The 00s are when cartoons based on toys finally started to find a balance in voice acting, art, and production values.
The 80s were all about shows who sole purpose was to make kids beg for toys. The 90s were similar, but for video games.
The 00s had plenty of that too, of course, but something new began to happen. The audiences for the cartoons, as well as the people making them, began to include people who had grown up watching those toy commercials.
That led to a degree of self-awareness that the blatant cash grabs were transparent both to the kids and to their parents. That meant creators had to get smarter, include some better humor and writing, and give their shows some genuine value and appeal.
That’s not to that every show from the 00s was a gold mine of all-star voice acting, fantastic art, and brilliant writing, of course. There was still plenty of utter garbage on the air, and there always will be.
Our list of 10 00s Cartoons Based on Toys includes a bit of each. Enjoy!
Max Steel is a set of toys released by Mattel in 1997, and still available today. The story behind them is sort of a modern-age, extreme sports version of a typical superhero origin.
The protagonist is an orphan extreme sports hero who becomes the superpowered Max Steel when he’s accidentally exposed to a swarm of nanomachines. Luckily, the manufacturers of the nanobots are owned by his adoptive father, who is also the head of a covert counter-terrorism agency.
The toys are quite popular, and the animated series they inspired lasted for 35 episodes over 3 seasons, plus a whopping 9 direct-to-video movies. The series was rebooted in 2013, and a major motion picture was released in 2016.
The original cartoon pioneered the use of CGI animation in television, and was also known for a good deal of celebrity voice casting. Extreme sports stars like Tony Hawk would appear on the show frequently, although Max himself was voiced by Christian Campbell, whose filmography is a bit more modest.
The show also featured voice acting from Mae Whitman (Katara in Avatar: The Last Airbender) and Ed Asner (major star of stage and screen, as well as dozens of voice roles… most notably Carl in Pixar’s Up).