10 Great Episodes of Animated Kids’ Shows That Will Make You Cry

Children’s cartoons are awesome, plain and simple. They’re a way to introduce young audiences to the complex world of storytelling, and the medium of animation means that the visuals can be as creative as the production team can imagine and ther budget can afford. The best kids’ animated shows inspire the next generation of creators and delight new audiences, regardless of how many years it’s been since their release.



Many children’s shows are also well-loved for how emotionally deep their storytelling can be. Most shows like to impart life lessons and good morals to their audiences; sometimes, these morals can be complicated, touching on sad and painful topics. Certain animated episodes are rich in emotional impact, dealing with themes of grief, loss, regret, and pain to the point where even adults will cry their eyes out.

10 « How Long Is Forever » – ‘Teen Titans’

Season 2, Episode 1 (2004)

Image via Cartoon Network

Starfire’s (Hynden Walch) attempt to celebrate a friendship holiday with her fellow Teen Titans is interrupted when a villain from the future named Warp (Xander Berkeley) comes to steal an antique clock. When he tries to return to his own time, Starfire attacks him and damages his time machine. She finds herself now twenty years into the future, where her friends have all drifted apart.

« How Long is Forever » is a great dramatic episode of Teen Titans that touches on the immortal theme of the passage of time and the great debate about predeterminism vs determinism. The future versions of the Titans are pretty heartbreaking, as each has become trapped in a unique prison of depression and isolation. The hardest to watch is probably Beast Boy (Greg Cipes), who has resigned himself to a circus act, adding a layer of cruelty to this striking episode.

teen titans
Release Date
July 19, 2003


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9 « Remembrance of Courage Past » – ‘Courage the Cowardly Dog’

Season 4, Episode 54 (2002)

Baby Courage in distress trying to reach out a door handle in Courage the Cowardly Dog
Image via Cartoon Network

Upon noticing a missing dog ad, Courage (Marty Grabstein) remembers back to his childhood, when his parents were taken from him by a Cruel Veterinarian (Peter Fernandez) who launched them into space. He becomes so fixated on his memories that Muriel (Thea White) decides to take him to the vet. This ends up being the same veterinarian who took his parents, and he plans to do the same for Courage, as well as Muriel and Eustace (Lionel Wilson and Arthur Anderson) when they discover his plans.

« Remembrance of Courage Pasts » finally gives audiences a deeper look into Courage’s backstory. It’s a tragic conga line of one bad experience after another as Courage fails to save his parents, justifying his perpetual state of fear and anxiety. However, the final flashback shows his adoption by Muriel, which reminds audiences that, even in the darkest hour, a simple act of kindness can bring back hope.

Courage the Cowardly Dog
Release Date
November 12, 1999

Billie Lou Watt , Paul Schoeffler


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8 « The Mountains of Beyond » – ‘The World of David the Gnome’

Episode 26 (1986)

David and Lisa laughing in The World of David the Gnome
Image via TVE1

David (Tom Bosley) and Lisa (Jane Woods) are about to turn four hundred years old, which means that it is almost time for them to die. Alongside their friend, Casper, who doesn’t want to make the journey alone, they make their final preparations and toast to the wonderful life they have lived. Then, with a heavy heart, they say goodbye to their woodland friends and depart for the Mountains of Beyond.

Grief-centric animated movies and shows are not uncommon. However, The World of David the Gnome’s approach feels extra poignant, as audiences have bonded with these two characters throughout 26 episodes. « The Mountains of Beyond » shows the sadness that comes with saying goodbye but also highlights the joy David and Lisa brought to the world and how much they meant to others. It concludes with a very bittersweet goodbye to the show’s protagonists while hinting that where one story ends, another begins.

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7 « Baby-Doll » – ‘Batman: The Animated Series’

Season 2, Episode 11 (1994)

Baby Doll shouting and holding a doll in Batman: The Animated Series
Image via Warner Bros. Animation

A recent string of kidnappings in Gotham City seems to be linked to an old sitcom called Love That Baby. The star of the show, Mary Dahl (Alison LaPlaca), has a condition that prevents her from physically maturing. Since her career failed to take off after leaving Love That Baby, Dahl has completely immersed herself in her character, Baby Doll, deciding to reunite the old cast so that they can be together forever.

Batman: The Animated Series is well known for how it humanized Batman’s iconic villains, and « Baby-Doll » is one of its most tragic examples. Dahl’s situation reflects how those living with disabilities can be typecasted while also showing the dangers of pride and ego. The climax is especially tragic: Batman (Kevin Conroy) chases Dahl into a hall of mirrors, where she is forced to confront her fantasies before crying into the Dark Knight’s supportive embrace. « Baby-Doll » is a thought-provoking and evocative episode about delusion, regret, and pain, and one of TAS’ most memorable efforts.

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6 « A Tale of Two Stans » – ‘Gravity Falls’

Season 2, Episode 12 (2015)

A Stan pointing at another Stan in Gravity Falls
Image via Disney Channel

Upon finally being reunited with his twin brother, Stanford (J. K. Simmons), Stanley Pines (Alex Hirsch) is enraged when Ford punches him and belittles him for re-activating his machine. After introducing Ford to their grandniece and nephew, Dipper (Jason Ritter) and Mable (Kristen Schaal), Stanley tells the kids about his and Ford’s history. The two were best friends in their youth and had dreams of exploring the world together, but as they got older, they drifted apart due to their conflicting personalities and life goals.

« A Tale of Two Stans » is among the best Gravity Falls episodes, shining a light on the backstory of the Pines family and how it links to the weird activity in Gravity Falls; however, the real meat is the drama between the Pines brothers. It’s heartbreaking to see how close they were as children, only for pride and misunderstandings to cause such a terrible rift. Simmons and Hirsch’s vocal performances are the cherries on top, capturing all the complex emotions the brothers experience every time they meet.


Gravity Falls
Release Date
June 15, 2012


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5 « Find Her, Keep Her » – ‘The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh’

Season 1, Episode 4 (1988)

Tigger and Rabbit fighting in The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Image via  ABC

During a snowstorm, Rabbit (Ken Sansom) rescues a lost baby bluebird named Kessie (Laura Mooney) and agrees to take care of her. He quickly becomes a loving and protective parent to Kessie, though he goes a bit overboard in places, especially when Kessie tries to learn how to fly. Rabbit’s overprotectiveness becomes problematic when it’s time for Kessie to leave the nest.

« Find Her, Keep Her » is the most well-known episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, thanks to its mature writing. It teaches children that one can’t keep one’s loved ones forever and must eventually set them free. The voice-acting from the cast is top-notch in this episode, from Sansom conveying Rabbit’s struggle to accept losing Kessie to the amazing Jim Cummings as Pooh, delivering a profoundly insightful quote about love at the end.

The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Release Date
September 10, 1988

John Fiedler , Jim Cummings , Ken Sansom , Peter Cullen , Hal Smith


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4 « I Remember You » – ‘Adventure Time’

Season 4, Episode 25 (2012)

Marceline and the Ice King hugging in Adventure Time
Image via Cartoon Network

Frustrated at his lack of success in wooing princesses, the Ice King (Tom Kenny) decides what he needs is a new love song. Gathering together some loose journal entries, he flies to the house of the vampire queen, Marceline (Olivia Olsen), to ask for her help. Marceline agrees but struggles to accept that the Ice King is no longer her friend and father figure, Simon Petrikov.

« I Remember You » is regarded as one of Adventure Time’s best episodes for a good reason. It gives a very heartbreaking and realistic look at what it’s like trying to socialize with someone experiencing memory loss due to diseases like Alzheimer’s. It also ends with one of Adventure Time’s best songs, written by Rebecca Sugar, who would go on to create Steven Universe.

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3 « The Tales of Ba Sing Se » – ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’

Season 2, Episode 15 (2006)

Uncle Iroh looking solemn and lighting two candles under a tree in Avatar: The Last Airbender
Image via Nickelodeon

Within the Earth Kingdom’s capital, Ba Sing Se, Team Avatar and the exiled royals from the Fire Nation go about their day. It offers a chance of respite from the constant war and conflict outside the city while pushing the characters outside their comfort zone and forcing them to try new things. General Iroh’s (Mako Iwamatsu) story best represents this, as he gives wisdom and kindness to others during a shopping trip.

Avatar: The Last Airbender is rightly praised for its deep world-building and complex characters, both of which are on display in this episode. Iroh’s story ends with him setting up a shrine for his son, who died trying to take the city, while he sings a truly emotional song about young soldiers going off to war. It gives viewers a new insight into Iroh’s inner pain while showing people’s ability to do good despite their losses. The episode is extra emotional as the segment is dedicated to Iroh’s actor, who passed away shortly before its release.

Avatar The Last Airbender TV Poster

Avatar: The Last Airbender

In a war-torn world of elemental magic, a young boy reawakens to undertake a dangerous mystic quest to fulfill his destiny as the Avatar, and bring peace to the world.

Release Date
February 21, 2005



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2 « Mother’s Day » – ‘Rugrats’

Season 4, Episode 2 (1997)

Chuckie showing a picture of his mom and smiling in Rugrats
Image via Nickelodeon

As the babies are all trying to find the perfect gifts for their mothers on Mother’s Day, Chuckie (Christine Cavanaugh and Nancy Cartwright) feels excluded since he doesn’t have a mom. The babies decide to help him find one, including asking the mean Angelica Pickles (Cheryl Chase). Meanwhile, the adult storyline sees DiDi (Melanie Chartoff) take her mother to a spa, Stu (Jack Riley) trying to create a new invention, and Chas (Michael Bell) struggling to tell Chucky about his mother.

Upon release, the episode received universal praise, and it is still regarded as one of Rugrats’ best episodes. « Mother’s Day » doesn’t gloss over death but rather explains it in a way children can understand, showing that, while it hurts to miss someone who is gone, talking about them is a way to keep them alive. Chucky also comes to realize how much work his father puts into caring for him, which is a beautiful bit of representation for single fathers.

Release Date
August 11, 1991
Elizabeth Daily , Kath Soucie , Cheryl Chase , Dionne Quan , Tara Strong , Joe Alaskey , Tress MacNeille , Jack Riley



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1 ‘Arnold’s Christmas’ – « Hey Arnold! »

Season 1, Episode 18, 1996

Mr. Hyunh running in fear whil holding his baby daughter in Hey Arnold
Image via Nickelodeon

As everyone in the boarding house is given a Secret Santa, Arnold (Toran Caudell) is assigned Mr. Hyunh (Baoan Coleman), who always seems upset around the holiday season. While talking to him, Arnold learns that Mr. Hyunh gave up his daughter, Mai (Hiep Thi Le), to American soldiers so that she could escape the Vietnam War. Arnold decides to ask a Federal Office worker named Mr. Bailey (Vincent Schiavelli) for help, who agrees if Arnold can finish his Christmas Shopping.

This episode is a testament to why Hey Arnold! has remained so highly influential. Mr. Hyuhn’s story is really emotional, both about a parent being forced to give up their child and giving audiences a look at the Vietnam War from the eyes of the locals. « Arnold’s Christmas » was a trailblazing episode, offering a remarkably poignant and powerful depiction of the Asian-American experience and cementing Hey Arnold as a masterful, mature, and beautifully layered coming-of-age story.

hey arnold
Release Date
October 7, 1996

Spencer Klein , Jamil Walker Smith , Anndi McAfee , Francesca Smith , Blake McIver Ewing



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