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A cartoon is a form of art with diverse origins and even more diverse modern meanings.

In its historical original meaning, a cartoon is a full-size drawing made on paper as a study for a further artwork, such as a painting. However, cartoons were typically used in the production of frescoes in order to accurately link the component parts of the composition when painted onto newly applied fresh plaster over a series of days. Cartoons by painters such as Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci are highly prized in their own right.

A stereotypical mad scientist cartoon
A stereotypical mad scientist cartoon

Nowadays a cartoon is a humorous drawing of some description. This usage dates from the 1840s when Punch magazine applied the terms to satirical drawings in its pages. The first of these parodied frescoes in the then-new Palace of Westminster. The original title for such drawings in Punch was Mr Punch's pencillings and the title 'cartoon' was intended to be ironic - these were still essentially line-art drawings in pencil and/or ink.

Over time, more cartoons in Punch made other satirical points and, eventually, came merely to be humorous drawings, usually (although not always) with a punchline caption at the bottom. Many early examples of these are reproduced on the Punch website and are impenetrably obscure by today's standards.

The modern understanding of cartoon falls into two further categories - comic strip and animated cartoons.

Comic strips are found daily in newspapers worldwide and are frequently compiled into books. Comic strips are either individual drawings or a series of (usually) three drawings side-by-side. Each square of a strip is referred to as a 'cell'. Cartoons in this sense include Peanuts, drawn by Charles Schulz, Garfield, by Jim Davis, or Dilbert by Scott Adams, although there are literally hundreds of others. Some comic strips retain a satirical and even literary edge, such Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau. Additionally, graphic novels tie cartoon-like illustrations to a novel-like plot and word-count.

Animated cartoons are usually shown on television or cinema screens and are created by drawing thousands of individual drawings which are shown rapidly in succession to give the impression of movement. In this meaning, the word cartoon is often shortened to toon, which may be a corruption of Looney Tunes. Toon was popularized in the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. Toons are often anthropomorphized animals used in non-serious fiction. It is not generally used to in reference to anime characters. A major distinction between the two is the squash and stretch mannerism of American cartoon characters.

Cartoons and the porn industry

During the 1990s, many pornographic studios have dedicated to the proliferation of pornographic cartoon or anime movies (see Hentai). These movies are, of course, targeted to a mature audience and not available to children. Likewise, pornographic cartoon websites have proliferated over the internet, where well known cartoon and anime characters can be seen in sexually explicit positions. Likewise, children under eighteen are strictly forbidden from entering these websites.

During the late 1990s, Sailor Moon characters were among the most popular characters to appear on these types of websites. During the 2000s, some of the most famous cartoons to be featured in these websites are Kimpossible, Totally Spies and others.

The psychology behind people who wish to go and see cartoons in Censored page may indicate a need to see what cannot be seen: Cartoon characters on normal television do not include nudity; therefore, by accessing these sites, they can "see" what they are not normally allowed to.

See also

External links

  • Punch website's history of cartoons
  • Don Markenstein's Toonopedia
  • Big Cartoon Database
  • Golden Age of Cartoons

Last updated: 02-04-2005 09:36:55