Some cartoons are made with tender loving care. They are gorgeously animated. They are well-written. They tell stories in new and interesting ways. These cartoons prove how versatile the medium is and should not be confused with anything appearing on this list.
Instead, this is the cream of the crap. These cartoons are barely animated. They are written towards the lowest common denominator. They recycle the same stories over and over again. They’re generally produced to make a quick buck and nothing more.
These cartoons are neither disappointing, nor mediocre; they are all simply bad. Really bad. Gigli bad. These cartoons emit a stench so toxic they should be kept away from plants and children under the age of 6. They are not only the ones that should not only stay in the vault, but they should actually be destroyed. We here at toonzone would gladly burn the master negatives ourselves.
To make this list, we watched as many bad cartoons as we could, then after much therapy and process of elimination, we selected the worst of the bunch, mixing TV shows and films. Please note that we would have made separate lists, but then we realized that would have resulted in watching 10 bad cartoons instead of 5. As we value our sanity, we decided against that.
You’ve seen the best; now here’s the rest.
DISHONORABLE MENTIONS These weren’t cartoons bad enough to rescue the president make the list. They’re all bad in their own right, but they didn’t inflict as much physical pain as the actual bottom 5 did.
DINO SQUAD: A cartoon throwback to the 80s – and we mean throwback as in “it stinks, throw it back!” Many of its touches are from 1987, from the one-note characters to the excessive use of stock footage (It’s used when they transform into dinosaurs; when they transform back it’s run BACKWARDS).
TRANSFORMERS ARMADA/ENERGON: Transformers goes back to its roots. Not just “back from animals to vehicles” but from intelligent storytelling to shameless toy infomercial. A shameless toy infomercial that is badly written and ineptly animated, from flying cars in space to mindless CGI robots.
12 OZ. MOUSE: Not one of Adult Swim’s finer moments, but it’s more boring than bad. It’s actually saved by its admittedly rocking theme music.
EMPEROR’S NEW SCHOOL: Take one of Disney’s more impressive recent features, then de-age the characters and stick them in a school setting so they meet FCC requirements. The only saving grace is a fun performance by Eartha Kitt, rescuing it from the top 5.
AVENGERS: UNITED THEY STAND: This emasculation of Marvel’s classic heroes appeared (and disappeared) in 1999. If it had debuted one year later, it would have made the list. Dangit.
Are you ready? Brace yourselves!
5. Assy McGee
Obliterated by Matthew Williams
A few weeks ago, Adult Swim started labeling its originals “Stoner Series”. Most of these feature low-rent animation, but they are at least saved by absurd premises and witty writing which make up for their lack of animation. Unfortunately, sometimes the plots get a little too absurd or out-there for sober people to comprehend.
Which brings us to Assy McGee. It’s a series about a cop who’s an ass. Literally. It centers around a character whose design consists entirely of a bare ass and two legs. Do they ever explain why this character is entirely a bare ass and two legs? Of course not. He’s based on 80s Sylvester Stallone characters like Rambo, Cobra, and Rocky, so most of Assy’s dialogue is intentionally unintelligible.
Every conceivable ass joke is in here, and that’s the only thing that’s funny. Predictably, Assy McGee is a one-joke premise stretched across 20 episodes, which is about 19 episodes too long for this sort of thing. Originally a straight cop show parody, it eventually devolves into a series of weird, off-kilter images that have nothing to do with anything.
This can’t even be saved by Disney-quality animation, let alone the simple movement that characterizes [AS] originals. The designs don’t help. An ass-character is going to be ugly by nature, but EVERYTHING here is ugly, from the scenery to the character design.
This is a series that lives up to Adult Swim’s new labeling. Unfortunately, Assy is a show that nobody BUT stoners will watch.
4. Loonatics Unleashed
Ripped by Matthew Williams
If ever you are in need of step-by-step instruction on how not to relaunch a comedic franchise, refer to Loonatics Unleashed. The concept, an “edgy”, superheroic team based on the Looney Tunes characters, is inherently flawed. Torrents of criticism poured from the American public, flooding traditional and online media outlets. From petitions to hilariously obscene web cartoons, condemnation rained down on this series from the moment of the original press release, forcing Warner Bros. to make mid-course corrections. Team leader Buzz Bunny, a Bugs analogue, became Ace Bunny due to reasons that will become apparent upon googling his original name. Further nagging forced WB to alter their initial character designs to be less scary, yet the studio still faced parental complaints.
Any series with this much baggage is bound to have a hard time, but you might expect all that early criticism to have been constructive. Surely, WB must have taken a hint, spending their extra time at the drawing board crafting a superior product. Could it be nearly as bad as anyone expected? Absolutely.
Not only is Loonatics that bad, it is also one of the few series on this list to take a major nosedive during its run. The first season’s formula was at least straightforward, with characters who happened to resemble the Looney Tunes pasted into a generic superhero adventure. Anime touches were mostly restricted to unnecessary speed-lines (far from the effective integration seen in Teen Titans). The animation was flat and uninspired, and any cartoony movements felt out of place. Overall, the first season was definitely bad, but we’ve seen worse.
The producers decided they needed more Looney Tunes and more comedy. The opening theme changed from an enigmatic future thing to a new one featuring the concentric circles, Looney-inspired villains, and the worst theme music I can recall hearing. The centerpiece of the series rests on the Loonatics, accompanied by “Sylth Vester”, racing to save the “Royal Tweetums” of the “Planet Blanc” (about now Mel is spinning in his grave) from chief villains “General Deuce” and “Optimatus”. In the process, they battle an evil rock band that “power-chorded a wormhole to the Merrie Melodie galaxy”. This is not bad fan fiction or parody; this is actual plot from actual episodes.
It’s difficult to speak of Loonatics without drawing parallels to “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” episode of The Simpsons. The episode within the episode introduces a new character, Poochie, and tries to reinvigorate the show by amping up the action to the extreme (or should we say, X-treme?). It’s full of clichés and inane antics, eschewing the fundamentals that made the show attractive to those within the Simpsons universe. The difference being that the extreme canine was part of a satire of the television world while Loonatics actually happened.
The project was likely doomed from the outset, thanks to misguided intent. The best directing, animation, and music money could buy – none of which are here, mind you – couldn’t have saved this series. More creative minds, at best, might have skewered the type of “edginess” which Loonatics blindly attempts to play straight, but that would have led to an entirely different product. Instead, the Looney Tunes elements and the tiresome “extreme edginess” interact about as well as oil and water.
3. Mulan II
Shredded by Neo Yi
Picking a Disney “cheapquel” for this list is about as emotionally satisfying as gripping a knife’s blade with your bare hands. With ludicrous numbers of these second-hand hack jobs crowding the bargain bin aisle, the chosen film had to boil down to the most vile, disastrous, insulting piece of garbage it could throw at us to ensure its coveted spot. Mulan II met all the requirements, and the world wept bitter tears for its existence.
Based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, the first movie saw the heroine secretly take her infirmed father’s place in the war where she humbly discovers her hidden potential. The issue of gender roles and empowerment are not blatant and manage to remain a natural part of the progression of the story. Her sudden transformation from meek village girl to radically empowered feminist in the sequel reduces the entire seventy-nine minutes of the sequel to little more than whining, groaning, and preaching the horrors of arranged marriage. The movie features three princesses, who wish to emerge from their royal shells and “be like other girls, dancing around in their underwear”, further push the story away from the roots of the legend, causing it to retain all the historical accuracy of Thomas Jefferson in a jetpack. Their “lesson” isn’t subtle; it hand-slaps you, pours a bucket of acid down your pants, and rams you into a bed of nails to emphasize why China’s society is “backwards”.
The heavy handed delivery of the moral is accompanied by a mediocre story which leans towards the convenient (guess who the three princesses end up with – no, really, guess), the inconsistent (the Mongols, the driving force of the entire premise, appear once and vanish forever into the great Plot Hole in the Sky), the annoying (Mushu, everybody’s favorite “jive-talkin’” dragon, returns), and the pointless (Shang’s predictable “death scene” practically screams, “A wizard did it!” when it neatly and anti-climatically fixes itself).
This movie is an insult to the first film, China, and one half of the human population. Do me a favor, take a copy of the DVD, smack it with a shovel, drill a hole through it, drench it in gasoline and light it on fire, bury it in a landfill next to the E.T. video games, and perform an exorcism lest it break out of its grave to snarl you in its uninspiring trap.
2. Ren and Stimpy: Adult Party Cartoon
Mauled by Matthew Williams
When Spike TV picked up new episodes of Ren and Stimpy, helmed by its original creator with no restrictions, it should have been a success. Instead, it resulted in a product so awful that original Stimpy voice Billy West turned it down for fear of ruining his career. That says something, because West has been in bad cartoons before. But then again, this is more than just a bad cartoon; it’s one that unveiled the emperor naked for all to see.
The problem is the “no restrictions” part. Able to target an adult male audience, John K. was allowed to be as vulgar and gross as he wanted to be. But offensive humor is like a dark art, the ones that are best at it, like South Park, either use the offensiveness in short, shocking bursts or have a strong satirical grounding. When Chef died in “The Return of Chef”, his gory death was not funny in and of itself; the laughs arise from the sheer absurdity of his demise.
In Adult Party Cartoon, the jokes are simply a parade of offensive material. The episode “Ren Seeks Help” languishes on shots of Ren torturing poor animals and ends with a mangled frog blowing his brains out (don’t worry, he doesn’t die). Another episode, “Naked Beach Frenzy”, features frequent and gratuitous nudity. APC mistakes offensive content for humor. Boobs and gore are presented as funny because they’re boobs and gore; this is the viewpoint of a 14 year-old boy, not that of a mature audience. Unsurprisingly, APC lacks subtlety. In the original series, wink-wink references to Ren and Stimpy’s sexuality were suitably wry. The new pilot episode “Onward and Upward” instead hammers home the point: “REN AND STIMPY ARE GAY! THEY’RE GAY!!! GAAAY!!!!” This is a single joke repeated for 22 of the most agonizing minutes of your life.
And that is the most fatal problem. The pacing, the timing, is glacially slow. There’s no movement, no plot, no progression. Scenes take forever to set up. They drag on for eons and eons without conclusion, ending, or purpose. Spent on gratuitous “adult” humor, every moment becomes a grueling experience.
Only three episodes of Adult Party Cartoon ever aired; the rest were exiled to DVD. John Kricfalusi never produced another cartoon after this. Spumco was subsequently shut down, and Kricfalusi recently retired from animation. In the end, maybe Billy West was right about that career-damaging thing.
Eviscerated by Ed Liu
Just because a movie or TV show is “bad” doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t enjoyable. There’s a kind of knowing wink to the badness of something like G.I. Joe (or, in live-action, Big Trouble in Little China or The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai), where being deliberately bad is a good part of the reason why it’s fun. The ineptness of the production might turn out to be entertaining in itself. We’re laughing at you, not with you, but at least you made us laugh.
Unfortunately, Video Brinquedo’s Ratatoing is just a piece of unrelentingly, eye-meltingly, stupendously awful trash with absolutely no redeeming values whatsoever. I have gone on at some length already why the film’s 44 minutes would be far better and more enjoyably spent doing just about anything else: watching grass grow, counting grains of sand on a beach, tuning in to Cartoon Network’s latest live-action “reality” series, purposely breaking your finger, flossing your teeth with a bare copper wire strung between the terminals of a car battery, counting the number of times the letter “P” appears in your local phone book, or inducing unconsciousness by pounding your face into the steel girders of the Chrysler Building superstructure.
Do not make the mistake of wondering if the movie could possibly be as bad as I describe. Having endured it (and, worse, actually PAID MONEY for it), I beg you to take my word that you are deriving infinitely more entertainment value from me saying things like, “If you ate a copy of the worst cartoon you can think of, you’d still probably crap something better than Ratatoing,” than you ever would from watching the movie itself. Whatever miniscule budget was spent on this movie would have been put to better use if it had been converted to a pile of old Zimbabwean dollars and set on fire for warmth. The idea of mass-producing DVDs and the large plastic cases for this piece of animated garbage would make the most hardened anti-environmentalist weep over the total and complete waste of energy and resources. This movie is so awful that I would break my long-standing opposition to copyright infringement and advocate watching a pirated copy on YouTube, except that 1) this could be construed as a suggestion that you should watch the movie, which might be considered a war crime under the Geneva Convention, and 2) I don’t want YouTube to waste the server resources to host it.
It is a BAD MOVIE, and the fact that Video Brinquedo is still able to make many more awful movies just like it is nearly reason enough to cause the staunchest Free Speech advocate to challenge the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Nobody should have the right to make something this bad.