I contemplated making a top 5 or top 10 for the year but I felt like I wouldn’t be giving some shows their due if I just did that so rather than make a list I decided to give a micro-review and some personal thoughts on the cartoons of 2010 that I was able to catch. For the record, I did not include any direct sequels such as Ben 10: Ultimate Alien or Total Drama: World Tour. Follow the jump to see what I thought about the new cartoons that premiered in 2010.

Adventure Time
Network: The Cartoon Network
Personal Rating: Great

Adventure Time was a big show this year. Several years after the pilot aired on Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network launched the series to a resounding success. There’s a lot I like about Adventure Time. Finn and Jake are an entertaining duo and are just unique enough to stand out in a crowd. I find the dialogue to be quite snappy and the vast world Finn and Jake explore is vibrant and full of life. While many people will say the show is absolutely amazing, I’m not really on that bandwagon. Honestly, it’s pretty hit or miss for me and often gets too bizarre for my tastes. I like Finn and Jake and some of the supporting cast but most episodes don’t have me laughing all that much. I will give it points for being tremendously clever and enjoyable enough to watch regularly but I’m just not that big of a fan at this point. I’m somewhat disappointed that I’ve yet to watch an episode that I feel is better than the show’s pilot. Maybe it’ll grow on me and even if it doesn’t I can still appreciate Pendleton Ward’s brainchild for being something unique.

Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes
Network: Disney XD
Personal Rating: Great

Marvel has had a few good years for television animation lately The Super Hero Squad Show non-withstanding, so expectations were high for Avengers. Marvel previously produced an Avengers cartoon for FOX Kids but it was missing the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and The Hulk. That among other reasons was that show’s undoing. This time around they brought out the big guns and so far I like what I see. They did a satisfactory job building up hype with mini-episodes introducing the characters before having a two-part episode that brought the heroes together to take on a threat none of them could face by themselves. The series is action packed, makes good use of the vast array of characters in the Marvel universe and has just the right amount of continuity episode to episode. The design work leaves a bit to be desired, particularly Iron Man’s armor but I’m willing to overlook that for the exciting stories the show has been able to tell thus far. In a short time they’ve managed to flesh out several of the characters rather well and The Hulk in particular who thankfully isn’t just a big uncontrollable dolt. His inner monologues with Bruce Banner are a nice touch. Overall it is pretty good so far but there’s plenty of room to grow.

Dennis and Gnasher
Network: The Hub
Personal Rating: Good

I’m glad The Hub keeps its’ eye on international animation and has brought some foreign shows to their line-up. I just recently had a chance to watch Dennis and Gnasher and I was surprised at how entertained I was by it. Dennis and Gnasher is about a boy and his dog who constantly cause mischief either on purpose or by accident. This of course, brings his parents and neighbors a lot of grief. That’s entirely formulaic but if you are clever enough with the stories even that tired old scenario can have some life breathed into it. Dennis is a menace and other people react. The reactions are usually quite funny and the personalities of the characters help keep things interesting. Some people may find the British accents a bit tough to get used to but they’re starting to grow on me. It is not a great cartoon but it is a good one and worth giving a watch or two.

Fish Hooks
Network: Disney Channel
Personal Rating: Okay

Fish Hooks is high school clichés in a fish tank. The characters are not dislikable and some of them are at least a bit charming but others are more than a little obnoxious. Some of the stories are pretty clever but honestly I just can’t get into it. It is a comedy that commits the ultimate crime of not being funny. There seems like there are plenty of opportunities to be funny but rarely if ever do they make good use of them. I do kind of like the unique animation style combining standard 2D animation and some cut-out photo style animation. That method isn’t entirely uncommon but isn’t often used well. The visual presentation is fine but the writing falls considerably short. Hopefully that can improve should the series get another season.

Generator Rex
Network: The Cartoon Network
Personal Rating: Great

I only somewhat enjoyed Ben 10 and mostly have not enjoyed Ben 10: Alien Force / Ultimate Alien but Men of Action won me over with Generator Rex. The similarities to Ben 10 are there with Rex also being obnoxious and a hot-shot but I find him to be a more interesting character. What really gives Rex the edge over Ben 10 for me is the supporting cast. Grandpa Max was great but Agent Six, Doctor Holiday and even that trouble-maker Bobo are characters I’ve come to enjoy a bit more than Max in his prime. The story is not terribly original, throwing back to X-Men and Static Shock but they do a great job presenting it to the viewer with interesting stories and great action. It’s still a bit bland but I can deal with bland if it’s at least fun.

G. I. Joe: Renegades
Network: The Hub
Personal Rating: Good

G. I. Joe has seen a lot of re-inventions over the years and many of them have been less than worth-while but Renegades right out of the gate had my attention. Presenting Cobra as a popular and trusted organization which is actually just as evil as usual is a good concept. Keeping the Joes on the run makes for some interesting stories and unique situations not presented in previous G.I. Joe incarnations so at the very least it’s fresh. I’m rather underwhelmed by the design work. I’d go as far as to say I think it’s bland and ugly but the animation itself isn’t bad. The action sequences are pretty well choreographed as well. The storyline is what keeps me interested though. I want to see how this plays out and that level of interest is greatly to the show’s credit.

MAD
Network: The Cartoon Network
Personal Rating: Good

I was just about ready to write off MAD after a few episodes but it grew on me. The problem I have with it is it’s hit or miss nature. Some of the parodies are clever and entertaining while others leave a lot to be desired. They also rely too greatly on “ribbing” the teen stars of Nickelodeon and Disney. Mid-season it was getting to the point when they did not seem to even be making jokes about them so much as just promoting them. They can do better than that. I know so, because they have. A few moments in the initial 12 episodes were an absolute riot for me while the majority fell tremendously short. At the very least every episode has some good non-parody goofy sketches and a segment of Spy vs. Spy but when the main parody segments fail to deliver the overall episode suffers for it. I’m cautiously optimistic that they’ll be able to grow in the coming seasons. Or at least I’m hoping they will because going by the ratings, this show is not leaving any time soon.

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
Network: The Hub
Personal Rating: Fantastic

That name, it’s just awful isn’t it? Don’t let that stop you from checking this gem out though. It’s cute and it’s girly but it is also tremendously charming and laugh-out-loud funny. Yes, it’s funny and not in an ironic sense. Lauren Faust was scoffed by some people for “selling-out” to make a new My Little Pony but I’m going to dare to say Faust has done with pony’s what Bruce Timm did with men in capes. She’s crafted a fresh take on an old favorite and filled it with character and genuine entertainment value. It’s a bit preachy on the morals and is by all means a show intended for children but I think a great many parents could sit down and watch this with their kids and they should. The Hub has a winner here. This is no one-trick pony.

Planet Sheen
Network: Nickelodeon / Nicktoons Network
Personal Rating: Okay

Planet Sheen is a spin-off of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius staring his good buddy Sheen who ends up on an alien world where a lot of inhabitants are actually dumber than him. He meets a brilliant chimpanzee who was stranded on the planet and the two of them set out to rebuild Sheen’s ship so he may return home. Sheen becomes the guide to Earth’s history and customs to the inhabitants of the planet Zeenu and as you might assume, he’s not exactly the best guy for that job. This can make for some amusing miscommunications though. The comedy for the most part isn’t my cup of tea but if you enjoyed Sheen’s antics on Jimmy Neutron then you’ll enjoy them on this show as that’s pretty much all there is to it. Much like in Jimmy Neutron, Sheen is constantly frustrating the few smarter characters. They also have an alien who is designed like Carl who is supposed to be his doppelganger. It ends up feeling like a lot more of the same without quite as much of the charm but if you liked Sheen on Jimmy Neutron then you’ll more than likely enjoy Planet Sheen. Steve Oedekerk and his crew have certainly done better. I’d rather watch more Back to the Barnyard myself.

Regular Show
Network: The Cartoon Network
Personal Rating: Fantastic

Among Cartoon Network’s latest cartoons, Regular Show is easily my favorite. I absolutely love the dialogue exchanges and the character interactions. They have entirely believable conversations except for when they involve some otherworldly situation. With Mordecai and Rigby you have a lovable duo of slackers who are constantly competing to be “right” in any given situation. This can get on the obnoxious side but they act like real friends would. Being a mid-20s guy myself, the bizarre mis-adventures of a couple of 23 year old wage slaves speaks to me on a personal level. The animation is great though the designs are simple. What the show lacks in visuals it more than makes up for in laugh factor. This show is hilarious and I would not have it any other way. I hope it has a long healthy life and continues to be at least as good as it has been thus far. J.G. Quintel and his crew have the new Rocko’s Modern Life here in my opinion.

Robotomy
Network: The Cartoon Network
Personal Rating: Great

I like Robotomy, it has character. The high-school clichés are tried as all give out but the robot culture presented in it makes it plenty unique enough for my tastes. It is chock full of great visual gags and amusing social commentary and pop-culture parodies. The animation and design work is great and quite a bit better than Adventure Time and Regular Show in my opinion. The use of celebrity voice actors is tasteful but not overbearing and it’s a lot of fun to hear them in the mix. I could understand if some people felt it was nothing special and just has a bunch of bells and whistles rather than actual entertainment value but I don’t feel like it’s phoned in at all and I’ll be disappointed if it does not get another season.

Scooby-Doo: Mystery Incorporated
Network: The Cartoon Network
Personal Rating: Great

Another year, another Scooby-Doo interpretation. I am exaggerating a bit there because it is more like every two to four years but Scooby gets about as many shows as Batman. This however has got to be my favorite Scooby-Doo incarnation yet. They put the spooky back in Scooby-Doo which is a welcome change and they added a touch of greater continuity as well. Of course all of the ghosts and monsters are fakes but they are enjoyable mysteries none the less. I appreciate the addition of the Mystery Inc. gang’s parents into the mix, as well as the police chief voiced by Patrick Warburton who is always a riot. Not really much else to say, it’s Scooby-Doo. It is however a fresh take and depending how they continue to incorporate that string of continuity it could boldly go places other Scooby series never have.

Sym-Bionic Titan
Network: The Cartoon Network
Personal Rating: Fantastic

Genndy Tartakovsky’s Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack are possibly two the best cartoons of all time. It’s hard to top that or even compare to it but Sym-Bionic Titan is definitely putting up a fight. The story isn’t particularly fresh as the show takes inspiration from a lot of previous animation and that will lose it some points with most people. Along with that, an action show in a high school setting is bound to feel a little too close to Power Rangers but the show’s take on teenage culture is hilarious. That isn’t what makes Sym-Bionic Titan fantastic though. Sym-Bionic Titan’s action sequences are just awesome. The fight choreography is phenomenal and action scenes can be anything from fist fights, to drag races to giant robot throw-downs. Titan also has some very well crafted drama that makes good use of an eerie atmosphere and compelling emotions from the characters. For my money, Sym-Bionic Titan is easily the best new action show this year.

Transformers: Prime
Network: The Hub
Personal Rating: Good

It may be a bit pre-mature to assess Prime since it’s only had a five episode mini-series but that’s still five episodes and some of the shows I covered either only had about that many or I’ve only seen about that many episodes of them. Transformers: Prime stylistically borrows many elements from the live-action CGI Transformers movies but they’re streamlined a bit. Unfortunately this also means Bumble Bee can’t speak normally. The story has the Autobots stranded on earth looking for the remaining Decepticons while they hide from human society. In traditional Transformers fashion, a battle with some Decepticons ends up revealing them to some kids and now they have to concern themselves with protecting said kids and stopping the Decepticons. The kids of varying ages aren’t terrible but they’re not particularly worthwhile additions either. The super genius 12 year old boy and the hyper Asian girl may have been better left on the cutting room floor because if it was just the older teen Jack, the human additions to this cast would be a lot more tolerable. I kind of like Agent Fowler the Autobots contact with the US military. Thankfully, the small Autobot and Decepticon cast is great and they have plenty of personality to spare. I especially enjoy Ratchet and Star Scream. The main plot of the mini-series involves Megatron returning from space to bring dark energon that can be used to make a zombie robot army. They try to pull on some heart strings by having him use it on a fallen Autobot. While the death of said Autobot did have some emotional impact, turning him into a short-lived zombie did not. The animation is very good and it’s showcased well when Prime is beating down an army of robot zombies but the backgrounds are a bit bland which kind of hurts the atmosphere. I have to mention the voice cast includes the return of Peter Cullen and Frank Welker for Prime and Megatron respectively and in my opinion this may be Welker’s best performance as Megatron. So far it’s pretty good and I look forward to more.

T.U.F.F. Puppy
Network: Nickelodeon / Nicktoons Network
Personal Rating: Good

Much like Planet Sheen, this show suffers from feeling like more of the same compared to Fairly Odd Parents and Danny Phantom, the two previous series from T.U.F.F. Puppy’s creator, Butch Hartman. You would think a show about a secret crime busting organization would be more along the lines of Danny Phantom in its’ approach but this one is almost entirely a comedy. Dudley the hapless hero is about as naïve as young Timmy and that’s not charming in the least. His partner, Kitty is a decent enough character but she’s suffering from getting dumped on constantly. The chief is probably my favorite character but there’s not much to him. He just yells a lot but that can be pretty funny when the execution is there. They reuse some villains a bit too often and underuse others. All of that said I’m genuinely entertained by the episodes I’ve seen. There’s a lot of room to grow but any cartoon in which a little squirrel kid asks “Why does the mean lady hate muffins and sunshine?” is okay in my book.

I realize that’s not every cartoon that premiered this year and if you have some recommendations for a show I didn’t cover I’d be more than willing to check it out. Quality is subjective and I will not claim I know what a good cartoon is any more than anyone else but I feel I gave all of these shows a fair assessment.

And in case you came here still looking for a Top 5 list for 2010 I guess I can oblige you here.

5) Adventure Time
4) Robotomy
3) My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic
2) Sym-Bionic Titan
1) Regular Show

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