Animation in the Noughts changed the way a lot of people thought about cartoons. No longer mostly for children, animated shows catered to adults as well as splintering off into specialized audience niches rather than broadening the viewership. Animation also changed from a more cohesive studio look to individualized styles, and the subject material ranged from imaginary friends to mixed nationality families.
Below are some of my favorite animated shows from the 2000s:
- Invader Zim (2001-2003) – Jhonen Vasquez, a cartoonist and writer, is responsible for the crazy, weird, and wonderful Invader Zim. While some might find the show discombobulated, the coloring (reminiscent of a Dia de Los Muertos celebration), quirky and endearing characters of Zim and GIR, and the heightened ridiculousness of the storylines are simply delightful. I was introduced to the show by repeated viewings of “The Frycook What Came From All That Space.” For whatever reason, it was the only one I ever saw on TV. I had to borrow the DVDs or watch the others on Netflix.
- The Venture Bros. (2003-Current) – Several people carried their talent over from The Tick to this show. The Venture Bros. is a clever twist on the type of show I grew up watching. It’s what would have happened if Johnny Quest had grown up to be an underachieving failure. The mix of old and new is refreshing, and the quirks of the characters (Doctor Girlfriend/Doctor Mrs. The Monarch voiced by Doc Hammer, the Ventures living beside a sorcerer, and the two henchmen) add to the hilarity.
- Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends (2004-2009) – I was introduced to this show by a college friend who continued to quote it long after she had watched it as a kid. “I like ceeeereal,” she’d say. “I like potatoes,” I’d reply. This little interaction between the characters and my friend and me is clearly not funny if you’ve never seen the show…trust me, it’s great. But if you have seen the show you know. I also really love the art style in this cartoon, the free-floating colors and shapes remind me of the artwork in many Golden books I read as a child.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005-2008) – this show probably has the largest number of fans of any animation I’ve written about so far. With a growing fanbase, multiple tumblrs, Pins, and pieces of fan art, Avatar is definitely worthy of so much fan love. Going with a more anime style and an epic storyline with fully realized characters, this show is for everyone.
- Phineas & Ferb (2007-current) – My current favorite. Phineas and Ferb is interesting in that it depicts a mixed-nationality family in a positive light. Phineas, Candice and their mother are American while Ferb and his father are English. One of the creators came from a mixed family and wanted to show kids that it could be a good experience. That paired with catchy songs, excellently plotted episodes, and a great voice cast ensure Phineas and Ferb is one of the best toons of the decade.
Last decade’s animation grew in a lot of ways. More and more, animated shows are being created by individuals who don’t have to follow a company’s aesthetic. With so many voices, there’s an animated show for everyone, which couldn’t always be said for past decades.