Toons of the 2000s: Top 5 Disney Animated Television Series
When most people think of Disney’s television animation, they think back to the late 80s and early 90s. That is, after all, when their studios were bustling with shows being developed left and right. While that level of production is a thing of the past, Disney was involved in the creation of a fair number of animated programs of substantial quality this past decade. We’ve reviewed the eligible shows, and we’ve picked our Top 5.
5. Teacher’s Pet
Plot: A dog who wishes to be a boy decides to pose as one and go to school.
Why it’s here: Some animated programs fly under the radar despite their brilliance. Teacher’s Pet was one such series, doing so many things well and bringing Gary Baseman’s distinctive art style to life. The voice cast turned in many pitch-perfect performances that helped make the wild musical numbers work very, very well. Nathan Lane is a flamboyant delight as the main character, Spot. While the series was set in the fourth grade, much of its humor appealed more to adults than children. In fact, it could be argued that this is exactly why the series didn’t last; if it had been on a network that sought out a more mature audience, it may have done well enough to warrant more seasons. The series was turned into a feature film, which took the best things about the series and improved upon them, allowing it to serve as a delightful finale to the series. It’s unfortunate that the movie did not fare tremendously well, but Teacher’s Pet was, ultimately, a fantastic series that was tragically overlooked and deserves a spot on this list.
Plot: Two members of X Middle School’s Safety Patrol make sure justice is served.
Why it’s here: Parody can often be misunderstood. Without knowledge of what is being parodied, one tends to accept what they see at face value and miss the larger joke. Fillmore! is a parody of various 1970s crime dramas, such as the ones produced by Quinn Martin. It takes place at a middle school in which Cornelius Fillmore and Ingrid Third, two members of the Safety Patrol, deal with petty issues that are instead presented as serious matters. This is something that created a divide amongst those who watched it, as those who weren’t aware of what it was parodying were often left confused by the deliberate over-dramatization and couldn’t fully appreciate what the series was doing. Those who were aware, however, found the series to be a thoroughly entertaining experience. It had a great blend of action, comedy, and drama that made the series stand out, and we feel that it was certainly one of Disney’s best animated programs this decade.
Plot: An extraordinary teenager takes on missions to help others in her spare time.
Why it’s here: At first glance, Kim Possible appears to be little more than a “girl power” series that wouldn’t provide much entertainment to those outside of its target demographic. Appearances can be deceiving. When watched for even a few minutes, one would discover that it was actually one of the most clever, well-written shows of the 2000s. Each episode was packed with witty banter, and the villains had highly imaginative plans that made the series a tremendous amount of fun. It also looked great. The characters had solid designs, and the movements were fluid, which helped make Kim’s many action sequences work as well as they did. However, the fact that Kim, as a character, was perfect in just about every way is something that brought the series down. It was still one of Disney’s best animated programs this decade, and while we feel that it has earned this spot on our list, it could have been so much better if they would have made Kim a bit more realistic.
2. Phineas and Ferb
Plot: Two precocious brothers spend their summer vacation doing incredible things.
Why it’s here: A lot of arguments could be made about what makes a series great, but at the end of the day, what matters most is execution. Phineas and Ferb has a plot layout that is used in just about every episode, recycling many of the same gags. Yet it executes its plot in a manner that feels fresh, no matter how familiar everything seems. To take a formulaic concept and make it work time and time again, without losing its edge, is a sign of true talent. The series is also notable for its inclusion of an original song in nearly every episode, a difficult feat in its own right, but having earned his stripes on Family Guy‘s early “Road To…” episodes, Dan Povenmire knows how to make songs work. Disney may have slowed down on their production of animated programs, but cartoons like this one prove that they’re getting back to form.
1. The Weekenders
Plot: Four friends spend their weekends trying to have as much fun as possible.
Why it’s here: Most animated programs designed for children tend to dumb down the humor and rely heavily on in-your-face gags, but this series was written with a level of subtlety and sophistication that you would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. It was a dialogue driven series; much of its humor came from conversations between characters. Their conversations were believable. In fact, the series had an aura of realism that is uncommon in animation. Many of its plots were simple and could very well take place in the real world. In one episode, Tino’s father came to visit for the first time since he divorced his wife eight years prior, and the scene in which he met his ex-wife’s boyfriend was handled fantastically. That’s not the sort of scene one would typically find in a children’s cartoon, but it was this series’ bread and butter. The Weekenders shines just as brightly now as it did at the dawn of the decade, and it has earned the top spot on our list.