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Thin-Line Animation

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Round eyes, simple designs, and a feeling of motion.note 

"You'll also notice that the designs of many of these characters is much more simpler than ones of the past. They do this 'cause it gives way to faster animation, while also allowing more time to focus on color, backgrounds, and of course, the story."

Thin-line animation is a stylistic trend that has emerged in The New '10s based more around thinner lines, rounder shapes and noodle-like appendages. All while still being distinctively western. This style may have emerged for a number of different reasons. The emergence of anime and their influences on western cartoonists have made them focused less on detail. Different coloring techniques with digital art may have removed the need for thicker lines, and thus it only remains when it's a stylistic choice. The need for quicker, cheaper animation after the economic downturn may also drive the desire for more cheap, yet still pleasing animation styles. It also may be due to the widespread adoption of high-definition (HD) televisions - before HD, small features such as thin lines in an image tended to flicker and/or disappear depending on their angle and motion; HD allowed the freedom for this new, previously unattainable style. It's also known as the "CalArts Style", due to allegedly being spread by alumni from the California Institute of the Arts. The term was originally coined by The Ren & Stimpy Show creator John Kricfalusi on his blog, regarding how certain animated films in The '90s heavily copied Disney's animation and art style, with the original meaning being completely warped and lost over time.


Some bemoan the style as lazy and samey, as it has been spread to many pre-existing IPs like The Powerpuff Girls, SpongeBob SquarePants, ThunderCats and even Froot Loops. Others say that the style is just another periodic style that has dominated in a time period, like John Kricfalusi's influence in the early 90s, Thick-Line Animation of the late 90s, or the animesque shows of the mid 2000s. Despite this, the style has endured, and can be used just as well as any other.

In a way, this trope, or at least its base principles, is actually Older Than Television, since many cartoon shorts during The Silent Age of Animation (particularly those made by Disney and Max and Dave Fleischer) featured rounded ball-and-noodle art-styles and thin outlines. However, it was often done out of necessity since the simplistic designs made things easier on the animators at the time.


Compare Puni Plush and Animesque, contrast with Thick-Line Animation. See also Tooth Strip, Sphere Eyes, Black Bead Eyes.


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  • Froot Loops' "Froot Loops World" commercial is animated in this style. It caused a minor bit of controversy for its resedign of Toucan Sam, who was rendered much cartoonier than the rest of the spot.

  • Many of the earliest animes from The '60s, such as Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion, featured this type of style. Justified, in that a lot of these works were influenced by cartoons made during the Silent and Golden age of animation.
  • Kirby: Right Back at Ya! zigzagged this trope, with its combination of rounded designs note  and angular designs.note 
  • One Piece is one of the few modern animes to use this trope. Its art-style, while far from simplistic, is noticeably more rounded and cartoony compared to other anime at the time of its initial premiere. It lessened over time, however, with the art-style becoming more angular and complex.
  • The Sun & Moon era of the Pokémon anime. Everyone looks much more rounded compared to previous eras, like a quasi Steven Universe with a Pokémon coat of paint. In fact, not only has the palette gone for a much more pastel inspired look, but also did the eponymous Pokémon themselves.

    Films — Animation 

    Visual Novels 
  • The cutscenes for Marco and the Galaxy Dragon are animated in this style, with the usual simplified designs, bright colors, and fluid motion. This is in stark contrast to the rest of the visual novel, which uses a more detailed and proportional anime-style typical of visual novels.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 


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