The Anatomy of a Good Cartoon


When we see cartoons as an adult, we think either one of two things: A, or Did an adult really just make this crock of shit?, and B, or Hey, that was actually quite clever; I really enjoyed it. I want to use this article to talk about how to make B and how to avoid A.

There’s a way to talk to kids about the real world without scaring them. Way back — and I’m talking way back, before I had the blog as it is now — I made an article about how shows like Sesame Street address serious topics such as war and cancer.  I think being able to do this is really pivotal in making something that both children and adults enjoy; you have to be able to write something with a real plot, and real stakes, but not too real a plot and too real a stakes or else you’ll get the kids confused/horrified. Remember, when you’re making a cartoon, the kids always naturally come first. But the secondary goal should always be to avoid something that’s straight cringy baby talk and instead can be treated as works of art that are appreciated at all levels. When we see the absolute top of cartoon cinema — movies like My Neighbor Totoro and The Lion King — this is what we see.

This also goes to what I believe should be a bigger, more overarching goal of cartoons; to unite the adults and kids. When it comes to what a parent watches versus what a kid watches, the two traditionally don’t like to associate with each other. Parents might begrudgingly see a movie a kid likes, while a kid might turn the channel if he thinks the parent wouldn’t approve. Being able to bridge this gap means turning family entertainment into true family entertainment; something that unites both parent and child and gives them something to look forward to.

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