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A cartoon, from Italian cartone and Dutch Karton (words describing strong, heavy paper or pasteboard), is a type of visual art that is typically drawn, frequently animated, in an unrealistic or semi-realistic style.


The specific meaning has evolved over time, but the modern usage of "cartoon" usually refers to either:

Still cartoons[edit]

One of the oldest uses of the medium was a satire of public figures and current events, now known as the political cartoon. The format of the political cartoon includes some of the earliest instances of anthropomorphic or funny animal art as it is known today. A cartoon that consists of a sequence of still drawings all connected as part of the same idea is usually referred to as a comic. Short sequences, such as appear in newspapers, are called comic strips, while longer sequences are contained in comic books. The term comic is sometimes ill-applied as the subject matter may be intended not to be funny. A relative of the comic book, the graphic novel, resembles a comic book but its purpose is to tell a story in a manner more consistent with the literary novel. The historical fiction Maus is a well-known example.

Animated cartoons[edit]

A sequence of cartoon images on a film intended to tell its story by mimicking the motion of live cinematographic footage is also called a cartoon. A cartoon designed for consumption through television is called a cartoon show or program, whereas one designed for the movie screen is generally called an animated film. One of the first known animated cartoons, Windsor McKay's Gertie the Dinosaur (1914), featured a Brontosaurus.

Cartoon characters[edit]

A character that appears in a cartoon, typically one from an animated cartoon, is called a cartoon character, or toon. It can be anything from Mickey Mouse to Popeye the Sailor. As diverse as they are, the unifying aspect of cartoon characters is that they are not intended to look entirely lifelike. Most toons are, in fact, not intended to look all lifelike, but only reminiscent of a human or animal form. Anthropomorphism is used extensively in the designs of toons that are not technically human, whether they be animals or any of a wide range of inanimate objects or fanciful constructions, many cartoon characters have a cartoonish or cartoony design in a toon form.

Other terms[edit]

As adapted into the Japanese media, the term manga is used for a comic book, and anime (French for "animated") is used for a cartoon show or animated film. In visual art, especially furry art, the term toony is used to describe a purposely unrealistic style inspired by cartoons.

Cartoons and furry[edit]

Furry fans have always enjoyed cartoons featuring funny animals, but very few animated cartoons have been attempted outside of large commercial studios such as Hanna-Barbera/Cartoon Network and Disney. Most attempts have come by way of digital media, such as Macromedia Shockwave Flash, or, in a spectacular show of determination, Timothy Albee's Kaze: Ghost Warrior. Otherwise, the digital offspring of the comic strip, the webcomic, represents the majority of cartoons created and enjoyed by furry fans today. Some furries consider themselves to be 'Cartoon' or 'Toon' as a species in its own right.