The 40 Best Cartoon Characters of All Time

When I was young, there was nothing so exciting as a Saturday morning. I’d wake up before the marathon slate of cartoons started, irritated by whatever talking head was still yammering on at 7:30. But then came three hours with Mighty Mouse, Bugs Bunny and the Superfriends.

The DVR and endless channels have made Saturday mornings obsolete, but my kids seem to prefer retro cartoons anyway. We live in a golden age of animation, but with just a few exceptions, the most creative minds are aimed at adults. The Simpsons, South Park, Family Guy, Archer, Adult Swim, the return of Futurama—some of the funniest shows on TV are cartoons.

We thought it would be a good time to celebrate the TV cartoon characters, young and old, that we hold dear. We could have come up with 50 great ones just from The Simpsons and Looney Tunes, but we tried to diversify a little. Which ones—on this list or missing—do you love?

40. Pepe Le Pew (Looney Tunes)
Created: 1945
Creator: Chuck Jones
Voice: Mel Blanc

Who would have imagined that a randy skunk would be such a hit back in 1945? Mssr. Le Pew’s aggressive advances on poor Penelope Pussycat sprung from a place of confused confidence, but his lover-boy antics were always a treat to behold.

39. Charlie Brown (Peanuts)
Created: 1950
Creator: Charles Schultz
Voice: Peter Robbins

Hapless Charlie Brown is as sympathetic a character as we’ve ever had, real or animated. Unlucky in love, untalented and trusting to a fault—we pull for him, knowing it’s all for naught.

38. Sylvester J. Pussycat & Tweety
Created: 1945
Creator: Friz Freleng
Voice: Mel Blanc

Mel Blanc kept the different speech impediments straight while voicing both cat and bird for Looney Tunes.

37. Bender (Futurama)
Created: 1999
Creator: Matt Groening
Voice: John DiMaggio

Made in Mexico, Bender is a sociopath of steel (er, well, iron, titanium, lead, zinc, dolomite and nickel), who has kidnapped Jay Leno’s head and sent his own son to robot hell. But he really just wants to be a folk-singer.

36. Goofy
Created: 1932
Creator: Art Babbitt
Voice: Pinto Colvig

“Gawrsh!” Disney’s good-natured, bumpkin widower doesn’t have a lot going on upstairs, but a sunny disposition always sees him through.

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