There was once a time when cartoons were considered kid-fodder. That is, if it was animated, it was given a time slot in the afternoon or Saturday morning, but this has changed recently. There have been a lot of animated shows released in the past few decades that understand that if parents were going to plant their kids in front of the television, then the parents should also enjoy the experience if they have to watch it too. There are the Top Ten Animated Shows made for kids that adults can just as easily appreciate, possibly more than their children.
Before I begin, I am going to rule out those animated shows that are targeted for a younger audience such as The Simpsons, Family Guy, American Dad, Bob's Burgers, South Park, and Rick and Morty. I am talking about shows that are not made for Adult Swim, and these shows are made for younger eyes, and I have five runner-ups.
1) Adventure Time (2010-present)
The show about Jake the human and Finn the shape-shifting dog who travel through the magical fantasy land of Ooo has got a lot of adults watching it. The show seemed like it was going to be just a zany show where no episode ever builds on another, but that has changed. It is not known how much time it has, but it could probably air indefinitely.
2) Spongebob Squarepants (1999-present)
This show began strong, and even those that went to college were watching this. As it stands, Nickelodeon really over-promoted this show back in its hey-day and still produce a very limited number of new episodes each year. The show has no continuity, so no episode ever builds upon each other, which might be the reason why the show's quality has gone down.
3) Phineas and Ferb (2007-2015)
This show has only one plot: two kids (the ones in the title) build something incredible while their older sister (Candace) tries to bust them for it. Their mother never sees it because of a secondary plot with a platypus who is a spy (Perry) thwarting an evil scientist named Dr. Doofenshmirtz. The fact that this show was able to remain funny after several years shows how much the creators respected it, and some of the jokes were referencing things that only adults would get.
4) Samurai Jack (2001-2004)
The good part about this show is that it has an epic beginning of a young samurai who is forced forward through time thanks to an evil force named Aku. The bad part about this show is that it ended without any final confrontation to end the story, but each episode was packed with excellent action and interesting animation full of imagination.
5) Total Drama Island (2007)
This is a show that is good because it is satirizing another show, Survivor. The first season really pointed out the bad consequences of reality shows, but they made a big mistake in changing the location rather than the cast for the second season. This is why I'm only going to recommend just one season of this animated reality show.
Okay, so let's see who made it to the Top Ten:
10. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic (2010-Present)
Considering that there is an entire culture of male adults who love this show known as "Bronies," this had to make the list. The show is quite something as it has had some very epic fantasy episodes, but usual episodes are standard situation comedy fare.
9. Regular Show (2009-Present)
This show features a blue jay (Mordecai) and a raccoon (Rigby) working for a gumball machine (Benson) with friends like Skips, Hi-Five Ghost, and Muscle Man. To say this show is absurdist and surreal is underselling it, and its first two seasons were downright hysterical. The show usually consists of Mordecai and Rigby getting themselves into trouble because they are slacking off, and then something supernatural happens. The show has actually got a bit more serious and developing its slapstick characters, but it still has some quality left in it after seven seasons.
8. Teen Titans (2003-2007)
This is a superhero show that seemed like it was trying to be whimsical, and then it would suddenly go into a serious realm. It lasted for five seasons, ending with an awesome 3-part episode that should have capped it off. Sadly, it has a cliffhanger episode, but the only thing fans got was a comic book continuing the story. There was also Teen Titans Go, which definitely ups the whimsy, and is not even worth mentioning on this list.
7. Kim Possible (2002-2007)
This is a terrific show about a teenager who is a spy in her spare time. Yes, that is a ridiculous premise, and the show is very aware of that. Like Phineas and Ferb, the show has jokes that only adults would appreciate, but never strays into adult humor.
6. Over the Garden Wall (2014)
This is a limited series that played on the Cartoon Network, but it is one of those times where the network really produced something original. The story is about two boys who find themselves trapped in the woods, and the animation is a mix of anime with early thirties style. It feels too superior to be made for kids.
5. Batman: The Animated Series (1992-1995)
Of all the shows that have adult appeal, this is the one that really started it all. It was as if the creators realized that adults liked to watch afternoon cartoons, and decided to design a darker cartoon for them. I mentioned before on our Best Versions of Batman article that this is the best version of Batman, and it was smart enough to address the darker side of human nature while still maintaining a kid-friendly vibe.
4. Star Vs. the Forces of Evil (2015-present)
Granted, there has only been one season of this show, and it seems on its surface another magical girl show with a zany feel. It is only in later episodes where it is realized that the show is going somewhere, and it is worth checking out if you haven't seen it already.
3. Steven Universe (2013-present)
This show is really changing the face of animation on television. The show's premise is about a boy who is raised by three aliens with special powers, and the Steven is developing his powers while fighting against monsters. However, it is what the show is not saying is what keeps fans tuning in. Not only is this show going someplace, its backstory still has yet to be fully revealed.
2. Gravity Falls (2012-2016)
This show was designed to create a fanbase, and it did it very well. It had a running storyline throughout it, and it had clues and codes hidden throughout the episodes that kept fans tuning in. Not only that, the storyline about a brother and sister who go to stay at the grand-uncle's Mystery Shack and face supernatural phenomenon was enough to keep it interesting. Too bad this only lasted two seasons, but the finale wrapped up the story so well, that I hope it doesn't ever come back. It is that good.
1. Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008)
This is easily the most creative shows on television, period. The show focuses on the world where people have the power to bend the four basic elements (fire, water, air, and earth), and an Avatar, who is kind of a messianic figure in this world. The show created an imaginative setting unlike any other, great characters, and impressive action. Too bad its sequel, The Legend of Korra, wasn't as good, but the original series is difficult to top. It is sad that M. Night Shyamalan tried a live-action adaptation The Last Airbender. However, Voltron: Legendary Defender has the same animators, so maybe they can produce a show of good quality.
Okay, now it is time for you, the reader, to chime in. I'm sure that I missed at least a few shows that are your favorite, so feel free to leave a comment on the ones that I left out.