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Key Difference – Animation vs Cartoon

Animation and cartoon are two words that are commonly used interchangeably in general usage. However, there is a distinctive difference between animation and cartoon. Animation refers to a technique of photographing successive drawings or positions of models to create an illusion of movement when the film is shown as a sequence. Cartoons can either refer to a drawing or a television program or film made using animation technique. This is the key difference between animation and cartoon.

What is an Animation?

Animation refers to the art, process or technique of making films with drawings, photographs of static object or computer graphics. All techniques that don’t fall into the category of continuous filming of live-action images can be termed as animations. Those who are involved in the creation of an animation are called animators.

Animation methods include traditional animation which involved hand drawings, stop-motion animation which use paper cutouts, puppets, clay figures and two and three-dimensional objects, and mechanical animations and computer animations.

In general usage, we use the term animation to refer to cartoons that are broadcasted on TV, television shows that target children (e.g., Loony Tunes, Tom and Jerry, Garfield, etc.) Animated movies such as Tangled, Finding Nemo, Shrek, Kung Fu Panda, Happy Feet, Despicable Me, Frozen, etc. are also a type of animations. Thus, animations can actually be both cartoons and animated movies.

Although animations targeted a young audience in the past, animated television shows and movies are watched by both children and adults alike.  Animations should not be confused with animes, which refer to the Japanese style of animations, which often contains adult themes.

Difference Between Animation and Cartoon

An example of computer animation which is produced in the “motion capture” technique

What is a Cartoon?

Cartoon basically refer to two things. It can either refer to a simple, non-realistic, drawing depicting a humorous situation or humorously exaggerated characters. This type of cartoons is often found in newspapers and magazines. Cartoons often use satire to offer subtle criticism. An artist who creates cartoon (drawing) is called a cartoonist.

Cartoon can also refer to a short film or television show that uses animation techniques to photograph a sequence of drawings rather than real people or objects. Cartons are usually aimed at children and often feature anthropomorphized animals (animals that act like humans), superheroes, the adventures of children and related themes. Asterix, Scooby Doo, Adventures of Tin Tin, Duck Tales, Tom and Jerry, ThunderCats, Dora the Explorer, Garfield, etc. are some examples of popular cartoons.

Key Difference - Animation vs Cartoon

A cartoon from the British weekly magazine of humour and satire, London Charivari (also known as Punch), Volume 159, December 8, 1920.

What is the difference between Animation and Cartoon?


Animation is a technique of photographing successive drawings or positions of models to create an illusion of movement when the film is shown as a sequence.

Cartoon can either refer to a drawing intended as a caricature, satire or humour, or a short television show or animated movie, which is usually intended for children.


Animation is the technique used to create cartoons.

Cartoon is a product made using animation.


Animations are watched by both adults and children.

Cartoons are usually watched by children.


Animations can deal with mature and serious themes.

Cartoons often depict superheroes, anthropomorphized animals, mysteries, etc.


Cartoons are created by cartoonists (drawings), or animators (TV shows or short movies).

Animations are created by animators.

 Image Courtesy: 

“Activemarker2” By Hipocrite at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia

“Pessimist – Punch cartoon – Project Gutenberg eText 19127” (Public Domain) via Commons Wikimedia