Updated on October 3, 2022
A lot of articles and YouTube videos about streaming services or cord-cutting don’t touch on animation or treat it as an afterthought. Many of them might just give a generic “get Disney+ for kids” recommendation. Thus, I’ve been writing a series of annual posts about animation-related services. “Annual” because a lot keeps changing for streaming services with each passing year. (See the current state of Netflix.) On that note, here’s my look at recommended streaming services for cartoons for 2022.
Here’s my criteria for these recommendations:
- I’m only looking at on demand streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, etc.), not cable replacement live streaming services, such as YouTube TV. I’m also not covering regular YouTube, though it carries some officially uploaded cartoons.
- Also not covered here are “TV Everywhere” apps that require a cable TV subscription to fully use.
- I’m mostly looking at paid on demand services, versus free ad-supported ones (Pluto TV, Tubi, etc.).
- This post largely just applies to the United States, since that’s where I live.
- Information below is as of this writing (early August 2022).
General streaming service advice
- Limit the number of paid streaming services you pay for, or set a streaming budget (say, $30 or $50 a month).
- Don’t pay for an ongoing service for just one show. Instead, just pay for one month, binge said show, and then cancel.
- Check to see which services carry what you want. The website JustWatch can help with this.
Major animation-related streaming services
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon’s Prime Video service carries some animated fare. The service can also be used to subscribe to other streaming services as a convenient add-on.
However, Prime Video’s animation-related content is so-so. The interface received a recent overhaul, but it still mixes Prime Video content (and free content via Amazon’s Freevee) with material for rent or purchase. To me, Prime Video’s better as an extra along with the free shipping and other features than as a stand-alone service.
Cartoons available on Prime Video include:
- Full seasons of some older PBS Kids shows, including “Wild Kratts,” “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” and “Clifford the Big Red Dog.”
- Some DreamWorks programming, including the “Rocky and Bullwinkle” reboot.
- The first six seasons of “SpongeBob SquarePants.”
Cost: $9/month for just Prime Video; $15/month (or $139/year) as part of Amazon Prime
Apple TV+ doesn’t have as large a selection as other streaming services, but it does have some cartoons, including a few animated films and exclusive streaming rights to the “Peanuts” franchise. However, unless you’re a big “Peanuts” fan, Apple TV+ won’t serve as a primary animation outlet.
Cartoons available on Apple TV+ include:
- The “Peanuts” specials catalog; along with the Halloween and Christmas specials, there’s also a few new specials, as well as the new series “The Snoopy Show.”
- “Central Park,” an adult-oriented sitcom.
- “Pinecone & Pony.”
- “El Deafo,” based on the graphic novel.
- “Harriet the Spy,” based on the series of children’s books.
- Several animated feature films, including “Luck.”
Boomerang offers a deep dive into the classic Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera, and MGM libraries. There’s also a few older Cartoon Network series available.
Unfortunately, Boomerang has been ignored by Warner Bros. since the launch of HBO Max. While it offers a back catalog of Hanna-Barbera programs, no new material’s been added to the service in nearly two years. However, they did take the time to hike the price by $1 a month early this year.
It’s uncertain at this point what Boomerang’s future looks like. Merged with HBO Max and shut down? Offered as a bundle with HBO Max? Plodding along as-is on autopilot?
Cartoons on Boomerang include:
- “Looney Tunes”
- “The Flintstones”
- “The Jetsons”
- “Tom and Jerry”
- “Atom Ant”
- “Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels”
- “Camp Lazlo”
- “Courage the Cowardly Dog”
Cost: $6/month or $50/year
Crunchyroll offers a large library of anime programming, as well as some manga. One of its biggest appeals is offering new episodes an hour after they air in Japan.
Some material is available for free (with ads). Crunchyroll’s owners have also bought rival service Funimation, and are gradually folding that service’s content into Crunchyroll.
Some anime available on Crunchyroll include:
- “My Hero Academia”
- “Attack on Titan”
- “One Piece”
Cost: $8/month; tiers offering extra screens and collectors items are available at $10 or $15 a month
Disney+ offers the bulk of the Disney library of animated material, as well as programming from other studios they’ve bought (such as Marvel or Fox). This is pretty much the one service to get if you have kids, or if you’re a “Star Wars” or Marvel fan.
Cartoons on Disney+ include:
- Disney Channel programs (“Kim Possible,” “The Owl House,” etc.)
- Disney and Pixar animated features
- Marvel, from “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends” to “X-Men” to “Spidey and His Amazing Friends”
- Star Wars, from “Ewoks” to the various Lego specials
- Disney+ original programming, such as “Baymax” and “Monsters At Work”
- “The Simpsons”
Cost: $8/month, or $80/year; also available as part of the Disney+ bundle ($14/month with ads, $20/month without)
Like Disney+ being the home of Disney’s animated output, HBO Max serves a similar purpose for Warner’s massive catalog. Fans of Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, Looney Tunes, or the most popular Hanna-Barbera shows will want to consider HBO Max.
In August 2022, HBO Max started to see numerous regressive changes, due to Warner’s new owners. Warner Bros. Discovery is also making deep cuts into the animation side of HBO Max, including Max Originals. As of this writing, HBO Max’s future is unclear, especially with plans to merge it with Discovery+.
While HBO Max was once the most expensive streaming service, Netflix has since stolen that title.
Cartoons carried on HBO Max include:
- Cartoon Network’s current and classic library: “The Powerpuff Girls,” “Dexter’s Laboratory,” “Steven Universe,” “Craig of the Creek,” etc.
- “Looney Tunes”
- “The Flintstones”
- DC Comics based shows, from “Super Friends” to the adults-only “Harley Quinn”
- Adult Swim shows such as “Harvey Birdman” and “Aqua Teen Hunger Force”
- Max Originals, including “Jellystone!” and “Looney Tunes Cartoons”
- Cartoonito (its preschool lineup), including “Bugs Bunny Builders”
- The Studio Ghibli library
- “South Park” (licensed from Paramount)
Cost: $10/month or $100/year (with ads); $15/month or $150/year (without ads)
Hulu carries a variety of cable and broadcast network programming, and has long served as a “catch-all” service. That said, it’s losing more and more of its material to other companies starting their own streaming services, including to its own corporate sibling Disney+. Thus, hardcore fans of certain studios or shows might look into those services. However, anime fans and fans of adult cartoons will find Hulu useful.
Cartoons on Hulu includes:
- The Fox Sunday animated lineup, including “Bob’s Burgers,” “Family Guy,” and recent episodes of “The Simpsons.”
- Adult-oriented programming, including “Rick and Morty,” “King of the Hill,” “Futurama,” and “Archer.”
- Hulu originals, including “Solar Opposites,” “The Bravest Knight,” and the “Animaniacs” reboot.
- A few Disney Channel shows, including “Doc McStuffins,” “Gravity Falls,” and “Star vs. the Forces of Evil.”
- Some older Cartoon Network shows, including: “Steven Universe,” “Regular Show,” the original and rebooted “Powerpuff Girls,” “Teen Titans Go,” and “Clarence.”
- A few Nickelodeon shows, including the original “Rugrats” and “Hey Arnold.”
- A strong selection of anime, in dubbed and subtitled versions. Shows available include “Sailor Moon,” “Black Butler,” “My Hero Academia,” and “Cowboy Bebop.”
Cost: $7/month or $70/year (with ads); as part of the Disney+ bundle, $14/month (with ads) or $20/month (without ads)
Netflix is the most famous and popular streaming service. Netflix’s been around for a long time, and has a large catalog of cartoons, including its own originals. There’s likely to be something for everyone on the service. That said, Netflix has lost some of its luster recently, for reasons I’ve previously outlined.
Cartoons on Netflix include:
- DreamWorks is a major provider of Netflix’s cartoons. Said shows include “The Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show,” “She-Ra,” “Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts,” and “Boss Baby.”
- “BoJack Horseman.”
- “The Dragon Prince.”
- “Puffin Rock.”
- “The Deep.”
- “Strawberry Shortcake: Berry in the Big City” (also on Peacock and YouTube).
- “Johnny Test,” both the original series and its revival.
- A sizable amount of anime, including shows like “Black Butler.”
Cost: $10/month (standard definition); $15.50/month (high definition); $20/month (4K)
Paramount+ is the home of all things related to Nickelodeon, MTV, and Paramount. While the catalog isn’t as large as Warner’s or Disney’s, there’s still plenty of animated content here, especially for Nickelodeon fans.
Cartoons available on Paramount+ include:
- Nickelodeon’s back catalog. One of the service’s strongest points, this includes the entire runs (to date) of major hits like “SpongeBob SquarePants,” “Rugrats,” “The Fairly OddParents,” and “The Loud House.” Older shows, such as “Rocko’s Modern Life” and “The Angry Beavers,” are also available.
- Paramount+ Originals, including “Big Nate” and the CGI reboot of “Rugrats.”
- The 2003, 2012, and 2018 “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” series. The original 1987 series, however, isn’t available anywhere on streaming.
- All of the animated versions of “Star Trek,” including the 70s Filmation series; “Star Trek: Lower Decks”; and “Star Trek: Prodigy.”
- Classic MTV fare such as “Beavis and Butt-Head” and “Daria.”
- “South Park” animated specials. The original series is available on HBO Max.
Cost: $5/month or $50/year (with ads), $10/month or $100/year (without ads)
I said I wouldn’t go into free services, but I’m making an exception for PBS Kids, given its prominence and educational nature. The PBS Kids streaming app offers a rotating selection of episodes of each of its shows.
Cartoons available on PBS Kids:
- “Molly of Denali”
- “Hero Elementary”
- “Clifford the Big Red Dog”
Peacock, Comcast’s attempt at getting into streaming, has a handful of animated cartoons. However, they’re mostly either older shows, third-party acquired ones, or a few DreamWorks-made shows. While there’s some worthwhile material, Peacock isn’t the main service I’d go to for cartoons.
Cartoons on Peacock include:
- “Curious George”
- The “Caillou” reboot.
- “Cleopatra in Space,” based on the graphic novels.
- The 90s “Woody Woodpecker” revival, but oddly not the original shorts.
- “Supa Strikas,” a South African cartoon about soccer players.
- The 2003, 2010, and 2021 “Strawberry Shortcake” animated series.
- “Dragons: The Nine Realms” and “Dragons: Riders of Berk,” spin-offs of the “How to Train Your Dragon” movies.
- Some DreamWorks films, including “Despicable Me” and “Minions.”
Cost: Free (but with limited content); $5/month (full catalog, with ads) or free for Comcast customers; $10/month (full catalog, without ads)
My recommended streaming services for cartoons (2022)
Finally, below are my recommendations for cartoon fans. I note if you don’t have any specific demands (genre, studio, a specific show, etc.) and just want cartoons, just stick with whatever services you currently use (or go with Netflix and Hulu).
- Netflix or HBO Max
- The Disney+ bundle (Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+)
- PBS Kids (if you have grade-school-aged children)
The above services cover most or all of the major animation outlets that’d interest most people. Under the HBO Max option, all three major animation cable channels are covered (Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Disney Channel), as well as the two biggest animation studios (Disney, Warner Bros.). All ages are also covered, from “Doc McStuffins” to “Rick and Morty.” Finally, you’ll also get your favorite live-action programming, all while staying under a reasonable budget.
If you want to cover all bases and can afford it, getting both Netflix and HBO Max is an option.
I currently use most of these for streaming services, which covers everything I want for cartoons.
The major cartoon outlets
If you’re a fan of a specific major studio:
- Disney (Disney Channel, Disney, Marvel, “Star Wars”): Disney+
- Warner Bros. (Cartoon Network/Adult Swim/Cartoonito, DC Comics, Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera): HBO Max and/or Boomerang
- Paramount (Nickelodeon, MTV): Paramount+
- DreamWorks: Netflix, Hulu, Peacock
Illumination content (i.e. “Despicable Me,” “Minions”) is scattered and rotated across various services, including its corporate sibling Peacock, so I’d check on JustWatch. That said, if the Minions aren’t on a service you’re already using, you’re probably just better off buying the DVDs.
If you’re a Disney fan that also wants the Fox Sunday lineup of shows, go for the Disney+ bundle, which adds Hulu (where “Family Guy” lives).
Hardcore Hanna-Barbera fans, or Looney Tunes/Hanna-Barbera fans that don’t want to pay for HBO Max, might want to consider Boomerang. However, it’s now $6 a month (though ad-free), which isn’t much cheaper than the $10/month ad-based HBO Max tier. Still, it’s an affordable way to get some of Warner’s older cartoon catalog.
- Hardcore fans: Crunchyroll
- Casual fans: Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max
Anime fans might have better input on this (since I’m not a hardcore fan), but these choices should cover things for most people?
- HBO Max
These two services cover “South Park,” “Harley Quinn,” Adult Swim, and most of the Fox Sunday lineup. However, I’d suggest adding Disney+ if you want the “Simpsons” back catalog, or Paramount+ if you also want the newest “South Park” specials.
What do you think of these choices? Are there any streaming services, genres, etc. that you feel should’ve been included? Please let me know in the comments.
Photo by Andres Ayrton from Pexels