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The Top 50 Cartoon Characters - They Aren't Your Favourite, They're Just Drawn That Way

Issun

Let's 90s gaming
My #5.

A big part of what makes cartoon Scrooge work so well despite his more problematic aspects is how Young's voice acting injected him with a warmth and sense of miscief that makes it very difficult to dislike him. It also appears that Duckburg is not subject to the rampant inequality the real world is, so that makes it easier to look past his flaws, too.

But yeah, another VA would not have made Scrooge the icon he is, and I'm sure Tennant would admit he stood on the shoulders of a giant.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
9. Wall-e



116 Points, 6 Lists, #2 Beta Metroid

“WALL-E.”

Source Material: Wall-e

Voice Actor: Ben Burtt

Wall-e is a small robot living on post-apocalyptic Earth. Following an environmental apocalypse, humanity left to live in safety among the stars while an army of robots are assigned to clean the Earth. After hundreds of years, the last one remaining is Wall-e, who dutifully spends its days collecting and compacting garbage into cubes. Alone for a very long time, Wall-e survives by replacing his parts with those of the other fallen robots when need be. It has also become a collector of interesting artifacts and watches the movie Hello, Dolly! Repeatedly. Wall-e also has a small cockroach as a pet, as it is one of the few life forms that survived. Things change when it meets and advanced robot named Eve, seeking out evidence of plant life on Earth. Soon, Wall-e becomes infatuated with Eve, seeing it as a companion and ends up following her when the rest of her mission takes her back to the last sanctuary for humanity, a massive cruiseship-like vessel.


Wall-e’s parts are mostly a compactor box-like body, arms, tanktreads and two binocular like eyes. At the beginning of the film Wall-e is relatively happy, keeping itself busy with work and hobbies. However, once Wall-e falls in love, he immediately realizes that the feeling enriches his life and happily seeks it out, making friends along the way. Despite years away from people, Wall-e is incredibly friendly, accepting everything with wide-eyed wonder. Wall-e is curious and kind, looking to help when people need it as it seeks out Eve and even changing people’s outlook through shaking people out of their routines.


Wall-e is the movie where Pixar upped their already formidable game to the next level. Yes, Ratatouille rightly was lauded but this felt like it was the next step in their hot streak of movies that were both critical and commercial darlings. And while all of those films had wonderful characters, there’s something beautifully simple about Wall-e in both story and character. But it’s not shallow or hollow, more elemental. Like it was tapping into the great identities of the silent era; the “stone face” and derring-do of Buster Keaton, the bespectacled sweetness of Harold Lloyd and the well-meaning trouble making the tramp, Charlie Chaplin. It’s no wonder that such a character shakes people out of their stupor and it really is the message of the movie; to sort of look around, see what’s going on and see how it can be better, whether it is repairing the planet or simply realizing that sharing your life can enrich it.


Plaintiffs:



Defense:

“Luckily, Los Locos is on our defense team, so hopefully they can kick their ass/face/balls into OUTER SPACE!”
 

Issun

Let's 90s gaming
While you can argue over their best movie, and have your own favorite Pixar characters, I do think that Wall-E is their most singular creation. He's Exhibit A in what animation can accomplish and how powerful it can be, how it can do things live actors will never be able to do. He was #18 on my list, but he probably should have been a few spots higher on this one.
 
WallE is another one I cut and now wish I hadn't.

The fire extinguisher scene took my breath away due to how difficult/impossible that would be by hand, even more so than the wildebeest scene did when I saw the Lion King as a kid and was much more easily overwhelmed by such things. The individual particle animation is stunning. I'm know Frozen was more impressive mathematically/technically, but after the stark flat world of this movie, the bright beauty of this scene is brilliant.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
8. Bugs Bunny



118 Points, 4 Lists, #1 Adrenaline & Torzelbaum

“Of course, you know, this means war!”

Source Material: Looney Tunes, Merry Melodies

Voice Actor: Mel Blanc (1940–1989), Jeff Bergman (1990–1993, 1997–1998, 2003–2004, 2007, 2011–present), Greg Burson (1990–2000), Billy West (1996–2006), Joe Alaskey (1997–2011), Samuel Vincent (2001–2006), Eric Bauza (2018–present)

Bugs Bunny is a rabbit living in the forests (and sometimes deserts) of America. Bugs also sometimes travels the world, usually looking for vacation spots only to take a left turn at Albuquerque and winding up somewhere unexpected. Bugs speaking with a strong Brooklyn accent and has a penchant for carrots, which he often likes to munch while he introduces himself. Bugs is very clever, often outwitting his antagonists with trickery, disguises and ability to confound his opponents. Though he tends to be relentless in defeating his opponents, he almost never starts a fight, instead usually minding his own business before someone attacks, bullies or tricks him, at which point he turns the tables. Outside of this, Bugs tends to be easy-going and rather friendly with most people he meets, though perhaps a little annoyed. There are also occasions where he accepts an opponent (usually pathetic predators) as a fun challenge if they seem both foolish and deserving of a little grief.


Bugs has a habit of calling people, particularly strangers, Doc, leading to his catch phrase “What’s up, doc?” (The phrase itself came from Tex Avery, who simply used it as it was a common expression in his homestate of Texas). Bugs occasionally takes the role of antagonist but it is incredibly rare and there have been even a few times he’s lost, but that too is uncommon. Very few people have been able to defeat Bugs Bunny, though the rabbit’s cocksure attitude allowed him to become overconfident at times. Still, Bugs is rarely perturbed and even threatening enemies he faces with a cool, controlled attitude, most of the time. He also frequently breaks the fourth wall to comment on the situation and assure the audience.

Though there were many early interpretations of the character, notably a screwball variant in “Porky’s Hare Hunt”, the Bugs Bunny we know and love first appeared in “A Wild Hare” as the foil in an Elmer Fudd cartoon (yep, that character came first, originally named “Egghead”), combining several elements of previous rabbit characters (including one who antagonized Fudd). Bugs would gain popularity through the war era and his character and features would be altered and refined. Bugs adopted physical mannerisms (and a couple of catchphrases) from Groucho Marx and his carrot chewing is likely to be a reference to Clark Gable in the romantic comedy It Happened One Night (which popularized carrots as a snack food).


It’s no surprise that Bugs Bunny became the most iconic Looney Tunes and the mascot for Warner Bros. Looney Tunes is full of great characters but a lot of them are fun jerks or work best as part of a specific dynamic, like Tweety. Bugs is a hero (usually), he works in almost any setting and time period and despite being a slapstick funny guy is… cool. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be the guy who looks to camera with a subtle look as you bring the boom down on an opponent with nothing but your wits. Bugs works because the formula, which is simple, allows him to run roughshod, rarely loosing but we remain on his side even if the victory is guaranteed from the start. He’s sort of merciless in a way we can appreciate because rarely is anyone undeserving of his punishments AND he’s clearly just ending a fight someone else started. And he does it while treating his threats without seriously because to him, they are only worth a laugh and a humiliation for their attacks on his person.


Plaintiffs:



Defense:

“Bugs Bunny can’t lose a case. Or if he does we’ll be the target of his ire so… let’s NOT fail. They'll be some retaliation but if we win at the start of the cartoon, we still get paid.”
 
Who the heck are you fools picking over Bugs Bunny
Bugs bothered me as a kid, to the point where I think I cried at a couple of his shorts when I was young because what kept happening was so upsetting. I generally found him way too mean-spirited and ruthless. I wanted him to walk away/escape at a certain point in the cartoons when he obviously could, but no, he'd keep antagonizing and shaming whoever bothered him that time, often until they have a psychotic break. It went too far for me way too often.

But of course What's Opera Doc is one of the greatest things ever made and there is a lot about the character I love, but my problems with him prevented him from even making my long list.

This probably seems bizarre coming from someone who loves Wile E Coyote, but maybe since it was so overdone, self-inflicted and he'd obviously recover it didn't bother me? I dunno, I'm weird.
 

Issun

Let's 90s gaming
This is the third time Wall-E cracked the top 10 of a list.

People love that little garbage can
He is pretty wonderful.

Bugs is not the Looney Tune I voted for. He's iconic and for very good reason, but there's another from the WB stable I put above him. It remains to be seen whether that one shows up or not.
 

Adrenaline

Post Reader
(He/Him)
Bugs bothered me as a kid, to the point where I think I cried at a couple of his shorts when I was young because what kept happening was so upsetting. I generally found him way too mean-spirited and ruthless. I wanted him to walk away/escape at a certain point in the cartoons when he obviously could, but no, he'd keep antagonizing and shaming whoever bothered him that time, often until they have a psychotic break. It went too far for me way too often.

But of course What's Opera Doc is one of the greatest things ever made and there is a lot about the character I love, but my problems with him prevented him from even making my long list.

This probably seems bizarre coming from someone who loves Wile E Coyote, but maybe since it was so overdone, self-inflicted and he'd obviously recover it didn't bother me? I dunno, I'm weird.
I think you were a lot more aware of the concept of emotional abuse than I was at Looney Tunes-watching age
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
Wall-E was on my list as well. A tour-de-force or non-verbal emoting, like Johnny said up there with the great silent film stars. Also insanely cute. There's one life-size Wall-E droid build that always shows up at DragonCon and it just slays.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Pixar peaked at Wall-E. Sure there have been good films since then, but none of them have distilled the Pixar essence down to its very molecules in the way that one did. I watched all of the clips JU posted and each of them stirred emotions in me. Gosh. Here's a great video that discusses one of the reasons this movie works so well:


Bugs was on my long list but ultimately I decided I wasn't enough of a Looney Tunes fan to include him.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
7. Garnet



122 Points, 5 Lists, #2 Kirin

“It's okay, Steven, I'm never alone.”

Source Material: Steven Universe

Voice Actor: Estelle

Garnet is a member of the Crystal Gems, a team of alien heroes, living in Beach City. She lives with her team and watches over Steven Universe, the son of their previous leader, Rose Quartz. With Rose gone, Garnet has become the team’s unofficial de facto leader due to her authority and ability to see possible futures. Garnet is incredibly strong, fast, and durable, far more than the other members of the team and has an attitude that often comes off as aloof. In fact, despite this, Garnet is in fact incredibly and openly loving, a quality she values above all. She loves her team members, she loves Steven and his silly jokes (and is often known to make jokes herself, though due to her deadpan attitude, it is not always easy to tell when) and while she doesn’t always seem approachable, she is always willing to listen and give advice and support. And she loves herself…



In fact, Garnet is two beings made one; Ruby and Sapphire. Together, these different gems can fuse into one, an expression of their love and desire to truly be together. Ruby and Sapphire run hot and cold, literally and figuratively, and their combined elements make for a gem who is powerful and confident, though not without flaws. Even though Garnet always seems cool under pressure, there are definitely times she is quick to resort to brute force, especially when she’s a little panicked (not that she’d let it show). Ruby and Sapphire tend not to spend much time apart, though as time goes on, they become more willing to do things as individuals before coming together again. On her homeworld, fusion between different types of gems was forbidden, making her an outcast, though she preferred that to being apart and soon found her way to the Gems to fight to be the person she loves.


Steven Universe was full of great characters from the start, but Garnet was the early favourite, due to her being a cool, badass cool hero. But she also grew over the course of the show, with the reveal of her fusion nature adding a lot of depth and insight, allowing us to see more vulnerability and yet making her even cooler. She’s not hiding her sweet side either, it just becomes clear that it comes out in other ways and though she seems cold, her strong sense of love is genuine and healthy. She’s also the one who seems to be the most together from get but in fact, like the others, she sees there is room for improvement and does so. She’s the series’ rock, someone you can trust to help, even if some of the love is brutally honest tough love.


Plaintiffs:


Defense:

“There’s no similarities here. Their client is an amazon raised by fascists from space Hell. Our client is a couple of rocks in glasses.”
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
6. Bender



125 Points, 4 Lists, #2 Patrick

“Blackmail's such an ugly word. I prefer extortion. The X makes it sound cool.”

Source Material: Futurama

Voice Actor: John DiMaggio

Bender is a robot living in the city of New New York City in the 31st Century. Bender was a robot designed for the purpose of bending girders but after realizing his work was being used for suicide booths (phone booth-like compartments to commit suicide in), he fell into despair and tried to commit suicide. After meeting with Fry, a 20 something from the 20th Century and Leela, a government employee, the three decided to change vocations to work in a delivery company, Planet Express. Bender has an incredibly strong, durable body, a drawer in his chest where he keeps lots of odds and ends and questionable material make up including:

40% Zinc

40% Titanium

30% Iron

40% Dolomite

40% Lead

40% Luck/horseshoes

40% Chromium

60% Storage space

40% Scrap metal


Bender is an extremely and proudly crass and immoral robot who loves crime, having a good time and genuinely making a nuisance of himself. Despite his love of making trouble, he does genuinely care about his best friend Fry, sometimes to a possessive degree. At one point he caused all humans to be banished from a heaven-like realm simply so that he could have his friend back. His love still doesn’t stop him from lying and cheating him if it means a little extra money or fun or the mildest of diversions. Bender drinks heavily and while alcohol is a conventional fuel source for robots, Bender drinks as a vice as well, as he tends to participate in vice in all it’s forms. Beyond that, Bender does have other loves, including cooking, despite not being able to taste, and folk singing.


Bender feels like the next step from Homer Simpson, Matt Groening’s other famous creation, as Bender has very few morals to hold him back. And yet, Bender is still endearing while being the worst because the character, to an extent, accept him as he is and we don’t expect him to have a conventional human morality. All the same, he has insecurities and wants and the fact that he clearly cares for his friend, even if it is an unhealthy way, adds a little bit of the sweetness. But of course, the fun of Bender is seeing exactly how evil and blatantly sinful he can be while still being a fun, watchable character. He’s also a delightful antithesis of the classic science fiction robot; completely unloyal, unhelpful, breaking rules just because and messy both internally and externally. Though the robots in Futurama often go against conventional robot stereotypes, Bender truly breaks the mold.


Plaintiffs:


Defense:

“I mean, this is going to have to wait after pretty much every other trial he has lined up.”
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
Theeeeres my pick from Steven Universe

I was a little worried when we already got Steven, but here she is! Garnet is the literal embodiment of a functional relationship - in her own words, "I am a conversation". It's something we seldom see enough of on daytime TV, let alone kids' cartoons. Functional doesn't mean perfect - she still has her own things to work through even while supporting everyone else. Later in the series there's a great sub-plot where she essentially has to deal with the fact that she got metaphorically married while still very inexperienced at relationships, and needed a moment to stand back and take stock before confirming that, yes, this life together is the one she wants.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
"Stronger Than You" is still my favorite moment in Steven Universe.

Something I enjoy about her design: I can't remember if this was deliberate on the part of the showrunners, or if it was just a possible interpretation, but in SU you often notice fusions have multiple limbs, eyes, and other monstrous elements. It seems that the more stable a fusion is, the more humanoid they are able to appear. In the case of Garnet, the only "unstable" part of her design is the three eyes.
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
I think that's quite deliberate. There's also another very meta clue about her nature which is that almost all fusions have voice actors who are primarily singers; Garnet is voiced by Estelle.
 

Beta Metroid

At peace
(he/him)
Bugs bothered me as a kid, to the point where I think I cried at a couple of his shorts when I was young because what kept happening was so upsetting. I generally found him way too mean-spirited and ruthless. I wanted him to walk away/escape at a certain point in the cartoons when he obviously could, but no, he'd keep antagonizing and shaming whoever bothered him that time, often until they have a psychotic break. It went too far for me way too often.

But of course What's Opera Doc is one of the greatest things ever made and there is a lot about the character I love, but my problems with him prevented him from even making my long list.

This probably seems bizarre coming from someone who loves Wile E Coyote, but maybe since it was so overdone, self-inflicted and he'd obviously recover it didn't bother me? I dunno, I'm weird.
Bugs isn't my favorite of the Looney Tunes gang for related reasons (regardless of the shorts usually establishing him as the wronged party, he's just so much more capable than his foes that it's hard to root for him and his 0.98 winning percentage. But Adrenaline's a Yankees fan, so I can see why he may not understand how the perennial winner flexing on underequipped competition isn't entirely appealing to everyone).

Speaking of baseball, Bugs is great when he's punking a team of hulking monstrosities playing against a lone senior citizen. But opponents like Fudd and even Wile E. are just so pitiful and loveable that I can't bring myself to root against them. In particular, one format that aired the classic shorts in my formative cartoon-watching years featured an intro in which Bugs basically shows up and makes a fool out of another certain co-star (who I'm feeling very good about getting the better of this particular contest), without the provocation or hubris that makes this sort of thing a bit more palatable. I guess it left an impression on me.

Bugs is great, of course. This is just my "why I didn't rank him as the very best Warner Bro" explanation.
 

Octopus Prime

Jingle Device
(He/Him)
And also heterochromia, where the third eye is both colours at once

Stronger Than You was the first part of SU I was ever exposed to, and it made me realize this was a show worth paying attention to
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
And also heterochromia, where the third eye is both colours at once

Stronger Than You was the first part of SU I was ever exposed to, and it made me realize this was a show worth paying attention to

Same...I had a little bit of this spoiled for me around the time it aired and there was a ton of buzz for the show all of a sudden on Tumblr, and that's when I started watching it. It might just be because of the uneven pacing of the show's release schedule after this, but the show never really reached that peak for me again after "Jailbreak." I'm due for a rewatch, though, especially now that I can watch the whole thing at once and not have my weeks of anticipation lead up to another Ronaldo episode.
 

Issun

Let's 90s gaming
I thought about voting for Bender and I probably should have. Much like Scrooge McDuck, the VA does a lot of the heavy lifting in making a character we should hate loveable as all get out.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
5. Samurai Jack



144 Points, 6 Lists, #1 Falselogic

“No matter what form you take, Aku, you will never defeat the side of righteousness.”

Source Material: Samurai Jack

Voice Actor: Phil Lamarr

Jack (sometimes Samurai Jack) is a samurai from the 14th Century trapped in a distant future controlled by the evil wizard Aku. Jack was the son of a Japanese emperor during a time his nation was attacked by Aku, who had returned after being trapped for centuries. Jack was sent away to travel the world and learn various arts of combat, planning, mathematics and countless other skills and knowledges he could use to defeat Aku. Year later, as a man, Jack finally battled Aku and managed to defeat him with a magic sword capable of damaging Aku’s shadow-like flesh. However, at the last moment, Jack hesitated, allowing Aku to cast one last spell, to send Jack into a distant future where Aku has one. Since then, Aku travelled the world, battling Aku and his henchmen and helping the people oppressed by Aku.


Jack is extremely skilled in most notable fields, particularly combat, and is nearly undefeatable in conventional battle. He does often battle foes that are well beyond him in terms of power and physical ability (robots, aliens, demons), but through skill, determination, and ingenuity, can beat foes seemingly more powerful than he. Jack is often silent, usually speaking only when he needs to and keeping up a stoic persona. Jack is very perceptive, though sometimes proves to be naïve in some fields, as prepared as he tries to be for the deceptive world of Aku, he can be tricked. What’s more, there are occasions of immaturity, such as his rivalry with the Scotsman (which later becomes a friendship). Jack truly believes in truth and justice and that evil will fall to good, as long as it stands firm. Jack tends to be a wanderer, though he has friends he meets from time to time and often his legend grows with each adventure.


There are some who feel less is more and others who feel more is more and Jack, the show and the character, are kind of both. The action is wild and over the top but it’s often balanced with moments of meditation and anticipation. Moments where nothing happen. And yet, in the nothingness, everything happens. I don’t follow jazz but I know the cliché of the notes that aren’t played. And a lot happens in the nothingness, to the point where the show has mocked itself over. But it knows that’s where the power lies. Still waters run deep. And Jack is the same. He’s an incredibly simple character in conception and portrayal but there are moments of depth found within him even in that simplicity. It’s what makes it all brilliant and what gives the character his power. It also helps that Phil Lamarr, when he is given lines, makes sure they have gravitas and often a sense of humour. He’s a character of wisdom and great sadness who we see get to grow even more and in the last season in a darker place than ever. If you haven’t seen the final season, it’s pretty amazing.


Plaintiffs:


Defense:

“I think our client has less of what I assume is a back problem.”
 
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