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Tom Mason

Professional Children's Books Expert

Cartoons for Teens

Featured On:

  • FOX
  • PBS
  • Nick
Pop quiz! What do a yellow nuclear family from Springfield, a drunken robot, a quirky inventor, an inept superhero, a Moose & Squirrel, the guardian of Gotham and a spinach-eatin’ sailor all have in common? Just some of the best cartoons ever made!

When it comes to cartoons, there’s one thing to keep in mind: they aren’t always for children, even when they pretend to be. Newer cartoons like “The Simpsons” and “The Venture Brothers” can make us howl with laughter, “Batman” is as good as any superhero movie, and the cartoon violence of Bugs Bunny can still bring the funny 60 years after it was made. Here are the best of a large bunch – a mix of great current cartoons and some classics that deserve a spot in the DVD rotation.

Best Cartoons on DVD for Teens by Tom Mason

The Best You Can Get

  • The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season

    Tom says: D’oh! The early seasons of “The Simpsons” are a little rough. The animation is a bit shaky and the voices hadn’t fallen into place just yet. But in Season 4 (1992-1993), the animation improved when the series switched to a different studio, a lot of new writers joined the team and Dan Castellaneta found his “inner Homer.” It was like flicking on a switch this season with a goldmine of classic episodes, from “Treehouse of Horror III” with its great “zombie Flanders” gag to “Marge Vs. The Monorail” (written by Conan O’Brien) to “Brother From the Same Planet” (Homer becomes a big brother to Pepsi, I mean Pepe, to get back at Bart) to “Mr. Plow” (Homer’s theme song is pure poetry!) and ending with “Krusty Gets Cancelled.” This is the first of the seasons that begin a long run of great memorable and quotable episodes. Start here and work your way forward.

    • 2 Emmy nominations
    • Annie Award winner
    • Saturn Award winner
    • 22 Episodes including “Monorail!”
    • Release date: 2004
  • Futurama Vol. 1

    Tom says: A cryogenically-frozen pizza delivery boy, a cyclops female spaceship captain, a drunken robot, a crazed scientist and the occasional appearance of disgraced former US President Richard Nixon (as a head in a jar) combine for a sci-fi high in this futuristic series from “The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening and David X. Cohen. Staffed with many of the creative minds behind “The Simpsons”, the series skewers real science, science fiction, television shows and movies, past, present and future pop culture, the male-female-alien dynamic and those old standards religion and politics with a brainy, nerd-like irreverence.

    The pizza delivery boy is Fry who’s accidentally frozen at the start of the year 2000 and thaws out in the year 3000 later where he finds a job at Planet Express, a delivery service run by his closest living relative. Leela’s the one-eyed captain of the cargo ship and Bender’s the drunken robot who’s also Fry’s best, and perhaps only, friend. All 13 episodes of the first season (1999-2000) are included here. The animation is as slick and well-done as “The Simpsons,” and the stories are just as fun and nutty. “Futurama” is as smart as it is funny – you might need a dictionary and an “A” in Physics to get some of the jokes - yet it’s never afraid of a good belch.

    • Robots!
    • Emmy Award winner
    • Annie Award winner
    • 13 episodes
    • Release date: 2003
  • Batman: The Animated Series Volume 1

    Tom says: In 1992, the Dark Knight returned to TV, and changed both animation and comic books. “Batman: The Animated Series” revolutionized the way superheroes were portrayed on the little screen. Producers Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski banished the “Biff-Bam-Pow” style of TV superheroes and schooled a new generation in how it should be done. Using a drawer full of influences that included Frank Miller’s “The Dark Knight Returns” graphic novel, the stylized comic book art of Alex Toth, anime, black-and-white film noir movies, Tim Burton’s “Batman” films, Art Deco design and their own tremendous talents, they created a dark and complex superhero cartoon show.

    In a sinister Gotham City of sharp-edged buildings and bleak, artfully-shadowed streets, an equally dark and brooding Batman fights a rogue’s gallery of his classic villains, including The Joker (a deliciously evil Mark Hamill), The Penguin, Mr. Freeze and a whole lot more. Each villain has been retooled from their prior appearances with stronger motivations and present real threats to the caped crusader. “Batman: The Animated Series” redefined comic book superheroes for animation and the look and feel of the series then influenced the comic books that inspired it.

    • Emmy Award winner
    • Mark Hamill
    • Harley Quinn
    • 28 episodes!
    • Release date: 2004
  • The Tick Vs. Season One

    Tom says: “Spooooon!” Fans know that recurring phrase as the battle cry of The Tick, one of the great absurdist superheroes of all time. The Tick began his life as a comic book created by Ben Edlund (who’d later work on “Firefly” with Joss Whedon). But when he made the big blue leap to TV, the Tick really took off. Wickedly funny, silly, action-packed and filled with the most outrageous superheroes (Die Fledermaus, anyone?) and supervillains (Chairface Chippendale, anyone?) ever. This is the perfect antidote for anyone who’s seen too many X-Men and Spider-Man movies. (Purists will note that this is not actually the complete first season – one episode is missing, presumably for legal complications.)

    • Emmy nominated
    • Patrick Warburton!
    • 12 episodes
    • Release date: 2006
  • The Venture Brothers: Seasons One And Two

    Tom says: “Stop saying ‘dab’”! If that has any meaning to you whatsoever, then you know what you have to do: buy this boxed set if you haven’t already. Created by Christopher McCulloch and Doc Hammer, “The Venture Brothers” is a hilarious spoof of classic cartoon series like “Jonny Quest” and countless other teen adventure shows (and even children’s books like “The Hardy Boys”). Dean and Hank Venture (who redefine stupid with a funny 1950s Disney naiveté) live with their father Rusty, a bitter and not-quite-talented “scientist” who heads Venture Industries, and his trusty sidekick and bodyguard Brock Samson (voiced by the deadpan Patrick Warburton) whose official “license to kill” appears to mean “license to kill… a lot.” The Ventures run afoul of a boatload of obsessive-compulsive villains and evil criminal organizations in a world where David Bowie may actually be the most dangerous man on the planet. Fans of “The Tick” will love the whacked out sensibilities of the show, and with good reason: McCulloch was one of the writers of “The Tick” animated series, and the creator of “The Tick,” Ben Edlund, contributes to the show. (Please note that this series may not be suitable for younger teens.) “Go Team Venture!”

    • Awards? Be patient!
    • Patrick Warburton!
    • 28 Episodes
    • Release date: 2007

You will be happy with any of these

  • Popeye The Sailor: 1933-1938 Volume 1

    Tom says: He’s strong to the finish ‘cause he eats his spinach. Created as a newspaper comic strip character by the cartoonist E.C. Segar in the 1930s, Popeye soon took over the strip and made the leap to animation, courtesy of the Fleischer Studios, and director Dave Fleischer (already famous for their work on Betty Boop). Their loose-limbed, almost rubbery animation style brought Popeye to life and gave a new physicality to the bizarre love triangle between Popeye, Bluto, and the ugliest, most annoying and thereby funniest girl in the history of cartoons, Olive Oyl. These are non-stop action from start to finish, and are considered too violent for little kids. Popeye the squinty-eyed sailor-man bounces as he walks, he gallops when he runs and when he’s full of his beloved spinach, there’s no stopping him. There’s punching, kicking, and throwing (everything from cars to buildings) and that’s before the sailor man eats his can of the green vegetable, which gives him unbelievable smackdown powers. Throughout it all, Popeye’s forever muttering under his breath (courtesy of voice genius Jack Mercer), you’re never quite sure of every word, but it’s very funny both in and out of context.

    The timing of the gags is impeccable. Watch something like Sweet Pea in “Lost and Foundry” or Olive Oyl in the similar “A Dream Walking” and even those some of these cartoons are over 70 years old, you’ll be on the edge of your seat. Almost everything on the 4-disc set is in black and white, which may give some viewers a panic attack about watching great-granddad’s cartoons, but make the effort. The packaging is outstanding and the discs include many rare cartoon extras, commentaries by cartoon experts like John Kricfalusi, Michael Barrier and Jerry Beck, and “Popumentaries.” A class act that’s strong to the finish.

    • Academy Award nominee
    • Popeye!
    • 60 Cartoons!
    • Release date: 2007
  • Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 1

    Tom says: “What’s up, doc?” Simply put, these are some of the greatest cartoons ever made and the ones that aren’t here will be on subsequent volumes. These laugh-out-loud cartoons are smart-assed sensations, a blend of wit and physical violence unequalled by other cartoons of the time. Take “Rabbit Seasoning,” for example. In its mayhem-filled minutes, Elmer Fudd suffers from “pronoun trouble” and repeatedly shoots Daffy Duck in the face at the urging of both Bugs Bunny and Daffy himself. The directors, animators and writers always claimed they were making these cartoons to please only themselves, and thank goodness they did: they pleased almost everyone else in the process.

    From surreal masterpieces like “Duck Amuck” to the sci-fi lunacy of “Duck Dodgers In the 24 1/2th Century,” almost half of the cartoons in this set were directed by Chuck Jones. Others are by Robert McKimson and Friz Freleng, and a few others. Bugs Bunny is well-represented, along with Daffy Duck, Tweety, Porky Pig and even Foghorn Leghorn and the Road Runner. Not everything on the disc is a genuine classic, but this is still a great way to kill a few hours. When they aired on TV over the years, the cartoons were edited for time, violence, and everything else, but these are the uncut versions as they were originally released to movie theaters.

    Lots of great commentary is included from animation historians like Mike Barrier, and there’s even the classic John Canemaker documentary, “The Boys from Termite Terrace,” that shows how these cartoons were made back in the day.

    • Bugs & Daffy
    • 56 Cartoons
    • Uncut!
    • Release date: 2003
  • Tex Avery's Droopy: The Complete Theatrical Collection

    Tom says: “Hello all you happy people…” There area couple of things you need to know about Droopy, the quiet little dog created by Tex Avery: he always wins and his nemesis usually gets blown up, crushed, smacked, poked, pounded and shot…repeatedly. Bodies squash and stretch, eyes pop out of their sockets and snap back, characters scream so loud their teeth rattle, crack and fall out. Oh, and it’s always very funny. If “Northwest Hounded Police” doesn’t make you laugh, nothing will. Droopy is a quiet, dour-faced little dog beset upon by others, usually criminals or con men in the form of larger and more comically aggressive dogs. He might be a member of the mounted police (as Sgt. McPoodle), a homesteader in the old west, or the leader of a Dixieland band, but he finds a way to triumph over adversity because, “you know what? Cheaters never win.” The animation quality varies from the smooth, fully animated earlier adventures to the more limited angular animation of the later ones (six were not directed by Avery but by Michael Lah), but one thing remains: the funny. This is a marvelously packaged set, with a couple of nice extras, including a retrospective look at Avery’s career.

    • Academy Award nominee
    • Tex Avery!
    • 24 Cartoons
    • Release date: 2007
  • Rocky And Bullwinkle And Friends Vol. 1

    Tom says: “Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!” That trick might never work, but Bullwinkle J. Moose and Rocket J. Squirrel, the most famous residents of Frostbite Falls, go up against their omnipresent, though never omnipotent, enemies, Boris and Natasha, in two complete stories, “Jet Fuel Formula” and “Box Top Robbery.” Stories were broken up in multi-part segments each with a cliffhanger ending and ran over several consecutive episodes. To see everything in order, you should watch the discs in order. As a bonus, you’ll also get episodes of “Fractured Fairy Tales,” “Dudley Do-Right,” the great “Peabody’s Improbable History” featuring Mr. Peabody and his boy Sherman, and a whole lot more.

    The Bullwinkle stories are wacky, and little more than a tiny plot on which to hang creator Jay Ward and partner Bill Scott’s irreverent gags on everything from network TV to politics to the Cold War. The Mexican animation is limited and stiff, so the writing and the voices have to carry a lot of the show and both do an excellent job. The writing is as smart and funny now as then; even the atrocious puns (and there are an awful lot of them) are funny. The fairy tale stories and Mr. Peabody’s adventures seem designed just to end with horrible puns. As Rocket J. Squirrel is prone to saying, “And now here’s something we hope you’ll really like!”

    • Moose & Squirrel!
    • 26 episodes
    • Release date: 2003
  • Wallace And Gromit: Three Amazing Adventures

    Tom says: Simply put, Nick Park is one of the most original and inventive filmmakers working today. The fact that he works with little plasticine clay figures in stop-motion animation (a technique pioneered by Willis O’Brien in 1933’s “King Kong”) makes him even more remarkable. This set collects the first three “Wallace and Gromit” short films and aside from having a great time watching them, you can chart Park’s growth as a filmmaker and comic genius. Set in the kind of England found only in movies, Wallace (voiced by Peter Sallis) is a hare-brained inventor who loves cheese and Gromit is his silent, expressive and highly intelligent dog. In “A Grand Day Out” (1989), Wallace decides to build a rocket and take a “cheese holiday” to the moon. In “The Wrong Trousers” (1993) Wallace rents out a spare room to a penguin that’s also a master criminal. “A Close Shave” pits Wallace and Gromit against a robot dog that’s rustling the local sheep. “A Grand Day Out” was nominated for an Academy Award; “The Wrong Trousers” and “A Close Shave” both won Academy Awards for Best Animated Short Film. All three have won BAFTA Awards for Best Animated Film. Loads of extras come with this set, including a behind-the-scenes look at how the characters are animated. Watch the shorts first and then watch how Park and his team do it – you’ll be so amazed by the pain-staking detail and time-consuming process that you’ll want to watch the features again. Striking visuals, non-stop action, slapstick humor, quirky funny characters and a rich and satisfying story are packed into each 30-minute film.

    • Academy Award winners
    • Gromit!
    • Stop-motion animation
    • 3 movies
    • Release date: 2007

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