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An animated series is a set of animated works with a common series title, usually related to one another. These episodes should typically share the same main characters, some different secondary characters and a basic theme. Series can have either a finite number of episodes like a miniseries, a definite end, or be open-ended, without a predetermined number of episodes. They can be broadcast on television, shown in movie theatres, released direct-to-video or on the internet. Like animated films, animated series can be of a wide variety of genres and can also have different target audiences, from children to adults.
Animated television series are regularly presented and can appear as much as up to once a week or daily during a prescribed time slot. The time slot may vary including morning, like saturday-morning cartoons, prime time, like prime time cartoons, to late night, like late night anime. They may also be broadcast on weekdays (weekday cartoons) or only on weekends.
The duration of each episode varies depending on the series. Traditionally, series are produced as complete half-hour or nearly half-hour programs; however, many are produced as animated shorts of 10–11 minutes, which can then paired with other shorts to fill a set time period. There are also some short series with a length of approximately five minutes; these have recently become more common in anime.
They are sometimes grouped together according to network programming demands. Thus a particular series may appear in a number of formats or time block.
Animated television series had historically been used for comedy, like the cartoons, a piece of art, usually developed for humorous intent, and so, called cartoon series. However, more recently animated television series have fallen into other genres, such as action / adventure series like Speed Racer and G.I. Joe.
The first animated television series was Crusader Rabbit.
The 1980s and 1990s was a renaissance of the cartoon children's television series and adult's television series. Various broadcast networks and media companies began creating television channels and formats designed specifically for airing cartoon series. Companies that already had these types of formats in place began to revamp their existing models during this time. Examples of these are:
During the 1990s more mature content than those of traditional cartoon series began to appear more widely, extending beyond a primary audience of children. These cartoon series included The Simpsons, The Ren & Stimpy Show, Rocko's Modern Life, Beavis and Butt-Head, King of the Hill, Duckman, South Park and Family Guy. ReBoot, which began as a child-friendly show, shifted its target age group to ages 12 and up (South Park is from ages 18 and up), resulting in a darker and more mature storyline. Plus the cartoons for kids like SpongeBob SquarePants, Adventure Time, Phineas and Ferb, Gravity Falls, Rugrats, Hey Arnold!, The Fairly OddParents and Steven Universe.
Direct-to-video animated series include most Japanese original video animations (OVAs). The first OVA series (and also the first overall OVA) was Dallos (1983). Almost all hentai (pornographic) anime series are released as OVAs.
Animated web series first appeared in the late 1990s, with the first internet animated cartoon series, The Goddamn George Liquor Program (1997–1998), followed by other early series that included WhirlGirl, Happy Tree Friends, Starship Regulars, Gotham Girls and Mr. Wong. Internet animated series include some Japanese original net animations like Hetalia: Axis Powers and Appleseed XIII (2011–2012).
- Hetherington, Janet L. "As Mainframe's technology reaches adolescence, there's a 'ReBoot' Renaissance". Animation Magazine #59. Vol. 11, Issue #8, September 1997.