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15 Iconic Cartoon Characters of All Time

Liza Brown
Liza Brown
Originally published Apr 18, 22, updated Feb 29, 24
14 Iconic Cartoon Characters of All Time

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The best part about cartoons is that there's something for everyone. There are iconic cartoon characters that are humorous, cute, and cool.

Since Paste first published this list a decade ago, a lot has changed in the world of cartoons. New episodes of The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park, and SpongeBob Squarepants get released regularly, but that's only the tip of the iceberg. Traditional cable networks have spawned new and exciting animated characters and settings while streaming services have enabled even more creators to produce the animated shows they want.

We thought to update our list of the 12 most iconic cartoon characters of all time, considering the cultural influence, relatability, and significance these animated humans, animals, vegetables, and other creatures had within the sphere of animation in 2020. Many of these characters have gone beyond their cartoon origins into other media. Still, for this list, we'll only look at them as they appear in cartoons, whether they're from the program itself or related comics and books.

01Fred Flintstone

fred flintstone

Created: 1960
Creators: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera
Voices: Jeff Bergman and Alan Reed, as well as a variety of others

Fred, the patriarch of his modern-day stone-age clan, was an outspoken supporter of cartoons. The original series was one of the most contentious shows on television in the 1960s, despite its benign appearance (the Flintstones are better recognized for their cereal and vitamin advertising).

Fred Flintstone, the iconic cartoon character, is not the best-drawn cartoon character ever. He is pleasant and faithful to his wife, Wilma, despite not being a terrific boxer. The character carries a lump of granite on his shoulders and shows no fear of jeopardizing his marriage and children. He's still a hominid, a caveman with extraordinary strength and agility.

02Mickey Mouse

mickey mouse

Created: 1928
Creators: Walt Disney, Ub Iwerks
Voices: Walt Disney, BretIwan, and other voices

Mickey Mouse, the Disney mascot, is easy to overlook. Without the joys of an adventurous, passionate mouse, there might not be a Disney kingdom. In 2024, nearly a century after Disney's legendary Disney short "Steamboat Willie," the public domain will glimpse the mouse.

Walt Disney initially produced the most iconic cartoon character Mickey Mouse in 1928. His unique red shorts and white gloves have helped him become one of the most well-known fictional characters in the world. He usually wears a white glove and a white cap, and his enormous, yellow shoes are a common sight. Mickey also sports a pair of white gloves and his white gloves and shorts. He also wears a giant red bow and his clothes, which makes him a versatile character.

03SpongeBob Squarepants

spongebob squarepant

Created: 1999
Creator: Stephen Hillenburg
Voice by Tom Kenny

Although Sponge's nautical nonsense was probably not to most parents' liking, Tom Kenny's renowned chuckle has become ingrained in viewers' brains all across the world after two decades of programming.

For almost 30 years, the SpongeBob Squarepants series has been a hit. It's a cartoon about Patrick, a yellow sea sponge which is enthusiastic about life. He works as a chef at the Krusty Krab and lives in a pineapple house. Patrick, who is also his best friend, is his best friend.

The characters are likable and harmless in general, while some of the songs in the show deal with contentious topics, many based on actual events. The show has been chastised for portraying kids as unpleasant, obnoxious, and even defiant and using many caustic languages. While the show is often entertaining, its messages can be contentious.

SpongeBob is a young adult who lives independently and works full-time despite his immaturity.

04Tom and Jerry

tom and jerry

Created: 1941
Creators: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera
Voices: William Hanna and various other voices

The series, founded by William Hanna and Joseph Barbera in 1940, is perhaps most known for Metro-Goldwyn-161 Mayer's theatrical short films.

Tom the cat and Jerry the mouse, the iconic cartoon characters star in the original shorts. They don't always get along, but they're usually delighted with each other and often laugh at their misfortunes. Each short features the two attempting to catch the other. This is a desperate attempt to make the other person unhappy, but it rarely works.

Tom and Jerry were minor characters in the early years of the show. There were a few distinctions between them and the human characters in the film. The first one focused more on the mouse than the human cast, but the second was more centered on the human.

05Homer Simpson

homer simpson

Created: 1987
Creator: Matt Groening
Voice: Dan Castellaneta

The Simpsons' first two seasons centered on Bart. But it was genuinely stunning as the show became more Homer-centric. He is the average man at his most sluggish, hungry, dumb, intoxicated, and idiotic. Thanks to his tremendous heart, he is still the hero, hidden beneath all the doughnuts.

Homer is a talented pianist in addition to expressing his love for Marge. He can play the guitar and keyboard, and his barbershop music has garnered him a Grammy. His most remarkable musical gift is his powerful operatic voice, which he uses in his band, Babysitter Bandit. His singing voice has won him fans worldwide, and he has played in hundreds of bands.

06Charlie Brown and Snoopy (Peanuts)

charlie brown and snoopy

Created: 1950
Creator: Charles M. Schulz
Voice: Bill Melendez, Peter Robbins and other.

Charlie Brown and Snoopy came to life through a few TV specials and later series, even though not all of the characters made it to television. Snoopy's Red Baron fantasies and friendship with Woodstock were popular with children. They were also fans of Lucy's crush. Charlie was well-liked by the older crowd. Charlie Brown, the hapless Charlie Brown, elicits as much sympathy as any animated character. We pull for him even though we know it will all be for naught.

Charlie Brown and Snoopy are part of the Peanuts Gang, an iconic group of cartoon characters. You've undoubtedly seen these two cartoon heroes previously if you haven't heard of them. These two are from the well-known Peanuts cartoon series. They are famous children's characters who are appreciated by many.

07Bugs Bunny (Looney Tunes)

bugs bunny

Created: 1940
Creators: Ben Hardaway, Tex Avery
Voices: Mel Blanc, Jeff Bergman and other voices

The most fabulous cat cartoon in history is a rabbit, alternatively, a hare. This little taxonomic distinction went unmentioned in numerous shenanigans. Regardless of whether the rabbit was hunting with Elmer Fudd's shotgun, Yosemite Samantha's pistols, or Marvin Martian's ACME Disintegration Gun, he maintained an enviable insouciance. The iconic visage of Warner Bros. had one flaw: terrible direction sense, particularly while digging across New Mexico.

Bugs Bunny is a late-thirties animated cartoon character created by Leon Schlesinger Productions. Mel Blanc provided his voice for him, and he has acted in several short films and television series. Many children were enthralled by the show, while the characters and stories fascinated others.

08Scooby-Doo and Shaggy Rogers

Scooby doo and shaggy

Created: 1969
Creators: Joe Ruby and Ken Spears
Voices: Don Messick, Casey Kasem and a variety of others

Scooby-Doo and Shaggy's narrative has been a popular one for a long time. They have similar personalities and chemistry, as well as the same interests. They are close friends and have a passion for numerous types of food. They are mostly eating and lounging around, screaming in panic when presented with something frightening. They are the easiest to fall in love with. Despite all Scooby-countless Doo's incarnations, this man-dog pair remains timeless.

Norville "Shaggy" Rogers is a fictitious character in the Scooby-Doo series. He is well known as the cowardly slacker with whom Scooby-Doo is constantly conversing. Scooby-Doo and Shaggy are the two primary characters in Mystery Incorporated. They both came from the same puppy farm.

09Winnie the Pooh

winnie the pooh

Created: 1926
Creators: A. A. Milne, E. H. Shepard
Voice: Sterling Holloway. Hal Smith. Jim Cummings

The Disney adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh were as famous as his books. Winnie-the-Pooh was famous for his lovely temperament and generous heart who also admitted to have a sweet tooth.

Winnie-the-Pooh, an anthropomorphic teddy bear, is one of the most well-known children's books. A. Milne wrote the book, and E. H. Shepard illustrated it. Winnie's friendship with Eeyore, Christopher Robin, Kanga, Rabbit, Piglet, Roo, Owl, and Tigger is depicted in the story.

10Pinky & the Brain

pinky and the brain

Created: 1995
Creator: Tom Ruegger
Voices: Rob Paulsen, Maurice LaMarche

While many iconic cartoon characters have desired to be rulers of the world, none could ever envision being a benign tyrant like The Brain. Pinky, The Brain's not-so-reliable companion, may give him headaches, but his zeal is contagious, and his loyalty makes him easy to love.

11Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup (The Powerpuff Girls)

powerpuff girls

Created: 1998
Creator: Craig McCracken
Voices: Cathay Cavadini, Tara Strong, E. G. Daily, various others

The Powerpuff Girls, the iconic female cartoon characters and the ideal vanguard of "you can be pretty and yet kick-ass," emerged on the 90s cartoon landscape eager to inspire and amuse a generation. The eventual lesson was that working together is the most robust play, regardless of who you identified with the most.

12Finn the Human and Jake the Dog (Adventure Time)

finn and jake

Created: 2010
Creator: Pendleton Ward
Voices: Jeremy Shada, John DiMaggio

This dynamic team, our two brave protagonists from the Land of Ooo, whose humor, sadness, loyalty, and bravery catapulted this fantastic, strange, emotionally deep series to must-see status for viewers of all ages, are impossible to ignore.

13BoJack Horseman

bojack horseman

Created: 2014
Creator: Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Voice: Will Arnett

The redemption arc of Will Arnett's anthropomorphized, misanthropic horse is one of the most nuanced and profoundly felt of any TV character. Even when he didn't love himself, we could love him because he was damaged and created damage wherever he went. Never has a cartoon covered such complex and challenging subjects with such finesse. It was an added advantage that it was continuously funny, and at the center of it all was a washed-up '90s sitcom actor dealing in the aftermath of his success.

14Zuko (Avatar: The Last Airbender)


Created: 2005
Creators: Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko
Voice: Dante Basco

That's right: Zuko, not Aang! Zuko does not appear to be the same character in the first and end episodes. The former is a haughty prince with a ponytail who can't seem to keep his fury and angst in check. The latter is a more emotionally intelligent figure, embracing his uncle and pleading for forgiveness with tears in his eyes. However, when viewed in order, the transition between the two is seamless. Zuko's narrative is tragic yet uplifting, shaped by both hate and love, making him one of the best characters in animation, if not all of television.15.Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Donatello (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

ninja turtles

15Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Created: 1984
Creators: Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird
Voices: Cam Clarke, Barry Gordon, Rob Paulsen, Townsend Coleman, various others

For this list, we'll concentrate on the original team, these radical pizza-eating ninja-style fighters with a rat for a sensei, yet tastefully named after some of history's finest painters who became legendary for 90s youth. It's impossible to choose the "best" iconic cartoon character in this soap because it depends on personal preference. They are, nonetheless, indispensable to pop culture history in all of their manifestations (even as a peak of "the show is for the toy").

Ending Thoughts

Cartoons give valuable lessons about life. People of all ages can benefit from these life lessons. While comics typically target children, this does not rule out the possibility that adults will like them. There is a slew of animated sitcoms aimed squarely at adults! This means that individuals of all ages can enjoy and love cartoons.

Thus, we listed the most iconic cartoon characters that made your childhood more exciting. So, enjoy your choice of iconic cartoon characters and have fun.

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