Animation is a tricky business, it’s expensive and requires a lot of difficult financial politics to get made. Because animation is so expensive, animated shows, no matter how popular or loved, tend to get the axe more often than live-action shows. The budget is just too much of a gamble and things like low toy sales or low ratings can cause an animated series to get tossed out the window after only a season. Sometimes, these series get lucky and fan support garners another season, but this is not usually the case.
Cartoons are an under-appreciated genre of TV, and the expenses involved in animation make it hard to push the medium forward, at least when it comes to TV shows. Some of the best cartoons in the past were canceled, despite having amazing stories and stellar animation, and usually for no good reason. Of course, some of the reasons for these amazing series’ cancellations are just part of the cartoon business, and part of the entertainment business in general. That said, sometimes logic isn’t enough to quell fan uproar when a series is canceled.
Here are 15 Great Cartoons Canceled For Stupid Reasons.
15. WOLVERINE AND THE X MEN
Wolverine and the X-Men is kind of a strange series. It was produced by and Indian animation company called Toonz Entertainment, was distributed by Disney (before they bought Marvel) and originally aired on Nicktoons – not Nickelodeon. From the start, it seems like this Marvel animated series was doomed to only have one season, which was unfortunate because the show was wonderfully written and had great character designs.
Wolverine and the X-Men had a mysterious and dark story that unfolded in a smart and interesting way and left an insane cliffhanger for a second season that never happened. But why didn’t it happen? Because of all the strange channels and hoops the show went through to get made, securing the finances for a second season was next to impossible, and this masterpiece of a show was cut short before it could truly take off.
14. GREEN LANTERN: THE ANIMATED SERIES
In the past, Bruce Timm had no problem getting DC animated TV series to last more than one season, but with Green Lantern: The Animated Series, things were different. This was his first foray into 3D animation, though it retained his signature art style, and the show was praised for its emotionally mature writing and themes. However, it was canceled after the first season for a few lackluster reasons.
The biggest reason was that the show was expensive to make, the 3D animation would rely on toy sales to keep going. However, the show came out right around the time of the disappointing live-action Green Lantern film, and because of the film’s failure, toy sales for the character went down, effectively digging the grave of the animated series. Ironic, since the show was much more well-written and executed than the film, yet it suffered for its failure.
13. HEY ARNOLD
Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie recently aired, finally bringing the story of Arnold’s parents to a close and giving a proper ending to the series. However, before this happened, fans of Hey Arnold! had to wait over ten years for this revival after the show’s original cancellation. Though it had a run of five seasons and a feature film, Hey Arnold! was canceled before the story could finish.
What’s worse is the fact that the reason’s for the series’ cancellation is incredibly petty. While Hey Arnold! was still in production, creator Craig Bartlett was developing a pilot for Cartoon Network called Party Wagon. The series didn’t pan out, and because Bartlett refused to sign an exclusive contract with Nick so he could develop Party Wagon, Nick canceled Hey Arnold! and scrapped the original plans for The Jungle Movie.
12. YOUNG JUSTICE
Young Justice is one of the few cases of a cancelled cartoon getting a revival through fan support, as the show is getting a third season coming to DC’s exclusive streaming service. However, before this exciting news, fans of the superhero cartoon were disappointed and outraged at the series’ initial cancellation. People loved this dark reimagining of the sidekicks of the DC universe, so why did it get canceled?
Part of it has to do with the sudden shift in animation that was happening at the time, where serious cartoons were being pushed out in favor of wacky comedy-actions. Toy sales also had to do with it, something that has doomed a lot of cartoons. Because too many girls were watching the show and apparently boys were more likely to buy the toys, Mattell, which helped produce the series, killed Young Justice.
11. KIM POSSIBLE
Kim Possible “ended” back in 2005 following the TV film, So The Drama, but after massive fan support in what may have been the internet’s first rally for a TV series revival, Disney Channel ordered a fourth and final season. The show managed to get a satisfying ending, but the reason for its initial cancellation was kind of strange.
Apparently, Disney had been known to stick to a “65 episode” rule when it came to television, a rule that was established in the late ’90s. Because of this, most Disney Channel TV series rarely exceeded three seasons, and Kim Possible was slated to follow this path. This is a strange rule to think about since it means that the fate of all Disney Channel shows were (and maybe still are) predetermined.
10. TEEN TITANS
The original Teen Titans series was smart, funny, action-packed, dramatic, and dark in all the right places. After the show’s cancellation and TV movie, fans tried to get a revival, but to no avail. This disappointment was made worse by the popularity and perpetuation of the oft-lauded comedy reboot, Teen Titans Go!.
So, what was the reason for show’s cancellation? You guessed it: toys. By the time the final season had aired, Cartoon Network had entered into an exclusive toy licensing deal with Mattel, but the Teen Titans toys were part of a Bandai deal. Because of this, Mattel lobbied to kill the show so that all shows on CN were part of their licensing deal. Teen Titans Go!, meanwhile, is directed at a much younger audience.
9. INVADER ZIM
Invader Zim is perhaps one of the most beloved cult cartoon series ever to be made. The show was bizarre and random and hilarious and had a big following with an older audience, so what got it axed? Well, the show was expensive and this, combined with low ratings, led to its cancellation. However, these low ratings were partially the result of the show not being targeted towards the right audience.
The kids who loved SpongeBob were not fans of Zim, and since SpongeBob was Nick’s flagship show, Invader Zim was canceled. This ended up being tragically ironic, since the market for cartoons that appealed to older audiences was just a few years away with shows like Adventure Time and Regular Show.
8. SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN
There are quite a few comic book superhero cartoons that were canceled too soon despite being critically praised. Perhaps the most noteworthy of them all is The Spectacular Spider-Man. It was unlike any superhero cartoon of its time, with unique character designs (done by Sean “Cheeks” Galloway) and long-building story arcs that adapted some of the best comic storylines. The Spectacular Spider-Man wasn’t afraid to put its own spin on things.
The Spectacular Spider-Man went on for two seasons and a third was planned, but the show was ultimately canceled for some disappointing reasons. When Disney was acquiring Marvel, the deal resulted in some issues regarding animated adaptations of Spider-Man. Though film rights to the character belonged to Sony, Disney’s buyout of Marvel resulted in the company gaining television rights to Spider-Man, causing the Sony-produced series to be canceled.
7. DANNY PHANTOM
Finances play a big part in animation, as we’ve established with the previous entries, and Danny Phantom‘s high budget in later seasons would eventually cause its downfall. Butch Hartman’s second Nickelodeon series followed the titular Danny Phantom, a superhero with ghostly power as he tried to balance school life, being a teenager, and fighting the ghostly villains that haunted his town.
Danny Phantom might not have been the most popular Nicktoon of all time and the quality declined in the last season, but it still managed to breathe new life into the tropes of teenage superhero stories, giving everything its own touch. Unfortunately, the show’s budget eventually became too much for Nickelodeon to handle, and after Hartman unsuccessfully tried to get another network to pick it up, the last of Danny Phantom’s budget was used to make a TV movie finale.
6. SAMURAI JACK
Samurai Jack is perhaps one of the most beloved action cartons of all time. Genndy Tartakovsky’s masterpiece was artful, action-packed, smart, and different from anything else on TV. The series’ story went unfinished for over ten years after its initial cancellation before receiving a final fifth season on Adult Swim. But, the question is, what caused such an amazing series to be canceled in the first place?
There are a multiple reasons – everything from poor toy sales (of course) to high animation costs – but the main reason remains unclear to this day. What we do know is why the story was left open-ended. Genndy Tartakovsky didn’t know how to end the series at the time of the fourth season’s production and he didn’t know if a fifth season was going to happen. Instead of rushing things, he made the final episode just like any other.
5. MISSION HILL
Mission Hill had all the elements to be a modern, younger version of The Simpsons. It followed Andy French, an aspiring cartoonist in the hipster metropolis of Mission Hill, as he tries to make ends meet at his dead-end job. All the while, his younger brother is forced to live with him while he finishes high school. Mission Hill was funny, smart, and featured a diverse cast of characters from all walks of life, bringing together brilliant writing with an animation style that combined old-school zaniness and modern cartooning.
Yet, the show was canceled, mostly due to Warner Bros.’ meddling, according to the creators. The first two episodes aired and garnered poor ratings, prompting WB to pull the show before it could gain the following it eventually built up. The rest of the episodes eventually aired on other networks, but by then, it was too late.
4. MEGAS XLR
Action cartoons these days are few and far between, and those that still exist are more comedy-oriented, like Teen Titans Go! But, there was actually a time when there was too many action shows, to the point that Cartoon Network had to pick and choose which would continue. Megas XLR was one of the many action shows that aired on Cartoon Network in the early 2000s and followed the adventures of two slackers who discovered a giant robot from the future.
The show was beloved for how it satirized mecha anime tropes while still being exciting and action-packed. Yet, it was canceled after only two seasons. This is because of the aforementioned fact that Cartoon Network had too many action shows going on at once, and with the changing tide at the time, one had to be axed. Megas was chosen because it had the lowest ratings.
3. MY LIFE AS A TEENAGE ROBOT
Nickelodeon’s history with action cartoons, even comedic ones, is shaky at best. Avatar: The Last Airbender had to fight to stay on the network, as did Legend of Korra, and shows like Danny Phantom and My Life as a Teenage Robot were canceled after relatively short runs. For two seasons, My Life As a Teenage Robot was a great tribute to anime and superhero comics, but the ratings were too low to garner a third season.
The sad part about this was that not only did the show gain somewhat of a cult following after cancellation, but Nickelodeon loved it. The show’s crew even said as much; that Nick executives were big fans of My Life as a Teenage Robot, but due to low ratings, they couldn’t rationally order more episodes.
Another serious action cartoon that fell victim to the growing popularity of short-form comedy cartoons was MotorCity. The Disney XD show followed muscle-car-driving freedom fighters called the Burners as they defended the remains of old Detroit from the forces of a dystopian leader. The show was beautifully animated in flash, and had exciting stories, lovable characters, and stellar art direction.
Unfortunately, MotorCity was canceled after its first season, leaving fans disappointed and wanting more. The events that lead to the show’s cancellation were the result of Disney’s poor handling of the series. The show had a dedicated fan following from the start, but after various time slot changes, multiple hiatuses, out-of-order airing, and leaked episodes (due to airing differences in different countries) fans started to drop off. This dip in the ratings was big enough for Disney to cancel the series.
1. ANGRY BEAVERS
Nickelodeon’s The Angry Beavers was as bizarre as it was beloved. Though it is one of the lesser remembered Nicktoons, plenty of ’90s kids looks back fondly on the misadventures of Norbert and Daggett. The reason for the show’s cancellation is actually pretty – as the beavers would put it – kooky. See, Nick used to have a pretty serious rule about its cartoons not breaking the fourth wall and telling the kids watching that the characters aren’t real.
Angry Beavers did exactly that, as they constantly pushed boundaries with the show. There was an episode called “Bye-Bye Beavers” where Norb and Dag realize they’re cartoons and poke fun at Nickelodeon for making money off reruns without paying the creator and make other fourth-wall-breaking jabs. Because of this proposed episode, the series was canceled almost immediately.
What’s your favorite canceled cartoon? Let us know in the comments!
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