The first American cartoon network to air nonstop began airing the year Bill Clinton took office, 1992. There was no doubt that Nickelodeon was on the horizon, but Cartoon Network had already cemented its position as the premier destination for animated programming. Cartoon Network aired some of the most acclaimed cartoons, many of which were Emmy Award winners, thanks to a very small pool of animators and voice actors.
1. The Powerpuff Girls
One of the longest-running and most-watched shows in Cartoon Network history is The Powerpuff Girls. Superhero heroines Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup are sweet, spicy, and a little bit naughty thanks to Chemical X. Based on a short he made in 1992 titled The Whopass Girls!, Craig McCracken developed The Powerpuff Girls for Cartoon Network.
The parody episode of The Powerpuff Girls, “Sticky Situation,” premiered at the 1994 Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation, where Mike Judge also got his start. In 1995, Cartoon Network aired the first episode of The Powerpuff Girls as part of their World Premiere Toons block. It ended up getting nominated for five Emmys and taking home two.
After spending $25 million to produce, 2002’s The Powerpuff Girls film only managed to recoup $11 million. Eventually, ‘Twas the Nightmare Before Christmas was released exclusively on home video. The ladies were featured in a special named Dance Pantsed that aired on Cartoon Network in 2014.
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2. Dexter’s Laboratory
The plot of Dexter’s Laboratory, which debuted on April 28, 1996, centres around a little boy who uses his bedroom as a makeshift laboratory to develop his inventions. His annoying older sister Dee Dee was always there to mess things up. One such show that got its start in Hanna-World Barbera’s Premiere Toons and went on to become a mainstay on Cartoon Network is Dexter’s Laboratory.
The short film directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, a relative unknown at the time, was shortlisted for an Emmy. Eventually, Dexter’s Laboratory became a series that was nominated for four Emmys. It was so successful that it inspired an entire hour-long TV show called “Ego Trip.”
3. Cow and Chicken
The show followed the lives of a brother and sister named Chicken and Cow, who saw their version of the American ideal crumble with each new episode because to Chicken. The animated short Cow and Chicken by David Feiss for Hanna-Barbera and Cartoon Network’s World Premiere Toons series was nominated for an Emmy. On July 22, 1997, it debuted, and on July 24, 1999, it ended. The episodes featured two shorts and an I.M. Weasel-centric short.
4. Johnny Bravo
In Johnny Bravo, a blonde narcissist who sounds and acts like Elvis Presley lives at home with his mother. His haughtiness gets him into trouble. On July 7, 1997, Cartoon Network premiered a new series titled Johnny Bravo. It received three Annie Award nods and has remained popular in reruns.
5. Courage The Cowardly Dog
As a Cartoon Network original series, Courage the Cowardly Dog ran from 1999 to 2002. The film followed the tragic journey of a dog named Courage. Courage repeatedly found himself in precarious situations with supernatural or monstrous threats. He had to save Muriel and Eustace from harm without them knowing how perilous their situation was or that they needed Courage to save them. An Annie Award-winning staple of the Cartoon canon, “Courage the Cowardly Dog” first debuted in 1985.
Courage was played by Marty Grabstein, Muriel Bagge by Thea White, Eustace Bagge by Lionel G. Wilson (who passed away in 2003), and the Computer by Simon Prebble.
6. Samurai Jack
The first episode of Genndy Tartakovsky’s (Dexter’s Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls) Samurai Jack broadcast on August 7, 2001, and was immediately praised as a groundbreaking masterpiece. After being cursed by the wicked wizard Aku, the warrior known as Samurai Jack was doomed to spend eternity in the future. To return to his own time, Samurai Jack spent every episode fighting Aku and his robot army. Very little talking took place, but the comic book-style action kept things moving.
7. The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy
In The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, the protagonists were a dim-witted boy and a cunning girl who outwitted the Grim Reaper in limbo. They made him their best buddy against his will, and the three of them went on adventures together in the afterlife and in their own town of Endsville. They frequently and hilariously ran across mythical beings, magical items, and otherworldly monsters from the Underworld.
A ten-minute segment of The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy premiered on Cartoon Network’s The Big Pick weekend in 2000, although the series didn’t premiere until 2003. Both Billy & Mandy’s Jacked Up Halloween and Billy & Mandy Save Christmas were broadcast on Cartoon Network over the holidays. Billy and Mandy’s Big Boogey Adventure, a feature-length television film, premiered in 2007. There was an Emmy for Billy & Mandy: The Grim Adventures in 2006.
8. Camp Lazlo
Animator Joe Murray, who also worked on Rocko’s Modern Life, created Camp Lazlo. There was a movie called Camp Lazlo about a spider monkey named Lazlo who attended a scout summer camp called Camp Kidney. The camp is run like a prison by the moose Scoutmaster Lumpus. Two Emmys were bestowed upon Camp Lazlo after its launch on July 8, 2005. Despite the show’s success, Camp Lazlo ended after only 31 episodes.
9. Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends
Everything the title suggests was covered in Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. Madame Foster cared for children’s imaginary pals who were forgotten as they grew older. Mac, an emaciated eight-year-old, persuaded Madame Foster to take in his pal Bloo.
Cartoon Network invites you to REDRAW YOUR WORLD! Whether you use art, activism, laughter or music, always march to the beat of your own drum. Just like @Nandi_Bushell – YOU have the power to #RedrawYourWorld! 🌟🥁🎉 pic.twitter.com/hSiFjBrs1u
— Cartoon Network (@cartoonnetwork) October 21, 2021
The man responsible for both The Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends is Craig McCracken. It debuted on August 13, 2005, and has already taken home four Emmys for excellence in television. It was so popular that Good Wilt Hunting, an hour-long special, was developed around it.
10. Ben 10
The success of Ben 10 on Cartoon Network led to the creation of three spinoff series and four TV movies. A young kid named Ben Tennyson discovers an Omnitrix, which grants him the ability to assume one of ten alien appearances. He and his cousin Gwen and grandfather Max helped others in need using their new abilities. First airing on December 27, 2005, the first season of Ben 10 went on to win an Emmy in 2008.
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