Top 10 Cartoons To Never Watch In Front of Kids
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Top 10 Cartoons To Never Watch In Front of Kids

VOICE OVER: Tom Aglio WRITTEN BY: Beca Dalimonte
Just because they're animated doesn't mean these cartoons are for kids. For this list, we'll be looking at some animated TV shows that definitely aren't suitable for children. Our countdown includes “Big Mouth” (2017-), “Happy Tree Friends” (1999-2016), “Invincible” (2021-), “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” (2000-15), and more!
Transcript
Just because they're animated doesn't mean these cartoons are for kids. For this list, we’ll be looking at some animated TV shows that definitely aren’t suitable for children. Our countdown includes “Big Mouth” (2017-), “Happy Tree Friends” (1999-2016), “Invincible” (2021-), “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” (2000-15), and more! What are your favorite adult cartoons? Let us know in the comments!

#10: “Rick and Morty” (2013-)


Although the sci-fi sitcom may not be as much of a household name as “The Simpsons” or “Family Guy,” it’s likely you’ve heard of “Rick and Morty.” The Adult Swim series has been extremely profitable for its network, with plenty of toys, games, and t-shirts being produced featuring its characters. McDonald’s even infamously ran a “Rick and Morty” themed Szechuan sauce promotion, which was so popular that it resulted in unmanageable lines and shortages of the revived product. Unfortunately for any kids who may be interested in the series, this modern pop culture centerpiece is only intended for adult audiences. The series features copious amounts of over-the-top violence, strong language, mature content and frequent portrayals of its characters using substances and drinking alcohol.

#9: “Happy Tree Friends” (1999-2016)


The animal protagonists of “Happy Tree Friends” may look cute and cuddly, but the content of the series is anything but. The shocking web show (with a short-lived TV series) uses a style reminiscent of a kid’s cartoon in order to subvert expectations, with episodes often beginning by showing its characters in normal, everyday situations before unforeseen events lead to extreme violence. The gory barbarity is often shown to have no consequences for its cast of characters either, with new episodes almost always portraying the once-dead characters doing fine again. “Happy Tree Friends”’ deceptive style reportedly even tricked the YouTube Kids algorithm, which briefly displayed episodes of the series as “For Kids” in 2020 - to the horror of parents everywhere.

#8: “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” (2000-15)


For someone unfamiliar with the series, the title “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” may conjure up images of a “Captain Planet”-esque adventure series. This is not what “Aqua Teen” is. Instead, this Adult Swim series portrays the surreal high jinks of three anthropomorphized fast food items named Master Shake, Frylock, and Meatwad, who often run into trouble with their ill-tempered human neighbor, Carl. Like all Adult Swim series, this show is intended for adults, with its content becoming considerably more graphic and inappropriate after its fourth season. In the show, the characters do things such as: get dubious plastic surgery, drive drunk, and create a creature out of used condoms with a penchant for crime.

#7: “The Boondocks” (2005-14)


Based on the controversial comic strip of the same name, “The Boondocks” focuses on a Black family living in white suburbia. The series is best known for its biting cultural and political commentary, which has been known to cause backlash from both the media and its viewers. In addition to its often contentious viewpoints, the sitcom has also received criticism for its casual use of racist and homophobic slurs, which are said throughout its four-season run. For these reasons, and for the series’ use of violence and graphic nudity, “The Boondocks” is a strictly adult series - inappropriate for children in spite of its young protagonists and appealing anime-inspired style.

#6: “Big Mouth” (2017-)


Netflix hosts a myriad of kid’s cartoons such as “Centaurworld,” “Hilda,” and “She-Ra and the Princesses of Power.” “Big Mouth” is not one of them. This coming-of-age animation stars preteen and teen characters dealing with the realities of puberty while trying to make it through middle school, but is nonetheless a cartoon that is undeniably for adults. Unlike shows like “As Told By Ginger,” which deal with growing up in a kid-appropriate way, “Big Mouth” showcases the more taboo aspects of getting older - such as sexual desire, watching adult internet videos, and being pressured into trying drugs and alcohol. Although ultimately inappropriate for the age group of its protagonists, “Big Mouth” has been praised by adult critics for its honest depictions of childhood, being called “gross but utterly empathetic.”

#5: “Smiling Friends” (2020; 2022-)


What if there was a charity group that sought to improve the lives of its customers and make them smile? This is the idea behind “Smiling Friends” - both the show and the in-world company. Unfortunately, Smiling Friends employees Charlie and Pim are often met with a bit more than they bargained for when visiting clients. The first episode of the series sees the pair called to help a woman’s adult son, only to find that he keeps a gun to his head at all times. Other episodes see them helping a “toxic” celebrity, solving a murder, and going to [SB: “H-E-Double Hockey Sticks.”] Suffice to say none of these smiling friends’ adventures are child-appropriate, and it's best to watch this cartoon without them.

#4: “Moral Orel” (2005-2008; 2009)


With a young protagonist, and a stop-motion style reminiscent of “Davey and Goliath,” we wouldn’t blame parents if they initially thought “Moral Orel” was a children’s program. In reality, however, this satirical series frequently dealt with very adult subjects, including substance use disorder and mistreatment. Airing on Adult Swim, “Moral Orel” put modern day WASP culture under a microscope, revealing the consequences of a strict and closed-off fundementalist society through both emotionally moving and darkly humorous situations. Even the adult network the series aired on struggled with some of its controversial content, with three episodes from its first season being briefly held back because the Standards & Practices department found them to be “too dark.”

#3: “Beavis and Butt-Head” (1993-97; 2011)


In 1996, film critic Roger Ebert said “to study “Beavis & Butt-Head” is to learn about a culture of narcissism, […] instant gratification, and teenage zombiehood.” To put it simply, the protagonists are teen slackers, obsessed with consuming adult media and enacting violence - often at the expense of others. In this world, explosions, fire, and destruction are just [SB: “cool”] - a portrayal that would be heavily scrutinized after the show was blamed for copycat crimes. Although many of these claims were disproven, the show was nonetheless moved to a later time slot - and people were warned against showing the series to impressionable audiences.

#2: “Invincible” (2021-)


Superheroes aren’t just for kids anymore! And haven’t been for quite some time. Still, it should be said that “Invincible” is definitely NOT a kid’s cartoon. The Amazon series, based on the comic of the same name, follows the life of Mark Grayson, a teenager with a superhero father and who is beginning to develop powers of his own. The pair fight together in gory battles that are not for the faint of heart, with some sequences more comparable in content to horror movies than other superhero films or series. This bloody violence is even more intense than the series’ already graphic source material, and the themes explored in the show are equally dark and mature.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Robot Chicken” (2005-)


This Sketch Comedy Show Specializes in Edgy, Adult Parodies of Popular Shows & Movies

“Mr. Pickles” (2013; 2014-19)


Mr. Pickles May Look Like an Innocent Pup, but This Dog Is Secretly a Satanic Killer

“Love, Death, & Robots” (2019-)


A Mature Animated Anthology Focusing On, as Its Title Suggests, Love, Death, & Robots

#1: “South Park” (1997-)


The theme song for “South Park” may lull first-time viewers into a false sense of security, painting a picture of a nice town with “friendly faces everywhere” and “people spouting ‘Howdy neighbor!’” This illusion of normalcy is shattered, however, when one of the elementary-aged kids faces the camera and mumbles his inappropriate desires. Similarly shocking crude humor continues into the episodes, with the show’s young characters spouting every swear word imaginable while enacting extreme violence and consuming various substances. It’s safe to say that everything you wouldn’t want a child seeing or repeating is depicted in this long-lived series. The only saving grace is the show’s rudimentary style, which can soften the blow of some of its more graphic scenes.
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