50. Bobby Hill
Bobby Hill is my favorite character on King of the Hill. He’s the SpongeBob of the group, always optimistic, a dreamer. If I could ask creator Mike Judge one question, it would be, “What will Bobby Hill be when he grows up?” He has so many aspirations, I just can’t imagine the answer.
49. Wonder Woman
Before those snappy drawers called Underoos were made, back when underpants looked like, well, underpants, I just took red and blue markers to my own white bottoms (as any 5 year old will) and made my own Wonder Woman costume. Thank goodness we lived way, way out in the country. Regardless, Wonder Woman gave little girls their own superhero, one who was strong and gorgeous with lots of cool toys.
If Daria were alive, right now, would she be Emo or Goth? Probably neither, as Daria doesn’t conform to anyone’s trend. She’s smart and witty, a teenage girl trying to figure out how to be her own person and still have a boyfriend at the same time.
Can you imagine a time when Batman wasn’t the Dark Knight we know now? Hard to believe the many transformations this superhero has seen through the years, especially on television. You can catch this caped crusader now on Cartoon Network in Batman: The Brave and the Bold. His chest is huge!
To me, Superman is the ultimate superhero. But is he a true superhero since he only has powers because he’s an alien, from another planet? Or is he just a guy who fell to ground on the right planet? I’m sure fanboys debate this issue frequently, but as long as any incarnation of Superman includes a broad chest, incorruptible morals and old-fashioned chivalry, I’m there.
45. George of the Jungle
If you doubt the popularity of George of the Jungle, just watch the new cartoon on Cartoon Network, or rent the DVD of the live-action film starring Brendan Fraser. George of the Jungle originated in the ’60s, a parody of the Tarzan story. He’s known for swinging on vines and slamming into trees, as well as his rhythmic theme song, “George, George, George of the Jungle… watch out for that tree!”
Spider-man is the everyman superhero. He started out as the geek next door and was transformed into a mega-strong, mega-agile dude. Spider-man has been reproduced in TV cartoons many, many times. Most recently Spidey starred in The Spectacular Spider-Man.
43. The Powerpuff Girls
Girl power times three. Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup keep Townsville, USA safe from evil, while dealing with the pressures of kindergarten. The visual style of The Powerpuff Girls sets it apart, though. It’s part high art and part drug-induced pop art. Whichever way you go, those giant eyes and crazy voices keep the cartoon from ever being stiff.
42. Angelica Pickles
Why do bullies get all the good lines? Angelica Pickles is the bossy, spoiled toddler from Rugrats. She is the most familiar character from Rugrats, but possibly only because she is the meanest and talks the most (she’s older than the babies).
41. Felix the Cat
Felix is a black and white cat created during the silent film era of the early 20th Century. His simple form and face make him easily recognizable. He was also the first cartoon character to gain enough popularity to award him a feature film.
40. Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale
Boris and Natasha are portrayed as how Americans saw Russians during the Cold War. That doesn’t keep these villains from Rocky and Bullwinkle from dispatching some humor.
39. Tom and Jerry
This cat and mouse team were the inspiration for The Simpsons Itchy and Scratchy (without the gore). Tom and Jerry chase each other, torment each other and generally try to defeat the other. Though Tom has the upper hand more than, say, Sylvester, he still has yet to make a meal of Jerry.
38. Woody Woodpecker
Another anti-hero, Woody Woodpecker lives to cause trouble. His most famous trait is no doubt his cackling, stuttering laugh.
37. Alvin (the Chipmunk)
Alvin, lead singer of Alvin and the Chipmunks, is the guts of the operation. He’s the one who finds the loopholes in most situations. These rodents are so popular they just released another CD, after the 2007 movie soundtrack.
36. Donald Duck
As Mickey Mouse’s cynical sidekick, Donald Duck was always my favorite. (Much like Oscar the Grouch was my favorite on Sesame Street. Hm, issues?) It wasn’t the raspy voice or fashionable duds, but his eye-rolling attitude and exasperation with most of the world that made him so relatable.
35. Mighty Mouse
“Here I come to save the day!” Before Andy Kaufman lip-synched Mighty Mouse’s theme on Saturday Night Live, Mighty Mouse had been through many incarnations. Part mouse, part superhero, Mighty Mouse kept Mouseville safe from a variety of cat villains.
34. Yogi Bear and Boo Boo
Another Hanna-Barbera staple was the team of Yogi Bear and Boo Boo. Like other classic Hanna-Barbera characters, Yogi continually found himself in trouble and Boo Boo usually figured a way out. The duo lived in Jellystone Park. Yogi’s character is most likely based on the Ed Norton character from The Honeymooners, another reason he was so lovable.
33. Space Ghost
Sure, Space Ghost was a popular character in ’60s Hanna-Barbera cartoons, when he battled villains in outer space. But his stint as a late-night talk show host on Space Ghost: Coast to Coast sent him into the stratosphere of stardom.
32. Bill from ‘Schoolhouse Rock’
Schoolhouse Rock was a set of animated shorts that helped educate kids in the ’60s and ’70s about conjunctions, the magic number three, and especially, the legislative process. The latter lesson starred a rolled-up paper named Bill, and showed how he went from the House to the Senate and eventually became a law. His “I’m Just a Bill” tune is most memorable.
Arthur is a highly recognizable character from his own children’s book series who made the leap to his own TV cartoon on PBS. And if you’re wondering, yes, he’s an aardvark.
30. Winnie the Pooh
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When you hear the name “Winnie the Pooh,” you may think “baby nursery.” But more accurately, you should think “cha-ching!” This little bear who started as a doodle in a beloved children’s book has been a thriving franchise for Disney since they bought rights to him and his woodland friends in the ’60s.
29. Ren and Stimpy
Whenever I talk cartoons with other fans, Ren and Stimpy inevitably enter the conversation. Their outrageous antics, unbridled toilet humor and their “happy dance” make this cat and dog team a long-lasting favorite.
28. Top Cat
Top Cat is another product of ’60s Hanna-Barbera animation. He’s the leader of an alley cat gang, who just wants to make a quick buck. But thanks to Officer Dibble, their plans never come to fruition. Top Cat is cool, but his morals are a tad looser than his gang’s, leading to occasional mutiny. Nevertheless, T.C. retains his hold as captain.
27. Heckle and Jeckle
In the tradition of Crosby and Hope or Martin and Lewis, Heckle and Jeckle defeat their opponents with wit and style. The big mystery of these magpies is how they became friends: one has a Brooklyn accent, the other a British accent. Perhaps an origin prequel would answer this question? Terrytoons?
26. Josie and the Pussycats
Josie was the Beyoncé of her times, leading a girl pop group and taking on the world. I loved that she wore that groovy cat costume. Josie and the Pussycats was part Scooby-Doo and part The Monkees. The character stills inspire TV today, for instance, in the form of Foxxy Love on Drawn Together.
25. Speed Racer
Most children of the ’60s and ’70s remember Speed Racer and his Mach 5. Plus, the cartoon introduced us to the world of anime. Thanks to a recent live-action movie and a new cartoon series, Speed Racer is still part of the zeitgeist today.
24. Tweety Bird and Sylvester
Another duo Chuck Jones created, Tweety Bird and Sylvester keep each other on their toes, with Sylvester losing out on a yummy bird meal every time. Tweety’s baby voice and Sylvester’s slobber talk keep us laughing.
We can all relate to Underdog, the guy who is underestimated by his enemies, only to prove them all wrong. He’s sweet when he’s wooing Polly Purebread. He’s cunning and brave when he’s defeating Simon Barsinister.
Classic Media, Inc.
Gumby was a pioneer in stop-motion animation for TV. He and his horse Pokey were heroes in their own fictional world, but for television, they ushered in a new era of animation.
21. Pink Panther
Like Fat Albert, Pink Panther is a character who inspires a tune in your head as soon as you see him, this one in a jazzy saxophone. The Pink Panther was a series of animated shorts, designed to appear at the opening and closing credits of live-action films starring Inspector Clouseau. His popularity allowed him to become his own cartoon, still airing on Boomerang.
20. George Jetson
The Flinstones took the all-American family back in time, but The Jetsons took it to the future. George Jetson was like Fred Flinstone and every other sitcom father we’ve seen. He worked to take care of his family, and only wanted some peace and quiet from time to time. But his kids, wife, dog and boss kept him from it. Famously being trapped on a treadmill (who hasn’t been?) in the opening credits, it’s easy to remember George Jetson.
19. Betty Boop
Betty Boop was a star in the 1930s, when talkies overtook silent films. Her black and white sex appeal, cutesy voice and ditzy charm made her a hit. Now her image is iconic, appearing on all kinds of merchandise people buy without ever really seeing even one cartoon.
18. Fat Albert
“Hey, hey, hey! It’s Faaaaaaaat Albert!” Who doesn’t know that quote, that theme? Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids was created, voiced and hosted by Bill Cosby. The Saturday morning cartoon spoke to kids of color, living in not-so-Bel Air conditions. Forgetting the 2004 live-action movie, the cartoon is a classic that taught lessons in a warm and funny way.
17. Beavis and Butt-head
Mike Judge (King of the Hill) brought us these stuttering slacker teenage boys on MTV. They worked at a fast food restaurant, went to school, watched videos and drove adults mad. Beavis and Butt-head were even popular enough to spawn a feature film titled Beavis and Butt-head Do America. Late at night, I can still hear them chuckling.
16. Mr. Magoo
UPA Productions of America, Inc.
Blind, adventurous and oblivious are not a safe mix for an old dude, but Mr. Magoo makes it work. Time after again he misses the bullet, so to speak, and we laugh all the way.
15. Scooby-Doo and Shaggy
Scooby-Doo and Shaggy are inseparable, in their antics and on this list. They’re funny on two levels. The first is that, seen through the eyes of a child, they’re just silly cowards who somehow always save the day and remain best friends. But watch Scooby-Doo as an adult, and you’ll wonder if the van driving, spacey talk and continual snacking are lifestyle symptoms of the same folks who inspired Pineapple Express.
14. Porky Pig
Porky Pig has been stuttering, “That’s all folks!” for the better part of a century, but my 6-year old son laughs as if he’s the first to discover him. That’s the appeal of the sweet little swine.
13. Daffy Duck
Daffy Duck is to Bugs Bunny as Wile E. Coyote is to the Road Runner. Does Daffy envy Bugs? Is jealousy at the heart of his bitter attitude toward Bugs? Regardless, his tantrums and schemes make for great cartoons.
12. Eric Cartman
Eric Cartman is usually the villain on South Park. His unemotional, pragmatic view toward his achieving his goals has resulted in many dire circumstances, as well as catch phrases.
11. SpongeBob SquarePants
Though several channels exist that provide entertainment made for the Y-rating crowd, one cartoon has endured for almost a decade, becoming more famous than its Nickelodeon fellows: SpongeBob SquarePants. Pineapples, snails and fast food were never so funny.
10. Rocky and Bullwinkle
Stan and Ollie. Hope and Crosby. Martin and Lewis. In the animated world, Rocky and Bullwinkle are the comedy team who saves the day. Rocky’s unending optimism coupled with Bullwinkle’s lucky mishaps save their pelts every time.
9. Wile E. Coyote
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Poor Wile E. Coyote. We don’t want him to catch the Road Runner, but we sure feel bad for him. His ACME contraptions never work properly. You’ve got to admire his tenacity!
No one has ever done so much for spinach as Popeye. His bulging forearms, squinty eyes and staccato chuckle are recognized by many generations.
7. The Grinch
Dr. Seuss created many book characters who made the leap to TV, but none as easily and successfully as The Grinch. Another holiday favorite, his turn from selfish to selfless promotes the true meaning of Christmas.
6. Fred Flintstone
Fred Flintstone is the forerunner to Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin. He was the first portly animated husband who had a hot wife, not enough brains for his schemes and a bad temper. Yet, he loved his family.
5. Charlie Brown
Introduced on TV in It’s Christmas, Charlie Brown, this comic strip staple became a holiday tradition. The kid who never kicks the football, whose dog is more popular than he is and who has a crush on the red-headed girl steals our hearts every year.
4. Bart Simpson
©1999 20TH CENTURY FOX FILM CORP.
The next favorite character from The Simpsons is Bart. We all knew a kid like Bart, and sometimes wished we were like him.
3. Mickey Mouse
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Mickey Mouse represents Disney in all its forms. He started life in black and white Steamboat Willie. Mickey Mouse isn’t just a cartoon character; he’s an icon.
2. Homer Simpson
Twentieth Century Fox
Homer Simpson is known throughout the world. Having been on TV for over 20 seasons, this patriarch is not the father who knows best, but he certainly tries.
1. Bugs Bunny
“What’s up, doc?” Bugs Bunny is, perhaps, the most recognizable and famous cartoon character. Looney Tunes were first created as lead-ins to feature films. It was only later the cartoons became a Saturday morning staple. Generations later, Bugs Bunny is still tops.