Top 10 Copycat Cartoon Shows
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: George Pacheco
We've heard that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but these copycat TV cartoons are ridiculous! We'll be ranking animated cartoon shows that were obviously inspired by earlier, successful series. Cartoons from all decades and genres will be considered, including copycats that originated from the same company as the cartoon being copied! WatchMojo ranks the most blatant copycat TV cartoons. Are there any copycats we missed? Let us know in the comments!
We've heard that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but this is ridiculous! Welcome to WatchMojo and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Copycat T.V. Cartoons.
For this list, we'll be ranking animated cartoon shows that were obviously inspired by earlier, successful series. Cartoons from all decades and genres will be considered, including copycats that originated from the same company as the cartoon being copied! Additionally, although we usually exclude anime from lists like these, we're going to allow certain, widely viewed series in North America, for consideration.
#10: "Digimon: Digital Monsters" [aka “Digimon Adventure”] (1999-2003)
Copy of: "Pokémon" (1997-)
What do you call a series that follows a group of young kids and their unique monster companions as they battle other, similarly crazy looking creatures in the traditional anime style? Well, you'd probably call it "Pokémon," but this first copycat on our list also fits that description. The world of "Digimon" arrived on the scene only two years after the "Pokémon" animated series, with "Digimon Adventure" debuting in Japan in March of 1999. This early incarnation of the franchise lasted 54 episodes, but the public's interest didn't end there, as the world of "Digimon" continues to be extremely popular with fans young and old around the world.
#9: "American Dragon: Jake Long" (2005-07)
Copy of: "Danny Phantom" (2004-07)
There's a bit of debate online as to whether or not "American Dragon: Jake Long" is an exact copycat of the hit Nickelodeon series "Danny Phantom," but one thing's for sure: both series have their passionate defenders. To be honest, both cartoons feature young protagonists who lead pretty fantastic double lives, with Danny Phantom accidentally gaining the supernatural powers of a ghost, while Jake Long comes from a long line of human-dragon hybrids. There's a ton of adventure and charm in both shows, and the fans of each will probably argue to death about their subtle differences. In our eyes, though, "American Dragon" definitely owes at least a small creative debt to "the Phantom."
#8: "Yogi's Space Race" (1978)
Copy of: "Wacky Races" (1968-69)
If there's one thing we've learned from years of watching way too many cartoons, it's that creators love taking a successful premise, setting it in space, and somehow calling it original content. "Yogi's Space Race" was just such a show, a late 70s cartoon that copied wholesale the plot of "Wacky Races" from a decade earlier, only with an interstellar backdrop. Whereas "Wacky Races" featured specific characters such as Penelope Pitstop and Dick Dastardly cruising around to see who the wackiest racer was, "Yogi's Space Race" substituted well known Hanna-Barbera names like Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, and Jabberjaw into the mix. The end results were certainly fun - but original? Not on your life!
#7: "SilverHawks" (1986)
Copy of: "ThunderCats" (1985-89)
Ok, remember that "space" thing we just talked about? That concept fits just perfectly over our next cartoon copycat, the shameless, star-set "ThunderCats" rip-off, "SilverHawks." Both shows featured Japanese animation by the Pacific Animation Corporation, and both were distributed by the production company Rankin-Bass. Those involved specifically created "SilverHawks" as basically a new "ThunderCats"... just set in space. So, does this mean that "SilverHawks" sucked? Not at all, actually, as the show featured a similarly high level of animation quality, fun storylines and a bitchin' theme song, which many fans can still sing to this day. That's gotta count for something, right?
#6: "Galtar and the Golden Lance" (1985-86)
Copy of: "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe" (1983-85)
Hanna-Barbera were looking for a slice of that sweet, sweet "He-Man" money when they released this obvious cash grab back in 1985. "Galtar and the Golden Lance" followed a similarly macho protagonist with a very badass main weapon as he and his crew protected a colorful fantasy world from the forces of evil. Although lacking a bit of the unintentional comedy that has since gone on to define its "Masters of the Universe" counterpart, "Galtar and the Golden Lance" nevertheless possessed all of the imaginative animated tools to make it a minor hit with the Saturday morning cartoon set.
#5: "Challenge of the GoBots" (1984-85)
Copy of: "The Transformers" (1984-87)
Ok, here's a fun fact: the GoBots toy line actually edged out the Transformers by a little less than a year when they debuted in Japan in 1983. This doesn't change the fact that the animated series, "Challenge of the GoBots," was clearly indebted to the success of the "Transformers" cartoon, which had already gained serious steam as the latest Saturday morning obsession. Despite the fact that they both premiered in the same month, the “Gobots” show was viewed largely by the public as a cheap imitation of Optimus Prime and company, without even a special Autobot or Decepticon-esque seal to differentiate hero from villain. Today, these transforming robots from, ahem, "Gobotron," are perhaps better suited as a cartoon trivia answer than the animation hall of fame.
#4: "Street Sharks" (1994-96)
Copy of: "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" (1987-96)
You've all heard of the "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," but are you aware of all their various copycats? No? Well, there were a lot of them, from "Biker Mice from Mars" to "Street Sharks." Yup, it seemed as if every species was given their chance to become mutated and fight crime, and these sharp-toothed sharks were no exception. The "Street Sharks" were four brothers whose DNA was spliced with those of various sharks by their father's evil partner, Dr. Paradigm, who, naturally, seeks the sharks' destruction. This basic premise is nowhere near as charming as the Turtles, and the "Street Sharks" only mustered a 3-season run before they were cancelled.
#3: "Goober and the Ghost Chasers" (1973)
Copy of: "Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!" (1969-78)
There were a number of "Scooby-Doo" rip-offs produced by the Hanna-Barbera team after the runaway success of that titular Great Dane and his friends. Some have stood the test of time -"Jabberjaw," anyone? - while others have been relegated to the "also ran" annals of cartoon history. "Goober and the Ghost Chasers" was one such series, which followed the usual team of teens who investigated supernatural mysteries alongside their talking dog, Goober. Although there were some major differences between this show and "Scooby-Doo," such as the existence of real ghosts the team had to outwit, this wasn't enough to "Goober" any more than sixteen episodes.
#2: "Snorks" (1984-89)
Copy of: "The Smurfs" (1981-89)
If you've ever watched an episode of "The Smurfs" and thought to yourself, "hey, this would be a lot better if it was set underwater"... well, then you probably watched "Snorks," too. That's pretty much the gist of this Hanna-Barbera series, but it's not all bad news, as "Snorks" is a bit more fondly remembered than other cartoons on this list. Maybe it's the colorful animation, the likable characters, or the quality voice acting on display, but "Snorks" earned enough positive response to garner four seasons on the air, so it was doing something right!
#1: "Coconut Fred's Fruit Salad Island" (2005-06)
Copy of: "SpongeBob SquarePants" (1999-)
Rob Paulsen is a legend in the animation industry, having voiced characters from iconic franchises across the board, including "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "Animaniacs," as well as "Corky" from the aforementioned "Snorks." So, when even he is claiming that a show he worked on was derivative, fans can probably take his sentiments to heart. "Coconut Fred's Fruit Salad Island" was the cartoon in question, a shameless riff on "SpongeBob SquarePants" that featured a manic talking coconut and his kooky friends getting into mischief. Thankfully, the Kids’ WB show only mustered two very short seasons before it was cancelled.