Never has there been a better time for animated entertainment. In the past two decades, the animation industry has exploded with a dizzying array of franchises, specials, and classic shows. What makes it so exciting is that these shows and movies are able to combine good storylines with strong moral lessons and themes that their young audience can relate to.

This type of entertainment also allows viewers to journey into mythical and fantastical worlds, often based on previous literature, art, and imagination. Thus, animated movies and shows have become a cultural institution – beloved across ages, genders and nations. To explore this further, let’s take a look at the most iconic animated films and TV shows in history.

Top 5 Most Iconic Animated Movies

  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

The original Disney classic is the first full-length animated feature film ever produced. It remains one of the most iconic animated movies in history, having won multiple awards and grossed millions at the box office. Snow White follows the story of an evil queen and a pure-hearted princess who must find a way to break the gripping spell of the queen’s magic mirror.

  1. The Lion King (1994)

The Lion King is a classic Disney tale of betrayal, redemption and the true meaning of family. The story follows the rise of Simba, a lion cub born of the once great King Mufasa. When Simba is exiled for a crime he didn’t commit, he must fight his way back with the help of a maverick meerkat and a warthog to reclaimhis throne and close the ever-widening rift between the kingdom and its pride of lions.

  1. Toy Story (1995)

This classic Pixar film introduced us to Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the entire witty and courageous cast of characters that take us on an unforgettable quest of friendship and self-discovery. Toy Story highlights the importance of not only understanding our own changing roles in the world, but in accepting the evolution of others.

  1. Finding Nemo (2003)

Most will recognize characters like the fun-loving ocellaris clownfish voiced by Albert Brooks, the forgetful regal blue tang voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, and the surfer-dude sea turtle voiced by Willem Dafoe. Merging themes of determination, family and courage, Finding Nemo is a story of adventure and unconditional love.

  1. Up (2009)

This classic Pixar film is a heartwarming tale of courage, grief and finally, hope. It stars a 78-year-old widower named Carl Frederickson, an elderly man who is tired of being a lonely bird-watcher and decides to embark on one final adventure. He grabs a house with balloons, ties it to his back, and takes off to Paradise Falls in South America.

Top 5 Most Iconic Animated TV Series

  1. The Simpsons (1989)

One of the most beloved animated sitcoms of all time, The Simpsons was first introduced to us in 1989. We’re still chuckling over Homer’s adventures as the loving (yet not-so-bright) father of the quirky Simpson family. It’s been on the air for 30+ years, as we continue to love watching the jaw-dropping scenarios unfold in Springfield.

  1. Rugrats (1991)

This classic Nickelodeon series follows a group of toddlers consisting of Tommy, Chuckie, twins Phil and Lil, and their fearless leader, Angelica. What made this show so unique was that the show was essentially a multi-faceted view of toddlerhood, as children, adults, and society all start to influence the way they live their lives.

  1. SpongeBob SquarePants (1999)

This sea-dwelling, starfish-wearing sponge has “absorbent and yellow and porous is he” since 1999. SpongeBob is a whimsical and silly character — even as an adult, he still’s a kid at hearth. He and his friends Patrick, Squidward, Mr. Krabs and the rest of the citizens of Bikini Bottom have brought us plenty of ridiculous laughs for two decades now.

  1. South Park (1997)

This is perhaps the most controversial animated series out there. For over two decades, South Park has been entertaining us with its crude yet clever humor, exploring timeless and topical issues like racism, celebrity culture, sexism, and more. The show also has a surprisingly large share of believers who are loyal to its art form and its socio-metaphorical story-telling.

  1. Avatar: The Last Airbender (2005)

Avatar: The Last Airbender is an ensemble show combining elements of fantasy, adventure, and comedy. It follows the journey of Aang, the last survivor of the Air Nomads and one of the world’s four Avatars. He must master all elements of “bending” to master the world’s bending arts — and save the world from destruction.

From old-time classics to modern masterpieces, animated entertainment has come a long way. It has become a vehicle for expression, a source of excitement, a whimsical escape and an accessible form of high art – something that comic books, cartoons and animated movies have shown us again and again.

Whether it’s the timelessness of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the heartwarming story of Up, or the socio-metaphorical story-telling of South Park, animated stories have been entertaining us for decades and will continue to do so for many generations to come.

Rankings can vary from person to person, but these five movies and five TV shows represent some of the most memorable and iconic animated pieces of work in our history.

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