Most Influential Cartoons

Animation is an art form that has lasted for hundreds of years and many cartoons have come and gone. However, there are a select few that have stood the test of time and changed the industry as a whole. This is a list that features cartoons that altered the art of animation with their new ideas and willingness to take risks.
The Top Ten
1 Looney Tunes Looney Tunes is an American animated series of comedy short films produced by Warner Bros. from 1930 to 1969 during the golden age of American animation, alongside its sister series Merrie Melodies.

Think of a cartoon gag. Just think of any physical joke that you would usually see in a cartoon. It's more than likely that the Looney Tunes invented it. The animation landscape was forever changed when the Warner Brothers' group of tricksters burst onto the scene in the 1940s. If Disney was the classical music of cartoons, then Warner Bros was jazz. The Looney Tunes took chances with violent and intelligent humor that offended many people back in the day, and made just as many people laugh. Here's a tough task: find someone in the entire WORLD who doesn't recognize at least one Looney Tunes character. You just can't do it. The Looney Tunes paved the way for every toon that came after them with their groundbreaking use of physical humor and their pure comedic genius.

2 The Flintstones The Flintstones is the first animated prime-time American television series. It was broadcast from September 30, 1960 to April 1, 1966 on ABC.

These days, the majority of adult-focused cartoons revolve around the actions of a family. The Flintstones is what started it all. Before the invention of the television, cartoons were only shown in cinemas. The Flintstones was one of the first primetime animated series to air on a major network, and established animation's credibility on the small screen. The plots and family dynamic of the show went on to influence many animated sitcoms such as The Simpsons, Family Guy, and Bob's Burgers just to name a few.

3 Tom and Jerry Tom and Jerry is an American animated series of comedy short films created in 1940 by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. Best known for its 161 theatrical short films by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the series centers on a rivalry between the title characters Tom, a cat, and Jerry, a mouse. Many shorts also... read more

While the Looney Tunes are mainly responsible for inventing many physical cartoon gags, Tom and Jerry is the cartoon that perfected them. With little to no dialogue, Tom and Jerry has entertained people of all ages with their brilliant use of cartoon violence. Everybody has seen at least one short from this cat and mouse pairing. If there is any cartoon that is pretty much impossible to hate, it's most likely Tom and Jerry.

It inspired Disney's Snow White, and sexy paper clips!

4 The Simpsons The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening that originally started on April 19, 1987 as shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show. It got its own series on December 17, 1989 and is still running as of 2023, making it the longest running animated sitcom. It is about a man named Homer... read more

The Simpsons set the standard for adult cartoons that I highly doubt any will ever surpass. A brilliant sitcom with relatable characters and magnificent writing, The Simpsons has not only influenced other cartoons but it influenced comedy as a whole. The show broke new ground in terms of what was deemed to be "acceptable" to show on primetime television. Many former writers like Conan O'Brien and Brad Bird have go into to do incredible things. The Simpsons is most likely the greatest animated series of all time and left such an impact on both animation and television.

5 Adventure Time Adventure Time is an American animated television series created by Pendleton Ward for Cartoon Network. The series follows the adventures of a boy named Finn (voiced by Jeremy Shada) and his best friend and adoptive brother Jake (voiced by John DiMaggio)—a dog with the magical power to change shape... read more

The most recent cartoon on this list, Adventure Time is responsible for beginning a Cartoon Renaissance in the 2010s. Pretty much every animated series that came after Adventure Time was influenced by it in some way. The creators of Regular Show, Gravity Falls, Rick and Morty, Steven Universe, We Bare Bears, The Amazing World of Gumball, and Star vs. The Forces of Evil have all cited Pen Ward's series as an influence. Former writers such as Rebecca Sugar and Pat McHale have even gone on to create their own successful cartoons after working on the show. Adventure Time's willingness to take risks has inspired tons of up and coming cartoonists across the world, and its legacy will live on long after it finally finishes its run.

6 SpongeBob SquarePants SpongeBob SquarePants is an American animated television series created by marine biologist and animator the late Stephen Hillenburg for Nickelodeon. SpongeBob is currently the most popular show on Nickelodeon, as well as the longest running show, running for 23 years, and is beginning its 13th season... read more

SpongeBob set the standard for children's cartoons with its brilliant humor, visual gags, and brand of storytelling. It was one of the first children's animated series to appeal just as much to adults as to kids. SpongeBob has become so beloved that many of us can quote older episodes line-for-line. Everyone is familiar with at least one memorable line from the show, as well. While the series has been in a rough patch for a while, SpongeBob changed an entire network and the entire genre of children's programing.

7 South Park South Park is an American adult animated sitcom created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone for the Comedy Central television network. The show is about four boys, who are Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman, and Kenny McCormick, and their adventures in South Park, Colorado.

South Park appalled millions of angry parents when it first premiered in 1997. The animated series about four foul-mouthed grade-schoolers was the first ever television program to receive a T.V.-MA rating. It's safe to say that South Park broke new ground in terms of what you could show and say on television. But profanity is not the only reason why South Park has lasted for so long. Trey Parker and Matt Stone's cartoon is one of the smartest television programs on television in terms of its comedy. Nothing is off limits for satire. Race, religion, sexuality, disabilities, celebrities, politics, you name it. South Park has put their darkly comedic spin on pretty much everything there is, and as long as something crazy or stupid is going on in the world, Parker and Stone will be there to satirize it.

8 The Ren & Stimpy Show The Ren & Stimpy Show, often simply referred to as Ren & Stimpy, is an American animated television series created by John Kricfalusi for Nickelodeon.

Ren & Stimpy was one of the first cartoons to air on Nickelodeon, and it brought with it a style that seldom few had ever seen before. No one had really seen a cartoon as bizarre, crude, and psychedelic as Ren & Stimpy before, especially not one meant for younger audiences. The show carried on Tom and Jerry's tradition and brought in a whole new batch of cartoon gags that are still being used to this day. While it spawned many disgusting and unpleasing gross-out rip-offs and a terrible adult-themed remake, Ren & Stimpy is responsible for bringing Nickelodeon into the mainstream and inspiring many strange cartoons that came after it.

9 Batman: The Animated Series Batman: The Animated Series is an American animated television series based on the DC Comics superhero Batman.

Batman: The Animated Series was one of the first "kid's" cartoons that brought a real sense of darkness and intensity to the screen. Prior children's cartoons were usually brightly-colored and upbeat with a clear villain and a happy ending at the end of each episode. Batman TAS changed all of that with its grit, intimidating atmosphere, and wide variety of unstable characters. It did not talk down to its audience and gave them all the respect that they deserved. Batman TAS changed the landscape of superhero cartoon shows and allowed more kid's cartoons in the future to address more and more adult themes.

10 Gravity Falls Gravity Falls is an American animated television series produced by Disney Television Animation that first aired on Disney Channel, and then on Disney XD from June 15, 2012 to February 15, 2016. The series follows the adventures of Dipper Pines and his twin sister Mabel in the fictional town of Gravity... read more

Fantastic Show, should have gone for a longer run!

The Contenders
11 The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack is an American animated television series created by Thurop Van Orman for Cartoon Network that premiered in North America on June 5, 2008. It stars creator Thurop Van Orman as the voice of Flapjack, a naive young boy who was raised by a whale named Bubbie and... read more

Flapjack is a show that many people love and many people hate. Whether you're a fan of the show or absolutely hate it, you have got to admit that it left a mark on the cartoon industry. Need proof? Pendelton Ward of Adventure Time, J.G. Quintel of Regular Show, and Alex Hirsch of Gravity Falls all worked on Flapjack before going on to create their own cartoons. Is that enough proof for you?

12 Phineas and Ferb Phineas and Ferb is an American animated comedy-musical television series. Originally broadcast as a one-episode preview on August 17, 2007 and again previewed on September 28, 2007, the series officially premiered on February 1, 2008 and ended on June 12, 2015 on Disney Channel, and follows Phineas... read more
13 Regular Show Regular Show is an American animated television series created by J. G. Quintel for Cartoon Network that premiered on September 6, 2010. The series revolves around the lives of two friends, a blue jay named Mordecai and a raccoon named Rigby—both employed as groundskeepers at a local park.

Very deep show, even though it is very regular at face value, it Goss into these wild irregular adventures that each teach a lesson. The ending is also incredibly touching and one of my favorites to a show!

14 Family Guy Family Guy is an American adult animated sitcom created by Seth MacFarlane for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series centers on the Griffins, a family consisting of parents Peter (Fat, Idiotic Dad) and Lois (Nagging Bitchy Wife), their children Meg (Socially Awkward Daughter) Chris (Fat, Idiotic... read more
15 Dexter's Laboratory Dexter's Laboratory is an American comic science fiction animated television series created by Genndy Tartakovsky for Cartoon Network, and the first of the network's Cartoon Cartoons. The show is about a kid scientist named Dexter that has a sister named Dee Dee that keeps breaking into his lab.

The first Cartoon Cartoon to ever be made, paving the way for other Cartoon Cartoon shows to be made in Cartoon Network's Powerhouse era. Thank you, Genndy Tartakovsky.

16 Rocko's Modern Life Rocko's Modern Life is an American animated television series created by Joe Murray for Nickelodeon. The series centers on the surreal life of an anthropomorphic Australian-immigrant wallaby named Rocko as well as his friends: the gluttonous steer Heffer, the neurotic turtle Filburt, and Rocko's faithful... read more

This show inspired not only SpongeBob, but also Regular Show and Phineas & Ferb.

17 My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is an animated children's television series based on the fourth incarnation of Hasbro's My Little Pony franchise. The show follows a studious unicorn (later an alicorn) pony named Twilight Sparkle (Tara Strong) and her friends Applejack (Ashleigh Ball), Rarity (Tabitha... read more
18 Rocket Power Rocket Power is an American animated television series. The series debuted on Nickelodeon on August 16, 1999. The series ended on July 30, 2004 after four seasons.
19 Rugrats Rugrats is an American animated television series created by Arlene Klasky, Gábor Csupó and Paul Germain for Nickelodeon.
20 The Fairly OddParents The Fairly OddParents is an American animated television series created by Butch Hartman for Nickelodeon.
21 Samurai Jack Samurai Jack is an American action-adventure chanbara animated series created by Genndy Tartakovsky for Cartoon Network. The series premiered on August 10, 2001, with a TV movie called The Premiere Movie, before ending in its fourth season on September 25, 2004, without concluding the story. A revival... read more
22 The Amazing World of Gumball The Amazing World of Gumball is a British-Australian-German-American-Irish children's animated television series created by Ben Bocquelet for Cartoon Network.
23 Steven Universe Steven Universe is an American animated television series created by Rebecca Sugar for Cartoon Network. The show's based around a young boy by the name of Steven Universe, who is a hybrid of a gem and a human. He lives with his gem friends, Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl.
24 Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! Scooby-Doo is an American animated franchise that originated with a television series created by Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, first airing in 1969. The show features a group of teenagers and their Great Dane, Scooby-Doo, who solve mysteries involving supposedly supernatural creatures. Over the years, the... read more
25 The Powerpuff Girls The Powerpuff Girls is an American animated television series created by animator Craig McCracken for Cartoon Network. The main characters of this show are Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup. The show is about the Professor Utonium creating three little superhero girls that save the day from villains... read more
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