Kids Have Healthy Appetite for Animation

To help us keep up-to-date with what's happening with kids, we've asked Kid Think Inc., a youth marketing consulting group, to investigate and report back to us on a wide range of issues in kids' lives. Since today's kids spend so...
May 1, 1998

To help us keep up-to-date with what’s happening with kids, we’ve asked Kid Think Inc., a youth marketing consulting group, to investigate and report back to us on a wide range of issues in kids’ lives. Since today’s kids spend so much time on-line, Kid Think talked with kids via LiveWire: Today’s Families Online, a proprietary panel of 600 on-line families across the United States.

Both Kid Think and LiveWire are divisions of Griffin Bacal, a New York communications agency specializing in the youth and family markets. If you have any questions or subjects you would like Kid Think to cover, call Paul Kurnit at 212-337-6442 or e-mail

What we found:

Overall, kids think animation is really cool. Most tune in to Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network to get their daily dose. When it comes to the types of shows they watch, kids have very distinct preferences. Shows that serve up a unique combination of interesting illustration and engaging storylines and have characters that they can relate to are the most appealing.

Kids told us that their favorite shows impart a sense of fantasy and fun, while, at the same time, deal with topics that are relevant to them. Such is the case with the most popular shows among our panel, which include Rugrats, Doug, The Simpsons and Hey Arnold!. Kids identify with the characters on these shows because they have certain realistic qualities, yet are humorous and fun to watch.

Amber, age 10, from Missouri, says, ‘ I like Patty on Doug because she is a good friend to Doug and is a lot like me.’ Laura, age 9, from Minnesota, identifies with characters on her favorite shows Rugrats, Doug and Hey Arnold! because, ‘They are really cool and they are smart. Angela on Rugrats gets her way all the time, Patty on Doug dresses the way I like to dress and Helga on Hey Arnold! likes to do a lot of the same things me and my friends do, which is hang out or ride bikes.’

When examining a cartoon’s appeal, the fantasy-filled adventures that the characters embark upon are as important as identifying with the characters themselves. It is precisely for this reason that the majority of our panel finds animated shows more entertaining than live action. Animated shows allow for more flexibility and versatility, which help to keep scenarios fresh and exciting, while sparking the imagination. Caitlin, age 9, from California, says that cartoons are more fun than live action because, ‘in cartoons, the characters do stuff that real humans can’t do, and it makes your imagination go wild.’ Robert, age 10, from New Jersey, likes the fact that in animation, ‘you can make the characters look any way you want and so many more things can happen.’

Style is another element of animation that kids are very aware of, and preferences vary as much as the kids themselves. While some kids like animation that contains authentic illustration of humans, most are drawn to styles that are less traditional and more edgy. Daniel, age 8, from Florida, says that in Rugrats, ‘most of the stuff is way out there, like the [episode] where the mom’s mouth is on one side of her face, or Angelica’s hair-it’s so big. Nobody has hair that big.’ Motion, color and dimension were also named as important features to a show.

What kids said:

We thought it would be interesting to ask kids to create their own animated TV show and tell us about it. Here’s what they had to say:

‘It would be about a kid, like [the kids] in The Simpsons, who grew up to be a race car driver. The kid and all his friends would drive race cars at different tracks around the country. They would all be competitive. They would learn about different parts of the country by going to all of the racetracks. ‘ Brian, Utah, age 11

‘I would do a cartoon of the American Girls dolls. The characters would be Molly, Samantha, Josefina, Addy, Felicity and Kirsten. Molly always wears braids. They would all hang out and go to places where we can’t go, like back in time.’ Abigail, New York, age 8

‘I would call it The Boy Who Is Small and Weird. It would have the main character doing odd things every day with his small group of three friends. It would take place in Arizona, and the story would always end up with the characters doing something good for others who are considered different.’ Katey, Virginia, age 8

‘It would be like Star Wars, set in outer space in the future, with intergalactic wars. It would be about a poor family that lives on the planet Kriptonic and in an abandoned house.’ Aaron, Arizona, age 9

Next month: Kid Think Inc. will talk to kids about radio stations for kids.

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