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My siblings and I watched Looney Tunes growing up. This was before I was aware there was such a thing as cartoons for adults. Adults wouldn't really watch Looney Tunes, except when they were with us.

This was in the 1990s, but Looney Tunes started in the 1930s. Moreover, it is quite violent. I would think twice before showing it to a child today. Besides the beating with blunt weapons and dynamite explosions, there are multiple veiled references to rape, and at least one instance where Yosemite Sam proposes to "draw and quarter" Bugs Bunny. Check out that term on Wikipedia.

My question is: In the heyday of Looney Tunes, in the 1940s and 1950s, was it considered an adult or a kids cartoon?

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    Note the difference between "cartoon for adults" and "adult cartoon". The latter can be interpreted to contain sexual content or be of a pornographic nature.
    – Flater
    Dec 27 '20 at 0:32
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    "Check out that term on Wikipedia." I'm not getting into a "where is the line" argument about appropriate behavior, but the fact that you'd need to look up what it means before understanding its (allegedly) offensive nature inherently proves that the mention by itself is not inappropriate for children. There are plenty of jokes targeted at adults in kids' movies and shows, specifically in a way that it sounds harmless unless you already understand the hidden reference being made.
    – Flater
    Dec 27 '20 at 0:34
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    I'd venture to say that the world was saner back then. :-) We also grew up on tales like Grimm and seven headed dragons slayed by the youngest son of the king and we neither turned into homicidal maniacs nor were harmed in any other way. Your kids should also have the chance to grow up without us stupid adults trying to remove everything from their sight because of some passing societal fads. Let them watch it freely and be there to help them learn what is what in life instead of trying to shield them from any exposure, gradually learning the difference between tales and reality,
    – Gábor
    Dec 27 '20 at 12:25
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    @Flater: Good point about "adult cartoon" having racier meanings. But given the context of this question title, that alternate meaning didn't even occur to me. So English learners don't have to worry too much or be embarrassed every time an English phrase could be interpreted sexually. (Many common words have been used as euphemisms.) Dec 27 '20 at 13:44
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    @RonJohn In fact, the whole concept of "children's entertainment", i.e. content that's aimed solely at children and not even attempting to be at all entertaining to adults, is relatively new. You started to see that in the 1970's, and it really took off in the 80's (much of modern children's programming is all-but-unwatchable for anyone above the age of 10), but before that, most content aimed at children was also designed to be entertaining for their parents as well. Dec 28 '20 at 15:57
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In the heyday of Looney Tunes, in the 1940s and 1950s, was it considered an adult cartoon or a kids cartoon?

Both

Cartoons were shown to all audiences as "filler" between movies, much as trailers and previews are today.

Certainly the cartoons are "violent" but it is cartoon violence and is not subject to the limitations and censorship rules then and, more recently, now.

I'm not sure why you think adults would not watch Looney Tunes, comic strips in the newspapers were very popular in the period in question, and these are merely animated versions of the same.

Modern adults might not watch these movies any more but certainly, in the day, these were highly popular with all audiences.

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    "it is cartoon violence and is not subject to the limitations and censorship rules then and, more recently, now" - You mean it was not subject to the same limitations as movies and TV shows? I'm under the impression there have been more restrictions in the past 25 years (like no blood and no realistic gun) than the shows I watched in the 90s.
    – Clockwork
    Dec 27 '20 at 13:53
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    @Llewellyn Yeah, but when I read stuffs about "Batman: The Animated Series", it seems like they have been over stretching the boundaries of what was allowed, a lot of time. There was this episode where they literally killed off several of the main characters. But to avoid censorship, they passed it as a dream episode.
    – Clockwork
    Dec 27 '20 at 14:04
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    How about "comedic violence?" or "slapstick?" There's not much space between how characters in Loony Tunes treated one another vs. how The Three Stooges treated each other. Dec 27 '20 at 19:13
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    @Llewellyn: Go watch some anime and then tell us the violence looks unrealistic.
    – Kevin
    Dec 28 '20 at 2:38
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    @SolomonSlow I'm thinking you got something there about "comedic violence", as it's depicted in a non-lethal way, and the characters seem to always recover from anything that could have been lethal (e.g. blowing dynamite). Meanwhile, the animated series I was talking about are more focused on realism.
    – Clockwork
    Dec 28 '20 at 11:08
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Was Looney Tunes considered a cartoon for adults?

Yes, it was more of later developments which made it kid-friendly. From Chicago Tribune:

Age segregation also is a fairly new development in animation as well, according to animation lecturer Robert McKimson Jr., whose father directed 35 Bugs Bunny cartoons and created Foghorn Leghorn, Tasmanian Devil and Speedy Gonzales, among other characters, for Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes.

"The Warner cartoons were aimed strictly for adults--they were never meant for children," McKimson said.

Warner cartoons and other animated short subjects (Disney characters, Popeye, Tom and Jerry and so on) were screened for audiences of all ages at movie houses before the feature presentation. But when television began packing Saturday mornings and after-school hours with those classics during the `60s, many were trimmed of excessive violence, sexual innuendo and drug and alcohol references.

Or, as McKimson puts it: "They chopped the hell out of them."

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  • They still had Bugs Bunny cross-dressing to seduce Elmer Fudd when I watched them on TV in the 60's and 70's. Was there more extreme sexual innuendo than this?
    – Barmar
    Dec 28 '20 at 15:27
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    @Barmar I think the depiction of "seduce" was sufficiently vague to allow a child-friendly interpretation. Dec 29 '20 at 3:56

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