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Let’s get animated: Revisiting TV Guide’s ‘Definitive Ranking’ of the top TV cartoons of all time

UPDATED: Wed., Sept. 30, 2020

Costumed characters Bart Simpson, Homer Simpson, Lisa Simpson, Marge Simpson and Maggie Simpson stand together on the 86th floor observation deck during Fox's "The Simpsons" 30th anniversary celebration at the Empire State Building on Dec. 17, 2018, in New York.  (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Costumed characters Bart Simpson, Homer Simpson, Lisa Simpson, Marge Simpson and Maggie Simpson stand together on the 86th floor observation deck during Fox's "The Simpsons" 30th anniversary celebration at the Empire State Building on Dec. 17, 2018, in New York. (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

About two years ago, in honor of TV Guide Magazine’s 60th anniversary, magazine staff released a list of the top cartoons of all time, deeming it “The Definitive Ranking of ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘Peanuts’ and More Old Cartoons From Your Childhood.”

While cartoons available during childhood differ year by year, some shows, thanks to reruns, will always be popular. Classic cartoons appeal to both the children of today and the adults who fondly recall having to wait a week in between episodes.

Whether you still set aside Saturday mornings for a cartoon marathon, or you have to squeeze in a few episodes when you can, grab a bowl of your favorite sugary cereal, and take a trip down memory lane. Here are TV Guide’s picks for the top five cartoons of all time.

“The Simpsons”

Is it really a surprise that the longest-running American scripted prime-time series and the longest-running American sitcom took the top spot? Viewers have been checking in with the Simpsons and the other characters in the fictional town of Springfield since the show’s debut in 1989. Created by Matt Groening, the show has won 34 Emmys, 34 Annie Awards, which honor excellence in animation, and two Peabody Awards, among many others.

The show is not without controversy, though. It’s been banned in a handful of countries, and many took issue with the stereotypical way some characters, namely Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, were portrayed. Depending on who you ask, many also feel that “The Simpsons” has declined in quality since Season 10.

“The Flintstones”

Until “The Simpsons” premiered, “The Flintstones,” which followed the adventures of the title family and their friends, the Rubbles, was the longest-running network animated TV series. The show premiered in 1960, ran through 1966 and was the first cartoon to be shown in a prime-time slot. Since the show went off the air, several remakes, specials and spinoffs have been released, on television and on the big screen, making “The Flintstones” a show many generations have come to love.

There were even a handful of “Flintstones”-themed amusement parks, many of which have since closed, that brought the fun of the show to life in the U.S., Canada and Australia. Last year, Deadline reported that a reboot aimed at adults was in the works via actress Elizabeth Banks and her Brownstone Productions.

“Looney Tunes”

What would life be like without characters like Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Tweety, Sylvester, Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, Foghorn Leghorn and Pepé Le Pew? Well, it would be a lot less funny, for one. We have “Looney Tunes” to thank for bringing those characters to screens big and small.

“Looney Tunes” began as a way for Warner Bros. to compete with Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse cartoons. Eventually, the characters took on lives of their own, starring in TV series, films, comic books, video games and amusement park rides. Five “Looney Tunes” cartoons won Oscars for best short subject (cartoon), with many more being nominated, and four cartoons were inducted into the National Film Registry.


Did Charles M. Schulz know just how much the “Peanuts” gang would achieve when he began his four-panel strip cartoon? The cartoon, which ran for nearly 18,000 strips, followed the adventures of Charlie, his dog Snoopy and friends including Lucy, Linus, Franklin, Peppermint Patty, Marcy, Pig-Pen, Schroeder and Sally.

“Peanuts” was beloved worldwide in print, and that affection transferred to film and TV adaptations, including classics like “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.” “The Peanuts Movie,” which was released in 2015, also received high praise from audiences and critics and was nominated for an Annie, a Critics Choice Award and a Golden Globe.


Since 1969, Fred Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley, Norville “Shaggy” Rogers and, of course, Scooby-Doo have been solving crimes of the seemingly supernatural variety. It all started with the series “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” and has since grown into various follow-up and spinoff series, made-for-TV movies, live-action and animated theatrical feature films, comic books and tabletop games.

The cartoon also has received two Daytime Emmy nominations, for “A Pup Named Scooby-Doo” and voice actress Mindy Cohn’s work in “What’s New, Scooby Doo?” From the looks of it, these “meddling kids” will be riding around in their Mystery Machine for years to come.

The top 10 is rounded out by “Rocky and His Friends”/”The Bullwinkle Show,” “Batman: The Animated Series,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Family Guy” and “South Park.”

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