Sweet Toons: Iconic animations deserve a day of recognition

Sellers’ love of animations inspired him to draw himself in the style of South Park, Family Guy, Heathcliff and The Simpsons. Art by Thomas Sellers Jr.

Every day is a national day of something in U.S. America.

June 9 is no different as National Earl Day, National Strawberry Day and National Donald Duck Day. Wait a minute, cartoon characters receive a day in their honor? Why Donald Duck? He’s the best of the Disney genre, but I can think of dozens of animation stars who should be honored with 24 hours of recognition before Don.

From South Park’s Eric Cartman to The Simpson’s Homer and Bart, several cartoon characters have brought me joy since childhood. Some animations have become a part of Americana like Mickey Mouse, Betty Boop and Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Below are my top 10 cartoon characters of all time. Iconic figures who deserve an entire week of praise for their contributions to society and my laughter.

10. Roger (American Dad, 2005-)

You will notice a theme in my selections. Let’s start with Roger from American Dad. The “secret” Alien brings the over-the-top humor to the Smith home ever episode. Usually his plots, schemes and multiple personalities bring Stan, Francine, Steve, Hayley and Klaus to near death or jail. Roger only cares about Roger’s well-being. He’s very selfish and an entertaining sociopath. Roger does care for Braf Zachland, Stanny Tendergrass and Ricky Spanish. Just a few of his 200 alter egos and disguises.

9. Heathcliff (Heathcliff, 1984-1988)

The star of Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats, this is my favorite orange feline. This was must-see television for me on Nickelodeon. Heathcliff was a food-loving, wisecracking cat with a heart of gold. He made being a neighborhood cat look cool.

8. Daffy Duck (Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, 1937-)

He is clearly the No. 2 to a certain iconic Warner Bros. Star. But Mr. Daffy Duck holds his own in any cartoon. He started off a goofy, comedic foil for Porky Pig. He was too silly and irritating. Then the writers gave Daffy a persona of sneaky intelligence underlined with greed. Whether it is rabbit season or duck season, Daffy is welcomed on my TV screen or phone at any time.

7. Sylvester (Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, official debut 1945-)

Sufferin’ succotash! This poor cartoon cat had to battle the likes of the annoying Speedy Gonzalez, the infuriating Tweety Bird and a very large mouse … or kangaroo. No matter who Sylvester had to battle, he kept you very entertained and laughing through his pain. He just wanted to eat a tender morsel, protect his home from rodents or impress his son. Although he never reached his goal, Sylvester managed to bring tears to my eyes. Laughing so hard, I almost stopped breathing.

6. Yakko Warner (Animaniacs, 1993-98)

The big brother of Wakko Warner and the “Warner Sister” Dot, Yakko was the clear leader of the trio I welcomed into my home every afternoon for five years. Right before I would do my homework, I had to get some educational humor from the whole crew from Animaniacs. Yakko was the straight-faced, sarcastic genius among Slappy Squirrel, Pinky and the Brain and the Goodfeathers. Yakko was so edgy that I question which age group was targeted by the animators. “Helllllllooooo, nurse!”

5. Butt-Head (Beavis and Butt-Head, 1993-2011)

Out of this duo of idiots, Butt-Head is the “smart” one. He almost has a solid vocabulary, just missing out on meanings or pronunciations. Butt-Head is your typical teenager seeking girls, easy fun and money. But he is super ignorant and foolish. His sidekick of Beavis forces him to be the brains of the operations because Beavis is just that much dumber. Butt-Head is not aware of his stupidity, leaving him to be sarcastic, insulting and cooler than others.

4. Droopy (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer cartoon, 1943-)

Droopy the Dog has survived a major makeover to become the symbol of being an overachiever. Those sad eyes, long jaws and slow, whiny voice made him lovable to all, especially the ladies. Droopy took down all types of big, bad wolves to win the day and save the girl. Droopy taught me that being yourself is the best way to get through life, because by the end credits, you’ll have a chance to say something clever written by Tex Avery to symbolize your victory.

3. Stewie Griffin (Family Guy, 1999-)

I am so glad the baby of the Griffin family has transformed from an infant set on killing his mother and taking over the world to a sarcastic comic. Stewie is still very smart, and his behavior is rooted in evil. Now he uses his sharp brain for historic high jinks, adventures with the family dog, Brian, or as a way to equal up things for his family. Peter, Lois, Chris and even Meg provide laughs throughout the 30 minutes. But Stewie is the glue of the show, using an adhesive of pop culture references and keen awareness. Then show writers will remind us he is a baby by simply placing him on an airplane to irritate a passenger.

2. Doug Funnie (Doug, 1991-1999)

Coming of age is crucial for all of us who are blessed to reach adulthood. For some of us, a song, album, book, speech, movie or TV show has the privilege of helping us mature. For me, Douglas Yancey Funnie came at the precise time I needed in my life.

As I approached my 11th birthday, I was a chubby new owner of glasses. I was heading to middle school and losing my identity as my elementary school’s best artist. In addition, I developed a crush on a girl in my class. How can I deal with all of this? How can I manage being a nerd who runs away to an imaginary land in his mind? Nick Jr. provided the solution with Doug. The sweater vest and short wearing cartoon was my prototype. He liked to draw and document stuff in his journal. His artistic mind would help him navigate his everyday challenges. There by his side was his best friend, Skeeter, and loyal dog, Porkchop.

And just when I thought my devotion to a girl that didn’t know I existed was silly, I would watch Doug romanticize Patty. Doug even helped me understand how to handle bullying by dealing with Roger. The show displayed how Roger was battling demons, leading to him taking out his pain on Doug. Doug was my TV best friend. He helped me grow up and learn how to express myself.

1. Bugs Bunny (Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, 1938-)

Was there any doubt? The best cartoon character ever drawn is Bugs Bunny. I can’t begin to express how wonderful and entertaining Bug has been over the years. To make it clear how Bugs is the standard, all the expressions for characters 10 through two can be used for him. What’s up Doc? You Bugs. You are the best and stand above them all.

THOMAS SELLERS JR. is editor of The Millington Star and the sports editor for Journal West 10 Media. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to thomas.sellers@journalinc.com.