Cartoo-Much: 25 Kids Cartoons That Will Make You Blush

cartoons that make us blush dexter roger rabbit

People are quick to dismiss cartoons as “kids stuff,” but they were never just for kids. The earliest animation was designed with adult audiences in mind, from the propagandistic WWII-era Disney shorts meant to teach soldiers about the dangers of VD to the curvaceous and salacious Betty Boop. Of course, the now classic Looney Tunes are riddled with enough subtle bawdy jokes to rival the works of Shakespeare. In actual fact, those particular cartoons have become just as well known for their adult humor as they have for their entertainment value as children's shows.

Once channels began devoting themselves entirely to cartoons, they knew they had to throw a few little things in for the stay-at-home parents, just so they would have something entertaining to glom onto while their little ones were devouring the bright and shiny content on-screen. There were those flickering moments or subtle jokes that would go over your head, make your parents snicker, and have them reply “Oh nothing” when you asked why. Looking back, you can’t help but blush at the brash content, amazed that anyone let such things air (while also wondering how many of those jokes subconsciously crafted your twisted sense of humor).

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We all remember the Smurfs, the jolly happy communal society where everyone was defined by their job. Well, everyone except Smurfette, who was seemingly named for being “the girl one.” (Yes, we know Smurfette was actually created by Gargamel instead of being a “real” Smurf, don’t @-mention us). Some Smurf stories, like 2017’s Smurfs: The Lost Village, handled the defining nature of Smurfette’s gender brilliantly.

Others, like the cartoon episode “Supersmurf,” have her offering to show her "special area" to an ogre named Bigmouth. And if you think we’re making this up, just try and tell us a different way to read “Oh, you silly ogre. I'm not a Smurf, I’m a Smurfette. Wanna see?” We don’t know what physical differences there are between Smurfs and Smurfettes, but seems like some show writer really wanted to tell us.


We’re gonna lay our cards on the table here: Everything about young ChiChi in Dragon Ball should weird you out a little. Though she’s best remembered as the grown woman in the long dresses in Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball chose to depict her as a child wearing nothing but the skimpiest of blue bikini, a cape and a helmet.

If the outfit doesn’t weird you out enough, the flashback to ChiChi and Goku’s first date in the DBZ episode “Gohan’s First Date” oughta be enough to do the job. ChiChi, specifically describing herself as a little girl, recalls luring equally young Goku out to the woods, where she tells him “The boy is supposed to think of the most pleasurable thing in the world, and then coax the girl into doing it with him.” Thankfully for viewers who don’t want to end up on a registry, Goku misunderstood her implication, and they begin sparring.


15 Times The Censors Fell Asleep During DC Cartoons

No, that title isn’t in reference to a Batman Beyond theme park ride. Currently, no such ride exists, and that one guy at Six Flags keeps telling us he’s just an employee and “doesn’t get to make those decisions” (we know that’s b.s., Jimmy the Churro Boy. Now build us a Batman Beyond ride).

Instead, we’re referring to an exchange in the “Golem” episode of the cult-classic TV series where a young man tells his girlfriend “I’m sick of the mall. How ‘bout a ride?” His girlfriend fires back “You like that car more than me,” to which he retorts, “Who’s talking about cars?” We may have been young, we may not have known what he meant, but even in the moment, we recognized that mad game.


Fantasia might be Walt Disney’s finest cinematic achievement. A bold, ambitious demonstration of animation as art. Pairing classical music with evocative and occasionally disturbing imagery, Fantasia is now held up as a family classic, even if certain segments are definitely not family friendly.

Some moments, like “The Pastoral,” featured topless female centaurs, but they appear to sport unblemished fleshy mounds, enough to pass by today’s censors (though the awful racist caricatures in the segment, not so much). In the famous “Night on Bald Mountain” segment, however, some animator decided that the terrifying harpies didn’t need noses, but they just had to have nipples. Like the duck breasts in Howard the Duck, it's the nipples that make it weird. Presumably, some young animator had those harpies burned into his brain, and that’s how we wound up with Heavy Metal.


Jokes about the Flash being “the fastest man alive” in the bedroom aren’t new. They’ve been made in countless spoofs and adult oriented material for decades. You’d expect those jokes from Robot Chicken or Saturday Night Live, or even some of the more irreverent Vertigo titles. You might not expect it buried in an episode of the great, but child-oriented, Justice League cartoon.

In “Eclipse” Flash is boasting to Hawkgirl of how he extinguished a fire with great speed. After boasting that he’s the “fastest man alive”, Hawkgirl snarkily responds “{It} might explain why you can’t get a date.” Flash, at first, doesn’t get the joke, and neither did the show’s young viewers. But don’t feel bad, Flash. It happens to every guy once in a while. The important thing is the effort, or so we’ve been told.


2009’s Dragonball Evolution is an unbridled garbage fire that fails to capture the spirit, or even just the basic skeletal structure, of its source material. In its defense, however, had it been a fully faithful adaptation, it likely would have wound up on late-night Cinemax. You see, Bulma goes au naturel in Dragon Ball. A lot.

One might find themselves troubled at how many times a young woman is exposed and exploited, not just as throwaway gags but as crucial plot points. From offering to show off for a pre-pubescent Goku in exchange for his Dragon Ball to exposing herself to Master Roshi (and subsequently being exposed by Krillin) in exchange for his, it’s hard for any but the least bashful to revisit this children’s series without blushing.


The Ice King from Cartoon Network's Adventure Time

TV animation is going through a new wave of creativity and experimentation, tackling once taboo topics and trying to acclimate their young viewers to today’s modern world, be it through depictions of same-sex relationships or breaking down gender roles or the importance of consent. At the forefront of this wave is the brilliant Adventure Time.

Of course, you can’t do all that without raising a few eyebrows. In “When Wedding Bells Thaw,” the infamous Ice King has captured a princess who is seemingly willing to marry him. In a “traditional wedding ritual,” the Ice King ties up his soon-to-be-bride when Finn and Jake arrive. Finn, surveying the scene, doesn’t question the Ice King’s actions but simply asks “And your bride is into that?” Seems Finn may not know too much about the land of Ooo, but he knows about kink. What kind of videos are on BMO, anyway?


The Road to El Dorado is a wildly under-appreciated animated adventure film from 2000 that reunited acclaimed Shakespeare actors Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh after their last appearance in 1999’s Wild Wild West. Oh boy, we hope they fired their agents some time in the new millennium. Regardless, though many critics were quick to say “El Dorado Blows,” it doesn’t. Well, there is that one scene…

The story, about two Spaniards who stumble upon the legendary City of Gold, included a love interest for Kline’s Tulio named Chel, who was voiced by the inimitable Rosie Perez. The film includes the typical “suggested romance” scene where you see the two characters pop up from offscreen disheveled, the implication typically being some heavy kissing. In El Dorado, however, the lower placement of Chel’s head compared to Tulio’s implies the animators had a much more specific act in mind.


Power Puff Girls Miss Bellum sharpening pencil

Powerpuff Girls was one of the most empowering and feminist cartoons of its era, or arguably ever, with strong female leads, bold transgressive humor and a narrative heart of progress and tolerance. That said, more than a little humor was had at the alluring and curvaceous figure of the Mayor’s secretary, Ms. Bellum.

Throughout the show, characters’ impersonation of Bellum often involved her… attributes (most notably Blossom pretending to be Bellum by stuffing plush animals in her shirt), but the villainous Sedusa took her impersonation to a whole other level. Taking on the appearance of Ms. Bellum, Sedusa attempts to, well, perform her namesake act with the Mayor by… sharpening his pencil, the implications of which were profound, to say the least. The reactions, voiced by Tom Kenny, tell you all you need to know.


That Disney’s Aladdin is a stone-cold classic isn’t in question, but many write off the direct-to-video sequels. They’re missing out, as particularly the final film in the trilogy, Aladdin and the King of Thieves, is almost as good as the original, and could have succeeded as a theatrical release, particularly with the return of Robin Williams to the role of the Genie after a contract dispute.

The film focuses on Aladdin and Jasmine’s wedding, and Aladdin reconnecting with his father Cassim, the King of Thieves. The wedding is disrupted by an earthquake, and Robin Williams spouts off a classic one-liner: “I thought the Earth wasn’t supposed to move until the honeymoon” (like the original film there’s a good chance this line was improvised). Go back and watch King of Thieves to see what other adult jokes got slipped in. Or just to see a really good flick you missed. Trust us, it holds up.


If you remember animation master Genndy Tartakovsky’s Dexter’s Laboratory, you’ll recall Dexter’s antagonistic relationship with rival genius Mandark. Jealous of Dexter’s genius, Mandark found an array of ways to try and sabotage his work, and in “Momdark,” it backfires in the most awkward way.

As the title suggests, Mandark hopes to access Dexter’s Lab by impersonating his mother, but quickly finds that Mom had way more responsibilities than he anticipated. The episode has a fine message for kids about the undue burdens placed on moms to help them appreciate their own, but one of the implied “burdens” likely went over their head. When Dad calls down to Momdark to “come to bed,” Mandark avoids it by claiming he has a “roast burning” to which a disappointed Dad fires back “That’s what you say every night.”


Though not remembered as fondly as some of the other early Cartoon Network series, Johnny Bravo was a clear stand out when its shorts aired during Hannah Barbera’s What A Cartoon! Show. The character was an odd collection of contemporary archetypes (greaser, ladies man, Elvis fanatic) that wouldn’t resonate with '90s youth, and yet the show was a hit.

The show was also fairly subversive in its handling of adult content, an unavoidable narrative element when your character’s sole driving force seems to be getting laid. One might think, because the show is aimed at children, that Bravo talks a big game but never goes the distance. However, in the third pilot “Johnny Bravo and the Amazon Women” (storyboarded by none other than Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane), Johnny is tossed into a volcano as a “virgin sacrifice,” only to be spit back out. That’s right, it’s canon that Johnny’s gotten it on.


2 Stupid Dogs was a show created by TBS to rival the subversive success of Ren & Stimpy. Though not particularly groundbreaking in its own right, the show did help launch the careers of noteworthy animators like Genndy Tartakovsky (Dexter’s Lab, Samurai Jack), Craig McCracken (Powerpuff Girls, Foster’s Home) and Butch Hartman (Fairly OddParents).

Of course, we won’t pretend like the humor of a show called 2 Stupid Dogs was particularly high-brow. For example, “At The Drive-In” finds the two dogs entranced by a “Let’s All Go To The Lobby” concessions ad, thinking the food will be just as large in person. Given the setting, the animators couldn’t help but include a little bit of “realism” by depicting the cars in the lot rocking back and forth.


Disney was going through a rough phase in the ‘80s (no, not every single thing was perfect in the ‘80s). A four year gap after The Fox & The Hound yielded the abysmal Tolkien rip-off The Black Cauldron, and the future looked bleak for the famed studio. But they turned it around with critical and financial hit The Great Mouse Detective, a story taking place in a pint-sized version of Victorian London.

Of course, given the nefarious nature of the era, one would expect some somewhat mature content. Yet, revisiting GMD, it’s genuinely jarring how much of the film involves gruesome death and, weirdly, tiny mouse strippers. Yep, the family friendly company behind Mickey Mouse has a character straight up strip for the amusement of tipsy and amorous rodents (while our heroes get slipped a mickey, no less).


Rocko’s Modern Life was, let’s face it, in no way for children. Sure, we all watched it, but nary a single element of the plot nor the humor was designed with kids in mind. Stories revolved around paying taxes, doing laundry and often existential angst over losing one’s identity to contemporary consumerist culture. It’s basically Fight Club. That’s what we’re saying.

It was also riddled with innuendo and sometimes outright bawdy humor, from locations named the Chokey Chicken and the No-Tell Motel (which had hourly rates, naturally), to Rocko having to get a job working for a phone hotline where he had to repeat the phrase “Oh baby, oh baby, oh baby.” Perhaps the most explicit, however, is a joke where Rocko went to grab what he assumed was a berry, only for a very alarmed bear to flee the bush, grabbing his crotch in pain.


When you think of kids cartoons not meant for kids, the first thing that comes to mind has to be Ren & Stimpy. Crafted in the lawless early days of Nickelodeon, Ren & Stimpy was as subversive as anything MTV or Ralph Bakshi could ever conjure, seemingly delighted that it could get its weird, gross sensibilities on the air in front of the impressionable Clinton-era youth.

The epitome of edgy, Ren & Stimpy was riddled with implied perversity and vulgarity, much to the delight of its older fanbase. In “Sven Hoek,” for example, Stimpy’s cousins Sven comes to visit, and the two share an intimate dip in Stimpy’s litter box. Breaking the fourth wall, Stimpy turns to the camera, criticizing the viewer for intruding on their shared time, saying “Hey, this is private” before Sven slowly shuts the closet door.


Though it could never happen today, in those halcyon days of ‘90s anime dubs, most of the humor in Pokemon was mined from the implied homosexuality of Team Rocket villain James. Somewhere between winking and mocking, the series always found ways to acknowledge the implication, from double entendre like “It’s times like these that make me wanna go straight” to comments about Team Rocket’s policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

In the episode “Like It or Lup It”, the Pokemon Carnivine tries to bite James, and he shoots back “Carnivine, I’m not a piece of fruit!” which, ok, perfectly normal line, but follows it up with “No matter what anybody says!” Now, to kids, the line is an absurd suggestion that people might think James was, in fact, a piece of fruit. To those who’ve heard the slur tossed at people in the gay community, it's downright offensive!


Rugrats Space Vixens Joke

Rugrats is one of the few shows from its era that truly holds up. Its whimsical innocence and profound sense of heart couldn’t be ruined by the passage of time (but it could be tarnished by All Grown Up). Even its “raunchy” jokes are tame compared to other entries here, but we have to give props to the famously “Can you believe they did that?” screenshot that’s been circulating the internet in recent years.

Tasked to babysit the kids, Grandpa Pickles rented some movies (back in our day, streaming video wasn’t a thing, youngins). He reads off the titles, Reptar Come Home, Reptar Redux and Lonely Space Vixens, which he calls a “personal favorite” before stating “now that's for after you go to bed."


There’s no denying the sultry, seductive design of Jessica Rabbit alone is enough to make the average viewer blush, even in today’s sensually oversaturated culture. She’s not bad, she stresses, she’s just drawn that way, and clearly the artists had a lot of fun drawing her. But either unintentionally or in the most subversive act since somebody hid breasts in The Rescuers, Jessica Rabbit revealed a bit more detail than Disney would have liked.

When Jessica is flung from the cartoon cab in the film, her dress flies to the side, and eagle-eyed Laserdisc viewers noticed that the character appeared to be wearing nothing underneath. Given the character’s spread-legged position and the skin-tone in between, the implication is undeniable, even if the animators never thought it would get noticed.


Ah, Shrek. The first film to win the Best Animated Feature Oscar, the film to position DreamWorks Animation as a rival to the reign of Pixar, and the Godfather of meme culture, Shrek was recognized even in its day for its adult humor and themes. Of course, one joke that had all the adults laughing left all us kids feeling like Donkey.

When we first arrive in Dulock with our heroes, Shrek and Donkey notice a giant tower belonging to Lord Farquaad. Shrek turns to Donkey and asks if he’s “compensating for something," and the implication goes right over Donkey’s, and the young audience's, heads. Of course, the film would reveal that he was indeed compensating for his diminutive height, but Shrek’s chummy nudging tone suggests that he was asking whether Farquaad was… proportional.


Today, the practice of circumcision is conducted when the young man is still an infant, even though the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend it as a routine procedure, and its contemporary origins come from an archaic thought that the act might curb the temptation for “self-pleasure. Look, we know this is a lot of background for a dumb joke, but roll with us here...

Anyway, in the surprisingly solid Rugrats Movie, the newborn babies are all examining themselves, taking stock of their bodies now sprung from the womb. One baby remarks that they cut off their umbilical cord, and another lifts up his diaper, looks down and says “Consider yourself lucky.” Because that’s what we all turned to Rugrats for. Foreskin humor.


One has to wonder whether any of the many volatile experiments committed in Dexter’s laboratory violate any federal or even international laws, but if there’s one crime we never expected Dexter to commit on his show, it’s solicitation. Yet, in the Season 2 episode "Dee Dee and the Man," he does just that, and the joke went right over our heads.

After firing Dee Dee for being too much of a distraction, Dexter finds he misses her annoyances and holds auditions for a “new sister,” finally settling on the curvaceous Candi. After her delivery of the phrase “What does this button do?” gets Dexter so bothered that he needs to shower off (we assume that’s what he disappeared to do, anyway), he tells her she needs to dance, to which she responds “That’ll be 50 bucks extra,” giving us a sense of what Candi did for work outside the lab.


For anyone who watched Hey Arnold!, Helga’s unhealthy obsession with Arnald was obvious. She built shrines to the kid, for goodness sake. The show was a lesson in red flags. That said, we all surely wrote off Helga’s obsession as an innocent childhood crush, where the apex of physical connection would be some hand holding in the park.

However, in a line not even Nickelodeon can believe they got away with, as evidenced by their posting it to the NickSplat Youtube account with the tagline “Wait…what,” Helga suggests a much deeper and more… mature desire for the football-headed preteen. Writing in her journal, Helga declare that Arnold makes her “girlhood tremble.” Sure, sometimes we read dirty meanings into innocent phrases, but there’s no other way to interpret that phrase. And if you’re not clear what “girlhood” she’s referring to… well… we hope you find a really patient partner some day.


We’re gonna put this out there: the much maligned Cars franchise isn’t nearly as bad as it's made out to be (except the horrendous Cars 2). Of course, the fact that the films, about how middle America was written off by the coastal elites, are themselves written off by said elites might explain how we got to where we are now. If they’d taken the time to watch this tribute to the dying heartland, they might have seen where this mighty nation’s tides were turning. They might also have seen a solid boob joke.

You see, Piston Cup champion Lightning McQueen has his fair share of adoring fans, including Mia and Tia, a pair of twin cars who proclaim to be his “biggest fans.” After a race, the twins greet Lightning by yelling his catchphrase “Ka-chow” and flashing their headlights, before being whisked off by security for their implied indecent exposure. The analogy doesn’t quite add up, though, when you realize no one has ever said “Geez, it’s foggy out today. Better take my bra off.”


Yep. We’re gonna talk about this. In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the renewed conversations about the importance of consent and the exposure of manipulative, predatory men like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, it’s hard not to look at the “classic” Pepe Le Pew cartoons and not think “Oh god.”

There’s no dancing around it. Though treated as “humorously incorrigible” in his day, and meant to play into American stereotypes of the French (interestingly, in the French dubs, Pepe le Putois is depicted as Italian), it's hard to watch a character just straight up molest a resistant female and chuckle. Sure, there’s probably some Looney Tunes equivalent of Ann Coulter writing an article about how it’s the cat’s fault for accidentally sporting a “provocative” paint stripe on her back, but for the rest of us… good lord, these cartoons haven’t aged well.

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