Best cartoon characters, greatest cartoon characters, best cartoons, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Homer Simpson, Bart Simpson, Cartman, Bugs Bunny

Bullz-Eye's All-Time Best Cartoon Characters

Entertainment Channel / Bullz-Eye Home

When we sat down and started ranking out our list of the best cartoon characters of all time, we weren't necessarily looking for the trailblazers, though we wound up with a few of them anyway. Instead, our goal was to highlight characters that have become larger than life, the ones whose mannerisms, speech patterns and catch-phrases have found a home in the cultural lexicon. If you saw the character, would you know who it was? Could you do an impersonation or easily recall a favorite episode? In short, we were looking for characters who have withstood the test of time, who have contributed something lasting to the pop culture landscape, and who have become more than just drawings with voice actors.

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Beavis & Butt-Head
Here’s the bad news about Beavis & Butt-Head: they’ve aged terribly. The recent “Mike Judge Collection” was a major letdown, with glaring omissions (no “Fire! Fire!” episodes, and the few music videos they were allowed to use had neutered commentaries). Nonetheless, we must acknowledge the massive impact that B&B had on pop culture. Quite simply, they ruled MTV in the early ‘90s, and some have even suggested that they in fact saved MTV. In some instances, the careers of bands were made and broken by their cutting comments. That’s right, the opinions of two of the most socially retarded characters you’re ever likely to find actually held weight as a barometer of good taste; such was the hero worship that surrounded the B&B phenomenon. One other overlooked contribution that Beavis and Butt-Head made to pop culture was the spinoff show “Daria,” which was far wittier than its ancestor (and therefore widely ignored). Watching them now may not be as much fun as it once was, but we concede that Beavis & Butt-Head have a certain Zen-like simplicity that cannot be denied. ~David Medsker

Fritz the Cat
In a generation where animated pornography is available online at the click of a mouse or in most any DVD store that sells anime, it may shock our younger readers to discover that it hasn’t been that many years since the first X-rated cartoon made it to theaters. Its name? “Fritz the Cat.” Fritz was the creation of famed underground cartoonist Robert Crumb, making his first published appearance in 1965, but his animated debut came in 1972, courtesy of Ralph Bashki (who would later freak out the next generation with his Saturday-morning take on Mighty Mouse). “Fritz” is dated now, sure, and certainly an artifact of its times, but given that the plot revolves around a feline college student who smokes dope, goes on a road trip – where he meets a heroin-addicted biker rabbit, no less – and has lots of sex, you can imagine it was an art-house smash. Crumb, however, hated the movie and promptly killed off Fritz; nonetheless, there was still a sequel – “The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat” (take that, Crumb!) – but Bashki wasn’t involved and, by all accounts, it sucked…possibly because it was only rated R this time. C’mon, guys: less animated animal nudity equals poor box office showing. Geez, everybody knows that! ~Will Harris

"That boy ain't right."

Bobby Hill
It makes perfect, karmic sense that Hank Hill would wind up with a son like Bobby, someone whose uninhibited nature is the polar opposite of his uptight, nervous father. And that is what makes Bobby such a great character, because he is more real than nearly every other child actor on television. Children do crazy things, like have romantic trysts with beauty school heads and their wigs. They try anything that sounds like a good idea at the moment, whether that means being a rodeo clown, clothing runway model, or comedian. Hank will never understand Bobby because he simply cannot think in such liberated terms, which is why it’s easier for him to simply say, “That boy ain’t right.” But Bobby is right; in fact, he’s more right than any child TV has ever seen. And if that isn’t enough to warrant his inclusion, then how about his now-famous comment after some ADD drugs heightened his senses to alarming levels: “There’s some milk in the fridge that’s about to go bad. (sniff) And there it goes.” ~DM

"Stimpy, you eediot!" We feel for
all the kids who missed out on
these two.

Ren & Stimpy
With all due respect to “The Ripping Friends,” it’s a safe bet that history will remember John Kricfalusi’s most famous creations as a Chihuahua named Ren Hoek and a portly feline named Stimpson J. Cat. Ren and Stimpy really helped put Nickelodeon on the map with the college crowd, who latched onto their adventures almost much so that MTV started to run the episodes as well. (We’re all one big, happy conglomerate, right?) The show was downright surreal, mixing potty humor – farts, burps, boogers, snot, you know the stuff – with bizarre concepts like Powdered Toast Man, the History Eraser Button, and everyone’s favorite TV series, “The Muddy Mudskipper Show.” Ren was snide and sarcastic, Stimpy was loveably simpleminded, and…well, everyone knows that when an odd couple gets together, wacky hijinks ensue, from selling rubber nipples to becoming fire dogs. Problems surfaced, however, when Nickelodeon in no way agreed with Kricfalusi’s genius, so the events of most everything after that first season should be considered apocryphal. Still, that first season…? It’s the gold standard of early ‘90s animation. ~WH

Kind of reminds us of "Where's Waldo,"
only Waldo's that big red blob in the
middle of the picture.

Fat Albert
Hey, hey, and, indeed, hey. He might’ve started out as the subject of a comedy routine by Bill Cosby, but our man Albert came into his own when he scored his own Saturday morning series on CBS. With the Cosby Kids in tow – Mushmouth, Dumb Donald, Bill, Rudy, Russell, Weird Harold and Bucky – Fat Albert and his gang…and make no mistake, my friend, they were a gang…stalked the streets of an unnamed city, learning from each other while they did their thing. Every episode of the show brought a new lesson, something which viewers were warned about up front (“…If you’re not careful, you may learn something before it’s done…”) just in case they didn’t want any stinkin’ education with their cartoons. If you remember the musical segments, you know that Parliament-Funkadelic didn’t have anything on the Junkyard Band, mostly because even Bootsy Collins’ funky-ass bass couldn’t compete with Mushmouth on birdcage. Even putting aside both the music and the morals, however, Albert was still a groundbreaker…and I ain’t talking about the cracks he made in the pavement when he was walking down the street (oh, snap!); his was the first animated TV series with an all-black cast. Basically, what we’re saying is that if you don’t like Fat Albert, you’re like school in the summertime: you got no class. ~WH

Scooby Doo
Why isn’t this great Great Dane higher on our list? Two words: Scrappy Doo. Actually, that’s not entirely true…but nor is it entirely false. Scooby’s glory days were the first two seasons of his show, which were its only truly classic years. Everything you’ve ever loved about the series can be found here at its absolute grooviest: Scooby and his best bud, Shaggy, eating ungodly amounts of burgers, sandwiches, and Scooby Snacks, but keeping their figures trim by running scared at first opportunity, often with a bubblegum pop song playing in the background. Fortunately, their opposition was invariably just some guy in a rubber mask, one who would inevitably offer up some semblance of the phrase, “And I would’ve gotten away with it, too…if it weren’t for those meddling kids!” And, although they were poorly animated, let’s not forget Scooby’s “movies,” which were hour-long episodes featuring a guest star of some sort. Some were real, like the Harlem Globetrotters or Jerry Reed, and some were fictional, like Josie and the Pussycats or Batman & Robin, but they were all fabulous, cheesy fun. After that, however, things started to go downhill, first with cousin Scooby-Dum, then with the aforementioned little shit known as Scrappy. A new generation was introduced to the Scoobmeister General in 2002 with a live-action movie (and its 2004 sequel), but, despite containing a few successful tongue-in-cheek gags, the flicks didn’t touch the magic of those early years. ~WH

Not even Homer is this "special."

Peter Griffin
Homer may have set the standard for incompetent, irresponsible and often intoxicated animated fathers, but he certainly didn't corner the market. In many ways, Peter Griffin is a caricature of Homer Simpson: They share many of the same qualities, only Peter's a little dumber, a little fatter, a little lazier and a hell of a lot cruder. Fortunately for "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane, Peter’s also a little funnier than Homer these days, thanks in large part to Matt Groening’s refusal to pull the plug on “The Simpsons,” but let’s not take too much credit away from Peter. We’ve watched him send wife Lois on a phony scavenger hunt so he can play golf on their anniversary, sell his only daughter to settle a $34,000 drugstore tab, and try to convince Lois to have sex with him even though their infant son Stewie is in the bed ("He'll just think I'm hurting you"), and yet, despite all of his flaws, Peter manages to come through unscathed and still undeniably likable. Count that as one more thing Peter and Homer have in common. ~Jamey Codding

Elmer Fudd
When reached for comment on his honor of making it into our top 15, Fudd’s only response was, “My name is Elmer J. Fudd, Millionaire. I own a mansion and a yacht.” While true (at least in the cartoon entitled “Hare Brush,” anyway), Fudd is known far less for his monetary worth than for his speech impediment, his nervous laugh, and his inordinate desire to hunt “wabbits.” The history of Elmer Fudd is a little cloudy, as he more or less evolved out of a decidedly chubbier Warner Brothers character named Egghead, but he eventually developed into the more svelte version of Elmer that we’ve come to know and love. Like Garth Algar in “Wayne’s World,” Fudd always seemed quite taken by Bugs Bunny’s transvestite tendencies, a characteristic which is no less creepy just because he’s animated. Folks like to have fun at Elmer’s expense – Robin Williams once sang Bruce Springsteen’s “Fire” while imitating him, Adam Sandler performed “Elmer Fudd Reads Porno,” and “SNL” mainstay Darrell Hammond was a regular on Dr. Demento’s Funny Five with “Wappin’” – but, unlike Bugs Bunny’s other nemesis, Yosemite Sam, everybody loves the Fudd. ~WH

Everyone loves to hate
Burns. Well, except

Montgomery Burns
The slouching posture, to go with the sloping forehead and pointy nose. The complete and utter disregard for humanity. The depths that have been plumbed in order to either make money or keep from spending it. It is the very caricature-ish nature of Montgomery Burns that makes him so lovable. No boss in television history has ever been so cruel, so remorseless, and yet so funny. After smiling for a photograph, he said, “I’m going to be sore tomorrow.” After removing Homer’s brain in a Halloween episode, he placed it on his head like a coonskin cap, boasting, “Look at me, I’m Davy Crockett!” He blotted out the sun, for God’s sake, in order to increase the demand for his nuclear power. We all like to think that our bosses are as evil as Monty Burns, wringing their hands and saying “Ehhhhxcellent” when it comes time to dish out a little misery. In truth, while our bosses may throw temper tantrums like a child and stab their peers in the back at every opportunity, they would never kick a 10-year-old into a safe, then send it plummeting to the bottom of a lake. And that’s one of the nicer things Burns has done. You have to love someone with that much hate. ~DM

Ah, back when Mickey actually
earned a check.

Mickey Mouse
Why, you ask, is someone as ubiquitous as Mickey Mouse landing outside of the top 10? Honestly, if you’d quizzed our panel of judges, they really could’ve taken or left Mickey, believe it or not. In fact, his history and his reputation within the industry are the sole reasons he’s gotten this far; you could say he was grandfathered in, really. There are three specific reasons he made the cut: “Steamboat Willie” (which has been parodied too many times to count, but one of the best was certainly “Steamboat Itchy,” on “The Simpsons”), the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence in “Fantasia,” and because he was the leader of the club that was made for you and me. (That would be “The Mickey Mouse Club,” by the way.) But, really, when was the last time you saw a new Mickey Mouse cartoon? He hasn’t maintained nearly as much of a presence outside of his theme park as, say, Donald or Goofy. Call him cartoon royalty and genuflect in his general direction, but these days, Mickey is little more than a figurehead. Sad, but true. ~WH

Every duck needs a girl who
understands him.

Donald Duck
By placing him ahead of that spotlight hog Mickey Mouse, we’re giving Donald Duck the kind of respect he’s always longed for. From the beginning, Mickey’s been The Man at Disney: he’s more outgoing, friendlier, cuter and cuddlier. And while Mickey’s got that adorably squeaky voice, you can barely understand a word that comes out of poor Donald’s beak, especially when he loses his cool with nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie. But here’s the thing: Donald’s so much damn funnier than Mickey. It’s not even close. Sure, Mickey’s gotten a few laughs from us over the years, but he usually needs help, whether it’s Pluto or a baby seal or a certain disrespected duck providing it. Donald, on the other hand, can carry the show all by himself. As for that notorious disposition, hey, we like to see people (or talking animals) lose their tempers on TV. Makes us feel better about our own shortcomings. Perhaps it’s led to a career playing second fiddle to an egomaniacal rodent, but don’t feel too sorry for Donald: Daisy Duck is one fine piece of tail. Much better than that phony Minnie Mouse. ~JC

If more kids came out like Stewie,
the birthrate would plummet.

Stewie Griffin
Stewie Griffin isn't the first cartoon character to dream of world domination, but he's likely the first to hatch his diabolical plans while wearing a diaper. Stewie, the youngest child on the Fox hit “Family Guy” and the only one with a British accent, is one twisted, evil, conniving kid. He ruthlessly rags on his sister for being unpopular, beats and kidnaps his cute babysitter’s boyfriend and, when Brian, the family dog, hops into a cab in search of a better life, Stewie runs out to the curb screaming, “Wait!”…so he can spit in Brian’s face. Above all else, though, Stewie wants to off his own mother, and dreams of the day he can lay her out on the floor like a bearskin rug. As he says, “It's not that I want to kill her, it's just that I want her...not to be alive anymore.” And then there's the mystery surrounding his sexual orientation. All signs point to Stewie being a switch hitter, though his fascination with sailors and show tunes suggests he may prefer one side of the plate to the other. With all these character quirks, it’s often easy to forget that Stewie’s just a kid, but then he flies to England to meet Mother Maggie, who stars in his favorite TV show, “Jolly Farm Revue.” Bottom line: There’s nobody else on television, animated or otherwise, like Stewie Griffin, and that’s what makes him so great. ~JC

Kids didn't get half the jokes and they
still loved it.

Rocky & Bullwinkle
“Hey, Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat!” “Again?” The trick might never have worked, but the pairing of a moose and a flying squirrel certainly did. The beauty of Rocky and Bullwinkle was that, although they were animated, it was the dialogue that sold the show far more than the animation. Kids dug it, but there’s no question that some – possibly as much as half – of the jokes were aimed at their parents…particularly the awful puns which ended the segments. The show was set up in cliffhanger form, a la the serials of the ‘30s and ‘40s, utilizing a concept that was way ahead of its time, particularly in cartoons: story arcs. The villains, Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, were so deliciously evil that they managed to get their own live-action movie before Moose and Squirrel did...although neither duo’s flick was anything to write home about. (Even in distant centuries, film historians will still be going, “No, seriously, why did DeNiro agree to be in that movie?”) Stick to the cartoons, and you’ll quickly see why Rocky and Bullwinkle are considered legends of animation everywhere from Frostbite Falls to Pottsylvania. (Pssst…now you say, “Thanks, Mr. Know-It-All!”) ~WH

Tom & Jerry
I don’t know why these guys are even in here; it’s so obvious that they’re just a cheap rip-off of Itchy and Scratchy. What’s that? Tom and Jerry came first? By almost 50 years, you say…? Hmmm, I’m not sure how I missed that. Um, this is really going to change my write-up, you know. Okay, well, I guess let’s start again, then. (:::clearing throat:::) The pairing of cat vs. mouse was old hat even in 1940, when William Hanna and Joseph Barbera created Tom & Jerry, but after seven Academy Awards for Best Short Subject: Cartoons, it’s safe to say that these two anthropomorphic animals became the pair to beat. In truth, however, there’s little question that Jerry carried the duo. After all, he’s the one who performed a dance routine with Gene Kelly in “Anchors Aweigh”; once that happened, Tom became very jaded and wound up with a nasty catnip habit that hindered his performance and made him virtually uninsurable from 1967 to 1975, hence the lack of new material. After drying out at the Magilla Gorilla Clinic, the pair got a Saturday morning show with all-new shorts, but times had changed, cartoon violence was no longer socially acceptable, and, frankly, no-one wanted to see Tom and Jerry sitting on the front porch in their rocking chairs, sipping lemonade and being best friends. If you’re gonna check out their material, stick to the classic stuff from the ‘40s through the ‘60s. ~WH

Bart as Hef? We buy it.
Millhouse ain't foolin' nobody,

Bart Simpson
Homer Simpson may be the most popular character on “The Simpsons” these days, but when the show first took the world by storm, it was 10-year-old Bart that was its breakout star. And with that attention came near-instant admonishment from parental groups about what a bad example Bart sets for the children. Sure, Bart may be a bit mouthy, but as kids go, he’s more rambunctious than disrespectful. In fact, he never crosses Marge, and only occasionally fights with Lisa. His relationship with Homer, on the other hand, is toxic. When Homer talks to Bart after setting a bad example, Bart says, “Dad, I have as much respect for you as I ever did, or ever will,” and Homer doesn’t even realize that he’s just been insulted. The thing about Bart is that he can be clever when he wants to be. His grades may be poor, but that’s more due to lack of discipline than lack of intelligence, and that ability to play Bart both ways expands the versatility of his character tenfold. He may have started off as a catch phrase machine, but Bart has evolved into one of the more complex characters in TV history. ~DM

Why do we like Daffy? He's
the everyduck.

Daffy Duck
There’s a great line in “Nixon,” where Anthony Hopkins, as Nixon, stares at a portrait of John F. Kennedy, and says, “They look at you, and they see who they want to be. They look at me, and they see who they are.” In Looney Tunes terms, Daffy Duck is Richard Nixon: we all wish we were as witty and as unflappable as Bugs Bunny is during the most trying times, but while we’re occasionally cool and collected, more often than not, we’re spastic, impatient and tongue-tied, like Daffy (“It’s not ‘He doesn’t have to shoot you now,’ it’s ‘He doesn’t have to shoot me now. ‘Well, I say he does have to shoot me now! [turns to Elmer] So shoot me now!”). Fortunately for Daffy, while the joke tends to be on him more often than not, he’s quite versatile; when he’s not taking lumps at Bugs’ expense, he has been known to play Foghorn Leghorn and Barnyard Dawg against each other, taunt Porky Pig from time to time, and has traveled as much Bugs has (Witness “Robin Hood Daffy’s” immortal “Ho! Ha ha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust!” bit). As secondary characters go, Daffy has quite the résumé. That earns, at the very least, our admiration, if not our respect. ~DM

Cartman ran a commercial telling his
friends that he opened a new theme
park...and that they weren't allowed to

For most “South Park” fans, trying to pick out your favorite Cartman moment would be like trying to pick your favorite slow-mo montage during a "Baywatch" marathon. There’s the episode where Cartman took the money his dead grandmother left him and bought an amusement park, just so he could ban Stan, Kenny and Kyle from it. How about when he found a shipment of fetuses next to an overturned delivery truck and sold them to stem-cell researchers (“I’m just like the fetuses, Chuck – I wasn’t born yesterday,” he says while haggling with the guy over the phone)? Or when he locked a bunch of pot-smoking hippies in his basement because he suspected they were organizing a music festival? Like a few other characters on this list, Cartman is mean-spirited, vindictive and just plain nasty, but what sets him apart from just about everyone else is that he has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. He goes out of his way to disparage Jews in front of his Jewish friend Kyle, he’ll use a random pause in the conversation to tell Kenny that he hates him, and when a kidney disorder threatens Kyle’s life and Cartman is identified as the only suitable donor in the area, he sets the price for his kidney at $10 million. That’s who Cartman is. He’s spiteful, selfish and cruel…and damnit, we love him for it. ~JC

Fred Flintstone
Thank God for that Cocoa and Fruity Pebbles endorsement deal; it’s pretty much the only thing keeping Fred working these days…and that’s a damned shame. “The Flintstones” might not have been the first prime-time animated show (that honor goes to “The Ruff and Reddy Show”), and it might not even have been that original (it’s clearly just “The Honeymooners” set in the Stone Age), but Fred Flintstone was an animated everyman, albeit one with the flattest feet around…but, then, that’s what happens when you use ‘em as the brakes of your car. Even with such a handicap, however, Fred was a brilliant bowler, a pool shark of the highest caliber, and a devoted husband (even when faced with the temptation of Ann Margrock!) and proud father, providing for his family by putting in long hours at the Slate Rock and Gravel Company, plus the occasional stint as a secret agent…or haven’t you seen his feature-length film, “A Man Called Flintstone”? Yes, this is a (cave)man who can defend himself, so don’t get him riled or you’re liable to get a kick right up the ol’ gazoo. Pick up a season of “The Flintstones” on DVD, won’t you? Fred won’t admit it, but, frankly, he could do with the extra residuals. ~WH

Hey, there are worse

Homer Simpson
Only Homer Simpson would use an incident where he hit a referee with a whiskey bottle as an example to his children of how to properly deal with your emotions. The fact is that Homer is still very much a child himself, with an encyclopedic knowledge of playground rules and childhood games (which he demonstrated when he slugged Bart for talking when Bart was jinxed; what adult remembers that stuff?). This is why he has never given his children a single shred of good advice (“What’s more important than being popular?”) or taught them anything other than what not to do. Now, take a person with those qualities, and send him into outer space, put him in charge of a nuclear submarine, and make him a missionary. Hilarity, undoubtedly, will ensue. On top of that, his “annoyed grunt” expression is now an entry in Webster’s dictionary. If that doesn’t explain the significance of Homer Simpson’s impact on the pop culture landscape, nothing does. ~DM

Mickey vs. Bugs? No

Bugs Bunny
We had a tough time mapping out this list, but when it came to crowning our #1 character, there was no debate at all. Bugs Bunny is the king of cartoon land. That’s quite a feat when you consider Bugs is now more than 65 years old. What makes this bunny so timeless? Well, you’ve got to credit Mel Blanc, Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng and Warner Bros. for creating a character so easy to root for. Unlike his contemporary Mickey Mouse, cartoon royalty who nonetheless is pretty much buried on this list, Bugs loves to mix it up with his enemies. He’s shrewd, unflappable, mischievous and downright cocky, and while those aren’t necessarily the most endearing qualities, Bugs pulls it off because he’s always the good guy. Whether he’s pitted against Elmer Fudd (#13), Yosemite Sam or Marvin the Martian, Bugs gets the best of people who are trying to get the worst of him. And because we know his motives are never sinister, it’s impossible to root against him, no matter how much he likes to taunt his adversaries by tying their shotguns in bows or giving them fat, juicy kisses after thoroughly embarrassing them. Simply put, Bugs always has been and always will be the coolest cartoon around. ~JC

*LOONEY TUNES, and all related characters and elements, are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. 2005