It’s hard to believe that 2003 was twenty years ago, as it felt like yesterday. Some of these animated works of art have spawned some memorable franchises. This makes them feel less old as they stay relevant to pop culture.
The following will take a look at some of the best animated content from this era, including mainstream comics, movies, and anime. Animation fans won’t want to miss anything on the list, and thankfully much of the material is still available to stream freely or through rental services. Some other works may need a smarter way to access them, but the Internet has no secrets if animation fans dig deep enough.
.hack//Sign was part of a 2003 multimedia event to promote both this anime and the video game, .hack//Infection part 1. This was a year after both premiered in Japan. Both things explored different aspects of the universe and the game came with another anime, .hack//Liminalitywhich explored a third area.
Of the three starting series, .hack//Sign was the most melancholic of the bunch. It explored loneliness, depression, existentialism and many other topics. These were strange topics for an anime about an MMO, but it was interesting, to say the least.
The Animatrix was released on DVD after The Matrix Reloaded and in between The Matrix Revolutions’ launch. It featured several renowned Japanese directors and studios that each got to tell a story in this universe. There was a story about a detective discovering the conspiracy in the Matrix, as well as one about a runner trying to keep his body alive while on the track. Enter the matrix was also released around this time which was a video game that explored stories that happened at the same time The Matrix Reloaded. So, like .hack series, The matrix launched a multimedia event in 2003.
Mission Nemo is a classic Pixar film with the premise in the title. Nemo is a young clownfish who is separated from his father Marlin. He is joined by a cavalcade of characters, most prominently Dory, in the hunt for Nemo.
Dory was the MVP of the film and would later be featured in the sequel film, Finding Doryin 2016. Finding Nemo may not be as funny as some of Pixar’s other animated masterpieces, but it will certainly tug at the old heartstrings, especially viewers with children.
Lilo And Stitch: The Series
Lilo And Stitch: The Series followed in the tradition of many Disney animated features. The original film was released in 2002 before this series premiered a year later. The original movie was already a good setup for a show. Stitch’s fellow experiments escaped to Earth and he must help Jumba and Pleakley get them back into containment before they mess up Hawaii. It was a monster of the week type show similar to The X-Files but more child-friendly.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Star Wars: The Clone Wars was created by Genndy Tartakovsky who was big at the time for completing Samurai Jack on Cartoon Network. That must be why LucasArts approached him to direct a series of shorts to air between other Cartoon Network shows.
Each episode was about five minutes long and mostly featured Jedis or clone troopers after Attack of the Clones. This would eventually lead to a longer specialty that would directly lead to Revenge of the Sith’s opening. The animation style and wordless scenes made it more memorable than The Clone Wars The CG series that followed it in 2008.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the first reboot since the 80s cartoon ended. This was a grittier, more action-packed version of the cartoon. It even got some good action tie-ins. There was no blood or gore as it was still a children’s cartoon, but it was less crazy than the pizza-loving turtles of the 80s.
The team could use their weapons to fight, which happened sparingly in the original cartoon due to standards of the time. This 2003 cartoon lasted for quite a few seasons before another reboot happened in 2012 when the show would go into CG territory just as The Clone Wars did.
Teen Titans was a big deal at the time because it followed the new trend of American animation diving into anime territory. The theme song was even performed by a Japanese band, Puffy AmiYumi, who recorded an English and a Japanese version of the song. The team consisted of Robin, Beast Boy, Starfire, Cyborg and Raven.
One of their biggest villains was Slade who was voiced by Ron Perlman. It balanced itself with humor and serious action unlike the 2013 reboot show, Teen Titans Gowhich is more about comedy.
Venture Bros. technically started in 2003 as that’s when the pilot aired. The series wouldn’t begin in earnest until 2004, but 2003 is still a big year for the show. It was ahead of its time as a parody of cartoons and old Cartoon Network cartoons like Johnny Quest. It was one of Adult Swim’s longest running shows despite the few seasons it had.
That’s because the creators, Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer, took their time creating each season, and Cartoon Network was apparently on board until they canceled it in 2020. HBO greenlit a movie, so hopefully it won’t be canceled.
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