Total Drama Island: 5 Reasons It Was One Of The Best Animated Shows Of The 2000s

The main cast of Season 1 of Total Drama Island.
(Image credit: Cartoon Network)

When it comes to early 2000s kids' shows, many would likely agree that no other network could compare to Cartoon Network. Disney Channel had some great ones, (most are available to watch on Disney+ now), and Nickelodeon had some good shows, such as Spongebob Squarepants, but Cartoon Network was the greatest of all time when it came to what they were showing kids. 

From Ed, Edd n’ Eddy to Codename: Kids Next Door, Cartoon Network had it all. With superhero series like The Powerpuff Girls and shows that made me love horror today, such as Courage the Cowardly Dog (which had some terrifying scenes), I truly can thank the network for giving me the personality I have now. But, there’s one show from the channel that I need to talk about, and that is Total Drama Island. 

The show changed its name as the series went on, and most people I know just refer to it as Total Drama. The series, a parody of reality TV shows like Survivor, featured several contestants competing for a big crash prize at the end – and let me tell you, this show was my life as a kid. Today, I’m going to tell you why it was one of the best animated shows of the 2000s – and something you could still enjoy. 

Chris, the host, of Total Drama Island.

(Image credit: Cartoon Network)

The Animation Style Is Certainly Different From Anything I’ve Ever Seen

Fun fact – the Total Drama franchise actually originated from Canada, from the Teletoon channel, before it was brought over to Cartoon Network, but many shows from Canada often have very interesting animated styles. Another show that came from this same studio was 6Teen, which also had a very particular look. 

This show really went out of its way to make its animation different from what we were used to as kids. Like I said, there were plenty of shows back then that truly broke barriers when it came to making interesting animation for children. One that is very vivid in my mind is Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, where the show literally takes place in a house that is composed of creatures children make up in their heads – so of course the animation is going to be great. 

Even so, the Total Drama franchise is one that stands out the most, because while at first, it feels like a normal animated show, it’s what is done with the animation that makes it so much fun. There are high speed chase scenes, fun action moments, funny reactions, hilarious facial expressions, expertly created animals and characters – it was really done so well.

And, everything fits the animation style perfectly. It was one of the few animated shows of my childhood that I first loved specifically because the animation always drew me in. 

Gwen and Trent in Total Drama Island.

(Image credit: Cartoon Network)

Every Character Is Super Diverse

You want to talk about diverse characters? This is where you find then. 

Granted, this is an animated show where the characters don’t often change their clothes, so it’s easier to animate. I’ll give a lot of props to other series that are willing to do that, such as Totally Spies. The characters are so diverse in their looks and personality that there is literally no need to change their styles in every episode. 

Every single character feels as if they are a parody of the typical contestant you would see on a reality show. The mean girl, the ditzy blonde, the hunk, the jock, the goth girl, the bad boy, the good girl – it fills in every single stereotype of what you would expect in a reality show contestant perfectly. 

And yet, even if on the surface these characters may look and seem superficial, there is a lot more going on underneath that is explored as the series goes on. Their true personalities begin to show and you start to grow attached to them, and genuinely begin to root for one of them to win, even though these are literal animated people. They did a good job making a cast of awesome characters. 

Alejandro in Total Drama World Tour.

(Image credit: Cartoon Network)

And The New Characters That Are Added Are Awesome To Follow

Normally, when animated shows introduce new characters, they don’t really vibe well with what the show has going on. For example, I enjoyed the introduction of Poof to The Fairly Oddparents, but then they brought in Sparky, and later Chloe, and the entire show fell apart from there. 

However, there are certain times when a new character is introduced to the show, it works well, and that was the case here. Not that many new characters are brought in throughout the course of the series, but the ones that are make the show better. For example, in Season 3, called Total Drama World Tour, they brought in a new character called Alejandro and I swear to God, it’s because of him and the interactions he had with another character that I got obsessed with enemy to lovers movies

Even in Season 4 of the show, when they brought in a whole new cast of characters, I actually really liked them, because they, again, had very different and quirky personalities. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the people they brought in later down the line, but the first four seasons had some awesome characters. 

Gwen, Heather and Courtney in Total Drama World Tour.

(Image credit: Cartoon Network)

Unlike Many Other Animated Shows, It Keeps A Steady Storyline Through The First Three Seasons

There are so many animated shows out there that just don’t keep a steady storyline. From Spongebob Squarepants to the Samurai Jack series to so many others, they might have special episodes that could be watched back to back, but most of the time, you can watch any episode and enjoy it because there’s no overall storyline to follow. 

On Total Drama that is not the case at all. You need to watch this show from the very first episode, because there is a plot that needs to be followed, and if you miss a few episodes, you’re going to forget who is who, who was eliminated, who is dating whom – it’s literally a reality show even if its fictional, and you need to stay caught up – it’s like watching Love Is Blind every week and you need the drama. Honestly, I love that for a cartoon. 

Lindsey cursing out Heather in Total Drama Island.

(Image credit: Cartoon Network)

It Also Wasn’t Afraid To Be A Lot Edgier Than Most Cartoons

Total Drama was my introduction to the fact that cartoons can also be for adults. While there is plenty of animated content now that is specifically catered to an older audience, such as Arcane on Netflix or even Love, Death and Robots, there wasn’t as much back then. 

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There was obviously South Park, and some very raunchy stuff on Adult Swim, but not much for adults to enjoy. Total Drama was, at its core, a television show on a kids channel, but it was so much edgier than what you would expect. Maybe it was because it was originally from Canada, but this show single handedly made me get into more adult cartoons. 

There were make-out scenes, moments that were “caught on camera” of blurred out girl’s tops, an entire scene of someone cursing a person out but having it bleeped the entire time, everything you could imagine. Again, that this is a cartoon. Back then, that sort of stuff never happened, but Total Drama did it. I genuinely have no idea how this series remained rated PG – it honestly should have been PG-13, but here we are.

Truly, I don’t think there was another cartoon I was obsessed with as a child as much as Total Drama, because it seriously changed the trajectory of what I loved in a cartoon. If you have time to watch it, I’d seriously recommend it. It’s funny, raunchy, and has plenty of characters you’ll love to hate – as well as root for. 

Stream Total Drama on Netflix.

Alexandra Ramos
Content Producer

A self-proclaimed nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, Alexandra Ramos is a Content Producer at CinemaBlend. She first started off working in December 2020 as a Freelance Writer after graduating from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Journalism and a minor in English. She primarily works in features for movies, TV, and sometimes video games. (Please don't debate her on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!) She is also the main person who runs both our daily newsletter, The CinemaBlend Daily, and our ReelBlend newsletter.