The Fifty Greatest American Animated Characters, Page 4


Name: Tick
Primary Voice: Townsend Coleman
Title: The Tick
Debut: 1994

The Tick was a send-up of classic American superheroes: powerful, square-jawed, and utterly devoted to justice. Unfortunately, the guy was an idiot. He never noticed the problems he caused - especially the property damage - and his speeches were a confused mishmash of quasi-heroic phrases. And it was that total obliviousness that made him so funny. Spoon!


Name: Betty Boop
Primary Voice: Mae Questel
Title: cartoons by Fleischer Studios
Debut: 1930

Although animation is now commonly viewed as primarily a children's medium - at least in America - that was not always the case. Over half a century before Jessica Rabbit, Betty Boop was clearly sexualized, and aimed directly at a mature audience. As she combined both maturity and girlishness, she represented not only the flapper culture, but also the changing values and norms of America. Although demureness was later forced upon her, she was a fresh, edgy character, and was by far the biggest female star of animation's Golden Era.


Name: Grinch
Primary Voice: Boris Karloff
Title: How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Debut: 1966

His heart may have been two sizes too small, and his smile two sizes too big, but nonetheless the Grinch has become a holiday icon. Who among us hasn't secretly cheered as he stole all the whos' Christmas decorations? Every year we watch him turn his dog into a reindeer, Hulk up to save the sleigh, then carve the roast beast, all set to the narration of Boris Karloff and the singing of Thurl Ravenscroft (voice of Tony the Tiger). To this day, this special remains the greatest adaptation of any Dr. Seuss work.


Name: Mandy
Primary Voice: Grey DeLisle
Title: The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy
Debut: 2001

Mandy was intelligent, cunning, manipulative, bitter, acerbic, and in some ways the most evil character on this list. She managed to turn the Grim Reaper into her best friend/slave for eternity, and has also defeated and humiliated such mythological figures as Nergal and Eris. And yet, she was somehow able to endure being around the supremely stupid and disgusting Billy without doing more than slapping him a time or two. And I am required to put her in the top 20 if I ever want to see Whiskers alive again.


Name: Popeye
Primary Voice: Jack Mercer
Title: cartoons by Fleischer Studios
Debut: 1933

Did you ever notice that this sailor man didn't spend a whole lot of time sailing? He seemed to spend most of his days dry-docked, chasing after Swee'Pea and fighting with Bluto over the, um, "svelte" Olive Oyl. With those massive forearms, you'd think he could have just bitch-slapped his enemies unconscious, but apparently he needed some greens to put power into his biceps first. Still, you know you've got a great character when he actually convinces kids to eat spinach.


Name: The California Raisins
Primary Voice: Buddy Miles et al
Title: commercials by California Raisin Advisory Board
Debut: 1987

A group of singing, dancing raisins, rocking out to "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." It sounds like something from an acid trip, doesn't it? But for a few years, they were all over the TV. Not only did they make desiccated produce look good, but they also brought Claymation to the forefront. And in the process, they established themselves as one of the greatest advertising mascots of all time.


Name: Droopy
Primary Voice: Bill Thompson
Title: cartoons by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Debut: 1943

For someone who wasn't cheerful, Droopy sure was funny. From his deadpan dialogue to his nonchalant use of cartoon physics (drawing huge guns, magically appearing in front of a fleeing villain), he always managed to do the unexpected and force a laugh out of us. (Spike: "Woof woof!" Droopy: "Okey-dokey.") I guess it just proves that you don't have to smile to bring smiles to others.


Name: Blossom, Bubbles, & Buttercup
Primary Voice: Cathy Cavadini, Tara Strong, & E.G. Daily
Title: The Powerpuff Girls
Debut: 1995

You know the story: sugar and spice, Chemical X, boom, fighting crime and the forces of evil. Oh yeah, and they were darned cute. Pretty much everybody could find one to cheer for - I'm a Buttercup fan, myself - but they all had their moments. It was sometimes hard to tell whether Townsville took more damage from the villains or from the girls; but then, they were just kindergarteners, so you couldn't expect too much restraint while they saved the day.


Name: Eeyore
Primary Voice: Ralph Wright
Title: The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Debut: 1977

Pooh and Tigger might get all the attention, but I believe Eeyore is the greatest character of the group. We all know what it's like to be sad or depressed - for some, it's a way of life - and this blue, pin-tailed donkey is one of the few cartoon characters to represent us. But while he may have been depressed, he certainly was not depressing, instead somehow giving people hope that maybe things aren't so bad. Tigger was the likable one; Eeyore was the lovable one.


Name: Wile E. Coyote
Primary Voice: Mel Blanc (frequently none)
Title: Looney Tunes / Merrie Melodies
Debut: 1949

This ever-hungry coyote

(Genius comedius)

never stopped chasing after the elusive Road Runner

(Delicius barryallenus)

no matter how many cliffs he fell off in the process. Most of us, as children, thought of these as "Road Runner cartoons;" but really, Wile E. was the star. The bird was basically a force of nature; the humor came from the wacky plans and improbable inventions, and all the crazy ways they'd wind up hurting the coyote - crushing, flattening, exploding, you name it. He may well have been the most lovable loser of all time.

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All images are property of their respective copyright owners. All writings are copyright 2012 by Nathan Robson and may not be reproduced without the express written consent of the copyright owner. All rights reserved. Cogito eggo sum: I think, therefore I waffle.