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Toons of the 2000s: Top 25 Animated Television Series Countdown #20-16

by on December 7, 2009

You are reading #20-16 of the Top 25 Animated Television Series Countdown.

25-21 | 20-16| 15-11 | 10-6 | 5-1 | Go back to the Toons of the 2000s Intro.  


Dates: 1997-present

Comedy Central

195+ episodes

Created by Trey Parker & Matt Stone

Starring: Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Mona Marshall (1999-present), Eliza Schneider (1999-2003), April Stewart (2003-present), Isaac Hayes (1997-2006)


Four foul-mouthed kids in a strange little Colorado town constantly bump into celebrities, aliens, and other oddities.

Why It Made The List

For twelve years South Park has mixed biting social commentary with some of the funniest and most offensive stories ever written for the small screen.

Produced in a style that mimics crude paper-cutout animation, the show is able to use its generic, inoffensive designs to front no-prisoners-taken satire. During its run it has targeted everyone from Christian conservatives to liberal Hollywood celebrities. It is often crude and mean-spirited, and yet more often than not its viciously ad hominem barbs puncture their targets at weak points that other satirists have overlooked.

It does so while also sustaining a richly characterized central cast. Its budding sociopath, Cartman, deserves special mention. No actor could hope to capture his depravity in a live-action adaptation while retaining audience sympathy, but as an animated character he works brilliantly.

Not only for its keen eye for contemporary folly does South Park deserve its place on this list; its ability to use the animated art form to create satirical effects beyond the capability of film or stage also marks it as one of the great cartoons of our time.


Dates: 2007-present


44+ episodes

Created by Dorothea Gillim

Starring: Dannah Phirman, Tom Kenny, Maria Bamford, Cree Summer, Ryan Raddatz


A crimefighting girl from another planet lives alongside humans without her friend knowing who she is.

Why It Made The List 

WordGirl is one of the smartest shows on television right now. This might be news to most of you because it airs on PBS Kids.

But don’t let that put you off. Its screen credits overlap with those of such shows as Dexter’s Laboratory and The PowerPuff Girls, which goes a long way toward explaining why it so successfully pulls off humorous and fast-paced dialogue.

The show centers on schoolgirl Becky Bottsford, who as “WordGirl” fights crime with the help of her pet/sidekick, the monkey Captain Huggyface (a.k.a. Bob). In a rare departure from form, Becky is as strong, as funny, and as interesting as her superpowered alter ego.

The series also offers a wide range of unique villains, from a human with an evil mouse-brain to an older woman who uses her senior citizen status to mask her depraved deeds. There is also a wide assortment of secondary characters, each zany in their own right. Oh, and there’s also a narrator, whose commentary makes for some of the greatest highlights of the show.

WordGirl is nominally an educational program, but there is nothing nominal (that’s a word meaning “in name only”) about its entertainment value.


Dates: 2004-2007


53 episodes

Created by Butch Hartman

Starring: David Kaufman, Rickey D’Shon Collins, Grey DeLisle, Colleen O’Shaughnessey, Paul Robsen, Kath Soucie, Martin Mull


A coming-of-age tale about a ghost-powered teenager balancing his normal existence and his superhero life.

Why It Made The List

In less skilled hands, the cliché-ridden Danny Phantom might have played out as a substandard Spider-Man clone. But a skilled cast and crew wove familiar elements into a natty skein that, whatever its origins, felt new.

Its characters were key to its success, and it took special delight in developing their personalities both in stand-alone adventures and series-spanning arcs. Of particular note was its treatment of Danny’s sister, who graduated from “smart but overprotective older sister” to supportive and appreciative helper.

Artistically, the series also stood out, with a “ghost mode” set of visuals that gave it a genuinely eerie feel that was nevertheless enjoyable.

Danny Phantom might have taken its plot points from a well-drawn stock of materials, but its adept treatment of story, characterization, and color earn it a place on this list.


Dates: 2001-2004; 2004-2006 (as Justice League Unlimited)

Cartoon Network

52 episodes (Justice League), 39 episodes (Justice League Unlimited)

Justice League produced by Rich Fogel, Glen Murakami, Bruce Timm, James Tucker

Justice League Unlimited produced by Dwayne McDuffie, Bruce Timm, James Tucker

Justice League starring: George Newbern, Kevin Conroy , Susan Eisenberg, Carl Lumbly, Michael Rosenbaum, Phil LaMarr, Maria Canals

Justice League Unlimited starring: George Newbern, Kevin Conroy , Susan Eisenberg, Carl Lumbly, Michael Rosenbaum, Phil LaMarr, Maria Canals, Morena Baccarin, Kin Shriner, Amy Acker, Jeffrey Combs, Nicholle Tom, Gina Torres, Corey Burton, Michael Ironside, Clancy Brown, C.C.H. Pounder


Beloved heroes of the DCverse battle evil.

Why It Made The List

Justice League and Justice League Unlimited testify to Bruce Timm and his colleagues’ mastery of the animated-action form. They submitted themselves to “The Challenge of The Superfriends“, and they won.

In the 1990s, Timm and his collaborators had shown how to make a grand cartoon series centered on a single hero. In the 2000s, they tested themselves with a show about a team. Block by block, episode by episode, they experimented and built on their successes. Around tightly crafted situations they wove choreographic fight sequences; blended individual heroics into ensemble adventures; turned interpersonal conflicts into intramural competitions.

By the end of the first 52 episodes, they knew how to balance seven heroes, so they upped the challenge by extending the League to include almost every DC universe character they could. Stories became even larger with the long-running Cadmus and Secret Society arcs, even as they became more intimate with the occasional standalone tale.

And yet, despite the terrific grandeur of its concept and its ambition, it never lost the most important attribute of the cape-and-tights genre: it was always fun.


Dates: 2004 (Japan), 2005 (USA)

WOWOW (Japan), Adult Swim [Cartoon Network] (USA)

13 episodes

Created by Satoshi Kon

Starring (English dubbing): Michelle Ruff, Sam Riegel, Michael McConnohie, Liam O’Brien, Carrie Savage


An assault on a famous character designer is the catalyst to a string of violent attacks.

Why It Made The List

Paranoia Agent is one of those rare shows whose “mature content” descriptor implies more than nudity and sexual acts. There is some of that, to be sure, but this fascinating experiment in storytelling is an intriguing exploration of the many facets of the human psyche at its least attractive. 

The show consists of 13 half-hour stories all interconnected by common elements: a protagonist edging toward a mental breakdown, a physical attack at the climax of the breakdown by the mysterious “Lil’ Slugger”, and a discovery of inner peace afterwards. Yet it never falls into formula, and the show explores the effects of violence on the community as well as on the individuals.

The series is rather abstract and doesn’t neatly tie things up in a traditional manner. Instead, it addresses the larger issue that we are creatures of habit, victimizing ourselves and bound to commit to the same path when we are unable to rise above our inadequacies. While the show may not be for everyone, there is an undeniable excellence to the accomplishments of Paranoia Agent.

You are reading #20-16 of the Top 25 Animated Television Series Countdown.

25-21 | 20-16| 15-11 | 10-6 | 5-1 | Go back to the Toons of the 2000s Intro.  

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