Oldest School Cartoons in the World

12 Old School Cartoons to Bring Back Your Childhood

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It seems every generation in the last 100 years has a classic cartoon they remember. Whether it’s the wise cracking Bugs Bunny or the Mystery Gang from “Scooby Doo,” cartoons teach lessons in creativity, provide social commentary, and have been a welcome companion to Saturday mornings for decades. Read the list below to learn new things about old shows and reminisce about eating cereal in front of the television set.

12. Powerpuff Girls

Years: 1998 – 2005
Creator: Craig McCracken
Production Company: Hanna-Barbera Productions / Cartoon Network
Notable Characters: Blossom, Buttercup, Bubbles, Professor Utonium

Powerpuff Girlsphoto source: Cartoon Network / Hanna Barbera – Fair Use

“Powerpuff Girls” began as creator Craig McCracken’s school project at California Institute of the Arts and grew into a sensation.The show is about three preschool aged superheroes created in a lab from sugar, spice, everything nice, and chemical X. The television series has a few main antagonists who the girls defeat on a regular basis— these include Mojo Jojo, Him, and the Amoeba Boys. Each Powerpuff girl has a distinct personality. Blossom is the steady minded leader, Bubbles is the cry baby, and Buttercup is the short tempered tough guy. While their personalities often clash, they always come together to save the day.


11. The Ren and Stimpy Show

Years: 1991 – 1996
Creator: John Kricfalusi
Production Company: Nickelodeon
Notable Characters: Ren and Stimpy

photo source: Nickelodeon – Fair Use

“The Ren and Stimpy Show” is remembered for its shocking humor and plotlines that entertained children and enraged parents for years. The plot follows best friends Ren,a hairless chihuahua, and Stimpy, a large orange cat, on their often gross and violent adventures packed with sexual innuendo. The mature subject matter embedded into the children’s show made it a hit with young adult audiences, raking in 2.2 million views per week.


10. Duck Tales

Years: 1987 – Present
Creator: Jymn Magon
Production Company: Disney
Notable Characters: Scrooge McDuck, Huey, Dewey, Louie, Webby

photo source: Disney – Fair Use

“Duck Tales” follows the adventures of Scrooge McDuck, who also stars in “A Christmas Carol,” and his fun-loving great nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie. Together, they hunt the world for treasure and protect Scrooge McDuck’s fortune from thieves. “Duck Tales” is particularly remembered for its catchy theme song, which only took 45 minutes to write. It has been covered by numerous groups, including the star studded cast of the 2017 reboot.


9. The Smurfs

Years: 1981 – 2017
Creator: Peyo
Production Company: Hanna-Barbera Productions
Notable Characters: Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Gargamel

photo source: Fair Use

The smurfs first appeared in 1958 as side characters in a Belgian comic series. Their name originates from artist Peyo forgetting the word for salt, calling it “shtroumpf” as a joke. It was later changed to “smurf” for English speaking audiences. “The Smurfs” cartoon series premiered in 1981 and follows the daily comings and goings of the little blue elves in their forest village. Several episodes center on their escape from the evil Gargamel, who wants to destroy their kind. “The Smurfs” ran until 1989, but has been revived for various productions, including two feature films starring Neil Patrick Harris.


8. Scooby Doo

Years: 1969 – Present
Creator: William Hanna and Joseph Barbera
Production Company: Hanna-Barbera Productions
Notable Characters: Scooby Doo, Shaggy, Velma, Fred, Daphne

photo source: Hanna Barbera Productions – Fair Use

“Scooby Doo” is one of the most recognizable franchises ever made, in part due to its lasting presence in media (a revival series premiered in 2020) and its fun plotlines. While most people know “Scooby Doo” for the Mystery Gang’s varying personalities and their lovable great dane, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera originally pitched it as a horror series with little focus on the dog. Worried that this concept would scare away the young target audience, CBS proposed a goofier approach and “Scooby Doo, Where are You?” was born. The show’s successful premise has allowed the “meddling kids” to foil the plans of disguised villains in multiple reboots.


7. Astro Boy

Years: 1963 – 2009
Creator: Osama Tezuka
Production Company: Mushi Productions
Notable Characters: Astro, Dr. Umataro Tenma, Professor Hiroshi Ochanomizu , Uran, Hamegg

Astro Boyphoto source: Tezuka Productions / Mushi Productions – Fair Use

“Astro Boy” made history as the first Japanese anime to gain international popularity. The cartoon originally began as a manga that reflected on the after effects of World War II in Japan. The creator, Osama Tezuku, produced the animated series in 1963 and broadcast it in over 50 countries. The story follows a cyborg named Astro who uses his powers to save the world from both earthly and intergalactic threats. “Astro Boy” has remained in the cultural consciousness with a revival in the 1980s and in 2003, along with a feature film made in 2009.


6. Winnie the Pooh

Years: 1961 – Present
Creator: A.A. Milne and Ernest H Shepard
Production Company: Disney
Notable Characters: Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Christopher Robin, Kanga, Roo, Eeyore, Tigger, Owl, Rabbit

Winnie the Poohphoto source: Disney – Fair Use

The story of the honey-obsessed little yellow bear and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood began as a series of picture books in 1924. In the 1960s, Disney bought the rights to “Winnie the Pooh,” creating short and very successful featurettes, but the first animated television show didn’t premiere until 1988. It featured Winnie, along with his pals, going on various adventures that usually developed from Winnie’s desire for honey. The show has a fun meta element as well in that Winnie and his friends are actually stuffed animals belonging to a child named Christopher Robin, who is the only human character in the cartoon. So, the audience can assume that each plotline is simply Christopher Robin playing pretend.


5. The Flintstones

Years: 1960 – 1966
Creator: William Hanna and Joseph Barbera
Production Company: Hanna-Barbera Productions
Notable Characters: Fred Flintstone, Wilma Flintstone, Pebbles Flintstone, Bamm Bamm Rubble, Fred Rubble, Betty Rubble

The Flintstonesphoto source: Hanna Barbera/Kobal/Shutterstock

“The Flintstones” is the first animated series on this list to begin as a television series. It debuted in 1960 as “The Flagstones,” but eventually became “The Flintstones” when the creators realized another series had characters with a similar surname. The series follows the antics of a prehistoric family with modified modern advancements like foot-powered cars. The show is considered a blueprint for subsequent animated series, including those for adult audiences, like “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy.” In fact, “Family Guy” creator Seth McFarlane attempted to reboot “The Flintstones” in 2011, but moved on after realizing that Peter Griffin from “Family Guy” was too similar to Fred.


4. Mighty Mouse

Years: 1942 – 1990
Creator: Isidore Klein and Paul Terry
Production Company: Terrytoons Studio
Notable Characters: Mighty Mouse, Oil Can Harry, Pearl Pureheart

Mighty Mousephoto source: Terrytoons Studio – Public Domain

“Mighty Mouse” was a popular cartoon series that featured a superhero mouse who saves the town of Mouseville with his X-ray vision, flying abilities, and super strength. He often fights Oil Can Harry, a cat with a penchant for mischief. The origin story of the Mighty Mouse cartoon is a bit muddled as it involves some betrayal.  Paul Terry took a base idea from fellow cartoonist Isidore Klein and claimed it as his own. The “Mighty Mouse” series existed on television and in print from the 1940s through the 1990s. A 1987 revival provided “Mighty Mouse” with the title character’s secret identity, Mike Mouse, and a wider range of characters.


3. Tom and Jerry

Years: 1940 – Present
Creator: William Hanna and Joseph Barbera
Production Company: MGM Studios / Warner Brothers
Notable Characters: Tom and Jerry

photo source: MGM Studios / Warner Brothers – Fair Use

As with many early cartoons, “Tom and Jerry” began as a short that would be played before a feature film. Their debut, “Puss Gets the Boot,” was simple. In it, the cat and mouse were unnamed, but the general plot of mouse terrorizing cat was present. After positive audience reception, creators William Hanna and Joseph Barbera decided to pursue the cartoon, providing the main characters with names and further establishing their world. “Tom and Jerry’s” success is most notable in that it is totally action driven with very little dialogue, a formula that has remained in subsequent character, film, and television revivals.


2. Popeye the Sailor

Years: 1933 – c.1980
Creator: Elzie Crisler Segar
Production Company: Fleischer Studios, Inc.
Notable Characters: Popeye, Olive Oyl, Bluto

Popeye the Sailorphoto source: Fleischer Studios – Public Domain

The “Popeye” cartoon series began with the comic “Thimble Theatre,” where the main character Popeye made his debut. A series of shorts were produced in 1933, featuring a host of characters including Popeye, his girlfriend Olive Oyl, and his nemesis Bluto. Most of the plots involve Popeye performing feats of spinach-fueled strength to defend Olive Oyl from various threats. In the 1960s, it became a weekly animated series that established its popularity and led to larger projects, like a film starring Robin Williams.


1. Looney Tunes

Years: 1930 – Present
Creator: Leon Scheslinger, Hugh Harmon and Rudolf Ising
Production Company: Warner Brothers
Notable Characters: Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Daffy Duck, Taz the Tasmanian Devil, Sylvester, Tweety Bird, Marvin the Martian

Looney Tunesphoto source: Warner Brothers – Public Domain

“Looney Tunes” first appeared as a series of short featurettes in 1930 after Warner Brothers noted Walt Disney’s success with his Mickey Mouse character. The Looney Tunes cast, which consists of both anthropomorphic and fully human characters, became stars on their own. “Sinkin’ in the Bathtub” was the first “Looney Tunes” short. It featured the now retired character Bosko the Cat who concluded the sequence with the famous phrase, “That’s all, folks!” Well known and beloved characters like the nervous Porky Pig, zany Daffy Duck and sassy Bugs Bunny all appeared in the decade following. After cartoon shorts fell out of fashion in the 1960s and 70s, the original cartoons were repurposed for television and Looney Tunes characters have been present in several revivals and cameos since.


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