For many of us geeks, cartoons defined a large part of our childhoods. If you grew up any time between the 1960s and the 1990s, you probably wax romantic about the plethora of amazing shows that played on Saturday mornings. For me, much of my entertainment came from the Disney Afternoon. Those particular shows just seems to resonate with me, even more than earlier exposure to cartoons such as He-Man and Thundercats.
Although, the more I think about my favorite shows growing up, the more I see a pattern. In fact, it’s quite possible that this pattern is integral to my geek progression.
So today I wanted to share a list of my 10 favorite cartoon geeks, whose mere presence inspired me down my own geeky pathways.
10 – Bright Heart Raccoon, Care Bears. Technically a Care Bear Cousin, this purple raccoon is the brains of the operation. A natural problem solver, his facial marking certainly echo the look of glasses, giving him an overall geeky appearance. His symbol is a light-bulb, a rather technical emblem compared to his brothers and sisters.
9 – Shy Violet, Rainbow Brite. What is it about the color purple and geeks? Shy Violet is the smart, quiet, bookish member of the Rainbow Brite crew. And of course, she is rather bespeckled. She’s something of a quiet genius, but she’s got a bit of a savvy side, too.
8 – Chuckie Finster, Rugrats. Chuckie definitely represents the stereotypical geek a bit. He’s got the glasses, the dubious fashion sense, the crazy hair, the buck teeth, and he’s scared of everything. Sure, he’s a bit of a nerd. He’s also frequently bullied. While we get a glimpse into the Chucky of the future, I think he’s a great representation of where some geeks begin. All he needs is some d20s and a Dungeon Master’s Guide, and he’ll be good to go in life! In the sequel to Rugrats, All Growed Up!, Chuckie is even president of the AV club.
7 – Brendon Small, Home Movies. Home Movies is one of those shows that’s just perfect for long, caffeine fueled nights. The show is bizarre and hilarious, and Brendon—both the name of the actor/musician/writer who voices the character and the character himself—is truly a geek. He makes films with his friends, is a bit of an egomaniac at times, but all in all is an eight-year-old visionary. While the show is about kids, the humor is definitely well beyond that, as demonstrated by the fact it ran primarily on Adult Swim. But Brendan is the kind of geek we all know—so absorbed in his hobbies and obsessions, that the rest of the world just doesn’t measure up.
6 – Wildcat, TaleSpin. What is it about the Disney Afternoon and pilots? Seems like every show had their own mechanical geek, and TaleSpins is no exception. Wildcat is the resident mechanic on board the ship, and while his approach is a little chaotic, there’s no doubting his genius. Without Wildcat, the show wouldn’t even have its wings.
5 - Gyro Gearloose, DuckTales. Another Disney Afternoon mainstay, Gyro Gearloose’s name says it all. It’s a take on the whole genius inventor who doesn’t always manage to make the most solid inventions, but there was something rather amusing and endearing about Gyro. Maybe part of it had to do with his robot assistant and the fact that he designed the GizmoDuck suit.
4 – Gadget Hackwrench, Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers. Now, far before the term “steampunk” entered the lexicon, Gadget was living the dream. In Disney’s show, which of course centered around the famed due of Chip and Dale, Gadget was the pilot, inventor, in general fix-it gal. She was clever, intelligent, and often spoke very, very quickly. While both Chip and Dale often vied for her attention and affection, she was always a little too busy tinkering to really notice—a true geek, through and through. The character was also voiced by the incomparable Tress MacNeille, who has voiced other amazing characters including Babs Bunny and Dot Warner, as well as characters in Futurama and The Simpsons.
3 – Lisa Simpson, The Simpsons. We all know Lisa Simpson, especially considering just how many years The Simpsons has been on the air. Band geek, academic geek, vegetarian geek. The yin to her brother’s yang, Lisa is the quintessential overachiever. But don’t let her steely facade sway you, she’s also got quite a romantic side, too. Lisa’s also one of the first “green” geeks, with a lifelong dedication to saving the environment and a commitment to animal and human rights. Though Lisa will never age due, due to The Simpsons timeline, she’ll always be far older than her eight years.
2- The Ghostbusters, The Real Ghostbusters. Okay, so most of the cast of this great cartoon are geeks. I mean, heck, most of them are doctors, right? There are ghosts, gadgets, magic, hauntings, and any number of great comedic moments. The geek vary from classic scientist Egon to shy Ray and outgoing yet painfully geeky Peter. I never tired of that show. Maybe because I felt so at home with so many geeks!
1 – Donatello, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I remember waking up at 6am just to get an episode or two of this show before school. No other show quite pervaded my consciousness, and no other geek made me feel so conflicted. Can you have a crush on a turtle? Apparently so. Donatello is everything a geek should be: smart, funny, social, and even quite athletic. He’s an all-around geek, as at home with a wrench as he is with a computer or a book. He loves language, he loves history, and, apparently, purple.
Obviously this list is skewed toward my childhood, location, and age. Are there any inspiring geeky cartoon characters that have stayed with you? Sound off in the comments!