27 June 2016

TV Top 9: Nicktoons

This week, we celebrated the 10th birthday of Spongebob Squarepants, which has led us to reminisce on the greatest Nicktoons of all of time.

9. The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius was Nickelodeon's first fully computer-generated animated program and exemplified a lovely attribute of former Nicktoons productions: a focus on characters who are smart, outside the norm, and love to create. Jimmy Neutron featured the title character, an eleven-year-old inventor and resident of Retroville, his family, and his friends (including Goddard, Carl Wheezer, and Jimmy's rival and almost-girlfriend Cindy Vortex) as they cope with life, grade school, and annoyed Retroville residents (who are somehow always negatively-affected by Jimmy's less successful inventions). Fantastic animation, great pacing, and fun, frisky dialogue combined to turn this cartoon into a marketing juggernaut: Jimmy and friends were featured in commercials for cars, public service announcements, oodles of merchandise and, most notably, the Academy Award-nominated and incredibly fun feature film Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.

8. Hey Arnold!
"Move it football head!" yells perpetually playing hard-to-get Helga at the end of the opening sequence to Hey Arnold! Arnold, whose last name seems to be Shortman, may go down in animated record books as being the only main character to be voiced by five different voice actors. The whiny pre-teen, who lives with his wise but discombobulated grandparents in a city, Hillwood, that resembles New York but also stole some attributes from Portland and Seattle, is apparently an easy voice to replicate. The series originally started as a comic strip by Craig Bartlett, published by Matt Groenig. It was adapted first as a series of claymation shorts, and spent five seasons on Nickelodeon, as a child's introduction to the streets.

7. Aaahh!!! Real Monsters

Before there was Monsters, Inc., there was another monster training ground. Aaahh!!! Real Monsters had a run on Nickelodeon from 1994-1999. Featuring the voice of Rugrats' Chuckie as Oblina and some really great guest voices, Jim Belushi, Bronson Pinchot, and Tim Curry, Aaahh!!! Real Monsters is the best glimpse at sewer life since Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The creators at Klasky Csupo were imaginative in their conception of the elflike growable Ickis, the candy-cane striped ever-hidable Oblina and Krumm, who held his eyes above his head. As Ickis, Oblina, and Krumm made their way through their monster school, we were enthralled with their scaring adventures.

6. The Ren & Stimpy Show
Considered one of the dirtiest cartoons to ever be marketed to children, The Ren & Stimpy Show broke more barriers than most live action shows on at the same time. Based around the adventures of a fat, "brain-damaged" cat and possibly Mexican, ill-tempered dog most of the shows were a half hour of violence, farts, phlegm and sexual innuendos. But the most memorable moments from the show were probably the fake commercials stuck in between the show's segments. Because who wouldn't want a log? It's big, it's heavy, it's wood!

5. Fairly Odd Parents
Nobody likes little Timmy Turner. His parents are never home. And his teenage babysitter is a bitch. All is going down the tubes until one day Timmy's fairy godparents show up and really just spin his world upside down. You see, the fairly odd-parents will grant Timmy any wish he wants, but sometimes Timmy gets a bit too overzealous and the wish needs to be taken back. Craziness ensues when a bulky Terminator-like fairy seeks to ruin Timmy and Timmy's teacher is keen on discovering his fairies. Now in its 6th season, Fairly Odd Parents has culled some amazing voice talent like Tom Arnold, Ben Stein, Alec Baldwin, and Steve Irwin. The fantastical world of Timmy's imaginat--err..godparent's is a treat for the young and old alike.

4. Spongebob Squarepants
Spongebob made me believe in cartoons again. In a sea of identical anime shows crowding the air waves, Spongebob was a breath of fresh air. From its quirky yet catchy theme song to it's use of live action puppets when the characters left the water - Spongebob was unlike any other show on TV when it first premiered and it seems to only have improved with age. And having evangelical groups protest the show for possibly promoting homosexual behavior only made the characters that much more lovable.

3. Rocko's Modern Life
Rocko's Modern Life taught us many things - what a wallaby was, that a cow could be raised by wolves and accepted as one of their own, that the inside of a turtle's shell is actually the size of a house and that any cartoon that spoofs The Shining will automatically become a classic. It's smarter than usual story lines (see reference to The Shining), off kilter animation style (nothing was ever drawn quite right on the show) and the fact that Rocko worked in a comic book store made me love this cartoon even if I didn't always understand what was going on. Like most cartoons from the '90's Rocko's Modern Life deserves a second watch through if only to catch all the dirty jokes you didn't get the first time.

2. Rugrats
Disney Channel programs weren't always the “be all/end all” of tweendom: in 1991 Nickelodeon debuted the Klasky/Csupo/Germain animated series Rugrats (along with Ren & Stimpy and Doug) to great acclaim—and created a miniature phenomenon in the process. Rugrats featured the misadventures of babies Tommy, Chuckie, Angelica, Lil, Phil, Dil, Kimi, and Susie as well as their families. Still the longest-running program in Nicktoons history (14 years),Rugrats lasted 172 episodes; only “Nicktoon” Spongebob Squarepants, currently on episode 173 in its tenth year, has surpassed it. Rugrats also spun-off two massive hit films (and a third box office dud crossover film with The Wild Thornberrys) and a number of highly-rated television specials and direct-to-video features, spawned any number of branded products, and was rewarded with its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The show's style and humor has never been matched by another Nickelodeon program; truly original, colorfully animated with what look like magic markers, and as popular with adults and parents as it was with children, Rugrats discreetly brought life's misgivings, religion, race, and social issues to the kiddy sphere.

1. Doug
Even with some of the best animated characters ever (and character names: Doug Funnie, Porkchop, Skeeter Valentine and Patti Mayonnaise included), the real stars of Nickelodeon's Doug were Doug Funnie's imagination and heart. Created by Jim Jinkins, the show (particularly while aired on Nickelodeon and not Disney) was about how Doug couldn't be classified; Doug was Doug and that was just fine. He was a bit nebbish, clumsy, and somewhat unpopular, but Doug knew who and what he liked, and he used his diary and imagination to make his dreams as real as possible. Never a runaway hit or a merchandising darling along the lines of SpongeBob Squarepants or Rugrats, Disney's Doug did make it to the big screen arena in 1999 with Doug's First Movie and Doug was featured in a video game and quite a few books. Still a cult favorite in syndication, call it “Daria Light” if you like and call us if they start airing new episodes.

-- bryce, arielle, and dana c. gravesen

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