The Golden Age: The Best TV Animation of 2008
by Steve Fritz
Date: 02 January 2009 Time: 09:37 AM ET
Paul Dini - The Newest Jedi
As for the new blood, it’s coming both in the forms of radical young talents and major organizations. Cartoon Network is getting theirs both ways. New shows like CH Greenblatt’s Chowder, Jay Stephens’ Secret Saturdays and Jennifer Pertch’s Total Drama Island and 6teen representing the young innovators. That’s not to say that it’s all newcomers - on the big guy front, there’s Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: Clone Wars. All these shows have been giving CN some incredible ratings boosts, especially the last half of the year. Also, don’t think Nickelodeon is taking this lightly. Based on previews, Dreamworks’ The Penguins of Madagascar has hit written all over it. As for 2009, fans of the superhero genre should be ecstatic. In 2008, two of the big new hits were Spectacular Spider-Man and Batman: Brave and Bold. The spandex onslaught will go full bore with shows like Wolverine & The X-Men, Black Panther, Iron Man and many more on the horizon. In the meantime, with this year’s list we’ve divided the shows into two groups; shows specifically aimed at kids K-12 years of age and more “adult” content. That said, here’s some of the best of 2008 had to offer. All Ages • Avatar: The Last Airbender (Nickelodeon) – If you have to go, you can’t ask for a better way to end a series. The final confrontation between Aang and the Fire Lord was a tremendous bit of animated choreography and the build-up of the last five episodes to this climatic event were both mind-opening and incredibly detailed. Best of all, there are still plenty of story left to tell. Already on my short list for best of the decade. Craig McCracken proved he has a lot more stories to tell with this year’s holiday special. That there are around a dozen more shows slated for 2009 is also great news. If you ever need proof that imagination is a key to a good show, look no further. • Jane & The Dragon (WETA/qubo) – There’s just something about this girl-friendly show that I find refreshingly charming. Let’s hope there’s more tales of the adventurous young knight Jane and her jovial partner the Dragon. • Naruto (Cartoon Network) – This season of “filler” material was supposed to be the weakest part of this enduring anime series. Guess what? I found many of the miniarcs every bit as good as the original first series. The fact that the second “true” series, Shippuden, is now in production tells me there’s still a lot left in the tale of the young knuckleheaded ninja with dreams of becoming hokage. • Phineas & Ferb (Disney) – Another truly inventive show that takes what should have been a rapidly exhausted formula and milks it for all it’s worth. Just the idea that creators Dan Provenmire and Swampy Marsh come up with at least two new songs per episode is impressive enough. Then there are the further adventures of Perry The Platypus constantly being woven in on top of P&F’s never-ending ways of entertaining themselves each way. The only bad news is, sooner or later, Provenmire and Marsh will hit 104 adventures. Thank god there are more seasons to the year. • Shawn The Sheep (Aardman/Disney) – The Aardman crew manage to take a Wallace and Gromit side character and fill him with enough charm and looniness to keep you entertained for hours on end. Barnyard antics have never been so much fun. • Spectacular Spider-Man (Culver Entertainment/4Kids) – My pick of superhero series of the year. This retconning of the Webslinger’s mythos has managed to captivate and enthrall for its first season of 13 episodes, with never breaking the reasons why we love Mr. Parker and pals to begin with. Informed sources say the show will shortly be moving to Disney, where the second and nearly completed third season will spearhead a new superhero block. Sounds like there’s still plenty of juice left. • Spongebob Squarepants (Nickelodeon) – What can you say? Ten years in and the square yellow invertebrate still manages to hold his own. Aqua Teen Hunger Force (Adult Swim) – The diet-conscious trio continues to pack in the calories with stream-of-conscious humor, absurd situations and the greatest skewering of New Jersey this side of the Atlantic. One view and it’s easy to see why the Force is now [AS] flagship show. • The Drinky Crow Show (Adult Swim) – Tony Millionaire’s madcap creations have made a truly indelible mark on my consciousness. The further tales of the lovelorn crow, his sex-driven monkey pal Gabby and the rest of those who sail on the good ship Maakies please! • King of the Hill (Fox) – It must be great being Mike Judge. This year he has proven without a doubt that one can produce an intelligent, soft-spoken, mature show about suburban life, and no network can stop him. His coming to Adult Swim starting this January should finally establish the show as the true classic it is. • Lil’ Bush (Comedy Central) – Talk about giving the soon-to-be-past administration all the respect it deserved! This series shows that there’s a ton of black humor to be gained from the Bush administration. The only crime here is the series had to end because Obama starts this January. That said, Donnick Cary’s take on the Bushes will be the only thing I miss about the past administration. • Metalocalypse (Adult Swim) – This absolutely brutal take on all things heavy metal may infuriate the hardcore, but sure does rock the worlds of those with a sense of humor. Here’s to a great third season. • Moribito: Spirit Of The Guardian (Production IG/Adult Swim) – First things first: Shame on you Adult Swim for not giving this intelligent anime series the same time and space you give to such borefests as Bleach. This is a beautifully rendered, thoughtful tale of a woman commissioned to protect the life of a child. The only catch is the child is a son of Japan’s emperor and pops wants him dead. A superlative take on feudal Japan. Now give it the proper, and stable time slot it so richly deserves.
Related:The Black Panther Animated Series Trailer Skewering the Force: Matt Senreich on Robot Chicken: Star Wars 2 Talking to the Phineas & Ferb Creators