Saturday mornings used to be made for parking it on the couch for hours of cartoon fun. Give your kids a big dose of classic cartoon fun with this list of hand-picked throwbacks from Common Sense Media. From The Smurfs and Inspector Gadget to Danger Mouse and Rugrats, these winning picks from will take you on a trip down memory lane.
Parents need to know that this classic animated series promotes togetherness and sharing. Although some skeptics believe the Smurfs’ mushroom village is a spoof of communism, kids won’t pick up on that possibility. They’re much more likely to notice Gargamel’s mean personality and relentless pursuit of the Smurfs, which may frighten some very young viewers.
Care Bears: Adventures in Care-A-Lot
Parents need to know that the cheerful bears in this cartoon series learn positive lessons about feelings and caring, including the importance of being a good friend, the value of honesty, and the fact that it’s OK to ask for help when you need it. Kids will relate to storylines that illustrate how responsible youngsters resolve issues with friends and work together to ensure everyone’s happiness. A potential speed bump for very young viewers may be the stern, sometimes-menacing character Grizzle.
Parents need to know that Danger Mouse is an ’80s British cartoon that loosely parodies British spy movies. Despite the good-vs.-evil setup, the characters’ exchanges are more comical than they are antagonistic, and what violence exists (bombs, dynamite, etc.) is without consequence. Many of the highbrow jokes will sail over kids’ heads, but they make the show a lot of fun for the older crowd as well. The stories make good use of the show’s changing settings, exposing kids to basic geography and culture in places like Scotland and Italy.
Parents need to know that DuckTales was a huge hit with fans during its four-year run in the ’80s and continues to entertain today with quality stories, wild adventures, and classic Disney characters such as Scrooge McDuck and the dynamic trio of Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Because the stories often are set in far-flung places such as Greece, Antarctica, and the Klondike, kids are introduced to basic concepts of geography and diverse world cultures. Other episodes take the ducks back in time to visit events such as the American Civil War, so there’s also some exposure to history and mythology. Every story touches in some way on positive social messages about kindness and philanthropy as well. Because of the timeless nature of the characters and stories, this is a fantastic series for the whole family.
Felix the Cat
Parents need to know that Felix the Cat is a 1950s animated series based on a cartoon character from silent 1920s films. Each episode sees the mischievous titular feline face off with his human adversary, who’s out to steal the cat’s bag of tricks. The show moves at a pretty slow pace, especially compared to modern cartoons, and conflicts aren’t particularly violent, but what mishaps do exist (crashes, long falls, machines that turn people into stone) have only momentary effects. Your kids won’t learn any valuable lessons from Felix’s antics, but there’s equally little to worry about in the content.
Parents need to know that there’s little to worry about in this classic cartoon about a dimwitted bionic detective. Although the plot follows an ongoing tug-of-war between protagonist Gadget and the evil Dr. Claw, nothing about the show is likely to scare most kids. What mishaps do occur are comical in nature, and there’s very little sense of danger of any sort. The show also promotes positive messages about safety and responsibility, which the characters relate to the story at its end.
Parents need to know that this classic cartoon deals with old-fashioned family values in a futuristic setting. Although financial security and family relationships are important to the Jetson family, some of today’s viewers may find the traditional male/female roles a little dated.
Pink Panther and Pals
Parents need to know that this updated version of the 1960s classic cartoon The Pink Panther is a fun choice for kids. The show has its fair share of cartoon-style violence (explosions, crashes, knocks to the head, for instance), but the tone is light and humorous enough that kids aren’t likely to misinterpret it as reality. While there’s no possibility of kids gleaning any worthwhile messages from the superficial content, the show is equally light on the iffy stuff, so it’s a safe option for the grade-school set.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?
Parents need to know that this innocent animated classic doesn’t offer much in the way of controversy. Although kids (and parents!) of all ages are guaranteed to find this series entertaining, younger children might lose interest after awhile because the segments in each episode tend to be longer than those in contemporary cartoons. Some sensitive kids might find the show’s mysteries and spooky villains a bit scary — until they learn that all of the ghosts and beasties are fakes.
Parents need to know that this classic series evolved from an almost-gentle cartoon to something much darker by the end of its run. The later incarnations kept the campy feel and quaint language of the early days, but the tone got a lot more ominous with the addition of the Legion of Doom, a cast of evil creatures bent on destroying the superheroes. Still, this show is tame by current standards and wins points for its focus on loyalty and solving problems.
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