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Cartoon pornography is the portrayal of illustrated or animated fictional cartoon characters in erotic or sexual situations. Animated cartoon pornography or erotic animation is a subset of the larger field of adult animation, not all of which is sexually explicit.
Because historically most cartoons have been produced for child and all-ages audiences, cartoon pornography has sometimes been subject to criticism and extra scrutiny compared to live-action erotic films or photographs. It is somewhat common in Japan, where it is part of a genre of entertainment commonly referred to outside of Japan as hentai.
One of the earliest examples of erotic animation is The Virgin with the Hot Pants, a stag film that opens with an animated sequence featuring an independent penis and testicles pursuing a naked woman and having sex with her, then another sequence of a mouse sexually penetrating a cat. Another early example is Eveready Harton in Buried Treasure, a 6.5-minute silent black-and-white animated film produced in 1928 by three US animation studios, for a private party. It features a man with a large, perpetually erect penis who has various misadventures with other characters and farm animals, plus his penis detaching and doing things on its own.
The Golden Age of Porn, which saw mainstream filmmakers and cinemas tentatively experiment with sexually explicit material with fully developed plots and storytelling themes, also saw some renewed interest in similar erotic animation. Examples include Out of an Old Man’s Head (1968) by Per Åhlin and Tage Danielsson, Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle (1975) by Picha and Boris Szulzinger, and Historias de amor y masacre (1979) by Jorge Amorós. Animator Ralph Bakshi produced Fritz the Cat (1972) (based loosely on the comix of Robert Crumb), which was the first animated film to receive an "X" rating in the US. The Italian film Il nano e la strega (released in English as King Dick, 1973) was a Medieval fantasy story told entirely by hand-drawn animation. Once Upon a Girl (1976) featured live-action framing sequences around pornographic versions of well-known fairy tales. Animerama was a series of animated erotic films begun by Osamu Tezuka: A Thousand and One Nights (1969), Cleopatra (1970), and Belladonna of Sadness (1973).
Since the 1980s, erotica has been a popular genre of animation in Japan. Erotic Japanese anime – some based on erotic manga, others as original video animation – feature sexually suggestive and explicit sex scenes. (See also: Hentai)
In the early 21st century, producers began applying digital animation technology to erotic material. In 2000, Playboy TV began running the erotic dystopian sci-fi series Dark Justice, which used 3D animation, and ran for 20 episodes. In 2001, illustrator Joe Phillips released The House of Morecock, a comedic erotic feature film for gay and bisexual male audiences, made using 2D digital animation.
Animated content has become popular on pornographic video services, which sometimes report terms such as "anime", "hentai", and "cartoon" – all of which are commonly associated with animation – among the top search terms.
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The legal status of cartoon pornography varies from country to country. In addition to the normal legal status of pornography, much cartoon pornography depicts potentially minor (that is, underage) characters engaging in sexual acts. One of the primary reasons for this may be due to the many cartoons featuring major characters who are not adults. Cartoon pornography does not always have depictions of minors in sexual acts or situations, but that which does may fall under the jurisdiction laws concerning child pornography. Drawings of pre-existing characters can in theory be in violation of copyright law no matter the situation the characters are shown in.
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