The Golden Rules of Crafting Memorable Kids Cartoons

Crafting

Creating a memorable and beloved children’s cartoon is no easy feat. While kids’ shows may seem simple on the surface, a lot of thought and care goes into making cartoons that truly resonate with young audiences. There are several key ingredients that the most classic and iconic kids’ cartoons of all time have in common. Follow these golden rules to craft a children’s animated series that stands the test of time. The results are simply going to be a whole lot better than when you do not respect the rules.

Design Matters

The visual design of a cartoon aimed at children is incredibly important. Kids respond strongly to stimulating colours, whimsical environments, and cute character designs. When crafting the overall aesthetic of your cartoon, opt for an Art Deco graphic design style. This 1920s-inspired look featuring bold geometric shapes and patterns is very eye-catching and lends itself well to creating stylised cartoon worlds. Additionally, make sure your characters are distinct both in their personalities and their physical attributes. Children will latch onto a memorable visual hook like a unique outfit or hairstyle.

Focus on Relatable Stories and Characters

While imaginary worlds can be fun, the most beloved kids’ cartoons feature stories and characters that children can see themselves in. Build narratives that explore universal childhood themes like friendship, imagination, growing up and finding one’s place in the world. When crafting your cast of characters, give each one a flaw that kids will recognise from their own lives or experiences, like shyness, trouble focusing or difficulty making friends. The ability to relate to cartoon characters and situations helps kids feel seen and builds a powerful emotional connection between your show and its young viewers.

When we have cartoons with perfect characters, it is a certainty that the results will not be as great as you might imagine. Children do not really like perfect characters, even if this is what we would naturally think. Every single successful cartoon character in history had some sort of flaw. Like Sailor Moon was a little goofy and Jerry had some clear character faults as well. 

Use Humour Kids Can Understand

Laughter is a key ingredient in any successful children’s series. The visual gags, silly dialogue and absurd situations typical of kids’ cartoons tickle young funny bones. But be wary of relying too much on topical humour or references that will go over your audience’s heads. Use your knowledge of childhood innocence, play, and simple truths to build jokes grounded in the world kids know best. Potty humour might seem lowbrow to adult sensibilities, but little ones eat it up! Don’t be afraid to get goofy and lean into the silliness.

Provide a Moral Lesson

Most iconic cartoons aim to teach kids something or impart a moral lesson wrapped up in zany adventures. Build storylines that showcase positive values like honesty, integrity, responsibility and compassion. Having identifiable villains and heroes that represent good and bad allows you to clearly communicate messages about right and wrong. And always aim to resolve your stories with the “good guys” prevailing and the characters learning something valuable. Moral lessons reassure children and give them role models to emulate.

Make Educational Entertainment

Kids have short attention spans, so any lessons or educational content you want to convey must go down smoothly. Seamlessly integrate academic topics into engaging stories and adventures. For example, an episode about characters putting on a play could explore reading by having them rehearse and memorise lines. A story about building a soapbox car could explore maths and science principles. Have your characters show curiosity and a passion for learning new things. Kids will happily absorb knowledge when it doesn’t feel like “learning”.

But, you have to be sure that you are careful during this process. The goal here is to provide entertainment and education at the same time. This is not as easy to achieve as you might initially think. It is a very good idea to set up some sort of research process so that you can be sure you would achieve a proper mix. 

Lean into Imagination and Fantasy

Children live in a world of magical thinking and imagination. Your cartoon should take full advantage by creating a fantasy environment far from reality. Populate your world with magical creatures, talking animals, fairies, monsters and anything your mind can dream up! Episode stories can highlight make-believe concepts like characters shrinking down small, switching bodies or gaining superpowers. Let your characters have larger-than-life adventures going to space, exploring the jungle or even venturing inside the human body. When crafting your cartoon world, give your imagination free rein.

If you have problems with leaning into imagination and fantasy, the very best thing that you could do is actually discuss it with children. Kids will quickly give you ideas. They will tell you what they like, what they do not like, and what they would want to see in a cartoon you would create. This is something you can always take into account in the creation of better cartoons. 

Engage the Audience

The most engaging cartoons make children feel like they are part of the adventure. Look for creative ways to incorporate the audience directly into storylines and make them active participants. You could have a contest where kids get to design a new character who will feature in an episode. Or ask viewers to vote on plotlines and let them determine the direction stories take.

Another idea is to have a recurring character that breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audience, taking comments and suggestions from kids watching. You can even base entire episodes around fan mail from children and their wonderful business ideas for the cartoon characters. When you empower the audience and make them feel heard, they become invested in the show’s success. 

Creating a truly memorable and beloved cartoon for children is challenging, but following these golden rules gives you a blueprint. With vivid graphic designs, rascal characters and goofy gags grounded in the highs and lows of childhood, you’ll connect with little hearts and minds for generations.

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