7 Classic Fantasy Cartoons

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Cartoons successfully created fantasy worlds before special effects became readily available in movies. These fantasy cartoons represent the best of magical stories told in animated TV.

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'The Last Unicorn'

'The Last Unicorn'
'The Last Unicorn'. ITC Entertainment

The Last Unicorn captures a feeling of tragic loss. Amalthea, the alleged last unicorn, embarks on a journey to find out if there are others of her kind. She is lonely, without family or ties to the world in which she lives, and she is in danger. The story works for children and adults. The Last Unicorn boasts superb voice talent, including Mia Farrow, Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, Christopher Lee and Angela Lansbury. (1982)

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'The Hobbit'

The Hobbit / Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
The Hobbit / Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. The Hobbit / Warner Bros. Home Entertainment

was my introduction to The Lord of the Rings story. As a child, Gollum and the dark riders terrified me. Though the animated version cannot compare to the grounded and masterful films of Peter Jackson, it still projects the suspense and magic of the books. The storytelling is fluid and enjoyable. The Hobbit and its animated sequels also exude an innocence I associate with the '70s. (1977)

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'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe'

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Pricegrabber.com

Before Tilda Swinton froze the screen as the White Witch in Disney's Chronicles of Narnia, the animated version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe enchanted me. I saw it more than once on television as a child, and every time the kids stepped through that closet into a snow-covered world, thrills went through me. This '70s version of C.S. Lewis' magical story still casts a spell. (1979)

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'The Dark Crystal'

The Dark Crystal
The Dark Crystal. Pricegrabber.com

Busted. The Dark Crystal isn't animated. I don't care. The Dark Crystal is a compelling story told with puppets. The quality of the film is such that I just had to included it. Jim Henson and Frank Oz tell a dark, dark tale that captured my imagination as a child. Jen and Kira are two young Gelflings who try to fulfill the prophecy of the Dark Crystal. The story has danger, magic and protagonists who maintain their optimism and innocence, regardless of the fears they face. The Muppets this ain't. (1982)

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'Dungeons and Dragons'

Dungeons and Dragons
Dungeons and Dragons. Pricegrabber.com

Believe it or not, Dungeons and Dragons lasted three years on TV. Based on the popular, yet ridiculed, game of dice and spellcasting, the cartoon followed kids that took a ride on a roller coaster that landed them in the magical world of, well, dungeons and dragons. They are given new identities and weapons to help them survive in this new world. Dungeons and Dragons is meant for children, so adults might yawn a bit. But there is no limit to the magic woven in the stories. (1983)

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The Smurfs Vol. 1
The Smurfs Vol. 1. Pricegrabber.com

The Smurfs tells magical stories of little blue creatures who live in mushroom houses. Papa Smurf works very powerful magic. Gargamel, his wizard nemesis, isn't very successful with his magic. There are also a slew of other magical characters that pop up, including fairies, gnomes and other wizards. I have a very soft spot in my heart for Smurfs, as my son now watches them on Boomerang. If you have children or grandchildren, they will enjoy The Smurfs as much as I did. (1981)

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'Heavy Metal'

Heavy Metal
Heavy Metal. Pricegrabber.com

Heavy Metal is more of a science fiction story than a magical one, but every plot revolves around a magical green sphere. There's a lot of sex depicted in this cartoon, so keep the kids away while you're watching it. The stories and art are taken from a magazine of the same name. The overarching story is just a convention used to tie together disparate stories, but the style lends itself to the imaginative and surreal stories. Heavy Metal is the cartoon parodies in the South Park episode "Major Boobage." (1981)