Long before computer-generated images, cartoons gave storytellers a medium to visually articulate places and things that would otherwise be unimaginable. From epic journeys through time and space to off-the-wall animations featuring unnatural fractals and patterns, cartoons have long showcased visuals from the depths of our imagination. Early animations were made painstakingly by hand to create otherworldly or futuristic scenes. This hand-drawn era, known as the Golden Age of Animation, produced some of the trippiest cartoons we’ve seen.
Top Trippy Cartoons
There’s no shortage of cartoons with trippy messages, colors, and characters during the Golden Age. From rock-and-roll concept albums to Disney classics, some of these visuals are so strange that the animators must be inspired by their own psychedelic experiences—right? Whether you’re currently tripping or just a fan of free-spirited animations, dive into the weirdest animations ever created.
While Disney was still in its infancy, animators constantly experimented with new techniques for dramatic storytelling. What began as a series of animated shorts for Walt to showcase his new Technicolor cameras soon morphed into some of the weirdest cartoons ever produced. These animated stylings featured exaggerated characters and facial expressions to portray emotions that, if we are honest, look haunting compared to the cartoons we enjoy today.
Paired with the echoing sounds of organ music and topical storylines about food shortages, monsters, and cannibals, we have to wonder if this animated series is why our grandparents are so messed up. Just check out the extra weird “Lullaby Land”—a story about a baby drifting off to a slumberland full of wizards, forbidden gardens and an epic face-off against the bogeyman himself. (Be warned: some of these cartoons contain harmful cultural depictions, which we don’t condone or tolerate.)
Ren & Stimpy
One cartoon that pushed the envelope for what was considered suitable content for children in the trippiest way possible is Ren & Stimpy. The show, which helped cement Nickelodeon’s stranglehold on afterschool programming in the nineties, featured a loveable yet obtuse cat alongside a bad-tempered chihuahua. The show was famous for its shock value, dark humor, and extreme close-ups of animated filth.
During a time when many children were left alone during the evening while both parents were working, the animations featured in this trippy cartoon were likely some of the younger generation’s first exposure to psychedelic art.
Many remember the nineties as the decade of Day-Glo colors and moody music. Still, anyone alive to watch MTV when they played actual music videos may recall the network’s short-lived series, Liquid Television. The 30-minute show aired at night from 1991 to 1995, featuring animated shorts from a collection of independent artists who free reign to let their imaginations run wild.
While the series introduced Beavis & Butthead and Aeon Flux to the world, some of their recurring segments, which include a psychedelic detective, multiple adult-themed puppet shows, and a short with changing patterns set to rock music, leads us to assume the creators wanted us to experience the show while tripping.
This post-apocalyptic show follows Finn and his adopted brother/dog, Jake as they survive the land of Ooo. Featuring characters like Princess Bubblegum and the Ice King, Adventure Time is a dark comedy full of psychedelic aesthetics, positive messages, and just a splash of nonsensical weirdness for good measure.
The Simpsons: El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Homer)
Created by Matt Groening, The Simpsons is the longest-running animated series in history. Over the years, the dysfunctional family has met numerous presidents, celebrities, and may have even predicted some real-life events before they occurred. Despite this, the trippiest plotline by far in the show’s history first aired on January 5, 1997. In the episode, Homer eats several hot chili peppers at a cookoff and starts to trip, causing him to go on a voyage through his emotions, where he begins questioning his relationship with his wife, Marge.
From melting faces to discovering his spirit animal, we watch as Homer vividly hallucinates in the desert and ultimately discovers that he and Marge are soulmates. In yet another positive portrayal of psychedelics in animation, the episode ends with Homer having a greater understanding of himself and the woman he loves—and we get to see a coyote spirit guide voiced by Johnny Cash.
This one is for science fiction fans: Fantastic Planet makes our list of trippiest cartoons. The story takes place on a distant planet where blue giants rule over oppressed humanoids who rebel against their machine-like leaders. This French animated film, released in 1973, touches on humanity’s struggle for power and is either fascinating or absolutely terrifying to watch while tripping. Take some time to mentally prepare yourself before viewing.
This comedic adventure film inspired by the Beatles’ music may be the most well-known example of psychedelic animation ever. Just as the hype surrounding Beatlemania was beginning to settle, the Fab Four and animator George Dunning debuted their film just before taking their infamous trip to India. Heinz Edelmann made the psychedelic artwork featured in the film; his surreal visuals starkly contrast other animated movies being released at the time by companies like Disney. Fans of kaleidoscopic patterns and colorful visuals will cherish this old-school gem.
Pink Floyd’s The Wall
This rock opera, which features numerous animated segments, uses cartoons to depict incredibly emotional scenes that are almost always metaphorical. The story follows a fictional rock star named Pink. The pressures of fame drive Pink mad, and he constructs a physical and emotional wall to protect himself. Throughout the film, we see children put through meat grinders, oppressive regimes, and marching hammers—all meant to showcase the band’s anti-war stance while visually portraying what it feels like to hallucinate. Although some scenes are too graphic to watch while tripping, the soundtrack provides the perfect tone for the film’s stunning and otherworldly visuals.
Love, Death & Robots
Adding to the collection of psychedelic programming currently featured on Netflix is an animated masterpiece you may have missed. Love, Death & Robots is a series of emotionally charged stories in various animated stylings exploring many different concepts. From cyberpunk space battles to time travel and humanity itself, the themes throughout each season are intentionally unsettling. With three seasons worth of animated shorts from producer David Finch—responsible for classics like Fight Club, Seven, and Zodiac—you’ll have enough trippy cartoons for an entire weekend of psychedelic television.
Check out our favorite episodes like “When the Yogurt Took Over,” which will leave you in stitches, or the extra trippy “Ice Age,” which tells the story of a couple who find an antique refrigerator while moving into a new apartment. After opening it to get ice, they realize that a fast-moving time-dilated civilization is developing inside.