Updated on July 4, 2022
The Western United States is a popular setting for animated cartoons. Westerns alone ensure it’s definitely not underrepresented in media. California’s also (disproportionately) treated by media as a “default” setting.
Below’s a list of animated cartoons set in or involving each state in the American west. The US Census Bureau defines the West to include: Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington.
The “Cars” franchise features the town of Radiator Springs, apparently located in Arizona.
“South Park” is the most famous Colorado-set cartoon. The characters frequently visit Denver for various reasons (baseball games, etc.).
The cult film “Napoleon Dynamite” had a very short-lived animated series in 2012. Like the original film, the TV show’s setting is in Idaho.
On “Animaniacs,” Wakko mentions Helena in his song “Wakko’s America.” (I couldn’t find a better Montana reference.)
Las Vegas appears in various cartoons:
- “Pinky and the Brain” had an episode parodying Frank Sinatra. Most of it revolved around Brain building a casino in Las Vegas, and becoming a successful singer.
- “The Flintstones” had its prehistoric counterpart, “Rock Vegas.”
- Ditto the Jetsons and its futuristic counterpart, “Las Venus.”
- “Rugrats” had an episode set in Las Vegas as well.
Albuquerque is famously associated with where Bugs Bunny keeps forgetting to make a left turn. Said error causes Bugs to repeatedly get lost and end up in various odd locations.
“The Simpsons” also has referenced Albuquerque. A 12th season episode revolves around Homer trying to stop Springfield’s minor league baseball team, the Isotopes, from moving to Albuquerque. In real life, Albuquerque’s minor league baseball team has renamed itself the Albuquerque Isotopes. The real time’s a triple-A minor league team for the Colorado Rockies.
The “Tiny Toon Adventures” episode “Slugfest” ends with Plucky and Hamton in Utah, where they face the episode’s villain.
The 1979 Don Bluth film “Banjo the Woodpile Cat” is set in Utah.
An episode of “Garfield and Friends” has Garfield claim (among other falsehoods) that Wyoming doesn’t exist. (“Think about it. Have you ever met anyone from Wyoming?”)
An episode of “Back to the Future” cartoon sees Marty, Jules, and Verne (and eventually, Doc) go back in time to meet Clara’s parents. Her parents had met on a wagon train heading west. Said wagon train apparently passed through the future site of Yellowstone National Park. A recent “Back to the Future” comic seems to have used this episode as part of Clara’s parents’ backstory.
The 1995 movie “Balto” is about an Alaskan sled dog.
The 2019 PBS Kids series “Molly of Denali” is set in a fictional small Alaska village.
Hawaii’s a popular vacation destination for many cartoons. However, “Lilo and Stitch” is the only film (or TV show) I can think of that’s actually set there.
Since California’s the home of the American entertainment industry, there’s a very long list of cartoons set here. To list a half-dozen or so shows set in the US’ most populous state:
- “The Fairly OddParents”
- “Rick & Steve: The Happiest Gay Couple in All the World”
- “Jackie Chan Adventures”
Disney XD series “Gravity Falls” is set in the fictional small town of Gravity Falls, Oregon. The show made numerous Pacific Northwest references.
An episode of “Pinky and the Brain” has the two mice visit Seattle. Brain’s latest (and now-very-dated) plan is for the mice to become grunge rock musicians. It ends with “Frog the Dry Widget” playing a concert at the top of the Space Needle. Brain’s invention blows the mice up, and sends them plummeting to the ground.