This article is part of our 2020 Rewind. Follow along as we explore the best and most interesting movies, shows, performances, and more from this very strange year. In this entry, we explore the best animated series of 2020.
Despite production delays and shifting release dates due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has still delivered a stunning slate of animated series, from Western animation to anime, and from adult content to shows suitable for all ages. This year also saw the bittersweet end of fan favorites such as BoJack Horseman and She-Ra and the Princesses of Power. Despite the sadness that comes with a series finale, the closure and honesty of these endings felt oddly appropriate for the time in which we currently live.
A few of these series address and navigate real-world issues in the wake of the pandemic. But a majority of them are colorful escapes from reality that transport you into a kaleidoscopic world that makes everything else melt away.
This was a helluva year, but one of its bright spots was the reboot of Animaniacs, a show that dominated the childhoods of millennials with its critique of the entertainment industry and slapstick humor. The original run ended in 1998, but after more than two decades away, Yakko, Wakko, Dot, and the usual cast of characters are back to confront the world of 2020.
However, their tackling of 2020 isn’t always successful as it clings to its past while trying to be relevant. Despite the show’s issues with comedic consistency and a struggle to make itself unique in a world now full of satirical adult animation, it is still a joyful piece of nostalgia that will nevertheless bring a smile to your face.
19. Bob’s Burgers
We can always rely on Bob’s Burgers to brighten our day. The world of the Belchers is one of beautiful dysfunction that everyone can find painfully relatable. Season 11 is no different, but this time uses its comforting sense of humor to address the pandemic in a more playful way. The episode “Worms of In-rear-ment” deals with a pandemic of pinworms, which infect the anus. Yes, it’s butt humor, but really, in 2020, sometimes we need a little butt humor. It feels relevant with excessive hand washing while also making you cackle. The rest of the season, while not pandemic focused, still delivers the thirty-minute reprieve from reality as the Belchers continue to fall into increasingly hilarious situations.
18. Close Enough
J.G. Quintel was the mind behind Cartoon Network’s Regular Show, a series that follows a blue jay and squirrel who are best friends. Now, Quintel is back with a new kind of show: Close Enough, an animated series about the perils of adulthood with a splash of sci-fi crises to keep it fresh. Even though he is now dealing in the world of humans, Quintel doesn’t want to keep the show realistic; he still leans into his love of the ridiculous to create a unique spin on the crisis of growing up.
Josh and Emily are a happily married couple with a five-year-old daughter and two roommates. On top of their chaotic home, both of them are turning thirty, an event they are not prepared for. They are trying to hold onto their youth while also embracing the comfort of adulthood, which is sometimes interrupted by stripper clowns and a club with sacrificial motives. Close Enough is all about trying to navigate the waters of growing up and, really, you never fully feel like an adult even as a parent.
17. Great Pretender
In Netflix’s Great Pretender, anime swindlers conduct high profile heists and con jobs around the world. Simple premise, yes, but that does not mean the show itself is simple. Makoto Edamura, considered to be Japan’s best thief, accidentally tries to con legendary con artist Laurent Thierry. As punishment, Thierry recruits Edamura to be a part of his team of thieves that perform dangerous, yet lucrative, jobs against mob bosses, art dealers, and more.
This anime comes from famed Wit Studio, which created hit shows such as Attack On Titan and The Ancient Magus’s Bride, so the animation style is guaranteed to be gorgeous, yet more grounded in reality than their previous work. Specifically, in Great Pretender, city backdrops are complicated and bright, creating an immersive and familiar world.
16. The Owl House
Spooky kids deserve spooky shows, which is exactly what Disney Channel serves up with the series The Owl House. When young girl Luz accidentally falls through a portal into a magical world, she teams up with witch Eda the Owl Woman and her demon roommate, King. Here, Luz realizes that magic is real and despite her lack of powers, she can try to become something she’s always dreamed of: a witch. It is also a story about found family and finding love outside of your own blood.
This is creator Dana Terrace’s first original series after working on shows such as Gravity Falls and DuckTales. There are even fan theories about connections between The Owl House and Gravity Falls, but that has yet to be confirmed.