I see that anime is short for animation which refers specifically to Japanese style of cartoon. But I also learn that cartoon are usually aimed at children. Then how do you call cartoon works like Gravity Falls or Steven Universe which are not aimed only at children? And what is an “animated cartoon”? Isn’t this phrase sort of a tautology?

  • Some people will attach up to three different meanings specifically to the three forms as presented, but they won't be universally recognised, so I advise you not to waste time trying to understand and remember any claimed differences. Mostly, it's just a stylistic choice (and even if “animated cartoon” is "tautologous", there's nothing unusual about that in English). Mar 6, 2021 at 13:54
  • 1
    (But obviously in some contexts, a "cartoon" is simply a "static" drawing, so "animated" does convey specific meaning.) Mar 6, 2021 at 13:55

2 Answers 2


Cartoon: funny drawing in a newspaper (or on the web, for example) or animated

Animated cartoon: One type of cartoon.

Animation: can be made from cartoon drawings, or models, and might not be funny.

The original meaning of "cartoon" was a full-size sketch, made on paper, to be used when designing a fresco or similar painting. From this meaning it came to mean any sketch done on paper (in contrast to paintings done on canvas or wood) and then in the 1800s it was used to mean "(usually comic or satrical) drawing printed in a newspaper" This meaning is still current. You can talk about the cartoon page in a newspaper. Peanuts (featuring Snoopy and Charlie Brown) was a famous and long running cartoon series. Another is "Calvin and Hobbes", which was (for artistic reasons) never converted to an animation.

When movies were invented, cartoon artists like Winsor McCay realised that they could create animated movies using their cartoon characters, and so the meaning transferred from "funny drawing in a newspaper" to "funny animation"

You can use "animated cartoon" when you want to be clear that you don't mean a newspaper cartoon. You can use "animation" when you don't want to suggest that the work is mostly meant to be funny.

Peanuts began as a syndicated newpaper cartoon, and the animated cartoon series was only made much later. On the other hand The Simpsons was an animated cartoon from the beginning.

The animation Æon Flux was a sci-fi drama, that frequently explored adult themes.


Cartoons are imaginary drawings while the animation is making cartoons moving with computer graphics or like tools

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