There are a lot of places to stream cartoons online these days. If you want to find the latest episodes of your favorite shows, something new to watch, or something you’ve never heard of from way back in the day, it’s not hard.
The problem is, a lot of those sites are flat-out illegal. They might be stealing video, or they might be streaming it from free sources and infesting it with ads.
For many people, that’s not a problem at all. It should be. In today’s age of hyper-connectivity and ultra-niche entertainment, the actual creatives (writers, voice actors, and show runners) stand to be directly impacted by piracy.
On the flip side, many of our readers are younger, or on a budget, or just prefer not to spend money on entertainment. That’s totally fine, and there’s nothing wrong with it. You can stream cartoons free and legal and still support voice actors, writers, and show creators while you’re at it.
Here are a few ways to do it. Watch cartoons at these places, and know that you’re doing the right thing. This list won’t include places like Netflix and CrunchyRoll. These are some ideas you might not have already heard.
(Requires TV Provider)
Nickelodeon’s website offers free streaming of clips and full episodes from a variety of their shows, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and other animated fare.
Unfortunately, they do require you to have a TV subscription. That makes this less useful for many people who have “cut the cord”. It’s still a good option if you forgot to set your DVR, don’t have good On Demand features through your provider, or want to get into a new series.
Cartoon Network Unlocked
Cartoon Network, at the time of this writing, offers no less than 102 full episodes of shows ranging from Steven Universe to Pokemon XYZ. There’s no fee, no account required, and you don’t even need a TV provider.
CN has always been at the forefront of new tech developments in how we consume media, and their willingness to maintain this section of their site proves it. They also have a great section for Flash games and webisodes. Many of their current shows like Mighty Mighty Magiswords originated online right here on the site.
Watch CN Live
(Requires TV Provider)
If you prefer the full TV experience, Cartoon Network also allows you to stream the actual broadcast feed of the channel to your PC. A TV subscription is required, but it’s a good way to get your cartoon fix in if the TV is occupied.
Toonami Aftermath is in the gray space occupied by Abandonware and other sites that distribute lapsed copyright material. It’s a non-monetized site that streams old Toonami shows 24/7. It’s not on-demand, being more akin to a broadcast channel with scheduled programming.
The legality of this is not guaranteed, as Cartoon Network does still use the Toonami name in some of their programming. However, CN is certainly aware of the site and hasn’t done anything to stop it, where similar sites like Nick Reboot were. This probably isn’t the 100% best, most legit way to stream cartoons free, but it’s not the worst, either.
Internet Archive Movies
Proprietors of the Internet Wayback Machine, the Internet Archive currently stores more than 4 billion web pages that have been taken down or are otherwise unavailable. Many people don’t realize that they’re also a great source for movies and some TV shows.
The Internet Archive is a true non-profit organization, with a 501(c)3 federal tax status and officially designated as a library by the State of California. The movies, cartoons, and other media here are entirely free and legal.
The link goes directly to their animated fare.
Crackle, owned and operated by Sony Pictures Entertainment, is a great free, legal source of movies and TV shows, including cartoons. The service is entirely free to view on a web browser and even on devices like the Roku and PlayStation.
Their selection includes a great deal of anime like Blood and Blue Exorcist, as well as American animated shows that have been largely forgotten. Heavy Gear, anyone?
In the Movies section, you’ll find a few gems like the classic Heavy Metal.
Crackle’s selection is not huge, but it’s free, it’s legal, and there’s no reason not to check it out.
For anime fans who aren’t quite ready to shell out for a CrunchyRoll subscription, Funimation is a great place to start. The company behind Dragon Ball Z maintains a site where wannabe otaku can stream a huge variety of anime from Absolute Duo to Zebraman 2.
Although Funimation offers a subscription option, much of their library is also available free of charge, with commercials. If you’re short on cash, or want to check out a new show without committing, or just don’t feel like spending, it’s a good option.
Paid subscribers can watch in HD, on devices like Roku, and have access to new shows the night after they are first aired in Japan.
Can I Stream It
This site isn’t a place to watch movies or cartoons. Rather, it will tell you where you can go to watch things. If you’re on the hunt for a particular show, type it in here. The free service will automatically search Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, as well as free outlets like Crackle and SnagFilms.
Chances are, if you’re looking for something and it’s not already on the other sites from this list, then it’s not available free and legal. However, Can I Stream It will tell you the best price for a rental or purchase, and might clue you in to some sources you weren’t aware of.
Finally, the official blog over at Roku’s site has listed some great free cartoon channels available on their hardware platform. It includes a healthy selection of toy-inspired cartoons, including Pokemon, G. I. Joe, and Transformers.
There’s even a continuous feed of classic Popeye cartoons. If you own that tiny little streaming dynamo, you owe it to yourself to check it out.
Thanks for reading! Like it says at the beginning of the article, there are a lot of places to stream free video these days. Did we miss one that’s on the level? Let us know!