The English language is confusing enough, without having terms that can mean more than one thing or are interchangeable. The word cartoon is one of those terms that has people, especially researchers, scratching their heads wondering why they can’t find what they are looking for. 4anime
Depending on when you grew up, the term cartoon may mean something completely different to you than it does to a kid who grew up watching Bugs Bunny on Saturday mornings. For older folks, the term cartoon strikes up images of Lil’ Abner comic strips. For some people, it is both.
The fact of the matter is, technically, if you look up the definition of a cartoon, it really applies to both mediums. If you go by the original historic meaning of the word cartoon it refers to a full size drawing made on paper as a study for a further artwork. In other words, cartoons really weren’t finished pieces of work, much like an architects drawings for a building. the drawings are just preliminary. The buildings are the finished work. Early cartoons were usually just outlines of a subject. The details were then filled in at a later date.
In more modern times the definition of a cartoon became an illustration for a humorous intent. However, because of the advances in print and motion technology these illustrations no longer remained motionless pieces of paper. With the breakthroughs of movies like “Steamboat Willie”, suddenly a cartoon took on a whole new meaning. And with that whole new meaning began the confusion. You had your cartoons that continued to remain in stationary print, like your Sunday comic strips, and then you had your cartoons that took on the properties of motion, like your Saturday morning half hour shows. Suddenly, the term cartoon was just too confusing to use for both mediums. Something had to be done.
In order to remove the confusion, a new term was developed. Cartoons that were seen in print media were no longer referred to as cartoons. They became known as comic strips. These are usually a short series of illustrations to tell a story or part of one, like the daily serial strips such as Brenda Starr. The motion variety of cartoon retained its original terminology. However, it may be interesting to note that those who work on stationary print media are not referred to as comic strip artists. They are still called cartoonists. Those who make cartoons are now referred to as animators. Some would say that in trying to clear up the confusion, in some ways we’ve only made things worse.