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Animation Age Ghetto

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Juuust in case the protagonist stuffing his hand down his girlfriend's shirt and flipping England's version of the bird didn't tip you off...note 

"This is clearly one of the year's best films. Every time an animated film is successful, you have to read all over again about how animation isn't 'just for children' but 'for the whole family,' and 'even for adults going on their own.' No kidding!"

For many people, animation is a joke. It is not seen as an artistic medium, but is instead stereotyped as a frivolous genre suitable primarily for children under the age of 12.

There are many sociological theories as to how and why this stereotype originated, but one of the most common theories is that it's a by-product of the rise of animation on television in the '50s and '60s. As cinemas declined in importance, the big theatrical animations of The Great Depression and The '40s transferred to TV - but TV demanded faster production in greater bulk done more quickly.note  With many adults uninterested in the consequent low quality of many of these, and thus only kids being able to tolerate it, as well as television at the time being marketed as a way of keeping kids quiet and the rise of parental groups arguing for more government regulation on the content of these programs.

This mindset often results in bad cases of Executive Meddling. Once television animation became associated with children, the producers of animated shows began writing down to their presumed audience, which made animation outside the age ghetto less profitable than animation inside it. Anything considered safe for children can potentially be licensed out for merchandise, which is nearly guaranteed to sell, making many shows 30-minute commercials, FCC regulations permitting. The age ghetto paints older demographics as unprofitable.

These days, the ghetto is not as strong as it used to be. It began to break in The '90s with cartoons beginning to tackle darker themes (Batman: The Animated Series, Gargoyles, and Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM)) and more mature humor (The Simpsons, The Critic, Beavis and Butt-Head and The Ren & Stimpy Show). As Japanese anime began to gain a foothold in North America, American animation shows such as South Park, Family Guy, Rick and Morty, BoJack Horseman and Futurama really started leaning into mature humor, though some of these shows' reliance on Vulgar Humor has led to a new misconception, arguably a ghetto of its own, that all animation made for adults is an Animated Shock Comedy. Similarly, many people assume that All Anime Is Naughty Tentacles.

The Internet also helped weaken the ghetto. Before Internet access became widespread, animated short films (which in general have mature themes) were only available in universities that catered towards that specific field, but the Internet helped many artists publish those projects for a mainstream audience. Similarly, anime aimed at adults was limited to science fiction conventions and college campuses, but now has a worldwide following. However, the Internet-based ghetto tends to reach the other way; thanks to animation's growing reputation as a medium for all demographics, many forum users sometimes express surprise that a well-written show was made purely for kids or try to play up the Multiple Demographic Appeal to separate it from "other" kids' shows, thanks to the ghetto stereotype of "for kids = bad writing."

There are also hints of this in dubbing. In places such as France, Latin America, Germany, and Italy, dubbing is very popular, and pretty much every show that gets a dub will include the languages of those regions. However, countries such as the Netherlands, Greece and Israel would rather sub media in their respective languages, only providing a dub if it's for little children. Animation, however, seems to be an exception. Unless the work is very obviously adult-oriented, it will often get dubbed in countries that would otherwise sub, even if the work in question is a live-action work that was adapted from animation.

To a lesser extent, the same goes with animated feature films. Yes, there are pure kiddie flicks made, but if you want to make big money in that field, you must appeal to adults at some level—though this applies chiefly to All-CGI Cartoon films, as traditional 2D animation is still not taken seriously, thus 2D is regarded as "dead" by the Western animation industry whereas 3D can serve as a compromise between animation and live action.note  However, animated films have yet to see the same growth of adult-oriented material that animated TV series have, and as such are much more affected by the ghetto, especially with purely 3D CGI Western animation.

Modern media with Black-and-White Morality are also very strongly associated with this ghetto as young children generally don't understand nuances in morality and The Moral Substitute does not allow room for any moral ambiguity.

For associated tropes, see All Animation Is Disney, Girl-Show Ghetto, Public Medium Ignorance, R-Rated Opening, The Dark Age of Animation, What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?, Comedy Ghetto and Sci Fi Ghetto. Contrast with Animated Shock Comedy and All Anime Is Naughty Tentacles.


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  • In 1989, Anthony Hopkins narrated an animated awareness film for charity, showing what happens during the annual pilot whale hunt in the Faroe Islands. Despite the extremely disturbing visuals of screaming whales being harpooned, eaten, and the leftovers dumped on the beach to rot, the film received a PG rating in Britain simply because it was a cartoon. And then, as part of a campaign to get it played in front of Where the Whales Came, it got re-rated to a U.
    • There are two versions of this advert; one with a U rating and one with a PG rating.
    • According to the BBFC's archives, there is a difference of two seconds in running time between the two versions (the U version ran for 1 minute but the PG version ran for 58 seconds) and they were also released under different names; the U version was called 'Scream' and the PG version was called 'Faroe Islands'.
  • The cartoon advertising mascot Joe Camel was the subject of heavy controversy throughout his ten-year existence, because various anti-smoking activists believed that the campaign was targeting children. The campaign was only intended for adults, but there was genuine evidence that more children were aware of the Camel brand because of the ads; in any case, Camel bowed to the controversy and retired Joe in 1997.
    • In general, if a company has a cartoon mascot, that will make it more well-known among children, even if their product isn't intended for children. One of the best-known examples is the Geico Gecko.
  • Invoked in an ad for Ohio-based fast food chain Rax Roast Beef introducing their animated spokesman: Mr. Delicious. Mr. D. himself points out that most people will think he's immature because he's a cartoon but tries to assure the viewer that he's a "special cartoon for adults."
    Mr. Delicious: I know what you're thinking; "He's a cartoon, and cartoons are mostly for people who wet their pants." But not Mr. D., he's a special cartoon for adults.
  • This Reddit post assumes that this French PSA about AIDS prevention is a children's cartoon, because it features an Inkblot Cartoon Style cat who lacks attributes. This is despite the fact that said cat is clearly receiving oral sex from a goldfish. Thankfully averted and lampshaded by the replies.

    Anime and Manga 
  • For the 86th Academy Awards, 19 animated features were submitted, including Puella Magi Madoka Magica The Movie: Rebellion and A Letter to Momo. If this link is any indication at all, the large majority of the voters didn't even watch them, let alone bother to nominate at all, and if they did, they mostly had their children or grandkids pick the movie they liked the best out of the selection given. Compare this kind of behavior to the one present in the Cannes film festival, where Inside Out won the price of jury for the best not competing film in 2015 without any need to submit itself whatsoever.
  • The Nielsen ratings for [adult swim] often seem to fall prey to the Ghetto, not so much for their comedy series as their anime titles. After the revival of Toonami, this started to change, with the front-running shows consistently getting excellent ratings.
  • On, if you do a search for "manga" and look specifically under "Children's Books", you'll find manga such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Claymore and several unknown yaoi titles. Likewise, their "Anime" subcategory "Kids & Family" includes DVDs of Cowboy Bebop, Berserk and Dirty Pair. It's very common to see a work like Princess Mononoke, for instance, have DVDs aimed at kids like PAW Patrol and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse advertised as featured products. And then there's banner ads for other products that also appear on the same page-for instance, some pieces of Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba merchandise have ads for children's shows like SpongeBob SquarePants on them.
    • Amazon very briefly carried titles from the company Project-H on Amazon Kindle, where any child could see the sexually explicit covers, listed as normal graphic novels right next to the Superman/Batman/Fairy Tail graphic novels. Understandably, they have all been removed from Kindle purchase, though Skinemax-esque titles like Aoi House and Vampire Cheerleaders are still available.
  • Regions:
    • This trope is actually partly responsible for the popularity of anime in the West. Most Western animation companies produce TV shows and movies aimed at kids. Despite the Multiple Demographic Appeal of Pixar and later-day Disney, their movies are still aimed primarily at children and families. The "adult" shows tend to be rather juvenile as well. People who are into animation and want animated shows with the depth and seriousness of quality live-action series and movies often have no other choice but to watch anime, particularly Seinen anime. Even then, this trope settles in, as most of the anime that tends to get exported are generally made for a teen to adult audience, it colors the perception that anime is for adults while cartoons are for kids.
    • In Columbia's Caracol TV, Fullmetal Alchemist aired at the kid's schedule weekends 10:00 A.M or sorts. It roughly went to episode 5, even edited, until the network realized what they got themselves into. Then they moved it to the comfortable 5:00 A.M on weekends... still edited. The same goes for Evangelion.
    • France used to have no problem with shows like the Club Dorothée broadcasting the likes of Fist of the North Star or Space Adventure Cobra in a time slot intended for kids; Dragon Ball Z used to in the 8 am or 10 am slot on TF1 back in the 1990s. This series sometimes has someone dying, bleeding to death, being dismembered, exploding etc., every other episode. This led to rather awkward dubbing from the voice actors, who had a hard time making the constant violence appear light-hearted, and to some protestations by parental associations. With the rehabilitation of animated media, much work has been put in making over the dubbing; anime is now viewed as a full-blown genre with its own specifications. Yet, censorship dies hard; Bowdlerisation still happens when the show's intended audience is too wide.

      France is actually an interesting example of too much acceptance; the quality of localization went from mediocre in the '80s, to decent in the 90's, to downright good in the late 90's and early 2000s; by the late noughties, however, the sheer amount of imported material, and more importantly money to make off of it, led to droves of rushed cash-in dubs bringing the average quality right back to mediocre.
      • In Naruto's case, the trope is played with. In France, they have no fewer than three French dubs, all from the same company: an uncensored one for adults based on the Japanese version, a mildly censored one for teenagers, and a heavily censored one for small kids based on the English dub. One can't help but wonder which dub they intended to aim at the Periphery Demographic, and what said demographic consists of.
      • In France, TF1 cancelled Dear Brother, a show full of drug abuse and suicidal themes, after airing 7 episodes in the Club Dorothée block. note 
      • In 1988, France aired Cutey Honey, under the title Cherry Miel, in a kids time slot, while the show is one of the first things that come to mind when thinking about Fanservice in anime. Funny thing is, while the opening theme was changed for the French dub, the visual side was left untouched, meaning that kids who watched the show back then got to see Honey being peeked at while taking a bath or having her breasts groped by Seiji, which is kind of ironic - the series was aired with practically no censorship save from the final episode, where a scene where Junpei gropes Honey was removed.
    • In Germany most anime is broadcast between 10am and 3pm. This includes The Rose of Versailles, with its remarkably faithful translation. One of the rare occasions you can see cartoon young girls offering to sell their bodies, other women claiming to be the lesbian sex slave of the queen of France and kids getting shot while eating your lunch. Oh yeah, and for a short time they broadcast the rewritten Crayon Shin-chan at 10am. Kids probably rejoiced when Mitsy hysterically searched the whole house for her dildo.
    • This mentality is part of the reason behind the stillbirth of the Hungarian anime market. When the first commercial TV stations started showing anime at the end of the '90s, they all aired as a part of an afternoon children's block. Dragon Ball Z then, despite being fairly tame and having been dubbed from the heavily edited French version, shocked parents with its violence, and it had to be pulled when the ORTT (Hungarian FCC) deemed it too violent for children. It was to be re-rated as 18+ and pushed to a midnight timeslot, but since no one watched it then, the TV station simply canceled it. Its case was reevaluated in '02 and was given a 16+ rating, but the channel decided against continuing it because they wanted to aim all animated productions at children, reinforcing the "cartoons are for kids" notion. It took a decade for DBZ to get back on screens, this time in a teen and adult animation block on a UK-based channel that's more lenient with certifications.

      While anime was gaining a foothold in many other European areas, the canning of all anime series in the naughties has lead to the anime market becoming a strictly underground business in Hungary. The middle of the 2000s had another small anime-boom, but with similar results. Inuyasha took DBZ's place as ORTT's whipping-boy, because it was again advertised as a kids' show and aired in an early-morning timeslot. Following its cancellation and the subsequent Network Decay of Animax, TV channels as a whole gave up on importing anime because they had no one to market them towards. "Anime" came to mean "kids shows not suitable for kids" to the general audience, and the occasional reruns of DBZ and Yu-Gi-Oh! GX are the sole reminders of a market that got stifled by the combined might of this trope, Moral Guardians and the Media Watchdogs before it could have even gotten off the ground.

      The station airing these series experimented with anime from 2012 to '15. They did everything to downplay the effects of this trope, but since their target demographic is people aged 18-49, and DBZ and GX only attracted viewers under the age of 30, they have also axed all potential future anime imports, arguing that anime just can't reach an older audience.
    • The Irish DVD rental chain Xtravision charges €4 for a regular movie, but just 50¢ for kids’ movies — which include all anime.
    • This trope is why all manga published in Italy includes the disclaimer "The characters depicted in this publication are all of age, and besides, they don't really exist, they're simply drawings" — because someone protested about people getting hurt or killed and sexual content in a "children's book.
    • For over a decade, Japan itself held onto the idea that anime should all be kid oriented: wacky comedy, Merchandise-Driven shows, and heavily watered down manga adaptations were the name of the game. That lasted until the mid-to-late seventies, where the impact of Space Battleship Yamato and Mobile Suit Gundam proved that yes, you can make cartoon shows aimed towards adults.
      • Gundam itself suffered from this during the original TV series' run; despite the fact that the show featured adult themes such as realistic depictions of war, weapons of mass destruction, doomed romance and the death of several major characters, the show's sponsors insisted on publishing Gundam picture books for preschoolers - and then complained to the production staff that the books weren't selling. It was only late in the run, when the show started to build up a base of hardcore fans among teenagers and college students, that the franchise began showing signs of becoming the merchandising juggernaut we know and love today.
      • For some time after the conclusion of Evangelion, when he was trying to make it as a director of "serious" films, Hideaki Anno lamented the death of the age ghetto in Japan in several interviews and cited the abundance of adult anime fans as proof of Japanese culture's degeneracy. He seems to have changed his tune somewhat, as he has gone back to working on anime.
    • The Ghetto in Mexico is so strong that if it's animated, then it's automatically for kids even if it's the first chapter of Elfen Lied! Maybe that was why several shows like Ranma ½, squarely and completely for teenagers, were aired on the kids' TV slot during The '90s.
  • Played with in the Philippines. Until the 1960s-70s, perceptions on animation more or less followed American ones. The first influx of anime (eg. Voltes V, Mazinger Z, Daimos) in the country, however, helped weaken the Ghetto; Voltes V, in particular became a nigh revolutionary totem for Filipinos against the Marcos regime. Yet to this day, despite a solid otaku and comics community, the Ghetto stubbornly refuses to fade outright into irrelevance.
    • What makes the case of the Philippines more peculiar is the context behind the growing acceptance of anime and manga: by the 1960s and '70s, Filipinos' resentment towards Japan gradually began to fade away as younger generations became more willing to forgive their former invaders. In addition, they provided an alternative to the predominance of Western shows as well as reflecting elements of Japanese culture that are similar to their own.
    • A Portuguese TV channel aimed at kids, SIC K, frequently airs some less-child-friendly anime alongside the usual fare. They occasionally switch between Darker than Black, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, and Death Note, while it airs Dragon Ball consistently, two episodes a day. Slightly mitigated as most Portuguese parents today had grown up with shows like Dragon Ball, and, thus, they aren't as strict about what counts as acceptable.
      • For a better contrast, there's another Portuguese channel of the same type, Panda Biggs, aimed at at kids aged 10-15. Still, the most they get is Fairy Tail, Pokémon: The Series and, Justice League Unlimited which, while not Anime, serves to prove a point here.
    • Russian TV channel STS used to have an afternoon animated block, which was known to include Rurouni Kenshin and Full Metal Alchemist 2003 right next to, say, Sonic X or DuckTales. It was yanked off air pretty quickly.
  • This trope is surprisingly strong in Japan's next door neighbor South Korea. A horrifying example of this was that a Korean dub of Hellsing Ultimate was being sold in a Seoul bookstore... in the same section and shelf as Pororo the Little Penguin and Doraemon. Apparently, store owners just don't care if an oblivious Korean family confuses a mature anime for a children's cartoon...
    • And that's not even getting to the treatment of Hetalia: Axis Powers, which was seen by some Moral Guardians as a nationalist propaganda piece, given the historical problems between Japan and Korea. This was also partly the reason why the anime abandoned its original TV broadcast plans for web-streaming.
  • Parts of the United States still waver back and forth over the Ghetto with regards to anime. American bookstore chains tend to attach slim sign disclaimers onto the Manga shelves with messages like "Some of these publications are not suitable for children", warding off any Moral Guardians that may complain about Yaoi Genre comics in the "kid's section". Barnes and Noble outlets have moved the manga and comic book sections farther and farther away from the shelves of children's books over the years. To put this into perspective, ten years ago, the Sailor Moon manga was shelved with children's novels like The Magic Treehouse series. The manga may have had poor translation, but wasn't covering up Haruka and Michiru's homosexuality and censoring some of the violence the way the anime dub did... Nowadays, most manga that include graphic violence or sexual themes have a parental advisory label on them as a permanent part of the cover, and may be individually shrink-wrapped so that kids can't take it off the shelf and flip through them.

    However, several American libraries merely assume that, unless it's something like Watchmen, all manga and comics in general are for kids and kids ONLY. It's not uncommon to see a kid friendly comic being placed right next to Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi. Most manga has a label on it saying whether it was kid friendly or NOT - 'course librarians tend to not notice. Then again, miscategorization of stuff happens quite a bit in libraries - Stephen King and The Wheel of Time books are placed in the Juvenile fiction section with the labels SAYING "Juvenile fiction" on them, as well as Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys books placed in adults section, when clearly, you can get away with having those in the juvenile section.
    • In recent years, even though the mindset has mostly died down due to more people getting exposed to anime and manga, this has led to an interesting case of this trope where a lot of anime and manga get misclassified as being for teenagers or young adults. For example, Viz Media has published One-Punch Man under their Shonen Jump label despite being seinen, and anime based off of shonen manga such as Dragon Ball are classified as being for teenagers, despite the anime adaptations usually being perceived as family friendly affair in Japan.
  • On a final note, it's worth mentioning that there's a great deal of Values Dissonance here. For a long time, Japan did subscribe to the idea of the Animation Age Ghetto, and to some extent it still does today. The reasons anime is perceived as more "mature" than Western animation outside Japan are multi-faceted. The invention of home video during Japan's "bubble economy" in the 1980s led to a boom in OVA production, and many of these were very adult in subject and covered material that would not have been allowed on television or in theatrical films. It was during this time that anime first began to be marketed outside of Japan as an "exotic commodity", as opposed to being heavily censored. The glut of adult OVAs in the 1980s gave rise to the All Anime Is Naughty Tentacles stereotype, and this has shaped Western perception of anime ever since. The heyday of adult OVAs ended in the early 1990s, thanks to a combination of the market collapsing due to Japan's declining economy and protests from Japanese Moral Guardians.
  • Specific Anime:
    • One of the reasons AKIRA was such a groundbreaking film was that it helped Anime break out of this in the West. It was by no means the first mature anime, but it was the first to receive enough attention outside of Japan. These days, a lot of Western people view, or expect, all anime as being on that end of the maturity scale, though. Still, AKIRA may be found on display in some stores at the "Kids" segment, right next to SpongeBob SquarePants, thanks to employees not reading the box.
    • Little Witch Academia (2017), while also a show from Studio Trigger, is a lot tamer in comparison, but still had some moments that wouldn't qualify it as a kids show, mainly due to the character of Amanda, as she swears and flips the bird every once and a while, which is enough to at least put it in PG territory... but Netflix, when they first released it subbed, blurred the middle finger, and when the dub first arrived, was once qualified having a PG rating, but instead rated it TV-Y7 despite the dub retaining the cursing and the middle finger no longer being blurred, which is rather bizarre as Netflix tends to avoid this trope.
    • Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt was a huge Take That! to this trope even in its Japanese version, but the official English-language dub intentionally takes it further. Most of the art is done in a Thick-Line Animation style reminiscent of several Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon series from the later half of The Renaissance Age of Animation, but contains enough strong content to get it banned from broadcast in the US. Containing over 450 swear words in only 13 episodes, it also includes very strong sexual references, as well as Black Comedy referencing The Holocaust, abortions, rape, terrorism, and the Ku Klux Klan. Garterbelt is portrayed as an Ephebophile, and shown engaging sadomasochistic acts in which he is tortured by pre-teen altar boys. When Panty and Stocking work as Idol Singers, most of their songs are about sex, including themselves being raped, while the cover for the anime's soundtrack is extremely provocative to the point of bordering on porn. There's so much of that content, it makes South Park look like a kids' show.
    • Naruto, save for some minor edits, didn't suffer this problem when it originally aired on Cartoon Network. Years down the road, Disney XD decided to buy the broadcasting rights to the considerably more violent Sequel Series Shippuden. While Cartoon Network had no problem embracing their Periphery Demographic, Disney did not seem prepared for how violent the series would eventually get. It disappeared from Disney XD's lineup and returned to Toonami with minimal edits.
    • Neon Genesis Evangelion was aired on Peruvian TV station America Latina, back-to-back with Pokémon: The Series during the children's hour. It barely managed to make it to episode five before being swiped off the air.
    • A website called Acts of Gord has one section where this happens. Two children try to rent an anime named Ninja Scroll that, due to its nature, is not a "family film". So thus he has to allow the kids' dad to come in to rent the film and he complains about having to come in "Just so they could rent a cartoon". When they go home and actually watch a little of the movie, the father quickly comes back to castigate Gord for "letting" his kids rent pornography.
  • Parodied in the Season 2 opener for Osomatsu-san: The boys in the original Osomatsu-kun TV show learn what their adult selves are like and are horrified with what they see, so they work hard to become better, more respectable people. Todomatsu achieves perfect properness, transcending animation to become a live-action character.
    • Not to say the show itself hasn't been subject to the same line of thinking. It's listed under the "kids" section of Hulu Japan, some of its wearable merch comes in children's sizes, and it was advertised in Ciao, a magazine for elementary school girls.
  • Pokémon: The Series itself falls squarely into this trope, which is a frequent point of criticism for older audiences, including fans of the Pokémon games and other media. In fact, various artists hired for some of the later movies have explicitly stated their intention to perform for the children in the audience and mentioned how very young children would enjoy the movies, with no mention of a Periphery Demographicnote  anywhere. This takes parents by surprise whenever the show decides to veer into darker tone for certain stories.
    • In its earlier days, Pokémon's head writer Takeshi Shudo made a conscious effort to avoid this trope. When the first Big Damn Movie was released, Shudo stated that he made the movie to entertain both children and their parents and guardians, and that he'd be "embarrassed" to hear from parents who'd only see the movie to take their kids. He was talking about the Japanese version, though; it was a 4Kids Entertainment dub, so most of the darker themes were whitewashed when the movie left Japan. In fact, Shudo wanted the entire series to serve as a family anime and appeal to adults as well as children, but Executive Meddling prevented him from using the Parental Bonuses he wanted.
      • Over time, the anime has taken greater measures to please longtime fans and new viewers alike, even though its target audience remains unchanged. Pokémon the Series: Diamond and Pearl series is the first series to really focus on building a long-form story, along with tackling darker, more dramatic subject matter than previous seasons of the show. Pokémon the Series: XY are also held in high regard by many older fans due to their their better plotting and character development, along with the Mega Evolution side story specials note . The Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon anime, despite criticism from older fans for seemingly regressing into this trope with a goofier style akin to Yo-kai Watch, also managed to balance out hijinks and humor with mix-ups to series formula and surprisingly heartfelt arcs, eventually earning a dedicated fanbase of its own.
  • This review of Princess Mononoke dedicates its title, and the few first opening paragraphs, to drill it into the parents' heads that no, despite being an anime movie, this is not a Pokémon: The Series-styled movie to take your five-year-old children to. This is why Disney opted to release the dub under the Miramax Films label. In the American "Making Of" featurette for Princess Mononoke, the actors go on and on about how the film was not what they expected, and how it was deep not just for animation, but for actual movies as well.
  • This is probably the reason Ringing Bell is rather unknown in the West. It looks like a sweet and cute movie about a baby lamb... however, it's only like that for the first 7 minutes or so. It's a Japanese precursor to the Star Wars prequel trilogy about revenge and lust for power. It doesn't help it was made in The '70s as well as the fact that it was based on an equally-dark storybook written by none other than the creator of Anpanman.
  • Robotech was not supposed to be a kids' show, with Carl Macek not having a clear demographic in mind but vaguely targeting it towards teenage and twentysomething sci-fi fans, but it was an anime brought to America in the '80s, so it had to be marketed as a kids' action cartoon to get on TV at all. Nonetheless, it was able to get away with complex writing and story arcs and avert Never Say "Die" far more than most "kids' shows" of the era, which led to Cannon Films pulling Robotech: The Movie from theaters after realizing that it wasn't a kids' movie and was attracting adult audiences.
  • Space Adventure Cobra: In Puerto Rico, a Sunday Morning Kid's show aired four episodes of the Anime series, even though it features skimpy outfits, suggestive scenes and dialogue and people getting holes punched through them by Psychogun blasts. In every episode. Note: This isn't Values Dissonance; it was yanked off the air a month later without any public explanation once they realized what they'd done.
  • A poster on the IMDB forums relayed a tale about a clueless mom who rented Urotsukidoji (also known as The Legend of the Overfiend) for her small kids. You'd almost think Popcultural Osmosis about its Hentai content would have protected it from this kind of bullshit by now.
  • This controversial review of The Wind Rises seems to display this attitude, among other things wondering "how [Jiro Horikoshi's] family feels about having him immortalized with a biopic that's a cartoon", implying that there's something inherently inappropriate about touching on serious matters in animated films.
  • In-universe example in The World of Narue. Kazuto's mother complains to him when he shows his girlfriend a magical girl anime series because, according to her, "cartoons are for kids". If you've seen the sort of Seinen magical series that the show is mocking, you'd disagree.

  • This — not the expected copyright issues — is the basis for nearly any and all controversy over art exhibitions that depict subversions of classic cartoons, such as "Animatus" and "Splatter". The very first line in this typical report on the latter plays straight into the Ghetto.
  • It may be a stretch to call Spike and Mike animation festivals "art", but it's an even longer stretch to consider them kid friendly. That said, the notoriety of Spike and Mike's has never stopped woefully ignorant parents from bringing their children to what they believe to be a bunch of short cartoons that'll keep their kids entertained for a couple of hours. It's called Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Animation Festival for a reason.
  • If you want to be taken seriously in art, don't draw heavily stylized art that looks cartoonish (Animesque or not) because, for some reason, it isn't mature, even if your artwork depicts mature and gritty situations. This is part of the problem that most people assume that "mature" entertainment is gritty and violent, and for some, that's only what they want. Sadly, this mentality has caused a lot of people to feel pigeonholed into drawing ultra-realistic art despite finding stylized stuff more appealing... and how weird realistic art often looks if it's not done correctly. This is averted by some artists like Takashi Murakami and the "superflat" movement.
    • Should not be confused with people who encourage realistic art as a stepping stone to stylized art. The "know the rules before you break them" type of people.
  • Drawing was actually not considered to be a serious artistic medium throughout much of history. It always had a subordinate role back then. The serious media back then were either painted or sculpted. It took until the beginning of the 20th century before a drawing was considered art by mainstream critics. If you want to go extreme you could even say that this page would not have existed were it not for the fact that animation was an important source of information and propaganda during World War I and World War II.

    Comic Books 
  • During The '50s, the comic book industry was nearly destroyed. A psychiatrist named Fredric Wertham (not entirely a bad guy, mind you, as he spoke out a lot against school segregation) noticed that a lot of the troubled boys he worked with described "reading comic books" as their favorite activity. Failing to take into account that almost every young boy at the time read comic books (and that comics, like regular books, have many different genres and sub-genres), he assumed that the comic books must've been the reason for their bad behavior. He published a book titled "The Seduction of the Innocent" and launched a crusade against comic books. There was even a Senate Hearing about it. Because of all the bad press, the comic book industry had to adopt The Comics Code. Few stores would even sell comics that didn't have the seal. To get the seal, the comic had to adhere to a lot of rules, many similar to The Hays Code for movies. The rules were so strict on the basis that comic books were only for children, and the rules made it so that comics had to be pretty kid-friendly to get the seal. As a result, the publishing of "adult" comics either stopped or went underground because of the Code. The Code is now defunct, as every last comic book company has stopped adhering to it. To his credit, Dr. Wertham didn't actually want the Comics Code Authority to be created—he just wanted comics to have some sort of rating system.
  • In an extreme example, there have been cases as recently as 2000 where comic book specialty stores which had separate adult sections have been convicted for corrupting minors, even though children weren't allowed into those areas of the store. The basis of the case is that if it is cartoon art, then it must be for children. Oh, and by "convicted," we don't just mean "forced to pay a fine and stop doing it." Some of the defendants in "obscene comic book" cases have been forced to (1) undergo psychological counseling, (2) undergo "journalistic ethics" courses, (3) avoid contact with minors, and/or (4) be subject to unannounced raids of their houses to check to see if they're in possession of or in the process of creating "obscenity".
  • This trope is the major reason Alias was cancelled, according to Brian Michael Bendis. In the wake of the big superhero movie boom, Marvel had grown nervous about kid-friendly characters like Wolverine and Spider-Man showing up in a book with drug abuse, sex crimes, graphic violence, and lots of F-bombs.
  • A married couple made headlines after complaining about a couple of Batman comics one of their children had purchased. The two claimed that they were shocked to find blood and partial nudity in a medium aimed at children, even though that specific series was not marketed at kids.
  • One of the reasons the Batwoman and The Question features in Detective Comics drew so much controversy was because some conservatives accused DC Comics of pushing a "homosexual agenda" on young kids. Never mind that Detective Comics is usually quite violent and like most Batman books, is generally not aimed at young children. And given the strides taken for gay rights in the U.S., the idea of a lesbian superhero being "taboo" for children is itself controversial.
  • There's a story about Wendy and Richard Pini of ElfQuest fame receiving a letter from a parent who was outraged at an issue of ElfQuest that included a scene of an orgy, saying that her son read the comic. This is despite the fact that ElfQuest was dark, sexual and violent from the beginning. She clearly was not paying much attention to what her kid was reading...
  • This is precisely why Stan Lee made a point of using college-level vocabulary in Marvel Comics and made his beloved "Stan's Soapbox" column about serious issues, because at the time, comics were regarded as a lesser medium of reading that was strictly for children. This was quite a success and precisely why the Marvel Cinematic Universe is so popular today.
  • Omaha the Cat Dancer is a subversion. It was rated for All Ages in New Zealand by a national censor bureau, with its sex and all, not because they didn't read it, but because they did and judged its truly mature depiction of relationships as quite acceptable material.
  • When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs is often placed in the children's section. It's a graphic novel in the same style as his books for children, but... it ends with the main characters dying horribly of radiation sickness. Some libraries are aware of this trope and put a big "for adults only" warning sticker on the cover.

    Comic Strips 
  • Newspaper Comics (and Webcomics) tend to subvert this trope. No one will ever look at you funny for saying that you read the comics section regularly. Despite this, newspaper comics still have to be safe for children to read, since the comics section is the first part that they get to read. Try telling someone you watch a cartoon series of a newspaper comic, though...
    • The newspaper comic that most commonly runs into problems relating to this is Doonesbury. When it runs arcs dealing with highly controversial or non-kid-friendly topics, some papers will replace that arc with reruns or move the strip to the editorial page.

    Eastern Animation 
  • Numerous cartoons by now-defunct Hungarian animation studio Pannonia were aimed squarely at older audiences. Some, like the adult satirical comedy Gustavus have mostly held onto this reputation. Others fared differently. Mézga család was a comedy for all ages, but its social satire and cultural nods were mostly understood by adults. „Kérem a következőt!” was, on its surface, a silly Funny Animal show, yet it was full of Dark Comedy and more cynical satire, plus an infamous episode where the characters get high on real-life drugs. Hungarian Folk Tales looks similarly tame and child-friendly on first glance, and most episodes are perfectly suitable for little kids. But in being faithful to the actual fairytales of old, some episodes deal with touchier matters, feature stylized violence and murder, and uncensored nudity, which allegedly lead to the series getting banned in Romania and caused quite a stir among English-speaking viewers when the series was shared on YouTube. In its home country, the show still airs on weekend mornings in a children's cartoon block, paradoxically with a 12+ age rating and no censorship.
  • 1979's Foam Bath, the third feature length Hungarian animated film, attempted to target adult urbanites with its realistic themes and satire but ended up alienating audiences who were expecting a more conventional fairy tale suitable for children. It took decades until people began to view it under a more mature lens. The film's failure heralded a bifurcation in Hungary's cartoon industry. Mature, experimental and artistic animated films (Heroic Times, Son of the White Horse, Time Masters) struggled at the box office and gradually lost executive support, which was a major reason for the strictly adult The Tragedy of Man languishing in Development Hell for nearly three decades. Films with a wider, child-friendlier appeal meanwhile flourished at the box office, strengthening the notion that animation is for kids. There were a few exceptions. Cat City, a spy thriller spoof that was intended for adults had much of its gore and sexual content removed due to Executive Meddling and thus became a success with viewers of all ages. Hófehér was a Dark Comedy spoof of Snow White that became relatively successful Cult Classic and is still reputed as an adult film, though it reportedly upset kids whose parents thought the film was a straight Snow White retelling.

    Films — Animation 
  • A segment on ABC's Good Morning America on February 24th, 2011 discussed how no animated movie has ever won an Academy Award, on the basis that the Academy thinks that animated movies are always just for kids and only for kids, despite knowing that Oscar-winning actors and actresses have contributed to these films as far back as Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which even earned Walt Disney an Honorary Oscar. Despite being largely for kids overall, some films today have more adult themes and issues that kids wouldn't recognize, but the Academy refuses to see things that way.
  • 9 was forced into the ghetto against its will: not only did it have a decidedly gloomy aesthetic, a well-earned PG-13 rating and multiple advertisements stating that it was "not your kid brother's cartoon movie," inattentive parents still brought their young children to see what they ultimately had to leave midway through, when said child started wailing at all of the scary imagery.
  • The 2011 animated adaptation of The Adventures of Tintin (2011) makes strides in escaping the ghetto, with its frequent use of firearms, pools of blood, and the use of alcohol and drunkenness for comedic effect. And yet, it got a PG rating. The film was initially being promoted under just the Paramount Pictures banner- until the Nickelodeon Movies logo suddenly started showing up in ads. You can just picture the Paramount executive screaming, "What are we doing, releasing a kids' movie without promoting it as such?!"
  • Many parents thought Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters was a kid friendly movie, and brought their kids to watch it. They were most certainly shocked to see this start up the film.
  • This was an issue when Beauty and the Beast managed to get a Best Picture Oscar nomination in 1991. Plenty of adults, including film critics, had heartily embraced it — it showed up on several critics' Top Ten lists for the year — and Disney, knowing what they had, cannily parlayed it into their Oscar campaign. Once it got its nomination, there were comments that it only showed how bad the live-action slate for the year had been, as if the Academy had been "reduced" to nominating it. Jokes were even made during the Oscar telecast about how a film consisting of "movable paintings" — as Billy Crystal put it in his opening number as host — was up against movies with live actors, who would surely be out of work if such movies continued to thrive. It remains the only animated movie nominated for Best Picture in the period when five films per year received nominations, despite movies like Spirited Away and Finding Nemo getting more critical acclaim than almost any live-action film in their respective years. Some saw the Best Animated Feature in those years as a kind of backhanded compliment — a way to reward animated movies without acknowledging that they were good enough to compete with "real" movies.
  • The Scandinavian DVD release of Beavis and Butt-Head Do America highlights the differences between rating systems in different countries very handily, with five different ratings for six different countries on the packaging and disc: The film is rated 15-and-up in Denmark and Ireland, 12-and-up in the UK, 11-and-up in Norway, 7-and-up in Sweden and 3-and-up in Finland, proving that repeated usage of "butt" and "ass" and words that start with those words + a Mushroom Samba + masturbation jokes + gunplay somehow translate in Scandinavia to "kid-friendly entertainment".
  • According to an interview with the director of The Brave Little Toaster when the movie was shown at the Sundance Film Festival, several judges outright told the director that it was the best movie at the festival, but they refused to give that title to a cartoon because they thought the award wouldn't be taken seriously.
  • It's horrifying that the DVD of Dead Space: Downfall (a prequel to a video game that everyone knows isn't for kids) was in the children's section of a regional Blockbuster in Brazil, with the cover image of a severed arm in space, placed just at eye height... to a five-year-old. The same could be found in other rental stores.
  • Don Bluth holds the philosophy that animation can be both dark and lighthearted at the same time, and that children can handle more than most adults believe, just as long as you gave them a (relatively) happy ending; The Secret of NIMH is probably the shining example of that philosophy. Needless to say, studio executives don't feel the same way, which is why Executive Meddling forced him to abandon this philosophy not long after All Dogs Go to Heaven; in fact, Bluth wanted to add darker elements to Rock-A-Doodle and The Pebble and the Penguin, but the studios wouldn't let him because they wanted the films to appeal more to kids.
    • Part of the reason that his last movie, Titan A.E., flopped was because the filmmakers didn't know whether to market it towards children or towards teenaged Sci-Fi fans (not even the VHS release was certain- you had a trailer for X-Men followed by a promo for Digimon, which was airing on Fox Kids at the time).
  • As said by a talking cotton ball in a Don Hertzfeldt short, the intro for the theatrical touring festival The Animation Show:
    Talking Cotton Ball 1: An animated film is not just a random series of mindless, self-indulging, violent cartoon images meant only to be enjoyed by young children or people with mental handicaps, but is a serious, valid art medium all unto itself which the artist is free to explore the purity of the film medium, down to each and every single frame. The animated arts are—
    Talking Cotton Ball 2: (pointing) Roboooooooots!
  • Fantasia was actually one of the earliest and most notable attempts to break out of the Ghetto. It was released in 1940, at a time when Walt Disney was trying to prove that animation was every bit as "serious" a medium as live-action. As an artistic movie with a soundtrack of classical music, no real narrative, and some rather family-unfriendly visuals (it remains to this day the only film in the Disney Animated Canon to show naked breasts), it was aimed at a decidedly more adult audience than Snow White or Pinocchio. Unfortunately, its box-office failure caused Disney to abandon plans for further movies in the same vein, and may even have indirectly contributed to the Ghetto as we know it.
  • Felidae tends to fall victim to this phenomenon. A movie about cute kitties it may be, but it is certainly not for children. It's actually more of an ultraviolent Film Noir. Director Michael Schaack isn't exactly famous for kid-friendly animation, but those who buy the DVD with the kitty on it certainly don't check if it was made by the same guy who also made movies of Werner and The Little Asshole. It was even aired on a German TV channel which advertised it as being a children's movie; people who believed the ads were rather surprised by the gore and cat sex.
  • The animated movie Heavy Metal was ridiculously, obviously not for kids. Extremes of violence and sex were fairly common in the short, rock cc-based vignettes that made up the original. In the flop sequel years later, the vignettes and much of the music were done away with, and most of the violence and sex were removed, toned down to something in the general vicinity of a PG-13 movie, maybe pushing R at best. It seems that even when making a sequel to a blatantly adult animated movie, you still need to make it not too adult.
    • South Park did an episode where everyone indulging in a new drug craze (cat piss) went into the Heavy Metal world. They did a great job not only on the animation but on pointing out what makes things allowed or not. The entire design of the fantasy world was breasts - walls, chairs, vehicles, everything was made of breasts, none of it censored. The only breasts that were not allowed were the ones on the woman. When she takes off her top the camera cuts away.
  • For some strange reason, Isle of Dogs was treated this way by some movie theater chains such as Regal, which either ran the trailer before kids' movies like Ferdinand, had trailers for kids' movies run before it (Regal showed the trailers for The Grinch and Show Dogs on their prints of the film), or did both things, despite the film not being what one would consider a kids' movie. Ironically, this may have actually helped the movie in the long run, since it gave it more exposure and resulted in it being a minor box-office success.
  • One DVD of The Last Unicorn included commercials for shows targeted at young children (such as The Doodlebops). While it's a beautiful cartoon movie about a unicorn, it is not aimed at toddlers; it's rather dark and includes a scene of one of the main characters being smothered by a tree person's boobs, so the ads are a bit out of place.
  • Somewhat tellingly, The Lion King (2019) is treated as a live-action remake by Disney and referred to as such in its promotional materials, despite being every bit as animated as the original feature (to the point TV Tropes itself files it under the Western Animation namespace). Real animals can't exactly talk, after all. The idea seems to be that the photorealistic CG of the remake is somehow easier to take seriously than the traditional animation of the original film, despite the 1994 movie being renowned as one of Disney's most emotionally complex stories.
  • The Plague Dogs has the word "plague" in the title, yet the marketers still tried to make it look like a kids' movie (for example, the poster reads "Escape to a different world and share the adventure of lifetime"), despite showing things like starving to death, while having crazy hallucinations and trying to avoid being shot.
  • Ralph Bakshi made adult cartoons, most famously Fritz the Cat, as an attempt to prove that animation wasn't just for kids, but his films still ended up being poorly received because of this (though a majority of them have been Vindicated by History). Others, such as Cool World, became the victims of Executive Meddling thanks to this trope.
    • Even creditable sources commonly mistake some of his films, such as Wizards, to be kids' films due to this phenomenon.
  • In Rango... just for starters, it's a Spaghetti Western Affectionate Parody, with all the things such a thing needs (Family-Unfriendly Violence, mild swearing, and jokes most kids wouldn't understand). No wonder lots of negative reviews go "this is not a kids' film" or "this isn't a family film".
  • Rock and Rule isn't for kids in the slightest; the target audience is teens and young adults. It was, however, rated PG because it was released before (as in, just a year before) the PG-13 rating was created. This was also a major factor in the movie's financial failure. Its distributor, believing that an animated movie directed at an older audience wouldn't be successful, under-promoted it. The results didn't exactly prove them wrong.
  • The Shrek series has a complex relationship with this phenomenon;
    • Like The Flintstones and The Muppet Show did back in their day, the first Shrek was meant to appeal to both children and adults without seemingly favoring one group over the other, with its edgy humor and pop-culture references giving it a grittier vibe than other animated movies at the time - especially the Disney Animated Canon, which had a reputation for being "squeaky-clean". However, as time went on and Shrek became a Cash-Cow Franchise, marketing for the movies became more kid-focused even as the content of the movies was only slightly toned down. This caused the series to eventually gain a reputation of being "for kids", just like what happened to the Flintstones and Muppets. This is reflected in the evolution of the franchise's toyline: the first movie had a line of highly detailed collectibles by McFarlane Toysnote  that could be appreciated by both kids and adults (just like the movie), while the toylines for the sequels (by Hasbro and MGA) were far cheaper and more gimmicky, and no longer targeted the Periphery Demographic of action figure collectors.
  • Sausage Party can be summed up with a quote from the main page: "The biggest middle finger to the Animation Age Ghetto of the 21st century." Despite being probably the most child-unfriendly animated movie ever played in major theater chains—a fact made abundantly clear from the trailer, which barely scratches the surface of just how many lines it crosses—and additional content warnings posted by the theaters themselves, some parents still obliviously brought their young children to see it...because it's an animated movie about talking food.
  • This happens in-universe in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. All the children (except for one kid) in South Park go see Terrance and Phillip: Asses of Fire, despite it being rated R and the poster stating nobody under 17 can see the film. This makes the kids start cursing and imitating things done in the movie. Due to this, the parents of the children start to protest Canada. During their song, "Blame Canada", one mother calls Asses of Fire a cartoon, a Shout-Out to the ghetto. Even the title is a big giveaway it isn't for kids. This was obviously a wink and a nod at the many, many children who watched South Park in the late '90s in spite of their parents' wishes. A few movie critics also reported seeing parents taking their kids to go see the movie. No doubt South Park's reputation completely evaded them.
  • This article about Tangled sums up the entire concept of the trope by categorizing viewers into 4 mindsets "Cartoons are simplistic twaddle for little kids" "That's pretty good... for a cartoon" "Movies come in all ranges of quality and whether it's animated or live-action shouldn't make a difference in how it's viewed" and "OMG PRINCESSES" (that one being exclusively filled by girls between the ages of 2 and 12). Odds are, if you're reading this page, you probably fall into category 3, and good for you.
  • The film adaptation of Watership Down is the poster child for What Do You Mean, It's for Kids? It's famous for being full of bloody violence and disturbing and surreal themes, despite being an animated movie about bunny rabbits. To this day, the British Board of Film Classification still receives complaints for giving it an all-ages "U" rating.
  • The Winnie the Pooh franchise has garnered a reputation for being a very kid-friendly franchise that's especially popular with preschoolers. Whenever a more serious story is told with Pooh and company (such as Pooh's Grand Adventure, The Tigger Movie, and the live-action Christopher Robin— to say nothing of, Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey), the movies often get a very mixed critical reception due to the perceived notion that more serious themes like the ones those films covernote  have no place in a franchise like Winnie-the-Pooh. Despite this, all three movies were for the most part very positively-received by Pooh fans young and old alike.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. The World:
    • In a DVD extra, one of the fake magazine covers for the Clash at Demonhead reads "BAM! POW! Comics aren't just for kids anymore!". This was a real news headline about a Batman comic.
    • Some IMDb users have called the movie "kiddie" just because it has flashy visuals and pee jokes. We're talking about a movie that has lots of swearing (although all F-bombs are bleeped with dial-up sounds), a scene where Scott is impaled by the final ex (there's no blood, but still...), Scott accidentally saying that he wants to give Knives a golden shower, slight sex-related talk, and a scene where one of the exes has an orgasm.
  • This may be the main reason Welcome to Marwen flopped. Whereas most mainstream American Animated films that are rated PG-13 are either comedies or Action that try to be live action, Welcome to Marwen was a Drama and was actively trying to look animated.
  • Despite the Oasis scenes, which take up 75% of the movie, being animated via motion capture, Ready Player One is marketed as a live-action movie. This was also true with the marketing for Avatar (2009), which according to James Cameron himself had a ratio of 60% computer-generated elements (with then-pioneering use of motion capture) and 40% live-action film (as well as some miniatures).
  • This may be the reason why the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books were adapted into live action and not animation, despite being based on a cartoon since that way the movies could appeal to a pre-teen crowd who thought animation would be too childish for them and were starting to watch live-action media aimed at an older audience. It didn't help that American cartoons were going through some tough times around then, and were constantly overshadowed by live-action series. The books did get an Animated Adaptation on Disney+ in 2021.
  • According to John Glover, who played Dr. Jason Woodrue, this trope was invoked for Batman & Robin by Joel Schumacher, who would "sit on a crane with a megaphone and yell before each take, 'Remember, everyone, this is a cartoon'. It was hard to act because that kind of set the tone for the film." No surprise, then, that it turned out to be like a movie of a "frivolous genre suitable primarily for children under the age of 12."
  • In some parts of Latin America, The Dark Knight was not only dubbed, but released with the equivalent of a PG-13 rating. It was even promoted in Kid Meals at some fast food restaurants. You can imagine the kind of Nightmare Fuel Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker might have inspired in the poor children that went to the theater thinking they were going to see a Batman movie.
  • In general, there's still a condescending attitude regarding many superhero films. Movies like The Dark Knight and Joker (2019) received critical acclaim, and a lot of the positive reviews called them "superhero movies for adults" and other things along those lines.
  • In Thank You for Smoking a conversation is shown in which the president of that time was saying that the cigarette industry now wants to manipulate children by showing them cartoons with a Smoking Is Cool message. It becomes all the more hilarious if you realize that those cartoons were made for an adult audience.
  • Disney released Who Framed Roger Rabbit under Touchstone Pictures, their label for mature content (including PG-13 and R material at the time) — objectively defying this trope.
  • The anti-smoking special Smoke Alarm: The Unfiltered Truth About Cigarettes uses this in one of its segments. A fictional cigarette company creates a cool Funny Animal mascot aimed at the underage market. This references the controversy that mascots like Joe Camel were aimed at kids.
  • Matt Zoller Seitz's negative review of Aladdin (2019) discusses how this ghetto contributes to why The New '10s run of live-action remakes/variants on Disney Animated Canon films exists, even though many of them are regarded as inferior to their animated counterparts by critics and said originals are still kept in circulation.
    As is often the case with the recent Disney remakes, this one seems to adhere to the same misconception that affects the rest of the film industry, particularly where science fiction adventures, superhero narratives, and fairy tales are concerned: that if it’s animated, i.e. a “cartoon,” it’s somehow not a “real movie,” and thus not worthy of the automatic respect bestowed upon the most expensive and heavily promoted motion pictures, and not as validating to the people who’ve paid to see it. All of which is also strange, considering how CGI-dependent these sorts of movies are, even when they’re trying to make the mountains and buildings and tigers and parakeets made of ones and zeroes look as “real” as possible.

  • As a whole, there exists a literary version of this phenomenon— an "illustration age ghetto"— in which books with illustrations are seen as being exclusively for children regardless of their actual subject. A number of authors have struggled with this.
    • Haruhi Suzumiya's first volume was, at one point, on the Accelerated Reading list for fifth graders, and one of the questions was about how Haruhi got possession of one of the computer club's computers (that is, Haruhi blackmailed the president by taking compromising photos of him and Mikuru). The series itself is definitely aimed at a young adult audience, particularly with how often Mikuru is forced into cosplay outfits for the sake of fanservice.
    • This could be the reason Light Novels took so long to get released in the West. Unlike most regular literature aimed at Teens and Adult, they are primarily based around having freqeunt illustrations. Since most Western illustrated books are predominantly aimed at children, this made light novels umarketable. Also worth mentioning is that the fact that "cartoons are for kids" doesn't apply to their sister mediums anime and Comic Books.
    • Diary of a Wimpy Kid has heavily struggled with the Ghetto. The books were initially Slice of Life dramedies aimed at all ages, in a similar manner to many comic strips. However, after a while, the books became aimed exclusively at kids, since adults wouldn't read them due to the cartoonish illustrations. This led to the books filling up with wacky cartoony moments and modern-day pop culture references to appeal to kids.
    • Dr. Seuss fell into this mindset after the failure of his only venture into adult literature, The Seven Lady Godivas, which convinced him that only children were able to appreciate his whimsical art and writing style, and that adults were simply "obsolete children" not worth his time. He would become one of the most beloved children's authors in American history, so this is one of the very rare instances of this trope turning out for the better. That being said, he also made some very adult-oriented political cartoons during World War II, and some of his children's books (The Butter Battle Book, The Lorax, etc.) contain fairly weighty themes that young children might not immediately get. Seuss eventually wrote another book aimed at adults... titled You're Only Old Once: A Book For Obsolete Children.
    • This was the reason why the Harry Potter books were re-released with plain covers lacking the original cartoon illustrations when they began to gain popularity among adults, for those who wanted to read the series but felt embarrassed doing so in public.
  • In Earth (The Book), by Jon Stewart, the section on film has this to say about animated films: "Animated movies presented children with a dazzling array of colorful characters they could force their parents to buy for them."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Bottom episode "Bottom's Up" features an inversion of this trope. Richie joins Eddie, who is watching a film. Richie comments about the cute furry anthropomorphic animated critters on-screen all with Species Surname: "It isn't very sexy, is it." Instead of correctly guessing that it's a kids's movie, he assumes that ''The Furry Honey-Pot Adventure'' is a porno. The only clue Eddie gets that no sex scenes will begin is because the caption "The End" appears on-screen.
    • He was equally disappointed with his purchase of Big Jugs, which turns out just to be a history of pottery.
      Eddie: Well, this ones got to be a sure-fire hit: Swedish Lesbians in Blackcurrant Jam!
      Richie: Yabba-dabba-doo! No, Eddie it's Swedish LEGENDS in Blackcurrant Jam MAKING!
      Eddie: Aww, come on, it's got to be dirty, it says "Swedish" on it!
  • An episode of My Family dealt with this when Ben was babysitting Kenzo when Janey went for a night out and she rented a cartoon for Kenzo to watch with Ben, however, when they are watching TV together, Ben plays the trope straight as demonstrated:
    Ben: It's about time that you developed a more mature taste in cinema. Tonight, we are going to watch serious hard-earned cinema, not a silly cartoon about a stupid talking rat!
    Kenzo: My cartoon won an Oscar, your films are overproduced re-makes and made by twelve-year-olds with short attention spans!
  • On one episode of Excused which aired on February 13th, 2012, two girls excused a 22-year-old guy, Sean because they don't want to sit in the couch and watch cartoons.
    Dianna: Hanging on the couch all day, I can't do that.
    Iliza: No.
    Lauren: I don't do cartoons.
    • After they picked him:
      Lauren: Watching cartoons is not a date, is a nightmare.
      Iliza: It's a nightmare, Sean's excused.
  • In an episode of Eight is Enough Tom takes his youngest son Nicholas to a screening of Snow White - he thinks it's the Disney version, but it's actually an X rated version. Tom hustles Nicholas out quickly with his hand over his eyes.
  • In an episode of Fringe, Walter is introduced to the cartoon SpongeBob SquarePants. He is surprised the show is aimed at children, and found it "quite profound, for a sponge".
  • In an episode of Modern Family, Claire wonders if it's odd that their preteen son Luke has befriended their elderly neighbor. Phil rattles off a list of several movies about friendships between children and old people, to which Claire counters with examples of how each friendship ended badly... except for Up, to which her only rebuttal is to say "Cartoon." Best Picture nominee, critically acclaimed for being profoundly sad and heartwarming, and filled with plenty of peril she could have used as an example on par with any of the live-action films Phil mentioned, but she goes for simply calling it a cartoon.note 
  • Unnatural History could be said to have suffered from an inverted form of the Ghetto. Although a live-action series— and, by most accounts, a very good one— it aired on Cartoon Network, a channel associated purely with animation. Since Cartoon Network's previous ventures into live-action were not well-received, many would-be viewers refused to watch Unnatural History simply because it was a live-action show on a network specializing in animation.
  • In the Seinfeld episode "The Contest", Jerry says he's watching Tiny Toon Adventures, which has him singing "The Wheels on the Bus", a preschool song which did not, and certainly would not, appear on the show, which was known for its wit, sass, and timely cultural satire. Clearly, the writers assumed that since it was animated, it was a preschool show and not worth researching further (they also get the channel it aired on wrong, though reruns of the show would show up on said channel in the late 90's and early 2000's).

  • Bomani Armah's Read a Book, which is best described as "Anti-Krunk", raised a bit of a stink from parents over its harsh language and imagery being shown on BET's Rap City and 106 & Park where children could see it. Never mind the videos that actually show off that kind of content that show up before and after it.
  • People have brought young children to Gorillaz concerts. Not only does their music contain quite dark and mature themes overall, but their backstory is certainly far from child-friendly as well (self-proclaimed satanic bassist Murdoc Niccals should be enough of a clue). A feature-length movie deal with DreamWorks Animation in 2003 fell through specifically because artist/writer Jamie Hewlett wanted to make a dark, mature story about celebrity culture and the apocalypse, but the studio kept pressuring him to keep it family-friendly.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Puppets in general suffer from this trope even more than animation. The success of Sesame Street ensured that puppet shows would generally be viewed as a medium for very young children, despite the show's Parental Bonuses. This trope was in fact Jim Henson's reason for making The Muppet Show, as he didn't want to be viewed as a children's performer; however, due to this very trope, The Muppets themselves have been fluctuating between catering to children and families/adults. Nowadays, most puppet shows, on television or otherwise, are aimed at the preschool crowd. The Muppet Show Muppets are currently the only truly "mainstream" puppets that cater to adults as much as children. Truly adult-oriented puppet shows, when they do exist, are almost inevitably parodies of children's entertainment, whether for comedy (as in Avenue Q) or for horror (as in Dead Silence).
    • The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss fell into the Ghetto. At first, it was a prime time show aimed at general/older audiences... but when Bear in the Big Blue House premiered on Disney Channel in 1997, The Jim Henson Company was prompted by Nickelodeon to revamp the show for Nick Jr., which barely, if ever, helped in the ratings. After the show's second season ended in 1998, it was quietly cancelled and faded into obscurity.
    • This was the main reason The Land of Gorch skits produced by Jim Henson only lasted for the first two seasons of Saturday Night Live. It was mandated the show's creative team rather than Henson's write them and almost no one on the show was enthusiastic about writing for puppets. Henson was still a consultant, though it did no favours, with the team flummoxed by his insistence on being more character-driven, viewing his puppets as nothing more than piles of felt to tell jokes through. Shortly in, Henson took the hint and dropped work on the series in favour of The Muppet Show, a far more successful endeavour into older audience material.
    • Muppets appearing on Sesame Street was a Parental Bonus in and of itself, since they had been regulars on The Ed Sullivan Show and other big prime time shows. As a matter of fact, the puppets that evolved into Grover and Cookie Monster made their earliest appearances on Sullivan's show.
    • The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance has received glowing praise across the board, especially its storytelling. Some very few critics found it "too gross / too scary for children" (similarly to the 1982 film) as if it was solely intended for them, which it clearly isn't.
    • Mystery Science Theater 3000 seems to be the one exception to the rule that puppet series aimed at adults are always parodies of children's works. It is aimed at adults and has a cast made up mainly of puppets, but the humor in it comes from the mockery of old sci-fi movies, not the mere presence of the puppets themselves.
    • At one point in the mid-90's, likely due to the use of Muppets like in Sesame Street, The Muppet Show aired on Nick Jr., despite not being aimed at toddlers.
  • This attitude is averted in Taiwan, where one of the most popular Wuxia franchises is Pili, a long-running puppetry series with as much complexity and depth as any live-action or novel.

  • If a Broadway show comes out that's based on a non-Disney cartoon, animated movie or children's book, you can expect many people to refuse to see it because it is based on something for kids, thus resulting in the show closing. One example of this was The SpongeBob Musical, which closed after a year due to low ticket sales despite winning a Drama Desk Award and receiving glowing praise from critics. Another notable example was the Tuck Everlasting musical, which only ran for a month and a half. However, this has been averted with Anastasia, which changed many plot elements from the movie to make the story more realistic, and Matilda, which ran for 4 years on Broadway and is still running in London.

    Video Games 
Video games themselves are an aversion, and perhaps even with an inversion. Once consoles that were able to feature live-action scenes, such as the Philips CD-i and the 3DO, came out, with commercials saying that the consoles could feature live-action video, many called it "the future of gaming", even though the consoles they were on had a high price and few bought them. While the technology was new and exciting at first, it quickly delved into just a tech gizmo territory because their gameplay was usually very limited, and the acting was almost always horrible. This, coupled with the huge budget needed to make such a game (Ground Zero Texas and Sewer Shark, full-motion video games on the Sega CD, both cost 3 million dollars each to make) and generally poor reviews (though Sewer Shark was more widely praised, Ground Zero Texas got a score of 20% on Sega16), led quickly to the death of the genre. Nowadays, admitting to wanting live-action in a video game is like saying that you want your game to be horrible. This doesn't keep prevent the medium from having its own age ghettoes, though...

  • During its infancy, console gaming in general fell victim to the Ghetto. Back when the Nintendo Entertainment System was released, with success, there was a clear distinct line between gamers who played on computers (who were the adults) and people who played on the NES (who were the kids). Perhaps this is one of the reasons for Nintendo of America's strict guideline policy before the ESRB rating system in 1994. The Japanese version of the NES was even called the Family Computer, and Famicom games generally typically targeted younger, less literate players than games made for Japanese home computers such as the MSX.
    • Sega noticed this trend and used it to their advantage when putting the Sega Genesis on the shelves in America, by way of the infamous "Genesis Does What Nintendon't" marketing campaign. As a result, Nintendo became labeled as a "kiddy" brand, while Sega would be positioned as the brand for teens and young adults: a stigma that would stick with Nintendo long after Sega left the hardware market, with Sony and Microsoft taking their place as the "adult" consoles.
    • Played with in regards to Nintendo. Nintendo themselves happily wears the family-friendly label, having spent years marketing itself as such and having an internal policy to never produce content above a Teen rating. However, this has the side effect of their hardware being seen as lacking graphic/mature content in general. While this was certainly the case prior to the establishment of the ESRBnote , by the time of the Nintendo GameCube, Nintendo not only had no problem with third-party developers putting mature content on their systems, but they would also begin publishing M-rated fare themselves (albeit infrequently). Despite this, general audiences and gamers alike still tend to be shocked whenever Nintendo decides to highlight a new M-rated game during a Nintendo Direct, especially when Nintendo is publishing it themselves, or when a title that is censored on other platforms due to sexual content is uncensored on Nintendo's consoles. Part of the reason for this is that the biggest and most popular M-rated franchises, such as Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty, generally skip Nintendo's consoles for reasons unrelated to content (mostly processing power, storage size, or online capabilities).
    • Even till this day in many Asian countries, the Vocal Minority of Mobile Phone Game players, who were Moral Guardians in the past, disdain gaming consoles as "kiddie" devices as their Grandfather Clause contrary to the fact and despite high costs of console gaming in their regions compared to smartphones, and even deride console gamers for being Manchildren who Never Grew Up. Weirdly enough, despite the fact many mobile games are designed for adults, many mobile gamers hand their smartphones to kids due to this trope and high smartphone adoption rates.
  • If a game is rated "E," "E10+," or sometimes even "T" (in other words, not Rated M for Money), expect this to happen — you'd be surprised how much of this "Filthy Casual" hatred can actually be described as Animation Age Ghetto. You'd be more surprised at how many of the people doing this aren't even old enough to play T-Rated games.
    • Averted in Germany, where the USK rating system is taken so seriously, that younger people who want to play 18+ (or 16+, 14+ and 12+, for that matter) rated games need to show their identity card if they want to buy a game to show that they are adult, unless they're accompanied by one. Guess that kids didn't want to get through this tedious and annoying process, which explains why in that country, that problem is almost non-existent.
    • The United States did the same for M-rated games, requiring an adult's ID card to purchase such a game. This ultimately doesn't work as well as the ESRB probably hoped, as children and teenagers who want such games either resort to fake ID cards or, more likely, just ask their parents to buy the game for them with the knowledge that mom or dad won't pay attention to the cashier explaining the sexual/violent/vulgar content they're about to buy for their underaged child. These parents either treat video games as simply a babysitter to plop their kids down in front of and keep them occupied and out of their hair for the day, assuming they don't need to pay attention to what their kids are playing because "video games are for kids" and therefore couldn't possibly contain any kind of Harmful to Minors content (and if they ever find out, expect them to flip a switch and turn into Moral Guardians on par with Jack Thompson himself, screaming "How dare they sell this game to kids!"), or are fully aware of said content from the get-go and just don't care. Thus, they continue to buy M-rated games for their kids repeatedly.
    • Now that Digital Distribution has come online, it has become even harder to verify consumers' ages; the biggest hurdle they'd probably have to pass is a screen that says "Enter birth date here", which can be easily falsified. This has been mitigated by console and distribution software creators adding parental control options for online game purchases and access, but again, many parents ignore these and neglect to set them up.
    • This can also apply to any game that is Rated M for Money, but doesn't have sufficiently "realistic" graphics to satisfy the discerning tastes of the 12-year-old who wants to show off how mature and grown-up he is by saying big boy words over the microphone.
    • When Xbox Avatars (a.k.a. Miis for the Xbox 360) were first introduced, there was much complaining from the "won't play anything not rated M" crowd, claiming that their mature gaming machine was ruined by the presence of cartoon people, and that having to look at them before playing a serious, mature deathmatch was too much of a mood killer.
  • This was especially propagated by The Seventh Generation of Console Video Games, when the Japanese gaming market went into decline and West took over the industry. The cost of game development shot through the roof, killing off many Japanese and mid-tier Western developers. Most of the survivors switched over to handheld development and the blossoming mobile gaming scene just to stay afloat. As Japan was the primary market for games with cartoonish art styles (and where most of them were being made), and mid-tier developers were the ones who usually made them in the West, this resulted in far fewer such games being produced. Meanwhile, gritty, realistic Western games became the new norm thanks to the massive success of games like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, The Last of Us, Grand Theft Auto IV, Assassin's Creed, Uncharted and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. The entire industry wanted a piece of that pie, and the hordes of new gamers brought in by these titles mostly shunned older, more family-friendly series because they weren't what video games were "supposed" to be like. This led to many large Japanese developers "Westernizing" their games in hopes of catching the attention of these new gamers; usually this took the form of making their series darker, more "mature", and more realistic (usually in the form of increased violence and swearing), and, for the most part, only alienated their old fans while failing to bring in new ones.
  • Downplayed in-universe in the TV station management simulation Empire TV Tycoon, which uses real life shows in its gameplay. Cartoons, regardless of age rating, are most popular with children, but men, women, and geeks also enjoy them to a lesser extent. Meanwhile anime, regardless of what its real life target audience is, is mostly popular with geeks but children also like them as well. Elders, meanwhile, hate any animation, though you can get to tolerate them if they're of the Western genre.
  • The entire justification by Michael Atkinson for why Australia didn't have an R rating available for video games until late 2012, despite the very vocal objections of the hundreds of thousands of mature gamers in Australia.
  • RPGs (especially JRPGs) get this a lot. Many of them are purposely made to go around the "T" rating specifically because, contrary to popular belief, that's actually the widest range of marketability for games, but unfortunately, because of the beliefs from the Animation Age Ghetto, many people dismiss those "Animu" RPGs as being kiddy, especially because they're not Rated M for Money. Never mind how many of these "kiddy" looking games are actually Crapsaccharine World based games - and it's not making an effort to hide how crappy the world is. Popular WRPG games are not as subjected to this, although you'll find that developers tend to emphasize their Darker and Edgier parts at times to avoid the Ghetto. Dragon Age: Origins for instance, proudly admits it is a "Dark Fantasy Role-Playing Game".
    • This even happened with the Persona series. Part of the reason some people actually paid attention to 3 and 4 was because they were rated "M". Course, the "M" rating didn't stop people from seeing the use of primary colors in the graphics and then dismissing it as another kiddy RPG from Japan - never mind the fact the former heavily involves repeated simulated suicide and the latter is a whodunit with heavy psychological themes, especially with regards to sexualitynote .
    • It's probably not a coincidence that Shin Megami Tensei in general became better known after YouTube became more populated.
    • The Tales Series may suffer from the Ghetto. Especially Symphonia, Abyss, and Vesperia. These games have themes like racial discrimination, vigilante murder, and accidentally killing a town full of people ( both of these are actually committed by The Hero) and Utopia Justifies the Means being thrown around from every angle. In addition, the Tales series relies a lot on deconstructing a lot of cliches. This is so much of a case as "too violent/sexy for kids" as it is "Would kids actually understand this stuff?" It takes a teenager or adult watching some scenes to notice some of these themes... or actually be familiar with the cliches being deconstructed.
    • Xenosaga gets this from some quarters, mainly due to its very cartoony art style. Aside from how nobody younger than high-school age is going to get the umptillion references to Gnosticism that form the basis for the setting, one of the major supporting characters (who briefly joins the party) is addicted to the neural tissue of bioroids. And then he gets gunned down by one of his allies, merely because it's not her job to keep him, personally, alive. This is in the first five hours (tops) of the game. By the end of the game, there's the infamous "ma belle peche" scene, wherein a very scary villain intimidates into submission and then "hacks" one of the Ridiculously Human Robots (who is also an endearing party member most players have at least some fondness for) in an onscreen metaphor for child rape.
    • Pokémon falls victim to the Ghetto outside of America, mostly because the entire franchise, headlined by the animenote , was strictly for children in its early days. As the Periphery Demographic grew, they became increasingly aware of the "Pokémon is for kids" stigma. As such, Game Freak has made a conscious effort to abolish the Ghetto by establishing Pokémon as a hipster-friendly all-ages franchise, and by downplaying the role of the anime, one of the few parts of the franchise that still abides by the Ghetto itself.
  • It's probably worth mentioning Team Fortress 2. The game uses highly stylized art reminiscent of a Pixar film which, coupled with bright colors, apparently makes it look "cartoony". This is contrasted by large amounts of blood, players gibbing upon explosion, and a mild level of swearing. You can occasionally run into 7 or 8-year-old kids online whose parents obviously didn't pay attention to the rating. Speaking of online, as a multiplayer game with voice and text chat, it's very common to hear even more inappropriate language than what was originally put in the game—there's a reason the ESRB warnings state that "online interactions are not rated".
    • And in some of the "Meet the Team" shorts, there are even more intense depictions of violence than in-game (such as BLU Spy's head exploding in graphic detail, and BLU Soldier having a hole blown through his chest). In addition, there's the scene in "Meet the Spy" where we see suggestive photos of RED Spy and Scout's mother and "Meet the Pyro" in its entirety.
  • If any game uses any form of stylized graphics, expect people to dismiss it as being "kiddy". People have even criticized World of Warcraft's graphics for looking like something out of a Disney movie, and Diablo III and League of Legends were criticized for not being "dark" enough. All because Blizzard doesn't believe that Real Is Brown... and there's a great deal of horror in both franchises.
    • When it comes to Diablo III... complaining about the game not being "dark" enough when the trailer featured a barbarian being ripped in half.
    • The most common complaint about the World of Warcraft expansion, Mists Of Pandaria is the fact that the areas are brightly colored and features a lot of talking animals, starring the talking pandas, the Pandarens. Many people even took one look at the Pandarens and jumped headlong into the idea that Blizzard ripped off the concept of Kung Fu Panda (despite the Pandaren being introduced in Warcraft 3, which was released years before the first Kung-Fu Panda movie). This despite the fact that the expansion is not too much lighter in terms of story than the others.
  • Although Mortal Kombat fits this trope, the game WAS originally being marketed at children, particularly when it was ported to home consoles in 1993. This was one of only a handful of instances where the censors actually had a valid point on the matter.
  • While the original Viva Piñata was a Sleeper Hit, Microsoft wanted the game to become their answer to Pokémon, but it didn't work out. The game looked like a children's game but was actually comprised of challenging Nintendo Hard sim management tasks that kids, and some adults, just couldn't handle. As such the franchise only lasted a scant two years.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker got hit by this because, and only because, the game featured brightly colored textures, a cel-shaded lighting system, characters with cartoony proportions, and cartoony slapstick humor. The franchise's Western fanbase was up in arms over the art style, with one fan reviewer even called it "C-quality Disney garbage," even though said "Disney garbage" is actually considered to be some of the best video game animation seen at the time. Detractors clearly didn't notice the dark backstory or never got the memo about the infamously violent ending (which involves Ganondorf's head being impaled with the Master Sword). The backlash from Western audiences was so fierce that the developers scrapped plans for a direct sequel in favor of creating The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, which received immense pre-release excitement. While both games are now loved by the fan community, it's generally agreed that Wind Wakers colorful aesthetic allowed it to age far better than the Real Is Brown Twilight Princess, to the point that many questioned how much better the HD remake actually made the former look.
    • History repeated itself with the 2019 Video Game Remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. The game is a largely faithful remaster that keeps the dark story and heavy existentialist themes of the original, yet upon reveal you had hardcore fans slamming it left and right for the 3D rendition of the original Graphics-Induced Super-Deformed art style "making it look kiddy."
  • The Super Smash Bros. series. While the games are largely family-friendly, they bring together a stable of Nintendo and other game characters representing all sorts of different aesthetics and demographics, and seem to not prioritize any specific age group over others. Despite this, every other fan and gaming journalist is quick to label the series as a "children's series", largely because many of the constituent series - such as Super Mario, the most prominently-represented and the franchise's namesake - are cartoonish family-friendly series that themselves suffer from a reputation of being "for children". The more colorful artstyle of the fourth game ended up invoking this trope even further. This is despite one of the characters featured being freaking Bayonetta.
  • The initial divisive reaction to Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze was colored by this trope. Since the Wii U was Nintendo's first high-definition consoles, fans were eager to see how Retro Studios would do with a high-definition entry in the Metroid Prime series, one of Nintendo's first few first-party franchises agreed to be "mature". The announcement that they were working on a colorful 2D platformer game was seen by many as a waste of Retro Studios' talents, particularly since the genre was well-served by other games on the system. Tropical Freeze would come to be seen as one of the best 2D platformers ever made, but mostly in retrospect.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • The series regularly struggles with this trope. The games are cartoony, family-friendly, and made to appeal to as wide a demographic as possible. As such, the series often gets slapped with the "kiddy" label despite the creators' intentions. According to the late Satoru Iwata, the perception of Mario as a "childish" franchise was a problem that Nintendo wasn't too pleased about, and they actively worked on having the franchise appeal to all age groups.
    • One of the composers of Super Mario Galaxy was hit with this trope when he composed music for the game with a "cute" and "kid-friendly" feel, based on his impressions of Mario and his series. Koji Kondo rejected the music, asserting that "Mario is cool" and that Mario games are "cool adventure games" at their core. Kondo himself never viewed the character as "cute", and kept this in mind when composing music for the series through the years.
  • This trope has been the bane of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise for many years now. Ironically, Sonic was seen as an aversion in his conception, because Sega marketed the character as the "hip and cool" alternative to the "Kid friendly" Mario. But after Sonic Adventure, the series began to delve into deeper and more intricate storylines with...questionable quality, that by the time of Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) rolled around, the public perception of Sonic was that the series shouldn't be serious at all because it stars a cartoon blue hedgehog and Sega took that to heart, as every game after the aforementioned Sonic '06 have become increasingly Lighter and Softer and Denser and Wackier much to frustration of parts of the fanbase who preferred the more intricate storylines. Sega would attempt to incorporate darker storylines again in Sonic Forces, and since then has continued this trend. Some fans and critics even consider Sonic Frontiers to be the most complex, dark, and mature game of the franchise due to its themes of finality and moving on, moving the franchise steps away from the ghetto.*
  • Splatoon fans are very familiar with this trope. As a colorful, family-friendly series loaded with adorable, cartoony character designs in a genre dominated by Rated M for Money gorefests aimed at teenagers and adults, it attracts a lot of bile for being "immature" and "for kids" and is generally not taken as seriously as its contemporaries. This sentiment tends to greatly annoy the Splatoon fanbase, as the games go out of their way to appeal to players of all ages with their addicting gameplay, surprisingly deep characters, and a reputation for Surprisingly Creepy Moments almost on par with Kirby.
  • This happened with the initial wave of 3D M-rated games that came out during the advent of the fifth generation of games (which began in either 1995 or 1996 depending on where you lived). One particular example is the original Resident Evil, which was, in fact, one of the very first M-rated games - after all, it's not easy to forget the violence, cannibalism via zombies and other undead critters, scientific exploitation, betrayal, and gripping, horrifying death scenes (Kenneth anyone?). To top it all off, the main characters are an elite SWAT-like team. Alas, the thought that games were a form of "children's entertainment" was firmly stuck into marketers' and parents' heads, which resulted in a good deal of eight year olds buying the game. This is ironic in hindsight, given that far more violent games had been released during the 8 and 16-bit eras, and while Moral Guardians came after a few of them, namely Mortal Kombat, many violent games escaped the parental radar, mostly because a lot of them were either Bowdlerised or released on less mainstream gaming systems.
  • Conker's Bad Fur Day. It has cute squirrels on the box... and it's full of sexual content, swearing, blood/gore, and an opera-singing turd. And yet, there were still quite a few small children who ended up playing it, despite the disclaimer on the cover stating it wasn't for children, placed there because it was anticipated people would mistake it for a kids' game.
  • Part of the reason why The Wonderful 101 sold so poorly, was due to the general public passing it off as a "kiddie" game due to its cute appearance. While the game is somewhat family-friendly, it has quite a bit of dark content, especially later into the story.note 
  • The Commodore Amiga and the Atari ST were never really taken seriously by mainstream business computer users in the U.S. because of their association with gaming, barring creative people like artists and musicians.
  • At the height of the moral panic over video game violence in the '90s, Sierra founder Ken Williams repeatedly pointed out that most of the people who bought and played games were adults. The company was no stranger to controversy with adult-oriented games like Leisure Suit Larry and Phantasmagoria.
  • Final Fantasy XIV has vivid colors that make locales and characters pop out, which caused a lot of people to dismiss it as a childish MMORPG or trying to copy off the art style of World of Warcraft. Look past the bright colors and you got a very dark game that is not afraid to openly show you just how grim the world is (post The End of the World as We Know It recovery, genocide, conquering lands and converting its people to the side of The Empire, etc). Other grim themes that are more subdued or subtle are acknowledged in game as well, such as slavery, prostitution, and racism. Even the Lalafell race, which look like a race of children, can exhibit very adult behavior and some even use their childish looks to exploit people.
  • Take a sip every time an r/entitledparents story involving video game consoles, particularly handheld ones, being stolen, or an attempt thereof being made, includes the entitled parent claiming the rightful owner is too old to own this expensive electronic device because it only exists to play video games. Take another sip when the game the rightful owner was playing is completely inappropriate for children. Actually, maybe just take a sip for the latter, or just don't use an alcoholic drink, else you'll probably poison yourself. There has been one story where an EP claimed the 15-year-old submitter was too old to own a computer, because apparently personal computers can't run anything other than video games.
  • The rise of the Indie Game has done much to reduce this within video games at large. Games like Minecraft, Shovel Knight, Stardew Valley, Undertale and Cuphead eschew most of the tropes associated with Rated M for Manly, and lean more towards family-friendly content and aesthetics. The rub is, they're too critically acclaimed and widely popular to truly suffer the effects of the Ghetto.
  • Second Life: Despite fitting the defintion of a video game, Linden Lab refuses to call it a video game on the grounds that "There is no manufactured conflict, no set objective" and repeatedly markets it as a virtual world or 3D chatroom, as do many players. Many wonder if this is because Linden Lab does not believe that audiences take Second Life as seriously if it's seen as a "game", despite being exactly that.

    Web Animation 
  • Happy Tree Friends is a cartoon about cute forest animals, but it has so much graphic violence, little kids shouldn't go near it with a ten foot pole.
  • Parodied in the Strong Bad Email "for kids", when Strong Bad responds to an email proposing a Strong Bad children's show by describing exactly why he shouldn't be dealing with small children. As for Homestar Runner at large, the stated intent according to The Brothers Chaps is that, while the material is family-friendly, the cartoons are no more for kids than cauliflower is for llamas.
  • Wileyk209zback's YouTube Poop:
    • This trope was parodied in "DW At Her Brattiest!". Towards the climax of the video, DW wants to go to her friends' birthday party at the movie theater. We learn that the movie they saw was Fritz the Cat, spoofing the fact that in the original episode, DW wasn't invited to the party in the first place.
    • Another poop of his, "DW Is Addicted To Surfin' Bird!", ends with DW, who is a preschooler, receiving a VHS tape of Family Guy as a present from Mama Luigi.
  • The creators of RWBY had to release a journal midway through Volume 3 to remind and warn viewers that it was not a kids show in anticipation of the show becoming much Darker and Edgier. RWBY itself probably counts as an aversion, being one of the closest things ever created to an American equivalent of shonen anime.
  • Ironically, this is the reason behind both GoAnimate's success with kids and the infamous "grounded" videos. The platform was made for businessmen and educators to explain things through animated characters, but once the younger Periphery Demographic kicked in, it was branded as a kids' site by the public, which the site owners tried multiple times to shake off. The "grounded" videos are frequently made by those kids, often having Caillou or Dora the Explorer characters in them... but since those shows are made for younger kids, the video makers turn the protagonists into brats and put them through all kinds of horrifying mishaps because "baby shows" are inherently bad to them and need to be punished.
  • True Tail: The main reason for the reboot:
    Though our original story was good, and we loved mixing our simplistic shape-based art with a mature story line, we found it nearly impossible to pitch this concept to any animation studio. With this new version, we have a more lighthearted tone that gives us the chance to bring humor and energy into the series. We are still making an action adventure show, but it will just be a little less serious.
  • Lobo (Webseries) is the very first DC cartoon geared towards adults. It has a lot of cursing, sexual content, ultraviolence, drinking and smoking. It doesn't help that Lobo also appeared in family-friendly cartoons that don't have his adult-oriented traits like in the comics. One of the story arcs has Lobo and Sunny Jim making a bet to see which one could have sex with a human waitress.
  • Both Hazbin Hotel and Helluva Boss are very much not meant for children, with constant swearing, graphic violence, sex, and drug and alcohol references, as well as most of the casts of both shows relishing in the fact they are horrible people (the premise of the latter show is that they are a Murder, Inc.). Even with Content Warnings that they are not meant for kids, this didn't stop YouTube from giving videos of both shows the Kids label just because they are brightly animated and have fun musical numbers.
  • hololive has cute Animesque V-tubers, but some of these V-tubers can be rather raunchy, including a horny pirate girl and a foul-mouthed dragon girl.
  • The video "Is Anime a Cartoon" by YouTuber MVPerry argues that anime is not a cartoon and even if it is, it's still completely different from western animation just because of the fact that cartoons are always either comedic or for kids.
  • The vast majority of YouTube Poop of kids' shows is aimed at an adult audience, but that doesn't stop YouTube from labelling it "for kids" anyway. This has led to some YTPers putting large "NOT FOR KIDS" disclaimers in the title in order to avoid the angry backlash from parents.


    Web Original 
  • On MyAnimeList, many anime shorts from the Silent and The Golden Age of Animation are mislabed as children's anime despite many of them being aimed at an adult audience. This is due to their similarities to American animation from the same time period.
  • Cartoon Brew frequently defies this, and made a post discussing the topic, "How Can We Make Adult Animation Truly Adult?" It even mentions the trope page and website by name, although it dismisses both as misguided and narrow in their scope of "adult" animation.
    Neil Emmett: The site prides itself on covering as broad a range of fiction as possible, emerging as a sometimes fascinating form of populist, open-access media scholarship. In theory, this would make it the perfect place to cover lost gems of animation, but in practice it has many blind spots. There is little discussion about (Jan) Svankmajer or (Yuri) Norstein, while juvenile mediocrities such as Disney's Gargoyles are treated as masterpieces on a par with the television dramas of Dennis Potter and David Simon. TV Tropes has a page devoted to what it calls the Animation Age Ghetto, which gives a reasonable if scattershot overview of the subject. The page's "examples" section, however, consists in large part of people filibustering about how their favorite superhero cartoons never caught on. The main reason that most of these cartoons never attracted adult audiences, of course, is that they are simply not for adults. That's not to say that there's anything wrong with having guilty pleasures. The humorist Stephen Fry summed things up well: a fan of Doctor Who, he commented that "every now and again we all like a chicken nugget." As he continued, however, "If you are an adult you want something surprising, savory, sharp, unusual, cosmopolitan, alien, challenging, complex, ambiguous, possibly even slightly disturbing and wrong. You want to try those things, because that's what being adult means." The ever-enthusiastic geek demographic certainly does not see animation as being merely for children. But it suffers from an inverted snobbery, with more inventive or experimental animation dismissed as "pretentious" or "arthouse", and from a view of the medium that is built largely on nostalgia for beloved childhood cartoons. Even dedicated animation enthusiasts can overlook much of the best work which is out there: perhaps it is in human nature for audiences to stick to the films which they think they might enjoy rather than try anything new.
  • Portrayed in this So... You're A Cartoonist? strip.
  • Gaia Online, being primarily an anime fansite, gets this a lot, despite having several measures to prevent under-thirteens from getting on the site. As a result, they often have to deal with parents upset that Li'l Precious has a half-naked succubus draped on their avatar.

    In the early days, when it was still known as Go-Gaia, the main page featured a link list with clearly-labeled links to adult-content websites. This was eventually removed after multiple complaints from users about being restricted to submission of PG-13 content on a site whose main page flaunted porn.
  • This list of the 10 Most Disturbing Cartoons is an inversion of this trope. It does acknowledge that cartoons can appeal to adults and warns explicitly to not let your kids see them. What qualifies it as an inversion though is that it lists children cartoons such as Wakfu that, according to the logic of this article, can not appeal to children because they have disturbing content. It seems that the writer does not know that kid horror movies exist.
  • One Twitter response to an article about mature cartoons inverts the trope, saying that cartoons are made "by, for, and starring adults" and that kids were only "welcome" to watch. The article itself played it straight, lumping in all-ages fare like Carmen Sandiego and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse with adult works like Bojack Horseman and Love, Death & Robots with the argument that kids aren't the target because it's mature.
  • This trope is part of the reason This Very Wiki has the What Do You Mean, It's (Not) for Kids? pages in the first place, since people will be surprised if a mature or violent animated series is aimed at kids, and if a risque animated series isn't. The trope name is also invoked for Iyashikei and teen or adult-focused Edutainment without any objectionable content, under the pretense that anything nonviolent or educational has to be for kids and that adults wouldn't appreciate it.
  • Deconstructed in tamago2474's review of The Simpsons Skateboarding, in which he recounts his childhood memories of struggling to play this installment of The Simpsons games. Because he hadn't yet developed the ability to discern quality, which this trope relies on, he internalized his experiences in playing the game, blaming himself — rather than the game — for being unable to play it. The lack of a developed taste didn't prevent him from having an unsatisfactory experience with the game, and in fact may have made it worse, since he wasn't able to rationalize that it was simply a bad game. When applied to the animation industry, one could see how this trope lingered for so long (and continues to in some parts of the world): while children may be willing to watch bad cartoons, their experiences with them would likely make them dismissive of animation as they become older, which in turn will lead to children being the only audience of future cartoons.
  • This list of tattoos that people shouldn't get says that having a tattoo of a cartoon character is an indicator of a Manchild.
  • Enforced by YouTube. After being fined by the FTC in 2019 for illegally collecting data on minors under 13 for targeted advertising, violating COPPA, YouTube implemented a system where videos would be marked as either "Made for Kids" or "Not Made for Kids". Videos marked as the former would have certain features disabled (such as comments, playlists, the miniplayer, etc.), significantly kneecaping their ability to gain traction and/or earn money. Marking can either be done voluntarily by the channel owner or automatically by YouTube based on certain criteria.

    Unfortunately, this system is not perfect, as content creators and viewers alike noticed that animated content and/or content that heavily features family-friendly IPs (like My Little Pony, Sonic the Hedgehog, Disney, or SpongeBob SquarePants) gets disproportionately flagged by YouTube as "Made for Kids" because the source material is animated and therefore, seen as just for kids, regardless of content, the intended target audience or the actual audience, often without the creator's consent or knowledge. Whenever creators try to have these flags appealed, YouTube often upholds them and ignores their concerns, further cementing this mindset in the public consciousness and disincentivizing creators from making content that could potentially draw in a young audience.
    • Worse, sometimes videos entirely inappropriate for children get flagged just for being animated (such as Family Guy and South Park clips), using puppets (such as Don't Hug Me I'm Scared) or even just using terms like "5-year-old" to describe an object, resulting in said media being shown to kids anyway.
    • To add insult to injury, it is entirely possible for a video that is age-restricted to still get marked as "Made For Kids", even though it being age restricted in the first place should imply the opposite.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Brazilian conservatives have attacked Super Drags, accusing it of "perverting children"... simply because it is a cartoon. Even a cursory glance at the actual animation shows that this is aimed at adults, and there is a disclaimer at the beginning of each episode to drill it in further in case you don't get it. That said, many of the show's morals, like acceptance of who you are, that conversion therapy is ineffectual at best and torture at worst, and that beauty doesn't matter, should in fact be taught to children, and some of the staff members have isolated those scenes on YouTube.
  • In a peculiar example, Max Fleischer, while never saying animation could only be for kids (in fact making some raunchy adult oriented animation himself, such as the Betty Boop series), was strongly against the idea of animation trying to emulate other mediums like fine art on their own terms in order to gain artistic respect, believing that direct cartooning is an art in itself and was only handicapped by trying to stray from it. He expressed his sentiments in a letter to one of his animators, Shamus Culhane, who recalled this in his biography:
    "During the span of years from 1914, I have made efforts to retain the 'cartoony" effect. That is, I did not welcome the trend of the industry to go "arty". It was, and still is, my opinion that a cartoon should represent, in simple form, the cartoonist's mental expression. In other words the "animated oil painting" has taken the place of the flashiness and delightfulness of the simple cartoon. In my opinion, the industry must pull back. Pull away from the tendencies toward realism. It must stay in its own backyard of "The Cartoonist's Cartoon.". The cartoon must be a portrayal of the expression of the true cartoonist, in simple,unhampered cartoon style. The true cartoon is a great art in its own right. It does not need the assistance or support of "Artiness." In fact, it is actually hampered by it."
  • SWAT Kats jumps to mind. Running from 1993 to 1995, It was among the earlier western attempts at breaking the ghetto, and, in spite of the many problems that popped up because of that, the series went on to become a hit and garnered high ratings, and the creators even concluded a Kickstarter campaign to bring the show back.
  • Universal's Exosquad, which is set in the future where humanity is fighting a loose analogue of World War II in space with giant robo-suits. The show has complex plots and the death of named characters, and uses the Terran-Neosapien conflict for un-preachy lessons about racism and the horrors of war. It was cancelled too, but not because of content—despite the clout and muscle of Universal Studios backing it, it often got shafted by local stations (it was syndicated) to crappy timeslots like 4AM.
  • Though how it happened is... let's just say sad, it's also amusing that the only animated shows on FOX that survive are comedies for the older crowd.
  • In Italy, if it's cartoon art, then it must be targeted to children, bloody battles, dismemberment and sexual innuendo notwithstanding. Which is weird, considering how established the Italian market for adult comic books is.
  • The French censor board, before the 1990s, automatically flagged animation for kids without even watching a single episode. While Franco-Belgian Comics have always had large segments intended solely for adults, the cartoon series they make are almost universally children- or family-oriented even to this day (which led to some problems in the early days of the 90's anime craze, which is probably why they changed their tunes).
  • Thus far, there have been only a handful of attempts (not counting streaming series) by American studios to produce adult animated dramas, and the vast majority of them have been unsuccessful.
    • Æon Flux was the first such series, and lasted for three seasons, but only had sixteen episodes— and six of those were five-minute shorts. It did, however, gain a live-action movie spinoff.
    • Invasion America folded after one season without any plot resolution. It's worth noting that Invasion America wasn't originally intended as an adult show; it was supposed to air on Kids' WB!, but was seen as too violent, so the network burned it off on primetime instead and didn't renew it.
    • Todd McFarlane's Spawn lasted three seasons, but still ended on a cliffhanger that was never followed up on. A fourth season was planned to resolve it, but never aired.
    • Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, like Invasion America, only lasted a single season of 13 episodes before being unceremoniously cancelled.
    • Primal (2019) was the first show to buck this trend. Not only was it renewed for a second season, but it won five primetime Emmy awards, the first animated drama series ever to do so. Notably, unlike the aforementioned shows, Primal was never sabotaged by its network, and on the contrary has been well-promoted and was allowed to completely wrap up its storyline.
  • When Batman: The Animated Series was released, critics praised the mature storytelling and vibrant art style, saying it was "wasted on weekday afternoons.", and that it could easily grab the attention of a more adult audience. When Fox put this to the test, giving the show a prime-time slot, it flopped miserably.
    • This was likely due to the show being a forerunner for more adult-targeted animation. Being one of the first, besides The Simpsons, it helped to break the public perception of cartoons as being only for kids and paved the way for other shows. Anime had a similar transition that took at least a decade before it started appearing more prevalently on television.
    • Bruce Timm and his co-producers have commented many times in interviews and on DVD commentaries that they very much doubted they would be allowed to get away with some of the things they did in the "Timmverse" if they tried them today. The other installments in the DCAU have received similar praise.
    • Batman Beyond itself isn't an example, but the original pitch from the network specifically requested a series about Batman in high school. The creators, being forced to make the show, decided to make it dark and adult, in response.
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series is a continuation of the live-action Star Trek: The Original Series, with Gene Roddenberry at the helm, scripts by many of the same writers, and the original cast (except Walter Koenig) providing voicework. It aired in the 1970s on Saturday morning — anything not kid-friendly in those slots was outright forbidden back then. The show was presented as a direct sequel to Star Trek: The Original Series and took itself just as seriously as the original, with no concessions to its younger audience. Stories included an episode about religious intolerance titled "Jihad", and another in which Nurse Chapel gets a whiff of Harry Mudd's love drug and tries to jump Spock's bones (or at least as close to it as TV would allow back then). It was well received enough to earn the franchise's first Emmy Award. This is remarkable when one considers that the company that made it, Filmation, to at least some extent actively encouraged the Animation Age Ghetto, as they felt it their civic duty to act as agents of social uplift for the kids, and not to scare or puzzle them too much.
  • Teen Titans was directed toward teenagers, but the animated series was aimed at kids. Though Lighter and Softer then the DC Animated Universe shows, Teen Titans still managed to strike a balance between standard Saturday-Morning Cartoon fare and more mature storytelling.
    • At one point in time, Teen Titans Go!, which was spun-out of a series of shorts based on the original series and which falls into the ghetto more than said series, was one of the most-watched shows amongst kids 2-5, having ratings on par with Sofia the First and PAW Patrol. It has an attractive artstyle with super-deformed characters, bright colors, catchy songs and often airs during the early morning hours when toddlers would usually watch TV. Despite all of this, it's officially rated TV-PG and has some scary scenes, references to things the target demographic might be too young for (for example, there were entire episodes based on The Breakfast Club and The Goonies), some hidden innuendos, episodes that only make sense to people who watched the original series, and most infamously of all, morals "encouraging" bad behavior.
  • Young Justice (2010), while having little to do with its namesake comic, has a much more mature feel. Real guns are frequently used (although lasers are also shown), there are fairly complex running storylines, innuendo-laced jokes are made, characters are killed, and there are also allusions to real world political situations such as in North Korea and the Middle East (albeit with obvious stand-ins). It's made all the more baffling since the series was aired on Saturday mornings rather than a prime time slot, where more adult-oriented content like The Clone Wars was usually placed on Cartoon Network (though Clone Wars would eventually see itself on Saturday mornings as well).
  • Static Shock, especially in later seasons, suffered greatly from the ghetto. The Milestone Comic on which it is based can be best described as an Amazing Spider-Man with a black hero, twice as much angst, and 10 times more contemporary content (sex, gay-bashing and visual gang warfare are but a few of the series's recurring focal points). While early seasons of the animated series are close enough to the source material, the show became more and more child-oriented as time went on. Family-Friendly Firearms was in full effect by the middle of the series even though the use of real guns was a major catalyst in the series' premiere, as well as an episode addressing school shootings wherein Richie gets shot in the leg (though no blood is shown).
  • Since the creators believed that WB would not go for a dark animated series, the original pitch for Justice League had a Lighter and Softer tone with a modified version of Young Justice acting as kid sidekicks to the JLA. When the show was instead picked up by Cartoon Network, the sidekicks were ditched and the show's tone was made closer to that of the earlier DCAU cartoons. Bruce Timm has gone on record stating that he's relieved the original idea never came to fruition.
  • Bestia is a Chilean animated short about Ingrid Olderöck, a member of Chile's State Sec police in the 1970s, and a torturer who trained her dog to rape female prsioners. The ghetto is decisively averted.
  • Daria reran on The N during the mid-2000s, which at first shared space with preschool channel Noggin before eventually splitting into the separate TeenNick and Nick Jr. channels, respectively. Episodes shown on The N were frequently censored to remove any references to things like sex, drinking, or other "mature" content to edit it down to a TV-PG rating. This is in contrast to Degrassi, a teen drama and The N's most popular show, which kept its own TV-14 rating (though it did have its own issues with censorship as well).
  • Sky One used to air Family Guy and Baby Blues as part of their Saturday Morning line-up, along with kids stuff in the early part of the decade. They, uh, did not last long. Though in the latter's case, the comic strip it adapted was family-friendly.
    • In-universe, Brian once told on Adam West for watching cartoons because he was an adult in "Deep Throats", and conversely, "Customer of the Week" had Stewie say "Just 'cause it's an animation, people think it's not legit!".
  • Fox used to air The Ripping Friends, which before used to air on Spike TV when they attempted to make a block for adult animation (which got cancelled after a month), on Saturday morning. It's The Ren & Stimpy Show on steroids (it is created by John Kricfalusi...). Cancellation and a spot on [adult swim] at 11:00 PM ensued. Guess they figured adults would appreciate all the poop and booger jokes more.
    • Ren & Stimpy (particularly Adult Party Cartoon) got hit quite hard. Notably, the latter was intended to be as disturbing and inappropriate for children as humanly possible, but somehow ended up briefly getting a Y7/C8 rating.
  • The Simpsons is revered for being an animated show enjoyed by both children and adults, but in the British "100 Greatest Kids' TV shows" poll on Channel 4 (which wasn't very democratic since the 100 shows were picked by the channel in the first place; the public were simply putting them in order, so to speak) the number 1 spot was taken by The Simpsons. The people on the show's constant pleas that it belonged there because it appealed to all ages really held no ground considering there are plenty of other shows that kids can also enjoy despite them being made for adults that didn't make the list. Once again, it seems to be the old argument "It's animated, that means kids must like it!"
    • In Brazil, TV Channel Rede Globo decided to start airing The Simpsons at noon, right after the morning cartoon block. Not very good, but at least The Simpsons was acknowledged as a separate entity from the block; and the time slot could be watched by adults and teenagers. But then they changed their minds and started airing it inside the cartoon block. It's quite a shock to see The Simpsons being aired right after The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, to say the least.
    • In Colombia it's aired Saturdays 2:00 - 3:00 P.M to this day, severely edited. It's more a case of Executive Meddling since it seems they know that the show has some things not meant for children, but they do it anyway because they know adults and teenagers love it anyway and it's not bad to get more audience.
  • One of the few real exceptions to this trope on American television is King of the Hill, which has always stayed out of the ghetto by focusing almost entirely on adult-oriented humor. And we don't mean "excessive raunchiness and Black Comedy" Adult, we mean "the normal and instantly relatable stuff grown-ups have to deal with day-to-day" type of Adult. Kids and teens, who were at first drawn in by the "from the makers of Beavis and Butt-Head" marketing, found the show boring and stayed away, but the adult audience kept the show running for 13 seasons.
  • Invader Zim deserves a mention, as Nickelodeon specifically asked Jhonen Vasquez to make a show for older children, only for it to eventually be marketed towards the channel's usual demographic alongside SpongeBob SquarePants and The Fairly OddParents!. Predictably, it only lasted a season and a half due. (Ironically, Nick later extensively used it in crossovers meant for said other shows' target demographics).
  • This may have been a factor in the demise of a proposed animated TV series based on Jurassic Park. The series would have supposedly been similar in tone to the movies, and aimed at audiences of the same age. Unfortunately, at the time the idea of an adult animated series that wasn't a comedy was hard to sell, even with the executive power of Steven Spielberg behind it, and the show was cancelled without ever airing an episode. Later, in 2020, another Jurassic Park animated series would finally see the light of day.
    • Camp Cretaceous itself is worthy of mention here because, contrary to expectations before its release, it actually manages to avoid the Ghetto for the most part, and sticks to the same tone as the live-action movies. It's still aimed at kids, but then, the Jurassic Park movies themselves are also heavily merchandised towards kids despite being rated PG-13.
  • Canadian cable TV provider Bell will categorize any animated series as "Children", regardless of its rating. End result, cartoons such as those in the future with automated suicide booths and vending machines labeled "Refreshing! Crack", with frequent decapitation and dismemberment, oft-horrifying imagery, cannibalism, a severely debauched clown... and Toki are labeled as "Children".
    • Averted by fellow Canadian cable TV provider Eastlink, which has a separate "Animated Comedy" category.
  • For a while, every movie in the DC Universe Animated line had a sticker on the case saying "The First-Ever Animated (insert subject of movie here) Movie Rated PG-13!", as if nobody would watch the movie otherwise (which, sadly, is probably the case). It technically isn't even true for Batman: Gotham Knight, since Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker was rated PG-13 eight years before.
  • Some people would say that Looney Tunes deserve a special mention in this case. It and its many contemporaries were originally created with an adult audience in mind, being shorts that were run before feature films in theaters. However, syndicated reruns on television starting in the 1950's led to them being hugely marketed to children - despite the gratuitous amounts of various types of guns, smoking, alcohol, violence, general cruelty and lots of World War II references - things that are not passable even in modern TV-PG rated Cartoon Network shows (perhaps excluding the violence). However, you can find most of those in a G-rated film (Beauty and the Beast has Gaston carry a gun, drink beer, and stab the eponymous Beast, while An American Tail depicts smoking). Perhaps these commentators are simply underestimating American culture's ideas about what's kid-friendly.
    • Despite the Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry DVDs having a warning on the DVD cases that they may not be appropriate for younger viewers due to the outdated references and racial stereotypes that often get edited when aired on television, it still doesn't stop stores from placing them in the kids section.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender won a Peabody award (very unusual for a cartoon) for its character development and respect for war's consequences. However, the finale has been criticized for a perceived "immaturity" in the resolution of Aang's moral dilemma by having him rediscover anti-bending, and not take a harsh choice. However, it was representative of the character's personal struggle, and the creators planned this out from the beginning of the series.
    • Its Sequel Series, The Legend of Korra, has been consistently getting high views in older age groups, even managing to beat out some Prime-Time shows in viewership. Despite this, it's marketed at a slightly lower age group than its predecessor.
      • Interestingly, part way through season 3, the show was pulled from air, and only made available to watch online. While some feel that this was merely an example of continuing Screwed by the Network, many others suspect that Nickelodeon was trying to distance the show from its younger-skewing series due to it becoming increasingly dark and violent, as well as the fact that Korra ends the series in a relationship with another woman, something virtually unheard-of in Western animation at the time.
  • This was the source of the Executive Meddling behind The Powerpuff Girls (1998). It was originally intended for a more mature audience, but was dialed back at the producers' request (necessitating a name change from the original title, "The Whoopass Girls"... exactly.) Its original intent is still somewhat clear, however.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars launched an assault on the Ghetto, apart from a few specifically kid-aimed episodes.
    • When the show began airing in Hungary, it was in turn met with an assault from the Moral Guardians of the former National TV Authority ORTT. Its scenario followed almost step-by-step the dilemma of Dragon Ball Z from a decade earlier — show airs on a Sunday-morning cartoon block, ORTT riots, forces the TV station to give it an R rating, TV station decides to cancel it instead. Granted, The Clone Wars is a very violent series that had nothing to do in that timeslot, but given that the ORTT's charges against it included portraying aliens in an anthropomorphic manner, it's clear that neither party was particularly right in the head. Thankfully, Cartoon Network later picked up the rest of the series.
    • Spin-off series Star Wars: The Bad Batch had its second season overlapping with the third season of The Mandalorian on Disney+. What was happening in the live-action show? A gung-ho, nostalgic action-adventure story with cute aliens and enormous, flashy setpieces. Meanwhile the animated series regularly tackles subjects like veterans discovering they have no place in a new Empire, the rise of a fascist state and rebellion, and the shocking death of one of the main characters at the end of the season. Many fans were quick to point out the animated series felt like the darker and more mature show, whereas the live-action one felt more like Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau playing with action figures in a sandbox.
    • There are a good number of casual Star Wars fans who refuse to watch shows such as The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels, and Bad Batch simply due to said shows being animated.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is one of the strangest subversions of this trope in existence. Despite the fact that its primary demographic was grade-school girls, the original showrunner did everything she could to make it tolerable for the parents of said grade-schoolers. And thanks to a couple of blog posts condemning the show sight unseen, it managed to catch the attention of 4Chan and later snowballed into a sub-cultural phenomenon that lasted well through the 2010s.
    • Despite Lauren Faust's intentions, though, there are people who believe that all fans of the show older than the intended young audience are creepy Manchildren simply because of the presence of ponies. There's also bronies who are highly insistent that they're the new primary demographic and can get rather resentful whenever the show breaks away from things like worldbuilding to focus on teaching morals or promote the toyline, even to the point of denying the idea of the show being popular with the primary demographic for whatever reason.
    • Lauren Faust targeted the show at girls between 5 and 12 (as opposed to earlier incarnations of the series targeted at ages 4 to 7) and their parents, both mothers and fathers. Nickelodeon Germany premiered it one year after The Hub. But when it did, it did so right after the pre-school Nick Jr. block, back to back with Dora the Explorer, and with a dub fit for the target audience of Dora the Explorer which goes up to 5. Later, Nickelodeon Germany pushed the show into the Nick Jr. block where it has been residing ever since. Also, it has only ever been placed into time slots in which only pre-school kids would be able to watch it but neither its target audience nor bronies and other fans of any age. All of this despite Nickelodeon Germany getting a load of requests from bronies to run the show in the first place, which probably should have been a sign that it would work better and be accepted on a later time slot. The same "preschool show" treatment is given to the show in Canada, where it airs on Treehouse TV... complete with censorship, mainly whenever the word "loser" is used in some episodes note . This is despite the show being rated TV-Y in America, which means the content is intended to be acceptable for all children.
    • The show is rated TV-Y, which is the rating that many of its contemporaries also have, and they're very clearly marketed as preschool shows. They have one thing in common in that, even though they have a large audience appeal, TV-Y rated shows can't escape the stigma of being only for preschool kids.
  • RCN network in Colombia aired American Dad! during morning weekends, along with things from Disney. Moral Guardians screamed and the show didn't survive a month.
  • Again in Colombia, Caracol network used to air Ranma 1/2 uncensored, with the announcement saying that this show was specifically for children. They still air The Simpsons and Futurama, and still announce the programs as specifically for children. No one has said anything about it whatsoever.
  • The creators of The Critic blame its short run on ABC on this trope. The show was the only animated series in the network's lineup, and aired on a night of family friendly comedies (an audience The Critic clearly was not aiming for.) The ironic result that was viewers dismissed the show as kid's fare despite it being the edgiest thing ABC showed all night. The show parodied this by ending an episode with Jay breaking the fourth wall and wishing "a special good night to all of you just tuning in to watch Home Improvement!" This was followed by wacky cartoon music and an iris-out effect reminiscent of old Looney Tunes shorts.
  • In 2011, the Parents Television Council was shocked to discover that cartoons broadcast by night-time on the programming block called "[adult swim]" are, in fact, inappropriate for children. Gee, who would have thought?
  • Jeph Loeb admittedly believes in gearing Marvel cartoons to children, hence his efforts to invoke this with the single-episode storylines and comedic overtones of Ultimate Spider-Man (2012) and Avengers Assemble. Never mind the acclaim their respective predecessors, The Spectacular Spider-Man and The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, received by also appealing to Marvel Comics' adult fans.
  • For Yahoo's web series Electric City with Tom Hanks, on the advertisement that was on the front page, Yahoo felt the need to also put "(Contains adult themes.)" so no parent would put it on saying "Cartoons!"
  • Stripperella shows characters strip dancing, and was lucky to have at least 13 episodes due to focusing more on comedy than fanservice.
  • The Transformers series tends to invert the usual rules for this trope. For example, take some of the American series. Even the Lighter and Softer Transformers: Animated includes what's implied to be a living weapon, abandonment and Black-and-Gray Morality. Compare the various Japanese series. Even at its darkest, the series have a clear Black-and-White Morality. This is due to the Japanese view of living robots (as opposed to piloted mecha) as "immature".
    • The various dubs also play a role. Take, for example, Blackarachnia. She's generally a darker characters who still acts as a Token Evil Teammate post Heel–Face Turn, but later roles have her as a self-hating mutant, a walking pile of UST, and a stalker, all of which get turned into various version of Genki Girl.
  • The Animatrix has a warning on the package saying it has adult content, is based on an R-rated film, and is not meant for kids.
  • Despite MTV's much-maligned move away from music videos starting in the 90's, the network deserves credit for being one of the first in America to avert this trope. Its various animated shows—Beavis and Butt-Head, Daria, Celebrity Deathmatch, Æon Flux, among others—were all geared towards older audiences and did not shy away from swearing, violence, or sexual references.
    • Æon Flux in particular deserves mention for being one of the very few primetime animated dramas produced in the United States, and the only one to last more than one season.
  • Reboot was intended as an "all ages" show and its run on ABC was greatly hampered by Executive Meddling to make the show more friendly for young children. Despite this, its clever writing and wide range of pop culture references made the show beloved by many parents and teenagers. Once it moved off of ABC and entered its third season, the show became much darker and story driven and ended up being attacked in both the UK and Brazil for being too violent and dark for children. The show was flat out removed from ITV for this reason, despite fan protest.
  • At least partially responsible for the brief runs of both Todd McFarlane's Spawn and Spicy City, which aired on HBO and were decidedly not at all child-friendly. Both were critically acclaimed (Spawn even won an Emmy) but received little viewership and were Short-Runners as a result. It didn't help that the HBO Animation logo was somewhat "whimsical."
  • While he does occasionally do films meant for young audiences, Bill Plympton's relatively small reputation and distinct visual style have kept him out of this trope, as those familiar with his work know perfectly well that his stuff is not for kids. Nevertheless, someone felt compared to write "NOT FOR CHILDREN" in huge white letters on the poster for his 2001 feature Mutant Aliens, which features generous amounts of onscreen sexual intercourse, defecation and gore.
    • The Tune was very popular among children, mostly because it lacked his trademark political incorrectness (boasting a single, brief shot of nudity). Bill didn't seem to mind.
  • Belgium used to be a big offender of this trope until the mid-2000. The main reason why the trope stopped being in effect after that in the country is due to the national success of South Park. Which is kind of odd for a country that has the same problems as France and Italy and where all of the only available anime is shonen (although seinen and shoujo manga is available there). One Belgian animator even managed to get on a local newspaper for proposing a new adult animated comedy for Comedy Central.
  • Gravity Falls is a show that airs on Disney networks. Tote bags of it were once given out in Subway Kids Meals, and a few children's chapter books have been published. All this, despite the fact that the show contains unprecedented amounts of Nightmare Fuel, violence, death, Black Comedy, and a teeny bit of risque humor. As such, several parents have complained about the show's content, and Disney themselves hardly make any merchandise for it (aside from the aforementioned tote bags and books) because it's not for little kids - or at least, not for children as young as many of their shows skew towards.
    • The "cutesy merchandise for little kids" phenomena is bizarrely played with in the case of the official activity book "Dipper and Mabel's Guide to Mystery and Nonstop Fun", published during early season 2. The basic idea is that the twins found an old blank book lying around, and Dipper decided to write adventuring tips for whoever finds it next, while Mabel added "fun" pages about things such as a monster fashion show and instructions on how to make your own paper pet. Although the book is very silly and the writing of it is probably not canon, a lot of the things mentioned in it are canon, and some cryptograms in the book turned out to foreshadow major events from later in the show. Also, the adventure sections mention blood rain and have a page for figuring out if you're possessed by a demon, and there's a part where Dipper passes out and then wakes up to find that Bill Cipher wrote some spooky stuff in his book and he can't get rid of it no matter what he does.
  • Miraculous Ladybug was originally pitched as an animesque cartoon aimed at teenagers. However, when networks weren't interested, they turned it into a computer-generated cartoon aimed at younger audiences. However, it has still gained a Periphery Demographic with a significant cult following. Granted, some of them do wish the original pitch had been picked up.
  • The Real Ghostbusters, which began airing in 1986, was one of the first and most valiant attempts to break out of the Ghetto. It worked to some degree, for a time, until Executive Meddling kicked in. It helps that its parent film was one of the least kid-friendly movies to be mistaken for being for kids to come out of the 80s.
  • Kaeloo has been noted for its ability to entertain both kids and adults, but a lot of people tend to believe that it is a kids' show and it is broadcast as a kids' show despite all the adult jokes in it.
  • This website claims that Bob's Burgers is a children's show. While the series does have a few great messages about family, and is a lot tamer than your typical FOX cartoon, Bob's Burgers is anything but a kids show.
  • The Crumpets is mainly identified and distributed as a children's show, and it's a loose adaptation of a line of French Picture Books. Looking deeper, it isn't exactly a kid-friendly show when it happens to contain parental sex, nudity, animal harm (like birds getting shot), suicide jokes, a substance addiction crisis that encompasses children, mild profanity, and grown-up topics like adultery and money (on the other hand, France does have looser standards as to what counts as child-friendly). In season 3, many of these elements became mild or nonexistent.
  • TV Guide UK once classified Our Cartoon President as a children's show because of the word "cartoon" appearing in its title. Because of this, kids' shows such as Horrid Henry and The Amazing World of Gumball appeared as recommended, and it was also recommended to several shows aired on Cartoonito note  like Fireman Sam and Curious George. The show itself actually has tons of vulgar language and several examples of Black Comedy. The listing would later be corrected and is now categorized under the correct label of "Comedy".
  • NBC's streaming service Peacock classifies Father of the Pride as a children's show. If one were to watch it, they will be recommended shows such as Curious George and Make Way For Noddy. This is despite the fact that this trope was part of the reason it was a Short-Runner: it was promoted as a family show, but actually was made with an adult audience in mind.
  • This is one of the reasons Total Drama was cancelled and retooled into the Spinoff Babies show, Total Dramarama. Despite the fact that it has a lot of adult humor (mainly in the earlier seasons), the show ended up canned because the premise of the show was no longer appealing to children, in spite of the large adult and teenaged fanbase. Many people viewing it as a kids show doesn't help at all.
  • This trope was the reason why Infinity Train was cancelled. The show was very mature and complex for a kids' cartoon, featuring graphic violence, disturbing content, and heavy themes such as divorce and mourning. Cartoon Network grew increasingly uncomfortable with what the writers wanted to explore in the show, deeming them too inappropriate for children. This in spite of the show garnering a massive teen and adult following. The deal-breaker that ultimately led to its cancellation was the showrunners wanting the fifth season to feature an adult protagonist as opposed to the kid or teenage protagonists of the prior seasons.
  • Inverted by My Adventures with Superman and Unicorn: Warriors Eternal. Both of these series were originally planned to air on Cartoon Network, and technically do not feature anything outright inappropriate for older children. However, they were moved to [adult swim], most likely because the studio realized (perhaps based on what happened with Infinity Train) that they would be more successful if they were aimed at adults than if they were aimed at children.
  • This Prezi slideshow holds the assumption that the numerous Wartime Cartoons (citing Der Fuehrer's Face and Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips as examples) produced during The Golden Age of Animation were aimed at children. These cartoons predate the notion that animation is for children and were in fact created with adults in mind.
  • While it is a Scooby-Doo spinoff, the adult-oriented show Velma doesn't have Scooby himself, precisely to avert trope: executives feared that the character's presence would cause it, with the showrunners agreeing due to also seeing Scooby-Doo as what made most incarnations of the franchise a kids' show. The show also pokes fun at this trope in its second episode, with a joke suggesting that the viewers are stoners who hadn't outgrown cartoons.
  • On the Canadian channel Teletoon, their Detour block (their equivalent to [adult swim]) aired The Tick, The Ren & Stimpy Show, Time Squad, and Grim & Evil. and all were slapped with a PG rating. All of these shows were marketed and aired as children's shows in the US and aired during the day. With the massive amounts of disturbing content and adult jokes in these shows, it's possible someone at Teletoon thought they would be more suitable for adults.
  • A strange inversion happens on Tubi, where Dan Vs. (which is a children's show, more or less) is categorised under adult comedy alongside several decidedly not family-friendly works like Brickleberry and Fugget About It.

  • While TV Tropes itself has averted this for the most part, there have been complaints by some users of the site as well as critics of the site simply because Animation works and tropes are cataloged. A number of these complaints can be summarized as "why does this site catalog these stupid kids' cartoons instead of "proper literature"?" and such. This is why the There Is No Such Thing as Notability rule exists... It apparently never crosses any of these folk's minds to actually add whatever works and tropes they so want to see here.note 
    • This trope is at least part of the reasoning behind the Animated Film/Live-Action Film (tellingly often just "Film") split. The other half is simply clarity as to whether an animated feature is "Film" or "Western Animation."
  • TiVo suggestions, if left on, would often give you suggestions based on what channel you recorded. If you recorded something off the [adult swim] block, it wouldn't be uncommon to see it suggesting stuff for younger audiences, because it can't distinguish Adult Swim from the rest of Cartoon Network.
    • Netflix tends to do this as well.
  • Cartoon Network was originally pitched in the early 1990s as an aversion of this trope, with the presentation pitch given to advertisers pointing out that viewership for animated programming includes just as many adults as it does children. Though the main network would eventually brand itself as a children's channel by the turn of the millennium, they still stuck to this idea through the creation of the [adult swim] programming block in 2001, which started as a three-hour block that aired twice a week after watershed. Over the next two decades, [adult swim] would expand to become a daily, overnight offering and start at increasingly earlier times. By 2014, it would take over Prime Time; and by 2023, thanks to 70% of the people watching CN after 6pm now being above the age of 18, it would not only take over the evening fringe, but (in a bizarre inversion) start premiering family-friendly programming on what used to be strictly a block for adult animation. The first of these shows, Unicorn: Warriors Eternal and My Adventures with Superman, were even initially intended to air on Cartoon Network, but shifted over to [adult swim] due to the belief that they would receive better viewership if advertised more towards young adults.
  • When Phenomena debuted in Norway in 2002, the country was stuck in the mindset that video games, animation, and fantasy books had to be for kids. Due to this, Phenomena was initially given a 10-12 rating, but eventually Gyldendal (the publisher) removed their 10-12 imprint and gave it a 9+ rating... despite the series featuring a Date Rape, some more implied rapes, gruesome violence, drug use, Blackand Gray Morality, and more. Since then, more fantasy works have been created in Norway, and despite some being Lighter and Softer and others being Hotter and Sexier, they all got 13+ ratings from the start. Phenomena, meanwhile, was still saddled with a 9+. The same mistake would happen again with the spin-off Picture Books, which are even gorier, containing lots of blood, Cold-Blooded Torture, scalping, and a character becoming an Extreme Omnivore... and they were rated 8+.
  • The 1988 book Animation From Script To Screen is a good example of how an analysis of Western animation can both try to avert this trope and end up reinforcing it. It's written by James ("Shamus") Culhane, an unsung legend in the history of animation, who worked on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Pinocchio, and Dumbo, as well as many other features for Disney. Culhane had an encyclopedic knowledge about animation (as well as other subjects) and pretty eclectic tastes: he praised Ralph Bakshi and Richard Williams (head animator for Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which was a big movie hit at the time), ridiculed the commercially-driven dreck on Saturday morning TV, and tried to present animation as a serious art form indebted to (among others) Michelangelo and Sergei Eisenstein. He even warns writers for cartoons never to target children only, because only if you write for adults will you be completely uncondescending. However, his prejudices toward his own profession still show through at times. He assumes that most animators aspire to make people laugh - which would be fine, except that it implies that cartoons cannot inspire any emotion other than hilarity. He also writes that "very subtle acting may never be possible to meet in this medium." (If only Culhane, who died in 1996, could have lived to see the "performances" of the characters in the Pixar and DreamWorks movies!)
  • Quick! What channel on cable television, at the height of its popularity, delivered the most shows where the characters were either animated or had a cast consisting of at least 50% puppets? If you guessed Cartoon Network, you would be wrong. The answer was the Sprout Network,note  a 24 hour preschool channel which had 100% animated or puppet broadcast. Even the live segments always had at least as many puppets as people. The only questionable exceptions were Barney, The Wiggles and Teletubbies, which have significant numbers of characters in full-body puppets, but do not always meet the 50% mark.
  • Back in 2012, the Polish television channel Polsat had an advert that announced the showing of several CGI films. The ad begins with "Scooby-Doo, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound. These cartoons have enthralled children through the years. In the twenty-first century, cartoons are both for children and for adults!". Because everything animated made before Pixar and Shrek is kiddie fare.
    • Speaking of Poland, there is a custom there (similarly to Hungary, as written below) to refer to any animated movie or series, regardless of its actual content, as "bajka". Which is a Polish equivalent of "fairy tale". No, really. Even works that are totally inappropriate for kids and/or far too complex and mature to be dismissed as childish tales — be it Heavy Metal, Fritz the Cat, Felidae, The Plague Dogs, Unicorn Wars or virtually the entiriety of anime — will be named "fairy tale" by a statistical viewer, no matter how utterly absurd such claim would be. Because apparently, in some places in the world, this trope is that deeply entrenched.
  • Also as of March 2012, main Italian network RAI is the biggest offender of this trope. While animation on RAI used to be far more prominent throughout The '90s, after the Turn of the Millennium animated shows started to appear at a progressively smaller rate, until they were completely confined within an early morning timeslot. Then, in the mid-2000s, the RaiGulp channel, aimed at a younger demographic, rose to fame as the "safe place" for animation in general, and most arrows were pointing to a fairly brighter future: Avatar: The Last Airbender, Code Lyoko, Ruby Gloom, Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Wolverine and the X-Men (2009), The Spectacular Spider-Man, any good show, you name it. Then, however, things went downhill at the beginning of The New '10s, where "kid [soap] operas" like Grachinote  started overshadowing animation at an alarming rate, culminating in live-action series getting the spotlight and nearly all animated shows being confined to an after-midnight timeslot. With Avatar: The Last Airbender among them.
    • RAI subverts this trope only around Christmas, where it becomes the equivalent of the Golden Age Disney Channel on steroids. Yeah, the same network that nearly denies the existence of animation as a medium, does the complete opposite in mid-December by nearly running a marathon of the entire Disney Animated Canon.
    • Yet again, RAI made a new channel, Rai 4, which would be composed of anything that doesn't fulfill RAI's canon on TV series. This channel includes a small late-night section for anime such as Code Geass and Penguindrum. This didn't stop the Moral Guardians for trying to ban this rather small part of the channel because the anime clearly weren't for kids, regardless of the time they were actually broadcasted.
    • And they subverted it once more with their badge of idents in September 2016, which have been somewhat begrudgingly compared to Cartoon Network idents.
  • The cable provider Verizon FiOS seems to think that, just because anime series like Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Cowboy Bebop, Deadman Wonderland, Bleach, Casshern Sins, and Fullmetal Alchemist (2003) air on Cartoon Network (when in fact they air on [adult swim], the channel's Watershed hour), they can be categorized as "children's shows".
    • This has become less prevalent over time thanks to the more generic "animated series" description, including having separate "Cartoon Network" and "[adult swim]" sub-sections in their On Demand service. Verizon and other providers still have issues dealing with networks that nominally cater to children during the day and adults during the night in regards to "suggestions" that pop up, however; switching from Nick Toons to CN at 1 PM is safe, but not so much at 1 AM...
  • According to People magazine The Simpsons episode "The Longest Daycare" and all the animated shorts nominated for Oscars are ways kids can "get into the spirit of awards season". See Oscar-Nominated Animation Shorts Gets No Respect in People Magazine on Cartoon Brew.
  • Something Awful considers fans of "children's shows" and anime as creepy, socially-moronic nerds, and its userbase won't hesitate to tell you that, outside of the less goony subboards. Posting about anime unironically out of the dedicated anime subboard usually warrants at least one annoyed goon, mockery, and/or a probation.
    • Discussion of Japanese games and cartoons on 4chan, outside of /a/ or /jp/ (and even in them), can and will get the random troll sparking a flame war over people liking this "weeaboo shit".note 
    • This has notably changed massively, as anime becomes more mainstream; while certain aspects of anime are still ripe for mockery, many goons are openly anime fans, and Dragon Ball discussion has a habit of horribly derailing threads.
  • In Hungary, there's a catch-all term used for all animation: "mese", or "fairytale" in English,note  which makes the position of animated shows much worse, as "mese" is traditionally a word that describes children's fiction. But even Hungary produced adult themed animations (e.g. a rather grotesque take on Snow White satirizing the communist state). This semantic inconsistency has lead to some people coming to regard "mese" as a term only applicable to softer, more kid-friendly and generally fantasy-themed productions, but most still use it as a synonym of "animation" anyway.
  • Harry Potter had this happen a little bit - they were originally written for children (though designed to "grow" with the audience, so Cerebus Syndrome kicks in quickly), but have a sizable Periphery Demographic. Some countries actually published more "Grown-up" covers to make adults feel less ashamed about it. This mentality has drastically reduced.
  • Roger Ebert deconstructed the ghetto in his review of Princess Mononoke, pointing out that animation can tell certain stories much better than live-action.
  • The Criterion Collection struggled with this trope for years — owing to Disney and other major animation studios keeping their material to themselves, for many years the only animated feature in the collection was AKIRA, and only on Laserdisc. In The New '10s the wall finally came down: Fantastic Mr. Fox, Watership Down, and Fantastic Planet, several films of Karel Zeman, Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio, and WALL•E (the first Pixar and first Disney-backed title to receive such licensing) have all become part of the collection. The Criterion Channel streaming service features many more shorts and features, both family-friendly and not. These have included retrospectives of John and Faith Hubley and Bill Plympton, National Film Board of Canada fare, Kirikou and the Sorceress and its second sequel, The Phantom Tollbooth, Charlotte's Web, The King and the Mockingbird, The Illusionist (2010), The Last Unicorn, The Secret of NIMH, and All Dogs Go to Heaven. In July 2021, a gigantic "Art-House Animation" collection of 32 feature films included some of the above titles plus works by Satoshi Kon, Jan Švankmajer, Marcell Jankovics, and Don Hertzfeldt — among others.
  • Averted in many political propaganda films. As it is at times easier to exaggerate the flaws and successes in animation more so than in live-action plenty of politicians use the medium to fulfill their status quo in personal reunions, as evidenced by the amount of animation in stuff such as ''Education for Obedience''. It is however played straight during election campaigns where animation is rarely used. This has probably to do with the fact that it might be important to see who you are voting for. The heavy usage of this medium during World War I and World War II is however a big reason why animation is taken as a serious medium by historians, especially because there is a decent flood of it because it was an easy source for those who could not read.
  • Turner Classic Movies rarely shows animated material. There's nothing in their rules against it so they have shown animation, and have covered a far larger swath of it than most people recognize exists: silent-era shorts, classic MGM and Warner Bros. shorts, the two features of the Fleischer Brothers, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, Heavy Metal, B-level Disney Animated Canon titles like The Reluctant Dragon, Twice Upon a Time, The Phantom Tollbooth, and Studio Ghibli films have all been covered. But in part since the channel is about the last place in North America to extensively show pre-1970 films, foreign-language films, silent films, etc., animation has to compete with all of those live-action films for airtime!
  • A college textbook about restaurant marketing claimed that family-friendly restaurants such as Applebee's and McDonald's only advertise on channels that show cartoons (never mind the fact this is clearly untrue).
  • The American Film Institute zigzags the trope with their published lists. Animated films are represented on several of their lists, including two on one of their Top 100s (Snow White #29, Toy Story #99). But many of these are in low placements and lost amidst many live-action American Films. Including animation as a "genre" on their Ten Top 10 lists indicated their level of apathy by lumping a medium together as a distinct genre. On their year end best-of lists, Pixar in their heyday had all their films listed for their years, along with Shrek in 2001, Happy Feet in 2006, and Coraline in 2009 (alongside Up to boot). In 2015, animation returned to their lists with Inside Out and Zootopia the year following. But these still barely made the cut and only one per year seems to suggest the ghetto is still strong. You may have also noticed most of these awarded films are Disney movies, which is its own separate issue. Though this may be justified a little, since as far as America was concerned, Disney held a monopoly on the medium until about the 70s.
    • The TV section is no better. The Simpsons and South Park, both adult shows, are the only animated programs to have been listed in their TV section. And no animated show has been on there since 2002!
  • BBC Culture runs yearly polls, and the animated pickings tend to be slim. Their list of 100 Greatest American Movies had no animated films. Their list of 100 greatest films of the 21st Century had only Spirited Away and an assortment of Pixar movies (namely, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, Wall-E, Up, and Inside Out). Their list of 100 greatest comedies only included the adult animated film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. Their list of 100 greatest TV shows included 4 - Bojack Horseman, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Rick and Morty, and Steven Universe.
  • It's worth mentioning that while the Ghetto's stigma has died down in the west with the airing of adult animation on television, there still exists people who, while acknowledging that not all of them are made for kids, still refuse to watch cartoons of any kind on their own time as they find the medium in general "immature".
  • Strangely, in the United States, studios are on board with producing adult-oriented cartoons for TV, DVD, streaming services, and the web given their success on these platforms, yet they're still hesitant on producing such cartoons for theaters for reasons unknown. This is because many major studio execs think adult animation is still a niche medium that won't bring in the same type of success as they do on other platforms.
    • As of 2022, this seems to be slowly happening to theatrical films as well. Since 2016, three successful Western adult animated movies have been released in American theaters: Sausage Party, the Polish/British co-production Loving Vincent, and the stop-motion Isle of Dogs. A number of other adult animated films are planned for the near future, mainly from Sony Pictures Animation's "Alternate Content Slate." Genndy Tartakovsky is directing two of them, a comedy called Fixed and a fantasy movie called The Black Knight.
  • Many have criticized the rating system of the MPAAnote , which has a history of assigning films mismatched ratings without rhyme or reason. One example would be that the 1982 animated film The Secret of NIMH was given a G rating despite its Family-Unfriendly Violence and Nightmare Fuel. The film is darker in comparison to some of the tamer live-action PG-rated films of its time, such as Annie (1982) and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.note  Granted, it's worth noting that a film's rating doesn't always accurately reflect its content and instead indicates the audience best suited for it, but this only leads us back to the ghetto since most audiences would still associate most live-action PG movies as being for adults over animated films. Although it is presumably because film studios would not think that an adult animated PG-rated film would succeed, despite there being live-action PG-rated films aimed at adults such as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
  • Up until 1998, Billboard had this problem when classifying CDs and VHS tapes based on adult-based animation. For example, The Simpsons CD "Songs In The Key Of Springfield" was classified as a "Kid Audio" CD alongside CDs featuring traditional children's songs and music from Barney & Friends, and VHS tapes of Beavis and Butt-Head were listed alongside tapes based on Sesame Street and The Land Before Time.
  • An assignment in a Scholastic Storyworks magazine revolves around this trope. A ten-year-old girl named Hannah wants to play Fortnite and writes a letter to her parents, who won't let her play it because it's violent. She tells them that she isn't concerned about the game's violence because it's a cartoon and she's old enough to watch them, despite the fact that the game is Teen-rated (i.e., not suitable for children under 13 years of age) according to the ESRB and Common Sense Media agrees with the ESRB.
  • 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die: Of the 1235 movies that have at some point been included as of the 2020 edition, only 21 (i.e. 1.7%) are animated—and four of them are Toy Story films. It has been argued that this trope is the reason the Toy Story series only received one entry to cover all movies whereas every movie of the original Star Wars trilogy each got its own entry.
  • One advertising engine that supplies the ads to several websites, including This Very Wiki, falls under this trope. It's very common to see ads for products aimed at kids, or touring shows like PAW Patrol Live!, on webpages talking about adult animation or anime aimed at mature audiences.
    • Prior to the implementation of COPPA, this also happened on YouTube. It was pretty common to see things like ads for (mostly unlicensed) mobile games based on stuff like Peppa Pig or a pre-roll ad for a show like Where's Waldo? or PAW Patrol on anything from clips of otaku-oriented anime to YouTube Poops of children's shows.
  • Averted by Rolling Stone's list of greatest sitcoms of all time, which includes The Simpsons as number one, as well as some other adult-oriented cartoons, but the biggest surprises are the inclusion of SpongeBob SquarePants, (which is aimed at school-age children, despite always having a large Periphery Demographic of older viewers), Phineas and Ferb, and Bluey (which is aimed at preschoolers).
    • It should also be said that many American TV critics place Sesame Street and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood on lists of the greatest TV shows of all time. Though they are predominantly live-action with puppets, they have broken the stigmas attached to shows aimed at preschoolers and are heavily respected as television classics in their own right. Animated series aimed at the same audience rarely get such respect (with Bluey being a notable exception).
  • The advent of streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+, and HBO Max has to some extent helped make the Animation Age Ghetto less severe. Shows created for streaming services aren't required to adhere to network or broadcast standards, so they can be more creative, and aim at different audiences, than those on television. Furthermore, the very nature of streaming services, designed to encourage "binge-watching", is more conducive to serialized shows with ongoing storylines. The result of this is that serious adult animation has thrived on streaming platforms. This success, however, has come at the expense of success on television or in theaters, where the Ghetto mentality still holds strong. Not helping are Netflix's 2022 cancellations and statements in regards to favoring pre-schooler shows, making it clear it is no longer a haven for experimental animation.
    • Some streaming sites like Tubi and Peacock sadly have shown that this trope is alive and well, considering they have "Animation" listed under their Children's sections; made all the more baffling considering Peacock produced their own young-adult-oriented cartoon, while Tubi previously promoted adult works like Camp Camp and The Illusionist (2010) in its kid's section. Luckily, this has changed in later months, with Tubi now having an adult animation category and Peacock removing all adult animation from their Kids section.
  • The 94th Academy Awards received a good deal of controversy among animators and animation fans alike for cracking jokes about how all animation is for children and that the parents in the audience knew what they were talking about. It's ironic that Flee, which was nominated for Best Animated Feature, is about a real-life story of a man who flees from Afghanistan to Russia and becomes an immigrant in Denmark which is something much too harrowing for a kid to enjoy. As Phil Lord, co-director of The LEGO Movie put it, the "joke" is that "animation is something children watch and parents endure".
  • Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek made comments along these lines in an infamous 2022 interview, where he claimed fans of the company only put on classics like Pinocchio, Dumbo, or The Little Mermaid to get their kids to go to sleep so the adults could watch something "for them." (The implication that adults can't watch or enjoy animated films without children is especially ironic considering Walt Disney himself was a known advocate against the ghetto... and that the company routinely puts out merchandise aimed at adult fans.) This caused a significant backdraft among the company's own animators and animation fans, and some believe it was a contributing factor toward Chapek's expulsion from the company a few weeks later, if not The Last Straw.
  • Science museums have the same problem, being seen as mainly for children. Adult science enthusiasts have to settle for books, magazines and TV programs like Nova or a streaming service like Curiosity Stream, which don't offer the hands-on experiences that museum exhibits do.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Cartoons Are For Kids


Fran's Refusal

Fran refuses to watch a sock puppet show (despite the cast being made of puppets) since she believes it is only for kids, despite the fact that it has humor and dialogue that appeals to adults.

How well does it match the trope?

4 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / AnimationAgeGhetto

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