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What Do You Mean Its For Kids / Western Animation

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  • Adventure Time:
    • Past the post-apocalyptic backstory and severe psychological issues of many of the cast, the show is full of sexual innuendo, thinly veiled references to rape, murder, abuse, suicide, and genocide, and some viciously brutal violence. There are episodes with everything from dealing with a mentally ill loved one to abusive relationships, all wrapped up in the silly adventures of a boy and his dog, with innumerable serious, mature, or just horrifying themes slipped in without technically moving past what is appropriate for children. To a lesser extent, it also had stronger language than what's normal in kid's shows (words like "crotch", "fricking", "sexy" and "sucks" being common, especially in older episodes).
    • An In-Universe example shows up in the episode "Jake The Dad", where Jake starts reading a Black Comedy picture book he loved as a child to his own kids and is shocked at how much darker it is than he remembers it.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball has humour that's more accessible than some of the others on this page, but it still gets extremely dubious at times, containing scenes laden with sexual implications and violence. Besides having satire that's wouldn't be out-of-place on The Simpsons, there aren't many kids shows with a dead baby joke or characters constantly dying for a Running Gag.
  • The original Ben 10 series made heavy use of Bizarre Alien Biology to create characters with absolutely nightmarish designs, the sequels involved themes such as Nazi-esque attempts at genocide, powers with drug undertones and implied Serial Killers, and all four entries have at least one, if not multiple, cases of Vile Villain, Saccharine Show. By the time of Ultimate Alien, things had become so dark the writers decided to go Lighter and Softer in the next iteration in the franchise in order to avoid making things too dark.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers could get shockingly dark at times for a show with such a Narmish concept. There are episodes centered around drug abuse, gang violence (no less than four episodes), civil war, nuclear war, and AIDS. The show also wasn't afraid of showing graphic images of death and destruction.
  • Courage the Cowardly Dog is packed to the gills with scary scenes, like the screamer girl from "Courage in the Big Stinkin' City", and the blue...trumpet...fetus thing from "Perfect". Probably the most controversial episode was "The Mask", where the villain was clearly a pimp who cruelly beat his two charges (who were as obvious a lesbian couple as could be shown on American's children's TV at the time). Also Katz, the most recurring villain of the show, is a thinly-veiled Serial Killer.
  • Cow and Chicken has a similar premise (and some of the same crew members) as Ren & Stimpy and is almost as boundary-pushing as the aforementioned show, with stuff involving Chicken entering the girls bathroom and mistaking a tampon machine for a cigar dispenser, Cow stuffing toilet paper on her head to make her horns look bigger, and Cow receiving a note that says "I got crabs", complete with her pausing at the word crabs, and the infamous Banned Episode where Cow befriends a group of mannish-looking bikers who are heavily implied to be lesbians. Not to mention that one of the main characters was the devil, but they call him the "Red Guy" instead (though he was called "The Devil" on the pilot short "No Smoking"). He also has some risque names like "Officer Pantsoffski", "Ben Panced", "C.D. Heinie", "Lance Sackless", and the most suggestive, "Mrs. Beaver". The show also features some gender-bending between characters in addition to some Family-Unfriendly Violence and Black Comedy. And just like Johnny Bravo (see below), this was one of Seth MacFarlane's projects before Family Guy.
  • While every episode of Dexter's Laboratory has some adult jokes and/or content, it is suitable for children. "Rude Removal", though, is not, given the fact that it has censored swearing throughout and a rather unfriendly title card to boot.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy is a very good example of this. Despite the fact that every character on the show are children and/or preteens, it's still replete with enough adult humor to qualify for this, such as the episode with Eddy's magazines, and the Kankers "making love" to the Eds. It is also worth noting that the show is also created by the guy who made The Brothers Grunt and is more famous as an experimental animator of adult cartoons. note  The Movie also has quite a mature handling on Domestic Abuse with Eddy being beaten by his older brother that is not played for laughs and explicitly points out it's why Eddy behaves the way he does, which is surprising since this is a show that heavily features slapstick.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, unsurprisingly given its premise, lives off of Black Comedy, Family-Unfriendly Violence, and disturbing imagery that makes Invader Zim look childish and tame in comparison. It's all Played for Laughs, but it can sometimes get disturbing nonetheless.
  • The setting of Infinity Train is essentially an otherworldly train that kidnaps anyone no matter their age and keeps them prisoner until they learn to improve as people, whether that takes weeks, months, or years. And don't expect to learn exactly how you're meant to improve, as you never learn why you were taken to begin with; you're expected to simply figure it out on your own. As for the plots themselves, they tackle everything from divorce and mourning the dead to identity and the worth of life, with the third season explicitly following the exploits of two cult leaders. Beyond the introspective themes the show is also rather jarringly violent. One episode in the second season outright involves a character being run over by the titular train and losing the lower half of his body, after which he spends the next few minutes dripping gore everywhere (although it isn't red) while admitting he's not long for this world, and is later killed outright by one of the protagonists. In the third season another unquestionably human character dies screaming while having the very flesh age off his bones with no discretion shot in sight. When talking about the possibility of a fourth season, the creator said it falling into this trope is one of the biggest issues execs have with the show.
  • Johnny Bravo is as goofy as most other Hanna-Barbara cartoons, but it's about an Elvis Presley-sounding Casanova Wannabe trying to score with women. Seth MacFarlane (the crown prince of black, cringe comedy) used to work on this show as a writer, so this should surprise no one.
  • Justice League and its successor Justice League Unlimited were the last shows to be created for the DC Animated Universe, and its creators must have just thought "fuck it" and decided to try and get away with as much as humanly possible, especially when Unlimited was put on the Saturday night Toonami block, which at the time was still technically a children's programming block. There were vague allusions to people having sex, having sex behind some boxes, phone sex, human women having sex with gorilla men, skimpier costumes for the ladies and other people commenting on them, innuendos about impotence and Hide Your Lesbians, a villain eating oysters very suggestively, Green Arrow and Black Canary really getting into wrestling each other, an intentionally uncomfortable You Are a Credit to Your Race comment, and implied violence like Superman murdering Lex Luthor with his Eye Beams.
  • The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack: G Rated Drugs in the forms of candy and maple syrup, stories full of bizarre, dark events that would make A Series of Unfortunate Events look like a Bowdlerised Grimm's fairy tale, a lot of off-color jokes that make SpongeBob SquarePants look really tame, extensive amounts of extremely gratuitous gross-up close-ups, lots and lots of gruesome violence depicted in extremely graphic detail (complete with tons of very brutally and graphically extreme slapstick), Nightmare Fuel scenes that make Courage the Cowardly Dog and The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy look like child's play, extreme amounts of gross-out humor, and Deranged Animation that makes Ren and Stimpy (both the original and EVEN its adult reboot) look as sane, on-model, and beautifully animated as your average Disney Animated Canon film. In short, this is easily Cartoon Network's darkest show, which says a lot.
  • Over the Garden Wall is very dark for this network, with a villain that essentially embodies despair and possibly suicide, a shadowy being stalking two young children, hoping they'll give up so he can turn them into Edelwood trees and harvest their souls. It's stock full of Nightmare Fuel creatures that make even most Cartoon Network shows look tame.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: Word of God says it originally wasn't intended for kids (after all, its working title was The Whoop-Ass Girls), but the Animation Age Ghetto struck and he was forced to change it. The show itself is surprisingly violent given its artstyle, even having blood in some of the earlier episodes.
  • Regular Show. More sex jokes, frequent lethal use of weapons, and mild profanities ("crap", "sucks", even "pissed" note ) then you can shake a yardstick at. It's is based on two short films creator J.G. Quintel made in animation school called "2 in the AM PM" and "The Naive Man from Lolliland", and while the latter is safe for family viewing (a single use of "hell" wouldn't faze most viewers), the former isn't — at least, by Cartoon Network's already selective standards. Finally paid off as by the 42nd Annie Awards it was put in the "General Audience" category along The Simpsons and similar shows.
  • Robotomy: Excessive violence, a lot of Comedic Sociopathy, some sexual innuendo, some mild swearing (mostly words like "crap," "sucks" or "screwed"). One of the show creators worked on Superjail! and it has the look and feel of a Superjail spin-off or companion show.
  • Samurai Jack was perhaps one of the darkest shows of its era in Cartoon Network, starting with the very fact that the villain is a malignant demon who turned the world into a bleak, dark, gloomy dystopia and commits genocide, carnage, presumed animal cruelty, torture (both physical and psychological) and slavery on a regular basis. And for a bonus, some episodes were entirely built around Nightmare Fuel; even the episodes not revolving around horror have scenes that are traumatic. Yup, it's frankly astounding it did not wind up in [adult swim] during its days. Ironically, the series' revival was aired on [adult swim], and their UK channel is posting clips of both the revival and the original series. The revived series could likewise fall under What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars is an infamous example. As the show went on, storylines seemed to become darker and darker, and the series began showcasing more mature themes and including content that showed it wasn't necessarily for kids. The Mandalore, Umbara and Savage Oppress/ Darth Maul storylines take the cake. With the episodes featuring a fascist terrorist group, a violent Vietnam War allegory with Unfriendly Fire, and a pair of homicidal Sith warriors slaughtering their way across the galaxy to get revenge on Obi Wan Kenobi respectively. The series also contained lots of extended universe lore references and call-forwards to the Original Trilogy that kids were unlikely to appreciate.
  • Steven Universe: similar to Adventure Time, Steven Universe tackles many mature/darker themes once would not expect from a PG children's cartoon, like consent, toxic/unhealthy relationships, death, war, morality, guilt, self-hatred and self-esteem in general, and realistic mourning.
  • Sym-Bionic Titan gets away with a fair amount of violence and an amazing amount of blatant fanservice, most memorably Kimmy's "booty quake" dance in Episode 10 with plenty of ass-shaking and bouncing, her dress strap falling off, and briefly pole dancing on a lamp.
  • Time Squad: On the outside, it was a funny, unassuming edutainment cartoon (that was more entertainment than education) about an orphaned history whiz taken in by a overly-macho time cop and his effeminate Robot Buddy to the future where, each episode, they go back in time to fix history. On the inside, it got away with adult jokes that were on par with Rocko's Modern Life, played up the Hilariously Abusive Childhood trope for laughs more than The Simpsons, and indulged in more homoerotic subtext than anything that Cartoon Network had aired at the time in the early 00's.
  • While Transformers Animated isn't as intense as Transformers: Prime below, it still dips into this territory. For starters, Megatron is now a much bigger threat in this continuity, and the first season establishes that not only is he a Manipulative Bastard toward Isaac Sumdac, but upon the restoration of his body, he delivers a powerful Curb-Stomp Battle to the Autobots and kills Starscream for his betrayal. In addition, the show features limb removal, violence (both on- and offscreen), an implied successful political assassination, Body Horror, torture, an Ax-Crazy prisoner who is after one of the main heroes, a deconstruction of questionable choices made by the heroes during the war, and Heroic Sacrifice. The show also doesn't shy away from killing off characters; in fact, in the Grand Finale, two of the main characters end up dead, and Word of God is that had a fourth season been greenlit, Ultra Magnus would have died of the injuries that Shockwave inflicted on him late in the third season.

  • Big Hero 6: The Series :
    • Obake's suicide is quite dark. Then you remember it's a kid's show.
    • The scene where Karmi gets mutated into a monster seems straight out of a horror movie.
  • Gravity Falls really stretches its TV-Y7 rating. The show is positively rife with Nightmare Fuel, bizarre imagery, and touches subject matter that is normally taboo in children's programming, whether it be for the sake of drama or for a joke. Adult jokes are prevalent and the show can get quite violent, compounded by the fact characters visibly shed blood in multiple episodes (though in the case of non-humans, it's not necessarily red). The show's characters are shown to be quite flawed for Disney protagonists as well; Stan and his brother are far from ideal role models and even Dipper and Mabel have engaged in unsavory behavior (although they usually learn from it). The show's a lot more mature than one would expect from it, especially considering it aired on Disney. The creators have joked about traumatizing children on occasion.
    • The series suffers from Serial Escalation as well. It started off as a relatively innocent cartoon about twins exploring an apparently sleepy city while staying at the tourist trap of their mysterious Grunkle Stan. Cue Season 2, which opened with the monsters being zombies, and then continues to evolve possessed brothers, a videogame girl wanting to keep Soos forever, a missing family member who's been traveling 30 years through different dimensions, dark pasts, Mabel losing hope and locking up in a Lotus-Eater Machine, and finally the end of the world.
    • Some specific scenes fall into this trope so thoroughly that they've been removed from some re-airings: the scene in Northwest Mansion Mystery where the animal heads on the walls start bleeding from their eyes and mouths and chanting "ANCIENT SINS", for instance.
    • The second season takes more liberties than the first season. The comedy is blacker, the jokes are crueler and there is notably more violence. The symbolic villain shift from Li'l Gideon to Bill Cipher is prominent.
    • Notably in regards to Nightmare Fuel, as of "Dipper and Mabel vs. the Future", the world has ended, an extra-dimensional demon-God has taken physical form, and the last thing we heard in the episode was the hysterical screams of the townsfolk as a dimensional rift to what is essentially Hell opened above them. In the next episode ("Weirdmageddon Part 1"), we find out that Dipper apparently went around during the apocalypse for three days without knowing if anyone he knew was still alive, a character gets the functions of all the orifices in his face rearranged (causing him to fall to the ground gurgling/screaming), and group of demons play a variation of Spin the Bottle called Spin the Person, where they spin a dead body and the spinner has to eat whomever it lands on. TV-Y7, everyone.
  • Daron Nefcy's Star vs. the Forces of Evil takes a similar route as Gravity Falls, starting out as a sugar-coated parody of the Magical Girl genre. By the second season it's started to become far darker though, with similar points made by the former; discussing Racism, Demonic Possession and Deals With The Devil, toxic relationships (with a boy who's literally the Prince of Hell), and a plethora of examples of Vile Villain, Saccharine Show.
    • Resident Knight of Cerebus Toffee takes the cake, being up there with cartoon villains such as The Lich, Him, Aku, and Bill Cipher in terms of how seriously he is portrayed. Crimes include murdering Queen Moons mother in cold blood and during the signing of the Monster/Mewman treaty no less, threatened to crush Marco to death if Star didn't destroy her wand, possessed Ludo, turns Mewni into an even bigger crapsack world than it already was, and has a thing for dressing in the bones of what seem to be dead Mewmans. His death is, while fitting, hardly anything better.
  • Star Wars Rebels, in the same vein of Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Some fans thought, based upon the early trailers and especially the character shorts released on YouTube and partially just because the show was produced by Disney, that it was going for a Lighter and Softer direction to the point it might become Denser and Wackier. Instead, it got Darker and Edgier as the first season progressed and when Tarkin showed up it got really dark, to the point of the trope question being sometimes asked without irony and a few complaints that some of the content really does exceed the show's TV-Y7 rating. The second season kicked off with Darth Vader rolling into town and reminding everyone why he is the terrifying ultimate badass of the Star Wars Universe. Then it introduced two new Inquisitors, both of whom are real pieces of work. And guess what? This show does not shy away from tropes like The Bad Guy Wins. Then there's the final episode of the second season, in which a much-loved supporting character performs a Heroic Sacrifice and (possibly) dies, not to mention the return of Darth Maul himself, who kills the female Inquisitor in a very violent way and slices off Kanan's eyes with a lightsaber.
  • Gargoyles is a good example, with surprisingly mature themes such as gun violence. In the first episode, Goliath performs an on-screen Bare-Handed Blade Block that leaves visible bleeding wounds on both palms. The episode primarily regarding Gun Violence hinged on explaining proper gun safety and pulled no punches as to what could happen even to a trained officer of the law was irresponsible with her service weapon (not storing it properly in this case). It likewise gave an excuse as to why the bad guys (and only them) have laser weapons, namely that they were stolen test weapons and were more military grade than police weapons grade and are more destructive and dangerous than service weapons (the series never once gave a police character a laser weapon as a service weapon).
  • Fans of The Lion Guard have debated on why it is classified as a preschool aimed show and why it has a Y rating ever since its premiere. None of the fans deny that it's for kids, but the fact its aimed at preschool kids is stunning, given that the violence is sometimes a tad unfriendly to that target audience. There are some suggestive jokes, and we even see a dead body (which, although this happened in the movies it's based on as well, is still unusual), along with some of the Aesops being quite mature for children of that age. Overall, it's often agreed that the show would be better off with a TV-Y7 rating. Season 2 has Scar return from the dead, resulting in more blatant attempts to kill entire herds, multiple locations are turned to ash, and several major characters nearly wind up dead. Season 3 almost completely kicks the show out of typical preschool cartoon territory, as the opener has Kion explicitly bleeding, Ono loses his eyesight, Ushari burns to death, and Kion gets infected with a venom that causes him to start wrestling quite clearly with his darker instincts, along with the fact that, given this is a midquel for Simba's Pride that they do not appear in, guarantees the Guard does not come back, albeit due to voluntarily disbanding.
  • Many parents believe that PJ Masks does not belong on Disney Junior due to the occasional acts of physical violence and the characters often calling their enemies' names (both of which are rarely seen in preschool cartoons), which they believe shouldn't be copied by the target audience.
  • TRON: Uprising might just be the king of this trope. The Programs' unusual way of dying (shattering into little decaying cubes) allowed them to get away with stuff that would definitely exceed the Y-7 rating otherwise. At least Once an Episode, someone ends up being smashed into cubes in some horrible way (shot, impaled, one Program bisected at the waist and still trying to crawl before "bleeding out"). We see Tesler's troops commit mass murder in a hospital. There's also the Iso genocide, nasty brainwashing, The Game Grid, and plenty of Cold-Blooded Torture (Dyson took a buzzsaw to Tron's face). Add a Big Good that is Covered in Scars, deeply messed up psychologically, and almost kills his apprentice for trying to talk him out of revenge. It's saying something when the animated series makes the discredited first-person shooter look downright fluffy by comparison.
  • Pickle and Peanut, like Gravity Falls, really stretches its TV-Y7 rating, with lots of moments that are right on par with Cartoon Network's Regular Show. For instance, in the first episode, they get away with saying "skinny dipping". That alone makes you wonder how Disney could allow this show to air on their network.
  • Handy Manny is a preschool cartoon, but the episode "Felipe's New Job" had one of the main characters try to commit suicide. We couldn't make this stuff up if we tried.
    Felipe: Maybe Manny should just melt me down and use me for scrap metal.
  • Wander over Yonder just like The Powerpuff Girls has lots of risque humor and some black comedy in it including Wander playing spin the bottle with Lord Hater, Captain Awesome saying he’s going to take Lord Hater down to “Awesome Town” and then pointing at his crotch, and Peepers slicing open and killing a plant monster using the point on top of his helmet. It can also get surprisingly dark in decidedly non-comedic ways at times. The main villain Lord Dominator tries to slice through Sylvia with a giant power drill and make Wander watch as she tries to murder his best friend.
  • In a similar vein to The Lion Guard, we have fellow Disney Junior series Elena of Avalor. While it definitely has enough light-hearted moments and happy endings (or endings where the positive elements are given more emphasis) to have it fit on the channel, it qualifies for this trope due to its realistic take on trauma, the fact that the main antagonist succeeds in murdering Elena's parents, and its much tighter focus on serialized storytelling (its parent series, Sofia the First, has many of these elements, but they were more pronounced in later episodes and less in earlier ones). It's still definitely a children's series, but its subject matter is incredibly dark by the standards of a preschool series.
  • Sofia the First eventually plays this straight in the series finale, "Forever Royal". The standout elements include the revelation that Sofia's father died at sea, and King Roland's wish for a family caused Queen Lorelei to die since her body couldn't handle it, Vor possessing the more sympathetic villain Prisma to do her bidding and being the first antagonist to actively try to murder Sofia, a scene that (from the parents' perspective) looks like Sofia is trying to commit suicide even though she's just trying to escape the boat with Amber and Minimus, and to top it off, Vor's death that's not too dissimilar to the Earth Queen's death on The Legend of Korra. This was still rated TV-Y by the way.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars was initially criticized for being too kid-friendly throughout most of its first season. It more than made up for it from the end of the first season and beyond. Brutal depictions of War Is Hell, Family Unfriendly Deaths abound, and a good amount of morally questionable moves by the traditional heroes turned it into one of the most fearless family-friendly animated programs in recent memory.
  • DuckTales (2017) is much darker than the original series. A few reasons why include the frequent use of black comedy, a frighteningly realistic depiction of abusive relationships with Magica forcing Lena to do her bidding, Donald and Scrooge being traumatized over Della Duck's supposed death and being very antagonistic to each other, and the violence is much more realistic.
  • The Season One climax for 101 Dalmatian Street; "The Devil Wears Puppies" has Cruella return, and seeking out her Puppy Fur Coat again. It shows that Cruella is very abusive in her relationship to Hunter, in order to get him to do her bidding. What makes it especially dark is that she has a skinning machine which she intended to throw the Puppies in, she uses Dawkin's Doll to demonstrate to the Puppies what it shall do to them, and she tells Delilah & Doug that she is going to force them to watch her do this, before turning them in to matching luggage.

    First-Run Syndication 
  • Inhumanoids, a Merchandise-Driven horror series about monsters from Hell — we mean, "the fiery depths of the earth where nightmares begin" — attacking humanity. It was basically a Lovecraft Lite cartoon aimed, nominally, at kids, despite featuring dismemberments, people dying constantly, some turning into zombies and some gruesome imagery. The monsters, in particular, were very horrid, and one of the three main monsters called Tendril looked quite similar to Cthulhu.
  • Several episodes of Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, including the ones about prison (which had swear words in the original version; the new version censors the swear words) and gang violence (which had a young boy get killed in the crossfire of a gang war), had material that many parents would probably not want their kids to watch, at least alone. There was even an episode about a teen mother, which didn't go into detail about how babies were made. Parents were likely supposed to talk with their kids about sex and avoiding teen parenthood. Another episode dealt with STDs, and a doctor even mentioned a couple of the diseases by name. The same episode also had mentions of sexual intercourse, and Bill Cosby told the viewers that those words were something they should ask their parents about. Few kids' shows out there touch such heavy topics. In the Double Cross episode, George and his gang were clearly White Supremacists. Near the end of the episode, he launched into a blunt tirade explicitly condemning Latinos, Jews, Catholics, Italians, Asians, and Blacks. Fat Albert also visits Mudfoot and a Rabbi who tells him about the Nazis, Antisemitism, and the Holocaust.
  • Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers: Genocide, on-screen death, a Dating Catwoman (or at least shagging her) situation in "Renegade Rangers", slavery, torture, massive aversions of Never Say "Die" (with the on-screen body count to back it up)... even Robert Mandell admits the show's writing "flew over the heads of six year olds."

    The Hub/Discovery Family 
  • Dan Vs. is a Black Comedy that would likely feel more at home on Adult Swim or Fox with the occasional themes of marital problems and murder (even rape) and a Heroic Comedic Sociopath as the protagonist. Yet swearingnote  and bloodnote  are non-existent in the show. That being said, Dan Vs. originated as a live-action adult sitcom, and was actually pitched to Adult Swim at first.
  • Transformers: Prime was touted by a director as an "adult transformers series he wanted to make". When you get down to it, it's a miracle they got by with the main combatants all being robots, as this series features a number of themes on War Is Hell and would be pretty graphic if done with people. Other events and themes include kidnapping via internet spying, the Death of a Child almost occurring, references to chemical warfare, named characters being dissected or beaten to death by a protagonist's bare hands, the main villain uses Domestic Abuse on the other villain, and other serious issues like drug abuse or suicide via Heroic Sacrifice.

  • Kulipari: An Army of Frogs is a Netflix exclusive title with a TV-Y7-FV rating, yet there are a lot of depictions of violence, war, and death as a lot of the recurring characters were killed in the first season, not to mention the lack of clothing that the male frogs had.
  • Voltron: Legendary Defender definitely stretches its TV-Y7-FV rating, which isn't surprising considering the creators' previous works. It has scenes of torture (with one of the characters it happened to getting PTSD as a result), a surprising amount of violence that only passes because there is no onscreen blood, and quite a few side characters who die, some of those deaths being onscreen.
  • One has to wonder if kids are even on the mind of the showrunners of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power given how dark and mature the show can get. Things like child abuse, death, post-traumatic stress disorder, and war crimes are played completely straight and explored in great detail. The psychological horror of season 4 is very intense for a "kids" show.
  • The Dragon Prince takes place in a fantasy world where the characters have Grey-and-Gray Morality, one of the leads is a Child Soldier, and at least a few instances where blood is shown onscreen, yet it still has a TV-Y7-FV rating. note 

  • As Told by Ginger, especially compared to other Klasky-Csupo works, this cartoon delves into considerably more mature and deep topics. It's aimed at the middle school audience. The show deals with preteen and teenage issues in a frank and understanding way.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender is a show about a war that has lasted for a hundred years, tearing apart families and nations and was begun with the genocide of an entire people. The protagonist, the 12-year-old last survivor of said people, assembles a team of Child Soldiers and trains to overthrow the Evil Overlord (who happens to be a shockingly abusive parent) that seeks to subjugate or kill anyone who isn't Fire Nation. The abuse of the 16-year old Starter Villain by his father, the aforementioned Evil Overlord, is depicted with very few punches pulled and always Played for Drama, with the physical mark of his abuse always visible and the psychological effects on him thoroughly explored. And the "Southern Raiders" episode in general, for its portrayal of war crimes, murder, revenge, and forgiveness, which doesn't go the way one might expect.
    • The Legend of Korra is a weird example because its content limitations are its biggest concession to its kid audience... and that's not saying much, given how disturbing its violence can get. Its characters have, at various points, committed Murder-Suicide, had a spirit ripped out of their eyes and throat, been graphically suffocated on-screen, accidentally blown off their own head, suffered mercury poisoning, been electrocuted to death, and crushed by a mecha, but that's not what makes it seem like the kid audience was an afterthought. Instead, the themes are what really makes it feel like adults and teenagers were the real target — not only does it tackle such controversial topics as child abuse, social inequality, terrorism and the less-than-helpful totalitarian governmental responses it can spark, anarchy and the dangers of revolution, political assassination (including depicting a successful one) and depression, it also gives a ton of focus to the 50-year-olds in its cast and their mid-life family issues. There isn't even a real kid perspective, because Korra's much more of a young adult than a teenager. She starts the show at 17 and ends it at 21. The only child characters in the show are Tenzin's oldest three kids because in this Generational Saga, all of the characters from the original show's grandkids are in Korra's age range or older. note  Even out of Tenzin's kids, Jinora (the oldest) is the only really prominent character out of the bunch.
  • CatDog looks pretty tame at first, as it didn't have quite as much demographically inappropriate humour as other Nicktoons of its time. However, it was also a pretty violent show with some very disturbing imagery, on top of nearing Family Guy levels of Sadist Show.
  • Danny Phantom likes to dabble in this a lot. The show not only breaks the Never Say "Die" rule, but many of the show's antagonists actively attempt to kill major characters, sometimes in the most disturbing ways possible, and in one episode it actually happens. There are copious amounts of Body Horror, and the motivation of the Big Bad is based around an unhealthy, stalker-like obsession with a married woman.
  • Hey Arnold!. The show features adult themes like an overkill (by Nickelodeon standards) of cursing and one of the darkest backstories of any main Nickelodeon character at the time (Helga, who is considered the unfavorite in her family in favor of her Stepford Smiler sister, has a verbally abusive father, and a mother who is clearly a depressed alcoholic).
  • Invader Zim was more grotesque than most of Nick's other works, featured things like children summoning demons and a disturbing amount of body horror (including one kid getting his eyes plucked out), and was created by a man who wrote a comic series about a homicidal maniac. It's kind of in between this and its sister trope, very clearly meant for a young teen audience, but for whatever reason Nick shoehorned it in a block that was otherwise targeted at a different demographic that the show was completely inappropriate for. That said, it's still questionable for even the intended demographic - while it's toned down from JCV's comics, it's basically a hair away from Squee! in terms of content, which is very solidly meant for adults.
  • My Life as a Teenage Robot: While not as dark as say Invader Zim or inappropriate as most 90s Nicktoons, the show frequently averts Never Say "Die", the main robot character frequently gets destroyed to the point of Body Horror, and there is a lot of adult humor in the show, such as sex jokes and references to classic sci-fi and pop-culture none of its target audience would get. Plus, some of the villains range from a blatant communist (the episode he's from includes the hammer and sickle symbol in the title) to a gang of fishwomen that resemble dominatrices to a depressed group of dumped loners who has a member with a visible noose on his neck after an implied failed suicide attempt.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show was the Trope Codifier for Grossout Show and was filled to the brim with horrifying Gross Up Close Ups, Family-Unfriendly Violencenote , and sexual references, yet was one Nickelodeon's flagship series. At one point, they even had a song about being hanged!
  • Rocko's Modern Life, while tame compared to Ren & Stimpy, still has its moments. Social satire runs rampant throughout the series, some of the adult humor is flat out extreme and ridiculous (going as far as showing Rocko working at a sex hotline), a few of its worst innuendos got banned from even the DVDs, one of the episodes was banned for being too sexually sleazy, a lot of crazy and disturbing stuff happens in general, there is often serious abuse going on between characters, and the theme song shows what a sick mockery Rocko's childhood was. Not to mention that it could get pretty violent (such as a scene where a bull's arms fall off while lifting weights, with blood and meat coming out of them).
  • Sanjay and Craig takes full advantage of the Gross-Up Close-Up whenever possible (though this was toned down in the second season). The show seems to love Black Comedy jokes as well, one of which implies that Craig, an anthropomorphic snake, ate a hamster's family.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: There's a huge amount of disgusting violence (most notably from episodes like "The Splinter" and the infamous toenail scene from "House Fancy") and Nightmare Fuel, especially in the seasons between the first and second movies, as well as all kinds of dirty references ("Patrick, your genius is showing!" "Where?!"), SpongeBob and Patrick raising a child like a married couple in one episode, and SpongeBob and Mr. Krabs thinking they murdered the health inspector and trying to hide the body from police. (It Makes Sense in Context.)
    • Even among all this, three episodes in particular- "One Coarse Meal", "Demolition Doofus", and "Ink Lemonade" - really stand out and seriously make you question how any of it was allowed on a show aimed at children. The actual plots of these episodes, respectively and without exaggeration, are "Mr. Krabs discovers that Plankton is terrified of whales since he thinks they eat plankton, so he dresses up like Pearl and psychologically torments Plankton to the point that he attempts to get run over", "Spongebob injuries Mrs. Puff so badly that she ends up with a ruptured inflation sac (i.e. is permanently disfigured) and, in a fit of insanity, tries to actively murder Spongebob," and "Patrick engages in increasingly disgusting and violent ways of tormenting Squidward so he can make lemonade with his bodily fluidsnote ."
  • Pig Goat Banana Cricket: It's basically The Ren and Stimpy Show for a new generation, containing varying levels of Family-Unfriendly Violence, Black Comedy, and censor-dodging. Though it's a fairly tame example of this compared to some of its fellow shows.

    PBS Kids 
  • While Ready Jet Go! is not the most inappropriate kids show around, it has quite disturbing undertones to itnote . Not to mention that one of the main child characters was almost killed by a weather balloon in an episode, Jet's own cousin is pretty much a racist bigot (at least until Character Development kicked in), and there are implications of self-loathing in another episode.
  • On Wild Kratts, so far, we've heard talk of cannibalism, seen a Secretary bird kill a snake (complete with minor blood spillage), saw a coyote marking Martin-the-Tree as his territory (although we just saw the wet spot and not the genitals nor the stream), seen animals frozen alive with full consciousness still intact, saw T-Devils eating an ambiguous dead thing… are we sure this is on PBS? The brothers actually ended up naked in one scene, though their modesty was covered up by gigantic leaves.
  • Liberty's Kids covers topics such as war, and several characters are killed off, including one of the main character's cousins. It also has no qualms with covering slavery, with one of the main characters being a former slave.
  • Redwall is based off the books of the same name — but shies away from virtually none of the Family-Unfriendly Violence that makes its source material so infamous (see its entry under Literature for more details on the books), instead simply hiding behind Gory Discretion Shots and Bloodless Carnage to obscure characters being tortured, maimed, stabbed, and killed in a variety of awful ways with the deaths of named characters in almost every episode. Even then, the show didn't always employ its discretion shots; characters were shot dead with arrows and stabbed fully onscreen numerous times (the bloody aftermath of Cheesethief's death and Badrang being gutted with Martin's sword being just two instances of this) and even threw in a few moments of gratuitous cursing in the first season that wasn't even in the source material.
    • What makes this even more astonishing is the fact that Redwall aired on PBS at all. While it can be argued that shows like Wild Kratts and Liberty's Kids have to cover some disturbing topics as a result of their educational subject matter (i.e. the unsavory aspects of American history, the sometimes violent and scary parts of nature), Redwall doesn't. In fact, it's one of the few—if not the only— non-educational cartoons ever to air on PBS (though it is believed that it did have a slight Aesop of Reading Is Cool, thus allowing it a free pass). Given PBS's normal aversion to violence in its cartoons, it's odd that this would be the exception.
  • Some early episodes of Adventures from the Book of Virtues contain mild violence and even murder. Yes, this is a PBS show.
  • Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum and its accompanying book series Ordinary People Change the World can slip into this territory at times due to covering topics not a lot of other preschool shows/books do such as racismnote , slaverynote , sexismnote , war,note  etc, to the point where Moral Guardians and Heteronormative Crusaders deemed the series inappropriate for kids. Also, in the I Am Madam President special, Berby dies and drifts off into space. You read that right, a PBS Kids show killed off one of its main characters. She did come back though.

Canadian animation targeted toward kids tends to fall in this category from time to time, usually due to Values Dissonance between Canada and its southern neighbour.
  • Fred's Head goes one step further than the above shows with things like swearing, handling of mature situations outright, and other non-kid friendly material. Unsurprisingly, the show wasn't renewed for a second season.
  • Jimmy Two-Shoes is a Black Comedy cartoon with the implication that its setting, Miseryville, is Hell, as seen through the demonic populace, the heat and lava everywhere, and the usage of misery as a euphemism for eternal damnation. The setting being Hell would have been outright stated, too, had the creators had their way, but you still have to wonder what sort of twisted mind would try to make a show about Hell for a kids channel.
  • It's almost unbelievable that Total Drama is from a children's channel, with all of its swearing (some bleeped, some not), sexual references and nudity (both male and female), and the fact that all the campers are underage and yet act and sometimes even look just like adults. And even despite all of that, it got a G rating in Canada.
  • 6teen has casual (if mild) swearing, frequently mentions sex, has a running gag in an episode where Jonesy made a clay bowl that resembles a breast (with characters mockingly calling it the "Boob Bowl"), an entire episode dedicated to the girls having their first periods (all Played for Laughs), an adult gay cowboy trying to date Jonesy, an entire episode where Nikki wears a tag that reads "ASS MAN" when being an assistant manager (they call her out on it constantly), and a 45 minute long Zombie Apocalypse episode that plays it completely straight (there's no blood and it's a comedy, but they're not shy about the death and horror aspect either). It got a G rating in Canada, while it was heavily mangled and censored by PopGirl in the UK and Cartoon Network in the US. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the creators of Total Drama also did this series.
  • Supernoobs: At first glance, this show does look and seem innocent with its light tone and setting and has a U.S TV rating of TV-Y7-FV. However, the show features a lot of violent battles in almost every episode not to mention a lot of Nightmare Fuel. The starting premise even has a group of kids accidentally dragged into an intergalactic war and fight in it. In addition, there are references to war, murder, genocide, and bioterrorism laced all over the show (and the main alien characters are implied to be suffering from PTSD).
  • Toad Patrol. Every year, toad children have to go through a rite of passage of sorts. They have to brave several dangers, including various predators, to reach a magical portal before the end of summer. If they don't? They turn into toadstools for (supposedly) all eternity! This was a show that was made for younger kids.
  • Silverwing was a kids' show, but was based off a young adult novel, and there's pretty heavy themes such as death and racial persecution, plus "guano" is used as a stand-in word for "shit" at least once.
  • Rescue Heroes was based off a preschool-aimed toyline by Fisher-Price but deals with serious situtations such as house fires, extreme weather conditions, and many, many other major emergencies that you couldn't possibly try to tell a preschooler about.

    Warner Bros. 
  • Animaniacs (and its brethren Tiny Toon Adventures, Freakazoid!, Histeria!, Taz-Mania, and even non–Warner-produced Earthworm Jim) gets this a lot, with its near-ubiquitous use of demographically inappropriate and social humor. It's a completely different show through an adult lens, as many current adults who first saw it as kids in the '90s can attest. The Minerva Mink shorts in particular fell squarely under this, with all the blatant Fanservice they got away with. Unsurprisingly, they only produced two shorts featuring her out of concerns that she would attract Rule 34 (which she did anyway).
    • The 2020 reboot also fits here comfortably. Just like the old show, the show is full of hidden sexual humor and biting satire (perhaps even more so, since Hulu is more lax than Fox Kids or Kids' WB! regarding content). Actual swearing isn't unheard of, either; "hell" has been used more than once. There's a reason why it's rated TV-PG this time around.
  • The entire DC Animated Universe. While technically meant for kids, the DCAU from the very beginning had been just as popular with teens and adults due to the good action, clever writing, interconnected story, partial comic book accuracy, multi-series continuity, surprisingly dark themes, great animation, excellent art style, and generally taking its audience seriously. Many Cartoon Network DC shows have yet to live up to it (apart from maybe Young Justice) due to being much more kid-friendly. Fortunately, this was very likely why the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line was launched, which was made as the Spiritual Successor to the DCAU (especially the DC Animated Movie Universe), and caters specifically to that Periphery Demographic, and their old demographic as adults, with a Darker and Edgier yet still well-done style to match. However, Lobo Webseries and Harley Quinn (2019) avert it all for adults-only cartoons with strong profanity, sexual humor and graphic violence.
  • The Looney Tunes Show. Unlike its contemporaries, it doesn't have much salty language (aside from Yosemite Sam saying "this blows" in the episode "Newspaper Thief"). But gun violence is often used (a B-plot in one episode is about Yosemite Sam being so reckless with guns that he made a petition to get them back), censor-dodging happens often, an entire episode is dedicated to Bugs suffering a drug addiction (albeit Played for Laughs), there can be a surprising amount of Fanservice (especially in "Casa de Calma"), and then we have a lot of Lola's behavior.
  • MAD fits this trope to a T. While somewhat cleaner than the magazine, it's nonetheless filled to the brim with Demographically-Inappropriate Humor (with frequent sexual humor and actual swearing; the fourth episode actually had bleeped usage of "fuck" during the "Rejected Toy Story Characters" skit), jokes involving popular characters being severely injured/killed, and the like. It's a wonder that Cartoon Network aired the show uncensored, let alone for four seasons.
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated is pretty much Scooby-Doo if it wasn't so campy and 1960s. Despite being rated TV-Y7-FV, the show includes moments of death, extreme violence, Black Comedy, and the season one Big Bad being revealed to have kidnapped Fred from his birth parents and threatening to harm him if they ever came back for him. To make things crazier, the Greater-Scope Villain is an Eldritch Abomination that the gang had to kill in order to save the universe. Not to mention an abnormally high amount of Stuff Blowing Up very realistically, up to the point where near the end of the series, roughly half of Crystal Cove is gone.
  • Teen Titans Go! is often criticized for being too kiddie (though the bright colors and attractive artstyle makes this criticism not hard to come by). The show's TV-PG rating is there for a reason though, as this show is rife with Black Comedy and Comedic Sociopathy, parental bonuses are frequent (with some so old that they could've counted as these in the 2003 series), Never Say "Die" is rarely, if ever, played straight, and there are a bunch of risque jokes throughout the series.
  • Young Justice has implications of Twincest, many references to and depictions of murder, and doesn't shy away from the severe mental strain that is put on Child Soldiers. One of the protagonists' favorite tactic is Mind Rape, and it is played out for maximum shock value. The subplot in "Beneath" heavily implies that the mother of one of Jaime Reyes' friends is being physically abused by her boyfriend. The same episode also reveals that Queen Bee is essentially running a child-trafficking ring where innocent teenagers are kidnapped and sold to aliens who use them for experimentation.


Just like with Teletoon, YTV's animation targeted toward kids tends to fall in this category from time to time, usually due to Values Dissonance between Canada and its southern neighbour.
  • Beast Wars. Despite the toyline and therefore the show being ostensibly aimed somewhere around the 10-12-year-old boys slot, the show features clever writing, complex characterizations, and surprisingly mature takes on themes such as warfare and revenge, with a healthy dose of Killed Off for Real to match.
  • The Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs series has lots of darker episodes, a few edgy adult jokes, some teen situations, and massive child abuse from Mayor Shellbourne towards his son Gil even to the point where he puts him in dangerous situations and does not care if he's okay.
  • While Mysticons is considered a kids show (at least by Canadian standards) it had a lot of dark elements along fairly mature messages and situations that might be difficult for some kids to understand.
  • Mainframe's first show, Reboot, starting from the second season featured a forcible fusion scene with parallels to rape (Brother–Sister Incest rape, to boot), many, many deaths, two children being mistaken for dead and forced to wander the universe for years while time flowed differently for them, The Corruption of surrounding systems, and finally the end of the world, not to mention several very fanservicey designs. In Daemon Rising, there is also a Brainwashed and Crazy cult of Guardians that have been MindRaped into suicide bombers (a fact the show does not shy away from, even showing on-screen deaths).
  • Shadow Raiders is a nihilistic Cosmic Horror Story aimed at kids. On top of that, worlds get destroyed regularly, Never Say "Die" is downright averted, plenty of characters do die, the Beast Generals are horrifying villains (one of them even Mind Rapes Tekla with the image of her planet being destroyed), the heroes kill as many innocent people as the Beast Planet and are completely incapable of ever beating it, and the CGI falls into Uncanny Valley territory.

  • Code Lyoko: Tons of tentacle mind rape. One case of actual tentacle rape from vines. All of the times Aelita died, nearly died, attempted suicide, or had a clone die. All the cursing in Code Lyoko: Evolution. All of the Fanservice. Aelita seeing her mother kidnapped and her father murdered, on screen. Aelita suffers from flashbacks and hallucinations. Then there was the time Jeremie started acting suicidal and reckless to further his work. X.A.N.A. made so many murder attempts onscreen that it can be turned into a drinking game. Franz Hopper went completely insane, as shown through a video diary. And a ton of other horrors.
  • Jem begins with the funeral of the main characters father and not too long later their foster home full of little girls gets bombed. Despite being aimed at little girls and being made to advertise toys, Jem featured many dark and mature themes. Infidelity, drug use, abusive parents, parental abandonment, suicide, depression... That's even ignoring the fact the characters are put in life-and-death situations essentially every episode. The creator wanted to push the envelope more, but the show was Screwed by the Merchandise and cancelled after three seasons.
  • Kaeloo was never aired in the USA, and for good reasons. The characters use extreme violence (the characters own guns, bazookas and the like), and since Death Is a Slap on the Wrist, they have also died Family Unfriendly Deaths due to the violence. They abuse drugs (both G-Rated Drug's and regular ones), alcohol, and tobacco. There are plenty of sex jokes and even a few moments where its two main characters, who are in love, try to sexually harass each other. There is also tons of Black Comedy, mentions of infidelity, implications of some characters being bisexual, and some religious references.
  • From Dutch children's television comes the obscure series Purno de Purno. Its target age group is children aged 11 to 15 years old, and yet it contains characters such as the "Kietelaar" (a Dutch word for clitoris), politically incorrect gags about sex, homosexuality and bodily functions, political commentary, and very suggestive imagery.
  • Miraculous Ladybug has a pretty fair amount of fanservice for a cartoon aimed at elementary schoolers. It could be due to Values Dissonance, as it's a French-Japanese production. It could also be because it wasn't originally aimed at that young of an audience, but due to the Animation Age Ghetto they lowered the demographic. Also, the main forces of antagonism are represented through what basically boils down to the possession of innocent bystanders by the Big Bad, some of which actively try to kill other civilians (remember this show breaks the Never Say "Die" rule), and this can happen to anyone at any time when they feel unhappy. Not to mention how unsubtle the show is about the portrayal of unideal parent-child relationships, especially with the revelation that Gabriel Agreste emotionally manipulated his own son.
  • Wakfu
    • There's probably a good reason why the show wasn't picked up across the Atlantic until Netflix picked it up. Ranging for all the really dark themes (like genocide, the loss of families, some of the more Nightmare Fuel-filled moments, accidental cannibalism), fanservice and innuendo; in fact, the show is used for the main image of the Mating Dance trope. The English dub even makes liberal use of the word "Hell" rather than Gosh Darn It to Heck!. Part of it can be attributed to Values Dissonance, due to looser broadcast restrictions in France (Same goes for Code Lyoko above).
    • And then Season 3 came along, which is about the point where even the creators themselves admitted they were pushing the bounds of what they could get away with "for kids" even by France's looser standards. And by their own admittance, to go along with how much of the Wakfu fanbase have grown into teens and young adults since the original release, they want to take the show to even darker and more mature places with Season 4.
  • What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown was undoubtedly one of the darkest Peanuts specials. Snoopy has an Acid Reflux Nightmare about being a sled dog during the Yukon Gold Rush, where he's abused by his master and tormented by his fellow dogs. Snoopy eventually snaps and fights his way to become the "alpha dog", only for his dream to end when the sled falls into a frozen lake and Snoopy is dragged screaming to certain doom. There's little in the way of laughs, aside from the scene at the beginning where Charlie Brown tries to make Snoopy pull a sled, and a scene where Snoopy visits a saloon in a Yukon boom town and goes through some humiliating slapstick scenes.
  • The Crumpets, an obscure show from France, is surprisingly dark in several episodes despite its colorful aesthetics, adorable characters and (loosely) being based on picture books for young children. It got away with sex jokes, nudity, swearing, suicide attempts or threats, a brief mass shooting attempt where the kids appear to bloodily die in darkness but survive, rampant animal cruelty, a strongly implied tentacled monster on human rape, and the kids and their neighbor becoming addicted to a homemade anti-addiction gas remedy, in addition to sensitive topics like homosexuality, infidelity and religion. It's safe to presume it took pages from Kaeloo (they share a network and few writers). Nonetheless, the third season toned down much of these elements before the next season raised some back.
  • In Thomas the Tank Engine, there are frequent racial undertones with the steamies vs. diesels rivalry, as well as allusions to engines being scrapped, complete with train "carcasses" in the background. At least in the classic seasons. By the time of Season 8, the show was softened to appeal to a preschool audience, shifting from the all-ages demographic that seasons 1-7 aimed for. Even after that, there were specials like Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure with Sailor John being shown to be a homicidal maniac, a manipulator, and a frighteningly realistic abuser towards his boat Skiff and Journey Beyond Sodor, where Frankie gleefully exploits her workers, and Thomas nearly dies by falling into a cistern of molten slag. The Big World Big Adventures movie and seasons make the show even more childish, but they managed to get away with Baz and Bernie threatening to kill Sonny in Marvelous Machinery.
  • The Legend of Calamity Jane is a dark, gritty cartoon about Calamity Jane that is quite violent, sugarcoats its themes less than some live action cowboy films with overt mentions of racism, death, and even the Civil War, and not only uses actual guns but even has characters get realistically shot and worry about gangrene. The series also has some sexual allusions, such as Jane having avoided an Attempted Rape in the past and the heavy implications that she lives in a brothel. Heck, the series begins with Jane narrowly saving a Native American man from being hanged.
  • Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue: Kids who grew up in the nineties will remember this Scare 'Em Straight anti-drug special as "the one that promised all your favourite cartoon characters in one place, then gave you Body Horror nightmares".
  • Franklin and the Turtle Lake Treasure counts, given that Granny tells Franklin and Samantha how her home, parents, and items were burned to the ground when she was little, she herself falls terminally ill before her eightieth birthday (with Franklin even expressing his fear that she'd die), and Snail is treated as an eagle-hatchling snack (with implications that he would have been devoured if it weren't for Franklin and Samantha to save him).
  • Downplayed with Blinky Bill. While it is for children and family-friendly enough, The ABC reran it on the network's preschool programming block ABC4Kids in the early 2010s, despite several scenes that aren't exactly preschooler-friendly, such as Marcia asking Blinky if she should bash Danny in "Blinky and the Red Car", Ma holding Danny and Shifty's heads underwater during "Blinky Bill's Fund Run", Daisy (a teenager) flirting with Blinky, Flap and Splodge (all of whom are children) in "Blinky and the Film Star", and Basil, the villain of Season 3 who had been chasing Blinky, Nutsy and Flap around the world through its entirety, getting carted off in a straitjacket for multiple crimes (including arson) in the season's finale.



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