to get much play after it first ran and, as far as I know, it never received any sort of extensive rerun broadcasts in the United States. It is on DVD, though, so perhaps I should pick that up and get back into this show. Anyway, for a little nerd like me back in the day this show was all about the toys. I thought it was brilliant to do a sort of suped up car show where both the heroes and the villains rode around in vehicles that became more than just cars. My two favorite vehicles were the orange pick-up truck that had machine guns behind its front grill and the black corvette that turned into a flying car when its doors extended out and became “wings.” Man, this show needs to come back to TV. I’m shocked no one has tried to remake it.

3. CENTURIONS – This was a cool sci-fi show that, again, had very cool toys (that happened quite often in the 1980’s) but a great premise, too. Good guys that wore suits that could be adorned with various weaponry which, yeah, looked kind of ridiculous but were still kind of awesome, too. It was also a fine blend of action and science fiction type stuff. In a way, even back in the 1980’s, Centurions seemed kind of plausible (they seemed more plausible that G.I. Joe, at least it did to me). And the science lesson thing that ended each episode was always a hoot. And Doc Terror was a pretty cool looking villain. I wish they still made cartoons like this one.

2. THUNDARR THE BARBARIAN – I first saw this back when USA ran cartoons on the weekends (as I remember it used to air on Sundays before WWF All-American Wrestling). It was so strange and, in some respects, still is. It had a kick-ass, scary opening (the end of the freaking world!) and it featured monsters, creatures that didn’t look like anything on He-Man. And the main characters were a barbarian with a light saber like “sun sword,” a hot princess that was a magic master, and a freaking Chewbacca like monster called Ookla. And the show was pretty much them running around the wastelands of the Earth fighting bad guys. Holy crap that’s still awesome. Around 21 episodes were produced, which is another thing that boggles the mind. Why the hell aren’t there more? And where were the toys? That was the other thing that always weirded me out as a kid. Where were the toys? This show still needs a real DVD boxed set. You can get it via DVD On Demand. It needs a real set with special features. It just does.

1. G.I. JOE – This was, and still is, the benchmark for boys cartoons as far as I’m concerned. It was a toy show, sure, but it had cool stories, lots of different characters to root for, and two top notch villains in Cobra Commander and Destro. And you can put Zartan in there, too, although I was more of a Destro guy. He was bad ass and scary (a deep voiced guy wearing a metal mask? Insanity). The show got kind of weird when Serpentor became the villain. I was bummed when he turned the Cobra Commander into a snake creature because the Commander was cool, even when he was acting like an idiot. And I always loved how the show became even more violent when the Cobra soldiers became those robots. You couldn’t kill humans on the show but you could destroy robots. That was so damn brilliant. And the vehicles were always awesome. That’s always important for a toy show. Vehicles.

5. Darkwing Duck – Duck Tales? Tale Spin? Rescue Rangers? Yeah, sure, they were OK for the “kids”, but those in the know were all about Darkwing Duck. Since it’s been 20+ years since I’ve seen the show, I can’t remember a damn thing about the stories, but I do remember laughing at it constantly, and thinking how much of a bad-ass Darkwing was compared to all the other animal characters running around. He was done in the fashion of the old-school pulp heroes like The Green Hornet, Batman, and The Shadow. Matter of fact, his name, Drake Mallard, is a take on the Shadow’s real name Kent Allard. This cartoon also served up a lot of action, as Darkwing was always getting into brawls. He was also great because while doing good was fine and all, he was really out for the fame & fortune that being a superhero obviously brings. Perhaps one day we’ll get a Darkwing Duck & The Coon crossover.

4. Batman: The Animated Series – Now, keep in mind I’m doing this list from what I loved the most as a child. These days this is my all-time favorite cartoon. I never read the Batman comics much as a kid, I stuck to the movies & cartoons. Nor did I like the DC Universe, so I was never geeked to see anyone else come in, or care about much outside of Batman and some of the villains. Anyway, the cartoon is a masterpiece. It has a fantastic noir feel to it, backed by incredible writing and arguably the finest voice acting of all time. It’s the Holy Grail of comic-book cartoons, and something every fan compares all other comic-book cartoons to. Plus, it has what must be considered the greatest opening to a cartoon ever. No?

3. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – If you were a kid in the 80s/early 90s, you watched this show. It had everything that appealed to kids: action & humor. That’s all we wanted. Outside of that, the 4 turtles covered the span of most personalities: the brainy one who would always tinker with things, the party dude, the one who kept to himself and wasn’t very flamboyant, and the more strong-headed leader type. Every kid identified with one of them, so much so that I begged my mom to change my name to Donatello. She wasn’t having it. Not to mention this show had the COOLEST co-star, Casey Jones. He spoke like Clint Eastwood, looked like Jason Voorhees, and beat the hell out of people with sports equipment. You put Uncle Phil as the voice of Shredder, and there was nothing more you could do to keep us kids glued. I saw a few episodes a while back and realized that yes, in fact, Krang was very much the first homosexual alien on children’s TV, agree?

2. GI Joe: The Real American Hero – What more can I say about GI Joe that my two illustrious co-workers haven’t? Growing up, I wasn’t in Star Wars, I was into ninjas & the martial arts. So for me, GI Joe was it because it was the only show with ninja characters, and nothing was more exciting than a Snake Eyes or Storm Shadow-centric episode of GI Joe. I loved the whole cast, and had every action figure they made, but when it came to the ninjas, they were second to none. Matter of fact, one of the biggest thrills as a child was receiving the MAIL-ORDER ONLY, yeah, that meant you only got it through the mail, Quick Kick & Jinx action figures. I was the absolute envy of all my friends, as I rightfully should have been. Beyond that, GI Joe also featured real life personalities, the most famous of course being Sgt. Slaughter. He was a total bad-ass in that show, and a perfect fit. I wasn’t into wrestling at the time, so when I finally did see Sgt. Slaughter, I honestly thought it was his dad or something. My friend assured me that yes, that was Sgt. Slaughter, and I was appalled at how he looked so old, and had zero muscle. My friend be damned, this was clearly not the real Slaughter, and obviously a Cobra clone. Now that I think about it, I do believe Zartan was the true WWE Champion.

1. Spider-Man: The Animated Series – In the comic book world, there was no one cooler to me than Spider-Man. I’d seen a few episodes of Spider-Man & Friends and found it to be pretty lame, so when 1994 rolled around I got TAS, I was blown away. Unlike the DC world, I was obsessed with Marvel, and EVERYONE would show up on Spider-Man’s show. From Blade, to The Punisher, Daredevil and Iron Man. They didn’t slouch on Spider-Man’s villains either, as we got all the greats, with the zenith being the debut of Venom, which ran for THREE Saturdays in a row! THREE! As a kid, a two-parter was rare, but a THREE-PARTER?! Man, that was torture. They did such a great job with Venom, that the episode arc still holds up today. The same cannot be said for Carnage, unfortunately. This show was all action, boasted a fantastic line of action figures, and had a catchy as hell theme song. Although to be honest, to this very day I still don’t know what they’re saying. It sounds like “Spider-Flyer, Spider-Flyer, radioactive Spider-Flyer”. Whatever the hell a Spider-Flyer is.

Shawn S. Lealos
5. Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – This one is thanks to my son. I spent much of his younger years trying to find cartoons that he could watch that I would like as well (that has changed as he got older and chooses some real crap he wants to watch now). When I discovered Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes for the first time, I fell in love. This series actually had stories that I remembered from the comics of my childhood playing out. The voice actors were great, there was nice humor and the stories were just old-school awesome.

4. G.I. Joe – Of course, when I was a kid, it was all about the toys. I had all the G.I. Joe action figures, the Transformers figures (action figure sized that transformed into cars) and the oversized He-Man characters. So, when it came to cartoons that matched up to the toys, I was immediately sold. Was this the best cartoon there was? No. But, I really liked it and still have fond memories. Honestly, I just want to mention here that there are no actual Saturday morning cartoons on my list, but from the same era as G.I. Joe, I also loved to watch The Smurfs, Super Friends and the Bugs Bunny-Roadrunner Show every Saturday morning.

3. Spectacular Spider-Man – This is another one is thanks to my son. The Spectacular Spider-Man took me a bit to get used to because of its strange animation style, but just like the Avengers series, this one really brought back memories of the comics I loved as a kid. Honestly, I love how this entire series had a storyline that ran through the season instead of just various episodes. There are a lot of shows my son watched that I have fallen in love with (Rescue Bots and Teen Titans Go are also both a lot of fun), but this one was just fantastic.

2. Scooby-Doo – When I was a little kid, I remember getting home from school as quick as I could because the Scooby-Doo cartoon started about an hour after school let out and I never wanted to miss it. In some trivia that is kind of hard to believe, Scooby-Doo started out in 1969 and is still making new shows today, almost 50 years later. My favorites were the original series with the five Mystery Inc. detectives and the team-up shows (Scooby-Doo meets Batman and Robin, Scooby-Doo meets the Harlem Globetrotters). I fell out of love with the show when they ditched Fred, Velma and Daphne and I hated Scrappy-Doo, though.

1. The Animaniacs – Man, if there is one cartoon that I refused to miss when I was younger, it was The Animaniacs. I missed out on Tiny Toons, but Animaniacs was just brilliant on almost every level. I loved how it was pretty much like old school cartoon, a series of shorts that slightly ties together to make the show’s running time. I actually bought them on DVD right after my son was born so he can enjoy them as he grows up as well. Best cartoon ever.


List your Top Five for this week’s topic in the comment section using the following format:

5. CHOICE: Explanation
4. CHOICE: Explanation
3. CHOICE: Explanation
2. CHOICE: Explanation
1. CHOICE: Explanation