Many classics like The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington were released in 1939, making it widely regarded as the finest year in motion picture history. The animated shows of the 1930s to the 1950s, whether they’re referred to as vintage, classic, or old-timey, were immensely popular and way ahead of their time.
Even though some people assume cartoons are only for children, the ingenious plots and well-developed characters attract viewers of all ages. This is because, even while there were plenty of kid-friendly graphics and outrageous actions, the text was sometimes laced with references and humor that only adults could appreciate. Thanks to this, watching cartoons with the children was a joy.
With networks like Cartoon Network drawing a third or more of their viewers from the over-18 demographic, it’s safe to conclude that the trend has persisted today. With that, it’s time to look back at some of the top 50s cartoons that showcased the pinnacle of animated entertainment.
Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies
Warner Bros. Studios first released the animated short Sinkin’ in the Bathtub, with Bosko as the primary character in 1930. Leon Schlesinger Productions created Bosko as a human-animal type character with minstrel-like features. A total of 39 Looney Tunes (sometimes written Looney Toons) segments would feature Bosko in his role.
When the creators of Bosko departed Warner Bros., Isadore “Friz” Freleng was brought in to help bring Bugs Bunny to life. As part of the promotion of their cartoons from 1931 until 1969, Merrie Melodies (featuring Bugs Bunny and his friends) included musical soundtracks in their show. Many of these characters, including Bugs Bunny, the Roadrunner, Daffy Duck, Pepé Le Pew, Elmer Fudd, and many others, were featured in Warner Bros. cartoons during the “Golden Age of Animation.”
Goofy And Wilbur
Goofy and Wilbur may seem like an oddball in Disney’s long history of animated films. Since Mickey’s Revue in 1932, Goofy has appeared in Mickey Mouse cartoons, and by the late 1930s, Disney felt he deserved his own series.
But Pinto Colvig, the voice actor who played Goof, also left the studio around that time, which was a real shame. Disney animators got around this by going into a series of How To cartoons with narration and very little dialogue. As a result of Jack Kinney’s efforts, Goofy became less of a character and more of a comedic vehicle, resulting in films like How to Play Football and Hockey Homicide, which feature an entire universe of an absurdly large population of Goofy-like characters.
A new Goofy series was created in the 1950s that focused on the struggles of everyday suburban living, and Goofy was transformed into an all-American hero whose voice, design, and even his name frequently changed (he lost his dog ears and was sometimes called George Geef). However, Goofy was no longer the star of the Disney studio when it began making a handful of cartoons based on the character, such as Two-Gun Goofy and For Whom the Bulls Toil, in 1952.
With its Silly Symphonies storytelling style, Goofy and Wilbur is considered the only “pure” Goofy cartoon that showcases his brainless klutz persona. It’s a beautiful example of Disney’s finest work, despite the rather underwhelming Goofy voice. To help him catch fish in the film, Goofy enlists the aid of his grasshopper pal Wilbur, but when Wilbur is eaten whole by one, Goofy goes on a wild goose chase to save him.
Tom and Jerry
Tom and Jerry was first made into a series of animated shorts by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. The two worked together at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer from 1940 until 1948, putting out 114 slapstick comedies. It’s been reported that Hanna-Barbera won seven Academy Awards for Animated Short Film with its wild cat and mouse characters. Tom and Jerry and Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies were tied for the most awards in the category. From 1961 through 1962, Tom and Jerry appeared in 13 more Rembrandt Films cartoons, and they quickly surpassed Looney Tunes as the highest-grossing animated short film series.
The Heckle and Jeckle Show
Heckle and Jeckle made their début in 1946 with the show Talking Magpies. Despite their resemblance in appearance, the two blackbirds can’t be more different. One spoke with a British accent, and the other with a New York accent.
Heckle and Jeckle spent their time together trying to outsmart everyone else, whereas other animated teams were busy competing against one other. During the 1950s and most of the 1960s, these aggressive but amusing characters were highly popular as one of Paul Terry’s (Terrytoons) most popular shows. The series concluded in 1971.
Peace On Earth
“Peace on Earth” is one of the first animated shorts (and perhaps the very first post-apocalyptic show of any kind outside of 1936’s Things to Come) to depict a post-human world. Fred Quimby, the producer of this highly regarded animation, was first skeptical of Hugh Harman’s decision to proceed with the project.
This assertion in a cartoon was unheard of; using the extinction of mankind as an analogy for war’s atrocities was unusual in pre-Twilight Zone times. Nevertheless, it received a commendation from the Nobel Prize Jury, was nominated for an Academy Award, and was named #40 in Jerry Beck’s 50 Greatest Cartoons list in 1994.
The Woody Woodpecker Show
The Woody Woodpecker Show, which debuted in the late 1950s, rapidly became popular. Even before Walter Lantz and the voices of Mel Blanc and Ben Hardaway were cast, the Woody Woodpecker character was already well-known because of the animated short Knock Knock (1940).
Woody’s anthropomorphic acorn woodpecker character and screwball antics attracted viewers who wanted to see more of him in action. As a result, the new show’s success endured throughout the rest of the 50s and into the following decades. It doesn’t matter whether there are reruns, specials, or new episodes; Woodpecker is still widely popular these days. A live-action/CG Woody Woodpecker movie was even released in 2017.
Animated shows will always have a special place in everyone’s hearts – children to adults alike. Today, cartoons reclaim their adult status thanks to darker, heavier, and more violent content. Perhaps others will prefer shows with no moral lessons, no politically correct characters, and just pure entertainment. However you prefer your cartoons, there is no denying that they have impacted your life at least once, in one way or another, just like the story of The Wizard of Oz.