As the sun sets, there’s nothing quite like revisiting the Technicolor dreamscapes of the 1970s, a golden age of animation that introduced us to many unforgettable characters.
The “70s Cartoon” scene was a kaleidoscope of creativity, full of hilarious hijinks, dramatic adventures, and poignant lessons that touched children and adults alike.
Whether you were tuning in on Saturday mornings or catching reruns on a weekday afternoon, these shows were more than just cartoons; they were touchstones of our collective childhood, helping shape our sense of humor, sense of wonder, and even our sense of right and wrong.
So, let’s take a nostalgic journey back to the disco decade, exploring the top 22 cartoons that defined the ’70s and continue to warm our hearts today.
This section delves into the distinctive flair of ’70s cartoons. It was a time when animation exploded with an eclectic mix of themes, from outer space quests to mystical quests, from anthropomorphic animals to superheroes—a period where storytelling boundaries were pushed, and a host of legendary characters were born. Let’s dive in!
1. Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?
Step into the Mystery Machine, where a Great Dane named Scooby-Doo and his quartet of teen detectives explore the eerie nooks of seemingly haunted places. This 70s cartoon combined comedy, mystery, and adventure as Scooby and his gang, Fred, Daphne, Velma, and Shaggy, solved crime in the most entertaining way possible.
Each episode unfolded with the gang stumbling upon a mystery, facing comical frights, and ultimately unmasking the villain behind the supernatural facade. It was a blend of suspense, humor, and friendship that kept viewers returning for more. Scooby’s love for Scooby snacks and his unique, fearful, yet brave personality cemented his status as a beloved cartoon icon.
2. The Pink Panther Show
Welcome to the silent, slapstick world of The Pink Panther Show. Featuring the suave and sophisticated Pink Panther, this cartoon presented a unique comedic experience. The Pink Panther didn’t speak; he communicated through hilarious physical comedy and exaggerated expressions.
This sleek feline, with his unmistakable jazzy theme song, found himself in absurd situations, outwitting antagonists in clever ways. Despite his mischievous antics, he always maintained an air of cool, collected charm, which made this show a delightful spectacle.
3. Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle
Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle, transported viewers into the heart of the African wilderness, where the titular character, Tarzan, ruled. This interpretation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic hero was more articulate and intelligent than previous versions. The animation captured the lush, vibrant visuals of the jungle and its inhabitants, lending a sense of adventure and exploration.
With each episode, Tarzan faced threats to the jungle’s harmony, using his strength, cunning, and deep respect for nature to maintain balance. This series presented environmental themes and values of friendship, respect, and responsibility, making it a thoughtful, thrilling watch.
4. Super Friends
Super Friends assembled the iconic heroes of DC Comics into an outstanding cartoon ensemble. The show boasted an impressive roster, including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, and the Wonder Twins. The heroes worked together to tackle global threats and teach viewers about unity, moral values, and social issues.
Each episode featured the Super Friends using their unique abilities in action-packed sequences while promoting teamwork and justice. This combination of action, ethics, and camaraderie made Super Friends an integral part of 70s cartoon history.
5. The All-New Popeye Hour (1978–1983)
The All-New Popeye Hour took everyone’s favorite spinach-loving sailor into new adventures. With his quirky speech, distinctive laugh, and indomitable spirit, Popeye was always ready to fight for justice, often against his nemesis, Bluto.
Whether he was saving his love interest, Olive Oyl, or embarking on nautical quests, Popeye would down a can of spinach for a superhuman boost. This trademark transformation captured the fun and creativity of the series. The show emphasized good triumphing over evil, healthy eating, and the value of perseverance, delivering hearty laughs and life lessons with each tale.
6. Cattanooga Cats (1969)
Cattanooga Cats was a lively addition to the ’70s cartoon scene, offering a unique blend of music and mayhem. It featured a rock band composed of anthropomorphic felines who toured and encountered various comical situations. The members included the leader Country, drummer Groove, guitarist Kitty Jo, and the lovable but dimwitted, Scoots.
The band’s funky tunes were often paired with light-hearted narratives about friendship, creativity, and adventure. The show also integrated other animated segments like “Around the World in 79 Days” and “Motormouse and Autocat,” adding variety to each episode. Cattanooga Cats exemplified the experimental and playful spirit of ’70s cartoons.
7. Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies (1970)
Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies spun a new tale around Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. This series had a unique twist: it combined Sabrina’s magical mishaps with the antics of a motley crew of monsters, the Groovie Goolies, who resided in Horrible Hall.
The show was a laugh riot with its endearing, oddball characters, ranging from Dracula to Frankenstein’s monster to a vegetarian werewolf. The blend of magic, humor, and catchy tunes created an engaging, offbeat viewing experience.
8. The Hardy Boys (1969–1971)
The Hardy Boys brought the popular characters of Franklin W. Dixon’s detective novels to animated life. Brothers Frank and Joe Hardy and their friends found themselves embroiled in thrilling mysteries, often involving criminals, smugglers, and secret treasures.
The show embraced the spirit of the novels, presenting stories of suspense, bravery, and quick thinking. With its captivating plots and memorable characters, The Hardy Boys captured the imagination of young viewers and reinforced the appeal of intellectual curiosity and teamwork.
9. The Funky Phantom (1971)
The Funky Phantom was an entertaining series that combined elements of history, mystery, and humor. The show featured three teenagers and their dog who traveled across the country in a dune buggy, solving mysteries with the help of a Revolutionary War ghost, Mudsy, and his ghost cat, Boo.
Mudsy, the ‘funky phantom,’ had a distinctive laugh and added a touch of comic relief. With its mix of supernatural elements and detective work, the series offered a captivating blend of fun and suspense that kept viewers glued to their screens.
10. Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids was a unique ’70s cartoon that blended entertainment and social education. The series revolved around the kind-hearted, wise, and rotund Fat Albert and his group of friends in North Philadelphia.
Created by comedian Bill Cosby, each episode tackled various social issues like bullying, honesty, and respect for others, delivering moral lessons through relatable narratives. The cartoon’s catchy theme song, “Hey, Hey! It’s Fat Albert,” and the authentic urban setting made the show a cultural touchstone, respected for its heart and humor.
11. Josie and the Pussycats
Josie and the Pussycats hit the ’70s animation scene with a pop-culture splash, combining groovy music and thrilling adventure. The series followed Josie, Valerie, and Melody, an all-girl band who were also undercover detectives. With their musical talents, fashion-forward leopard print outfits, and quick wits, they faced villains and unraveled mysteries.
The playful exchanges between the band members, their manager Alan, and the mascot, Sebastian, a sarcastic, mischievous cat, added charm to the series. With its catchy tunes, vibrant animation, and engaging stories, Josie and the Pussycats was a memorable blend of girl power and ’70s flair.
12. Schoolhouse Rock
Schoolhouse Rock was not just a cartoon series but an innovative educational revolution. Designed to make learning fun, the show used catchy tunes and entertaining visuals to teach grammar, science, economics, history, and mathematics lessons.
Whether explaining how a bill becomes law or delving into the mysteries of multiplication, Schoolhouse Rock’s songs were so engaging you’d find yourself humming them long after the lesson ended. It was a pioneering example of edutainment, leaving a lasting legacy on the ’70s cartoon landscape and beyond.
13. The Jetsons
The Jetsons offered viewers a humorous and optimistic peek into the future. Set in a world of flying cars, robot maids, and high-tech conveniences, it followed the lives of the lovable Jetson family: George, his wife Jane, their kids Judy and Elroy, and their talkative dog, Astro.
Even though it was set in a fantastical world, The Jetsons encapsulated timeless themes of family, work-life balance, and adaptability to change. With its futuristic setting, comic situations, and enduring characters, The Jetsons was a standout show of the ’70s cartoon scene.
14. Looney Tunes
Although Looney Tunes began in the 1930s, its classic characters and timeless humor continued to captivate audiences throughout the ’70s. Iconic figures like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Tweety Bird entertained with their slapstick comedy, memorable catchphrases, and unique personalities.
The cartoons often contained wry societal commentary, clever puns, and satirical humor, giving them a wide appeal to both children and adults. Looney Tunes significantly impacted the animation industry and remained a significant part of popular culture.
15. Godzilla (1978–1980)
The Godzilla cartoon of the late ’70s brought the famous movie monster to the small screen, offering a fresh twist on the iconic creature. In this series, Godzilla was a protector summoned by a team of scientists via a special signaling device to battle various threats to humanity, often in the form of other giant monsters.
Accompanying Godzilla was Godzooky, a smaller, more playful version of Godzilla who added a dash of comic relief. This series combined action, adventure, and humor, presenting Godzilla in a new light and further cementing the creature’s place in pop culture.
16. The Adventures of Gulliver (1968–1969)
The Adventures of Gulliver reimagined the classic Gulliver’s Travels tale in a vibrant animated format. The story centered on the young Gulliver, who ended up shipwrecked in Lilliput, a land inhabited by tiny people. With his pet dog, Tagg, Gulliver navigated through adventures, often aiding the Lilliputians with his relative giant size.
Each episode brought courage, kindness, and understanding lessons, making the show engaging and enriching. The series effortlessly combined fantasy and adventure, weaving timeless tales of friendship and exploration that encapsulated the spirit of ’70s cartoons.
17. The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show (1972)
The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show was a delightful spin-off of The Flintstones, featuring the kid’s Pebbles Flintstone and Bamm-Bamm Rubble as teenagers. With their lovable pet dinosaurs and a gang of friends, they navigated teenage life in the prehistoric town of Bedrock.
Filled with teenage hijinks, light-hearted humor, and Stone Age versions of modern conveniences, the show was a hit. It retained the charm of its predecessor while carving out a unique identity, making it a beloved part of ’70s cartoon history.
18. Inch High, Private Eye (1973)
Inch High, Private Eye was a charming series about a tiny detective who stood just one inch tall but made up for it with his larger-than-life personality and bravery. Armed with his miniature size and a slew of gadgets, Inch High solved impossible cases.
His niece Lori, her gigantic dog Braveheart, and their friend Gator often assisted him. The show blended mystery, comedy, and action, offering viewers exciting adventures and endearing characters that epitomized the creative spirit of ’70s cartoons.
19. Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch (1974)
Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch was a unique show that revolved around Wheelie, a red Volkswagen beetle, and his encounters with a motorcycle gang, the Chopper Bunch. Its mute characters, who communicated through expressive visual cues, car horn beeps, and other vehicular sounds, set the series apart.
Despite the lack of dialogue, the show was filled with humor, adventure, and conflict, mainly through Wheelie’s clever strategies to outsmart the Chopper Bunch. It was a fascinating blend of vehicle anthropomorphism and slapstick comedy that resonated with ’70s audiences.
20. Road Runner (1966–1973)
Road Runner, an integral part of the Looney Tunes lineup, was a series that thrived on its simplicity. The premise involved Wile E. Coyote’s failed attempts to catch the super-speedy Road Runner in the desert landscape. The characters never spoke, but their actions spoke volumes.
The Coyote’s overly complicated traps, often involving gadgets from the fictitious Acme Corporation, always hilariously backfired. This repetitive yet comic dynamic made the Road Runner series an entertaining watch, a testament to the enduring appeal of classic slapstick.
21. Harlem Globe Trotters (1970–1973)
The Harlem Globe Trotters cartoon series brought the world-famous basketball team’s antics from the court to the small screen. The series revolved around the animated avatars of the actual players, showcasing their impressive basketball skills and comedic talents. These athletes-turned-superheroes traveled around the world, facing challenges that required both their athletic prowess and quick thinking.
Often, solutions to problems came in the form of a well-executed basketball play, merging the love for the sport with a penchant for adventure. This unique blend of sportsmanship, humor, and heroism made the Harlem Globe Trotters series an exceptional addition to ’70s animated shows.
22. Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1971–1974)
Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, was a delightful dive into the world of magic, with the teenage witch Sabrina at its heart. An extension of the Archie Comics universe, the show followed Sabrina as she juggled high school life with her magical abilities, often leading to comedic results.
With her aunts, Hilda and Zelda, her boyfriend, Harvey, and her sassy talking cat, Salem, Sabrina navigated through magical mishaps, learning important life lessons. The show provided an engaging mix of fantasy, comedy, and teen drama, making it a hit with ’70s audiences.
In the golden era of the ’70s, animated television was a vibrant landscape, teeming with unforgettable characters and stories that continue to evoke nostalgia. This trip down memory lane has explored the charm and uniqueness of popular cartoons like Scooby-Doo, Josie and the Pussycats, and Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
It also sheds light on lesser-known gems such as Inch High, Private Eye, and Cattanooga Cats. These shows entertained and subtly imparted valuable life lessons, shaping generations of viewers. Looking back, we realize how these ’70s cartoons have significantly shaped the course of animated television.