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Aesop / Western Animation

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Now I've learned a lesson I won't soon forget,
so listen and you won't regret:
Be true to yourself, don't miss your chance,
and you won't end up like the fool who ripped his pants!
SpongeBob SquarePants, "Ripped Pants"
An Aesop is practically synonymous with the field of Western Animation, at least originally due to Moral Guardians and Executive Meddling mandating some degree of "educational content" for the kiddies. Still, Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped, many cartoons can put clever twists on some of the tried-and-true Stock Aesops, and others manage to weave their life-lessons around a venerable Central Theme.


  • OneHundredAndOneDalmatiansTheSeries has many moral lessons in almost each episode.
  • Adventures from the Book of Virtues had a valuable virtue in every episode — two children have typical problems involving other kids, so they visit four Talking Animals to have their problems solved with stories from the Book of Virtues.
  • Adventure Time has some conventional morals done in really weird ways. For example, "Don't break your promises" is shown by having Finn struggle to keep a "Royal Promise" for Princess Bubblegum while Jake continually prods him about the secret. Finn accidentally lets it slip, which incurs the wrath of the royal Gumball Guardians... and said wrath consists of making Finn solve 2+2. And then Jake says that he would have let up if Finn just said that he promised not to tell.
    Bubblegum: I hope you grasp the full consequences of breaking promises.
    Finn: Heck yeah! If I break a Royal Promise, I get to fight zombies, throw slumber parties, awake Gumball Guardians and... and...
    Bubblegum: Alright, alright.
    Finn: [evilly] And reverse death itself!
    Bubblegum: Oh, you are adorable. But keep your promises, okay?
    Finn: I will, Princess.
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  • The Aesop's Film Fables cartoons produced by Van Beuren Studios ironically didn't have these at first (they had parody aesops in the silent-era shorts and abandoned them altogether by the sound era) but they eventually did start having real aesops in the Burt Gillett era shorts, such as the Toddle Tales and some of the Rainbow Parade shorts. "Spinning Mice" for instance has the moral of "Leave Well Enough Alone".
  • Animaniacs gave an aesop very occasionally. But as a cartoon centered around just being silly, the cartoon usually made a point of parodying aesops. They did this (regularly) with their Wheel of Morality, which would provide a random "moral of the story" for the episode that was usually humorous and always had nothing to do with the episode. On the other hand, the movie had a tried and true moral: Never give up, even when things are looking bad.
    "Wheel of Morality, turn turn turn. Tell us the lesson that we should learn."
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  • Arthur has about as many episodes with morals as episodes without.
  • The first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender was pretty notorious about this. Although some of those were along the lines of "Stealing is wrong unless it's from pirates."
  • Beat Bugs generally aims to teach one in each episode, themed around a song of The Beatles. "Be Yourself" is one of the most common ones because, after all, "Nothing you can do, but you can learn how to be you in time / It's easy!"
  • Played straight with Birdz, although they're not heavy-handed since they're often skewed to the avian universe (e.g. Eddie learning the hard way that he should study the map and pack properly during migration season).
  • Many episodes of 1980s cartoon Care Bears deliver a moral at the end.
  • Centurions always had some sort of science lesson at the end.
  • The Crayon Box: The crayons from the titular box would deliver the lesson at the end of each episode in a way that related to the evens that happened in said episode.
  • Lampshaded in Danny Phantom: when Jazz is being overprotective at the beginning of "Secret Weapons", Danny tells her, with a bored expression on his face, that "There's a rhythm to these things: ghost attacks, we exchange Witty Banter, I kick ghost butt, and we all go home having learned a valuable lesson about honesty or some such nonsense." This is also a slight Leaning on the Fourth Wall, as it's the basic layout of each show.
  • Naturally, being a Christian cartoon, almost every episode of Davey and Goliath had one, from not lying to racism.
  • Defenders of the Earth has a few, including:
    • It takes courage to admit to wrongdoing, especially when you've been led to believe the consequences will be worse than they are. (A Demon in His Pocket)
    • To have friends, you should show that you can be friends with others. (The Starboy)
    • Having a disability doesn't have to leave you helpless; instead, you should make the most of the things you can do. (One of the Guys)
    • Using drugs as a means of relieving pressure will only mess you up. (The Deadliest Battle)
  • Before he went to Disney, Doug had An Aesop in almost every single episode. You could tell the Aesop after a couple of minutes already, often even before the episode title.
  • DuckTales (1987) had a few episodes with lessons it tried to teach:
    • "Where No Duck Has Gone Before":
      • A person's public face isn't necessarily what he's like, and not all celebrities should be hero-worshipped.
      • As Doofus observes following the Broken Pedestal: "Real heroes just do their jobs!"
    • "The Golden Fleecing": Don't let greed tempt you into doing the wrong thing.
    • "Blue Collar Scrooge": Respect the rights of workers.
  • Although The Fairly OddParents doesn't have many episodes strictly made to teach a moral, there's one where the moral is thrown in the viewers' faces with a case of breaking the fourth wall: "And sometimes the best weapon of all is to say you're sorry." Cue screen where the phrase MORAL OF THE STORY pops up.
  • Subverted in Family Guy: While Peter recovers in the hospital, Lois says, "I guess you learned an important lesson." Peter leans back smugly and says, "Nope," at which point the episode ends.
  • Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids had a heavy-handed Aesop in every episode, driven home by a song from the Kids themselves. One example: "Dope is for dopes/Drugs are for dummies/And if you mess around with them/That kind of mess isn't funny."
  • Played straight but surprisingly subtle in an animated version of Flash Gordon, Flash alludes to men on Earth who "did terrible things in the name of obedience" but does not name names. In the eighties, this was a clear allusion to Nazi Germany and impressively assumes sufficient motivation, intelligence, and education of the kids watching that they would either get the point or go find out.
  • Parodied in an episode of Futurama. After Fry and Bender drag the Planet Express headquarters along on their joyride in the Planet Express ship, they exit the ship to find the rest of the Planet Express staff, battered and seriously pissed off, waiting for them. Attempting to divert inevitable trouble, Bender says, "And that's how we learned our lesson."
    • From another episode:
      Fry: "It's just like the story of the grasshopper and the octopus. All year long, the grasshopper kept burying acorns for winter, while the octopus mooched off his girlfriend and watched TV. But then the winter came, and the grasshopper died, and the octopus ate all his acorns and also he got a race car. Is any of this getting through to you?"
  • The first three seasons of the U.S. Acres animated series were packed with these.
  • Gargoyles had the episode "Deadly Force", in which Broadway finds Elisa's loaded gun and starts playing Cops 'n' Robbers. Elisa is busy cooking and not paying attention to him when Broadway accidentally pulls the trigger and shoots her in the chest, nearly killing her, showing just how deadly guns can be. Elisa wasn't even healed in the next episode, either. Too bad it turned into the Missing Episode.
  • Green Eggs and Ham: Do not take things at face value; there's more to them than you first believe.
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983) always ends with an Aesop.
  • For Henry Hugglemonster: always help your family when they need it. This is a prevailing rule of the show and something that the characters abide by, to the point where if they don't, it is treated as OOC Is Serious Business.
  • Each installment of The Hive, another Playhouse Disney / Disney Junior show, presents one.
  • Hunger is a moral fable about a gluttonous Big Eater who goes to Hell and himself gets eaten by a crowd of desperate starving people.
  • Jem did this in practically any episode about the Starlight Girls — one of them would do something stupid (anything from stealing to drugs) and have to have An Aesop explained to them. A few featured other characters, such as the one where Roxy got screwed over again and again because she couldn't read.
  • Jean-Luc & Dondoozat has Jean Luc write one on paper at the end of every episode.
  • JoJo's Circus has the title character yanked away to a stage with a spotlight at the end of each story to talk about the aesop that she learned from what happened in it.
  • Roughly 1/3 of all Kim Possible episodes ended on an Aesop (sometimes due to Aesop Amnesia), roughly a third of the episodes ended on a Subverted Aesop, and the remaining thirty took the Aesop and twisted it about as far as possible to create fantastic Aesops, (don't buy mutant toys) Space Whale Aesops, (Eat healthily or your DNA will mutate you into a mini-Hulk) or just outright lampshading them for comedy value.
  • Lilo & Stitch: The Series from Disney Channel: One of those animated kids shows that works by rote, it's usually a lesson about the power of friendship and tolerance and honesty.
  • Almost every episode of The Loud House ends on an aesop.
  • Mack & Moxy has each installment aim to teach viewers something important about social causes, such as preparing for an emergency or helping to feed the needy.
  • Matchbox Hero City is one of those shows that has a character or in this case, a car tells himself what he's learned.
  • Milly, Molly had many Aesops, although a few episodes did not have a moral.
  • The majority of Milo episodes have morals, but a few don't.
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic has one of these about friendship at the end of each episode (and therefore on nearly every single page with such a recap), usually given in the form of a letter from Twilight Sparkle to Princess Celestia.
  • Nina's Little Fables is a short program on PBS Kids Sprout featuring fables narrated by show hosts Nina and Star. Some of them are actual Aesop's Fables.
  • Most of the episodes from Pepper Ann have a moral lesson. One good example is in "Reality Bytes", where P.A. becomes addicted to the internet, instead of enjoying the real world with her friends. Another one is in "Dances With Ignorance", she learns that offending a real Navajo family who she invites over for dinner is wrong.
  • The Proud Family at times, most notably the one about how Digital Piracy Is Evil.
  • Ready Jet Go! has Aesops in a few episodes, but they're unique in that they're woven subtly into the narrative of the episode instead of being shoved down your throat. Examples:
    • The moral of "Sounds Abound" is "Performing experiments is better when you're doing them with your friends".
    • An overall theme of the show is "Failure is a stepping stone to success"
    • "Kid-Kart Derby" has two: "Winning isn't everything" is the main one and "Don't cheat" is the minor one
    • The show had a Be Yourself Aesop in the episode "My Fair Jet" that was surprisingly Played for Drama
    • "Jet 2" — "It's not good to stay jealous"
    • "Space Junk" — "Knowing there's a problem should make you want to help solve it"
    • "Jet's Time Machine" had a very important one — "You can't change the past, you can only learn from it"
    • "Sean Has a Cold" — You can have a good time, even when things don't go your way.
  • Happened quite often in the early episodes of Recess, though they were never in-your-face about it.
  • The Rocky and Bullwinkle segment Aesop and Son subverted not only this trope but the fables themselves. The titular philosopher would tell a parodied version of his story, say the moral, and then Junior would chime in with a second moral, usually a pun of some element of the story.
  • The lesson in Rubbadubbers is that children should be careful what they wish for, as in every episode a character's Imagine Spot embodies their wish, but still has consequences.
  • The Secret World Of Santa Claus: While the show as a whole broadly teaches the importance of being good boys and girls — it is about Santa, after all — some episodes teach more specific lessons:
    • In "The Lucky Charm" a figure skater girl loses her lucky charm and believes she can no longer skate competitively. When Santa and the elves can't find her charm, Santa gives her a copy. After the girl wins the competition, Santa reveals to her that the charm was a fake, and the girl learns to believe in herself.
    • In "The Magic Wand," a girl is made bullied because of her long nose. She gets a defective magic wand from Gruzzlebeard, which she uses to shrink her nose. She immediately dislikes her new nose and the wand causes lots of mayhem. When Santa and the elves break the spell, she learns to like her old appearance and gets the confidence to befriend a boy whom she likes.
    • In "The Boy Who Wished To Be Little Again", a boy is jealous of his baby sister because she seems to be getting all the attention of her parents. He wishes to be small again, and Dudley wishes to be tall. So they use a machine that fullfills both their wishes. However, the boy shrinks to the size of an ant, while Dudley becomes a giant. After Santa sets things right again, the boy comes to realize his parents still care about him — it's just that his little sister needs lots of attention right now.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power doesn't go for explicit each-episode morals most of the time (though there are some: for example, "The Valley of the Lost" has a lesson about looking past the surface), but there are a few things that pop up repeatedly:
    • People are stronger when they work together. The Rebellion goes from purely defensive to starting to win when the Princesses work together; it's when they're at their least united that they take their biggest L's.
    • Relationships take effort, but that effort has to be reciprocal. This is particularly obvious in season 4; even with the Best Friends Squad's relationship on the rocks, the alliance still holds strong, while Catra's All Take and No Give approach and Hordak's desperation to earn the favor of Horde Prime earn them, respectively, a quick visit to the Despair Event Horizon after a Breaking Speech and a callous Mind Rape. Bow even gives a speech to Entrapta about how friendships need effort from both parties to work.
    • Related to the above, but more specific: trying to earn the favour of an abuser doesn't work and it's not worth it. Catra never proves her worth to Shadow Weaver, Hordak's work on behalf of Horde Prime gets him nothing, and Catra's exploitation of Scorpia eventually convinces the latter to quit the Horde entirely.
  • On Sheriff Callie's Wild West, each of the show's stories has a moral of some sort that it's trying to teach. However, there seem to be in two in particular that crop up with some frequency:
    • Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
    • Be kind and friendly to others and good things will happen. (The town is called "Nice and Friendly Corners" after all.)
  • Subverted on The Simpsons; at the end of one episode, the family debates what lesson they're meant to learn from the events of the past 22 minutes before finally concluding that it was all "just a bunch of stuff that happened".
    • This happens in multiple shows; there is an obvious lesson to be learned, but Homer generally interprets it as something completely different.
    • Played straight in the movie, however. Throughout the film, Homer learns several lessons that cause him to change his behavior. Firstly, by refusing to admit he made a mistake by polluting Lake Springfield, apologize for it and try to fix the damage done, the entire town not only hates him for trapping them in a dome for perhaps forever, but he ends up putting his own family in danger because of it. Secondly, he discovers that by acting out of selfishness and refusing to help save his friends that loved him for years, he ends up alienating his family, who do care for them because of how much they supported them (especially since Ned helped save their lives from the mob that tried to kill them during their escape from Springfield). Finally, he finds out that without his family and friends, not only does his life have no meaning whatsoever, he will live the rest of his life alone, isolated and unloved.
  • South Park often features an Aesop at the end. Many times Kyle starts a speech by saying, "I've learned something today..." The morals are sometimes humorous — though as often as not — these speeches are didactic. Sometimes Cartman tries to tell the others what he's learned.
    Kyle: Oh shut up, Cartman! You didn't learn a thing! Not a goddamn thing!
  • Spongebob Squarepants had an Aesop in many episodes, all of them being important lessons to teach children(, such as):
    • Not giving up on your dreams (Help Wanted)
    • Facing the consequences of your actions (Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy IV, No Free Rides, Squeaky Boots)
    • The grass isn't always greener somewhere else (Nature Pants, Squidville, The Algae is Always Greener)
    • Be Yourself (Grandma's Kisses, Ripped Pants, Big Pink Loser, Squilliam Returns, and again Nature Pants)
    • Not to trust strangers (Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy II, SpongeBob Meets the Strangler'')
    • Jumping to conclusions about someone or something can have dire consequences (Sandy's Rocket, Nasty Patty, Wormy)
    • Not being afraid to admit that you were wrong/Trying something new, even if at first, you don't think you'll like it (Bubble Stand, Snowball Effect, Just One Bite)
    • Not letting competitiveness cloud your judgment (Pressure, The Fry Cook Games, The Great Snail Race)
    • Responsibility with public transportation (Rock Bottom)
    • Calling 911 is not a joke (Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy II)
    • Facing your fears (I Had An Accident, Fear of a Krabby Patty)
    • Not to let imaginary friends cause trouble (Bubble Buddy)
    • Not to take credit for others’ work (Patty Hype, Artist Unknown)
    • Not to curse (Sailor Mouth)
    • Not to take advantage of your friends (Can You Spare a Dime, I'm With Stupid and to a lesser extent, Prehibernation Week)
    • Not to touch things that aren't yours unless instructed (Life of Crime, Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy IV)
    • Letting others have their own opinion (''Battle For Bikini Bottom)
    • Not letting something small (like a toy) ruin friendships (Yours, Mine, and Mine)
    • Respecting others' privacy (''Little Yellow Book)
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars doesn't make you guess — they give you an aesop on-screen at the beginning of every episode.
  • Stōked: Emma gets one courtesy word-for-word from her Shoulder Angel in "All We Are Saying is Give Reef a Chance"; no amount of money is worth a friendship.
  • Stoppit and Tidyup is one of the few shows aimed at young kids that averts this, as none of the episodes seem to have a moral in them.
  • Super Friends. In the 1973-74 season, the Aesops was usually one of three types. Many episodes used all of them.
  • Taz-Mania often featured the characters saying at the end "What have we learned from this?", and usually concluding that they hadn't learned anything.
  • TeachersPet has morals in some episodes.
  • Subverted in Teen Titans:
    Robin: Well, I guess this whole experience proves it really is bad to watch too much TV.
    Starfire: But truthfully, we only prevailed because Beast Boy watches too much the television.
    Raven: So, there really isn't a lesson here.
    Cyborg: Yep, it was all completely meaningless.
    (Everyone laughs)
  • The whole point of Thunder Cats. Seriously. This was when cartoons were the scourge of the Earth and were corrupting kids (in the same way that Comic Books did before and Video Games are now... oh wait!), so the producers sat down and said that every episode must have a moral, and they actually hired a child psychologist to help them write the stories.
  • Thunder Cats 2011 continues this out of tradition, with a discernible lesson in most of its episodes.
  • The Tick also ended most episodes with The Tick turning to Arthur and saying "Arthur, I think we've learned a valuable lesson today," and then expounding semi-incoherently.
  • The Weekenders loves Aesops. The episode "Listen Up" subverts their convention two-fold by having Carver (instead of the usual Tino) deliver it, and then having him off-center on-screen and fading him out, forcing Carver to cut it short.
  • On What Its Like Being Alone, Aesops are usually provided by one-off characters that are on the verge of death. They then die, violently.
  • Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum: Every episode has a lesson supplied by the historical figure featured in it.
  • Yogi's Gang: The Pilot Movie teaches people to take care of their homes instead of simply moving away to look for a "perfect place". Each episode of the series has an aesop regarding the vice represented by the villain.
  • Young Justice episodes often have Aesops about Leadership, Teamwork or Strategy.
  • Remember, kids — now you know. And Knowing Is Half the Battle!
  • Common among Spark Plug Entertainment's CGI Mockbuster cartoons.


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