Writing for Kids-Why is it so hard?

I keep seeing people struggle to write for children in animation. Outside of limitations due to age demographic, I find people under-estimating what kids can understand and what appeals to them.


Who’s struggling to write for children in animation? I think you’re totally right about underestimating kids. In their memoirs, several of the animators of the original Bugs Bunny and Bullwinkle cartoons said they just wrote what was funny to them as adult men, and those cartoons became hugely popular with the kids of that era. I admit some of the humor went over my head as a child, but I still found it funny, and find it hilarious today.

General Consternation: We have to shoot down that rocket! It’s off course!
Bullwinkle: But my buddy Rocky’s inside!
General Consternation: Don’t you understand? He’s headed straight for the White House!
Bullwinkle: You really think he can carry the farm vote? ☜(ˆ▿ˆc)

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A lot of modern writers seem to be confused about who their audience is-often you see this with Dreamworks Animated shows like Voltron which got unnessarily dark in its later seasons. You could argue the same for High Guardian Spice, but who was that even for?

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I would say that the humor of popular shows like The Owl House is significantly weaker than most other cartoons

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This was probably the biggest discussion we had in class. Everyone has a different idea of what is acceptable for children and everyone thinks what they believe is right and what everyone else thinks is wrong. It’s so weird. Like adults, children all have separate interests and limits. There is no one right think that fits for everyone, which can me screenwriting and book writing for kids can be really hard


Of course, you could ask kids what they want but that might have its limits


But asking kids what they want means that adults would, like, have to admit they don’t know something :scream:


It’s called market research


But that would mean, like, actually having adults admit they need to, like, research stuff :scream:

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Then they shouldn’t be considered adults

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I see not just underestimating, but also introducing concepts that aren’t in their headspace.

For example, that raccoon movie, which is at most focused on early teens had these kids talking about coming of age/becoming a woman through going to a concert. Now, yes, these kids would try every trick to get to a concert, sure, but a concert making them magical adults? That’s not kids. They’re not that dumb, even when they aren’t all that bright. That’s not how kids talk.

So, they nerf hard concepts that a lot of kids will face, and then throw concepts at them that wouldn’t cross their mind.

Seriously, “I can do what I want because I’m grown.” Is always going to trump “I need to do this because it will make me grown”. If kids think they are old enough for something, they assume they have the milestone, not look at things as if they are the milestone.

People who can’t remember their childhood and won’t have kids sometimes make very bad decisions on what kids are.


:rofl: Best description of Turning Red ever.

I would give it a pass if it wasn’t a boy band concert, which are always aimed towards teen girls, not women. If it was a rock/metal concert, then I would say something different.
But as you said:

Yeah, the teen girl who thinks she can go to a hard rock concert is probably going to think that she is already adult enough for it, not in order to become an adult.

Now I’m rewriting Turning Red in my head…

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It’s the only part of that movie I caught and I was like, wtf is with these writers?!?

A better movie would be having a kid think they got it, mid point of the movie, having their assumptions screwed over, and the ending arc would be learning to really grasp what they thought they had already.

People who think in terms of milestones are looking back on their past, anyway.


I swear it’s a “Say you’re 40 without saying you’re 40.”

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Sooo, I watch kids animation all the time because it’s literally the only media that doesn’t have any of my triggers, lmao, and I gotta ask some clarification.

Do you mean that modern day animation is less-than in comparison with older animation?

I think there’s a baseline for what makes a good children’s animated series. Modern television shows, and older television shows, have either failed or succeeded in reaching that baseline. There’s good TV shows and bad ones, as there has always been.

I will agree that there appears to be less mature themes in today’s media–although that doesn’t mean they’re bad.

Is there a particular animated show/movie you have in mind?


I think it’s good that we are getting a lot less saccharine tripe like “Little Clowns of Happytown”(that was a real show btw), but I see people saying stuff to the effect of “Tangled the Series has disturbing imagery and themes, it’s not just a kid’s show” (even though it is) and the contreversey with Turning Red. In the age of streaming, it seems that people are not clear what is and is not for kids.

And even with shows that appeal to kids and adults, you have an even harder task to accomplish.

I notice that most of the users here are also not interested in writing for children, likely for many reasons. Only one I know who has is @HKelle.


You ask me, cartoons, or, at least, popular cartoons of today are more interested in telling stories than they are telling jokes. Nothing wrong with either, but I would say that the humor is probably the Owl House’s weakest point.

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It’s hard to be unbiased, because if I’m watching something, I have to like it in some way, if I don’t then I simply don’t watch it lol. So, when I think back to older cartoons compared to newer cartoons, I’m always grasping at the best straws. Which, if you ask me, isn’t a proper form of comparison.

However, I will say that in my experience it appears that a lot of animated series (old and new) seem to fall short when the writers have a fantastic idea but have no idea how to end it. You know? It’s like they picked flowers to later replant them but realized they didn’t pull the flowers out by their roots, effectively killing the plant. They give the characters motivations and goals, but those goals don’t evolve beyond a base-level (a more first-chapter sort of goal). It’s like taking a superhero character who wants to ‘save the world’ but never giving them a solid villain.

I do agree with the jokes. Why the same jokes have been transitioned through the ages (poop humor, lol), it seems as though they’ve digressed a lot in modern media, to the point of brain-dead humor. Which… honestly takes away from the series as a whole. There’s plenty I can laugh at in some of older favorite shows, but not so much in the newer shows.

I also think that sometimes creators get on a high horse about the representation they’re including, which ends up being them taking their show and themselves way to seriously. Contributing to the lack of humor, but also lack of palatable villains and main characters.


It also feels much more like the goal in today’s media is to shelter kids from bigger, harder problems for as long as possible. By this, I mean they don’t seem to deal with the same issues kids in older animation dealt with. I mean, Avatar the Last Airbender, one of the most popular children’s animated series of all-time (and my favorite, so I’m a little biased) had themes that revolved around war, genocide, death (of a parent), and intense views of morality. However, when you view this through the lens of a child, all of these themes are dulled down and made palatable so it’s easy to digest. We’re viewing this fucked world through the lens of three children who, although have faced demons of their own, are ultimately still kids.

Perhaps where creators fall short is their lack of forethought in how children think, behave, and see the world around them. Which makes it easier for them to not include harder themes at all, and instead lean on an overly statured version of those harder events that, instead of being viewed through the lens of a child, are viewed through the lens of an adult.

Instead of making kids think for themselves, they push a certain perspective onto them. “Disobeying parents bad”, “Wanting to grow up bad”. Why, I feel, older animation made you really think and empathize with characters? In Shrek, for example, which is made for both kids and adults, it doesn’t outright tell you Shrek is lonely (which he is) and that he feels really bad about being misjudged by society in general. The movie doesn’t explicitly state this, instead it shows you events that happen to Shrek, and things he does, and let’s you come to your own conclusions.


I’ve got no problem writing for kids, the problem really comes in with issues of exactly what the line is between YA and NA when making these stories, especially ones that are “romantic” in nature.

For example, Mini-Moo wasn’t an adult novella, and it wasn’t a kid’s, either. I wrote kids on the edge of adulthood, with that. I wouldn’t put that in front of 13 year olds–and it’s not really meant for a 40 year old, either…and I’m the 40 year old who wrote it.

Nerd from Human Males/Were females: Case Study Synopsis is probably the most in the head of a young human male with a a werewolf mate. Some of the others are supposed to be the thoughts of teen males, and those intentionally range in maturity. But again, not written FOR kids.

I mean, it’s clear that I get “kids don’t act like that”, sometimes. But kids get themselves into adult situations so easily, that if you’re writing truthfully about kids, you’re going to get into things that they shouldn’t have written for them.

So, kids stories are more kid escapism, rather than kid realism. And that’s a lot harder to pull off and make it look good.

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