Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Some of my favorite things in animation in the 2000’s.

Well the 2000's are ending, and I've been waiting a long time to do my evaluation of this decade as far as animation goes. The following is just my opinion, it does not represent some universally applicable list that everyone should also agree with.

Favorite Action-Adventure shows.

1.Avatar the Last Airbender (2005-2008): Who knew Nick had it in them to produce a show this dramatic and mature? I mean the characters developed significantly, alliances changed; it even had a conclusive ending...which is incredibly rare for American cartoons. Animation studios would do well to study this show in the future. This is what a good…no great…action cartoon looks like. It’s a testament to the show that most of the people I know who are fans of it, are far beyond the target demographic of the show.

2. Justice League and Justice League Unlimited (2001-2006): If you were a DC comics fanboy than this was all you could ever ask for.

3. Teen Titans (2003-2006): As a fan of both the 80’s Titans comic (from Wolfman and Perez), and Japanese anime I was ready to hate this show. I mean I was really ready to hate this show. Then it came along like a big-eyed, stump-tailed puppy, rubbed up against my leg, and made me love it.

4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2002-2009): This was technically three shows but I group them together into one. Wasn’t keen on the Fast Forward season from what I saw of it, but the rest of the show was pretty consistent. The recent Turtles Forever special was great too.

5. Samurai Jack (2001-2004): The art direction and feel of this show was very unique. It stood apart from pretty much everything else on T.V at the time or since.

Honorable mentions.
Wolverine and the X-men (2008-present): Still going.
Star Wars the Clone Wars (2008-present): Also still going.
The Spectacular Spider-Man (2007-2009): Honestly, this show deserved more than the two seasons it got. It was a wonderful viewing experience for people who have read a lot of Spidey comics over the years. Gargoyles show runner Greg Weisman was the show runner of this one, and it made me an even bigger fan.
Danny Phantom (2004-2007): This was technically a mix of action/comedy. It was a bit uneven, but when it was at it’s best it was a really good Nicktoon (The two specials The Ultimate Enemy and Reign Storm were among the best Nick specials ever.)
Kim Possible (2002-2007): Again, action comedy but this show is unique because it represents a case of fans actually pressuring Disney to reverse its strict 65 episode policy.
Batman Beyond (1999-2001): It could have been horrible but the WB TV animation studio made it work. The direct to video movie was good too.
W.I.T.C.H (2005-2006): This was a very underrated show based on a European comic.

Favorite Comedy.

1. Foster’s Home for Imaginary friends (2004-2009): An amazingly innovative use of flash animation, Foster’s was rarely off of it’s game in my opinion. There were times in the first season where I genuinely thought this show could do no wrong. It was proof positive that Craig McCracken’s success with the Powerpuff Girls wasn’t just a fluke.

2. The Grim adventures of Billy and Mandy (2002-2008): A wonderfully morbid Cartoon Network show. Easily some of Grey Delisle and Richard Horvitz’s best work.

3. Spongebob Squarepants(1999-present): Though it technically started in the last year of the 90’s I think we can all agree that for a while in this decade we were living in a Spongebob world. Love it or hate it, Spongebob may very well be on his way to icon status joining the likes of Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse.

4. Phineas and Ferb (2008-present): Wonderful musical numbers, and a funny premise. I don’t mind saying that I enjoy the music of this show tremendously.

5. Fillmore! (2002): Another short lived and extremely underrated ABC/Disney cartoon about middle school safety patrollers that had an interesting crime drama edge to it. I was fortunate enough to get to know one of the show runners of this fine program. It deserved a much longer life.

Honorable mentions.

The Weekenders (2000-2001): A short lived ABC/Disney cartoon that was unique because, it focused on what kids did on their weekends rather than during the school week.

The Buzz on Maggie (2005): Disney seemed to have a knack for killing off some of their funnier cartoons this decade. Honestly, I never felt like this show had a down episode. To bad it was dead before anyone even noticed it existed.

Futurama (1999-2001) (2008-present): Less well known than the Simpsons but arguably funnier. Futurama was another show that was resurrected do to fan interest.

Animated Movies.

Pixar pretty much dominated this decade as far as I’m concerned. Though apparently Kung Fu Panda was also really good (I still haven’t seen it.)

1. The Incredibles (2004): Action, adventure, and comedy this movie had it all. I still think it’s probably Pixar’s best movie ever. This was an animated “kids” movie that was just as good for adults as it was for children. It was also great to see Brad Bird get his props after his previous movie 1999’s much underrated Iron Giant.

2. Ratatouille (2007): Another Brad Bird movie, this film about a talking rat that should pretty much resonate with anyone pursuing a job in the art…or anyone with a dream for that matter. Ego’s review at the end of the movie was one of the best “critiques of critics” I’ve ever heard. This movie also holds a special place in my heart because I saw it with a good friend who I had a bad falling out with, and I remember the spirited discussion we had after.

3. Finding Nemo (2003): A wonderful father and son story that cemented my view of Pixar as the 3D studio to beat.

4.Lilo and Stitch (2002): One of the most unique movies Disney has ever produced. This is the kind of movie that’s made when studios leave artists to themselves and let them be creative. I wasn’t to big of a fan of the animated series though.

5. Wall-E (2008): They did it, Pixar pulled off a movie where the two main characters had vocabularies less expansive than a toddler's and they made it great! Who would have thought that was possible?

Honorable mentions.

The Emperor’s New Groove (2000): From every source I’ve read Kingdom of the Sun, the original movie title, was going to be a disaster and was pulled out of the fire by a small dedicated creative team. In the end we got a fun movie that can be enjoyed by everyone. Again, not a big fan of the tv show that came later, but that doesn’t diminish the movie itself.

Treasure Planet (2002): Honestly, I really felt like this movie was better than people give it credit for. Sure it bombed at the box office, but I thought it had some really mature themes.

The Shrek movies (2001, 2004, and 2007): I liked the first two movies, but I’m a little bit concerned about how they will age. I worry that their humor is too grounded in the 2000’s to really endure as classics.

Titan A.E (2000): Another attempt at a more serious animated movie that bombed at the box office. It had flaws but you have to love the guts of a sci-fi movie where the aliens threaten to blow up the Earth, and then actually do it.

The Princess and the Frog (2009): Just saw this one. It was wonderful to see Disney get back to musicals and fairy tales, I missed that.


The 2000’s saw an explosion in popularity for anime and manga in the United States. I apologize if many of my choices seem limited to Toonami/Adult Swim. Most of the anime in my collection is from the 80’s and 90’s. That being said I’m going to go by the original broadcast dates in Japan.

1. Full Metal Alchemist (2003-2004): One of the few anime that was apparently able to depart from the manga’s storyline and stay incredibly compelling (though I’ve never read the manga.) Great show, easily one of the best English dubs I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to, and an ending that I felt was incredibly poetic.

2. Naruto (2002-present): Sure is formulaic at points, but I’ve rarely found it boring. Shippuden specifically. If the Akatsuki were real I might join them just to get one of those robes.

3. The Big O Season 2 (2003): One of the rare cases where American interest in an anime has brought it back from the grave. It came back very strong, in my opinion. My brother and I still disagree on the ending. I personally think it was disappointing, he thinks it was appropriate.

4. Zoids Chaotic Century/Guardian Force (late 1999-2000): I’ll group this with the 2000’s even though it started in late 1999. This was a toy commercial…let’s not kid ourselves, but it was also a very fun, exciting story that actually took its concept and made something of it. The last half of Guardian Force had me at the edge of my seat. Unfortunately, the 2nd Zoids series (which wasn’t as good in my opinion) Zoids 0 aired before the original. I think that might have turned some people off, and caused them to miss this interesting show.

5. Deathnote (2006-2007): Very unique concept.

Honorable mentions.

Blood + (2005-2006): Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets shojo meets sci-fi adventure. I’m in!

One Piece late (1999-present): I’m not as big into this as my brother is, but I like how different it looks from other anime/manga.

Kare Kano (2002): The one anime in my DVD collection from the 2000’s and that didn’t air on Cartoon Network. I loved the introspection and humor of this series. Gainax never seems to fail when it comes to showing off well developed psychologically complex characters. For me the show lost some its steam later on, but the first half of the show was great.

I would have a video game category, but during the middle and end of the 2000’s I wasn’t as involved with gaming as I should have been. That’s a shame really because I can see that videogames have come a long way in the last 10 years.

Anyway those are my favorite animated things from this decade. It was the best of times and the worst of times. Generally, I think that the 2000’s were a time where the sophistication of writing in T.V animation advanced greatly. The trend of creators having greater control (which started in the 90’s) continued which I can only cheer on. I can’t say the same thing about features though.
I plan to enter and be an active participant in the animation industry in the coming decade. I’m curious to see how my attitude towards animation in 2019 will differ from my attitude now. I’m very interested in seeing if the kids of today will look back at the 2000’s with nostalgia while lampooning the stuff that we’re going to be creating. Hopefully, their criticisms will strictly be the result of biased nostalgia and not a truthful evaluation of the animation industry in the coming years.

Anyway, onward into the new decade.

Stephen James.

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