Updated on October 8, 2022
Last week, I wrote a post about the best live streaming services for cartoons. Now, I thought I’d do the same for animation fans who want an on-demand video service for watching cartoons.
- I’m just comparing on demand video services, not live streaming ones like Sling TV.
- I’m focusing on just Western animation. However, anime fans might be interested in Crunchyroll.
- The services I’m comparing include: Netflix; Hulu; Amazon Video; Boomerang; and PBS Kids.
- None of the services require a cable TV subscription.
How the streaming video services compare
The most popular of the internet-based video services, Netflix offers a variety of shows. Animation-wise, major 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.
- Other. Some other studios’ products are available, including Illumination (“Minions”), some Teletoon shows (“Total Drama”), and Discovery Family/Hasbro (“Transformers,” “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic”). “Bojack Horseman,” about an anthropomorphic horse actor, is a Netflix original production.
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 Nick shows are available (such as “TMNT”), but not shows like “SpongeBob SquarePants.” Similarly, a few Disney Channel/XD/Junior shows like “Gravity Falls,” “Doc McStuffins,” and “Star vs. the Forces of Evil” are available.
- “Curious George.” The PBS Kids show’s entire run is available on Hulu.
Amazon’s been building up its library. Cartoons available include:
- PBS Kids. Current and some older PBS Kids shows have full seasons available for Prime subscribers; these include “Wild Kratts,” “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” and “Cyberchase.”
- Nickelodeon. “SpongeBob” seems to have his full run available, as well as some older “Dora the Explorer” episodes. “Fairly Odd Parents” seems missing, however.
See my previous post about Boomerang. Basically, it includes most of the classic older Hanna-Barbera, MGM, Warner Bros., and Cartoon Network libraries; these include “The Flintstones,” “Tom and Jerry,” “Looney Tunes,” and “Courage the Cowardly Dog.”
PBS Kids offers several recent episodes of its shows through its website and apps.
Cartoon Network/Adult Swim fans
Fans of the latest Cartoon Network/Adult Swim shows will definitely want Hulu.
Nick’s streaming availability seems a bit hit and miss; however, Amazon Video and Hulu carry some of Nick’s programs, the former including “SpongeBob.” You’ll have to buy the DVDs/digital videos if a fan of “The Fairly Odd Parents.”
Again, Disney doesn’t carry a ton of shows on streaming services; however, Hulu and Netflix will cover some of Disney’s modern productions. You’ll have to buy the DVDs or digital videos for productions like “Star Wars: Rebels.”
“Big Three” (Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Disney) fans
Unless you’re a huge fan of Bikini Bottom’s denizens, you could probably just stick with Netflix and Hulu; these two cover most of the newer fare from the “Big Three” of children’s TV animation.
Adult cartoon fans
Those looking for adult oriented cartoons can stick with Hulu and get most them. Those include Fox’s lineup, “Archer,” Adult Swim, and “South Park.”
Classic cartoon fans
Fans of classics like Bugs Bunny or “The Jetsons” might want to try the new Boomerang service. Netflix also carries some older Disney material.
Any of the above services will suffice, depending on show preferences. PBS Kids also has the advantage of being available for free.
That should cover things for now. I’ll update this post with any major changes.
For any shows I missed, or for other programs, one useful service to check for streaming availability is JustWatch.