A bottomless pit in the field of graphic art, France has established itself over the decades as one of the major players in the production of cartoons. A few weeks ago, we presented the greatest French animation films.
Today, we focus on the best French cartoons. And the least we can say is that there is something for everyone!
1 – Inspector Gadget (1983)
French title: Inspecteur Gadget
Directors: Bruno Bianchi, Jean Chalopin et Andy Heyward
Countries: United States/France/Japan/Canada
Created in 1983, Inspecteur Gadget is an animated series resulting from the association of a French cartoonist, an American writer, and a French producer. The cartoon takes place in a mock French city, Métro Ville, and features Inspecteur Gadget, a half-man, half-machine policeman who uses his multiple gadgets to foil the plans of the MAD, a criminal organization led by Dr. Gang.
With two seasons and more than 80 episodes, the animated series became a classic French cartoon for children in the 1980s and 1990s. Following this success, Inspector Gadget was then adapted into books, comics, films, and video games.
2 – Once upon a time… Life (1986)
French title: Il était une fois… la Vie
Director: Albert Barillé
Also known as La fabuleuse histoire du corps humain (= The Fabulous Story of the Human Body), Once Upon a Time… Life is an educational French cartoon for youngsters. It plunges us into the complexities of the human body in order to explain how it works and its specificities, notably thanks to the teachings of the recurring character of the series Once Upon a Time…, Maestro.
During the 26 episodes, viewers will learn more about organs, cell types, the life cycle, and reproduction. When it was released, the cartoon was a hit and was even awarded the 7 d’or for the best youth program in 1988 (a French award).
3 – The Adventure of Tintin (1991)
French title: Les Aventures de Tintin
Directors: Hergé, Stéphane Bernasconi
A direct adaptation of the French comic strip, the animated television series The Adventures of Tintin faithfully reproduces the stories depicted in the comic strip while developing its world and its characters. Broadcast for the first time in 1991, the cartoon also manages to modernize the cultural and societal issues of the original work so as not to offend the sensibilities of young people.
As the comic book, the Adventures of Tintin animated series was a huge success, although it only had one season of 39 episodes. The various adaptations that have been released since the 2000s are largely inspired by the recipe that made the French cartoon a success.
4 – Papa Beaver’s Storytime (1993)
French title: Les Histoires du père Castor
Directors: Jean Cubaud
First released in 1993, Papa Beaver’s Storytime is a French-Canadian cartoon that features a father figure, Father Beaver (= Père Castor), who tells stories to his three little children, Câline, Grignote, and Benjamin. Each of these stories has a valuable lesson that will allow children, and viewers, to question themselves on all sorts of subjects.
Broadcast for nearly 10 years, the short format 6-minute French cartoon has 156 episodes of various tales. In France, the series was launched on Canal J before being bought by France TV, first broadcast on France 3 and then France 5.
Fun fact, some French people like to joke, when someone talks too much by calling them “Père Castor”.
5 – Tom-Tom and Nana (1997)
French title: Tom-Tom et Nana
Directors: Jacqueline Cohen, Bernadette Després, Évelyne Reberg, Catherine Viansson-Ponté
Inspired by the comic strip of the same name, the animated series Tom-Tom and Nana is a classic of French animation. Through the episodes, we follow the adventures of the Dubouchon family, owner of a restaurant, and more specifically of its two turbulent children: Tom-Tom and Nana. Never the last to get into mischief, the brother and sister disturb the calm of the restaurant, much to the disappointment of their parent.
Following the success of the comic book and cartoon of 1997 (which has a season of 52 episodes), the channel Teletoon+ decided to buy the rights to the series in 2019 to update the adventures of Tom-Tom and Nana. A second version of the series exists and also has 52 episodes.
6 – Space Goofs (1997)
French title: Les Zinzins de l’espace
Directors: Jean-Yves Raimbaud, Philippe Traversat
Launched in 1997, Space Goofs is a French cartoon that, as its name suggests, features a group of aliens. They find themselves living together in a house on Earth after their flying spaceship crashes.
With more than a hundred episodes spread over two seasons, The Space Zinzins is a funny animated series that has marked the minds of a whole generation during its nine years of broadcast. The work has also been adapted into comic books and video games.
7 – Homiez (1998)
French title: Lascars
Director: Laurent Nicolas
Lascars, also known as Les Lascars, is a French comedy cartoon with a very short format (2 minutes) aimed at a mature audience. Created by a collective of rappers and street artists, it depicts the daily life of young people from the suburbs and all the situations in which they can find themselves.
With its two seasons and 60 episodes, the animated series is still seen today as one of the funniest French cartoons ever created. If you want to make up your own mind, all the episodes are available for free on the official YouTube channel of the Lascars.
8 – Zig & Sharko (1998)
French title: Oggy et les cafards
Director: Jean-Yves Raimbaud
Created in 1998, Zig & Sharko follows the adventures of Oggy, a blue cat with an unusual build, and three cockroaches living under his roof: Joey, Deedee, and Marky. The latter never cease to harass him and make his life impossible with stratagems funnier and sneakier than the others.
With eight seasons and 556 episodes, Zig & Sharko is without a doubt one of the longest and most successful French cartoons ever created. So much so that it has been exported to over 150 countries around the world.
9 – Pirate Family (1999)
French title: La Famille Pirate
Directors: Stéphane Bernasconi, Béatrice Marthouret, Yves Coulon et Fabrice Parme
Launched in 1999, the Pirate Family is a French-Canadian-German animated series that immerses us in the life of the MacBernik family, a family of pirates living on Turtle Island. We follow their daily life between maritime expeditions, boarding, and family life.
Broadcast for nearly five years, the French cartoon has 40 episodes divided over two seasons. After its end on television, the series was adapted into a comic book in 2012 in the Spirou newspaper to give fans a few more adventures. Good news all the episodes are on YouTube.
10 – Marsupilami (2000)
French title: Marsupilami
Directors: Augusto Zanovello, Pierre Houde, François Brisson (season 1), Daniel Duda (season 2), Claude Alix, Moran Caouissin (seasons 3-4), Pascal Ropars (season 5)
Based on the original comic strip of the same name, Marsupilami, which will be renamed Mon Ami Marsupilami, Marsupilami Houba ! Houba ! Hop! and Nos voisins les Marsupilami, is a French cartoon broadcast from 2000 in France. It features the Marsupilami, a yellow marsupial with a long tail, his family, as well as the group of humans who will accompany him during his adventures.
Broadcast for nearly 12 years on television, the animated series reached the 130-episode mark during its finale in 2012. Due to the success of the comics and the cartoon, the Marsupilami was made into a movie in 2012 with a cast including some of the greatest French actors of this generation. Good news, all the episodes are on YouTube.
11 – Cedric (2001)
French title: Cédric
Director: Raoul Cauvin
Directly based on the comic book of the same name, the French cartoon Cedric follows the adventures of an 8-year-old boy who falls madly in love with a Chinese girl at his school and who will do anything to try to win her over. Advised by his grandfather and pressured by his parents, he will navigate his school life as best he can.
Launched in 2001, Cédric has been broadcast for six years on French television with 156 episodes. In addition to the comic strip, Cédric has also appeared in three video games and maybe soon in a movie. Good news, all the episodes are on YouTube.
12 – Tootuff (2001)
French title: Titeuf
Directors: Daniel Duda, Prakash Topsy, Olivier Bonnet, Monica Maaten, Christian Choquet et David Garcia
A direct adaptation of one of the most popular French comic books of the 2000s, the animated Titeuf takes the winning formula of the comic book and further develops the daily life of the 10-year-old boy, his friends, and Nadia, the girl he is secretly crazy about.
With more than 330 episodes spread over four seasons, the French cartoon achieves the feat of being almost as long-lasting as the comic book since it was broadcast from 2001 to 2017 on television. In 2011, the franchise also released a movie: Titeuf, le film (3D). Good news, all the episodes are on YouTube.
13 – Totally Spies! (2001)
French title: Totally Spies!
Directors: Vincent Chalvon-Demersay, David Michel
Created in 2001, Totally Spies! is a French cartoon mixing action, comedy, and espionage. It follows the adventures of three Californian friends, high school girls by day and secret agents by night. Their numerous missions send them to the four corners of the planet to save the world and thwart the plans of criminal organizations.
Through six seasons and 156 episodes, Totally Spies! has established itself as a monument of French cartooning. The characters of Alex, Clover, and Sam are true models of heroism, independence and courage, which distinguish them from the average female character that could be found in the cartoons at that time.
14 – Ratz (2003)
French title: Ratz
Directors: Richard Zielenkiewicz, Jean-Yves Raimbaud
Launched in 2003 on television, Ratz is a French-Canadian animated comedy series that features two rats, Razmo and Rapido, dubbed by the comedy duo Éric and Ramzy. We follow the adventures of two rats who have taken up residence in a cargo ship and who help themselves to plenty of food in the holds of the ship.
Produced by the director of Zig & Sharko and Space Goofs, Ratz is an offbeat and zany cartoon that ran for over three years through a season of 52 episodes.
15 – Wakfu (2004)
French title: Wakfu
Directors: Fabrice Nzinzi
Based on the eponymous video game by French studio Ankama, Wakfu is a French animated series that takes place in the universe of the two iconic MMORPGs (Video game mode), Dofus and Wakfu. The series takes place 200 years after the events that ended the age of Dofus. While the world is going bad and nature is deteriorating, a young boy with unsuspected powers named Yugo is about to live a great adventure in order to restore the Wakfu, the creative energy of the world which is strongly disturbed.
With three seasons and 71 episodes, Wakfu should very soon see the arrival of a fourth season. Thanks to the resounding success of the French cartoon, the studio was also able to produce a quality feature film which we talked about in our article on the best French animated films.
16 – Street Football (2005)
French title: Foot 2 Rue
Directors: Marco Beretta, Serge Ronsenzweig
Launched in 2005, Foot 2 Rue is a French-Italian animated television series based on the book La Compagnie des Célestins by Stefano Benni. In this cartoon, we follow the adventures of the team the Blue of Port-Marie which participates in the first World Cup of street soccer.
When it was released, Foot 2 Rue was a real cultural phenomenon that left its mark on the minds of many young French football fans. It also featured the Marseilles rapper Akhenaton singing in the opening credits. After three seasons and 104 episodes aired from 2005 to 2010, the series is offered a reboot in the form of a 3D animation, entitled Foot 2 Rue Extreme.
17 – Have you ever seens…? (2006)
French title: Avez-vous déjà vu ..?
Director: Pierre-Alain Bloch
Broadcast during 2006 on M6, Have you ever seen ..? is a French cartoon for adults with a short format like the series Bref. In 45-second vignettes, we find an absurd situation never before seen mocked, and a punchline that is always the same and closes the episode: “Now, yes”.
Despite its brief appearance on screens, the 150-episode series has become a classic of French comedy, with lines narrated to perfection by Alain Chabat, still cult-like 20 years later.
18 – The Dorks (2013)
French title: Les Kassos
Directors: Yves Bigerel, Rémi Godin, Alexis Beaumont et Julien Daubas
Launched in 2013, The Kassos, a colloquial diminutive for “cas sociaux” (= social cases), is an animated comedy series for adults. It features pop-culture characters coming to talk heart-to-heart about their problems in a social worker’s office. This series is filled with French slang! Perfect for learning the language!
With nearly a hundred episodes spread over six seasons, Les Kassos has definitely established itself as one of the most memorable French adult cartoons of the last 10 years. All the episodes of Les Kassos are available for free and in full on the official YouTube channel of the series.
19 – You will die less stupid… (2016)
French title: Tu mourras moins bête…
Director: Amandine Fredon
Airing from 2016 on the Franco-German channel Arte, Tu mourras moins bête… is a short-format cartoon adapted directly from Marion Montaigne’s online comic book. Mixing humor and education, the series answers common scientific questions while making nods to popular culture through the characters of Professor Moustache and his assistant Nathanaël.
After two seasons and 70 episodes, a third season is currently in production for the greatest happiness of the fans of the series. In the meantime, feel free to watch the best episodes of Tu mourras moins bête… on the official website of Arte France.
20 -Arcane (2021)
French title: Arcane
Directors: Christian Linke, Alex Yee
Countries: France/United States
Taking place in the world of the video game phenomenon League of Legends, Arcane is a Netflix animated series that hit it big in 2021. A collaboration between Riot Games and French animation studio Fortiche Production, the cartoon follows the adventures of two sisters, Jinx and Vi, respective champions of their cities, as they battle in a war that mixes technology and magic.
The Netflix event series is already considered one of the best French animated series of all time. It has been acclaimed by the public, winning more than 15 awards including Best Animated Series at the British Film Editor’s Cut Above Awards in 2022.
We hope you enjoyed discovering these French cartoons. Are there any cartoons that deserve to be on this list? If yes, don’t hesitate to tell us in the comment section of the article.
Photo Credits: @Netflix