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Mr. Semaj's Top 10 Most Underrated Cartoons by Yeldarb86
Mr. Semaj's Top 10 Most Underrated Cartoons
Do you ever feel that there are some cartoons that just doesn't get enough attention? While other cartoons get all the love, some of your personal favorites are repeatedly ignored? Well, I finally decided to highlight some choices of my own in this Top 10 Listing.

10. The Emperor's New Groove: Disney has gone thru peaks and valleys throughout its 90+ year history, the most recent valley from the 2000s marked by an inconsistent set of films that ultimately cost them their hand-drawn slate. Many people have used The Emperor's New Groove as the benchmark for this period.

I find the hate for this film ironic, because Disney always gets picked on for doing the same ol', same ol', which whether or not are fairy tales, they often do well. So there probably is rhyme and reason why Disney rarely does any stories that dive into a different type of storytelling, since it takes a while for people to really warm up to. The Emperor's New Groove is one of the only screwball stories in their canon of animated features, which supposedly grew out of something intended to be much more serious. This film may be lacking in memorable songs, but it has great animation, funny characters, and a fun premise that was meant to let audiences enjoy themselves while taking them on a quick-paced adventure.

9. Chuck Jones' Tom & Jerry: Jones of course is best-known for his work on Warner Bros' Looney Tunes, but during the 1960s, he was in charge of MGM's animation department. He launched the second revival of Tom & Jerry, after MGM ended the previous attempt with Gene Deitch, which was as bizarre as it was horrible.

Jones' take on the Hanna and Barbera series is generally not well-received, and even Jones himself barely acknowledged it in his autobiography. Which is all a shame, because even if his heart wasn't in it, these were pretty well made, and a HUGE improvement over Deitch's version. It had the master artistry and all the subtle nuances that defined Jones' portfolio by this point. Jones had the rare ability of any WB director of retaining his entire creative team long after leaving WB, while in the process hiring newer animators of that time.

Although Droopy and Barney Bear were forsaken, Chuck Jones found the time to work on other MGM projects as well. He directed the Oscar-winning The Dot and the Line, and he directed the famous Dr. Seuss holiday special, How The Grinch Stole Christmas. It all ended with the movie, The Phantom Tollbooth, before Jones went to form his own independent outlet during the 1970s. Tom and Jerry were in better standing than at the start of the 60s, and by this point in his career, Jones had become his own brand name.

8. Tex Avery's Warner Brothers Shorts: You'll almost NEVER see Avery's name on an underrated list. He is regularly praised for his work at MGM, but I feel that his Warner Bros. shorts are largely overlooked.

Why? The guy practically CREATED the Warner Bros. brand of storytelling! Having established himself as a maverick from Walter Lantz, Fred Avery came to WB in 1936 shaping the new Porky Pig into a more appealing character. He would eventually create Daffy Duck, and created Egghead, a Droopy-like character who would eventually morph into Elmer Fudd, one of the studio's more versatile villains. 

Most importantly, Avery came up with the definitive Bugs Bunny character in 1940's A Wild Hare. This screwy wabbit previously went thru a flux of development between different directors, including a young Chuck Jones.

From a period when every cartoon studio was following Disney's lead, Warner Bros. would establish the wackier alternative that defines most cartoons in general. Avery established his own identity with the "Tex" nickname once he moved to MGM, where he would use his wild set of characters to transform that studio's culture as well.

7. AAAHH!!! Real Monsters: In the midst of the 90s Nickelodeon nostalgia, this somehow became the Nicktoon that everyone had forgotten. No discussion of favorite characters, episodes, jokes, or quotes. 

Following the new "gross" factor of the 90s, Real Monsters was the second Nicktoon from Klasky-Csupo, having just concluded the first run of Rugrats. Somehow, people seem to remember the studio's latter projects moreso than their earlier ones, which sucks, because I felt that their later shows like Rocket Power and As Told by Ginger lacked a lot of the imagination and versatility that made them famous. This show exhibits a lot of imagination that was bursting from the studio at the time, back when their oddball art fit the characters and their quirky personalities, and when they were willing to tackle any premise for any audience.

...which leads to another show of theirs that seems to be overlooked...

6. Duckman: In response to the success of The Simpsons, this was Klasky-Csupo's first adult program, and probably THE funniest thing they ever made! Yet it languished in the late night hours on the USA Network, and even after its cancellation, was quietly recirculated on Comedy Central before making its way to DVD.

Duckman is a crime detective who really sucks at his job, and is a total jerk to almost everyone around him, including his assistant Cornfed, a multi-talented pig who often cleans up after Duckman's messes. Yet for his boorish, lecherous demeanor, Duckman comes off as one of the greatest anti-heros of any animated show; never afraid to speak his mind, often spewing out mile-a-minute rants against the frustrations of modern society, ultimately choosing to deal with life in his own way.

One of the only other animated sitcoms of its day, this show was Klasky-Csupo at its peak. Never again would they achieve this level of creativity.

5. The First Two Peanuts Movies: This seems to be a common problem with many long-running animated programs: People tend to remember the latter material moreso than the earlier. Such was the fate with the four original Peanuts films: A Boy Named Charlie Brown; Snoopy Come Home; Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown; and Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!).

The first two films represent the type of inventiveness in visual storytelling that has not been seen in many animated films since then. A Boy Named specifically was one of the only animated films of its time that was NOT following in Disney's footsteps. Such an attempt was made with Snoopy Come Home, yet the grand adventure these characters embark upon are emphasized with very trippy art sequences, basically playing with cinematic color and staging while trying out a variety of different songs for different subjects.

Race for Your Life and Bon Voyage were much more serious in their approach. The stories were more literal, and no attempt was made to promote the artistry of these films. The music also suffered from this period, partially due to Vince Guaraldi's death in 1976. While both were based more directly from creator Charles Schulz's experiences, as was customary with most Peanuts stories, these films lack the whimsy that made the first two movies so much fun to watch. Yet somehow, they've gained more exposure than the previous films.

For me, the best way to experience the world of Charlie Brown and Snoopy is with a splash-dash of colors highlighting a baseball game, split-screen shifting between different characters, or catchy songs while travelling out in the wilderness. The best animated features are not just from watching a movie, but when the characters share their grand adventures with the audience.

4. Games Ren & Stimpy: A series that became as famous for the drama behind-the-scenes as the series itself.

Unfortunately, I have dealt with the constant trolling and fanboyisms of the Spumco community so many times, I would rather not dive into the details. To keep it short, the Games episodes of Ren & Stimpy are not nearly as abhorrent as they've long insisted they were. I was first introduced to the series during its 4th season, and did not learn about the drama behind the original series until long after it was cancelled. The history behind that show, as well as the ill-fated revival was thankfully put into proper perspective in a book titled "Sick Little Monkeys", which came out last year.

At age 8, I was watching a healthy dosage of Disney, Warner Bros, Hanna Barbera, Dr. Seuss, and Peanuts among many other "traditional" offerings. When I first walked in on this show, it was when I was discovering Nickelodeon in general, and along with it a new school of modern cartoons. The Games episodes of Ren & Stimpy were inevitably different from the earliest Spumco stories, but with more stylistic art. This alternate production model, rather than answering to one overhead voice, gave a wider variety of different approaches from different artists, many of whom would eventually establish their careers at Cartoon Network. Whether it involved climbing into a belly button, living as a hermit, or maybe being sewn together from an accident, it was unlike anything I had seen on TV at the time. 

Again, I don't buy into the fanboy dogma. I enjoy the Games episodes every bit as much, maybe moreso than the original Spumco stories. Collectively, I enjoy the Nickelodeon run of Ren & Stimpy moreso than the Adult Party series. The FACT is, this was easily one of the best things to ever happen to Nickelodeon.


3. Robert McKimson: For all the praise that's been given to this man's work, it seems to be token lip service. Robert McKimson has been noted as the most proficient animator and character designer of the Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes, particularly finalizing Bugs Bunny's design when that character was officially established. Yet when it came to his directorial works, people seem split down the middle as to whether they were as good as the other Looney Tunes directors.

When he moved onto directing in the mid 1940s, McKimson came out with some of the funniest and quick-paced cartoons ever made. He started out with a more mischievous Bugs Bunny that was already being phased out by that time. He also held onto the original, loonier Daffy long after other directors shifted the character towards a greedier, and unfortunately angrier persona. He also created such memorable characters as Sylvester Jr, Speedy Gonzales, and Tazmanian Devil.

All of the joy and hilarity of his early directorial years is typically negated for his latter, more restrictive years, where among other problems, McKimson didn't have nearly as strong an artistic team as he started out with. Admittedly, his work from the late 1950s was nothing special, and there is hardly any of his work from the 60s onward that could be called noteworthy. Never mind that most other long-time veterans were past their peak by that same timeframe, Robert McKimson already proved himself a formidable director right off the bat, and his work remained consistently enjoyable for a solid decade. He may not have been innovative like Tex Avery, or as versatile as Chuck Jones, or as overpraised as Friz Freleng, but McKimson had his own worldview that has undeniably held its own alongside the other Looney Tunes directors.

2. Famous Studios: One of the main problems behind cartoon "history" is that said history tends to be at the mercy of the author. If the author prefers one studio over another, or if a good chunk of personnel from one studio dies off relatively early, the studio on the receiving end of an historical account is doomed to fall into the sands of time. That means an entire studio, and along with it its characters, its artists, and a significant portion of our artistic culture is lost from the human narrative.

Such was the fate of Famous Studios, an offshoot of the original Fleischers' studio. Despite its name, the studio was not nearly as innovative or well-known as the studio that gave us Betty Boop, Koko the Klown, Popeye, or Superman. Nor would any attempt be made to make a new animated feature; the Fleischers' two attempts with Gulliver's Travels and Mr. Bug Goes to Town were exactly what caused it to fall into Paramount's ownership in the early 1940s, and what separated two brothers/business partners for the rest of their lives. To that degree, it's understandable that the subsequent studio run by one of the founders' son-in-laws would take a more frugal approach to animated filmmaking. 

While continuing the Popeye series, Famous Studios gave us such characters as Casper the Friendly Ghost, Baby Huey, Little Audrey, and Herman & Katnip. These creations have been said to be inferior imitations, if not completely plagiarized from popular characters of other studios. Though, that undermines the simple fact that EVERY studio back then copied off each other to some extent. This particular set of Noveltoons, which later became Harveytoons, is sort of a mixed bag. On one end, Casper was a one-note character, and the Herman & Katnip cartoons were kinda boring attempts to be an East Coast Tom & Jerry. On the other end, Baby Huey was funnier and more recognizable than most "retarded" characters of that period, and Little Audrey was more refined than the Little Lulu character she was based from.

It IS a shame that Famous sold off these characters, because after ending the Popeye series they would spend their final years doing mainly miscellaneous stories while in search of new characters. It also didn't help that some of the studio's artists whom hadn't already been laid off were dying during this period, which eventually put the studio under new management. This did give them a chance to experiment creatively, especially when such veterans as Howard Post, Shamus Culhane, and Ralph Bakshi arrived at the studio. These latter-day shorts were largely forgotten for decades, but have been rediscovered in the age of the Internet.

This set of New York artists was the hidden part of the legacy of Max and Dave Fleischer, having begun their careers at the original Fleischers' studio, but had their own voices that wanted to be told. No such book has yet been published that fully devotes its time to this studio, but Famous is finding an audience among a new generation of cartoon fans and film historians.

1. American Dad: This was a no-brainer for me.

Premiering at a time when The Simpsons was past its peak, when Family Guy would soon rest on the laurels of its return, and when King of the Hill faded into obscurity, no one would've guessed that this new show, once thought to be a photocopy of Family Guy, would emerge into its own. Not long into its first year, American Dad set aside the post-9/11 politics it started with in favor of fleshing out its characters, and giving us a clearer picture into this sometimes unpredictable world of Langley Falls.

Stan Smith would not just be an archetype of a Bush-era Republican. Francine would become more than just the submissive housewife. Roger became more than just an alien fugitive. The Smiths would become a set of middle-class misfits whom, despite their constant odds with each other, became a family with a varied history peppered with periods of euphoria, rage, disappointment, capable of going on any sort of adventure that helped shape the American culture.

Yet with its widely flexible storytelling, American Dad seems to have been PURPOSELY stuck in Family Guy's shadow. In fact, it had become a running gag between Seth MacFarlane's three shows, and some of his live-action performances, that the ONLY show of his we are supposed to be watching is Family Guy, a notion that was reinforced from the confirmation of The Cleveland Show's cancellation in a recent FG episode. All of which SUCKS, because there was a period where FG was so drunk from its own success, they had pretty much ruined all of the show's main characters, and were resorting to the same unfunny gags week after week, which culminated with a full Conway Twitty music video to fill in airtime. By this point, that show was no longer worthy of its return that fans fought for during its 3rd season.

American Dad has plateaued a bit, but i
t's hard for me to pick an episode that I hate, because this has thus far been more consistent than the other FOX animated sitcoms. However, it has recently ended a 9-year run on FOX, and is now continuing on TBS. So it is probably fitting that the very same "Animation Domination" label that was partially inspired by this show's introduction was retired upon its departure.

All said, American Dad is far more deserving than what FOX or its creator gives it credit for. It helped establish Seth's talents outside of just one series, and gave him something else to work with other than his "Equal Opportunity Offender" style of humor that Family Guy is so closely tied to. While I do still watch the other FOX animated sitcoms, THIS was the series from the past several years that I had been looking forward to watching most on Sunday nights.

There are other cartoons that don't get much love, but these are the ones I felt need to be saved from the obscurity or poor reputations they've suffered for so long. :love: 
Loading...

Ugh...

Tue Sep 23, 2014, 10:02 PM
  • Mood: Distracted
  • Listening to: Panamore: Ain't it Fun
  • Reading: Graphic Design: A Concise History
  • Watching: anything but the news
  • Eating: Grape Pie
  • Drinking: Milk
Another summer has come and gone. NaNoEmo 24 - :relax: 

There used to be a time when I loved the summer season. Used to be when I would go on well-earned vacations with family and enjoy some rest from a long school year.
But seeing as how I've been out of school for quite some time, it's been all about making my mark in the job market. And in this day in age, finishing college just doesn't seem to be good enough anymore. This summer has been spent looking for a second job, one that would be a step up from the current job at a local movie theatre. Two such efforts drained much of my nights and weekends working part-time, but neither has led to anything long-term. the silver emote is bored 

Beyond the job market, my computer was in the shop for much of August, which kept me away from my regular work. (Submitting resumes and re-composing cover letters had its limitations during this period.) The past month has involved fighting off a summer sickness and recurring sore throat, due mainly to our inconsistent summer weather.

For the past two years, summer has become the most stressful time of year for me. This year though, it's been particularly exhausting. :exhausted: 

There are some bits of good news. One local group I have been volunteering at for the past year and a half has recently become a part-time job, which unlike my previous jobs, is more in line with my field of study in the graphic arts. Another similar group is evolving into a safe haven for local career-minded artists, and is finally picking up some freelance assignments.

A minor setback spoiled my plans to leave the movies by the end of this month. In the meantime, I will be working an temporary independent contractor position, which will be double the amount of work (ie: money) as last year. Also, with the help of my parents, I was able to trade my old car in for a new one. The old car had become just that, and was evidently eating into my funds this year. The new one is used, but is more modern and in remarkable condition.

All of which play into attempts to move my life forward. To find jobs that offer more than minimum wage. To earn enough money to rent an apartment, pay off student loans, and take my girlfriend on nice trips every so often.

As known by my dA viewers, all of this outside stuff has meant less time here. Over the past year, I have only been able to produce one new drawing per month. Many of my latest drawings have been reserved for a more professional portfolio. I still come to dA for fun. The past couple months however, have drained a lot of my creative energy. Now I sit here, as my sore throat clears up, doing some crude sketches to rekindle the creative kettle. Tea 

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Yeldarb86
Mr. Semaj
Artist | Hobbyist | Varied
United States
What appears in my gallery is only a fraction of what goes thru my abstract mind.

Current Residence: Buffalo
Favourite genre of music: Soft Rock, Jazz
Favourite style of art: 2-D
Operating System: Microsoft Windows XP
Favourite cartoon character: Too many to count!
Personal Quote: "Life doesn't suck. Reality does."
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MajorKrystalFan Featured By Owner Oct 22, 2014  New member Hobbyist General Artist
Nice gallery, dude. Are you going to do more bonnie swanson art?
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Maybe... :)
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Thank you for favoriting! +fav Meow :3 
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Thank you very much for the fav to my "Chibi Ariel" ^__^Heart Love 
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