The Guardian came out with its top 50 kids’ shows to binge to coincide with Summer last week. We thought it would add to the fun, to think of some of the iconic kids characters we’ve researched over the years and give some reasons why. This week we’re starting off with our top girls, our favourite animated female leads – the ones that have stood out over the years, and continue to stand the test of time. Next week we’re going to look at the boys (we’ve stayed away from animal leads – sorry Peppa – maybe that’s for another time).
There’s a lot to choose from so we have made two lists: one for cartoons (as listed below) and one for live action (which we’ll be posting tomorrow). Narrowing each list down to ten was tough – the rise of streaming services like Disney+ gives the best kids’ shows evergreen power, and has led to multi-generational fan bases (which we’ve explored in our fandom work).
The animated female leads we have chosen are ones that we feel are meaningful, and can say something to the modern viewer. Of course, we would love to know what you think.
Hook’s Iconic Animated Female Leads
1. Powerpuff Girls (1998 – 2005), rebooted 2016
The Powerpuff Girls remains part of the cultural zeitgeist, inspiring fashion lines in Italy, as well as having a recent collaboration with London College of Fashion. They became instantly iconic because they showed young girls as heroic at a time when superheroes were largely cool, buff, and male.
2. Kim Possible (2002 – 2007)
Regular teenager by day and crime fighting hero by night, the adventures of Kim Possible were legendary. She always had the coolest gadgets, iconic villains (shout out to She-Go) and a naked mole rat – what more could you want in a cartoon?
3. Jojo and Gran Gran (2020 – Present)
A feel-good, multigenerational series, telling the story of a relationship between a child and her grandmother, and lionising relationships in a new, compelling and endearing way.
4. Lilo and Stitch (2003 – 2006)
Lilo is eccentric, loyal and sassy – but more than that she acts as the glue promoting friendships, trust and family across the series.
5. Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir (2015 – Present)
Marinette’s combination of civilian and superhero – balancing the dilemmas facing a teenage girl, whilst simultaneously saving Paris from Hawkmoth is an allegory for modern teen life – a paragon of ‘this girl can’ all while wearing a range of stylish blazers
6. Gabby’s Dollhouse (2021 – Present)
Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the impact of Gabby’s Dollhouse on young girls. The show has churned out 8 seasons since its original release, highlighting its demand. Gabby sits centrally within it, her imagination powers the narrative, the cats and the adventures at play – it works because of her fundamental loveliness. NB: The fact they’ve produced so many series so quickly is probably testament to how hard it will be to replace Gabby!
7. Hilda (2018 – Present)
Based on the critically acclaimed graphic novel, and starring Bella Ramsey, this show has an adorable animation style and fantastical world is a joy to watch. Hilda is also AMAZING! Adventurous, funny, beautifully drawn and delivering a level of accessible fantasy that is rarely seen in other cartoons (Summer Camp Island has similar qualities, but as we said at the outset – we’re only doing humans here)
8. Amphibia (2019-2022)
Amphibia as a show combines light-hearted moments and diversity but its big draw is Anne Boonchuy and her journey from egotistical and conceited teenager to selflessness and sacrifice to save the people of Wartwood – overarching narrative arc – Hook is here for you!
9. She-Ra: Princess of Power (1985-1987)
Cool weapons, a head-dress that becomes a mask, the ability to communicate telepathically with animals. Her ally Huntara being based on Grace Jones; writing this makes us think maybe she should be higher but the existence of Madame Razz is a serious black mark – she makes Snarf in He-Man feel like a serious addition to the cartoon character canon.
10. Doc McStuffin (2012-2020)
Doc McStuffin was created to help kids overcome their fear of visiting the doctor, something that it accomplished in its 8 year run. It also had an episode featuring Michella Obama (very iconic), and was an important show in creating representation for young black girls.