Chuck Sheetz knows a thing or two about careers in animation as an Emmy Award-winning Director of The Simpsons and Professor at UCLA Theater Film and Television. These are his picks for the top 10 TV shows he thinks young animators should watch and study. Want more animation career advice from Chuck Sheetz? Check out What do UCLA and The Simpsons Have in Common? Chuck Sheetz.
The Simpsons (1989 to present)
The most important prime time animated show ever, rivaled only by The Flintstones in historical significance. There are those who claim that over the years the show went mainstream and lost its edge. I say that the Simpsons became the mainstream because it successfully moved the center of popular culture to an edgier place. No other show has stayed on the air for so long and managed to maintain the level of quality that the Simpsons has (take that, Meet the Press!)
King of the Hill (1997 – 2010)
Throughout its run, King of the Hill stayed amazingly true to its original premise and tone. It had lots of great comedy, but lots of great, observational bits about American life, too.
Bob’s Burgers (2011 to present)
This show keeps on getting better and better. The improvisational style of dialogue works great and the stories are always solid.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
This is probably my first memory of seeing animation on TV. The story seemed to go on forever, I was so caught up in it. It has great character design, great animation and great songs.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
Boris Karloff does some of his best work ever in this show, as does Chuck Jones, too. I never get tired of watching it.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
An almost perfect combination of writing, animation style and music score. The zombie-like kid dancing at the play rehearsal may have been the Gen X-er.
7up “Bubbles” (1974)
This is a 7up commercial by Robert Abel and Associates. Abel was a UCLA alumnus, too. When I was thirteen years old and this commercial came on the air I would stop whatever I was doing just to watch it. If you click on this link, keep in mind that all of this was accomplished with traditional camera effects that required multiple passes of film through the camera to achieve even the simplest onscreen glow. There was no After Effects back then. A beautiful piece of work.
The Mighty Heroes (1966)
This program was the first show created by Ralph Bakshi. I was crazy about super hero shows whether they were played straight or for laughs like this one. In particular, I loved the background score to the action sequences that was made up almost entirely of some guitarist doing revved up, echoey, Chuck Berry shuffles. It was almost proto-punk.
Roger Ramjet (1965)
I could have put Rocky and Bullwinkle or George of the Jungle here, but I’m going for a lesser-known, very limited animation series with great dialogue and gags. Gary Owens was great in the title role. Check this out If you like fast moving, cleverly written stories that go way beyond the limits of the show’s budget.
South Park (1997 to present)
No matter how far afield their stories go, they always find a solid and satisfying resolution to them. It would be much easier, as some shows do, to not wrap up the loose ends, and have the characters shrug their shoulders as if to say to the audience, “hey, can you come up with a better ending?” I’ve never once come to the end of a South Park episode and found myself scratching my head and going “that was it?” Great stuff.
Chuck Sheetz is an Emmy Award-winning animation director with over 20 years of professional experience working in the filed, and almost as many teaching at UCLA’s School of Theater Film and Television. He is best known for his work on The Simpsons, Disney’s Recess, Drawn Together, and What’s New Scooby Doo?
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