Famous Saturday morning cartoons included The Jetsons, The Smurfs, Recess, Rugrats, ThunderCats, and The Magic School Bus.
Youngster, count yourself fortunate if you’ve grown up in a world where the Internet is ever-present, and networks dedicated entirely to cartoons are a click away.
Time travel with me back to the pre-90s era, when Saturday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon were a sacred ritual.
This was when we’d plant ourselves in front of the TV, eagerly adjusting the dials to tune into a four-hour feast of animated adventures.
Saturday Morning Marathon: How Many Cartoons Filled Your Lineup?
Our screens are filled with caped crusaders, chatty animals, and tiny blue beings, all serving up a heaping helping of imaginative delight.
And when some folks later discovered reefer, these same animated characters offered a trippy walk down memory lane.
Remember that this list isn’t in any particular order – many have different opinions on what was the best.
45ProStars (NBC, 1991)
“ProStars,” an unusual blend of “Captain Planet” and “The Three Musketeers,” may have only graced our screens for two seasons, but it certainly left a lasting impression.
It fed us some amusing misconceptions:
- That Michael Jordan sports a chin as prominent as Jay Leno’s.
- That Wayne Gretsky perpetually craves food as if he’s high.
- That Bo Jackson wields tree trunks with enough force to demolish tractors.
44Hammerman – Saturday Morning Cartoons
In this animated series, MC Hammer portrayed a youth center worker who morphs into the superhero Hammerman with the aid of his magical dancing shoes.
Granted, it veered towards the minstrel show spectrum, but we were just kids, captivated by the live-action and animated Hammer. We yearned for anything he produced, despite his repeated reminder, “You can’t touch this!”
43Pepper Ann (ABC, 1997-2001)
Though not the most popular girl in school, Pepper Ann radiated coolness in her unique way. She championed individuality, although she occasionally toyed with the idea of altering her style to fit in – a move her young fans (us included) vehemently discouraged with a resounding “Nooooooo!!!”
“Pepper Ann” was a Saturday morning cartoon celebrating strong-willed pre-teens with rich fantasy lives. It managed to entertain without resorting to hidden drug references.
42M.A.S.K. (USA Network, 1985-1986)
Don’t let the title mislead you into thinking of the Jim Carrey film or the Cher/Eric Stoltz heart-wrenching movie. M.A.S.K. (Mobile Armored Strike Kommand) was not merely a mash-up of G.I. Joe and Transformers. That suggestion is ridiculous because M.A.S.K. carved out a unique identity, despite its flagrant bootleg vibes.
M.A.S.K. made Gobots appear downright authentic. Matt Trakker clashed with V.E.N.O.M. (Vicious Evil Network of Mayhem—another wonderfully crafted acronym).
41Denver, the Last Dinosaur (1988-1990)
The late ’80s saw the rise of animated dinosaurs (remember “The Land Before Time”?), skateboarding, and the color teal. Riding this wave of trends was “Denver, the Last Dinosaur,” a fleeting cartoon about a teal dinosaur mastering the art of skateboarding.
The show’s initial run lasted a mere two months – fortunately, not outlasting the skateboarding craze, and thankfully outliving the fleeting fascination with dinosaurs and the color teal.
Recess, a Disney series that aired on ABC’s Saturday morning cartoons block, captured the essence of the school playground like no other show. The series followed six elementary school students navigating the social hierarchy and unspoken rules of Recess.
With its colorful characters, relatable scenarios, and a healthy mix of humor and life lessons, Recess became one of the classic Saturday morning cartoons of the late 90s and early 2000s.
39X-Men: The Animated Series (1992-1997)
Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe dominated the big screen, “X-Men: The Animated Series” brought the beloved comic book characters to life on Fox’s Saturday morning lineup in the 90s. The show gave viewers a thrilling superhero fix with its mature storytelling, intricate plots, and iconic theme music.
It tackled themes of prejudice and acceptance, making it one of the most thought-provoking Saturday morning cartoons of its era.
38The Tick (Fox, 1994-1996)
Born from a comic that originated as a newsletter mascot created by teenager Ben Edlund for Boston’s New England Comics shop in 1986, this brilliantly scripted superhero parody playfully mocked famous heroes like Batman, Aquaman, and Captain America.
Clad in the “blue tights of justice” and sporting antennae, our hero safeguards The City, named after a parasite and known for his proud yet somewhat dim-witted personality.
37Harlem Globetrotters (CBS, 1970-1971)
“Harlem Globetrotters,” the first cartoon to introduce black male protagonists, showcased America’s beloved comedic basketball team at its finest.
In each episode, they skillfully put snappy comebacks to use and resolve local disputes with a thrilling game of basketball, much like Kevin Bacon’s racially charged 1994 sports movie, “The Air Up There.” Despite the odds and the villainous attempts to rig the game, they always came out on top.
36The Powerpuff Girls (1998-2005)
Sugar, spice, and everything nice – these ingredients were chosen to create the perfect little girl. But Professor Utonium accidentally added an extra ingredient to the concoction – Chemical X. Thus, The Powerpuff Girls were born!
This delightful Cartoon Network series, which also aired on Saturday mornings, featured three superpowered sisters fighting crime and the forces of evil in the city of Townsville. The Powerpuff Girls brought a fresh mix of cuteness and action to Saturday morning cartoons in the late 90s and early 2000s.
Rugrats, a Nickelodeon classic, gave us an imaginative look at the world from a baby’s perspective. Premiering in the 90s, the show followed a group of toddlers on their adorable and often hilarious misadventures.
Viewers eagerly tuned in every Saturday morning to see Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil, and the notoriously bossy Angelica embark on their next big adventure. Rugrats remains a defining example of 1990s Saturday morning cartoons, loved for their charm, humor, and heart.
34Justice League (2001-2004)
As we moved into the new millennium, “Justice League” took the baton of superhero Saturday morning cartoons. Airing on Cartoon Network, the series brought together Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and other iconic DC heroes.
With its high-stakes action, engaging storylines, and memorable character dynamics, Justice League provided a satisfying Saturday morning viewing experience for superhero fans, young and old.
33Kim Possible (2002-2007)
A high school cheerleader by day and crime fighter by night, Kim Possible was a Saturday morning sensation in the early 2000s. Balancing homework, friendships, and secret missions, Kim tackled typical teenage problems and world domination threats with equal aplomb.
This Disney cartoon brought a unique twist to the Saturday morning lineup, celebrating female empowerment and the importance of teamwork.
32He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983-1985)
“He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” was the show to beat on Saturday mornings in the mid-80s. Viewers were thrilled by the transformation of Prince Adam into He-Man, the most powerful man in the universe, fighting against the evil Skeletor.
With its memorable theme song, powerful heroes, and fantastical setting, He-Man remains an iconic part of old-school Saturday morning cartoons.
31The Magic School Bus (1994-1997)
In the 90s, no field trip was more exciting than one with Ms. Frizzle and her Magic School Bus. This educational show aired on PBS combined learning with fun adventures, making science more accessible and enjoyable for kids.
Whether exploring the human body or journeying through space, “The Magic School Bus” was an unmissable part of the Saturday morning cartoon lineup.
30Dexter’s Laboratory (1996-2003)
“Dexter’s Laboratory,” a Cartoon Network classic, took us into the secret world of a boy genius. Despite being a child, Dexter had a fully equipped, high-tech laboratory hidden behind a bookshelf in his bedroom.
The show combined scientific experiments gone awry and the chaos caused by his annoying older sister, Dee Dee, making it a humorous and endearing part of 1990s Saturday morning cartoons.
29Captain Planet and the Planeteers (1990-1996)
In the early 90s, “Captain Planet and the Planeteers” was a unique addition to the Saturday morning cartoon lineup. More than just entertainment, the show promoted environmental awareness as five teenagers from around the globe teamed up to fight pollution and protect the Earth.
With their powers combined, they summoned Captain Planet, a superhero embodiment of environmental protection, making it an educational and engaging part of 1990s Saturday morning cartoons.
Robots in disguise took over Saturday mornings when “Transformers” debuted in the 80s. The Autobots and Decepticons, alien robots able to transform into various vehicles, provided a high-octane viewing experience.
The show’s engaging storyline and exciting transformation sequences made it a classic Saturday morning cartoons staple.
27Teen Titans (2003-2006)
In the early 2000s, “Teen Titans” brought a youthful spin to the superhero genre. Robin, Starfire, Cyborg, Raven, and Beast Boy were teammates and best friends navigating teenage life when they weren’t saving the world.
This Cartoon Network show provided a great blend of action, comedy, and drama for the Saturday morning audience.
“DuckTales” was a treasure trove of fun and adventure that graced the Saturday morning cartoon block in the late 80s. Following the wealthy Scrooge McDuck and his mischievous grandnephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie, the show whisked viewers away on exciting treasure hunts.
With its catchy theme song and memorable characters, DuckTales has remained a beloved part of old-school Saturday morning cartoons.
25Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! (1969-1970)
Without the mystery-solving Great Dane, Scooby-Doo, no old-school Saturday morning cartoons list would be complete. Making its debut in 1969, “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” followed a group of teenagers and their talking dog as they solved mysteries in haunted houses, deserted islands, and creepy castles.
The show’s mix of comedy, suspense, and unforgettable catchphrases like “Ruh-roh!” made it a staple of 1990s Saturday morning cartoons in reruns, solidifying its place in pop culture history.
24The Smurfs (1981-1989)
In 1981, a pint-sized blue crew known as The Smurfs captured the hearts of millions of kids tuning into NBC’s Saturday morning cartoon lineup. This classic cartoon, based on Belgian comic characters, featured a village of magical Smurfs constantly outsmarting the evil wizard Gargamel. The Smurfs’ adventures showcased themes of friendship, teamwork, and resourcefulness, making it a wholesome and delightful pick for young viewers.
23SpongeBob SquarePants (1999-Present)
Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? “SpongeBob SquarePants!” Since its debut in 1999, this Nickelodeon series has brought laughter and joy to Saturday mornings with its quirky characters and hilarious adventures in the underwater city of Bikini Bottom.
From SpongeBob’s relentless optimism to Patrick’s lovable stupidity, the show’s unique humor has made it a timeless addition to the Saturday morning cartoon lineup.
No conversation about top-notch Saturday morning cartoons is complete without mentioning the magical, shape-shifting, and prank-loving “ghost with the most” from “Beetlejuice,” a show loosely based on Tim Burton’s 1988 movie.
Accompanied by his best friend Lydia Deetz, a quirky young goth girl and an outsider, the mischievous spirit of Neitherworld embarks on escapades and enjoys messing with people, making him every child’s ideal role model.
21Looney Tunes (1930-1969)
Arguably the granddaddy of all Saturday morning cartoons, “Looney Tunes” introduced iconic characters, including Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Tweety Bird.
Despite its initial run ending in 1969, the show remained a Saturday morning staple for decades, delighting viewers with its slapstick humor, clever storylines, and unforgettable catchphrases like “What’s up, Doc?”
20The Flintstones (1960-1966)
“The Flintstones” brought a Stone Age twist to modern suburban life when it debuted on ABC in the 60s. With its clever prehistoric puns and charming characters, this cartoon sitcom made Saturday mornings a yabba dabba doo time. Despite being set in the past, “The Flintstones” remains a timeless part of classic Saturday morning cartoons.
In the mid-90s, “Gargoyles” brought a darker and more complex narrative to the Saturday morning lineup. The show followed a clan of nocturnal creatures that turn to stone during the day, awakening at night to protect modern-day New York City.
This Disney series earned a dedicated fanbase thanks to its dramatic storytelling and intriguing characters, making it a standout among 1990s Saturday morning cartoons.
18Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
As kids, while everyone else was dreaming of becoming astronauts or firefighters, we had our sights set on becoming Cosby Kids. It didn’t matter which one: we would have been content as the ultra-cool Rudi, or even Mushmouth, the epitome of speech impediments (“obeekaybee!”).
We all yearned to be part of that amazing junkyard crew and race home after school to watch The Brown Hornet. It didn’t matter if we picked up a lesson or two.
17Super Friends (1973-1986)
“Super Friends” made Saturday mornings exciting in the 70s and 80s. This animated show brought together popular DC superheroes like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, teen sidekicks, and their dogs to fight against various threats to the planet.
With its comic book-style action and simple moral lessons, “Super Friends” remains a cherished part of the old school Saturday morning cartoons.
16The Real Ghostbusters (1986-1991)
Who you gonna call on Saturday mornings in the late 80s? “The Real Ghostbusters!” Based on the hit Ghostbusters film, this cartoon followed the adventures of Peter, Ray, Egon, and Winston as they battled paranormal entities in New York City.
With its comedy, action, and spooky fun blend, “The Real Ghostbusters” became a beloved part of the classic Saturday morning cartoons lineup.
15Spider-Man: The Animated Series (1994-1998)
“Spider-Man: The Animated Series” swung into the 90s Saturday morning cartoon scene, bringing the beloved web-slinger’s comic book adventures to life.
The show skillfully balanced Peter Parker’s high school life with his crime-fighting duties as Spider-Man, introducing a generation of kids to the Marvel universe. This show became iconic in 1990s Saturday morning cartoons with its engaging storylines and memorable characters.
“ReBoot,” the first-ever completely computer-animated TV series, brought a unique visual style to Saturday mornings in the 90s. Set inside a computer system, the show followed Guardian Bob as he protected the system from viruses.
This innovative ABC series combined action, humor, and cutting-edge animation for its time, making it a standout in the 1990s Saturday morning cartoons lineup.
13Street Sharks (syndicated, 1994-1995)
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery, but “Street Sharks” took it to another level. This fleeting series blatantly borrowed elements from “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and even poked fun at our favorite green heroes (the Sharks detested pizza).
The fact that the show primarily served as a marketing platform for a toy line rather than an artistic endeavor could have led us to dismiss it. But we didn’t.
In the mid-80s, “ThunderCats” roared onto the scene, offering a unique blend of science fiction and fantasy in its Saturday morning slot. The show chronicled the adventures of humanoid cats who must find a new home after their planet, Thundera, is destroyed.
With its memorable characters, epic battles, and the iconic battle cry “ThunderCats Ho!” the show quickly became a staple of classic Saturday morning cartoons.
11Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987-1996)
In the late 80s and early 90s, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” brought turtle power to Saturday mornings. Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo weren’t your average turtles. Raised in the sewers of New York City by their sensei, a rat named Splinter, these pizza-loving reptiles battled against the villainous Shredder and his Foot Clan.
With its unique concept, exciting action sequences, and memorable theme song, TMNT became an iconic part of the classic Saturday morning cartoons.
10Sonic the Hedgehog (1993-1994)
Video game fans rejoiced when “Sonic the Hedgehog” zoomed onto Saturday morning TV in the 90s. This animated series featured the speedy blue hedgehog battling against the evil Dr. Robotnik and his army of robots.
With its exciting action, colorful animation, and faithful adaptation of the beloved Sega game, Sonic was a must-watch among 1990s Saturday morning cartoons.
9Pokémon: The Animated Series (1997-Present)
“Gotta catch ’em all!” became the catchphrase of Saturday mornings when “Pokémon: The Animated Series” premiered in the late 90s. This show followed aspiring Pokémon Trainer Ash Ketchum and his loyal Pikachu as they traveled through various regions, battling and capturing Pokémon.
Combining adventure, friendship, and exciting Pokémon battles, this show became a definitive part of 1990s Saturday morning cartoons.
8Tom and Jerry Kids (Fox, 1990-1994)
“Tom and Jerry” has seen numerous renditions, but our pick remains the classic cat-and-mouse chase filled with imaginative antics and slapstick humor.
Unlike the Hanna-Barbera era (1940-1958), which featured the racially offensive character of Mammy Two Shoes, or the confusingly peaceful friendship in 1975’s “The Tom and Jerry Show,” or even the subpar animation of the early ’80s “The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show,” this version offered pure, unadulterated entertainment.
7Johnny Bravo (1997-2004)
“Johnny Bravo” was the epitome of cool in the late 90s and early 2000s. This Cartoon Network series followed the titular character, a muscular, Elvis Presley-inspired lothario who, despite his confidence, often found himself in hilarious predicaments.
With its slapstick humor and pop culture references, “Johnny Bravo” added a unique flavor to Saturday morning cartoons.
6Voltron (syndication, 1984-1985)
Let’s tip our hats to the Japanese for their exceptional creativity in crafting anthropomorphic weaponry committed to peace. This ingenuity ignited Peter Keefe’s imagination, creating a distinct mix of robotic lions.
They symbolized unity and teamwork while promoting action figures that made a significant dent in our parents’ wallets. For those who entered the world in the ’90s, visualize “Power Rangers” in animated form, devoid of racial typecasting.
5Hey Arnold! (Nickelodeon, 1996-2004)
Sporting tight jeans, red flannel under a long-sleeve sweater, a fitted cap on his football-shaped head, and calling “Hillwood” (a city bearing a striking resemblance to Brooklyn) home, could we dub “Hey Arnold!” the original hipster ensemble show?
Well, that’s debatable. Arnold and his fourth-grade friends didn’t gentrify their neighborhood with beer bars and boat shoes. Instead, they owned their hood with their signature cool thumb shaking greeting. From Stoop Kid to Pigeon Man, the show resonated with everyone.
4Inspector Gadget (1983-1986)
“Inspector Gadget” brought a unique mix of comedy and adventure to Saturday mornings in the mid-80s. The titular character, a clumsy detective with various bionic gadgets, often finds himself in perilous situations, unknowingly saved by his niece Penny and their dog, Brain.
With its memorable theme song and humorous plots, “Inspector Gadget” remains a classic part of old-school Saturday morning cartoons.
3Batman (Fox, 1992-1995)
Don’t be fooled; despite its target audience, Batman: The Animated Series aligns more closely with Tim Burton’s Batman and Chris Nolan’s recent renditions than Joel Schumacher’s lamentable take.
The series brandished a film noir art style, intentionally veering towards the darker side compared to typical children’s shows: guns blazed, punches landed, and blood spilled.
2The Jetsons (1962-1963)
The Jetsons, a futuristic family from 2062, blasted onto ABC’s Saturday morning cartoons lineup in the early 1960s. With flying cars, robotic housekeepers, and an iconic catchy theme song, this classic Saturday morning cartoon gave us a fantastical glimpse into a not-so-distant future.
Viewers would eagerly wake up on Saturdays to see George Jetson navigate the trials of his space-age world, bringing a sense of humor and whimsy that has helped the show stand the test of time.
1The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show (1975-1985)
“The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show” was a staple of ABC’s Saturday morning cartoon lineup in the 70s and 80s. Combining two iconic Looney Tunes franchises, this show delivered a double dose of comedy, complete with zany characters, wild chase scenes, and classic cartoon gags.
Its memorable opening theme song, “This is It,” signaled the start of many children’s Saturday mornings.
Watch Saturday Morning Cartoons – Whole blocks with Commercials
There’s something profoundly nostalgic about the phrase “Saturday morning cartoons.” For many of us, it brings back memories of carefree childhood weekends filled with laughter, joy, and bowls of sugary cereal.
Now, in the internet and streaming services era, it’s easier than ever to revisit those cherished memories and even introduce a new generation to the joy of classic cartoons.
It’s Saturday morning!
Picture this: The first light of Saturday morning pirouettes across your window, and your eyes snap open like the pop of a champagne cork. The thought that lures you out from the depths of dreamland is as effervescent as a bottle of Sprite: “It’s Saturday! Hallelujah!”
You leap from your bunk like a gazelle, flinging the covers off your slumbering sibling below.
Unlike the weekdays, he springs to life quicker than a cat on a hot tin roof. Side by side, you transform into covert operatives, tip-toeing with the finesse of a ballerina past the fortress of parental slumber, aiming for the mecca of breakfast goodness – the kitchen.
What waits for you there is a tantalizing smorgasbord of sugar-laced champions of childhood: Cap’n Crunch standing tall, Lucky Charms gleaming like a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, Cocoa Puffs swirling in chocolaty mystery, and Cookie Crisp promising the forbidden thrill of dessert for breakfast.
Milk erupts across countertops and puddles on the floor like the after-party of a dairy-loving Pollock. It’s a beautiful, chaotic testament to your morning ritual, left for the parents still happily cocooned in dreamland.