4 Cartoons for Children and Young Adults in Spanish.

From comics to screens, there is only one step. This is the technical step of taking characters and storyboards to life through the technology of cinema and TV. In the 21st century and with the incredible development of video editors for content creators of any kind, digital or mobile, and the neck-breaking speed at which camera gadgets appear, we seem to be at the peak of audio-visual content creation for adults and children. The ubiquity of internet connections and how easily accessible sites, such as YouTube, Vimeo and so on, have revolutionized the development of content for any audience, but this revolution has had a great focus on children and young adults. The easy access to a mobile phone or a tablet in the Western world has provided one of the best tools to entertain children and teenagers. Broadcasting and casting devices, such as Chromecast, have allowed the projection of phone content to be controlled and monitored by an adult for children and they are relatively cheap.

This concern for  ‘easy’ entertainment is not new. In the 80s and 90s, the boom of TV channels made TV the tool to entertain children and we can only guess, going back to previous generations, they probably used radios and comic books for this purpose, revolutionizing the world for children and young people. Each generation has developed a concern, even a fear that this type of entertainment may be pointless and needs to be controlled and monitored to avoid issues in children or to prevent children from learning undesirable behaviours. This concern still dominates some discussion boards managed by parents and adults involved in children’s education. The fear that the child will consume a type of fiction that is not adequate for their age is still prevalent.

For this purpose, ratings have been created at the beginning of a series or a film, offering some information about the age of the implied audience. In the last ten years, the information also includes a disclaimer or a warning for content that has depictions of violence, sex, overstimulating flashing lights that may trigger neurodivergent children, and so on. This type of warning has a legal weight to it. Therefore, most commercial platforms use it. In open platforms, for instance YouTube, it is not as common, although it is starting to be included in some shape or form. In this chapter, we are going to show you some examples of individual YouTubers, some of who are children themselves, who created a channel for children or young people. Occasionally, adults have been involved in the creation of this channel too. This type of channel normally has entertainment and commercial purposes and can be then acquired by bigger platforms, such as Netflix, which are interested in broadcasting this content. For instance: Ryan’s World (CC-BY-ND-SA-NC) or Cleo and Cuquín. (CC-BY-ND-SA-NC)

Disclaimers are particularly interesting because they allow us to have a look at what topics have been considered taboo when dealing with children’s and young adult fiction. To offer a systematic classification of these topics, we will use a list of topics considered taboo in this type of fiction: physical and scatological mentions, language, register or slang, LGBTQ, violence, racial stereotyping, sex and horror or traumatic events. As we mentioned above, currently, sensorial aspects are included for those with neurodivergent features, hypersensitivity or for patients suffering from epilepsy. As the market encounters any sort of legal procedures, there are new warnings showing up. The most controverted case in 2020/21 was the newcomer ‘outdated culture views’ on Disney+, which took Peter Pan out of the list of recommendations in children’s movies. If you read the original by J.M. Barrie, written as a play, you can notice that is brutally offensive to our modern day perspectives and that Peter Pan, the character, far from being a romantic idealization of childhood, is a spoiled and a difficult child.

Our main aim in this chapter is not to develop a historiography or an in-depth analysis of this type of fiction. Our main aim is to show some of the main features of the genre, to distinguish it from picture books and comics, by its dynamic audio-visual content and main oral/visual focus. We would like to concentrate on some examples of animation that have been created from Spanish-speaking countries and received global attention, in order to start looking at cultural differences in these products with a child or young audience in mind as a target.

Children’s and YA fiction strays a lot from a ´fictional´ belief that the universal characteristics of what we believe to be a child prevail over cultural differences. When I refer to culture, I am not just referring to culture as something that originates in a specific nation or language. I would like to take the idea of culture a bit further and bear in mind cultural aspects that come with socioeconomic status, religion and education. We may perceive people raised in the same country as the same, but the cultural identities of a person educated in a wealthy family and of another person from the same city, educated in a lower working class family are not the same. We can say the same when we look at education and education systems. For example, it is not the same to grow up in a neighbourhood with your parents, as it is to come back home from living in a boarding school when you were six years of age. It is important to emphasize these individual differences between people because we tend to generalize children and young adult fiction. This tendency towards generalization shows a certain disregard for the diversity of the audience in this type of fiction. In a way, it could be said that we tend to look at the world of a child and of a young adult from a much more simplistic point of view, as opposed to the adult complicated worlds.

Nevertheless, as soon as anyone works with children, it is evident that their realities contradict this belief. Each child and young person is different and that is why, from the point of view of the adult, their reactions and behaviours can be labelled as ‘unpredictable’. This feature has nothing to do with the so-called spontaneity or lack of filters in childhood. It has more to do with the expectations that adults have on children, based on a framework of innocence, creativity, activity, selfishness and any other labels that have been traditionally assigned to children. These universal characteristics have been fed through cultural products, such as the ones we will look at in this chapter. This is also through psychological and educational approaches, including Piaget’s, Vygotsky’s, Freud’s and others. The universality of childhood is so settled in our cultural values that, in Spain, the channel Movistar has produced a programme to corroborate both universality and diversity of children. This program is called La Vida Secreta de los Niños. In a ‘big brother’ mode, this program follows the life of a group of children in a Spanish crèche and the relationships that they establish in that setting. If we only watch one or two episodes, the individual and cultural characteristics of these children are not that obvious. However, as you get to know them, you can easily isolate their differences and imagine a different scenario and personalities in this experiment, if it had been carried out in another neighbourhood, country or language.


What is a good animation?

We have defined animation as a method that uses manipulated figures to give the impression of movement and emotion. Traditional amination is based on painted or hand-drawn images that had been photographed or filmed. Nowadays, most animation is digital (CGI). It has a high level of detail because we can use 3D or 2D, and nowadays even 4D. We should note that there are other methods, such as stop-motion, which is applied to objects of two or three dimensions, like paper cutouts, puppets or clay.

If we ask a child, or a young person, which aspects define a good animation, we would more than likely get a different answer from each individual. If we asked famous animators, maybe their answers would be less varied. Even so, when we listen to podcasts, for instance the Bancroft’s brothers (known for Mulan and the Lion King), we realize that even between them, there are differences depending on their focus on one aspect or another. Laureate animator Choi Johg-il, known for Pororo, a character that has become one of the biggest exports from South Korea, believes that in order to create a good animation, the animator must:

  1. Collect as much information as possible
  2. Make their content different
  3. Be economical. If you cannot tell the story in a short economic way, you may not engage your audience
  4. Engage your audience. He emphasizes the power of empathy with the characters that we create.
  5. Make it for children. Even though animation can be for everybody, children are experts in this medium. It is important that both groups understand the animation.
  6. Use your characters to tell your story.
  7. Anticipate what the audience expects and move one-step ahead of them so you can guide them along the path you want them to go down.
  8. Be humorous because humor works.
  9. Use special sound effects. Music and sound effects are as important as any visual element. (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-21151539)

If we take a look at Disney’s guidelines, The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation, by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas; we encounter 12 principles for Disney animation. We are not going to develop these concepts because our aim is not to develop your knowledge of the creation process, but to have a quick look at this type of narration. However, if you want to explore these principles in your own time, you may refer to https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doce_principios_(animaci%C3%B3n)

In a way, what transpires from all these opinions and principles is that animations must tell a story that is believable or imaginable and it must be engaging, as we establish some kind of, positive or negative, emotional connection with the story or the characters. Animation is used in advertisement too because normally, less is more in animation and it can convey a message in very short films. We must also bear in mind that, at times, less content can be regarded as boring. You can find some examples in this webpage: https://www.kdab.com/makes-good-animation/

Animation techniques

Cartoons can be generated by designing photograms, one by one. These photograms have a standard duration of 24 seconds, following the Disney guidelines. This technique has started to be challenged through the computerized revolution that helps with other aspects of narration in this mode.

Stop motion animates static objects placed in front of a camera, to appear as moving via the recording of static sequenced positions. With this technique, we achieve photographic realism that is absent in the traditional cartoon.

When this animation is done with clay, it can be called Claymation and Aardman animation studios are probably the best exponent of this technique.

Pixilation is a variant of Stop motion, in which the objects are real people or real objects and not models. Norman McLaren used this technique in his short film Neighbours (CC-BY-ND-SA-NC).

Cutout animation uses cutouts of paper or photographs. As an example, we can see this musical video clip of the Irish band Verona Riots (CC-BY-ND-SA-NC).

Go motion is another variant of stop motion and was invented by Phil Tippet for the film The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. The object or part of the object filmed is shaken repeatedly in front of the camera while you shoot each photogram. This normally accentuates the realism of the animation.

Rotoscoping is a technique that uses a plaque made of glass, on which we lay acetate or paper. Then a projector illuminates the film in real time and image. In this way, you can trace the shape of filmed objects and that is how Snow White was made. When we use a computer and do the same things digitally, this technique is called capture of movement.

The most recurrent animation technique now is digitally enhanced animation. Nowadays, films normally have 24 photograms per second, but what the naked eye does not realize, is that some of the photograms are repeated at certain parts in the film.

Another common technique is time lapse. This is a photographic technique, which consists of capturing fixed images and then reproducing them at a higher speed. There are other techniques, which are lesson common and mostly unknown by the public. For example, there are some animations done by using painted glass, sand, needles on a screen or celluloid, tweening, which refers to in-betweens, introducing movement between images/frames. You can see an example of this technique on this website:  https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tweening

(Mindscape de Jacques Drouin) (CC-BY-ND-SA-NC)

If you would like more information about animation with needles, you can find it here too: https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animaci%C3%B3n_de_pantalla_de_agujas

As you can see, from the beginning of animation in the 19th century to the present day, via the revolution that Disney provoked in the 30s, the industry has accelerated, creating myriads of fictional worlds, not only for children and young people but for everybody. The range of techniques used offer different ways to narrate a story for the viewer, who may or may not have given the creative process a second thought. In this way, with this very quick look at techniques and process, I hope that I have tickled your fancy about these ways of creating worlds and stories.

It is time to have a look at some examples in Spanish. We are going to highlight a few instances for different reasons. It was not an easy task to choose from the wide range of products, in terms of cartoons created for children or films developed in Spanish or translated into Spanish. They have affected children or even young adult audiences in a substantial way. Over the past few years, Spanish animation studios have started to stand out even more and have left some incredible icons of animation as Mariló Fernández shows on her website (https://www.hobbyconsolas.com/listas/10-series-animacion-espanolas-merecen-mucho-pena-561323). Projects, such as Planeta 51, Mortadelo y Filemón, Arrugas, Buñuel en el laberinto de las tortugas o la Leyenda de Klaus, that received Oscar nominations for Best Animation Film, have raised the bar for Spanish creators.

(trailer de Klaus) (CC-BY-ND-SA-NC)

Before reaching these summits, there have been classics, such as:

  1. David El Gnomo, produced in 1985 by BRB international. They are also responsible for La vuelta al mundo en 90 días de Willy Fog or D’Artacán y los tres Mosqueperros;
  2. Los trotamúsicos, based on the Bremen’s musicians.
  3. Las Tres Mellizas, set in the 90s, which followed the adventures of Ana, Elena and Teresa, triplets and mischief-makers . As a punishment, the Boring Witch sends them into different tales and historic events, to learn their lesson. In order to come back home, they had to help the characters find a solution for their story or they would stay trapped in that story forever. It was broadcasted for several years, from 1997 to 2003, and it reached 104 episodes. It won the devotion of several audiences, because it gave popular fairy tales little twists,  so they never knew what to expect and thus, making them more relevant to a contemporary audience.   (CC-BY-ND-SA-NC) https://youtu.be/b7eb1FHbi6M
  4. Érase una vez… La Vida, with a marked didactic purpose of scientific dissemination, it explained how the human body worked and entertained everybody with the ingenious characters it portrayed.
  5. Los Intocables de Elliot Mouse. In this cartoon we follow Elliot Mouse, a detective mouse from Cheesecago, who tries to arrest the evil Al Catone, a mafia boss, who leads the underground market of cheese.
  6. Cálico Electrónico was free in 2004 because it was released online and it managed to reach 164 episodes.
  7. Fantaghiró is a fantasy with many mythological creatures, which interact with Princess Fantaghiró.
  8. La Corona Mágica reminded us of an American style of intricate and ambitious plots, when most of the animations in the 80s were veering towards a didactic approach.
  9. Las nuevas e inesperadas aventuras de Enjuto Mojamuto went viral on the internet. It came about as a section of the program Muchachada Nui, drawn and dubbed by the comedian Joaquín Reyes. Enjuto was always at his computer and became an icon for young adults and children.

(Capítulo 1) (CC-BY-ND-SA-NC)

 10. Virtual Hero is perhaps the most ambitious animation from Spain nowadays. Based on the comic by El Rubius, it is a project dedicated to children and young people. It has been classified as Spanish animé.

Many times, some of the Spanish productions remain unknown, which remained the case of Jelly Jamm, Las Mil y Una Américas, Juanito Jones, Lola y Virginia, and Los Fruitis and without a doubt one of the biggest phenomena of present-day TV: Pocoyó, released in 2005, was created by Guillermo García Carsí. The special use of tones, vibrant colour and the predominance of music and movement revolutionized the world of children’s animation, especially those that focused on pre-schoolers. This achieved a huge number of viewers at an international level, thanks to its dissemination on the internet and now it is on Netflix in Spanish and English. https://www.formulatv.com/noticias/7-series-animacion-quiza-no-recordabas-eran-espanolas-86271/

Pocoyó tells the story of the life of a very curious child in short episodes, while the adventures with his friends help him to discover the world. Inspired by Charles Chaplin, its creator has explained The Pink Panther influenced him, by deleting settings or veering towards classic scenarios. In 2006, it received the award for Best TV Series at the Festival de Annecy and the BAFTA for Best Animation Series for pre-schoolers in the same year.

Episode 1 (CC-BY-ND-SA-NC)

Because production has been done abroad, the Spanish market has also nurtured from audio-visual translation. There is a huge industry in this domain, especially after Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus came into play.

On their webpage, they mention other series that exploded in the market thanks to their ratings in Spain, such as: The smurfs, Inspector Gadget, Los diminutos, dungeons and dragons, Dennis the menace, Lucky Luke, Isidoro, Mofli, el último koala, muppet babies, Ruy el pequeño Cid, los caballeros del Zodiaco, Sherlock Holmes, La aldea del Arce, Chicho Terremoto, Dragon ball and Oliver & Benji. http://www.entreelcaosyelorden.com/2015/07/30-series-animadas-de-los-80-y-algunas.html

Some of these series, as we have seen, started online and then were acquired by big platforms, which added new episodes. This is not just common in the audio-visual arts or in the entertainment industry. It has become a format that is widely used when pitching an idea to a bigger market. In this way, and for this purpose, we will close off this animation section with one of the most iconic and clear examples of double audience: the Netflix series, Cleo y Cuquín, also translated and dubbed, like Pocoyó.

Throughout the 70s and 80s, at approximately 8.30 p.m. in winter and 9 p.m. in summer, national television would broadcast a video of a typical family, so that children would be sent to bed. They would also place a diamond or two on the upper right-hand corner of the screen as a warning that the content about to be broadcasted had ‘adult’ content: sex, violence or both and was not considered appropriate for a younger audience.

(La familia Telerín original video) (CC-BY-ND-SA-NC)

This 2D family was very popular and many adults remember it fondly, being able to name each one of the children of the Telerín family: CleoTetéMaripíPelusínColitas Cuquín. The brothers, Santiago and José Luís Moro, created it.



In 2018, Anima Kitchen studios rescued the eldest and the youngest of the family and started popularizing their videos, recreating popular songs on YouTube and other free platforms. In this module, we will not have time to look at every way of creating a fictional world, but these varieties of popular songs ranked very high in a child´s memory and are very widely used for the entertainment of younger kids. It would be very interesting to explore the legacy of songs throughout children’s fiction and young adult fictional worlds. Rhyme, rhythm and sung narratives have been used in every culture to transmit their legacy and to teach beliefs or morals and prevail in our memory for years. In fact, we can just mention, as an example, that in the 90s and at the beginning of the 21st century, night clubs in Spain started playing the intros to some of these cartoon series that we listed above, amongst the hits of pop and rock of the decade, proving that these songs that we heard at the beginning of each episode – as TV monitors then did not give the audicence the chance to press the skip intro button – stayed in our memory and are still capable of eliciting an emotional response.

Leaving songs aside, let us explore an episode of Cleo y Cuquín to finish this section on cartoons in Spanish. It is important to stop and think about a certain aspect that has been mentioned throughout the course; the representation and inclusiveness of the characters portrayed in animation series. This family has many children and they have very different personalities. They have tried to express a positive difference in their physical and personality traits, but could they have gone further?

(ep. 1)



Candel Crespo, J.M. (1993) Historia del Dibujo Animado Español, Murcia: Tres Fronteras. In this book, they retell the history of cartoon creation in Spain from the 40s until 1993. It is a very interesting resource for finding primary sources.

Martínez Barnuevo, M.L (2008) El Largometraje de Animación Español, Madrid: Fundación Autor. This book shows a historiography of animation films and gives us an overview of the animation in longer formats until this century.

 Thomas, F. & O. Johnston (1981) the Illusion of Life: Disney Animation: Hyperion. Known as the bible of animation, this book develops the 12 principles for creators of animation and every parameter of Disney studies.

 Recommended films and series:






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