The late 90s to the early 2000s were described by cartoon fans as “the Golden Age of Cartoon Network,” with iconic shows that resonated with children from different age groups and demographics. While some of those shows are forgotten, there are a handful that stayed in the minds of adults who remembered watching them as kids.
Cartoon Network released multiple iconic TV shows before the rise of Adventure Time and Steven Universe. And while a majority of them are loved by audiences, a select few are deemed best by both fans and casual viewers alike because of their stories, animation, or how unique they are compared to other shows.
Here are 10 of the best Cartoon Network Shows of the 2000s:
10. Teen Titans
Before Teen Titans Go! and the 2018 live-action adaptation, Titans, there was the original Teen Titans. This show was much darker than its modern reboot as it had slightly mature themes and catered towards an older audience. Fans still praised this show as one of the best adaptations of this DC superhero team and were disappointed that the show returned to appeal a younger audience. Nevertheless, it was a good show and worth watching if you enjoyed the recent reboots.
9. Camp Lazlo
Camp Lazlo showed a different side to a summer camp filled with gender rivalry, whacky adventures, and interesting creatures. All the Bean Scouts have unique personalities that make good character interactions throughout the show. It’s a fun, comedic take on a summer camp that kids wished was real. While the show ended in 2007, according to the show’s IMDb page, it seems like the show is going to get a reboot and will air in October 2022.
8. Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends
Ever wondered where all your imaginary friends go once you’ve forgotten about them? Well, Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends showed us a world where Imaginary friends become real creatures and are sent to a foster home once the kid grows up. Each imaginary friend has a unique trait and personality, but it’s not just them that makes this show good. The foster home these characters live in is pretty much like the Tardis in Doctor Who. It’s huge and the halls seemed to be endless. The show sometimes showcased some of these whacky locations in different episodes, while having a few of the general floor plans remain in the same location for continuity. This show will introduce you to someone new every episode, so it’s worth a watch.
7. Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi Show
Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi Show pretty much introduced western audiences to JPop before anime OP’s and JPop groups were cool. At the same time, it was released back when anime and video games were slowly rising in popularity. The show was based on a real-life Japanese rock duo of the same name and was the first show on Cartoon Network to utilize licensed music. The show is about the Japanese band members’ lives as they tour around the world to be famous rock stars. While the show appealed to girls, there were references to other Japanese cultures that usually catered to the male audience such as Yugioh.
Fun fact, this band sang the intro for Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go! and they’re still making music to this day.
6. Total Drama Island
Total Drama Island is best described as a parody of reality TV game shows such as Survivor. Like Survivor, a large group of people is sent to an island to win challenges for a chance to win $1 million. The show ran for multiple seasons, changing to various themes to keep each season fresh. Each contestant has their own unique personality that plays a massive role in the show’s story.
5. The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy
The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy is a dark and gritty cartoon that featured two kids named Billy and Mandy who befriends the Grim Reaper after winning a limbo game. The show referenced characters that were attached to the supernatural such as demons, controllers of order and chaos, and monster hunters while keeping the show appropriate for children. The show had crossovers with other shows such as Codename: Kids Next Door and Yogi Bear. The show was praised for featuring dark themes yet making it entertaining for the whole family to watch.
4. Codename: Kids Next Door
Codename: Kids Next Door introduced kids to a world where young agents fought against adults, despite having respect for their parents. The show featured five kids who call themselves by their ‘operative number,’ as they balance their Kids Next Door duties with their everyday lives. In each episode, they face various opponents that range between delightful kids, teenagers, and full-grown adults whose goal is to make the lives of children miserable.
In 2015, Codename: Kids Next Door creator Mr. Warbuton launched the “Galactic KND” experiment in hopes for a reboot series to be greenlit on Cartoon Network. The interactive experiment featured a “rainbow monkeys” website as well as a few animatic videos that showed a preview of what the reboot series would look like, featuring some of the original voice actors.
3. Ben 10
Ben 10 is an action-packed show that received multiple reboots throughout its runtime. It’s about a kid named Ben Tennyson who wore a special watch that allowed him to transform into different aliens. The show was so popular that Cartoon Network greenlit Ben 10 Alien Force, where we see Ben and his team grow up into teenagers as they balance their alien crime-fighting duties with everyday life, as well as introduce us to new aliens and expand the Ben 10 universe.
2. Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Before Disney took over Lucasarts, Star Wars: The Clone Wars was aired on Cartoon Network. This canon Star Wars series took place between the prequel trilogy before Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader. The show introduced Anakin’s padawan, Ahsoka Tano, who will play a massive role post-Order 66, as well as other characters that eventually re-appeared in later Star Wars shows such as The Mandalorian. This series was a good expansion to the Star Wars lore and while it was initially aired on Cartoon Network, the show is still accessible on Disney Plus.
1. Samurai Jack
Samurai Jack transported viewers to a world where tradition meets modernity. It told a story about a samurai who was transported to the future by Aku, the shape-shifting demon. While the show was popular, there was a 12-year hiatus between season 4 and season 5. The fifth and last season concluded Jack’s story and was aired on Adult Swim instead of Cartoon Network. This was good since the show was able to present more mature themes and animation scenes for the grown-up audience. The show was filled with adventure, action-packed scenes, and some episodes set to make you cry as Jack has to face the reality that he’s far from his home.
As Cartoon Network continues to throw out good and interesting shows with decent characters and storytelling, cartoon enthusiasts and casual viewers shall not forget the plethora of innovative, imaginative, and entertaining cartoons the network has provided. And while most of them are never brought back to air, some of these shows are still accessible through streaming services and archivists on the internet to ensure others will be able to view these shows if they want.