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Toons of the 2000s: Top 25 Animated Television Series Countdown #5-1

by on December 11, 2009

You are reading #5-1 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: 2004-present (pilot aired 2003)

Adult Swim (Cartoon Network)

47+ episodes

Created by Jackson Publick (Christopher McCulloch)

Starring: James Urbaniak, Patrick Warburton, Michael Sinterniklaas, Christopher McCulloch, Doc Hammer


The misadventures of a washed-up scientist, his two idiot sons, and their bodyguard. Oh, and a villain or two.

Why It Made The List

What originally started as a parody of Jonny Quest turned into one of the most inventive and witty animated comedy shows on television. Not content with riffing on the absurdly buffoonish antics of animated adventure heroes, The Venture Bros. actually dared to develop an intricate (but mostly transparent) continuity for its dozens of major characters and to give more than a few of them some major psycho-dramatic development and expression.

It would take a small dissertation to plumb the depths of Dr. Thaddeus “Rusty” Venture’s soul. Suffice it to say he has daddy issues, offspring issues, sibling issues, a vexed relationship with his own competence, and a tiresomely obsessed arch-nemesis to fend off. Almost all the other characters have similar or equivalent problems, and they all intertwine and ricochet off each other to both comic and dramatic effect.

Also, let us not overlook the show’s sheer fertility. How many other series could invent a supporting character named “Girl Hitler” and have the stones to kill her off after only five minutes?


Dates: 2002-2007

Disney Channel

87 episodes

Created by Mark McCorkle & Robert Schooley

Starring: Christy Carlson Romano, Will Friedle, Nancy Cartwright, Tahj Mowry, John Di Maggio, Nicole Sullivan, Raven-Symoné, Kirsten Storms, Gary Cole, Jean Smart, Shaun Fleming (2002-2006), Spencer Fox (2007)


Kim Possible saves the world when she isn’t at cheerleader practice.

Why It Made The List

For four seasons this light-hearted action comedy lampooned the genre with affection and a sense of fun. Its characters acknowledged the clichéd plots and stereotypical actions, but did so without lapsing into irony or self-aware winking. It even managed to fleetingly glance at teen issues.

For four seasons, it consistently entertained, especially during a final season replete with continuity nods and references for loyal fans.


Dates: 2001-2004

Cartoon Network

52 episodes

Created by Genndy Tartakovsky

Starring: Phil LaMarr, Mako


A samurai is flung into the future, where he must battle a shape-shifting wizard.

Why It Made The List

One of the most stylish series of the decade, Samurai Jack set itself apart almost immediately with its use of limited animation as a striking stylistic choice rather than as a necessary budgetary evil. It also showcased an eclectic range of influences, from gangster movies, horror movies, westerns, and film noir, to rave culture, chambara drama, and (of course) the classic films of Akira Kurosawa.

It also boasted a diverse array of characters and dropped them into sometimes hallucinogenic bizarre worlds. It also featured striking action sequences, including a glorious chiaroscuro duel that we named one of the Top 5 duels ever animated.


Dates: 2004-2009

Cartoon Network

79 episodes

Created by Craig McCracken

Starring: Sean Marquette, Keith Ferguson, Grey Delisle, Tom Kane, Candi Milo


A boy hangs out with a home for abandoned imaginary friends.

Why It Made The List

Foster’s Home takes a brilliant—and in retrospect obvious—conceit and makes it silly in all the right ways.

Naturally, a show about imaginary friends rises or falls on the quality of the imaginary friends themselves. Luckily, characters like Wilt, Eduardo, Coco, and Bloo are clever, beautifully designed, and smart (and stupid) enough to have funny adventures. They are also a lot of fun to hang out with and quite believable as the kind of characters a lonely child might invent as a companion.

There is also the series’ look, which is cleanly stylized but highly expressive, giving the show its own distinctively imaginative sheen.

And the number one show of the decade is…


Dates: 2005-2008


61 episodes

Created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Koniezko

Starring: Zach Tyler Eisen, Mae Whitman, Jack DeSena, Jessie Flower, Dante Basco, Mako (2005-2006), Greg Baldwin (2007-2008), Grey DeLisle


The 12-year old Aang awakens after a hundred years in suspended
animation. To end the rapacious Fire Nation’s century-long world war,
Aang must shoulder his burden as the Avatar and master the four
elements of Air, Earth, Fire, and Water.

Why It Made The List

According to co-creators Mike DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko,
Nickelodeon’s call for a show with “magic, action, and adventure” led
to a pitch session for Avatar the Last Airbender that began with a concept illustration for each of those three words
and continued for two-and-a-half hours as the pair outlined the rough
story arc for all three seasons of the show. Afterwards, Eric Coleman,
Nick’s VP/EP of Animation Development at the time, told them two
things. The first was that, ironically, they pretty much had him after
the first drawing. The second was that they broke all the rules of how
you’re supposed to pitch a show.

That’s emblematic for Avatar, which broke a lot of rules
about kids cartoons while delivering magic, action, and adventure in
spades over its 61 episode run. Its Asian-influenced world of four
warring nations provided a vividly realized and richly-detailed
backdrop for an epic story that successfully made the classic hero’s
journey feel fresh and original. It was a show that succeeded on all
levels, with a gripping story and creative plot development; witty and
intelligent dialogue; superb voice acting and character development;
a marvelously eclectic soundtrack; beautiful art direction and character design; and some of the very best
action animation ever made. Finally, Avatar is a tremendously
effective long-term serial narrative, managing to produce excellent
single episodes that join together to become far more than the sum of
their parts. Many of the show’s fans express a little disappointment at
the start of the third season, but this is only because it followed one
of the best single seasons of television ever made, live-action or

If the title character of the show is the master of all four elements, then Avatar is the master of Hollywood’s “four-quadrants,” easily cutting across
all lines of age and gender to create a diverse and sometimes
near-fanatical fandom. It is another elegant proof of John Lasseter’s
claim that “Quality is the best business plan.” We can hardly wait to
see Konietzko and DiMartino come up with next.

You are reading #5-1 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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