Cartoons of the mid to late 2000s were next level

Ella Freeman

More stories from Ella Freeman

Student art on display 
November 15, 2023

Photo by Marisa Valdez

If you’re anything like me, you grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons. And regular cartoons. Every day.  

I have always had an affinity for Cartoon Network. This may be due to growing up with two brothers, or the fact that the cartoons of the mid to late 2000s were on another level. 

Recently, my roommate and I were looking for a new show to watch together. We wanted something neither of us had seen or something from so long ago it would feel like we were watching it for the first time. 

After scrolling through almost every streaming platform for about an hour we landed on “Ben 10.” We were both excited to relive our childhood and see how much of the show we both  remembered, but we were met with so much more. 

Rewatching this show has been wilder than watching any current TV drama. Not only is the animation style vibrant and engaging, but the actual content of the show is a lot more intense and epic than I remembered. 

If you for some reason haven’t seen “Ben 10”, the theme song gives us a good summary: “It started when an alien device did what it did.”

Ben Tennyson is spending his summer with his grandpa Max and his cousin Gwen on an RV trip around America. One night he sneaks out to find a meteor that has crashed a couple of hundred feet from his campsite.

He goes to get a closer look, and a strange watch-like device gets stuck to his arm, he uncontrollably turns into an alien. 

Ben later finds out the watch’s name is Omnitrix and allows him to turn into any one of 10 aliens at a time. 

Ben uses his alien powers to fight crime and otherworldly threats. 

This show, targeted towards seven- to-10-year-old boys, does some of the best world-building I have ever seen. They set up a clear overarching villain while still having individual episode villains. This show also does an impeccable job of making the villains of reasonable strength. 

As an avid superhero movie and TV show watcher, it is my biggest pet peeve when overpowered villains lose to a superhero who wouldn’t have a real chance of beating them. 

They always explain the win by saying they’re using the power of love or humanity. I am looking at you “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. 

The first season centers around the main villain Vilgax. Throughout the duration of the season, Vilgax is in pursuit of the Omnitrix, sending first his soldiers to try and collect it, and then hiring galactic hitmen, and when they both fail he finds Ben himself. 

The season finale is a huge battle between Ben’s crew and Vilgax, and Ben only narrowly escapes, leaving Vilgax still alive to come back stronger in season two. 

I think the shows of my childhood were well thought out and planned. Creating stressful situations and creative plotlines while still making them appropriate for a young child is a hard task but the animators and writers of the 2000s got it right. 

I think these days, TV networks care more about pumping shows out and having bright colors to attract young children to watch, leaving older kids with not much of a choice but to turn to media that’s too mature for them. 

As a babysitter, some of the shows I have had to sit through were like a new form of torture. Bright and loud without any real substance, and as I am sure I have made clear, I am not one to turn up my nose at a kid’s show.

I think children deserve shows that are entertaining and long-running, with a developing plot.

Shows like “Ben 10,” “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends,” “Johnny Test,” and “Ed, Edd, and Eddy,” were enjoyable enough to keep me and my two older brothers engaged for years when we were younger, and they stand the test of time because they were well made and thought out. 

In conclusion, I think we all need to stop taking ourselves so seriously and sit down to enjoy a cartoon every now and then, you might be surprised by what you find! 

Freeman can be reached at [email protected]