Let’s face it. No matter how you feel about the recent election, you probably need to let off some steam.
Laughter is the best medicine, and there are loads of great animated cartoons about politics. That’s not “political cartoons”. I mean animated cartoons that prominently feature presidents and other figures from government.
If you’re feeling like the system is basically a cartoon anyway, take heart. It’s not quite that absurd. Not yet, anyway.
These run the gamut from educational to just plain old hilarious. The one thing they share in common is that they’re about the American political system.
It’s kind of like when you get a horrible song stuck in your head. The only way to get it out is to just buckle down and listen to it.
So listen up.
The best possible start to this journey. No, the only possible start.
Yakko, Wakko, and Dot had plenty of great songs during the 5-year run of Animaniacs, but one stands tall above the rest.
Yakko’s song naming all fifty states, their capitols, and plenty of cutesy facts is still a classic of animation even over 20 years later.
Rob Paulsen is a true master of voice acting, a real showman and entertainer, and he’s brought out the voice of Yakko time and again over the years in live events and podcasts. It’s just a delight to listen to, and it was never really topped.
At least until Wakko (Jess Harnell) was given a similar trick to pull… with all the nations of the world.
They’re both triumphs, using animated cartoons to educate kids (and adults!) about geography.
Liberty’s Kids was created by PBS in the early 2000s as something of a cross between edutainment to be viewed at home, and actual classroom materials.
The show featured the highly fictionalized, but historically rooted, adventures of several young men and women who find themselves at the heart of the American Revolution.
The animation is a little low rent at times, but the sound design, music, writing, and especially voice acting are spot on. It’s a great way to get a crash course in this part of our history. At least if you’re tired of Hamilton (never!).
Reo Jones is the stand-out star as Sarah. She brings an amazing amount of life and emotion to the voice role, despite her young age. Reo was cast age-appropriately, being in high school herself when Liberty’s Kids was produced. If you’re looking for an entire series of animated cartoons about politics, this is your best bet.
Robot Chicken – Jedi in Chief
Meanwhile, there’s Robot Chicken with their episode Jedi in Chief. The action-figure-based show has made several animated cartoon about politics, in their own unique style.
George H. W. Bush (that’s the second one, if you’re not too up on your presidents) turns out to be a Jedi.
That’s about all you need to know. Oh, and he fights Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial.
It’s both a spot-on Star Wars parody, and a spot-on George H. W. Bush parody. What more could you ask?
Watching this today is both hilarious and a little sad. It’s easy to get nostalgic for the days when politics were, well, at least less contentious than they are today. The stakes didn’t seem quite so high, and everyone seemed to trust that everything would be basically OK.
The Simpsons – Citizen Kang (Treehouse of Horror VII)
At the other end of the spectrum is the classic Simpsons bit from 1996’s Treehouse of Horror VII. Although it aired fully 20 years before the Trump/Clinton battle, the show is perhaps more relevant now than ever before.
The Simpsons has plenty of segments that are essentially their own animated cartoons about politics. Many of its actors are well-known for voicing their opinions on the subject.
Nothing really compares to Citizen Kang, though. The single gag linked here (“You have to vote for one of us… It’s a two party system!” “<GASP!>”) perfectly sums up, well, the thing that just happened.
There were two candidates. Most people didn’t like either of them. One of them won. And here we are. And… that’s about all anyone can say, in 1996 or 2016.
No matter how much things change, they always stay the same.
Schoolhouse Rock – I’m Just a Bill
Finally, for the ultimate in nostalgia, there’s the classic Schoolhouse Rock segment I’m Just a Bill.
This is kind of the It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown of animated political cartoons.
Prominent jazz musician Jack Sheldon plays the part of the bill, and his dry wit and hyper-friendly manner makes the whole thing every bit as entertaining as the countless media that has parodied it.
“I hope they decide to report on me favorably, otherwise I may die.”
“Yeah, in committee!”
Sheldon’s son provided voice acting for the kid, and it’s clear that the two love this kind of back and forth. Sheldon’s easy transition from dialog to flawless singing is every bit the equal of your favorite Disney movie or anything else you can name.
The segment’s still amazing, and still worth watching, even today. How A Bill Becomes Law is a pleasant surprise. It’s one of the best animated cartoons about politics ever made.