This was a difficult list for me to make...And I had a pretty hard time with it. The truth is...I just don't watch that much non-Disney. I didn't as a kid and I do so even less now. While the top 3 were easy for me, since I DO watch them with frequency, the remaining 6 were incredibly hard, and this list was a challenge.
It should be noted that these shows have a different place in my overall list of favorite cartoons (with Gargoyles being my all-time favorite) but these HAVE made an impact, and my top three picks are in my top 7 all-time cartoons.
So, without further ado;
#9) Pinky and the Brain.
I'm going to go ahead and lay it out on the line. I did watch/enjoy Batman TAS, Animaniacs, Tiny Toon Adventures, and all the other Kid's WB shows as a kid...but...At heart I am a Disney guy. And they never held any lasting impact on my like they did say...The Nostalgia Critic. (And for the record, I've felt his Animaniacs Special and Batman TAS top 11 episodes were amazing) But I did love Pinky and the Brain. It was my favorite segment on Animaniacs, and I'm glad that they were popular enough to get their own show.
The Jury's still out though, on whether Pinky, Elmyra, and the Brain or Gargoyles: The Goliath Chronicles was the worst case of Executive Meddling animated history...
Don't get me wrong...I often enjoy it--Three Japanese Anime's even made this list. But it's not an obsessive love that some people seem to have. To me it's just another form of animation. Digimon for example (especially Season 3) is just good Science Fiction. I am glad that Japanese Anime is opening the Western World's eyes the fact that a cartoon can contain Dynamic Characters, interesting plots, and major development. But that doesn't mean that it's superior in any way.
In fact, the term "American Anime" drives me NUTS...Especially when applied to excellent cartoons that were grown here in the good 'ol US of A. Such as Gargoyles or Avatar: The Last Airbender. While the latter was indeed inspired by Anime, it is as much American as any other piece of Western Animation. We Americans are ingenious, creative, and don't limit ourselves by influence. The term "American Anime" annoys me because it implies that for a cartoon to be good, it must come from outside the US...and...I...HATE IT!
This was my rant. And Digimon is #8.
Yep. Stupid premise designed to make money.
But it didn't start out that way...And (Speaking as an amateur Egyptologist) it was, oddly, one of the most accurate depictions of Ancient Egyptian culture around. They used actual Hieroglyphs that spelled out actual words...accurately. The characters stated that the monsters were meant to represent parts of your soul...and there are slots for monster cards IN the game (In Egyptian Mythology the soul was composed of 5 separate parts) Lots of little touches as well as sympathetic characters added up to a fairly enjoyable show. (I have no love for it's two...make that three sequel series.)
A Deconstruction of Yu-Gi-Oh! All to short-lived at that...It had so much potential.
No, seriously. It's a very similar premise, complete with a card-game marketing tie-in. The difference is that the monsters are actually real. The human characters use a device to scan the "Monsters" and then copy them in the Dome Battles in a place called "Chaotic". But that's only half the story. Like I said, the creatures are REAL. They have real thoughts/feelings/motivations. And the four tribes that exist in the series are at war with one another. And quite a few of them aren't all that keen on humans scanning them for their "games" in another Universe. I feel my description isn't doing it much justice, so I'll just have to encourage you to check it out yourself. The First season is done in horrible blocky flash animation...Which does look awful...but apparently someone realized this, and in Season two they switched to Traditional Animation (And GORGEOUS animation at that)
Fantastic Anime (My first Anime in fact...) Told in the style of a Fairy Tale. But with Time Travel, Demons, Monsters, Sacred Jewels, Death, Zombies, Reincarnation, Shapeshifters, Wolves, Flying Flaming Cat things, Swords, Blood, More Death, Lecherous Monks, Demonslayers, and little girls.
You know, for kids!
(But most certainly NOT 4Kids!)
#4) Class of the Titans
A Canadian Cartoon that can only be described as "Fun with Mythology" The Descendants of the Heroes of Ancient Greek Myth are recruited and called upon to stop Cronus, God of Time and King of the Titans from overthrowing the Greek Gods and ruling the world. It was done in a fun and playful way...but wasn't afraid to take some risks either.
Bonus points for Inuyasha fans, as Kirby Morrow (Miroku) and Kelly Sheridan (Sango) played the leads, Jay and Theresa (Descendants of Jason and Theseus respectively) And David Kaye (Sesshōmaru) was Cronus.
#3) The Spectacular Spider-man
I know that I'm a biased fanboy here...But seriously...Nearly anything that Greg Weisman works on is GOLD. With dynamic characters, engaging storylines (both episodic AND arc-based) and smart genre-savvy villains who tend to win more often then they lose (even when the hero THINKS that he's won)
Yes, I know, Disney owns Marvel, and Season 2 of this show aired on Disney XD, but it was created before the Buy-up, and originally aired on Kids WB/CW for kids/Whatever the heck they're calling it these days. I believe that it counts as both Disney AND non-Disney from differing perspectives.
#2) Avatar: The Last Airbender
I love this show SO much. I've heard nothing but good things about it for years. But I didn't get the opportunity to actually watch it until last week. I tore through all three "Books" in about three days. And I just LOVED it. I loved the characters, I loved the storyline, THIS was something special, and I can't believe that I hadn't realized it before. It's what prompted this blog post in the first place.
The Characters: Dear God are these some interesting, dynamic characters who not only developed and grew as the war progressed, but never remained stagnant either. I especially enjoyed watching Katara (who is easily one of my favorite characters, but unlike a lot of shows, it's hard for me to pick a single favorite) when we first met her, levitating a fish out of the ocean was a struggle for her. We watch her Waterbending skills grow over the course of the first season, until she's declared a "master" by an ACTUAL master at the end of the season. Outstripping Aang rapidly (after getting formal training)
Likewise, I liked watching Zuko's struggles within himself leading to him making the WRONG choice at the end of Book 2. And the latter realization that he made the wrong choice.
I figured that no matter what, I wasn't going to care for whoever Aang's Earthbending teacher was, because of all the bending disciplines in the show's universe, Earthbending seemed the most...boring to me. But the snarky and unique Toph not only proved me wrong, she rapidly became a personal favorite of mine.
And for a series who's fandom is famous for their "Shipping wars" I found that I had no preferred "ships" instead wanting each and every romance (should one occur) to develop naturally and was quite satisfied by how they turned out.
And they're not afraid to go into some pretty deep subjects too...Death, the price of war, the sanctity of life...
I could go on and on about this show, but I won't. Watch it yourselves.
#1) Young Justice
You know how I said that just about everything that Greg Weisman works on is gold? Yeah, this show is no exception. It is AMAZINGLY well done. Greg's nickname is "the Joss Whedon of Animation" and considering Gargoyles, The Spectacular Spider-man, and now this...It is a very apt nickname.
My brother refers to it as "Firefly-level good". Which is extremely high praise from him. Don't call em' sidekicks (or at least don't call Red Arrow one!) But you can call them an amazingly well done show--and we're only halfway through Season 1!!!
This is the Disney Wizard, taking a brief brake from the Mouse, signing off!