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Media Notes / The Renaissance Age of Animation

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A sampling of influential animation from this era.note 
"There will be no attempt to return to any particular era of the past but to incorporate a composite of all the great accomplishments of the past into a future product that we can all be proud of."
— Animator and instructor Walt Stanchfield, in a memo to Disney animators circa 1995

What the New Hollywood era did for movies, the Renaissance Age did for animation. Encompassing the late 1980s and the 1990s, the Renaissance Age of Animation had the medium see a significant increase in technical quality and finally returned to a point of artistic respect it had not seen since the Golden Age.

The Renaissance age is usually considered to begin in the 80s, but it must be noted that for much of that decade, Western animation was still strangled by the Ghetto, plagued by a lack of artistic vision and pathetic budgets. Limited Animation was still the rule on televisionnote . Nonetheless, one distinct sea change at the turn of the decade distinguished this period from previous decades of the Dark Age. In 1981, Ronald Reagan deregulated U.S. television, thus lifting a long-standing ban on Merchandise-Driven programming; TV shows, animated or otherwise, could now be based on a toyline or established product if they included some form of moral or educational element (however arbitrarily or nominally). Within a few short years of this floodgate opening, a cavalcade of toyetic western cartoons arose to supersede the weakening Hanna-Barbera's output. Notable examples of this phenomenon, such as He-Man, Strawberry Shortcake, Care Bears, The Transformers, G.I. Joe, My Little Pony, Jem, and ThunderCats, ruled 80s television animation and had parents' groups up in arms about children watching glorified toy commercials, which were also strictly separated into shows for boys and shows for girls. That said, these colorful and often action-packed shows were nevertheless a major change of pace from the increasingly dull offerings served up by Hanna-Barbera and Filmation in the 1970s, and were entertaining to their target demographics, which is demonstrated by the fact that several of them became major pop culture phenomena that are fondly remembered to this day.

Less enduring but more common in 80s TV cartoons was the tendency to give live-action franchises Animated Adaptations. This included well-received hits like The Real Ghostbusters, but also forgotten and/or derided fare like The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang (IN SPACE!), Rambo: The Force of Freedom, and ALF.

The Disney Animated Canon came close to ending for good when The Black Cauldron, intended to be the stunning debut of a new generation of animators (the final remaining members of the Nine Old Men having departed at the dawn of the decade), didn't impress recently-arrived company executives, Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg. They recut it without the director's consent, and it proceeded to tank at the box office, being thwarted by The Care Bears Movie. However, things at Disney were about to change big time.

Witnessing the success of first-run syndicated cartoons like He-Man and Care Bears (1980s), Disney tried its luck with two original series of its own in 1985: The Wuzzles, which was soon forgotten, and Adventures of the Gummi Bears, which became a major hit whose lavish production values put its contemporaries to shame. Vindicated in their investment, Disney began funding a slew of original series, starting with DuckTales (1987) and Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers (both spinoffs of their Golden Age shorts) but eventually becoming numerous enough that they got their dedicated block of television: The Disney Afternoon, a tour-de-force of branding that lasted for over a decade.

Other broadcasting companies took notice and developed their original series. In 1987, Ralph Bakshi produced Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures with John Kricfalusi, which, despite its short run and modest ratings, employed a unique amalgam of irreverent writing and stylized, highly-energetic animation and design reminiscent of the idiomatically "cartoonish" animated shorts of the golden age. Warner Bros. had its revival after they hired a bunch of Hanna-Barbera expats to bring Looney Tunes-style comedy into the 1990s – the Steven Spielberg-produced Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs were the most successful. Much of the crew from these shows went on to launch the DC Animated Universe with Batman: The Animated Series in 1992. This time, Disney aped them with a cult dark action series of their own, Gargoyles, created by Greg Weisman, although they eventually mishandled it badly. Cable networks such as Nickelodeon and (much later) Cartoon Network began their existence with reruns and repackaging of cartoons from earlier eras as well as syndicated or foreign fare (as did the USA Network's Cartoon Express block. The whole network was like that back then: this was also the modus operandi of the emerging home video market) but moved on to create their shows during the '90s. Nickelodeon, previously notable for its live-action comedy output, launched the "Nicktoons" brand in 1991 with Doug, Rugrats, and The Ren & Stimpy Show, consciously emphasizing a "creator-driven approach" relative to the heavily-corporatized animated shows populating more established networks. This experiment would prove enormously successful and influential, sparking a succession of popular (and often bizarrely-designed) series - among them Rocko's Modern Life, Hey Arnold!! and The Angry Beavers - eventually culminating in the juggernaut SpongeBob SquarePants (which would arguably subsume the network as a whole over the following years) at the end of the decade. During the mid-1990s, the then-ailing Hanna-Barbera likewise underwent a rebrand and began to label their original series (produced specifically for the then-fledgling Cartoon Network) "Cartoon Cartoons" – Johnny Bravo, Dexter's Laboratory, and Cow and Chicken were among the first to use the moniker. Following Bill Hanna's death in 2001 (and Hanna-Barbera's resultant full absorption into Cartoon Network), however, that name was eventually dropped, with 2002's Codename: Kids Next Door being the last show to be dubbed a "Cartoon Cartoon". Meanwhile, some of the smaller studios such as Universal and MGM attempted to get back into the animation game. Universal's was relatively successful, though many of their series tended to be short-lived (including Exosquad, and the Earthworm Jim cartoon), and eventually declined to churning out sequels to The Land Before Time before shutting down by the early 2010s. MGM's was even worse and had shuttered completely by 2000.

On the silver screen, the industry gradually rose to new heights during the 1980s. After the box office failures of animated movies in the 1970s, Disney defector Don Bluth pushed for a return to the rich classical style of the Golden Age, beginning with 1982's The Secret of NIMH – while it was not a blockbuster, it quickly became a Cult Classic. It attracted the attention of no less than Steven Spielberg, which led to Bluth's directing the successful An American Tail and The Land Before Time for Amblin Entertainment. Bluth would both rise to prominence and fall during this period, but his collaboration with Spielberg proved to be the first real challenge Disney had ever faced in the animated film department, at least since the Fleischers were in business on the eve of WWII. The failure of Disney's The Black Cauldron in 1985 seemed to spell the end of Disney's animation unit, but fortunately, it persevered, mainly due to the timely critical and financial success of The Great Mouse Detective. After the threat from Bluth and Amblin though, Disney frantically stepped up its game and rallied with Oliver & Company, which was another modest success. Their newly-established, adult-oriented Touchstone Pictures label co-produced – with Amblin Entertainment, as it happened – Who Framed Roger Rabbit, a live action/animated fantasy that also served as a Massive Multiplayer Crossover of Golden Age characters and was the box office sensation of 1988.

It was followed by The Little Mermaid in 1989, a musical that refreshed the old formulas of yore and was a surprise sensation at the box office – at last, they were well and truly back in the game. While the following year's The Rescuers Down Under was a financial disappointment, Beauty and the Beast raised Disney's bar even higher, a financial and critical success (in fact, the first animated film ever to receive a Best Picture Oscar nomination). Their next film, Aladdin, proved a smash with the stellar performance of Robin Williams cementing the Celebrity Voice Actor as the "star" of an animated film.* Finally, The Lion King surpassed all expectations to become a cultural landmark and the peak of Disney's success. Some laypeople refer to this era as the "Disney Renaissance", since they were the most prominent and successful animation studio during the period with the most consistent track record of hits.

Besides its success in film, Disney also became heavily involved in television animation for the first time. The Disney Afternoon was a syndicated programming block that lasted throughout the 1990s. Disney re-imagined some of its classic characters in new shows (Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers and TaleSpin) and created some entirely new ones (Gargoyles and Bonkers), most of which are fondly remembered by people who grew up in that era.

By the end of The '90s, rival studios had launched their feature animation units, most notably DreamWorks SKG. note  However, most of them found that the public was still largely trapped in the mindset of All Animation Is Disney, so most of these attempts failed miserably or fell victim to Disney's aggressive marketing – such as rereleasing The Lion King late in 1994 so it could crush its rival The Swan Princess.note  Even Bluth was eventually forced to ape the tone and narrative structure of '90s Disney with Anastasia (his only true financial success in the 90's), and his attempt to break out again with Titan A.E. failed and sunk his career. DreamWorks Animation struggled out of the gate with the underperformance of their traditionally-animated films like The Prince of Egypt and The Road to El Dorado (though both of those had good critical reception), but they noticed their small computer-animated film Antz did better financially. This suggested to DreamWorks and other studios that there was a way out from under Disney's shadow via new animation techniques. They made a deal with the hailed British Stop Motion company Aardman Animations, who helped show them that success came from developing their voice and style in a new age.

Adult-aimed animation finally came back to television during this period. The Simpsons became a full-fledged series in 1989 and went on to become probably the most critically acclaimed television cartoon series of all time, and MTV caused a stir with Mike Judge's Beavis and Butt-head. MTV, of course, is cable – and from here came the last great progress that cemented the renaissance: the rise of cable television.

All in all, this era did a good job of at least brushing away the worst aspects of the Dark Age. Parental Bonus was back, quality had soared, and profits were high.

Anime also found headway in North America during this period. Robotech became a cult favorite, audaciously flouting of contemporary North American TV animation conventions to present a sweeping military SF saga that felt very different from homegrown fare like G.I. Joe. Furthermore, the success of AKIRA proved that there was a market for Anime in America, and fostered the growth of what was originally a relatively underground following. As a result, overseas anime distribution had its first boom in popularity during the early-to-mid-90's, and advertised the medium as the ultraviolent, raunchy alternative to the cartoons of the west, striking fear into Moral Guardians. This racy image, however, had faded by the end of the 90's, as much tamer, kid-oriented shows such as Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball, and Pokemon began to make their presence on TV across the world and showed that anime could be extremely profitable. This is also, of course, the period when the Western world was finally introduced to the genius of Hayao Miyazaki (after an abortive attempt years earlier involving a hacked-up version of Nausicaa that we have been asked to forget ever existed), with his classic films like the intelligently charming Kiki's Delivery Service and the ever-adorable My Neighbor Totoro. Disney would take interest in his films beginning with his grand, profound fantasy drama Princess Mononoke.

Indeed, anime must briefly be mentioned as a growing influence on Western animators themselves, as they were aware of what was happening in Japan well ahead of the general public. Once fare like AKIRA and Ghost in the Shell began showing up, animators and directors in America began straining at the bit to have their artistic restrictions loosened for fear of a consistent flood of high-quality anime pounding the western studios flat. It was a flood which never quite materialized as they feared, but it still lit fires under a lot of people and led directly to many of the products of The Millennium Age of Animation.

This era contains a significant shift in technology: the switch from traditional cel & ink & paint animation to computers. Animation studios rode the wave of the digital revolution that brought affordable PCs to the masses in the 1980s. From starting off as a means to animate commercials, network bumpers, music videos, and even some groundbreaking VFX work for films like TRON, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Labyrinth, Disney eventually employed CG for major parts of their films starting with The Rescuers Down Under, and by Beauty and the Beast had refined it considerably (the backdrop of the ballroom scene was CGI, as are the stampede from The Lion King and the crowd scenes in The Hunchback of Notre Dame). Throughout the 90's, digital compositing and coloring slowly replaced ink & paint. Later, computer programs like Flash and Maya made inroads as animation tools. In 1994, the first completely CGI TV series, ReBoot, came out of Canadian studio Mainframe Entertainment and premiered on ABC in the USA. 1995 saw the release of the first all-CGI feature film, which launched Pixar into the spotlight and into a position to drive the future of the animation industry: Toy Story. By the end of the decade, CGI had firmly placed itself as a legitimate method of animation for both fully animated efforts and live action as the VFX industry fully embraced the wave of CGI effects with the help of Industrial Light & Magic, Pacific Data Images, Rhythm & Hues and Digital Domain's breakthroughs in the technique.

This was also the era in which outsourcing truly took off. Doing the entire traditional animation process in America had long since become cost-prohibitive, especially for television, so most Renaissance-Era cartoons outsourced production to overseas studios—first Japan (Toei Animation, TMS Entertainment), then South Korea (AKOM, Hanho Heung-Up) and Taiwan (Wang Film Productions) after Japan became too expensive (and having their industry being resurrected by Neon Genesis Evangelion after years of almost nothing but Merchandise-Driven shows (either in the traditional sense or to sell manga) and western outsourcing; Ghibli being the only studio in Japan to avoid this when TMS took advantage of the later, giving them co-producer control most Japanese studios beg for in their local works). The switch to computers allowed cartoons to keep more of their production domestic, but hand-drawn series, in particular, continued to outsource most of the actual animation to South Korea… and still, do to this day.note 

This isn't to say it was all good news, day in and day out, though. The utter dominance of Disney at the box office during this period meant that independent animators who had flourished during the 1970s and 1980s, such as Ralph Bakshi and Don Bluth, were elbowed out of the animated film market— indeed, between the release of The Land Before Time in 1988 and Anastasia in 1997, there were no successful American animated movies produced by studios other than Disney, leading to the stereotype that All Animation Is Disney. Adult animation began to flourish during this era thanks to the likes of The Simpsons, Beavis and Butt-Head, and South Park, creating the Animated Shock Comedy genre, but this simply cemented the view, in the minds of many audiences, that animated series aimed at adults could only be comedies.

To make matters worse, rival studios' Disney-esque efforts were usually pale imitations at best—consider Don Bluth's work post-All Dogs Go to Heaven, The Swan Princess, etc.—and often even worse when it came to Disneyfication, culminating in two Italian animated features that turned the Titanic disaster into Happily Ever After kids movies. The absolute nadir of the trend, at least as far as wide-release animated films go, was Warner Bros.'s Quest for Camelot, which was plagued by Executive Meddling that turned a planned older-oriented film into a sanitized mess. Sadly, this film outdid far superior works from WB like the Ghetto-busting The Iron Giantnote  and Cats Don't Dancenote  financially, even as critics savaged it. This is partly because WB condemned both films in theaters with Invisible Advertising. One could even pin Quest For Camelot as being one of the films that led to the eventual downfall of the Renaissance Age.

There is no consensus on when this era ended, only that it did. Television cartoons in particular often bridged eras, with Renaissance-era shows airing alongside post-Renaissance ones for many years.note 

Depending on who you ask, the deterioration of this era began somewhere around the end of the 1990s or the early 2000s. The seeds may have been sown in 1995 when Disney distributed Pixar's Toy Story. That film was a huge hit both critically and commercially… while Disney's traditionally animated entry for the year, Pocahontas, did well financially but disappointed academics and critics. Disney's increasingly formulaic approach to feature storytelling – characters who don't fit in, fantasy forbidding parents, "I want" songs, wacky sidekicks, pop culture jokes, etc. – in the wake of its early-'90s hits, resulted in films that strove to include more adult themes/stories yet couldn't lift themselves out of the worst aspects of the Ghetto when it came to content. Disneyfication became a dirty word as critics accused them of whitewashing or dumbing down history and classic literature/mythology (the increasing amounts of merchandise tied into these films didn't help matters). That said, while these films were considered inferior to their predecessors, only one, the aforementioned Pocahontas, was a critical failure, at a mediocre 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. Meanwhile, the entries that were relative box office disappointments – The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Hercules – were modestly well-received by said critics (at a decent 73% and a good 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively), who considered them improvements over the preachy and pretentious PocahontasHunchback has since been Vindicated by History to the point that it's a dark-horse candidate for the masterpiece of the Disney Renaissancenote . Mulan and Tarzan were even viewed as coming close to the earlier works (at 86% and 88%, respectively).

Also, Disney under Eisner started producing direct-to-video sequels, prequels, and interquels to most of their Modern Age films via their television animation units, which sold well but are considered inferior to the quality of the originals. The sales were so good that Golden Age and Dark Age efforts were also given this treatment, to the increasing horror of adult Disney fans. It can be argued that the "cheapquels" led to a fatal dilution of the Disney brand name, causing audiences to take less interest in their newer animated canon efforts. And when rival studios (particularly MGM and Universal Studios) started doing the same thing with films they owned the rights to, video stores were glutted with unwanted, unworthy sequels to everything from The Secret of NIMH to The Swan Princess. Before this era, sequels were rare if not non-existent; The Rescuers Down Under was at the time one of the only exceptions. It's one reason the Renaissance, like every other period in animation history, is a bit of a mixed bag.

Also, in an ironic twist, the success of animation and children's programming on cable helped to mortally wound animation on broadcast TV, killing the weekday animation block outright (except on Public Television) and beginning the slow death of the Saturday-Morning Cartoon. The addition of three new cable channels (plus two new broadcast networks) for animated programming, and the increased competition inherent in such a thing, naturally led to audience fragmentation, which led to declining ratings, which led to declining ad revenue, which led to decreased profits. Animation is an expensive medium – always was and always will be, at least to do it right – so cartoons were either axed by the broadcast networks or jumped to cable (where budgets were already much smaller). The other thing that killed animation on broadcast television was Government—the Moral Guardians who had slammed late-Dark-Age cartoons for being glorified toy commercials never went away. Indeed, they successfully convinced the FCC to impose even more restrictions on advertising content in children's programming and to strictly enforce the "educational content" requirement on the networks (exemplified by the e/i logo). This resulted in the Ghetto becoming legally enforced on cartoons airing on the traditional networks, and the networks backing off as a result.note 

The Renaissance era can be reasonably be said to have lasted until around 1999note , 2000note , perhaps even 2001note , or all the way up to 2004note  or 2008.note 

For this era's successor, see The Millennium Age of Animation.

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    Films associated with this era 

    TV Series associated with this era 

    Real Life People Directly Involved With This Era 

    Real life people who are directly influenced by this era 
  • Jerry Beck and Amid Amidi. Animation historians, writers on Art of and other animation novelty books, and bloggers of the industry-popular Cartoon Brew.
  • Doug Walker, a.k.a. The Nostalgia Critic. Much of what he reviews exposes the somewhat worse aspects of some of the animation to come out of this era, and frequently includes gags referencing such cartoons.
  • The Cartoon Man saga is a mostly live-action homage to animation from this era, and by extension, the previous eras by which it was influenced. One character is specifically said to have made cartoons in the 80s and 90s in-universe.

Tropes associated with this era include:

  • 2D Visuals, 3D Effects: In some of the 2D movies from the late '80s and early '90s, trying to integrate computer animation with 2D animation often looked weird because CG technology wasn't advanced enough yet. See the beginning of Thumbelina.
  • All Animation Is Disney: This trope runs rampant on Don Bluth's work, and it doesn't stop there.
  • All-CGI Cartoon: Started in this era in both film and TV; Pixar and DreamWorks' films and TV shows such as Beast Wars, Insektors, ReBoot and South Park, would begin a trend that'd carry on through the next couple of decades.
    • Before even that, PDI would spend their formative, pre-DreamWorks years in the 80's producing fully CGI bumpers for the major networks and HBO, which eventually caught on with other CGI houses of the time like Omnibus and Cranston-Csuri and helped CG to both improve in quality as the decade rolled on, and make it a viable medium for animated shorts, VFX and commercials.
  • Animated Shock Comedy: First emerged in the 1990s, largely thanks to the influence of South Park itself, though it was strongly influenced by earlier cartoons like The Simpsons and Beavis And Butthead. South Park's trademark grade of vulgarity, sociopathy, and pop-culture snark became a much-imitated template in the following decade.
  • Animated Adaptation: Though this does go back to the previous era, it began to happen more frequently in this era, with unlikely movies such as Beetlejuice, Ace Ventura, and Ghostbusters receiving their animated adaptations.
    • Animated adaptations of video games were also big at the time, with mixed results.
  • Animation Age Ghetto: The Simpsons was the first sign that animation was beginning to overcome this. However, along with other adult animated series released later in the 1990s, it ended up creating a new stereotype that adult animation was tasteless and juvenile. Animated film, on the other hand, was still trapped firmly within the Ghetto, and remain so arguably to this very day.
  • Animation Bump: Don Bluth and the Disney Renaissance would set the standard for 2D animation in theaters from this point on; while the uptick in outsourcing for television animation, especially to the Japanese, would allow for producers to (usually) get more animation for similar cost or less than doing it domestically.
  • Animesque: Shades of this started to form during this era as companies began contracting Japanese animators to work for them. This is especially prevalent in anything done by Marvel, DiC or Rankin-Bass.
  • Arch-Competitor: Don Bluth to Disney from about the release of An American Tail until All Dogs Go To Heaven was beaten by The Little Mermaid at the box office (after which Bluth stopped posing a real threat to Disney, arguably due to the departure of Steven Spielberg). Disney spent most of the 1990s without any real competition, but in 1998, with the release of Antz and The Prince Of Egypt, Dreamworks Animation became Disney's new arch-rival.
  • Award-Bait Song: A staple of animated films of this era; "A Whole New World" is likely the trope codifier.
  • Box Office Bomb: With Disney in its renaissance, few animated movies released by other studios stood much of a chance. Between the releases of The Land Before Time and Shrek most non-Disney animated films bombed at the box office. The only exceptions were Antz, The Prince of Egypt, Anastasia, The Rugrats Movie, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America, and South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut.
  • Denser and Wackier: During this era, creator driven works become the norm, and with that came a slew of shows with a much more simplistic and wackier art style compared to before: Ren & Stimpy help pioneer such shows like Rocko's Modern Life, Cow and Chicken, and Ed, Edd n Eddy are just a few. Meanwhile, Klasky-Csupo also helped introduced many Eastern European Animation styles to the West, exemplified by grotesque, crude and surreal cartoons such as Duckman and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.
  • Direct to Video: First era to release these
  • Disneyfication
  • Disney Acid Sequence
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: At least one exists for most of the major milestones of the age.
    • Despite the films of this era being defined by Disney-inspired animation, Disney wouldn't come into its own Renaissance until 1989 with The Little Mermaid. Until this point, Disney was still struggling to find its identity, Don Bluth was the only prominent Disneyesque animator on the scene (having formerly worked for the studio himself), and the films of this period were mainly Darker and Edgier fare that pushed what was acceptable for children's entertainment.
    • Although Reagan's deregulation allowed for an increase in animated shows on television and kicking off the age as a whole; a grand majority of these early on were either heavily toy-based or throwaway content by Hanna-Barbera or Ruby-Spears. It wouldn't be until 1987 or 1988 before the kinks were worked out and more creator-oriented shows started to get made.
    • Even though anime would start getting a foothold into the international markets during this period, it took until the formation of Streamline Pictures and even later still, Toonami before it became popular in North America. Downplayed with its popularity in Japan, where the start of the OVA format only made it more viable for more mature content to be shown more frequently across all forms of the genre until it became the norm.
    • While digital technologies including CGI and digital painting were getting more advanced day by day compared to the 1970s, it would still take a decade or so before any true innovation would be made by the industry.
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: Was still used a lot during the '80s, though it stopped being taken seriously and played straight at some point during the '90s.
  • Follow the Leader: The mentality of many of Disney's competitors during this era. Most of them failed miserably, though.
  • Genre Throwback: Rampant. The Little Mermaid was designed to be just like the old Disney animated musicals, Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs were inspired by the Warner Bros. cartoons in the Golden Age, Genndy Tartakovsky and Craig McCracken frequently threw back to both UPA and '50s/'60s-era Hanna-Barbera (a given as both worked for the latter company), as well as '70s/'80s anime and superhero shows (and at some points drifted into Affectionate Parody territory), John Kricfalusi threw back to Tex Avery and Bob Clampett (specifically Rod Scribner's art style), the first two shows in the DC Animated Universe took influence from the Superman Theatrical Cartoons, and so on.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Happened quite a lot in Disney's movies during this period, such as the Genie in Aladdin basically just being Robin Williams, only blue and a Reality Warper.
  • Licensed Game: This trend would explode with the NES, and it continues to this day. Nearly any cartoon that has ever become famous has received a video game adaptation.
  • Limited Animation: Not quite as present as in the dark age, but shades still existed throughout this era. Especially in regards to television animation.
  • Live-Action Adaptation: Just as movies were being adapted into animated series, the inverse was also happening more frequently.
  • Off-Model: Despite better animation, this still ran rampant throughout. The fact that everyone in North America and Japan was outsourcing did not help matters either.
  • Parental Bonus
  • Prime Time Cartoon
  • Recycled: The Series: The Little Mermaid and Aladdin are just a few examples.
  • Revival
  • Saturday-Morning Cartoon: Though by no means did they end during the Renaissance (there are still a few around today), this was the last animation era in which Saturday Morning Cartoons on network TV were still big contenders.
  • Serkis Folk: Disney's first all CG character was the carpet from Aladdin. From there Serkis Folk would become increasingly more common, as traditional animation declined.
  • Shout-Out: There were many shout outs to classic cartoons. Who Framed Roger Rabbit was one long Shout-Out.
  • Spinoff Babies: Muppet Babies, likely the Trope Codifier, premiered during this age.
  • Surrealism: A defining trend of this era, as animators experienced stylistic freedom not seen since the 30s and 40s, and the medium allowed them to have visuals that live-action media at the time never could. See Beavis And Butthead, Beetlejuice, and The Mask for just a few examples.
  • The Movie: Many cartoon characters both old and new, such as Tom and Jerry, Felix the Cat, Looney Tunes, Goofy, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Transformers, The Flintstones. and others, got their own movies during this period, some of which vary in quality, but tended to usually be quite bad.
  • Thick-Line Animation: Popularized by shows such as Dexter's Laboratory, this style caught on towards what many may consider the end of the renaissance. Nowadays most western television cartoons that have come out have this style if it isn't trying to look anime.
  • Toilet Humor: Became increasingly more commonplace in the 1990s, especially with Gross Out Shows like The Ren & Stimpy Show.

Alternative Title(s): The Renaissance Age Of Animation, Disney Renaissance