We’ve shown before that kids’ cartoons can sometimes be a bit too dark, adult or overall brutal for their target audience. Everyone knows about the adult jokes hidden within every kids’ cartoon, but not everyone remembers their favorite childhood cartoons had some of the most messed up death scenes. Some cartoons had straight up horrific character deaths, be it implied or actually shown, that served well to the story, but were just a bit too much for the kids watching them. Others were brutal just because of how emotionally devastated they left us.
You might think that these kinds of overly violent or horrific deaths are reserved only for villains who deserved it, but you’d only be partially correct. Villains, heroes, side characters, the’ve all been killed in the most insane ways in cartoons. Kids’ cartoons are, obviously, written by adults, so maybe that’s why some cartoons have way-too-intense deaths in them. Whatever the reason, these cartoon demises definitely left a few kids scarred for life. So, what are some of the worst deaths in all of animation? Which character deaths made us question wether or not we were watching a kids’ show? CBR has rifled through some of the darkest cartoons out there to bring you the 15 most BRUTAL deaths in kids’ cartoons.
15. THE EARTH QUEEN – THE LEGEND OF KORRA
The second half of season three of The Legend of Korra was originally broadcast online instead of airing on TV. The reason for this was the content of the episode, “Long Live the Queen,” in which anarchist villain Zaheer brutally assassinated the Earth Queen. We’re not talking about an implied or off-screen death either, we see every last second of the monarch’s life before it ends at the hands of the airbender terrorist.
Zaheer didn’t murder the Earth Queen quickly either, he chose one of the most painful forms of death, suffocation. To make it even more brutal, Zaheer didn’t just strangle her or anything, he literally pulled the air from her lungs using airbending. It’s not even the only gruesome death in the series since Zaheer’s girlfriend, P’li, later has her head exploded, though we luckily don’t see the graphic details of that.
14. THE ENTIRE JUSTICE LEAGUE – YOUNG JUSTICE
Okay, so, we all remember that SUPER messed up episode of Young Justice, “Failsafe.” It was the one where Batman thought it was a good idea to subject emotionally unstable teenagers to a simulation in which they witness the death of their mentors and friends. What the hell, right? Batman’s reasoning is that the simulation was designed to see how the team handles a situation that gets progressively worse, but they knew it was a simulation the whole time.
However, thanks to Miss Martian’s incredible psychic power, she convinced the team that it was real after an emotional reaction to the “death” of Artemis. Over the course of the episode, we watch the entire Justice League and the team get completely vaporized by alien invaders. At first, the team still knows it’s a simulation, so they don’t react to the deaths, but then Artemis dies and everything becomes devastatingly real.
13. SYNDROME – THE INCREDIBLES
It’s not like the villain of Disney’s The Incredibles didn’t deserve what he got, especially because he broke the infamous “no capes” rule, but his death scene is still WAY too brutal. Syndrome was once an eager fan of Mr. Incredible, but after getting rejected as a sidekick, he worked to destroy all the heroes in the world. Doesn’t he know that revenge never leads to anything good for villains?
Syndrome’s greatest mistake as a villain was threatening Mr. Incredible’s family, which earned him a one-way ticket to hell via the turbine of his own jet. Though we don’t see exactly what happens — the scene cuts away to Mr. Incredible at exactly the right time — Syndrome was pulled by his cape into the turbine, causing the ship to explode. The implications of how he was killed are insanely violent, no wonder they cut away.
12. THE JOKER – BATMAN BEYOND
Batman fans have long since debated the idea of the dark knight killing the Joker. There are arguments that Batman should do it and arguments that he shouldn’t. There are even questions if he could do it. Whatever your thoughts, we can all agree The Joker has done more than enough to deserve an execution. In fact, one of the worst things he did ended up killing him, as seen in the flashbacks of Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.
In the movie, The Joker captured Tim Drake and tortured, brainwashed and experimented on him until he became a Joker Jr. of sorts. But, Tim Drake was still in here, and through a sadistic smile, he took revenge on the Joker for what he did. Tim fired one of Joker’s gag guns, shooting the “bang!” flag straight through his torturer, giving the Joker the kind of brutal death he deserves.
11. BATGIRL – BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES
Speaking of the DCAU, Batman Beyond wasn’t the only Batman cartoon that featured a brutal death. In the somewhat infamous episode of Batman: The Animated Series, “Over the Edge,” Commissioner Gordon witnesses Batgirl fall from a building, near death after landing. To make things worse, he finds out that Batgirl is his daughter, and that Batman knew all along. After the loss of Barbara, Gordon sends the entire police force after Batman to take in the man responsible for his daughter’s death.
Batgirl’s death turns out to be a nightmare, a dream Barbara had as a result of Scarecrow’s fear toxin, but it’s still brutal all the same. Batgirl falls from a skyscraper and lands on a car, that’s the kind of stunt you see in an an R-Rated action movie! It’s a good thing it was all a dream, or else the episode would have NEVER made it past censors.
10. SCAR – THE LION KING
Scar is another villain who got what was coming to him, but that doesn’t make his death any less horrifying. We can’t imagine anyone doesn’t know the story of Lion King by this point, but we’ll sum it up just in case. After killing Mufasa and, supposedly, Simba, Scar seizes the throne for himself, leading the pride to a bleak, drought-stricken era. But, Simba returns and takes the throne back from his villainous uncle.
What makes Scar’s death so insanely brutal is both the way he is killed and the karmic irony that comes with it. When Simba confronts Scar, he begs for his life, blaming the hyenas for everything. Simba knocks Scar over the edge of pride rock, but he survives. However, the hyenas heard everything, and they viciously rip apart their former leader. Good thing we just saw shadows, though, since that would have been even more brutal.
9. TIME DUPLICATES – STEVEN UNIVERSE
Time clones are kind of a common trope in time travel stories, as is watching those clones die after a paradox is reversed. Though we can’t really say if being erased from existence would result in physical pain for the paradox duplicates, it’s still a brutal way to go. We see this trope explored in the Steven Universe episode, “Steven and the Stevens,” in which Steven discovers an ancient Gem time travel hourglass.
Steven, being Steven, uses the hourglass to make time copies of himself and form a band of Stevens. Steven and the Stevens don’t last long, however, as they fall victim to the typical band breakup tropes. They fight and Steven ends up going back in time to destroy the hourglass, destroying all the time clones in the process. Despite how brutal this must have been, Steven takes it in stride, writing the experience into a feel-good song.
8. TADASHI – BIG HERO 6
Can we all agree that Tadashi was seriously the best older brother to Hiro? He got him out of trouble and inspired him to use his genius-level intellect for something worthwhile. It was devastating when he died in Big Hero 6, joining the long list of tragic deaths in Disney movies.
As if he wasn’t awesome enough, Tadashi died because he was helping people escape the fire that ultimately caused his demise, a fire started by his mentor. The fire caused the building to explode, which you can imagine would be an incredibly painful way to go. As brutal as this death is, the way Hiro deals with the loss of his brother ends up being the basis for the film’s strongest trait, the way it handles themes of loss, grief and healing.
7. OPTIMUS PRIME – TRANSFORMERS: THE MOVIE
The reason this one is so brutal isn’t because of violence or blood, Optimus Prime is a robot after all, but more so because of how devastating it was to fans everywhere. Aside from the “You got the touch” song, Transformers: The Movie is perhaps known best for the death of Optimus Prime. The scene is, without a doubt, one of the most dramatic moments in Transformers history.
For those who haven’t seen it, Optimus dies after suffering mortal injuries, giving up the matrix of leadership to Ultra Magnus on his deathbed. The scene is so devastating because it’s so… well… human. Optimus dies like any human would, slowly uttering his last words, a prophecy of peace that brutally hits us right in the feels.
6. MORPH – X-MEN (1992)
In the 1992 X-Men animated series, there was a character (sort of) created for the series by the name of Morph. As his name implies, Morph could shapeshift, and he was created simply for the purpose of dying in the first episode. The writers needed a “throwaway” character that wouldn’t be sorely missed if he were to die. Thus, Morph was shot by a sentinel in the second part of the pilot.
This death was particularly brutal on two fronts. For one thing, Morph is killed in a violent manner, and second, his character was created just for the purpose of dying. In other words, Morph existed only to perish, which is a nightmare existence. Then again, he did come back in the second season as a villain due to his unexpected popularity.
5. THOMAS AND MARTHA WAYNE
Thomas and Martha Wayne have died over and over and over again throughout most Batman-related media, including a few kids cartoons. No matter what angle it’s shown from, the death of the Waynes is incredibly Brutal, not just because they are shot down by a mugger, but also because we usually see Bruce’s reaction to it all.
The death of Thomas and Martha Wayne has been featured in Batman: The Animated Series (only in pieces of dreams), The Batman, Justice League Unlimited and Batman: The Brave & The Bold, and each of them are just as devastating as the live-action versions. The death of Thomas and Martha Wayne is crucial to Batman’s story and character, but the actual scene of their deaths is sometimes a bit much for kids’ cartoons.
4. THE MANY DEATHS OF DRAGON BALL Z
Alright, to be fair, Dragon Ball Z isn’t exactly a kids’ show, but we can definitely argue that a ton of kids in the late ’90s were watching it. Regardless, there is SO MUCH death in Dragon Ball Z, and most of them are brutal AF. There are too many to list here, so we’ll just pick some of the big ones.
Goku was killed by Piccolo to ensure Raditz’s death. Vegeta ANNIHILATED most of the Ginyu Force. Frieza got cut in half, was rebuilt with cybernetics and then sliced into pieces by Future Trunks. Future Trunks was shot through the chest by Cell. Gohan mortally maimed Cell with a kamehameha… honestly we could go on forever with this, and that’s not counting all the times the Earth has been destroyed! We love Dragon Ball Z, but how did it ever get put on a kids’ network?!
3. ANNIE – BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES
Batman: The Animated Series was known for getting pretty dark for a kids cartoon, probably because it was geared to be appealing to both adults and kids. That said, there was one SERIOUSLY dark episode with one of the most insane character deaths in animation. It was called “Growing Pains, ” and featured a young girl named Annie.
Annie appeared to be a frightened girl alone on the streets of Gotham. However, as it turns out, Annie was actually a part of Clayface, a piece of him created to walk the streets unnoticed. In one of the most disturbing scenes in cartoon history, Annie is eventually reabsorbed into Clayface’s body, struggling the whole time. It’s a disturbing sequence, Annie looking like she’s drowning in clay before disappearing forever.
2. CLAYTON – DISNEY’S TARZAN
Disney movies are pretty often considered to be great films for all ages. But, at the end of the day, these films are intended to be “family friendly,” thus geared more towards a younger audience. That said, there is still a TON of death in them, as we mentioned earlier with The Lion King. There’s one scene in Tarzan that crosses SO many lines that a kids’ movie should not.
The scene happens in the climax of the film, when Clayton is after Tarzan and the gorillas. Tarzan leads Clayton into a trap of vines, and when he tries to free himself, one of the vines wraps around his neck. Clayton essentially hangs himself with the vine, snapping his neck in this supposedly “family friendly” movie. Boy, Disney sure does like violent, karmic deaths.
1. AVATAR ROKU – AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER
Avatar: The Last Airbender may not have gotten away with as much as its sequel series, but it still pushed the envelope quite a bit. Then again, maybe this death scene isn’t so brutal that it was a “tough sell” to include it, but it’s still brutal regardless. The death we’re talking about is that of Avatar Roku, the Avatar before Aang, a citizen of the Fire Nation.
In his later years, Roku built a home on an island that eventually erupted from an unknown volcano. Roku was able to use his bending to keep the eruption at bay, but a second eruption occurred. Too weak to go on due to the toxic fumes, Roku and his dragon, Fang, were eventually consumed by the lava. Nothing graphic was shown in the scene, but it’s still one brutal way to go.
Can you think of any other deaths in kids cartoons that maybe should have never happened? Let us know in the comments!
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