Beginner’s Guide to Watching Cartoons as an Adult

Yep, I’m one of those people. The ones who can’t grow out of their cartoon phase and creepily gobble up kiddie cartoons like no other, snacking on cap’n crunch drenched in chocolate syrup. Just kidding, I have Celiac; no gluten for me. Off the bat, I have watched all the seasons of at least 5 different cartoon shows and I have no regrets whatsoever.

Aren’t cartoons just for kids? There’s nothing in a cartoon that adults would find entertaining! I meet a lot of people that scoff when they find out I watch cartoons and a lot of these people think I’m watching cartoons of the same caliber of the ones I watched as a child. I get it, I used to be that person before I was forcibly converted, holy water and all. Although that’s true that the cartoons I watched as a kid, which are way too immature for me now, that doesn’t mean there aren’t cartoons for you out there.

What I’m talking about are cartoons with that subtle adult humor in it that is harmless if kids catch it, but adds a little somethin’ extra when watching it as an adult—multi-age cartoons. These happen to be the ones with huge cult followings too, but I knew them before they got big… because I’m a hipster. Also don’t tell anyone I told you myself that I was a hipster. That’s not what hipsters do. Ah, god, these manuals need to be more user-friendly.

The ones we watched as kids, like Scooby-Doo aren’t intellectually stimulating at all… unless you’re somehow incapacitated temporarily in that sense, ahem hangovers. These are the kid equivalent of procedural CSI shows—stuff you can put on in the background, promptly forget, come back 40 minutes later and immediately understand what you missed. Obviously, this guide is by no means comprehensive, mostly because I haven’t had much time to foray into all sorts of cartoons, or at all unbiased, because this is a personal blog. But it takes a very special kind to get me to watch, so if you’re the same, this is perfect for you.

Adventure Time

Adventure Time

This one’s a pretty popular one and very easy to get into. If someone’s been telling you to watch this for a while, I’d go home, watch it, slap myself for not believing them earlier, and then binge the next 50 episodes on cloud 9.

It follows a 12-year-old boy Finn (you can still empathize with a 12-year-old character, can’t you, you monster!) in the Land of Ooo with his magical dog Jake, who is basically like Mrs. Incredible in that he is super malleable and can take on any form at any time. This show is about their adventures in this kingdom and its inhabitants, some of which include Lumpy Space Princess, my favorite, and Ice King. The humor in it is spot on and sometimes subtle if you don’t know it’s there.

One of my favorite episodes with LSP is when she tries to make herself “smooth” to fit in—a great metaphor for body image, actually. But don’t just take my word for it; IndieWire basically said the same thing here, calling it a sci-fi show. Just try an episode or two and you’ll know whether you like it or not!

Great Quotes:

  • “How do I say, ‘You’re the grossest thing ever’ without offending you?” 
  • “This outbox is packed tighter than my tummy tunnel when I can’t make brown on the camping trips. Because of my anxiety and I have IBS also.” 

Avatar: the Last Airbender

Avatar Oh man, this one is the cause of some long sleepless nights in high school after my friend finally convinced me to watch it. I was extremely wary because the art style was quite similar to that of anime, which is what kids gunning for social suicide watched nonstop. But I have to say, Avatar is Nickelodeon’s crowning glory.

This one is more plot-driven than the other ones and features equally small characters. Let’s call it the Harry Potter of cartoons in its quest-like wonder. Basically, in this world there are 4 nations based on the element certain members of their population can control; air, fire, water, and earth. The people who can control these elements are called [element]-benders. Somewhere in that mix is an Avatar, which is one person who can control all of the elements in case of emergencies. Thing is, for the past 100 years, no one has seen the Avatar… until these two kids find him encased in a giant ice ball. And that’s just where the story starts.

The whole series is only 3 seasons so it’s a very quick commitment. For a kids’ cartoon, it dealt with a lot of more serious issues than I was prepared to face in high school. I am also emotionally stunted.

Gravity Falls

gravity falls2 Gravity Falls is my latest cartoon find and came surprisingly from the Disney Channel, home of winners like Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez. I was unsure of the show at first because I didn’t really like the animation style. And then I finished season one in 2 days—wait, what? They use more adult humor to keep you engaged throughout and there’s an element of supernaturalism. Basically, the premise is that two kids are staying with their great-uncle Stan, who owns Mystery Shack somewhere in Oregon. Pretty quickly, within the first episode, you realize that something is off about this town… something supernatural.

One of many quality quotes:

Mabel: Ah, the pool! Sparkling oasis of summer enchantment!
Stan: Yeah, nothing like sitting in a moist tub with strangers. It’s like the bus but wet.

Bob’s Burgers

bobs-burgers-514c649e300d5 Ah, Bob’s Burgers. If I didn’t like Gravity Falls’s animation, I really didn’t like the animation in Bob’s Burgers. It reminded me too much of shows like Family Guy, which I don’t care for. And anyone that puts that little effort into character design knows they’re animating a crappy series.. or so I thought. Turns out that they put little effort into character design because they knew the humor and storyline could carry itself! Rife with kids with adult lines and a hypersexual daughter that is voiced by a man. Actually, all of the voice actors are men, save for Louise, the girl in the pink bunny ears… which is hilarious when you think about it. If that didn’t get you to search for the show immediately, I’m not sure if you’re human!

The only premise this show has is that Bob and his family man his burger restaurant, called Bob’s Burgers. That’s it. Everything else revolves around the characters and their interactions. Whereas Avatar is a plot-driven show, I would say Bob’s is a character-driven one.

Favorite quotes: 

Tina: I’m no hero. I put my bra on one boob at a time like everyone else.
Tina: Your ass is grass and I’m going to mow it.
Gene: Can I just say one thing? I think I have the best legs in the whole family, and the smoothest bottom. 

Teen Titans

teen titans This is here because I couldn’t leave it without a superhero cartoon! This is based off of the original DC comics, but probably got its popularity from not having characters that are constantly overused in the media. I mean, when else do you get to see Robin (from Batman and Robin) lead an elite teen team of superheros, including Cyborg (half man, half robot), beast boy (who can turn into any animal), Raven (daughter of a human and an interdimensional demon) , and Starfire (from a different planet).

I would compare this series to that of the Sky High movie, where it’s basically a bunch of side- or lesser-known characters that join together to make an awesome force. This one is awesome in the classic, easy, stand-alone superhero episodes that remind us all of our childhoods.


People always talk to coworkers about movies they saw over the weekend, but I hardly notice anyone watching Big Hero 6 or How to Train Your Dragon 2, both of which are widely acknowledged as amazing movies. Go see them now. Regardless of the style or whether there are actual human actors in the movie or not, cartoons are cool, too! I mean, we all still watch the rare Disney when they do come out with new animated movies, why can’t we do the same to off-brand cartoons as well?

So far, I feel like cartoon-watching adults still occupy a very small, niche category. I was even a little hesitant in outing myself on the blog… but also it’s my blog and I would feel too constrained if I couldn’t share even the most basic facets of my personality with you guys. I love how silly cartoons are and, in a way, it comforts me knowing that I can still get into them. It only means that my imagination is flexible as ever. Keep that kid inside you alive, y’all; don’t take yourself too seriously ;)

Do you still watch cartoons? Why or why not?

*all photos not from me, found on various sources on the internet

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  • http://www.californienne.com/ Marianne

    omg I’ve been watching Bob’s Burgers lately and it makes me laugh til I’m crying. The characters are hilarious and just when I’ve decided “yep, Tina is my favorite character” one of the other ones does something that totally tears that idea apart. I have always been an adult cartoon watcher. I remember in high school I went to a friends house and I was surprised when she put on the Colbert Report and not cartoons. THAT means I’m weird. But it’s cool cus there are good cartoon shows! Adventure Time is hilarious too but I can’t really watch it without feeling like I”m on drugs.

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      YAAAAAS! I feel like we’d be great friends in real life. My favorite example would be when Tina is driving the car in the almost-empty parking lot hahaha. Wait, your friend was watching Colbert Report instead of cartoons in HIGH SCHOOL? Whhaaaat. I mean, Colbert Report is awesome, not gonna lie, but at that stage of life, I was definitely more into cartoons. Haha, I love Adventure Time because it’s so silly. What other cartoons do you watch?

      • http://www.californienne.com/ Marianne

        Yes I agree, great friends! Yea she’d watch the Colbert Report (she originally told me I said it wrong when I pronounced all the letters, “no, its colbehr repor”) but she would watch cartoons too. We would watch Spongebob together and a couple other shows that I’m having trouble remembering right now. I haven’t been watching many cartoons lately because all I have to access are French television shows that the kids watch, and then what’s available on Netflix. So lately Bob’s Burgers has been my go-to.

        • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

          Oh, haha. She’s redeemed herself. Do French children watch Asterix and things like that? Hahah. I’ve been trying to find some interesting French shows so I could improve my French, but so far they’re Spiral, that one really disturbingly graphic crime show. But I would prefer something that wouldn’t make me want to puke.

          • http://www.californienne.com/ Marianne

            The French kids watch shows like Scooby Doo and the Smurfs (which are called Stroomphs – wtf) and les Lapins Cretins (which I just looked up and I guess it’s a Nickelodeon show). They’ve watched Asterix a couple times but mostly it’s all dubbed American tv shows… I’d say maybe try movies? You’ll probably have more luck, I could recommend a few good French movies.

          • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

            LOL glad to see that childhoods aren’t that different, even 20 years later. Stroomphs, LOL, because “Smurfs” was really too different.

            Yeah! I’d love some French movie recommendations!

          • http://www.californienne.com/ Marianne

            yeah that was almost my exact comment! Like, why change it to to “Stroomphs?” Isn’t Smurfs weird enough?

            Let’s see… I’d recommend The Intouchables, La Femme Nikita, Amelie (of course) and then if you like Amelie watch Delicatessen (one of my favorite movies of all time), City of Lost Children, A Very Long Engagement…. let’s see what else… Coco Before Chanel, High Tension, The Triplettes of Belleville (although there isn’t much that’s actually spoken, this is just a great little animated film), Ernest & Celestine…

          • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

            Hahaha. Wow, I’m surprised at how many titles I recognized! I think it’s because I half-assedly took this film class while studying abroad. I’ve seen The Intouchables (loved), Amelie (loved), City of Lost Children (eh), Triplettes of Belleville (yes!). But I will for sure check out the rest.

            I love watching movies with Romain Duris in it, like the series spawned from L’Auberge Espagnole. Or the corny little romances he’s in.

  • http://lanivcox.wordpress.com/ Lani

    I love cartoons, but I don’t watch them regularly. Although, now I don’t have any excuses because you just served up a whole of ideas :) And honestly, I think cartoons are geared towards adults anyway…the humor is almost always over the head of children. xxoo

    • http://mishfish13.com/ Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Hahaha YES, Lani!! I think that too… SOMETHING has to entertain the parents when they have to take their kids to the movies. And I believe that parents secretly enjoy the cartoons they take their kids to.