The Strange Reality of the Time Travel Cartoon

Power of the Daleks, a BBC animated restoration of the lost Doctor Who episodesTime travel. It’s one of the greatest dreams of a certain type of human. Who wouldn’t relish the opportunity to step back through the ages and witness the Fall of the Roman Empire? The US debut of The Beatles? The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs?

For many, going forward in time is even more intriguing. Where will humanity be in 10,000 years? Will humanity be in 10,000 years?

Cartoons are a great medium to explore this high sci-fi concept.  Special effects are easier in animation, and scriptwriters are often free to “go weird” and go to some bizarre places in plot and setting.

Here’s a list of 8 of my favorite time travel cartoons. I shied away from shows that just had a single episode of time travel, focusing instead on projects that are entirely about traveling in time. Enjoy!

Futurama

Fry, Bender, and Leela from Futurama

Available on: Amazon

Matt Groening and David X. Cohen’s ode to all things sci-fi is still one of the best animated TV series ever made. Plotlines ranged from the utterly mundane (Fry learns a difficult musical instrument to impress Leela) to the completely bonkers (Richard Nixon buys Bender’s body).

The show’s premise is based the oldest form of time travel. One-way only, one year at a time. Fry has been cryogenically frozen for 1,000 years, and wakes up in strangely familiar 31st century. The show dipped into more conventional time travel cartoon territory on more than one occasion, including a great Roswell episode.

Like Animaniacs and The Simpsons before it, Futurama is a long-running show that brought an immense number of voice actors to stardom. Billy West and John DiMaggio had fine voice acting careers before they stepped into the roles of Fry and Bender, but now they’re legends.

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