On the Internet, "toon" is usually a short qualifier for any animated character done in a North American style.
More specifically, a Toon is a character whose personality (and usually appearance) is greatly exaggerated. Even for the The Comically Serious, comedy colors everything the character does and he is often unable to complete the most basic tasks without falling victim to a number of improbable variables. A probable reason is that many thrive on a consistent, tolerated kind of chaos. The whole idea is often clearly represented by having the characters acknowledge themselves as Toons and Breaking the Fourth Wall.
The few animated shows in the West that attempt drama, such as King of the Hill, shy away from using certain tropes associated with Toons in an effort to be taken seriously. After all the animation is merely a medium of showing the story and doesn't necessarily mean that the characters are considered animated in-universe. See Animation Age Ghetto. For obvious reasons, this is a lot more capricious in anime.
The most famous example is probably the universe portrayed in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
The word "Toon" may be used interchangeably with "Character" in some MMORPGs. As in, "Which toon do you want me to play for this raid, my fighter or my cleric?". This especially applies to Toontown Online, in which this is actually what the players are officially called in-game.
Not to be confused with the tabletop game by Steve Jackson or Newcastle United.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, American character Pegasus uses a card called "Toon World" which turns his monsters into toons. They also do this to other player's monsters, if Pegasus takes hold of them... which infuriates Kaiba when it happens to his Blue-Eyes White Dragon.
- Made even worse in the manga and anime in that they can abuse Toon Physics to do things like contort to dodge attacks, or quite frankly do the impossible (such as a Barehanded Blade Block from an armless clamshell in Toon Mermaid's case in the anime).
- Also made worse in the actual card game in that they have the fantastic ability to, no matter how powerful, be able to hop right over the enemy monsters and attack the opponent directly, provided there isn't a Toon on their side of the field. The fact that Toon monsters are typically Special Summoned, meaning you can easily get the biggest monsters (Toon Summoned Skull, and Toon Dark Magician Girl, and Blue Eyes Toon Dragon) out in ONE TURN. Offset by the fact that they (usually) need to wait a turn before they can attack . . . with the notable exception of 2000 ATK Toon Dark Magician Girl.
- However, the effects of the official card game's Toons are more than offset by the numerous costs, drawbacks, and restrictions on them, to the point that they're considered useless to most competent duelists.
- The Abridged Series had a field day with this, especially with Toon Dark Magician Girl.
- Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: This movie has realistic animation (although highly stylized), but also features the clearly cartoon-inspired Spider-Ham, hailing from an Alternate Tooniverse, who can still use Toon Physics to great effect in this different Alternate Universe. He's also the only character to be called a cartoon in-universe.
- Who Framed Roger Rabbit has toons living in the same world as humans and being treated poorly by them. Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers (2022) features a similar premise in the modern day and is implied to be a Stealth Sequel.
- The above is subverted in Last Action Hero, in which Jack Slater describes the cartoon cat Whiskers as one of the best guys on the force. He has a few overexaggerated mannerisms, but nothing that wouldn't fit on a human. Whiskers later saves his life by shooting the bad guy threatening him.
- The Ralph Bakshi film Cool World is an example of a blend of different styles from traditional goofy types to extremely grotesque and realistically drawn abominations. Most of the cartoon characters (referred to as "Doodles" in-universe) fall under this distinction, with the exception of Holli Wood and other more human characters.
- Eminem's Slim Shady character is this on The Slim Shady LP, using a Subverted Kids' Show aesthetic, a cartoonish Creepy High-Pitched Voice and constantly rattling around through physically impossible, violent situations (complete with sound effects and silly voices from appalled bystanders), using cartoon tropes like They Killed Kenny Again, Amusing Injuries and Major Injury Underreaction. Promotional photographs for the album show Slim Shady smiling and waving in front of a cartoon backdrop, and at one point in "Role Model" Slim "jump[s] into a Chickenhawk cartoon with a cape on and beat[s] up Foghorn Leghorn with an acorn". In later albums, these elements are toned down, Slim's voice drops in pitch, and the character starts taking more influence from Horror Tropes, but they're never gone entirely. (Think of the verse in Relapse's "Insane" where Slim eats his chainsaw, shoots himself in the face with a slingshot, pops his eyeball out, plays ping-pong with it...)
- The characters in the RPG Toon, as the name of the game suggests, although the game itself carefully avoids calling the characters that.
- The Bendy franchise is this played for horror.
- Known characters in Bendy and the Dark Revival has known characters Bendy, who is a cartoon demon, and Charley, who is a cartoon humanoid thing. It also has its Player Character turning to ink.
- Bendy and the Ink Machine, as the first game released in the franchise, introduced this concept into Bendy. From the first chapter, there are at least two Toons: a vivisected Boris the Wolf, and a twisted version of Bendy. Other chapters contain living versions of Alice Angel and the Butcher Gang: Charley, Barley, and Edgar. There's even a dead Chester that can be spotted from Nightmare Run.
- All the characters in Cuphead are this as an homage to the animation from the Max and Dave Fleischer cartoons back in the 1930s.
- Epic Mickey features the titular protagonist as well as other Disney Toons, most of which are either animatronic replicas or long-forgotten Disney Toons who were sent to live in Yen Sid's Wasteland after being forgotten and losing their Hearts, the most notable forgotten Toon being Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Mickey's predecessor and his jealous, resentful older half-brother.
- The Cel-Shaded variation of Link from The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker is given the moniker "Toon Link" in Super Smash Bros. and has a more, pardon the pun, animated and comical personality than the "main" Twilight Princess inspired Link. His actual design however is more animesque.
- Peacock from Skullgirls is inspired by this trope. Her backstory explains that in the past, she loved watching cartoons, but she was later Made a Slave and then freed by the Anti-Skullgirl Labs, who made her into a Cyborg. Due to her love of cartoons mixed with the trauma of being tortured as a slave, the experimental reality-altering weapons she has take the form of things like a Cartoon Bomb, a "Bang!" Flag Gun (which also comes with sword and real gun versions) and the ability to summon a Shadow of Impending Doom.
- After being transformed, the characters in The Cartoon Man remain live-action (aside from Roy's eyes), but start acting like toons, and operating under toon logic.
- Toon Wolf is a webseries about a man who turns into a cartoon werewolf.
- Most of the cartoons that came out during The Golden Age of Animation qualify, such as Warner Brothers' Looney Tunes, and the classic Disney characters.
- Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy proved to be versatile enough characters that they can be used to tell stories that are more than just simple comedies, being more adventurous or dramatic, instead, without feeling out of place or out of character.
- The Disney series Bonkers was about a cartoon bobcat who joined an all-human police force, and drove his human partner to distraction with his zany cartoon antics, in a fairly obvious pastiche of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. However, since the show itself was animated, the proper effect was achieved by giving all the normal human characters subdued and muted color schemes.
- ChalkZone features a whole world of toons made of chalk, with many of its inhabitants being originally cartoons drawn in a chalkboard.
- Drawn Together's Wooldor Sockbat represents the classic Toon. Everything he does is zany (including masturbation) and explained as a desperate need to be liked.
- Some Nicktoons (Such as The Ren & Stimpy Show, Rocko's Modern Life and most notoriously Spongebob Squarepants, which was the main inspiration for Wooldor Sockbat from Drawn Together) fall into this category.
- Toon Disney, in its heyday, aired exclusively Western Animation, mainly from Disney, and in its promos featured the word "toon." Except the word "toon" can come off as ambiguous in them; it can mean the programming featured, as in "around the clock toons," or the characters in said programming, as in its slogan "built from the best toons." It's one of the few cases where the word Toon was used without the notion that the Toon are made of paint, and without the idea of Animated Actors.
- Though it's never said directly on the show the characters in The Amazing World of Gumball are all clearly these.