Before we start this list we’d just like to make one thing perfectly clear: In light of our constantly writing articles focused on Game of Thrones, Dr. Who, and Sherlock, we—in spite of unsubstantiated hearsay—do in fact watch other programs outside this holy trinity of televised entertainment. We’re not gonna lie to you, they’re primarily of the animated variety. And yet, just like their live-action counterparts, even cartoons have humble beginnings as low-budget, awkwardly scripted pilots meant to convince network executives to give them a chance as full-fledged series. Kick back, relax, and tune into five rare and unseen pilots from our favorite cartoon shows!
1) Adventure Time
Adventure Time is hands down the undisputed king of this decade’s cartoons, becoming the standard against which all others are—and will be—measured. Yet during its early days as a one-shot pilot on, brace yourself, Nickelodeon’s Oh Yeah! Cartoons showcase, Adventure Time was far from being the show that now lets creator Pendleton Ward pay for the Mercedes-Benz in his driveway (assuming he has one). In fact, the quality of the pilot overall lends itself to the likelihood Ward left animation duties in the hands of his toddler nephew. Like it matters, because Adventure Time is now the cornerstone of Cartoon Network’s programming block. Plus, legend has it that every time someone watches the pilot, Nickelodeon executives kick themselves with pointy tipped shoes.
2) Gravity Falls
There’s really only a few scant differences between the Gravity Falls pilot and the series proper, such as Grunkle Stan being much older and Mabel and Dipper Pines appearing to be slightly taller. That aside, the most drastic—and certainly welcome—change is the switch from Flash to traditional hand-drawn animation. Serious question, have you seen just how horrendous shows like Johnny Test and Almost Naked Animals (this actually exists, sadly) look with that abysmal, choppy Flash garbage? Now try to imagine if the creative forces behind Gravity Falls decided to stay the course.
3) Regular Show
The funny thing about the Regular Show pilot was that it was actually aired during the series’ second season run, entitled “First Day.” If you were fortunate enough to watch it, you may have been keen on the lapses in animation quality and voice acting throughout the episode. That’s because “First Day” interwove the original pilot with new scenes that made it more in line with the cartoon as it currently is now, though interesting items of note were the fleeting appearance of a conceptual Muscle Man and Skips sounding, well, kind of dim-witted, betraying the infinite fountain of ancient wisdom we've come to know him as.
4) The Amazing World of Gumball
The Amazing World of Gumball is one of those cartoons that’s impossible to describe to others without giving the impression you’re an escaped mental patient. Heck, Adventure Time makes more sense in comparison. Either way, this pilot was enough to get Cartoon Network’s seal of approval—how they pulled it off will forever be one of life’s greatest mysteries. Anyway, the minute and a half pilot isn’t that far removed from the fever dream absurdity of the show itself, except that Darwin the fish is no longer rendered in CGI. Do you even know how much a computer-generated fish costs to make in this shaky economy?
5) Phineas and Ferb
Unlike the previous series mentioned on this list, Phineas and Ferb had less of an actual pilot than it was the creators filming and piecing together still images from the storyboard into a flip book-like format. The crazy part? After 16 years spent pitching their idea, Disney Channel opened their golden doors and brought Phineas and Ferb in from the bitter cold of rejection.
Which of these cartoon shows is your favorite?