Recommended streaming services for cartoons (2018 edition)

I wrote last year about on-demand and live streaming service recommendations for animation fans, as well as a general streaming services post.

That said, a lot’s changed in the past year for both streaming and on the animation side of things, so I thought my older post might merit an update.

Criteria

  • I’m just comparing on demand video services, not live streaming ones like Sling TV.
  • My focus is on Western animation, as I’m not as knowledgeable about Japanese animation. However, anime fans might be interested in Crunchyroll.
  • None of the services require a cable TV subscription.

Comparing streaming services

Netflix

Netflix app on mobile device
Photo by Shardayyy (Flickr / CC BY)

The most popular of the internet-based streaming video services, Netflix offers a variety of shows. Animation options include:

  • Dreamworks Animation. Dreamworks has a deal to produce programs for Netflix, including shows based on “Mr. Peabody and Sherman,” “The Croods,” “Home,” “Turbo,” and “How to Train Your Dragon.”
  • Disney/Pixar films. Netflix carries a large amount of Disney’s classic and recent animated film library. A few Pixar films are also available. However, Disney’s planning to pull its animated fare from Netflix in 2019.
  • Original productions. “Bojack Horseman,” about an anthropomorphic horse actor, is probably Netflix’s most popular and well-known original production. They’ve since produced a few others, such as “Big Mouth.”
  • Other. Some other studios’ products are available, including Illumination (“Minions”). Netflix also features cartoons imported from Canada (“Total Drama”), Ireland (“Puffin Rock”), and Australia (“The Deep”).

Hulu

Hulu logo out of Legos
Flickr photo by Garrett Heath (CC BY)

Among the cartoons Hulu offers:

  • “South Park.” The entire series’ run is available on Hulu, including the latest episodes.
  • Fox. The current seasons of Fox’s Sunday night lineup (“The Simpsons,” “Family Guy,” etc.) are available. Older episodes tend to be scattered across different services/online offerings. (“The Simpsons” has its own website with all episodes made, but it requires a cable TV subscription.) FX’s “Archer” is also available in its entirety.
  • Cartoon Network/Adult Swim. Most current and many older Cartoon Network/Adult Swim series are available in their entirety. These include classics like “The Powerpuff Girls” (and its 2016 revival) and “Dexter’s Laboratory”; modern popular shows like “Adventure Time,” “Steven Universe,” and “Amazing World of Gumball”; and Adult Swim series like “The Boondocks,” and “Aqua Teen Hunger Force.”
  • Other. A few Disney Channel/XD/Junior shows like “Gravity Falls,” “Doc McStuffins,” and “Star vs. the Forces of Evil” are available. “Curious George,” a PBS Kids mainstay, is also available in its entirety on Hulu. A handful of Nickelodeon shows are available, including some “SpongeBob SquarePants” episodes.

Amazon Video

Amazon’s been building up its library. Cartoons available through Amazon Prime’s streaming include:

  • PBS Kids. Full seasons of various PBS Kids shows are available for Prime subscribers, including “Wild Kratts,” “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” and “Cyberchase.”
  • Other. The first four seasons of “SpongeBob SquarePants” are available. However, other popular Nick cartoons like “The Fairly OddParents” and “The Loud House” aren’t available through Prime streaming.
  • Original productions. Amazon’s been investing in some original programming, including the Emmy-nominated “Danger & Eggs,” a cartoon about the adventures of a girl and her best friend, a talking giant egg. (The cartoon’s also gay-friendly, with one episode centered around a Pride celebration.)

Boomerang

Boomerang Boomerang, based on the cable channel of the same name, offers various classic older cartoons, including:

  • Tom and Jerry.
  • Looney Tunes. These include the original shorts, as well as recent revivals “Wabbit” and “The Looney Tunes Show.”
  • Various Hanna-Barbera cartoons. These include the more popular Hanna-Barbera characters, including the Flintstones, Huckleberry Hound, Jonny Quest, and several incarnations of Scooby-Doo.
  • Some older Cartoon Network series. These include “Courage the Cowardly Dog” and “My Gym Partner’s a Monkey.”
  • Original productions. These include a revival of “Wacky Races” and a “Wizard of Oz” series.

PBS Kids

PBS Kids offers four or five episodes of each of its shows through its streaming app, all for free. The app also carries the live PBS Kids digital subchannel as a live streaming service (also for free).

My recommendations

Children’s/All-ages cartoons

The Looney Tunes ShowAny of the above services will suffice, depending on show preferences. However, Netflix and/or Hulu will cover a lot of currently popular children’s animation fare. Kids that love “Frozen,” Dreamworks films, or “Steven Universe” will want these. That said, keep an eye on Disney’s service launch in 2019, which might change things going forward.

For those who want to see older cartoons, Boomerang’s service is pretty decent, and inexpensive. I’ve been trying Boomerang out, and it’s worked fine so far. If you want your kids to see Bugs Bunny or Scooby-Doo without paying for DVDs, this is the service to use.

PBS Kids offers decent fare for children. It also comes with the advantages of being educational and free.

For those wondering about Nickelodeon fare like “SpongeBob,” see below.

Adult-oriented cartoons

Those looking mainly for adult oriented cartoons can stick with Hulu and get most of the popular ones. Hulu includes Fox’s lineup, “Archer,” Adult Swim, and “South Park.”

Netflix subscribers can also receive “Bojack Horseman.”

Viacom to announce new streaming service

If you’ve noticed, Viacom’s been pretty stingy about offering shows on streaming services. However, that’s supposed to soon change, as Viacom’s announced it plans to launch its own streaming service later in 2018. Viacom is the owner of Nickelodeon, so presumably this means “SpongeBob,” “The Loud House,” and more will play a big role in launching this service.

That said, there’s been no word on pricing, an exact launch date, etc. There’s also no idea if its current plans to merge (again) with CBS and other corporate turmoil (involving CBS and Viacom’s owner, National Amusements) will impact things.

For now, if viewers really want to see Mr. SquarePants, “The Loud House,” and other Nickelodeon shows, they probably either need to use Nick’s cable-TV-subscription-requiring app or just buy the DVDs. (Or go with Amazon Prime, which has the first several seasons of “SpongeBob.”)

Conclusion

That should cover the current state of things for now. If anything changes, I’ll either update this post or write an entirely new one.

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