Sketch’s Top 5 Great Cartoons Cancelled Before Their Time

Posted: May 29, 2010 by Sketch in Animation, Animation Editorials, Animation Reviews, Sketch
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There have been countless fantastic cartoons that for whatever reason did not last more than a season or two. Here’s a discussion of my top 5 of all-time or at least in recent memory. I’ll talk about what I loved about them and give some insight as to why they may have been cancelled along with giving you folks some recommendations for other shows to check out as well as how you can continue to enjoy these great cartoons now. Keep in mind these are my personal preferences and nothing more. So here’s my top 5 great cartoons cancelled before their time. Only the good die young as they say.

Slashing its’ way to number 5…

Wolverine and the X-Men

Wolverine and the X-Men was supposed to get at least two full seasons of 26 episodes however it was recently announced that the second season was cancelled during production. I wont make the claim this is the best X-Men series to date as that honor more likely goes to X-Men Evolution or X-Men: The Animated Series depending on who you asked. Actually X-Men Evolution was also cancelled before it’s time given the direction the story was going. However Wolverine and the X-Men makes my list here because in just 26 episodes they were barely scratching the surface and there was indeed another set of 26 on the way as planned before that was pulled due to lack of funding. They could have gone great places eventually but the production staff was never given the opportunity. Personally I liked a lot of the design work and the darker atmosphere the series gave off. It was not without its flaws and somewhat lacked the depth previous X-Men animated series did but the we got a great batch of characters in this version and have Wolverine charged with the task of bringing together a team in disarray after the disappearance of their mentor Charles Xavier. Wolverine you know… excellent leadership material what with being a loner and all. While Cyclops takes up Wolverine’s previous lone-gun role as an amusing change up from the usual way these characters are presented.

For fans of the show I highly recommend the DVDs released by Lionsgate Entertainment, even if they’re singles. If you enjoyed Wolverine and the X-Men and have not seen X-Men Evolution or X-Men: The Animated Series then by all means look into those as well. For more teenage mutants I highly recommend the 4Kids’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series which can be viewed in its entirety on 4Kids.tv and will be broadcasting on Nicktoons Network later this year.

Diabolically snagging number 4…

Invader Zim

There have been many Nicktoons cancelled well before their time but none quite as much so as Invader Zim a cult hit in every way and relevant long past its’ initial run. Nicktoons Network recently started airing it again knowing full well an audience would follow. Who doesn’t love the antics of a psychotic alien goof ball who can’t conqueror the world because of his own bumbling and a high-strung human boy? The main reason I mention Zim is because it can be assumed Nickelodeon cancelled Zim early because it did not fit their current image. What a shame. Perhaps in different hands it would have lived a long and fruitful life. The cult following remains strong after all these years.

Fans of a show should track down the Media Blaster’s DVD sets from several years back or can settle for recent DVDs published by Nickelodeon that can only be bought online that have all the episodes but lack the interesting extras presented on that disc. If you’re looking for a show that is similar but different then I highly recommend Keroro Gunsou aka SGT Frog licensed in the US by FUNimation featuring a goofy frog alien not so unlike Zim who likewise couldn’t conqueror a planet to save his life.

Smashing into number 3…

Megas XLR

Speaking of cult following, there was Megas XLR though not nearly as popular as Invader Zim there was no telling where this show could have gone with another season or two. The guys behind the series created the ultimate show for anime loving gamers by anime loving gamers. The endless barrage of homage’s and spoofs throughout ranged from mildly amusing to fall out of your seat laughing. It was a show for this generation to be sure. In the height of giant robot series featuring mal-adjusted bishounen teenage protagonists fighting only because they were forced to it presented the exact opposite in a Coop the 20 something out of shape gear head who fought in his giant robot to have fun while saving the world was mostly an afterthought. The fighting can’t match up to the best Super Robot shows from Japan but this show was more about the comedy anyway and while it did have its dull points within the series 26 episode run it had more than enough shining moments for it to be fondly remembered after its short run in the mid 2000s. Unfortunately it was yet another one of Cartoon Network’s short lived original series and perhaps that is because it was not much of a breadwinner while it was around and did not do particularly well in reruns. It was still a real shame to see it end after just 26 episodes.

Fans of the show can download it on Xbox Live and I believe The Playstation Network along with iTunes. Unfortunately there has yet to be a DVD release of the series but the above options suffice for watching the great show again. If you want more over the top robot battles then I highly recommend King of the Braves: GaoGaiGar licensed by Media Blasters and Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann licensed by Bandai Entertainment. For more giant robot show parody with an American twist be sure to check out Titan Maximum on Adult Swim.

Eating its’ way to number 2…

Chowder

I could not have this list without bring up Chowder. Chowder has to be one of the best cartoons that Cartoon Network has produced in recent years. The characters are hilarious and the settings are unique and imaginative. The visual style may be off-putting to some but downright enchanting to others. It features the mis-adventures of a Chowder a chef in training learning from the great Mung Daal. Chowder being the naïve and trouble-making boy he is often drives Mung Daal, his surly wife Truffles and his assistant Schnitzel and the various other characters bonkers. The stories introduce all kinds of interesting characters including kooky rival chefs, crazy would-be love interests, bizarre customers asking for even more bizarre dishes from the catering service Mung operates and of course the food stand owner Gazpacho who is quite possibly the most off-beat of them all. The show delighted millions and got excellent ratings. Then all of a sudden Cartoon Network halted production and the reasons for this have not yet been made entirely clear, especially since Flapjack created not long after Chowder continues to have new episodes produced and Cartoon Network has several new cartoons in the works at this time. As for now all that remains of Chowder is the finale which Cartoon Network has yet to broadcast.

Fans of the show can find a few volumes of the series on DVD and episodes on iTunes, CN Video and reruns on Cartoon Network and Cartoon Network On-Demand. For more off-beat comedy check out Flapjack and Adventure Time with Finn and Jake on Cartoon Network and for another bizarre cooking show I recommend Yakitate Japan! an anime telling the story of a young bread maker in Japan who has the aspiration of creating a national bread for Japan. The anime has not been licensed for the US but the manga graphic novels are published by Viz Media. You’d be hard pressed to find another cooking show that gets as wacky as Yakitate.

And swinging its’ way to number 1…

You guessed it.

The Spectacular Spider-Man

The Spectacular Spider-Man is an animated love letter to the original comics from Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. It features a teenage Peter Parker who is just beginning his career as the sub slinging wonder who must balance his day-to-day teenage drama and family life with super heroics often causing him to make several hard decisions and grow as a person. While many episodes seemed to have a moral to them they rarely felt preachy. This series has had a rough broadcast life starting on Kids’ WB before it became CW4kids causing Spectacular Spider-Man to move to Disney 😄 where it would premiere its’ second and final season while fans eagerly awaited confirmation for a third. Many ideas were hinted at by the creator Greg Weisman and Victor Cook giving indication they knew exactly where the show would be going next. The series did a tremendous job foreshadowing future events in season one that would come to pass in season two and most likely would continue to build the connections into season three and beyond. Unfortunately Sony did not continue the series, the staff moved on and Disney has begun production on an animated series based on the Ultimate Spider-Man comic universe which seems more than a little similar to what Spectacular was already doing. There’s really no telling how much better Spectacular could have become in future seasons but regardless the brief 26 episode series stands among some of the best action cartoons to date. It will be the Spider-Man cartoon to which all others will be judged from now on.

Fans of the show can watch it on Disney 😄 and catch the first season in a two-disc DVD set and the second season across four DVD volumes. Hopefully season 2 will get a two-disc set in the future as well but there is no word of one at this time. For more Spider-Man adventures you can catch the 90s Spider-Man: The Animated Series along with a few other Spider-Man cartoons on Disney 😄 from time to time and look forward to Ultimate Spider-Man coming in 2011. For fans of Weisman’s work and super hero cartoons in general you can look forward to the upcoming Young Justice animated series produced by Weismen for Cartoon Network in 2011 and for more teenagers with super powers check out Generator Rex on Cartoon Network and Static Shock on Disney XD.

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Comments
  1. Wasn’t much an X-Men fan, so I personally don’t find the premature end of that show very heart-breaking. Chowder, while it started off on the right foot, began to go downhill during Season 2, eventually sinking like a rock. However, I agree with you 100% with the other three series on your list.

    Invader Zim was a hilarious dark comedy that, if it came on a little bit later or on a different network, would have done great. Megas XLR was a show I watched near-religiously during it’s run, but I still have yet to watch the final episodes. And Spectacular…was just that. Spectacular. I can understand the reasoning behind the cancellation, but its still sad to see it go.

  2. Jeff Harris says:

    Great list, and I’d wholeheartedly agree with each one, especially Wolverine and Spectacular Spider-Man. Why Super Hero Squad and Iron Man Armored Adventures are still in production and the former two aren’t is baffling to me.

    If I could, I could make an argument for 6 – 10 on the list, which would include (in no particular order):

    Galaxy High School: If Futurama had a high-school setting, it would be this show. Two teens from Earth (a sports star and a brainiac) are chosen to go to school at an exclusive alien high-school where their worldly roles are shifted. Doyle, the high-school star, has to work to pay for his schooling (Galaxy High is his last chance to get a diploma) and Aimee, the smartest girl at her old high-school, is celebrated for her genius and becomes the most popular girl at Galaxy High. At 13 episodes, it only ran one season, not to mention one of the few 1980s cartoons not based on a toyline or celebrity that still has a devoted following today. You can catch it on Crunchyroll if it’s still there. And like

    The Adventures of Sam and Max: Freelance Police – One of the last great cartoons of Fox Kids was this one based on a popular indy comic book and game series. A hard-boiled detective and his manic sidekick solving crimes. Fun show. Died way too soon because, well, Fox Kids was beginning to fall apart at the seams and largely was dependent on one studio at the time, Saban. Nelvana owns the series outright, and Shout Factory has released the entire series on DVD. And the characters live on in games from Telltale Games.

    Teen Wolf – You ever seen that Michael J. Fox movie with the same name? Well, aside from a handful of characters from the film, the animated series was a totally different beast (no pun intended). The show, produced by Hanna-Barbera’s (now former) Southern Star Productions unit, hasn’t been seen stateside since its initial run on CBS, and there are no plans to bring the 21 episodes to the US. Instead, MTV’s about to put a Twilight-like spin on the franchise with a new series. Goody.

    Legion of Super Heroes – Now, I know this isn’t on anybody’s list, but in the two seasons the series ran, it’s quite clear that the creators were finally getting the hang of what the series was all about. Unfortunately, the powers-that-be didn’t know how to merchandise the series (despite being many heroes of all types and genders, including TWO Supermen [the younger, greener original plus a Batman-esque darker clone]), and the 4Kids assimilation of the Kids’ WB lineup were instrumental in the premature end of the series. Damn shame. It was just getting great.

    Thundarr the Barbarian – From the mind of comic creator Steve Gerber and the utilizing the designs of comic legends Jack Kirby and Alex Toth comes a post-apocalyptic world ruled by sorcery, science, and savagery. Great show, only 21 episodes. It runs on Boomerang sporadically, but alas, no series DVD set exists.

  3. I think Chowder had a good enough run. 49 episodes is a decent amount of time, and I thought that by the end the show was fluctuating so rapidly from great episodes that reminded me why I loved the series to terrible, annoying, grating episodes taht were barely recognisable that I eventually gave up on it.

    I think Sheep in The Big City deserves a mention. Seriously, that show could have been the next Rocky and Bullwinkle.
    I also have a soft spot for El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera. True, they overused montages, but the writing was cleaver, the animation was slick and the drawings were funny. It had a Powerfuff Girls type feel but with a little more kick. I’m really sad that it’s gone.

  4. Sketch says:

    Nice additions Jeff I at least have Sam & Max on DVD and props to Keiran for bringing up Sheep in The Big City. I unfortunately didn’t see much of that one nor El Tigre which I have yet to watch at all. I really should check them out some time.

    Maybe I made the wrong call with Chowder since 49 is a solid run even so when it was doing so well its odd for it to get cancelled like it did.

  5. Kitty Bobo says:

    Awesome list but I don’t agree with the X-Men one. That had to be the worse X-Men series I’ve ever seen.

  6. thumb says:

    What about Duckman?! and these other that are some of great cartoons …Although, some of them haven’t been cancelled yet..Still they are great though.

  7. Nice list! But. where’s Clerks? Man, that got cancelled before it even got big.

  8. felicia natasha nicole_5c says:

    i’m really gonna miss chowder…….there’s no laughter and smile’s anymore….but what i really miss from chowder is the wacky character and silly faces…and the laughter from me and my sister that fill’s the tv room…hhhuuuuhhh…..good time’s…good times!:)

  9. felicia natasha nicole_5c says:

    Kieran Pertnav :
    I think Chowder had a good enough run. 49 episodes is a decent amount of time, and I thought that by the end the show was fluctuating so rapidly from great episodes that reminded me why I loved the series to terrible, annoying, grating episodes taht were barely recognisable that I eventually gave up on it.
    I think Sheep in The Big City deserves a mention. Seriously, that show could have been the next Rocky and Bullwinkle.
    I also have a soft spot for El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera. True, they overused montages, but the writing was cleaver, the animation was slick and the drawings were funny. It had a Powerfuff Girls type feel but with a little more kick. I’m really sad that it’s gone.

  10. Andrew Aquilina says:

    Guys, i think that Megas XLR was the most hurtful cancellation i’ve ever seen. It was a great and original idea, and all the references to other cartoons were hilarious, and having the guy from Evil Dead in it (face and voice) was also a great addition. Absolutely fantastic cartoon and i have watched each episode over 20 times, i still think they’re great

  11. Nini says:

    ——> Clone High.

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